Posts Tagged ‘breakfast’

Quite a lot has transpired since I last posted on the day I was scheduled to be induced for labor. I had a long induction, beginning September 18th and finally resulting in the birth of our daughter on September 21st. My preeclampsia worsened after giving birth, so I ended up in the hospital for an additional four days. In addition, our daughter was small at birth, so she ended up in the NICU for 11 days. We finally were all home together on October 1st, and we began settling into our new life.

Unfortunately, my father-in-law became very sick a couple weeks later, spending some time in the ICU. He eventually died on October 22nd. We were all in shock; actually, I think we still are.

Granola Bars

I really have not been doing much cooking at all since I had my baby, though I have managed to crank out the three recipes from this episode of Good Eats. Thankfully, this episode was composed of easy recipes that are not time-consuming, as I am strictly working on someone else’s unpredictable schedule now. Still, I was able to find time to whip up Alton’s granola bars. Begin by preheating your oven to 350, and spread the following ingredients on a sheet pan:  8 oz old-fashioned oats, 1.5 oz raw (unshelled) sunflower seeds, 3 oz sliced almonds, and 1.5 oz wheat germ.

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Old-fashioned oats, raw sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, and wheat germ on a sheet pan.

Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, stirring the dry ingredients every five minutes. When you remove the sheet pan from the oven, decrease the oven temperature to 300.

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Old-fashioned oats, raw sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, and wheat germ after toasting.

Next it is time to prep the wet ingredients by placing 6 oz honey in a medium saucepan with 1 3/4 oz dark brown sugar, 1 oz unsalted butter, 2 t vanilla, and 1/2 t Kosher salt. Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.

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Honey, dark brown sugar, unsalted butter, vanilla, and Kosher salt.

Add the oat mix to the liquid mixture, along with 6.5 oz of chopped dried fruit (I used apricots and cranberries). Toss to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

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Oat mixture and dried fruit added to liquid ingredients.

Place the oat mixture in an oiled 9×9 pan, pressing it down with your hands.

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Granola mixture pressed into square pan.

Bake the bars at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.

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Granola mixture after baking.

Let the bars cool completely on a wire rack before turning them out onto a board, and cut the bars into 16 squares.

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Cooled granola bars turned onto a board.

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An Alton granola bar.

The nutrition in each granola bar is:

  • 193 calories
  • 30.5 g carbohydrates
  • 4.5 g protein
  • 6.8 g fat
  • 3.66 g fiber
  • 61.3 mg sodium

My bars crumbled a bit when I cut them, but they tasted really great. They were crunchy and chewy, and had a subtle hint of salt to compliment the sweetness of the fruit. I found myself reaching for these bars as an afternoon snack, and I ate some of the crumbly bits with yogurt for breakfast. This was my favorite recipe of this episode.

Protein Bars

If you’ve ever eaten a protein bar, you know they tend to taste less than stellar. With this recipe, Alton claims to have created the best tasting protein bar you can find anywhere. These bars start with preheating your oven to 350. While the oven heats, combine 4 oz soy protein powder, 2 1/4 oz oat bran, 2 3/4 oz whole wheat flour, 3/4 oz wheat germ, and 1/2 t Kosher salt in a bowl. I could not find soy protein powder even at my local health food store, so I finally ended up subbing whey protein powder.

Next, chop 3 oz each of raisins and dried blueberries, along with 2 1/2 oz each dried cherries and dried apricots.

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Raisins, dried blueberries, dried apricots, and dried cherries.

In a second bowl, whisk together a 12.3 oz package of silken tofu, 4 oz dark brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 C unfiltered apple juice, and 2/3 C natural peanut butter. For those who have peanut allergies, you can substitute almond or cashew butter.

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Silken tofu, dark brown sugar, eggs, and apple juice.

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Silken tofu, dark brown sugar, eggs, apple juice, and peanut butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped dried fruit.

Use your hands to thoroughly mix the batter, and pour/press the finished batter into a 9×13″ pan that has been lined with oiled parchment paper.

Bake the bars at 350 for 35 minutes, or until they have an internal temperature of 205 degrees.

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Bars after baking to an internal temperature of 205.

Cool the bars completely on a wire rack before turning them out onto a board, and cut with a pizza wheel into 24 bars.

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Bars, cut into 24 pieces.

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Alton’s protein bars.

These bars can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to three months. These bars are dense and cakey, and I really like the flavor/moisture from the dried fruit. They do have a fairly strong peanut butter flavor, so I’d opt for a different nut butter if you do not care for peanut butter. While I wouldn’t say these are a treat, they are pretty tasty for what they are, and I have grabbed them for a quick snack when I haven’t had time to eat. The nutritional breakdown for these bars is:

  • 154 calories
  • 21.1 g carbohydrates
  • 8.4 g protein
  • 4.8 g fat
  • 2.1 g fiber
  • 91.9 mg sodium
  • 17.7 mg cholesterol

Brown Rice Crispy Bar

The last bar Alton tackles in this episode is his take on the classic Rice Krispies treat. For his bars, Alton brings a pot of water to a bare simmer, placing a large metal mixing bowl over the top (my mixing bowls are insulated, so I used a large pot).

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Ingredients for bars: dried fruit, mini marshmallows, honey, flax seed oil, and puffed brown rice. Not pictured: toasted slivered almonds.

To the bowl he adds 1 T honey, 3 T flax seed oil, and 7 oz miniature marshmallows. He stirs the mixture until it is melted and smooth.

Once melted, he turns the heat off, but keeps the marshmallow mixture over the warm water. To this he adds 3 oz puffed brown rice, 3 oz toasted slivered almonds (I toasted my almonds in a skillet), 1 1/2 oz chopped dried cranberries, 1 1/2 oz chopped dried cherries, and 1 oz dried blueberries.

After stirring everything together, he dumps the mixture into a 9×13″ pan (metal is best) that has been oiled with vegetable or canola oil. With oiled hands (I find that using damp hands works just as well) he presses the mixture down into the pan and allows the pan to cool completely before cutting into 24 bars.

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Bar mixture placed in oiled pan.

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Alton’s rice crispy bars.

I had really high hopes for these bars because I am a fan of Rice Krispies treats, but these were super disappointing to me. My biggest grievance with these bars was their texture, which resembled stale cereal. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I also saw that some people complained of the flax seed flavor, but that didn’t really bother me too much. Honestly, I tried to like these, but just couldn’t get past their unappealing texture. I did, however, like the dried fruit in these, so maybe I’ll add some dried fruit when I next make Rice Krispies treats. Nutrition-wise, these bars have:

  • 93.8 calories
  • 15.1 g carbohydrates
  • 1.16 g protein
  • 3.7 g fat
  • 1 g fiber
  • 4.3 mg sodium

Just like that, the hectic holiday season is behind us and we are into 2019. We spent our Christmas at my brother’s house, so we did not host either Thanksgiving or Christmas in 2018. It always feels odd to me when I do not end up cooking much at the holidays, and my only real contribution to Christmas dinner was a batch of roasted Brussels sprouts. We had great food, though, including a salty Wayco ham.

I always have a long list of things I want to cook/bake that are unrelated to this blog project. I plan to actually sit down and make a list of the top things I want to make this year, so I can physically cross them off as I complete them. I had planned to make my list yesterday since it was the first day of the year, but I spent the day with a fever on the couch instead. Boo.

Savory Polenta

The 115th episode of Good Eats is one that Alton chose to remake in his new show Good Eats:  Reloaded. Savory polenta is the first recipe in this one. So, what is the difference between grits and polenta? According to Alton, grits and polenta are different preparations of the same main ingredient:  cornmeal. Grits are often made from ground hominy, which is white, while polenta is made from ground yellow corn. Either way, when purchasing cornmeal to use in either grits or polenta, always look for stone ground cornmeal; the terms “polenta” and “grits” are often featured together on the label of stone ground cornmeal. To make polenta, place 2 T olive oil in a saucier over medium heat. Add 3/4 C chopped red onion and 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, and cook the onion until it has softened.

Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for two minutes.

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Garlic added to onion.

Next, add a quart of chicken broth and bring the broth to a boil over high heat.

When the broth is boiling, gradually add 1 C coarse cornmeal, whisking it in. Once all of the cornmeal has been added, place a lid on the pan and place it in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring the polenta every 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and stir in 3 T butter, 2 ounces grated Parmesan, and 1/4 t pepper.

You can now eat the polenta as it is or you can pour the warm polenta into a parchment-lined 9×13″ pan. Let the polenta cool to room temperature in the pan, and then place it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

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Polenta poured into 9×13 pan.

After chilling, flip the polenta out onto a cutting board and use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds.

Toss the polenta circles in olive oil and you can fry, saute, or grill them; I opted for sautéing. I served my polenta with a homemade tomato sauce and some grated Parmesan.

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Polenta rounds with tomato sauce and Parmesan.

This polenta is easy and delicious. We tasted the polenta after adding the butter, cheese, and pepper, and I would have been content to eat a bowl just like that. I also liked the sautéed version, as there was a slight golden crust on the outside, while the polenta remained tender and buttery on the inside. The garlic and onion flavors were obvious and made the polenta savory with a little kick. This would also be a great vegetarian dinner option if you substituted vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and this seems like a very kid-friendly dinner option too. Don’t bother with that tube of polenta at the grocery store when you can make this version at home!

Cheese Grits

I first remember having grits when I was in the Florida Keys for my cousin’s wedding. We stopped for breakfast at an oceanfront restaurant and grits were one of the side dish options. I instantly became a grits fan. For Alton’s grits, combine 2 C milk, 2 C water, and 1 1/2 t Kosher salt in a saucier and bring the mixture to a boil.

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Milk, water, and Kosher salt in a saucier.

Once boiling, slowly whisk 1 C coarse cornmeal into the liquid.

Place a lid on the pan and cook the grits for 20-25 minutes, stirring every two or three minutes, and keeping the heat as low as possible. I found that my grits were still too thin after 25 minutes, so I cooked them for about 35 minutes.

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Grits after stirring/cooking for ~35 minutes.

Stir in 4 T butter and season with Kosher salt, if needed.

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4 T butter.

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Butter added to grits.

Lastly, slowly stir in 4 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese.

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Cheddar, slowly added to grits.

We ate these grits for a pre-run breakfast, alongside purple barley bread and they kept me fueled for 8.5 miles.

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A bowl of cheese grits.

These grits are cheese, rich, and creamy. Due to their richness, I could only eat a small bowl before I felt pretty full. Alton’s grits are definitely heavier than his version of polenta, but equally tasty.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Lastly, Alton finishes this episode with a sweet pineapple upside-down cake. Although this cake has been around forever, this was my first time making a pineapple upside-down cake. To begin the cake, place 3/4 C whole milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave the milk until it is boiling. Sprinkle 1 C coarse cornmeal over the milk and let it sit.

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Topping ingredients: butter, dark brown sugar, canned pineapple rings, toasted pecans, and maraschino cherries.

Next, place a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt 4 ounces of unsalted butter in the pan. When the butter has melted, use a pastry brush to brush some of the butter up the sides of the pan. The butter will brown slightly.

Add 1 C dark brown sugar to the pan and stir until melted, which will take about five minutes; watch the sugar carefully, as it can easily burn.

Once the sugar has melted, remove the pan from the heat and place canned pineapple slices around the perimeter of the pan, and one additional ring in the center.

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Pineapple rings added to caramel.

Put a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple slice and sprinkle 1/3 C of toasted/chopped pecans over the pineapple.

Drizzle on 3 T of the juice from the canned pineapple and set the skillet aside to cool slightly.

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Pineapple juice drizzled over topping.

While the skillet cools, combine 4 3/4 ounces flour, 2 t baking powder, and 1/2 t salt in a large bowl.

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Flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C canola oil, and the milk-soaked cornmeal from earlier.

When the wet ingredients are combined, add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk for a count of six. The final batter will be a little lumpy, but that is okay. Do not over mix.

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Wet mixture added to dry ingredients.

Pour the cornmeal batter over the pineapple in the skillet and place in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Let the cake cool for 30 minutes before flipping the cake out of the skillet. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.

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Cooled cake flipped onto cake stand.

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Alton’s pineapple upside-down cake.

This cake is fun to make because it looks pretty when you invert it out of the pan. The topping is a delicious mix of dark caramel, crunchy pecans, and juicy pineapple; the best part, in my opinion, is the part by the edges of the pan, as the caramel is thick and slightly chewy there. The batter of this cake has the slight grittiness of cornmeal, and is only slightly sweet. I like the fact that the cake itself is not overly sweet, as the topping is sweet enough. This cake is great for breakfast, dessert, or both!

I watched the first episode of Good Eats: Reloaded, which aired Monday. I wasn’t sure what I would think of Alton revamping his classic episodes, as I felt that he might be diminishing the integrity of his original work. That being said, I feel that Alton did a good job of intertwining new techniques/technology with his original content. Plus, he’s only reloading a small number of episodes – those which he feels need to be revisited and improved upon. How can I argue with that when it is his body of work?

Certain Good Eats episodes are about food topics I am super excited to get in the kitchen and make. Episode 108 was all about doughnuts, a food item I had never before made, but that had always been on my list. Once again, this project gave me the incentive to get in the kitchen and scratch another food off my to-do list.

Yeast Doughnuts

Alton’s doughnut recipe is for yeast doughnuts, which are much lighter than their cake counterparts. Yeast doughnuts are obviously leavened with yeast, while cake doughnuts are leavened with baking powder. While yeast doughnuts are light and airy, cake doughnuts tend to be heavier and more dense, and I happen to think both are fantastic. The first step for Alton’s doughnuts is to put 2 1/2 ounces shortening in a bowl and heat 1 1/2 C milk until the milk is just hot enough to melt the shortening (I heated my milk in the microwave). Once hot, pour the milk over the shortening and set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle two packages of instant yeast over 1/3 C warm water and set this aside while you gather the other ingredients.

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Yeast sprinkled in warm water.

You will also need 2 eggs, 1/4 C sugar, 1 t fresh nutmeg, 1 1/2 t salt, 1-1 1/2 gallons vegetable or peanut oil, and 23 ounces flour.

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Ingredients for doughnuts: yeast, eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, shortening, flour, and milk.

Next, pour the yeast and shortening mixtures into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the eggs, salt, nutmeg, sugar, and half of the flour.

Stir the dough on low speed with the paddle attachment. Once the flour is incorporated, increase the speed and mix the dough thoroughly.

Next, add the rest of the flour, mixing at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed and mix the dough thoroughly again.

Now it is time to knead the dough, so replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Let the hook knead the dough on medium speed until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic, and let it sit for an hour, or until doubled.

When the dough has risen, sprinkle flour liberally on a smooth surface and turn the dough out onto the flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour also.

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Dough turned out onto floured surface, and liberally dusted with flour.

Fold the dough in quarters a couple times, pressing out any gas bubbles with each fold.

Next, use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 3/8″ thick; the dough will be quite sticky, so you may need to consistently dust it with flour.

Cut the dough into doughnuts using either a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter, or, as Alton prefers, a 2 1/2 inch pastry ring for the outsides and a 7/8″ pastry ring for the centers.

Transfer the doughnuts to a floured sheet pan, cover them with a tea towel, and let them rise for 30 minutes (this is called “bench proofing”).

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Doughnuts transferred to floured baking sheet to proof.

You can set excess dough aside, covered, for an hour and re-roll/cut more doughnuts. I ended up with a total of 25 doughnuts. Once proofed, heat the vegetable or peanut oil in a Dutch oven until it reaches 365 degrees.

Add doughnuts to the hot oil, avoiding overcrowding them. Cook the doughnuts for one minute per side, transferring them to a rack over a sheet pan to drain/cool. Tip:  use chopsticks or skewers to flip and transfer the doughnuts.

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Doughnuts frying for 1 minute per side.

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Alton’s yeast doughnuts.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing with one, or both, of the recipes below. I did have to sample an unglazed doughnut, and I can report that it was lightly crispy on the outside and super airy on the inside. The dough was just lightly sweet with a hint of nutmeg. Now, on to those glazes…

Doughnut Glaze

Alton’s first doughnut glaze recipe is super simple, coming together in just a few minutes. Combine 1/4 C milk and 1 t vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

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Milk and vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

In the episode Alton specified that you want the milk to reach 150 degrees, but I just heated it until it was pretty warm. Once warm, whisk in 2 C sifted powdered sugar until smooth.

Remove the glaze from the heat and dip the doughnuts into the warm glaze.

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Alton’s glaze.

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Glazed doughnuts.

If you are glazing a lot of doughnuts, you may need keep the glaze warm by setting it over a bowl of warm water, but I did not need to do that. Let the glaze set up for a few minutes before eating. This glaze is great, giving the doughnuts a sweet vanilla flavor and a pretty sheen.

Chocolate Doughnut Glaze

If you happen to be a chocolate fan, Alton has you covered with his chocolate doughnut glaze. The chocolate glaze begins in the same way as the original doughnut glaze, combining 1/4 C milk and 1 t vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

Heat the milk until warm and whisk in 2 C sifted powdered sugar.

Once the sugar is incorporated, add an additional teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 C butter cut in pats, 1 T corn syrup, and 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate.

When half of the chocolate has melted, remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until the glaze is smooth.

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Glaze stirred until smooth.

Dip the doughnuts into the glaze, allowing it to set before eating.

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Alton’s chocolate glaze.

This glaze is also quite outstanding and results in super pretty doughnuts. The glaze sets up, but is still smooth and creamy. It gives the doughnuts a punch of chocolate flavor, though you can still taste the flavor of the doughnuts themselves.

IMG_9697IMG_9703I really enjoyed this episode, and doughnuts will be made in my kitchen again. They really are quite easy and much better than what you can buy at the store. Personally, I think I liked the vanilla glaze more than the chocolate one, but I really liked both. I gave some doughnuts away and also froze some for later glazing. I think I know what we’ll be eating for breakfast Saturday!

 

Unintentionally, I’ve gotten a bit behind on this blog lately. It’s time to get back in the swing of things, and get back to making more of Alton’s good eats. Summer heat has hit us lately, so I have been making lots of light dishes (like gazpacho and summer rolls) that do not require turning on the oven. After episode 104, I will officially have finished cooking my way through seven seasons of Good Eats, which will put me at the half-way point of this project; I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting there!

French Toast

Alton’s version of French toast begins the night before you plan to have it for breakfast. Prior to bed, set out eight slices of bread, sliced 1/2″ thick; this will allow the bread to dry out overnight.

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Eight slices of bread, set out overnight.

Before bed you will also make the custard by combining 1 C half-and-half, 2 T warm honey, 1/4 t Kosher salt, and 3 eggs. Set the custard in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 and pour the custard into a pie or cake pan.

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Chilled custard poured into pie plate.

Place two slices of the air-dried bread into the custard, soaking them for 30 seconds on each side.

Transfer the soaked slices of bread to a rack over a sheet pan, letting them sit for at least two minutes; Alton says this step is key, as it allows the custard to fully penetrate the bread, and any excess custard can drip away.

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Soaked bread draining on a rack over a sheet pan.

Next, preheat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Ideally, you want your skillet to be at 350 degrees for cooking, which I was able to check with an infrared thermometer. If you do not have an infrared thermometer, you can test your skillet with some butter; if it foams when you add it to the skillet, it is ready.

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Skillet preheated to ~350.

Once your skillet is hot, butter the skillet and add your two soaked bread slices, allowing them to cook until golden brown on both sides.

While your toast cooks, repeat the soaking/draining steps with two more slices of bread. Transfer the cooked toast to your rack over a sheet pan. Continue soaking, draining, and cooking until all of your toast has been cooked. Finally, place your rack of toast in the oven for five minutes before serving with butter, fruit, syrup, or whatever floats your boat.

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Toast in the oven for 5 minutes.

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French toast with butter and maple syrup.

In the episode, Alton said that the dual cooking method (skillet and oven) results in French toast that is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, and he was right. His French toast is very lightly sweetened and has a richness without being dense. Prepping the custard and bread the night before makes morning prep pretty easy, and finishing the toast in the oven means you can have everyone’s toast ready at the same time – no eating in shifts! Great French toast recipe!

Bruschetta

According to Alton, bruschetta should really only consist of five ingredients:  bread, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Alton’s recipe begins with slicing a narrow loaf of Italian or French bread on the bias, and about 3/4″ thick. Toast the bread under a broiler for about two minutes per side, or until golden.

While the toast is hot, rub it with a head of garlic that has been cut in half to expose the cloves.

Brush the toast with some good olive oil, and sprinkle on some pepper and coarse salt.

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Bruschetta with soup.

I enjoyed Alton’s bruschetta as a side to a cauliflower soup. Although Alton’s recipe is incredibly simple, it is quite delicious in its simplicity and makes a great side dish. The key with a recipe like this is to use high-quality ingredients. I will caution that this bruschetta packs a big punch of garlic, but I love garlic, so that’s not a problem for me. When I was 15, my mom and I traveled to Atlanta to spectate at the 1996 Olympics. While there, we stayed with a family who shared with us a version of bruschetta they had eaten while in Italy, and that version is still my favorite. For their recipe, you rubbed toasted bread with a raw garlic clove and dipped the bread into good olive oil, followed by grated Parmesan. After that, you topped the bread with a few leaves of fresh basil, a couple thin slices of campari tomato, salt, and pepper. I just like the added freshness from the basil and tomato.

Welsh Rarebit

Although I had heard of Welsh rarebit, I had never eaten it before making it for this episode. Alton made his rarebit in a camp stove by his fireplace, but I made mine on the stove over low heat. Maybe if I were making this recipe in December… Anyway, regardless of your vessel, begin by melting 2 T butter.

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Melting 2 T butter.

Once the butter has melted, whisk in 2 T flour.

Next, add 1 t Dijon mustard, 1 t Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

Whisk in 1/2 C good dark beer and 3/4 C heavy cream.

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Dark beer for rarebit.

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Dark beer and cream added to pan.

Once combined, gradually add 6 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese, a handful at a time.

When the cheese is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, season the mixture with a few drops of hot sauce, to your taste.

Spoon the sauce over four slices of toasted bread and enjoy (Alton prefers rye bread, but my bakery did not have any).

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Welsh rarebit.

Since I have no other Welsh rarebits to compare this recipe to, I can only say that we liked it, though it isn’t a “pretty” meal. The type and quality of beer you use does matter, as the beer flavor is quite prominent in this dish, and I would like to experiment with some other beers to see which works best. To me, this really is a cold weather meal, as it is heavier comfort-like food. It seems like it would be a great dinner after a day of skiing or sledding. On that note, this would also be an easy camping meal. This recipe makes enough sauce for at least eight slices of toast, so I refrigerated the leftover sauce and reheated it gently on the stove a couple days later. This is another easy, tasty recipe, and it was fun to try a dish that I had only previously heard of.

Although I have made pies in the past, meringue pie was a new venture for me with this episode. I don’t have anything against meringue pies, though I suppose I probably prefer a good double-crusted fruit pie. Having made Alton’s pecan pie last Thanksgiving, I was pretty confident that Alton’s lemon meringue pie would be spectacular. He broke his pie recipe into two parts, the first being the crust.

Pie Crust

Alton’s pie crust calls for both butter and lard, with the butter primarily providing flavor and the lard ensuring a flaky texture. The recipe starts with placing 3 oz of cubed butter in the freezer for 15 minutes, along with 1 oz of cubed lard. Also, at this time, place two pie plates in the freezer.

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Lard and butter, cubed and headed to the freezer.

While the fat chills, put some ice in a squirt bottle with 1/4 C water. Next, in a food processor pulse together 6 ounces of flour with 1/2 t salt.

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Flour and salt in the food processor.

Add the chilled butter, pulsing the mixture five or six times.

Add the cubed lard and pulse three more times.

Use the squirt bottle to thoroughly spritz the surface of the flour mixture and pulse the dough five times.

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Spritzing dough surface with ice water.

The dough should hold together when squeezed, which should take approximately 2 T of ice water. Continue spritzing the dough with more water until it holds together easily without crumbling. I found that I needed to spritz the dough several times.

Once the dough holds together, move the dough to a large ziplock bag, squeezing the dough into a ball, and then flattening it into a disc. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and cut off the two sides of the ziplock bag, leaving the zipper top and the sealed bottom intact. Open the bag and flour both sides of the dough.

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Edges of sides of ziplock cut off, and dough floured.

Close the bag again and use a rolling pin to roll the dough until it barely reaches beyond the open edges of the bag. I love Alton’s method of rolling pie dough in a bag because it keeps my counter and rolling pin clean!

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Floured dough, rolled out inside of ziplock bag.

Peel back the plastic and re-flour the top of the dough.

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Ziplock opened and top surface re-floured.

Place one of your chilled pie pans on top of the floured dough and flip the dough onto the back of the pan.

Remove the plastic from the dough and place the second cold pie plate upside down on the dough, so the dough is between the two pie plates (the dough will be lining the second plate).

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Second cold pie plate placed on top of dough upside down, so dough is lining second pie plate.

Flip the pie plates again and remove the top plate (the first one), and your second pie plate will be perfectly lined with your dough; just be sure to press the dough down into the edges of the pan.

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Pie plates flipped over with dough between them. Dough is lining second pie plate.

Cut away any excess dough hanging over the edges. There is no need to make the dough edges fancy, as they will be covered with meringue. Use a fork to dock the bottom of the crust and place the dough in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. This helps to form fat layers in the dough, which will yield a flaky crust.

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Docked dough. Excess dough removed.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 425. When the oven is ready, place the pie crust on a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper, and fill the crust with dried beans or pie weights. Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

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Crust lined with parchment and beans, and placed in oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the parchment and beans/weights, and bake the crust for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

Let the crust cool completely before using. You could use this pie crust for any type of pie, but I had to continue on and make a lemon meringue filling, as that was what Alton did in the episode. This pie crust recipe is super easy and I love Alton’s tips/tricks for rolling the dough and lining the pie plate.

Lemon Meringue Pie

I ended up making Alton’s lemon meringue pie twice in two days. Why? My first lemon meringue pie was lemon soup. I had followed Alton’s directions exactly as he made the pie in the episode, which resulted in a filling that was not nearly thick enough. For my second pie, I cooked my filling much longer than Alton recommended and ended up with a perfect pie. Here, I’ll go through the steps as Alton did them, giving my recommended changes along the way. The lemon meringue pie begins with making the meringue. Place 4 egg whites (save the yolks for the lemon filling) in the bowl of a mixer and add a pinch of cream of tartar (helps to denature proteins).

Whip the whites by hand until they are frothy.

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Egg whites beaten to a froth by hand.

Then, beat with the mixer on medium-high. When you have a light foam in the bowl, begin slowly adding 2 T sugar with the mixer running.

Beat the whites until you have stiff peaks. You can check for stiff peaks by quickly dipping/withdrawing your beater – if a peak forms and remains, you have stiff peaks. If a peak forms, but falls, you need to keep beating. Once you have stiff peaks, place a pan lid on the bowl and set it aside in a cool place.

Oh, and preheat your oven to 375. To make the lemon filling, whisk 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl and set them aside.

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Beaten egg yolks.

In a saucier whisk together 1/3 C cornstarch and 1 1/2 C water, placing it over medium heat.

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Cornstarch and water in saucier.

Whisk 1 1/3 C sugar and 1/4 t salt into the starch mixture. Stir this mixture often, bringing it to a boil.

Once boiling, simmer the mixture for an additional minute.

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Simmering starch mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly beat about half of the hot mixture into the bowl of beaten egg yolks, adding only a whisk-full at a time.

When half of the hot mixture has been added to the yolks, whisk the egg mixture back into the pan.

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Egg mixture whisked back into saucier.

Alton tells you to return the pan to the heat, simmering it for one minute; I did this with my first pie and the mixture was very runny, but I assumed it would thicken later. Nope. Instead, for my second pie, I cooked the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it was bubbling and quite thick. Keep in mind that the mixture will not thicken much later, so you want it to resemble your desired pie filling texture now.

Once thickened, turn off the heat and stir in 3 T butter.

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Butter whisked in.

When the butter has melted, add 1 T lemon zest and 1/2 C fresh lemon juice.

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Finished lemon filling.

Pour the filling into the baked/cooled crust.

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Finished lemon filling poured into cooled crust.

Working quickly, beat your meringue again for about 30 seconds to plump it up.

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Refreshed meringue.

Dump the meringue on the hot lemon filling, spreading it with a spatula to seal it against the crust edges. Smooth the top.

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Meringue, spread onto hot lemon filling.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake it at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.

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Meringue after baking.

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A slice of lemon meringue pie.

This pie was great… the second time around. Alton’s crust recipe is fool-proof, flaky, and buttery. His lemon filling has a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness, and is bursting with lemon flavor. And, his meringue came out perfectly both times I made it. If you are interested in making a lemon meringue pie, do this one, but be sure to cook your lemon filling until it is thick.

I have begun dabbling in cheesemaking, which has taken some of my time away from this project recently, but I aspire to get back into more of a regular rhythm with this blog. I have a long list of different things I want to cook/bake, in addition to this project, and I have to find time to do them all. Honestly, I should probably try to make one thing on my list each day, and maybe I could eventually catch up! With only two of us, I can only make so much food at a time, though. I did find occasions to make Alton’s sweet potato recipes from Good Eats, so here are my write-ups of those recipes.

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

I kind of had a negative perception of sweet potatoes until a few years ago. When picturing sweet potatoes, I would picture the classic sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping, which is a dish I just do not care for. Now, though, I love to use sweet potatoes in a variety of ways, including in a breakfast hash, as “noodles”, and as oven fries. Alton’s first use for sweet potatoes was a smashed form. For this recipe, place a steamer basket in a pot over a quart of water. I used my small steaming pot. Once you see steam, place 1 1/4 pounds of peeled/cubed sweet potatoes in the top of the steamer and cover the pot. Let the potatoes steam for 20 minutes.

Drain the water from the pot and dump in the steamed potatoes, adding 2 T butter and 1/2 t Kosher salt. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher to your desired consistency.

Finally, finish the potatoes by mixing in 1 chopped canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, along with 1 t of the adobo sauce.

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Chipotle smashed sweet potatoes.

First off, this recipe could not get easier or quicker, making it great to make anytime. Second, this is a really tasty dish! I added a bit more adobo sauce and salt after tasting the finished potatoes, but that is just personal preference. The sweetness of the potatoes is a great match for the smoky heat of chipotles. I will make this one again. Actually, I think I will pick up some sweet potatoes when I head to the store today, and we will have these as a side dish in the next week.

Sweet Potato Waffles

It seems that post people strongly prefer either pancakes or waffles. Although I do like both pancakes and waffles, I’d have to say that I am a waffle person. On a recent lazy weekend morning, I made Alton’s sweet potato waffles. To make these, first sift together into a bowl 2 C flour, 1 T baking powder, and 1/2 t Kosher salt. You will also need to peel, cube, and steam (for 20 minutes) enough sweet potatoes to make 1 1/2 C of mashed sweet potatoes.

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Peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, to be steamed.

In a second bowl, stir together 1 C milk, 1/4 C light brown sugar, 1 T orange zest, 1 1/2 C peeled/cubed/steamed/mashed sweet potatoes, and 1/4 C butter, melted.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined.

In a third bowl, beat 6 egg whites until you have medium peaks. Fold the beaten egg whites into the sweet potato mixture in three installments; the first installment can just be stirred into the batter to lighten it, but gently fold the second and third installments into the batter.

Dish the waffle batter (Alton recommends two scoops with a #20 disher) onto a preheated waffle iron, cooking for 5-6 minutes or until crispy.

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Batter placed on heated waffle iron.

Top the waffles with butter, syrup, and toasted pecans, or whatever strikes your fancy.

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A sweet potato waffle with butter, syrup, and toasted pecans.

These waffles were really good, but they do take more time and effort than typical waffles. Is the extra effort warranted? For a special occasion, I would argue they are worth the effort. The waffles themselves are lightly sweetened from the sweet potato and brown sugar, though I would not be able to identify the sweet potato in them from flavor alone. Their yellow hue, however, does give some evidence of their star ingredient. These waffles definitely have more flavor than your typical waffles, and I actually preferred them simply with some melted butter on top.

Sweet Potato Pie

Pumpkin pie seems to be a polarizing dessert, with people either loving or hating it. I really like pumpkin pie, but Ted happens not to care for it. Alton claims that his sweet potato pie is superior to pumpkin pie, stating on his web site that, “This pie is everything I ever wanted out of pumpkin pie, only without the pumpkin.” Begin Alton’s pie by steaming 1 1/4 pounds of peeled and cubed sweet potatoes for 20 minutes.

Place the steamed potatoes in a stand mixer, beating them on low speed with a paddle attachment until they start to fall apart. Increase the speed and beat them until fully mashed. Next, add 1 1/4 C plain yogurt, beating to combine.

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Yogurt added to sweet potatoes, after mashing potatoes in mixer.

Mix in 3/4 C dark brown sugar, 5 egg yolks, 1/2 t cinnamon, and 1/4 t nutmeg, beating until incorporated.

The batter will still have some lumps.

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Pie filling.

Pour the pie filling into a 9-inch pie shell placed on a sheet pan, and smooth the top of the pie with a spatula. Sprinkle the top of the pie with 1 C of chopped/toasted pecans and drizzle the pie with 1 T maple syrup.

Place the pie (on the sheet pan) in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes, or until its internal temperature is about 170 degrees. Cool the pie for an hour before slicing.

For easy slicing, Alton inverts his pie onto a cutting board, removing it from the pan. He then slices the upside-down pie with an electric knife before returning the pie to the pan. Store any leftover pie in the refrigerator.

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A slice of sweet potato pie.

So, how did Alton’s sweet potato pie fare in our house? I liked the pie, but not as much as pumpkin pie. Ted, on the other hand, preferred the sweet potato pie to pumpkin pie, though this still wasn’t one of his favorites. Alton’s pie is less sweet than pumpkin pie, and you really taste the tang of the yogurt. It does have a lighter, fluffier texture than a typical pumpkin pie, which I liked. I did also like the addition of toasted nuts and maple syrup on the top of the pie, and I could see that working well on pumpkin pie also. This pie was definitely good, but it wasn’t an all-time favorite in our house. If you have a household of people who do not care for pumpkin pie, this could be worth a try on your holiday table.

 

Breakfast Sausage

Sausage, I think, is one of those foods that very few people ever attempt to make at home, partially because it seems a bit daunting and because there are lots of decent options readily available. We do not eat a lot of sausage because we tend to try to eat a pretty healthy diet, but who doesn’t like some sausage every now and again? Once again, my Good Eats project pushed me to make something at home that I may otherwise not have tried, and it let me finally put to use the KitchenAid sausage attachment that has been sitting in the basement for five years.

A classic bulk breakfast sausage was Alton’s first project in this episode, and the only special equipment you really need for this is a meat grinder. Alton emphasizes that a food processor is not ideal for grinding fresh sausage because it results in sausage with a very dense texture. A food processor is suitable, however, for cured sausages. To make Alton’s breakfast sausage, begin by cubing two pounds of boneless pork butt and a half pound of pork fat back in to 1-inch pieces. I had to go to the local butcher shop to get my fat back.

Add the following to the cubed meat:  2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t black pepper, 2 t chopped fresh sage, 2 t chopped fresh thyme, 1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary, 1 T light brown sugar, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, and 1/2 t nutmeg.

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Herbs/spices for sausage, clockwise from upper left: Kosher salt, black pepper, fresh sage, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, light brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Mix the meat and spices thoroughly with your hands and chill the mixture for at least an hour; you want the fat to be cold prior to grinding, so it stays evenly dispersed in the sausage.

Once your meat has chilled, run it through your meat grinder of choice (using a fine die), one handful at a time.

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Bulk breakfast sausage.

Wrap the sausage in butcher paper, if you have it, and refrigerate it for up to a week, or freeze it for several months. I vacuum-sealed my sausage, freezing it for later use. When ready to cook your sausage, form the sausage into patties of desired size, and cook them in a pan over medium-low heat until they are no longer pink in the center.

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Breakfast sausage patties, cooking over medium-low heat until no longer pink.

Oh, and to clean the meat grinder, Alton suggests running stale bread through the grinder prior to washing it. We tried this sausage for breakfast one morning, eating it alongside English muffins.

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Alton’s breakfast sausage.

I found this sausage to really resemble the spicy bulk Jimmy Dean sausage my dad always ate when I was a kid. This sausage has lots of flavor from the variety of spices it contains, and is moderately spicy. The hardest part of making this bulk sausage is cubing the meat, which really is not much effort. All in all, this recipe taught me that bulk sausage is super easy to make and worth the effort.

Italian Sausage

The second recipe in this episode is for Italian sausage, which means you will need to have collagen sausage casings and a sausage-stuffing attachment. I bought my casings on Amazon.

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Collagen sausage casing.

The process for this sausage is very similar to that of the breakfast sausage above until you get to the stuffing portion. Fennel is a prominent spice in Italian sausage, so you first need to toast 1 1/2 t of fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat until fragrant.

Grind the fennel in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and add 2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t pepper, 1 T chopped parsley, and 2 pounds of cubed pork shoulder.

Toss the spices with the meat and refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to chill the fat.IMG_5235 Once chilled, grind the meat, one handful at a time, into a chilled bowl.

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Ground sausage.

Next, install the stuffing nozzle on your mixer, loading sausage into the hopper. Turn the mixer on, allowing it to run until sausage starts to come out of the nozzle.

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Ground sausage, loaded into the hopper.

Using a wooden spoon handle as a guide, load the collagen casing onto the nozzle (all the way to the far end of the casing), twisting the far end and clamping it with a clothes pin.

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Collagen sausage casing, loaded onto nozzle. Casing needs to be pushed all the way on. Excuse the somewhat phallic photograph.

Turn the mixer on at medium speed, using the plunger to push the sausage through while holding the casing with your other hand. This process is a lot easier with an additional set of hands. Once your casing is sufficiently stuffed, tie the end of the casing with twine.

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Filled casing.

It is now time to form links by twisting your desired width of sausage away from you (Alton did a hand-width portion). Form the second link by twisting the long part of the sausage the opposite direction. Be careful not to twist the links too much or the casing will tear; I found this out the hard way. Once your links are formed, twist them all into an accordion shape, keeping them all attached.

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Links formed.

Age the links in the refrigerator for at least two hours, and up to three days, before cooking or freezing. I will tell you that Alton makes the sausage stuffing/forming look really easy in the episode, while I found there to be a substantial learning curve. To cook Alton’s sausage, place your links in a lidded pan with 1/4-inch of water, and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes have passed, remove the lid from the pan and continue cooking your links, turning them every couple minutes until they are golden brown and have an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees.

As far as serving the sausages, Alton suggests serving them on buns with mustard.

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Italian sausage on a bun with mustard.

Though these sausages were a bit of a pain to form, we were really happy with their flavor. The toasted fennel flavor is prominent in these sausages and they taste as good as any Italian sausage you can buy.