Spotlight On: The Pastry Blender

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If you love making homemade food like me, chances are you could use a pastry blender. Anytime you’re making a dough that requires cutting butter or lard into flour (like biscuits, pie crust, or tortillas), it’s a great time and energy saver. I was using forks frustratedly until I ventured out to my local grocery store and bought one for $3-$4. Using it also makes me feel like a real chef in the kitchen! 🙂
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Maybe one day I’ll replace my wine bottle with an actual rolling pin and truly be professional, but for now, spend a few bucks and invest in a pastry blender!

Love,
Feisty

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Do the Roux

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It’s February! Yesterday was a sunny, 70 degree day, just the kind of weather I like in the middle of winter. Today is more like February–rainy, chilly and perfect for cuddling on the couch, watching a movie, and savoring a warm, home-cooked meal for dinner, like mac & cheese!

For those unfamiliar with a roux, it’s a combination of flour and fat, typically butter, that’s used as a base or thickening agent for a number of sauces. For southern loving cooks like me, it’s a stepping stone toward making the perfect macaroni & cheese. I’ve tried many roux-based cheese sauces that never turned out, either they never thickened up or weren’t cheesy enough.
Believe me when I say this. is. IT! Velveeta, eat your heart out.
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Cheese Sauce to End All Cheese Sauces

For Pasta & Vegetables

3 T. Butter
3 T. Flour
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Start by melting butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in flour and seasonings. Gradually add milk, whisking with flour-butter mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened and smooth. Cook 5 minutes longer, then add cheese.

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Stir in until smooth. I threw in a full cup of cheese, saving a little to sprinkle on top at the end.
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To create my delicious dish, boil preferred pasta according to package instructions and when cooked and drained, stir in to the cheese sauce.

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With a rich meal like this, it’s always a good idea to add veggies, so I added broccoli. My favorite way to cook broccoli is to throw a little butter into a pan, heat it up on medium and add broccoli, stirring once. Add salt & pepper and then leave it alone to get a nice golden brown sear. Cook at least 5 minutes. Once done to your liking, stir into pasta and cheese sauce.

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And there you have it. Divide into bowls and, if desired, sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Feisty Tip:Lay a paper towel or napkin over bowl to trap heat and help melt the cheese.
While eating, Nick exclaimed, ‘this is the best mac & cheese I’ve ever had.’
<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3
He’s definitely a keeper and so is this recipe! 😉

Love,
Feisty

Like (Mini) Strawberry Pie

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If you’ve been following this blog, you know that pies are nothing to be afraid of.  Easy as pie might refer to eating one (in most people’s minds), but not in Feisty’s world.  Mixing together a pie crust – easy!  Making the filling – usually, even easier! Going mini, well…that’s just the next step in food domination, isn’t it?  I like to think that every new thing I learn how to do will someday serve me well should I end up in a Chopped-like situation, having only 30 minutes to combine who knows what into a delightful dessert.

And these pies scream summer to me.  Strawberries are bright, sweet, and refreshing, everything you want in a summer treat.  I can just picture a few lazy kids sitting in the sun, drinking watered-down white wine & gorging on their own single serving strawberry pie.
The mini pies travel and share well; I can attest to this since they were my “dish to share” for my girl, Jessica’s Memorial weekend party in Culpeper.  I will say, though, that it seems the warmer they get, the more they fall apart.  I personally preferred them more cool than warm, and the pie crust definitely tastes better after a few days.

MINI STRAWBERRY PIES
Makes 9 pies

For crust:
1 c. cake flour
1 c. regular flour
3/4 c. cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 eggs
Mix both cups of flour together in bowl.  Add butter and mix with paddle attachment on Low for 1 minute.
I do not have a paddle attachment, so I ended up treating this like biscuit dough and cutting the butter through the flour with a fork.  Just make sure you get the butter mashed up pretty good.
Add 2 lightly beaten eggs & mix on Medium Low until dough forms cohesive mass.  Put dough into disc, wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge.
Once mixed, the dough did not come together as described so I used my hands to form it together.  You can tell when the dough is ready for this; it will hold together easily and stay formed into a ball.

For filling:
1/2 c. regular flour
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. UNPACKED brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1 dash cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
4 c. halved strawberries (you will need slightly more than 1-16 oz container)
1 T. vanilla extract
In a clean bowl (I use same bowl after washing it out), mix together flour, cornstarch, both sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In different bowl, toss strawberries with vanilla extract, then toss into the dry ingredients. One suggestion: cut strawberries into uniform shapes.  I halved all strawberries the same, big and small, and as a result I had a harder time fitting those bigger ones into my cups.

Now for the hard part…:)

Place your cupcake pan in freezer.  On a clean surface HEAVILY FLOURED, roll out 3/4 of dough until 1/8″ thick.  Return remaining 1/4 of dough to fridge.  Cut out circles 3″ in diameter for 9 total circles.  In my opinion, larger circles wouldn’t hurt!  Lightly grease pan with butter.  Gently press dough into cups, leaving small rim of dough at top.  Important: That rim is needed to attach top lattice crust. Make sure its big enough to be used effectively.  Use dough from fridge to patch any holes.
Overfill each cup with mixture (will shrink).  Don’t make my mistake and push filling down into it or it will not shrink so much.  Roll out remaining dough and slice into 1/4″ to 1/3″ strips.  Lay strips across each pie in crisscross pattern, pinching seams into rim as you go along.  Place cupcake pan on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  If crust starts browning too fast, cover with aluminum foil and continue to bake.  Let pies cool in pan for 30 minutes, then remove and cool on wire rack. They are easy to remove; I just used a cereal (soup?) spoon.

My only edit would be that these pies needed some sweetness.  Yes, they were filled with sweet strawberries, but with the brown sugar and regular sugar in it as well, I thought it would be sweeter.  I am pretty sure that the lack of sweetness was detected from the pie crust, because it has no sugar in it.  You might want to add sugar if you like really sweet desserts.  I drizzled honey over my pies, but you couldn’t really taste it.

Easy Recipe of the Week: Flaky, Delicious Biscuits

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With snow on the ground, a permanent scarf around my neck, and a blanket always by my side, weather like this calls for warm and homey meals.  Growing up in Virginia, I suppose I am predisposed to prefer southern meals like chicken & dumplings, or the very simple biscuit.  Yes, these are EASY EASY EASY to make and so dynamite delicious too.

BLAZING BISCUIT DOUGH

2 1/4 c. flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

1/3 c. butter, very cold

1 c. milk, very cold

Combine dry ingredients & sift together.  Cut butter into small pieces and mix in to dry ingredients with fork.  You could also do this with a food processor, but I don’t have one, or your fingers, but that gets real messy.  I usually end up doing a combination of using the fork & my fingers.  Butter should be roughly the size of peas.

Mix in milk until dough barely holds together.
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Turn out onto floured surface and knead for a few strokes until it comes together nice and smooth.  NOTE: FLOUR IS YOUR BEST FRIEND.  One of my pet peeves is dough sticking to my fingers (I can be quite paradoxical like that; an artist & chef who hates messy hands), so I flour it up!  It feels like a waste, but you don’t want to lose your biscuit dough, sticky finger by finger.  Make dough into a cohesive ball.
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Now, apparently fluffy biscuits come from cold dough, so if you have time, wrap your dough in lightly floured plastic wrap and refrigerate for a bit.  When you are ready to gobble down these babies, roll out your dough until its about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick and cut out biscuit-sized circles.  I should call myself the resourceful chef because I always find ways around not having certain things needed.  Like a biscuit cutter.  Use an appropriately sized glass and it works just as well. EDIT: Apparently it does not work just as well. A sharp cutter or knife (for square biscuits!) is better at producing clean edges which leads to good layers. I use a round cookie cutter now!
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These biscuits will rise, so don’t worry if they look short.  Place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet & bake for 8-10 minutes at 450 degrees.  Don’t crowd them or they will take longer!  Brown them to your liking; any way you do it, they will be splendidly delicious!
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One note about leftover dough: Unless you need all the biscuits you can get out of this dough, wrap up the leftover dough into a ball and save overnight.  The biscuits will be better than if you rerolled the dough immediately. 

just call me the potato princess

When I was younger, I wasn’t a big fan of breakfast, and much preferred the hearty warmth of lunch & dinner.  Coming of age, being an alcoholic, & influence from Mr. Cacophony changed all that.  Add to that, my vicious Saturday night and a nice, hearty breakfast turned into a necessity this morning.  Bring on the eggs, bacon & home fries!!!

Now, everyone has their own image of a perfect breakfast.  Mine used to be the egg & cheese on an English muffin, but I’ve now moved on to the tastiness & heartiness of home fries.  My obsession reached its height at the home of Yorkshire Restaurant in Manassas.  Sadly, I have moved now, & can no longer take part in Yorkshire’s heavenly home fries.

Now, I don’t know how to make Yorkshire’s home fries, but I do now how to make some damn good ones.  Simple too.  Pair them with scrambled eggs, some turkey bacon, a glass of OJ & some red grapes, and you’ve got the Feisty breakfast of choice.

HOME FRIES!!

First, you are going to want to start with dicing your potatoes.  I use 2 red potatoes, which is a good helping for both Ryan & I.  You can certainly use white potatoes, just keep in mind how much you are making.

Dice them up, wash them & dry them off.  Of course, wash them before you dice them up too — I will scrub my potatoes and core the eyes out with my fingernails because i don’t have a peeler.

Add about 2 T. of olive oil to your saute pan (make sure you have a fitted lid for it!), and start to heat it up.  I think the original recipe called for butter, but I try not to cook with butter whenever possible.  Learn to love olive oil and you’ll start to prefer it.

 

 

 

Once your oil is hot, throw in your potatoes, and stir them up so they are nicely covered by the oil.  Sprinkle salt & pepper.  I do a healthy dose of pepper & then a pinch of salt, since the less salt, the better.

 

 

 


Top your pan with the lid, and set your timer for 10 minutes.

While our potatoes are sizzling away, its time to cut your onions!  I cut them big because you don’t want them to disappear once they’ve cooked.  I use white onion because I like their sweetness.  To each their own.  There’s no specific amount, just whatever looks like enough.

 

 

 

 

After the 10 minutes are up, take the lid off and stir your potatoes well.  You should see a nice browning on one side of every potato that touched the pan.  Yum!  Throw in your onions and stir so they are coated with the oil.

 

EDIT: I replaced the photo here with a more accurate photo of how the browning should look, hence why the potatoes and onions are different looking than the photos above.
Look at that crispy goodness!  Don’t be scared of the char — with home fries, the more char, the better they taste.

 

 

 

 

Cook 10 more minutes with the top on.  Make sure those onions get a nice char too!  Caramelized onions, mmmmmmm.

 

   Serve & scarf down!

 

 

 

You know when breakfast is also very good? Dinnertime.  You could probably even make these potatoes with dinner, they are so fuckin delicious.  I imagine throwing bacon in would be really delicious, or you could do any kind of veggie, like mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, etc.*  You know, I bet you could throw anything into these and they would be awesome.   GO CRAZY with it!

love,
feisty

*Cook bacon first and crumble.  Add to dish in last 30 seconds of cooking.  I added my mushrooms in the last 3 minutes of cooking.  Zucchini would need longer time, maybe 5 minutes.  Peppers are completely subjective, as it is up to you how cooked or raw you like your peppers to be.

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