Monday, April 30, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers - ButterYum

I have been making these stuffed peppers for as long as I can remember.  The original recipe began as one from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook, which was the only cookbook my mother owned when I was growing up.  Like most of you probably do, I tweaked and revised the recipe through the years.  My family loves them.  For a fast stove-top version, see my notes below.

Stuffed Peppers
Printable Recipe
makes 6

6 large bell peppers, any color (prepared as directed below)
2 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes with their juice)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons A-1 steak sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
1 cup water
1 cup long grain white rice
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, divided (or any good melting cheese)

Preheat oven to 375F.  To prepare peppers, cut tops off and reserve.  Clean inside peppers by removing seeds and ribs; place in an oven safe pan or casserole dish. Mince the pepper tops; discard the inedible stems. In a large saute pan, saute minced pepper tops and onions in a little olive oil until translucent. Add ground beef, salt, and pepper; cook until beef is brown and cooked through, stirring occasionally to break up clumps. Drain beef if necessary and add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, A-1, water, and rice; stir well to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover until rice is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid; about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in all but 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Spoon mixture into the prepared peppers (extra filling can be stuffed into the spaces between the peppers). Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese on top of peppers. Place on middle rack in oven and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starts to turn bubbly and brown.

My Notes:
If you want smaller portions, cut the peppers in half lengthwise and place them cut-side-up on a rimmed sheet pan before stuffing and baking.  This filling can also be used to stuff cabbage leaves.  Just fill and roll steamed cabbage leaves, then cover with tomato sauce and heat through.

For a fast "skillet dinner" version of this recipe, don't plan to stuff the peppers.  Instead, dice the peppers and add them to the meat mixture at the same time you add the rice.  When the rice is cooked, sprinkle the cheese on top, cover and heat just until the cheese melts.  Serve straight from the skillet.

Okay, let's make some stuffed peppers.

Start by prepping your peppers.  You don't have to clean the ribs out if you don't want to, but I like to make room for as much yummy filling as possible.  

I use a melon baller to scrape the ribs out - so much easier than trying to use a knife.

See.  Easy peasy.

That took me no more than 5 seconds.

I mince the pepper tops and add them to the filling.

I like extra sharp cheddar, but feel free to use your favorite cheese.  Nestle your peppers in an oven-safe container that will hold them upright.  I used a cast iron skillet today, but sometimes I use a pie plate, a casserole dish, or even a jumbo muffin tin.

Oops, I forgot to get a pic of the cooked ground beef before I added the crushed tomatoes (envision cooked ground beef with flecks of onion and tri-colored peppers).  Now we add the crushed tomatoes, water, rice, and various seasonings.

This is what the mixture will look like before the rice is cooked.

And here is what it looks like after the rice is cooked.  Stir in some of the cheese and we'll be ready to stuff the peppers.

Are you getting hungry yet?

Oh my.  Top them with cheese and pop them into the oven for 20 minutes.

Here we go.  I wish you could smell them!!  My hungry brood is dying to dig in... gotta run!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pains D'Amande - Very Thin French Almond Cookies

Pains D'Amande - ButterYum

When I read about these cookies on David Lebovitz's blog, they were described as "the best tea cookies in the world" and I knew I had to try them.  Let me tell you, they do not disappoint!  They're extremely thin, extremely crisp, and extremely addictive!  I have a standing order from 2 sisters, a brother, and my mother for more, more, more!!

The cookie dough is a cinch to make, but it has to chill in the fridge for 4-6 hours to firm up enough to slice into papery thin planks.  As skilled as I am with a sharp knife, I couldn't cut the dough as thin as I wanted, but a mandolin made pretty easy work of it.  If you're lucky enough to own an electric meat slicer, all the better. 

Pains D'Amande - Very Thin French Almond Cookies
Printable Recipe
makes 100-120 paper thin cookies 
an adaptation of a Flo Braker recipe, via David Lebovitz

113g unsalted butter (4 ounces)
75g water (1/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch or two of salt
280g Hawaiian raw sugar - see note below  (1 1/3 cups)
85g sliced almonds, not slivered (1 cup or 3 ounces)
325g all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside.

In a medium heavy bottomed, preferably non-stick, saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, water, cinnamon, and salt until butter is completely melted without allowing the mixture to boil.  Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is not quite completely dissolved (not letting the sugar melt completely adds wonderful texture); again, don't let the mixture boil.  Using a silicone spatula, stir in the sliced almonds and remove from the heat.  Stir in flour/baking soda mixture and stir until combined.  Pack dough into a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch silicone loaf pan (or a glass or metal cake pan lined with plastic wrap).  Chill for at least 4-6 hours until very firm.

Place oven rack in lower third and preheat oven to 325F.  Prepare at least 2 sheet pans with parchment or silicone liners.  Remove brick of cookie dough from loaf pan and slice cookies as thin as you can get them using a serrated knife, mandolin, or electric meat slicer (1/16-inch thick).  Place cookies on cookie sheet pan leaving about 1/4-inch between each cookie.  Bake, one sheet at a time, for 8 minutes, remove from oven and carefully turn cookies over, return to the oven and bake for another 4 minutes until they're crisp and honey colored.  Remove sheet pan from oven and immediately transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.  Proceed with subsequent batches, always being sure to put unbaked cookies on completely cool sheet pans. 

Stack cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 10 days, although I seriously doubt you'll have any left to store after your friends and family taste them. 

My Notes:
I've made these cookies quite a few times now.  Here are some helpful suggestions I've learned along the way.

These cookies puff a bit when baked.  If you find you cannot slice the dough paper thin, don't allow them to bake quite as long, so they stay a little chewy rather than getting too crisp (thick, crisp planks are difficult to eat and can injure the roof of your mouth - trust me, I know!).

The dough can be made in advance, wrapped well in several layers of plastic wrap, and stored in the freezer for later use.  Cookies can be sliced and baked directly out of the freezer.

Don't throw away the crumbled bits of dough that accumulate as you slice the cookies - just bake them off and enjoy as a tasty nibble, or toss them with a few mini chocolate chips and sprinkle over ice cream (really, really, really good).

When unmolding, I find a flexible silicone loaf pan is very easy to peel away from a hard brick of chilled dough. If you only have a metal loaf pan, be sure to line it with plastic wrap before pressing the cookie dough into it.  And if you have trouble coaxing the chilled dough out of the metal pan, wrap a warm towel around the base for a few minutes. 

This recipe is available on several sites with differing sugar amounts listed - some say 280g of sugar, some say 300g.  I made made both and couldn't tell a difference so I save a few calories by going with 280g.

Hawaiian Raw Sugar (aka Sugar in the Raw) is sold in 2-pound bags at most grocery stores.  Turbinado or Demerara sugars may be substituted.

David prefers to bake these cookies on parchment, but I got great results using a silicone Silpat liner.  I baked batches on both surfaces and couldn't tell a difference between the two.

Flo Braker's original recipe doesn't call for salt, but I always add a pinch to sweet things.  Also, I made a batch with 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and that was very good. 

Sugar/butter mixture.

Stir in almonds.

Add flour mixture.

Stir, stir, stir.

Press into loaf pan.

 Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Unmold and slice very, very thin.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Buttercup Biscuits

Buttercup Biscuits - ButterYum
These are the cutest, most delectable little biscuits ever.  And they're so simple to make - only 3 ingredients! 

Buttercup Biscuits
Printable Recipe
makes 30-40 mini biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour**
8 ounces unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces sour cream

Preheat oven to 400F and spray mini muffin pan with non-stick baking spray.  In a medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients and fill mini muffin pan 3/4 full.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.  

**To make self-rising flour, combine 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and enough all-purpose flour to equal 1 cup.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Note Card Party

I'm participating in an blog "Note Card Party" at A Haven for Vee.  Bloggers who wish to participate should post 4 photos that would make nice note cards, but they can only be photos that have appeared on your blog in the past.  I've published hundreds if not thousands of photos, mostly food related, but I thought I'd share some of my favorite non-food photos today.  These were taken either with my Panasonic Lumix FZ28 (point and shoot) or my Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 18-200mm telephoto lens.

This is a momma robin feeding her 4 babies in a nest she built outside my office window last year.  I sat in the sun for hours to get this shot, but it was worth it.  Incidentally, the same robin just hatched 3 eggs in the same nest yesterday.
Panasonic Lumix FZ28

I saw this field of wildflowers on the side of the road last year and couldn't resist pulling over to capture them.

This huge, stunning fuchsia was growing in the gardens of an English Manor where my husband and I stayed during out trip to England.  It was well over 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide, and was covered with thousands of little buds that were just beginning to open.

This tulip was sitting on my dining room table just a few weeks ago.  The sunshine was illuminated the delicate petals in such a beautiful way that I had to snap a quick pic.
Nikon D7000

Thanks for visiting.

Chewy British Flapjacks

British Flapjacks - ButterYum

Do you think of pancakes when you hear the word flapjacks?  Well, think again - British Flapjacks are nothing like American pancakes.  They're a buttery, caramely, chewy kind of granola bar that is utterly and amazingly DELISH!!  No wonder they're so beloved by Britons (Australians have a similar version called Muesli Bars).  We can't keep the family away from them... not even the kid who hates everything. 

This recipe calls for Golden Syrup, which is a popular cane sugar syrup from the UK.  It has a rich, complex caramel flavor and it's one of my favorite ingredients so I buy it whenever I find it... even brought several tins home when we went to England.  In the US it can be purchased Wegmans, Harris Teeter, Shop Rite, specialty food shops, gourmet food shops, and British import stores.  If you can't find it, you can substitute agave nectar, honey, or light corn syrup, but definitely make an effort to find the golden syrup.  It's amazing stuff and I almost always use in place of honey or corn syrup called for in the recipes that I bake.  I dare you to keep a spoon out of the stuff - bet you can't do it!!

Chewy British Flapjacks
Printable Recipe
makes 16
adapted from Bon Appetit

8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup (84g) golden syrup (or agave nectar, honey, or corn syrup)
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups (250g) quick cooking oats (old-fashioned oats can also be used)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 8x8-inch non-stick square pan.

In a medium sauce pan, melt butter.  Add brown sugar, golden syrup, and salt; stir until sugar dissolves and mixture is bubbly.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Add the oats; stir until all the oats are coated (at first it will seem like there isn't enough liquid to coat all of them, but don't worry, just keep stirring).  Press mixture evenly into prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges just start to turn golden brown.  Remove pan from oven and rest for 5 minutes before cutting into squares or rectangles; cool completely in pan before serving (about an hour).

Use a plastic knife to cut the flapjacks (they won't stick to the plastic).  The flapjacks will fall apart if you try to remove them from the pan before they are cool.  If you prefer crunchy over chewy, simply bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.  Adrianne from Happy Hour Projects made a version of these in a muffin pan - they baked up into little round puck shapes.  Very cute and no cutting required. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chocolate and Banana Baked Oatmeal

Chocolate and Banana Baked Oatmeal
When I saw this yummy baked oatmeal posted on Budget Bites yesterday, I knew I had to make it immediately.  So glad I did because it does not disappoint!  I wish you could have experienced the heavenly aroma of chocolate and bananas when I pulled this glorious treat out of the oven.  Crazy good!

We like to let our baked oatmeal cool to room temperature so we can cut slices to snack on throughout the day.  That gave me the perfect opportunity to dress it up with a little whipped cream and chocolate curls.   

Chocolate and Banana Baked Oatmeal  
Printable Recipe
makes one 8-inch square pan or one deep-dish pie plate 
serves 6-8
adapted from Budget Bites

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (almond would be yummy too)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

Optional Garnish:
1 banana, sliced
chocolate curls
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar)

Preheat oven to 350F and spray baking pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mash 1 1/2 cups of bananas (3-4).  Add all the remaining oatmeal ingredients except the oats.  Whisk to combine; make sure there are no cocoa powder lumps.  Stir in the oats and pour into prepared 2-quart baking dish; place on sheet pan and place in oven for 45 minutes.  Eat warm or cool to room temperature and garnish with sweetened whipped cream, banana slices, and chocolate curls.  Serves 6-8.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tootsie Roll Rose Redux

Tootsie Roll Rose by ButterYum
Tootsie Roll Rose - ButterYum
Got any leftover Tootsie Rolls hanging around after Easter?  I thought I'd repost this cute idea for those of you who do.

How to make a Tootsie Roll Rose ButterYumThey're actually kind of fun and relatively easy to make using fresh (soft) tootsie rolls. Start by rolling a small ball, then smoosh it into a petal shape (the candy will soften from the heat of your hands). Roll the first petal tightly to form the center of the rose.

How to make a Tootsie Roll Rose by ButterYumKeep making petals and apply them, one-by-one in concentric circles, until your flower is done (pinch off any extra from the bottom). All together I used 2-3 small candies per rose.

Now tell your little one to close his/her eyes and prepare to delight in the huge smile they'll give you when they see you've made.

How to make a chocolate rose by ButterYumAnd when they giggle, pop it in their mouth.

Chocolate Rose by ButterYum