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Sunday, September 19, 2010

You found it here first: Loose Meat Sandwiches by Rich

This great recipe was birthed by my husband Rich after visiting Philadelphia earlier in the summer, and making sloppy joes for dinner one night. I know, go figure! Sometimes our inspirations come from all kinds of places! :)

For the sandwiches you will need:

  • 1 lb  ground beef
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 4 hoagie rolls
Heat the oil in the skillet, add onions, and cook until just slightly browned. Now add garlic and chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute longer.

Add ground beef, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Reduce the heat, and cook until the meat is done, about 4-5 minutes. Make sure to be breaking up the beef into tiny pieces.

To make these loose meat sandwiches truly exceptional, use bakery-fresh hoagies. The ones from the bread isle (in the bag) are too soft and will get soggy fast. Plus you really need that soft squishy inside, but nice, slightly crunchy crust to achieve the intended flavorful result. Both Safeway's and Fred Meyer's bakeries carry nice fresh rolls which are actually cheaper than a bag version!

We toasted our rolls in the oven, at 350F, for about 3-4 minutes. Next, slice the roll, put a couple of slices of provolone, and stuff with beef filling. This final step has to be done fairly fast, so that you get that wonderful beef-cheese meltiness going :).

What will you serve your sandwiches with? A side of steak fries? Wala Wala onion rings? A good crunchy pickle? Enjoy! And please let us know your feedback! :)

On a Quest for the favorite bakery. Ken's Artisan, Portland, OR

Not all bakeries are created equal. Some are smelly. Some are overpriced. Some hardly offer anything. And some are exceptional. Ken's Artisan on NW 21st in Portland makes me happy.
A tiny little corner pad can hardly fit a steady stream of people who want nothing more than a morning cup of coffee and a pastry to go with their morning paper reading. Then there are those who come to grab a fresh loaf of wonderful goodness for dinner. Families! I love to see families enjoying each other's presence; kids indulging in their cream puffs using their whole face. And above all this commotion floats a cloud of heavenly smell of freshly baked crusty bread. Mmmm. This bakery is certainly exceptional.

Vika goes for the Passionfruit Mango Tart: a generously-sized, meringue-topped delight with a bold tropical flavor.

Being a croissant junkie, I chose one filled with ham, asiago, and tarragon.

Finally, we finish with a trio of Macarons: pistachio, huckleberry, and caramel-sea salt. A nice, light, and slightly chewy little bon-bon, which made our hearts sing.  Definitely exceptional!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In the spirit of baking untraditional pies. Here comes the apple!

I absolutely love this pie! I'll share the recipe, but will let the pictures do all the talking. You know.. that "one picture is worth a thousand words" thing :)

  • 1 c. flour
  • 0.5 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. chilled butter
  • 1/8 c. ice water
  • 1/8 c. vodka (I used vanilla vodka)
Mix together salt and flour, then cut butter into this mixture, until coarse crumbs form. Now add your liquids, a spoon at a time, while tossing with a fork - until dough forms. Shape it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and stick in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Filling (mix together):
  • 7 medium Gravenstein or Granny Smith apples - thinly sliced
  • 0.5 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 0.5 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/3 c. chilled butter
Mix together brown sugar, flour, and nutmeg. Cut butter into this mixture until you have coarse crumbs once again.

Roll the dough on a floured surface with a rolling pin, then fit into a 9-in. pie pan. Make sure to leave at least 1-inch overhang. As you will see from the picture, I'm not a "crust master", therefore, my crust is as boring-looking as they come. If you know how to make the crust look pretty, with all the squiggly edges, please talk to me! :)

Now spoon the apple filling into your crust.

Sprinkle apples evenly with topping, and bake at 400F, on the lowest rack, for about 35 minutes - until topping is browned.

Now the pictures:

Perfect crust - CHECK (thank you, vodka!)

Perfect golden topping - CHECK

Filling done right , not too crunchy, not too mushy - CHECK!

Fresh ice cream is a MUST! Enjoy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fresh Berry Crumb Pie. Stepping out of the comfort zone!!!

I'm not really a pie person. I'll take a crisp or a cobbler over a pie any day.
Immediate Disclaimer: it's not to say that I don't enjoy a good pie when it's in front of my face. :)
So I set out on a quest to make a pie-crisp crossover. I should warn though: this is only for those who dare to step out of the traditional "pie box".
The blackberries are abundant this year. And with summer coming to an end a little too soon for my taste, the girls and I have decided to make the best of the situation by making a blackberry crumb pie.

One of the "star" ingredients of this recipe, besides the fresh blackberries, are toasted almonds. They serve both as a crust, and as a crumbly topping!

For the crust/topping you'll need:
  • 1 cup almonds (see roasting directions below)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 0.5 cup sugar
  • 1.5 sticks butter (chilled and cubed)
For the filling prepare:
  • 0.5 cup sugar
  • 1.5 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 pints fresh blackberries (or other berries OK too!)
First, roast almonds. Spread them on a cookie sheet, and roast at 350F for about 7-10 min. (depending on how dark you like them: darker color = more intense roasted flavor). Make sure you stir them occasionally to avoid burning!

Next step is to grind the nuts. I used a little hand-cranked grinder, but food processor or even a blender will do too. Just be sure to pay close attention while grinding in a processor, or you might end up with almond butter :).

To make the crust, mix together nuts, flour, and sugar. Add cubed chilled butter, and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or by using two knives, until coarse crumbs form. There is no liquid used to make this crust!

Using fingers, press about half of this mixture into the bottom and sides of the tart pan (I used 9-inch pan).

To prepare the filling, mix together sugar and cornstarch, then gently fold in the berries. Now spoon this berry mixture into the crust and spread it evenly.

Finally, sprinkle your pie with the remaining half of the crust/crumb topping, and bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, until topping is golden in color. You won't believe the aroma floating through your house while this thing is baking. There are no words to describe it!

Let your heavenly creation cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then serve while still warm. Depending on the berries you use, this pie might be easier served with a spoon (like a cobbler) - this was the case with our blackberries. A good, creamy vanilla ice cream is a MUST, in order to achieve a proper flavor/texture combination. ;)

Are you ready to indulge? A buttery-nutty crunch of the crust and the topping mix with the slightly gooey spoonful of warm berries, then instantly cooled with a creaminess of a simple vanilla ice cream.  A glass of milk? A cup of tea? You choose! This is what summer tastes like...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tawna's Ridiculously Easy Pineapple Chicken... It's ridiculously good!

I got inspired to make this chicken without even asking for it. Don't you love when that happens? :)
First I must spill the beans though: it's technically not "Tawna's" recipe. She is claiming all the credit for her fiance Cory, since he is not much of an internet guy :). But it's cool with me. I give her credit for sharing.

We used boneless chicken breast and fresh pineapple. I'm sure canned sliced pineapple can be used as well.

Since I did not have the exact proportions of the ingredients (and most of the time I don't measure anyway), I just mixed things according to how much chicken I had.

  • Eight boneless chicken breasts
  • 6 oz Dole Pineapple Juice (or if you're using canned pineapple, just drain your can here)
  • 6 oz (or so) BBQ sauce (we used Pendleton's "Let's Buck")
  • 1-2 tsp Chicken seasoning blend (we used Tombstone brand)
  • four cloves of garlic, squeezed
Combine last four ingredients in a zip lock bag, add chicken, and marinate for at least few hours.

Grill your chicken until done. Rich likes to use the indirect heat method, which makes for an incredibly juicy and tender breast, but it does take a bit longer. Well worth the wait though!

If you're using a fresh pineapple, core and slice it.
Pineapple takes about 6 minutes to grill (flip halfway through) on medium heat.

While things are grilling, put your marinade to work. It makes a terrific sauce! Thanks to my husband for the idea :). I sauteed some shallots, added  remaining marinade from the bag, and brought it all to a boil. A generous splash of white wine (the one I planned on serving alongside :)) adds a nice touch too! Now turn it all the way down to a gentle simmer. It will be ready when the grilling is done.

Once the chicken is cooked, top it with the sauce, and serve with your grilled pineapple on top, with rice.

This meal is so ridiculously cheap and easy to make it's...well.. ridiculous!!! :)

Tawna, Cory - did we come close to your masterpiece??

Total cost: $3 per person (and there were plenty of leftovers, too!)