CHEWY BROWNIES: The Very Best!

brownie 3 textI’ve been on another quest. (For some reason, my quests usually involve chocolate.) This time I was on a search for the perfect brownie recipe.

The three adjectives most often used with brownies are: chewy, cakey, and fudgy. People have their preference, but I’m guessing we all switch teams in a pinch. While I didn’t want a dry cakey brownie, I didn’t want a gooey fudgy one either. I wanted something in between – chewy.

It’s taken me the past year and MANY batches to get it right, but worth the effort!

CHEWY BROWNIES – made in 8″ x 8″ pan (or the equivalent)

  • 1½ oz (1/2 cup) pecans
  • 2¼ oz (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 oz 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bar, broken (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 2+3/8 oz (1/3 cup) butter
  • 5+1/8 oz (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 3/8 oz (1 T) water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz (2/3 cup) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestles)
  • optional:  fleur-de-sel to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit. 

Grease and flour an 8″ X 8″ glass baking pan (I use Pyrex).

NOTE: If you want to have neatly sliced brownies (which I never do), then line your baking pan with parchment paper, grease and flour the paper, then pour in the batter. That way, you can lift out the baked brownies and peel down the parchment so a long knife can be used to slice evenly.

Chop pecans and lightly toast them in a toaster oven or dry skillet. Set aside.toasted nuts

Place broken pieces of 60% chocolate bar in a medium sized bowl. (The smaller the pieces, the better for melting quickly.)brownies2

In a small saucepan, over very low heat, melt together the butter, sugar, and water, stirring often until bubbles start forming around sides of pan.brownies3Immediately pour hot liquid into bowl with chocolate, stirring to melt chocolate completely. Allow to cool 10 minutes, stirring now and then. (You’re going to be adding eggs, and don’t want to cook them.)brownies4

In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda – set aside. bundt2Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, stir in approximately half of the eggs and mix in completely. Pour and mix in the remaining egg. Stir in the vanilla.brownies5Add in the flour mixture, pecans, and mini chocolate chips. Mix just until all the flour has been incorporated. brownies6Pour into prepared baking pan, smoothing batter flat. If desired, sprinkle on fleur-de-sel.brownies7 Bake at 325º F for about 28 minutes. (They start to look done at around 25 minutes in my oven, but I let them go a few minutes more – otherwise they’ll sink too much as they cool and be a little too gooey for my taste.)brownies1Remove from oven and let brownies completely cool several hours before cutting. (This takes a LOT of self-control!!) Note: They’ll still sink a little at 28 minutes, but not as much as they would at 25 minutes.

WHITE BEAN & ‘SAUSAGE’ SOUP: Perfect For Those Chilly Nights!

sausage soup textLet me start by pointing out the quotation marks around the word SAUSAGE mean imitation. (For you carnivores, you can use real sausage.)

White Bean & ‘Sausage’ Soup is one of those recipes that can be made in 30 minutes – ideal for those nights when you have little time and/or desire to cook. This has become one of my family’s favorites, especially when served with a homemade Italian Bread Loaf.

WHITE BEAN & ‘SAUSAGE’ SOUP – makes about 7½ cups

  • 1 T olive oil
  • about 1 lb imitation sausage – my favorite for this recipe is made by Beyond Meatsausage soup5
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 4 cups vegetarian stock (homemade recipe: vegetarian stock)
  • 15 oz can white beans, rinsed
  • 1½ cups canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (about 3 oz) fresh spinach, chopped
  • optional – Parmesan cheese, grated

Chop imitation sausage into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in a Dutch oven and cook ‘sausage’ over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.sausage soup1 Add in onion, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook 3-5 minutes – until onions are softened. sausage soup2Add in stock, beans, tomatoes, salt, and black pepper. Bring to boil, cover, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes.sausage soup3 Stir in spinach off heat and check for seasoning (I add another 1/2 tsp salt). sausage soup4Sprinkle servings with Parmesan, if desired.

SPEEDY THIN CRUST PIZZA: My Very Favorite!

one hour pizza textSpeedy Thin Crust Pizza has become my go-to pizza recipe not only because I can have it on the table in a little over an hour, but because it’s REALLY good. It’s a very thin pizza with a nice chew.

Pizza in a little over an hour, you question? That’s right!!! This is my variation of America’s Test Kitchen’s 1-Hour Pizza. (I’ve made this pizza many times and could never make in in 60 minutes – more like 70 minutes.) Of course, the first time or two you make it, it will take longer.

SPEEDY THIN CRUST PIZZA – makes 2 pizzas

  • 6.25 oz (1-1/3 cup) bread flour
  • 2.75 oz (1/2 cup) semolina flour
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 T) warm water (about 110º F)
  • 1-5/8 oz (1/4 cup) beer (I like a pale beer)
  • 1/2 oz (2 tsp) white distilled vinegar
  • 1½ tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • toppings of your choice

Preheat oven to 500º Fahrenheit. Place the oven rack with a pizza stone or steel  4″ from the top heat source. It will take at least 30 minutes to bring the oven up to temperature, so I turn on my oven when I begin making the dough. 

If you have a scale (which I highly recommend), place the workbowl of your food processor with the steel blade in place on top. Turn the scale on if it’s battery operated so you start at ‘0’. Weigh the bread flour, semolina flour, water, beer, and vinegar. Add in the yeast, sugar, and olive oil. one hour pizza12Set the workbowl on the processor base and run the machine for 10 seconds.one hour pizza15 Let mixture set in place for 10 minutes. Add in the salt and process for 30 seconds. one hour pizza14Empty dough onto a floured counter and fold the dough onto itself a few times to bring the dough together. one hour pizza7Divide the ball in half and place each one on a piece of oiled (I use olive oil) parchment paper approximately 12″ wide. DO NOT USE WAXED PAPER – IT’S TOO THIN!!!one hour pizza9Rub the tops of the dough with a little more oil then top each with another piece of same-sized parchment. Press down with your hands to smoosh the dough into a square to get it started. With a rolling pin roll both dough balls to about 13″ x 10″ using short strokes, working from the center outward. (I find it easier to keep the parchment from sliding on my counter if I place it on a dry tea towel.) Let set 30 minutes.one hour pizza10 Use this time to get your toppings ready.

After 30 minutes, place one of the parchment covered pizzas upside down on a dry pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet. (The reason you flip the pizza upside down is that it’s easier to peel away the oiled parchment.)one hour pizza16 Carefully peel away and discard the top parchment (which used to be the bottom parchment). one hour pizza4bTop pizzas with your choice of sauce and toppings.one hour pizza17 Slide the pizza with bottom parchment onto the preheated stone or steel. one hour pizza18Bake for 4 minutes. Rotate the pizza 180º, then remove and discard the parchment by securing it in place with a spatula with one hand and pulling out the parchment with the other. (The parchment won’t burn your fingers, so you don’t need to use an oven mitt as long as you don’t touch anything else.) one hour pizza19Let bake another couple of minutes, until it’s browned to your liking. Remove from oven, let set a minute or two, then slice it up and serve. (This is not the same pizza I placed in the oven in the above pictures.)

NOTE:  If you want to sprinkle top with basil, do this after it’s baked – otherwise, the basil will burn.

one hour pizza6

 

STUFFED SWEET POTATOES: A Thanksgiving (Or Anytime) Treat!

stuffed sweet potatoes text

Sweet potatoes of some sort have become an integral part of Thanksgiving in the US. Sadly, they’re often dumped out of a can, sprinkled with brown sugar, then topped with marshmallows. Sigh!

I will agree that sweet potatoes can use some flavoring, so I decided to find a better way than covering them with sugar. Stuffing them offers the benefit of utilizing the skin, PLUS being able to assemble them ahead of time – a huge bonus when you’re trying to get a holiday dinner on the table.

STUFFED SWEET POTATOES – makes 2 servings

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed & minced
  • 1/3 cup scallions, sliced (use whites and greens)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 oz (1/2 cup) jack cheese, shredded (I like jalapeño jack for an extra kick)

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Wash unpeeled sweet potato and pierce with a sharp knife a few times. Microwave 2 minutes each side until soft in center – (about 6-8 minutes total). (You can bake them in the oven if you’d rather.) Set cooked sweet potato aside to completely cook in center while you prepare the filling.

Melt butter in a saucepan, and sauté jalapeño and scallions over medium flame for about 3-4 minutes – until the butter has browned, but not the scallions. Remove from heat and add in salt and pepper.stuffed sweet potatoes4 Slice sweet potato in half lengthwise and scrap out pulp, leaving a 1/4″ border intact. stuffed sweet potatoes7Chop pulp to break up strings, then mash. stuffed sweet potatoes5Stir mashed sweet potato into jalapeño mixture along with all but 2 T of the cheese.stuffed sweet potatoes6Fill each sweet potato shell with the mixture. Sprinkle 1 T cheese on each half.  At this point they can be covered and baked just before serving.stuffed sweet potatoes1Bake at 375º F for about 8 minutes, until sweet potatoes are hot and the cheese is melted. stuffed sweet potatoes2Serve immediately.

PUMPKIN SCONES WITH MAPLE DRIZZLE

pumpkin scones text2I’m not sure when it happened but, for better or worse, every year new foods become pumpkin flavored during Autumn.

Pumpkin pie? Sure – I’ll eat that maybe once a year…unless there’s a better choice.

Pumpkin ravioli? Yeah – a small amount encased in pasta is fine… now and then.

BUT, Pumpkin Scones? Heck, yeah!  I’ll have those anytime – especially with a maple drizzle.

Scones are super fast and easy to make – the less you mess with them, the more tender they are! So jump on board the pumpkin trend and try these delicious Pumpkin Scones!

Note: As self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze, I feel obliged to suggest (or nag) you freeze the unused pumpkin in portion sized amounts for future use. This recipe only requires 1/2 cup, so there’s plenty leftover from the can.

PUMPKIN SCONES – makes 8 scones

  • 8½ oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 T milk (any kind – I use nonfat)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Maple Drizzle – recipe follows at the end

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to dry ingredients. Cross-cut using 2 knives to break up butter into pea-sized pieces.

(If using the food processor, place butter with dry ingredients and pulse about 8 times – until the butter becomes pea-sized. Empty into a medium sized bowl.) pumpkin scones9 In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, pumpkin, milk, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold to mix.pumpkin scones11 Empty onto a well-floured counter and knead about 5 or 6 times. (I use a bench scraper to help since the dough is sticky.) pumpkin scones3With floured fingers, pat dough into an 8″ circle (try to keep the dough to an even thickness) and cut into 8 wedges.pumpkin scones5Place on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet (I prefer a dark sheet that’s greased.)pumpkin scones6 Bake at 400º F with the rack in the middle position for about 16 minutes. They’re at their best when they’re slightly dark on the bottom. pumpkin scones7The last time I baked them, I thought I overcooked them (see photo), but they were amazing – a slight crunch on the outside and perfect chew inside. So when you check them for doneness, look for slightly dark sides. pumpkin scones14Then remove from oven onto wire rack to completely cool before icing.

MAPLE GLAZE

  • 1 T butter
  • about 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 T maple syrup (use the pure syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt butter. Stir in confectioners sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Blend well, smashing any sugar lumps. If icing is too thin, add more sugar; if too thick, add a little milk.pumpkin scones1For easier control over the drizzle, pour icing into a spouted cup or a pastry bag with a small circle tip. Design as you wish.pumpkin scones2Allow icing to harden before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONION NAAN BREAD – For Those Who Want More From Their Naan!

onion naan textI love Indian food!  In particular, I look forward to the soft chewy naan bread.  I previously posted a plain naan bread recipe (NAAN BREAD: A SUPER SCOOPER), but thought I’d share my Onion Naan Bread recipe for those who want a more flavorful version.

Note:  It really helps to have a food processor for this recipe, but it can be done without one.

Additional Note:  As self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze, I feel obliged to suggest freezing leftover buttermilk in measured amounts for future use. (I freeze buttermilk in 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup increments since those are amounts I usually need.)

ONION NAAN BREAD – makes 8 naan breads

  • 1/2 cup water at 110º – 115º Fahrenheit
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/2 T dry yeast
  • 2½ – 3½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 4 cups (about 1 lb) onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • about 9 T olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 T baking powder

In a food processor fitted with steel blade, blend together the water, honey, yeast, and 1/2 cup of the flour. Let sit in covered processor for 1/2 an hour. onion naan2During the half hour wait, sauté the onions: In a skillet put 3 T olive oil, the onions, and salt. onion naan3Over medium to medium/high heat cook until onions are well browned. Adjust heat as necessary. (This step can be done ahead of time.) Remove from heat to cool a bit.onion naan4 Once the dough has set for 1/2 hour, add in 3 T olive oil, buttermilk, baking powder, onions, and about 1 cup of the flour. Blend to combine and break down onion somewhat.onion naan5 Add flour in increments until you get a dough that’s only slightly tacky to the touch. ham loaf14Pour dough into an oiled bowl, flip dough so both sides are oiled, and cover. Let rest about 1 hour, until doubled in size.onion naan6 Pour dough onto a lightly oiled counter (not floured). Cut into 8 pieces.

On stovetop over medium flame, heat a dry skillet or griddle. Roll out 1 or 2 balls (depending on size of skillet) to about 7″ in diameter (very thin!) on lightly oiled counter. When skillet is hot, peel dough off counter and place on skillet. Lightly brush top with olive oil.onion naan7As it’s cooking, roll out next dough ball(s).

Let dough cook until lightly browned on bottom – about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until bottom is browned. onion naan8Remove to a tea towel and wrap to keep warm.

GREEN CHILI STEW: Fast, Easy, and Delicious!!!

green chili stew textGreen Chili Stew is an incredibly tasty blend of flavors that’s quick to put together. The little pop of lime is my favorite part!

You can tailor this recipe to your needs: roast the chilis yourself or buy canned, use the type of chilis I recommend or amp it up (or down), use fake chicken (nowadays known as “plant-based”) or use tofu. It’s up to you!!!

As Queen of Freeze, I always encourage people to make large quantities of something that freezes well (after trying it first). However, this stew is so delicious that there’s never any left to freeze so I’m not sure how well it would do. I suspect it would be fine.

GREEN CHILI STEW – makes 11 cups

  • 1/2 lb corn (I use frozen)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 jalapeño chilis
  • 1 serrano chili
  • 1 New Mexico or Anaheim chili
  • optional in place of fresh chilis: 2  4-oz cans diced mild green chilis                                                                                                 1  4-oz can diced hot green chilis
  • 1½ tsp vegetable or avocado oil
  • 1 large (about 3 cups) yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 T garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 T cumin
  • 1/2 T coriander
  • 1 tsp + more salt if needed, divided
  • 1  15-oz can hominy, drained
  • 1  15-oz can white beans (I use cannellini beans), drained
  • 14 oz fresh tomatillos, chopped
  • 3½ cups vegetable stock (I use homemade vegetable stock)
  • 8½ oz fake chicken (I’ve used Worthington frozen ‘chicken’ log & Beyond Meat frozen seasoned ‘chicken’ – they’re both good)
  • optional in place of fake chicken: 1 block of tofu, cubed
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp lime juice (fresh or bottled)

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit, rack in upper third.

Spread corn out on rimmed cookie sheet and bake in preheated 400º F oven until corn starts to brown (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from oven. green chili stew3If you’re using fresh chilis, turn oven to broil. Wash and cut pepper and chilis top to bottom. Discard seeds and ribs. Lay cut side down on cookie sheet.green chili stew1Broil until skin starts to blacken. (It only takes a few minutes, so keep an eye on it!!!). Remove and discard blackened skin. green chili stew2Chop skinless pepper and chilis into bite-sized pieces.

Remove and discard paper-like green cover of tomatillos.green chili stew11 Wash tomatillos well (they feel kind of waxy) and chop into bite-sized pieces. green chili stew6In a Dutch oven, place the oil, onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1 tsp salt. Sauté over medium/high heat 4 minutes, stirring often. green chili stew4Add in corn, chilis, and pepper – cook 3 minutes, stirring often.green chili stew5 Add in hominy, beans, tomatillos, vegetable stock, and fake chicken or tofu. Turn burner to medium/high heat, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to keep a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro, lime juice, and additional salt, if needed (I usually add in 1 tsp salt).green chili stew8