Monday, November 19, 2012

Roasted Sausage, Potatoes, and Peppers

It's the week of Thanksgiving. The big meal--turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, rolls, pumpkin pie (or in our case pumpkin dip, per Eric's request)--is just days away. With all that cooking ahead, what in the world do you make in the days leading up to the holiday? Something easy, comforting, and filling: roasted sausage, potatoes, and peppers.

One pan, 45 minutes.

Adapted from this recipe

4 to 5 potatoes, diced small (we used russet)
14 ounces jalapeno sausage, chopped (or your favorite type of sausage)
1 to 2 red bell peppers, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
rosemary, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil for easy clean up.

Toss the potatoes, sausages, and peppers with oil and spread out on the cookie sheet. Season with spices. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Eric was not thrilled when I told him what was for dinner tonight. He doesn't care for peppers. But one of the many great things about him is that he'll try anything. Well, he went back for seconds.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Basic Pastry Recipe and Its Many Uses

This recipe has appeared a number of times on my blog. I use it to make pies, cheesy twisty straws, and cinnamon-sugar pastries to go with my pumpkin dip, to name a few. It even inspired my cheese crisps recipe. So I thought I'd finally give it its own page.

 2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
5 to 7 tablespoon cold water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in shortening using two knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the mixture is moist and can be pressed into a ball. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured board or work surface, roll the dough out so its about a quarter inch in thickness and do with it what you will. Baking time depends on what you're making.
A crust for a pie, quiche, or tart. A savory or sweet pastry. You can't go wrong with cinnamon-sugar pastries; they're Eric's favorite (and mine too). Pies take about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes for small pies or tarts. About 5 minutes for cookie-like pastries.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cheese Puffs, Cheese Crisps, and Something In Between

I have a few different writing projects going right now (not to mention a wedding to plan--but the dress is taken care of!), and Eric has been warning me that I'm going to burn out. He keeps telling me to relax and actually take a full day off--something that is nearly impossible for me. But he's right. I'm getting burnt out. An avid gamer, he recommended shooting zombies, monsters, and whatever else in a video game for a good tension reliever. I decided to spend some time in the kitchen instead. Yesterday I made chocolate-covered cherries which I will be sharing with you next month (they need to age a bit). Today it was supposed to be a cheese cracker recipe I found on Pinterest. I probably have at least a dozen recipes for crackers bookmarked on my computer. Cheez-its, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Goldfish, Cheese Nips . . . you name it, I have it in my archives. But for my first cracker recipe, I went with the easiest one I had, a five ingredient cheese cracker: cheddar, flour, cayenne, salt and rice krispies.

And I managed to screw it up.

I had a brain freeze while adding the flour. So I could either scrap the dough and the 2 cups of delicious cheddar cheese, or I could experiment and come up with something on my own. Since the recipe was already a disaster, I knew I couldn't make it any worse. With just cheese, butter, too much flour, salt, and cayenne in the bowl, the crumbly dough reminded me of my pastry dough recipe. Keeping that recipe in mind, I added some water and left out the rice krispies. Not sure how these would cook (I really need to invest in a book about the chemistry of baking), I played with different thicknesses. My first batch, which were the thickest, came out as delicious cheese puffs. I ate half a plate of them without realizing it. They were that good.

Cheese Puffs
 The second batch were thinner but not thin enough. They ended up as a cross between puff and cracker.

The in between
I rolled the dough of my third and final batch as thin as I could possible get it. Those were the perfect cheddar cheese cracker. I ate too many of those, too.

Cheese Crisps
So instead of tossing that messed up recipe in the trash, experiment with it. You just might come up with a new recipe of your own.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 5 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

On low, beat the butter and cheese together in a large bowl until well combined. Add in flour, cayenne, and salt and combine. Your dough will be crumbly. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the dough sticks together. With your hands, roll the dough into a ball.

For Cheese Puffs: Roll your dough out to roughly a 1/4-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out circles (or any shape you want, trees or candy canes for Christmas, bunnies for Easter, pumpkins for Halloween, etc). I didn't have a cookie cutter on hand so I used a napkin ring. Place dough on the cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the bottoms slightly brown. You can actually make thicker puffs or roll the dough into balls and bake. You just need to adjust the time.

Before baking

After baking
For Cheese Crisps: Roll your dough out as thin as you can possible get it. So thin it's almost tearing. Some of my crackers had little holes in them where the dough did rip a little. Cut out small circles and place them on the cookies sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the crackers begin to brown.

These really do come out as crisp as any cracker. These are so simple that I can't wait to experiment with flavor. Add thyme or rosemary. You can also make these (or the puffs) look pretty by placing an herb in the center of the cracker before baking.

Eric came home from work and I made him try my puffs, crisps, and in betweens. He said they tasted just like Cheez-its then walked away with the container.



Royal Icing

I find myself referencing this recipe for time to time so I thought I'd give it its own post. I use royal frosting when I decorate my Christmas gingerbread house and my Halloween gingerbread house. I also happen to use it on Christmas sugar cookies. Whenever I need a frosting that hardens, this is my go-to recipe. However, you're not supposed to eat it. It contains raw egg which can make you sick. I know there are other recipes out there for frosting that hardens. I've even made a few. But I grew up eating this frosting. So did my mom. It's quick and easy and delicious. The raw egg doesn't bother me or Eric. We also eat raw cookie dough, cake batter, and sushi. Anyway, just know that if you eat this frosting, you're risking salmonella poisoning.

So the only half way decent pictures I had are from 2009, long before I began blogging.
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
food coloring (optional)

Beat the egg whites and tartar on high until frothy. Gradually add the sugar until peaks form, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring if desired.

Keep the icing covered with a damp paper towel until you're ready to use the frosting. If left uncovered, it will harden in the bowl.

Eric helping to frost cookies. Look at how young he looks without the beard!