Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brown Butter Cookies

There has been a surge of brown butter recipes as of late on the web... largely inspired by a recent article in the now-retired Gourmet Magazine. Brown butter is an amazing ingredient -- it's the result of cooking butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to foam and turn a caramel brown. This results in caramelization of the milk solids and alters the flavor of the butter to an amazing nutty, toffee-like taste. I've seen it used in everything from pasta sauce to cakes and cookies.

With Nathan deployed for a year, baking and shipping cookies has been fairly high on my priority list. I wanted to come up with a brown butter cookie recipe of my own, and after some trial and error, invented one I really love. It is a salty-sweet cookie with a sparkling sugar coat and would be perfect for your holiday gift baskets. Or just to eat by the fistful with a big glass of milk. Whatever floats your boat. ;)


1 cup of butter, browned and cooled to room temp. (You can do this part up to 1 day ahead. The butter won't firm up after it cools, it will be semi-liquid and grainy. Don't worry, it will whip up beautifully when the eggs are added to the batter. )

1.5 cups white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2.5 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar for coating

In a large mixing bowl, combine browned butter and sugar. Mix until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla and whip until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Sift flour, salt, soda, and baking powder together into wet mixture. Mix just until well blended. Form into 1" balls (I used a small cookie scoop which worked great), and roll in additional sugar until coated. Place about 3 inches apart on a cookie sheet. I line mine with parchment paper -- well worth a few bucks for the roll. When the cookies come out of the oven, i just pull the whole sheet of parchement off, cookies and all, and cool that way. No mess, no crumbs, no cookies falling through wire racks. Bake at 400 F for about 8-10 minutes. You want the cookies to take on a sandy brown color but not cook so long they dry out. Experiment a little to see what doneness you prefer. Less time = chewier cookie. I like mine on the crisp side, so 10 mins was about right. They still had some chew in the center but the outer edges were crisp and wonderful.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

It is the end of autumn in Minnesota, which means... it's soup weather. There is nothing on a cold, blustery day to warm you from the inside out like a bowl of hot, homemade soup or stew. This soup is a grown-up version of tomato soup and grilled cheese. It's sweet and salty and the roastiness from the peppers makes it a lot more interesting than tomato soup from a can.

Soup Ingredients:

2 TBS olive oil
1 medium to large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 small jars of roasted red peppers
2 15 oz cans of plain tomato sauce (I really like Hunts or Trader Joe's brand)
2 TBS sugar
several grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

"Crouton" Ingredients:

sliced white bread
cheese of choice
grated or finely shredded parmesan cheese

In large pot, brown onions in the olive oil until they start to caramelize a little. Add garlic and stir just until the garlic begins to get a little toasty colored. Add tomato sauce and roasted red peppers (include the juice from the peppers; this adds flavor and also helps thin the soup out a bit). Stir well. Bring to simmer and let gently boil for about 5-10 minutes. Blend soup in blender or food processor (I use a stick/immersion blender... well worth the money) until pureed. Add sugar and black pepper to taste. Soup probably won't need extra salt unless your tomato sauce isn't very salty, but you may need to add a little depending on your ingredients. If desired, you can finish off the soup with 1/2 cup cream or half and half. It doesn't need it, but it does add a nice silky finish to the soup. I usually don't use it.

For croutons, basically assemble one to two grilled cheese sandwiches (one sandwich will make croutons for two people). Butter the outsides liberally. Dip sandwiches in grated parmesan, and grill over medium heat in a frying pan as you would any grilled cheese. When done, cut into cubes with a knife and sprinkle over the top of the soup.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chicken Cheddar Apple Salad

This may be the shortest recipe I ever post on this blog. I whipped this up for dinner in literally 10 minutes. It's healthy, tasty, and way more interesting (not to mention cheaper) than takeout. It's made completely of convenience items from the grocery store, but isn't full of junk like most "grab and go" dinners. Ingredients can definitely be substituted or omitted depending on taste, but it's a great combo of textures and tastes.

  • 1 box of mixed salad greens (Earthbound Farms, etc.)
  • breast meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 4 oz of white cheddar, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
  • 1 green apple, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
  • Newman's Own Light Mustard Vinegrette
Mix greens, cheddar, walnuts, and apple. Add chicken to top of salad, and drizzle with dressing (or let everyone dress their own).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New York Strip with Gorgonzola Butter

Save yourself about $40 and give yourself a steakhouse-quality dinner at home...


2 NY Strip Steaks (or any cut you prefer)
freshly ground black pepper

1 TBS butter, room temperature
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
3 grinds freshly ground black pepper

For the gorgonzola butter -- mash cheese, pepper and butter together until well blended. Cover and refrigerate.

Generously coat both sides of steaks with liberal amounts of black pepper and salt. Grill or pan-fry (I sauteed mine in olive oil and butter, since there was a blizzard outside... ) steaks to preferred doneness. Place a heaping tablespoon or so of gorgonzola butter on the top of each steak. I served mine with a crisp green salad and homemade bread. The sharpness of the cheese and pepper marry so beautifully with the richness of the butter and the meat itself.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Homebrew Review: Patersbier

Right now I have two brews that are ready to go and drinkable. This Patersbier, and my English Pale Ale (review to follow at some point). When I told people I was brewing a Patersbier, most of them (even seasoned brewers) said "a WHATersbier?". This is a little-known brew, but basically is a traditional Belgian beer similar to a dubbel or tripel -- with the exception that it's a much lower gravity beer. In other words, it's a Belgian session beer.

Appearance: Beer pours a nice deep straw yellow color. Fairly clear, just a touch of haze. Nice creamy white/cream-colored head, decent retention (thanks to my Munton's carb tabs!).

Aroma: Complex combination of malt and the spicy, fruity esters which are a result of the abbey-style yeast used in this beer. No real hop aroma.

Taste: This is a classic Belgian brew, complete with phenolic and spicy character. No alcohol warming, however, as you'd find in higher-ABV beers. The sweetness of the malt mingles well with the undeniable belgian yeast. There is a bit more of a hop bite to this beer than I've found in a lot of other Belgians, but it actually is really nice here... because the body and alcohol are lighter in this than in, say, a dubbel -- the hops gives a little more structure to this beer. Finishes a bit sweet but the hops help round that out, and I find that in this beer there is not as much sour tang lasting in the aftertaste as I find with some Belgians.

Mouthfeel: Moderately light body. High carbonation, which is a nice cut to the complex yeast flavors.

Drinkability: High! Usually Belgians are sipping beers for me -- one, then done. I can easily drink a couple of pints of this. I attribute that to less alcohol and no cloying sweetness in aftertaste.

All in all, I'm thrilled with this beer. I can't wait to see how it fares at our upcoming homebrew competition; I have low expectations simply because one of our homebrew members is an expert at Belgians and his brews are phenomenal. I'm sure I'll learn a lot from the judge's notes, however, and one never knows how the competition will play out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Brown Butter Quinoa With Pine Nuts

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) is an amazing grain that is versatile, delicious, and really healthful. It is very high in protein (for a grain, anyway), and is therefore the perfect addition to the vegetarian diet.

An important thing to note about quinoa: it needs to be rinsed extremely well under running water before cooking it. The grain is covered in a soapy/bitter-tasting substance called a "saponin". It tastes HORRIBLE. I once forgot the rinsing step and the quinoa was inedible. I just rinse mine in a fine-meshed colander under a steady spray of water for about a minute, and that does the trick.

Quinoa is very flexible; one of my favorite ways to eat it is just with a little butter and parmesan, with fried egg on top. You can also eat it sweet, almost like oatmeal, with a little brown sugar and milk. You can substitute cooked quinoa for cous cous for a punch of nutrition and flavor.

I normally use this flavor combo for pasta, and it is amazing. I wanted, however, to make the dish a little more nutritious so I decided to substitute cooked quinoa for the cooked pasta... and was thrilled with the results. This could suffice as a main dish for a veg-head (especially if you tossed in some steamed or roasted vegetables), but would be equally at home alongside a roasted chicken or piece of fish.

*ingredient note: please use real parmesan. A block of imported parmesano reggiano is best (should have "parmesano reggiano" printed in dots on the rind), but you can use the american "parmesan" as long as it's not the sawdust-in-a-green can stuff. Asiago also is a good stand-in cheese.


  • 1 cup of quinoa (dry), rinsed and cooked according to package directions (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, usually)

  • 2 TBS butter

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

  • pinch of salt

  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese*, plus a little extra for garnish

Cook quinoa. I actually do this in a steamer, but on the stovetop is fine. Just read the package. It should take about half an hour. You can do that step way ahead if you need/want to. In a saucepan, heat butter and pine nuts over medium heat until the butter starts to foam and brown a little. You need to stir/toss the nuts often so they don't burn on one side. As the butter browns, the pine nuts will toast nicely in the sauce. Be really careful not to let the butter burn, or it will ruin the entire dish. Just past the foamy stage is about right -- you will notice a toffee/nutty scent to the butter as it starts to turn a golden brown color. Remove from heat. Toss in the cooked quinoa, a pinch of salt, and the grated parmesan. Stir to mix. Season with more salt if needed. Sprinkle a little extra grated parmesan on top.

This will make 2 main dish servings or 4 side dish servings. Can easily be doubled.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Indian Wedding Soup

This post is more one of cooking philosophy than an actual recipe... the reason there's no recipe is because this dish took so much tweaking that I couldn't keep track of all of the amounts of everything. Indian food (when it's done right) is such a balance of sweet, savory, sour and salty. There are times when I think a pot of curry is absolutely ruined, but then I add a pinch of sugar and an extra squeeze of lemon and the entire dish is saved.

This soup was an exercise in re-interpretation of the original version of a dish. Italian wedding soup, for those of you who've never had it, is a chicken broth based soup with small meatballs, spinach, and acini de pepe pasta. Instead of italian meatballs, I used the lamb-burger recipe ( http://belliesbeerbaking.blogspot.com/2008/12/greek-lamb-burgers-with-feta-sauce.html ) that I posted in December to make little tiny meatballs. I broiled them to avoid having to turn little tiny meatballs with little tiny tongs. I browned some onion, then added chicken stock and Indian spices. Rounded it out with some lemon, cilantro, and a little honey. I then added the meatballs to the soup, and threw in a large handful of Israeli cous cous. Simmered for about 15 more minutes, then served it with some crisply baked naan (thanks, Trader Joe's).

This is a great example of how you can take a traditional dish and keep the spirit of the original while completely experimenting with the flavors. I challenge you to take one of your favorite meals and try to re-interpret it... you might just find that you have a new favorite.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cider-Roasted Pork Loin

This is basically an adaptation of the beef roast recipe I posted a few weeks ago. Instead of using a beef roast, it uses pork loin. Hard cider stands in for the beer. It would be great alongside some sauteed cabbage or roasted potatoes.


2 pork loins (you could use just one if you don't want leftovers)
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground preferred
1 bay leaf
1 12 oz. bottle of hard cider - the dryer (less sweet) the better
zest from one orange

In oven-proof sautee pan or dutch oven, brown pork loin(s) in the olive oil over med-high heat until nicely browned. Remove from pan. Add onions and butter, sautee until onions start to brown. Add bay leaf, salt, pepper, and cider. Stir to deglaze pan. Add pork, cover, and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 2.5 hrs or until pork is tender. Remove pork to serving platter, cover with foil to keep warm. Strain cooking liquid, add orange zest, and reduce over med-high heat by about half. Pour over pork. Serve.

I plan on tossing the leftovers with some barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches. Oh, and regular apple cider could of course be used as a replacement for the hard cider.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Everything That's Wrong With the American Diet: Chili-Cheesedog Dip

There are no photos because frankly (no pun intended), this looks like crap in a crockpot. It tastes, however, EXACTLY like a chili dog with cheese. So if you're into that, try this out. If not, my apologies for appearing to have the absolute worst diet on the face of the planet.


2 cans of Hormel Chili with beans
1/2 lb (half of the small box) Velveeta
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tsp Frank's Hot Sauce
10 hot dogs (Hebrew National are my personal favorite), grilled or pan-fried until dark
1 onion, chopped finely and sauteed in butter until brown

In saucepan, mix first 4 ingredients over low-medium heat until cheese is melted all the way. Chop cooked hot dogs into small rounds and add along with onions to the dip mixture. Stir until combined. Put into crock pot over low to keep warm. Serve with Fritos. Watch your rear end expand before your very eyes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Coffee Pecan Shortbreads

This is a recipe that I adapted from one I found on allrecipes.com for brown sugar shortbread. I've taken enough liberties that I don't feel bad about posting my version here. The original is simply butter, brown sugar, and flour. You can find it at: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Brown-Sugar-Shortbread/Detail.aspx

I'm not sure where the idea to add ground coffee and pecans to the dough came from , but it really raises this to another level. The pecans add texture more than anything, and lend richness to the final cookie. The coffee is subtle but definitely recognizeable; the aroma when these cook is amazing. They smell of baking butter cookies and brewing coffee.

This is a fairly heavy, dense cookie. Would be great served with a steaming cup of strong coffee, or a dish of simple vanilla or coffee ice cream.


1 cup butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup pecans, ground very finely
1 Tablespoon ground high quality coffee (ground into a powder in coffee grinder if possible)
2 1/4 cup flour

With mixer, blend butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in salt, pecans, and coffee. Stir in flour. Turn out onto counter and knead gently until dough comes together and is smooth. Roll into rectangle that is about 1/4" thick or so. Can go thinner if you like, just watch your cooking time. Cut into 2x3" rectangles. Prick each with a fork. Bake at 300 for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Beer Braised Beef Roast

This is my go-to winter comfort food. I came up with the recipe last year and it really does blow all of my other pot roast attempts out of the water. The meat is tender and flavorful, but the reason I love this dish so much is because of the sauce it makes while it cooks. It thickens beautifully for gravy,but my absolutely favorite thing to do is make drop dumplings into the cooking liquid right before serving. For those of you who are not big beer fans, please try this anyway... the finished dish really tastes nothing like beer. The dark roasted malt of the porter (or stout) just adds a deep, earthy, savory note that I haven't been able to replicate any other way. The alcohol cooks out during the long braising process, so no need to worry about serving this to the kiddos.

2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
5 cloves of garlic
Fresh ground black pepper
1 lean beef roast, about 3 lbs
2 cups chicken stock
1 bottle of **dark beer (porter or stout)

In a large oven-safe roasting pan (I use my porcelain-coated cast iron dutch oven, and it's perfect for this), heat olive oil over medium high heat. Liberally pepper the roast, and brown well on all sides in the oil. Remove from pan. Add onions to oil, and stir/cook the onions until they, too, pick up some nice dark color. Add garlic and stir to brown slightly. Add roast back to pan. Pour chicken stock and beer over roast, cover tightly, and place in 350 degree oven. Cook for about 3 hours, or until roast is fork tender. If you can, try to turn and baste the roast every half hour or so. If not, it's really not a big deal.

Like I said, I typically like to make dumplings with this dish. If you don't use the sauce for dumplings, then strain it and serve alongside the roast. Last time I served it with oven-roasted cauliflower. Another option would be to thicken the sauce to make gravy and serve with mashed potatoes.

**Beer note: It's really REALLY important to use a dark beer for this recipe. A lighter beer just won't contribute much in this dish.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Long Time No Blog

It has been a whirlwind of head colds and strep throat in our household, so I've not had much time nor energy to blog lately. Oh yeah, and there was that thing called "the holidays" that happened in there, too. I got to celebrate Christmas Day alone and in bed with a 101 degree fever. Fun!

Today's post really isn't recipe, so much as it is just a few pics. This is some homemade bread I made last weekend. I discovered the book "Artisan Bread in Just 5 Minutes a Day" ( http://www.amazon.com/Artisan-Bread-Five-Minutes-Revolutionizes/dp/0312362919azon.com/Artisan-Bread-Five-Minutes-Revolutionizes/dp/0312362919 ) last winter and it has really improved my breadmaking. It is a no-knead technique that allows you to make up a big batch of dough and store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks at a time. It makes great-tasting bread with the thick, crackling crust I've come to love in artisan bread. This is a link to a video of the technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMxJgIpe38Qom/watch?v=zMxJgIpe38Q

So anyway, enjoy the pics and I'll try to get a bonafide recipe up soon. This particular loaf was their basic white crusty loaf; I served it with wine, roasted garlic, and a wheel of baked brie.