Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Curried Chickpeas

Indian (of the subcontinent, not Native American) food is probably our favorite cuisine to cook at home. Part of it is out of sheer necessity; neither St. Cloud nor our prior city of residence, La Crosse, has a single Indian restaurant. I've had to learn some basic techniques of Indian cooking. This has come from a few great cookbooks, and a heck of a lot of experimentation. There have been pots of curry gone wrong... very wrong. But overall, I think I've gotten pretty consistent with turning out decent, sometimes even excellent, Indian meals. This is an example of a dish that came out of simple trial and error.



2 tablespoons vegetable oil

large onion, diced very small

3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
2 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoon curry powder

zest of one lemon

2 cups chicken stock

2 cans chickpeas, drained

3/4 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt

palmful of cilantro, chopped

salt, if needed

In dutch oven or deep large saucepan over medium heat, brown onion in oil until golden brown. Add grated ginger and minced garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add curry powder, honey, and lemon zest and stir for another 1 minute. Add chicken stock and chickpeas. Bring to a boil. Cook at a low boil for about 20 - 30 minutes until liquid has reduced to at least half the volume or less and starts to thicken a bit. Remove from heat. Add yogurt, a little bit at a time, stirring constantly to try to avoid curdling. (if the yogurt curdles, the dish isn't ruined... it just won't look as pretty) Add chopped cilantro. Adjust seasoning by adding a little salt if needed. You can increase spiciness by adding cayenne pepper or using a spicy curry mix. Serve over basmati rice. Serves 4-5. It's easy to make this vegetarian by substituting water or vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"French Toast and Bacon" Cupcakes

Simply put, these are the best cupcakes I’ve ever made and probably the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten. Yes, I know, a bold statment. Bacon in desserts is a big trend, and I’m certainly not the first to put bacon on a cupcake. Regardless, I’m thrilled that this recipe turned out so well on the first try. These treats taste exactly like French toast with butter, maple syrup and a side of bacon. It’s a great excuse to eat cake for breakfast (as if we really needed an excuse?).


Glazed walnuts:
24 walnut halves
¼ cup real maple syrup
Pinch of salt

French toast cupcakes:
1 package of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 1/3 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon

Maple buttercream:
½ cup butter (salted), room temp
½ cup butter flavor Crisco
1 lb. confectioners sugar
¼ cup milk
2 tsp imitation maple flavor extract

Bacon bits:
1 lb. high quality bacon

Start cooking bacon while you prepare the glazed walnuts. I bake my bacon on a foil-covered jelly roll pan in the oven at 375 F. You want to cook the bacon long enough that it is VERY dark brown and completely crispy. You definitely don’t want any soft fat left. I let mine go to a dark brown, just a few minutes shy of almost burning it. It was perfect. Let cool and break into small shards about the size of your pinky nail.

To make the walnuts, place the nuts, salt and syrup in a small sautee pan over low-medium heat. Stir constantly. Syrup will start to bubble, and in several minutes it will start to thicken. Cook the nuts until the syrup gets so thick that it completely coats the nuts and starts to lose some of its sheen. Make sure not to let the syrup/nut mixture burn. Pour the nuts onto parchment paper or foil, separate the nuts and let them cool.
For the cupcakes, blend the cake mix along with the oil, eggs, water and cinnamon on low with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. Pour into lined muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 mins just until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove from pan and let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack.

For the maple buttercream, blend the butter and Crisco together in a large bowl with a hand mixer until well combined and softened. Add the confectioners sugar and blend into the fat mixture – icing will be very dry at this point. Add milk and maple flavoring, whip on medium to high for 1-2 minutes until frosting is light and fluffy and has increased in volume. If frosting is not a spreadable consistency, add more milk about 1 TBS at a time to achieve the thickness you want.

Assembly: Take a cooled cupcake, and frost with a generous dollop of maple buttercream. Place one glazed walnut half into top of icing for garnish. Sprinkle some of the bacon bits over the top of the cupcake, gently pressing if needed for bacon to adhere to the icing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beer-Cheese Spread


This dip is a quick, easy, and delicious party dish. You can literally whip it up in about 5 minutes. It is wonderful with crusty bread, pretzels, or crackers. My friend Jen also used it as a spread on grilled smoked turkey sandwiches, as well as tossed into some mashed potatoes and said it was "super yummy". If you don't like beer, I'd imagine that you could substitute 6 oz. of white wine in place of the beer. Then again, if you don't like beer, what on earth are you doing reading this blog??? :) The cheeses you use in this could be substituted with almost any variety; however, I've found that the sharper the better (although I'd stay away from using blue-veined cheeses, I suspect those would be TOO intense). The beer should actually be something light in color and flavor... a basic American pilsner *gasp* will do fine.


1 clove garlic
1 stick of butter, room temp/softened
8 oz of extra sharp cheddar, room temperature
8 oz of Monterey Jack, room temperature
about 1/3 to 1/2 bottle of beer
few pinches of salt, to taste (if needed)

In the bowl of a food processor, chop garlic clove until minced finely. Chop cheese into roughly 1" cubes and toss into food processor with butter and the 1/3 bottle of beer. Puree until everything comes together in a smooth paste; this may take a few minutes, as the cheese will have to incorporate fully into the mixture (this is why the cheese should be room temp). If the spread seems too thick, add a little more beer to get a nice rich but spreadable/dipable consistency. Keep in mind that the spread will firm up a bit in the fridge because of the cheese and butter. Add a pinch or two of salt if needed, blend (whether or not you'll need salt and how much depends on how salty your cheese is to start with). Transfer to a lidded bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hr. Will keep a few days in a covered container in the refrigerator.