Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Food Disappointment

Ever hear raving reviews about a restaurant/food place, then go and you find it doesn't live up to the hype? Yep, we've been there.

There's a little general store in a small town that we have passed for years on the way to drop our girls off at summer camp. They have a grill/smoker out front and the food they cook on it smells really good. Really good. This year we drove out there twice a week since Whitney was working there and Sarah went to camp the one week Whitney was off. Smelling that twice a week was really tempting and we decided we should stop by sometime and see what smelled so good.

Sometime last year there was a review of the food in The Washington Post. The article talked about the owners of the general store, the guy who works there and runs the grill. Turns out he's a vegetarian and doesn't eat meat so he's never had the food that he cooks. They also reviewed the food and gave it pretty high marks; this really got me interested in trying it this past summer.

So on one of our last trips out to camp, we stopped for lunch. Smelled so good. We went in, the guy was super friendly, talked a mile a minute. We tasted some samples and it was good. Turns out the sample taste was better than the whole dish.

We got a rack of ribs, mac & cheese, baked beans, and coleslaw. The ribs were ok; there was something weird in the spices in the rub though. After the first rib or two, they weren't as good as we thought. The bbq sauce he made was great. The baked beans were nothing special, the mac & cheese was supposed to be a four cheese mac and cheese but it was that odd orange color. My baked beans and mac & cheese are much better than what we got there.

While we were in the store waiting for our food, a local came in and asked if it was our first time. We said yes and she told us we'd be back. I really don't think we will be. I think we'll just enjoy the smell as we drive by next summer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Caramel Apple Pull-Apart Bread

I think I came across this recipe last fall, never made it while it was cool, and obviously wasn't going to make it this summer. It's a great "welcome to fall" bread, good for either breakfast or as a dessert. Not too hard to make, but I thought that I could have used another set of hands for the layering part. It was quite tasty!

Caramel Apple Pull-Apart Bread
from Alaska from Scratch

For the dough:

1/4 cup warm water
2-1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (plus 1/4 cup or more, if needed)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

For the filling:
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large tart apple, peeled, cored, and diced (Golden Delicious or Granny Smith recommended)

For the caramel glaze:
 2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Combine warm water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Heat milk and butter together until the butter is melted but not too hot. Add the vanilla.

Add flour, sugar, and salt on top of the water/yeast mixture in the mixing bowl. Using a dough hook, turn the mixer on low, add the eggs and stream in the butter/milk, mixing until a soft dough forms. Add the extra flour (as necessary) by tablespoonfuls until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and forms a ball. Knead for 3 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt for the filling. Set aside. Prepare the apple and melt butter just before the dough is done rising. Grease a standard 9x5 loaf pan.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll into a large rectangle, roughly 12x24. It doesn't need to be perfect and it will be thin.

Brush the dough with the melted butter, then spread the brown sugar mixture over the whole thing. Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into long strips (I did four). Sprinkle the first strip with 1/4th of the apples, layer on another strip* and another share of apples. Repeat until all the layers are stacked.

Cut the stack into 4-6 squares of roughly equal size (4-5 inches). Stack the squares vertically into the prepared loaf pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350* and bake on the middle rack 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden and it is cooked through. If it gets too brown on top before it's done baking, cover it loosely with foil.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the caramel sauce - add the butter, brown sugar, and milk to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack over parchment paper. Drizzle the loaf with the caramel sauce. Best eaten the day it's made, but it still tastes good a day or two later (if it lasts that long).

*this is where I could have used another set of hands

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Potato Bacon Casserole

I'm always looking for good breakfast recipes and I found this one on Pinterest. My kids don't like cold cereal, I don't like having muffins, coffee cake, and all those yummy but carb filled breakfasts every day. I also have one that doesn't really like to eat breakfast at all so I need to find things that will appeal to her in her mostly sleepy state at the breakfast table. Guess it's good we homeschool so they have a chance to wake up and can eat a bit later.

Potato Bacon Casserole
serves 6

4 c frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1/2 c chopped onion (1/2 medium onion)
8 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1 2 tsp seasoned salt

Preheat oven to 350* and grease 8-inch square baking dish.

Layer 1/2 potatoes, 1/2 onion, 1/2 bacon, and 1/2 cheese in baking dish; repeat layers. Combine evaporated milk, egg, and seasoned salt in a small bowl Pour evenly over potato mixture; cover.

Bake 55-60 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. It may need a bit more baking time for the middle to set.

Modified from a recipe on the Nestle Kitchens website.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Frosty Strawberry Squares

This is a summer dessert that Sarah and I love but this is the first time I've made it this year. <sad face> I ran across the recipe the other day and decided to make it before we dive headfirst into apples and pumpkins. The last burst of strawberry goodness will be nice this evening since it's a hot day. I will warn you though that it can make a mess when you're whipping the egg whites and strawberries together.

Frosty Strawberry Squares
from the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook
serves 12-16

1 c flour
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c butter, melted
1/4 c packed brown sugar
2 egg whites
2 c sliced strawberries
1 c sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 c whipping cream

For crumb mixture, combine flour, nuts, butter, and brown sugar. Spread evenly into a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 350* oven for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle 2/3 of the crumbs into a 13x9x2 baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Beat with mixer on high speed about 10 minutes or till stiff peaks form. In another mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream till soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture. Spoon evenly over crumbs in baking pan; sprinkle remaining crumbs on top. Cover and freeze at least 6 hours or until firm.