Thursday Recipe Exchange: Strawberries

(Photo by JeffreyW)

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Strawberries won out as our ingredient this week. They looked too good to pass up when I was shopping. And just when did cream get so expensive? I practically had to take out a loan to get a quart. I do love this time of year as the farmer’s market and grocery stores fill up with local fresh vegetables and fruits. With fresh fruit, my first choice it to just eat them. I mean why spoil a perfect fruit? But then it’s time to have some fun with them – cakes, ice cream, cobblers. Tonight’s recipes are all about the strawberries.

Strawberry Bread (recipe found here) became a recipe when I did what I always seem to do during fresh strawberry season, buy too many strawberries. Before I can finish them, they are overripe. The bread is much like banana bread, it does best with very overripe fruit and wow, does it pack a powerful strawberry flavor. And it’s not too sweet because I don’t like to overwhelm the tart goodness of the strawberries.

Tonight’s other treat is a variation on the recipe JeffreyW used in the picture above. I made it yesterday and thought it was the best shortcake I’ve ever made – really light and fluffy.

I’ll be honest, I prefer pre-made sour cream angel food cake with my strawberries. My local grocery bakery has them on sale this time of year, and I can’t make it better. Oh, let’s face it, I’ve never made a successful angel food cake, ever. Sigh. But for a homemade dessert, this shortcake would be my choice. Couldn’t be easier to make and tastes wonderful.

The cake is not terribly sweet which I prefer and I cut down the sugar on the strawberries by 1 tablespoon, because I prefer them tart. I can’t omit the sugar completely because you need sugar to bring the juices out of the berries, essential for strawberry shortcake. So you may want to adjust the sugar up or down according to your preference. Additional sugar in the cake will not affect how it bakes up.

What’s your favorite way to serve strawberries? Has anyone made a real Parisian strawberry tart? And more importantly, what are you weekend food plans?

Strawberry Shortcake
2 pints of strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
5 to 7 tbsp sugar
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (you can substitute 3/4 cup milk and 1/3 cup butter)
Whipped Cream (recipe below)
2 Mixing bowls
8×8 glass baking dish or baking sheet

Mix strawberries with 3 tablespoons sugar (I only used 2 tbsp, see note above) and set aside for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
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Thursday Recipe Exchange – Potatoes

From our Food Goodess, TaMara:

I’m ready for this week to be done. Time for some weekend. It is supposed to rain which may impact my cycling, but we need the rain, as several areas are on fire. So I won’t whine and will find other ways to enjoy the days off. I’m seeing The Avengers tomorrow and no big plans otherwise.

I may finish Wiley Cash’s book, A Land More Kind than Home. I’m about halfway through. I love this book and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is I want to savor every chapter. Thanks for the recommendation John Cole.

Nothing exciting on the cooking front this week, but I did go out to dinner earlier this week and had an Indian Bread Taco that was amazing. I doubt I could recreate it, but if anyone has a good recipe, I’d love it if you’d share it.

Glad to hear frequent recipe contributor, Joshua D. (aka:Yutsano) had successful surgery today. Maybe he’ll have time to cook some good stuff while he recuperates.

Okay, on to tonight’s ingredients: potatoes. I have three recipes for you, Grilled Sweet Peppers and Potatoes, Roasted Smashed Potatoes, and a fool-proof Baked Potato with Roasted Garlic Butter below. If none of those are what you’re looking for, I just checked and we have over 20 potato recipes, you’ll probably find at least one.

This method results in excellent baked potatoes that have a crisp, flavorful skin and tender, fluffy potato. Top with roasted garlic butter for a perfect side. If you’re wondering about the skewers, they transfer heat throughout, so they cook quicker and don’t seem to dry out. Always fluffy. Skewering works really well with sweet potatoes, too.

Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Butter
4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and driedolive oil
2 to 4 metal skewers

1 or 2 large head of garlic
olive oil
1 to 2 sprigs of rosemary, minced
4 to 8 tbsp of butter

Skewer each potato (depending on the size of the skewer you can sometimes get 2 on it, leaving room between potatoes). Rub oil liberally on potatoes and then coat with a light layer of salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, peel white paper skin from garlic and slice off 1/4 inch off the top. Coat well in olive oil, place in a small baking dish (I saw a great recommendation making several and using a 6-cup muffin tin). Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cloves are soft when pierced. (Of course you can use a garlic roaster if you have one)

Once garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves out of their skins. Using a fork, mash garlic, butter, pinch of salt and minced rosemary to smooth paste. Serve with potatoes.

What’s on your weekend menu? And if you have recipe requests, let me know. I’m thinking strawberries or ziti next week, I haven’t decided yet.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Steak with Coffee Rub

JeffreyW’s Loaded Baked Potato would be great with Coffee Rubbed Steak

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

It’s another one of those Colorado weeks where it’s impossible not to want to be outside all day. Beautiful, warm spring weather, the flowering locusts are in full splendor making my evening bike rides fragrant and still cool enough at night to need a blanket…or a cat…or several. I’m halfway through my horseback riding lessons, I’m finally comfortable with my posting trot, but feel like my major accomplishment is being able to adjust my stirrups from the saddle. I also managed to get my deck flower pots planted, though I always want more than I have space for, I’m satisfied with what I’ve done for this season. It is definitely outdoor season here. What’s on your weekend agenda? Planning on grilling for Mother’s Day? What is your favorite food item to grill?

In honor of the great weather, I thought tonight should be about grilling. Steak to be specific. This rub is a favorite of a couple of readers, so I thought it was a good time to repeat it. This can be used with any cut of steak, though I originally had it on rib eye. It’s too heavy to use on poultry or white fish, but I would be tempted to try on swordfish or maybe salmon. Easy to do and adds a real dramatic flavor.

Steak with Coffee Rub

3 tbsp chili powder (talking the good stuff here, pure ancho or a blend)
3 tbsp finely ground coffee (espresso works best)
1 ½ tbsp paprika (again, you want a good one)
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 to 1-1/2 lb of steak (rib-eye, sirloin, NY strip, etc) in 4 thick pieces

Mix together all spices. Lightly rub each steak with oil and then coat liberally on both sides with coffee rub. Now you can cook in a pre-heated skillet on medium-high heat, 5 to 7 minutes each side for medium rare. You can broil in the oven, using the second slot down from broiler, for 5 minutes each side, again for rare to medium rare, longer for medium. You can grill them outside. Cooking times will vary depending on which steak cut you choose, so watch carefully and you’ll probably have to use a meat thermometer to really judge, because the rub makes it a little harder to eyeball it. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookies

JeffreyW’s Awesome Cookies w/Coconut
From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Time for cookies. Chocolate chip cookies to be specific. JeffreyW cleaned out his pantry one day and came up with the ingredients for his Awesome Cookies w/Coconut.

When I’m in the mood for a double dose of chocolate I make Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies. You just can’t go wrong with chocolate chips.

There are a few recipes I get requests for often. My dark chocolate chip cookie recipe is hands-down the recipe that I get requests for the most. And instead of wanting a copy of the recipe, most people want me to make them, convinced they couldn’t get them to turn out as good. I disagree. There are a couple of simple tricks that make these foolproof. One is to melt the butter before mixing with the sugars. This gives you a crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside cookie. Another is to let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or more, this brings out the toffee flavors in the dough. And finally, pull them from the oven just before they’re done and let them finish on the baking sheet for the last minute or so, this gives you a perfectly browned cookie and lets them set up just enough to transfer to a…PLATE. I’ve tried a baking rack and they are too gooey and get stuck on the rack. You can put parchment paper on it first, which I’ve done, but a plate works just fine.

Now, what’s your favorite type of cookie? Chocolate, fruit, sugar, peanut butter? I’m always on the look out for the perfect peanut butter cookie. I’m still looking…

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp dash of salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
12 oz 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips
1-1/2 cups walnut halves, roughly chopped
mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together salt, soda, and 2 1/4 cups flour, then add to butter mixture, blending well. Add more flour as needed. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or longer. Keep remainder refrigerated while baking each batch. Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Remove just before done and let finish cooking on the baking sheet. Cool on plate or baking rack covered with parchment.

Melting the butter gives you a chewier, crispier cookie. Letting it rest in the refrigerator enhances the toffee flavor from the brown sugar. Big cookie bakeries let theirs rest overnight before baking. I don’t have that kind of patience, I want cookie! Though I’ve been known to double or quadruple this recipe and refrigerate in an airtight container for a week and make a fresh dozen each day.

You can also freeze the dough balls on parchment paper placed on a baking sheet and then store the balls in an airtight container for quick baking later.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Roasting

(JeffreyW’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Parsnips)

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Tried to fit some actual cooking into what has been a very busy week. The weather is very warm here right now, so I want to rush out and buy plants and get summer underway. But even 90 degree (!) temps can be deceptive – at this altitude they still recommend planting after Mother’s day to be safe. We’ve had 90 degrees to freezing whiplash before.

Roasting seemed wrong for our summer like weather, but most roasting recipes can be adapted for the gas-grill as needed, so I went with it. Roasting adds great flavor to foods, vegetables in particular. The slow cooking method adds a touch of sweetness and depth to almost any vegetable (current cooking crush Ming Tsai even has a recipe for roasting radicchio). For a quick dinner you can add vegetables tossed with olive oil to the bottom of a roasting pan, top with chicken breasts rubbed with oil and seasoned with salt & pepper and roast until the chicken is required temperature. One pan dinner in about 35 minutes.

This week I roasted Asparagus topped with mozzarella and tonight’s sweet potato recipe. And here is the link to JeffreyW’s Brussel Sprouts, Carrots and Parsnips.

For dessert I made a batch of Orange Brownies. I think for the weekend, though, I’m going to stick to stove top cooking and grilling. What’s on your menu this week? Does weather affect what you want to cook?

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces
2 medium red onions, cut in to 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
sprig of fresh thyme, cut into 4 pieces
salt & pepper (about 1/2 tsp of pepper or more, finely ground)

Preheat oven to 425. Combine all ingredients in baking dish. Toss to coat the veggies and bake for 35 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and onions are soft.

Next Week: Awesome Cookies

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Zesty Lemon Chicken

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Tonight was suppose to be about unusual fruits, but I never made it to the Asian Market to pick up the fruits I wanted to work with, so we’ll save it for another time. Instead I was in the mood to cook up a batch of this wonderful lemon chicken. It’s a bit labor intensive, so I don’t do it often, but it is oh, so good.
Let’s make this exchange about lemons and chicken. Do you have any favorite lemon recipes? Chicken? Lemon and chicken? And most importantly, what are your cooking plans tonight or this weekend? Hit the comments with your dinner plans.

Zesty Lemon Chicken
(adapted from Crème de Colorado – serves 6)

6 boneless chicken breasts
10 whole lemons, (enough to make 2 cups juice, reserve 2 tbsp for later)
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup oil
2 tbsp lemon zest (grated peel)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chicken broth*
1 whole lemon, sliced thin
minced parsley for garnish
skillet, bowl, baking dish
In an airtight container, combine chicken breasts and lemon juice. Marinate for 1 hour. Remove chicken. Pat chicken with paper towel, but don’t dry completely. Mix together flour, salt, paprika and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour mixture until well coated.
In large skillet heat 1/2 of the oil and fry breasts a few at a time until well browned, adding and heating more oil as needed. (about ten minutes) Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with lemon peel and brown sugar. Mix chicken broth with reserved lemon juice and pour around chicken. Pace a sliced lemon on top of each breast and sprinkle with minced parsley. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until tender.
*I added the broth to the frying pan, deglazed it and then added it to the baking dish. Yum.

Next week: Mushrooms

Thursday Recipe Exchange: BISCUITS

(photo by JeffreyW at Whats4dinnersolutions)

From our Food Goddess, Tamara:

I’ve been making a lot of biscuits in the last few weeks, no particular reason, it just seemed to be the perfect addition to several meals. A while back, JeffreyW posted the photo above and I commented that my biscuits were never quite that fluffy. He promptly pointed me to the recipe he used. I’ve used a variation of it ever since. These are by far the best biscuits ever and I can’t believe how easy they are to make, and they come out great every time.
I have plenty of biscuit variations, too: Cinnamon Biscuits, Cheddar Cheesy Biscuits and Whole Wheat Biscuits.
Heavenly Biscuits
Big, fluffy and moist, they easily compete with any biscuit I’ve had, even at my favorite restaurant Lucille’s. I bake them in my large cast iron skillet.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/3 cup butter (this really gives them a buttery flavor), softened, really, really softened
1 cup buttermilk – (I use 4 tbsp buttermilk powder to 1 cup water)
mixing bowl, baking sheet or cast iron skillet
In mixing bowl whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Gradually add milk. Mix together until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. I had to add additional flour, this is a very moist dough. Turn out onto well floured surface and knead 10-15 times. I couldn’t roll this dough out it was too moist. I just flattened it by hand (about an inch thick, maybe a little less) and cut out the biscuits. With the extra flour I came up with 7 very large biscuits.
Bake at 425 degrees for 13-15 minutes, until golden brown. Put your oven rack in the middle to keep them from browning too much on the bottom. ====
Biscuits or rolls? Do you have a favorite and what’s your favorite topping? Butter, honey, apple butter?

Next Week: Unusual fruits