Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

When I was a kid I never really ate Rice Krispie Treats except when other kids would bring them in to class for holidays and whatnot. I found this recipe and made them back in October for a picnic in Griffith Park with kids from the Los Angeles program and they were a hit. They were so delicious and definitely seemed like a grownup version of the treat people loved as children. And they are SO easy. Painfully easy. 5 minutes, 1 pot, 1 glass baking dish, 4 ingredients and a spatula. So get in there already and I promise, these will make you new friends, impress your coworkers and make you very sick if you eat them all yourself.

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
From Smitten Kitchen (of course)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (plus a bit of extra for greasing the pan)
1 ten-ounce bag marshmallows
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt*
6 cups Rice Krispie Cereal

1. Butter an 8 inch square cake pan with 2 inch sides or a 9x13 pan. The 8-inch square pan will produce fewer, thicker treats which I prefer but if you're trying to spread the love around go for the 9x13.
2. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large pot. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear and finally start to brown. Stir constantly and scrape up the little bits as it cooks and once it begins to brown watch it very closely as it is easy to burn the butter and ruin a perfectly good batch. Once the butter takes on a golden brown color and begins to smell nutty pull it off the heat.
3. Stir in the marshmallows. The heat from the melted butter might not be enough to melt them so you can return the pot to the stove and melt over low heat until the marshmallow-butter mixture is smooth.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the cereal and salt together, a silicon spatula works great here. Quickly pour the mixture into the prepared pan and push into the edges with the spatula or a piece of parchment paper or saran wrap.
5. Allow to cool for a few hours and cut into squares. Enjoy!

*This is important: regular table salt will not work. Besides being a chemical compound (NaCl - hooray chemistry!) table salt is made in a factory, of chemicals. You want real salt from the sea. You can find a sea salt grinder at target (or probably in any supermarket) for $2.00 and it will give your treats the right taste.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Promise to Try to be a Better Blogger

The past month has completely slipped away from me. I blinked and it was June. My super awesome parents came to visit The Boy and I in April which was a lovely treat (See cute photo below). I've been working, anticipating the move into my glorious new apartment and not blogging, obviously. But I've been baking and later this week I'll have several posts to share. And trust me, it will have been worth the wait.

In other baking related news, I broke down and bought a kitchenaid mixer. It is perhaps the most exciting thing I've ever owned. I've already baked banana bread, rustic white bread and apple muffins (which are to die for) and I've only had it for a little over a week. Hopefully once we've moved I will post more regularly. But, I've said that before.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child

I enjoy Julia Child. Even before Julie and Julia and her 2nd wave of popularity hit I thought she was great. My dear friend Laura is the proud owner of a beautiful le creuset and approached me one day and suggested we make Boeuf Bourguignon. It was something I've wanted to make for a while but I don't possess the correct crockery and thus could not, until Laura came to the rescue.

Let me tell you, this is delicious, and not too difficult. It takes a while and does involve some prep work but it was totally worth it in the end. The only thing I have to say is that it does not photograph beautifully... but it tastes divine.

Boeuf Bourguignon
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

6 ounces of bacon (Julia used a solid chunk but we used just regular bacon and it was fine)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs of lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes (we didn't cut ours)
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
3 cups of a full-bodied young red wine (we used Chianti)
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
18 - 24 small white onions brown braised in stock - see recipe below
1 lb quartered fresh mushrooms sauteed in butter - see recipe below

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

1. Cut bacon strips into pieces 1/4 inch wide, it helps if you stack multiple strips and use a sharp knife. Simmer bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.
2. Saute oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Reheat the fat until it is almost smoking before you saute the beef.
3. Dry the beef with paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. You may have to add more oil as the beef soaks it up. Once it is brown remove it to the side with the bacon.
4. Once you are finished browning the beef, brown the sliced vegetables in the same fat. Once they are browned, pour out the fat.
5. Return the beef and the bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 minutes more. Remove the casserole and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
6. Stir in the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Once it is simmering, cover the casserole and set in the lower third of the preheated oven. Regulate the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
7. While the beef is cooking prepare the onions and mushrooms as indicated in the recipes below. Set them aside until needed.
8. When the meat is tender pour, pour the contents of the casserole carefully into a sieve (or pasta strainer with little holes) set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole dish and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
9. Skim the fat off the sauce. Simmer the sauce for a minute or two skimming off the additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. Our sauce was very thin so we boiled it down rapidly for another 6 to 7 minutes to get the correct consistency. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
10. For immediate serving, cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat before serving. To serve it later, cover the casserole once it has cooled and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving bring to a simmer, cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes before serving.

Bon Appetit!

Small White Onions Brown-Braised in Stock

18-24 peeled white onions
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup of brown stock, red wine or water

1. Bring the oil and butter to a simmer in a 9 inch skillet. Add the onions and saute over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible... you cannot possibly brown them completely uniformly - don't worry.
2. Pour in the liquid, season to taste and cover to simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the
onions are tender but retain their shape and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Mushrooms Sauteed in Butter

1 lb mushrooms, washed, well dried and quartered
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil

Julia says the most important thing about browning mushrooms is not to crowd them in the skillet. We did ours in 2 batches.

1. Place a 10 inch skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see the butter foam has begun to subside add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their saute the mushrooms will first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface and the mushrooms will begin to brown. Once they have browned lightly remove from the heat.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Granola Bars

One of the things about food and grocery stores that is so frustrating to me is that the healthy stuff is so much more expensive. I know that this is because healthy food is made with less preservatives, high fructose corn syrup (my arch-nemesis) and modified corn and soybean ingredients. As a side note I heard an underwriting ad for Monsanto today on NPR. It made me want to cry because they tried to pass themselves off as a company concerned with saving the earth's resources. Ha. I saw Food Inc. and King Corn, I know what you're up to Monsanto!

Anyhow. Where was I? Oh right, healthy things are expensive. I have no issue paying more for better food - organic fruits and vegetables and hormone and anti-biotic free meat - but the price of granola bars is ridiculous. I don't want six little bars for four dollars! But I tend to get cranky when I don't eat and when I work on pre-production for music videos like this I often don't eat for 8 hours at a time. So, I thought to myself, I'm sure I could make my own granola bars that are even a bit healthier than the ones found in stores! And so, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I did on this lovely Thursday afternoon.

I scoured the Internet and food blogs for recipes that seemed like they would be easy and delicious. But honestly, most of them contained things I really didn't want in my granola bars. I was looking for something that wouldn't be too sweet and would be full of protein and would keep me full for a little while. So, I made my own recipe based on what I read. My first original recipe!

These are fairly sweet. At first I thought they were too sweet, but after cutting them up and wrapping them individually I've stored them in the fridge and they've mellowed a bit. Next time perhaps I'll adjust the amount of honey and maybe use peanut butter instead but this time I was worried about the "glue" not being strong enough so I used variations of other recipes. They are delicious though, just as they are.

This recipe is really just a guide. If you don't like sunflower seeds you can use some other kind of seed or nut. Basically anything you think would be delicious can go in here.

Granola Bars

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup peanuts, crushed
1/4 cup almonds, chopped*
1/2 cup brown sugar**
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces of dried fruit (raisins and cranberries are what I used but apricots, apples, dates, figs etc. would be delicious I'm sure)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment or waxed paper that extends a bit over the ends of the pan, sprayed lightly with vegetable cooking spray.

1. Crush the peanuts by putting them in a plastic bag and using a heavy jar or pan to crush them.
2. Mix the nuts, oats, wheat germ, and seeds in a baking pan with sides. Toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes stirring every 4 minutes to prevent things from burning. Once everything is finished toasting turn the oven off and let the mixture cool a bit.
3. Meanwhile, put the brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. The mixture should look fairly evenly colored and everything should be melted together.
4. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a wooden spoon, making sure that the "glue" coats all of the nut mixture and the dried fruit. Scoop the mixture into the parchment lined pan spreading it evenly. Put a small piece of saran wrap between your hands and the granola bars and push down hard to compact everything into the pan. Allow to cool completely - I put mine in the fridge for two hours.
5. Once cooled, lift the granola bars out of the pan and use a sharp knife to cut into bars, wrap in plastic wrap for individual bars on the go or keep them in an air tight container. I keep mine in the fridge because I like mine nice and firm.


*Almonds are miserable to chop. I will probably use cashews or something next time - or just buy sliced almonds...or a food processor.
** Many recipes seemed to use 2/3 or even 3/4 cup of brown sugar. I cut the amount thinking that with all the honey it might be too sweet. I might even cut it a bit more because they were so sweet.