Monday, March 30, 2009

Amarula Rice Pudding

Let me begin by saying I know I already have a rice pudding in here. But allow me to explain. I have a mean addiction to custards. I do not know why, exactly. In fact, I really do not like eating rich foods, and most of my cooking is not rich.
However, I just adore custards, hot or cold, you name it. Flan, creme brulee, panna cotta, rice pudding, seviya kheer, frozen yogurt outta a machine, coney island custard... the list goes on and on.
The truth is, it doesn't even need to be sweet, although that helps (I have a real sweet tooth).
I like the creamy texture, I think. Like cream of wheat. Or cream of rice. I know, this probably sounds so gross, but I love custards and things that are smooth in my mouth.
Anyway, so growing up, I always loved rice pudding, and I still love rice pudding. This one takes a few hours to bake, because there are no thickening agents added (so I guess that makes it not a real custard? no eggs?). Also, I made it with milk, cream, and Amarula. Amarula is a liquor from South Africa that's made from the Amarula fruit and is quite sweet and creamy. It's sort of like a Bailey's type beverage. People drink it on the rocks, usually, and it's really like drinking alcoholic ice cream. Melted. I thought I'd experiment with Amarula because I didn't have enough cream to my liking, and the Amarula is RICH RICH RICH!
Although I had my doubts about the actual thickening of this pudding, it actually came out quite well--creamy, rich, and sweet! Just as I like it.

Amarula Rice Pudding

4 c cooked white or brown rice, preferably short-grain
2 1/2 c organic milk
1/2 c organic cream
1/2 c Amarula liquor (optional-- you can also just double the cream, instead)
3/4 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 T vanilla

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into either individual ramekins or large baking dish or BOTH! Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, then 250 for 1 hour, and then turn the oven off and leave for 2 hours.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Embarassing!

Lo siento, readers.
I am amidst lots of school work and have not been able to update the blog! This is not to say I haven't been cooking (oh, I have), but I've just not had the time to write about it!
I thought I should make a point of writing something, but it's just a quicky, so don't get too upset.
When I got home from the library today, it was about 7 pm. There were no ready-mades in the fridge, so I whipped up a sort-of-quick eggplant parm, baked, not fried.
Below is the recipe. I do plan on doing some baking this weekend (you know I just can't resist procrastination via baking when I have papers to write), so check back in a few!

This eggplant parm is great, because it's made with homemade, whole wheat bread crumbs, part-skim mozzarella, and my favorite toy! That's right! The French mandolin! Just a quick eggplant-buying tip, in case you are interested, because I sure know that I don't know everything about buying fruits and veggies. When buying eggplants, you want to buy a blemish-free, heavier-feeling one for best results.
Eggplants have a lot of moisture, which can make cooking time lengthy. So to draw out the moisture, and to get rid of some of the bitterness an eggplant can have, you can salt the sliced eggplant with kosher salt, and place in in a colander. After sitting aside for even 10 minutes, wipe off and dry the slices- you'll feel and see how much moisture has been released.

Baked Eggplant Parm (with pasta)

1 eggplant, sliced into 1/4" thin, salted, and wiped clean after about 10 min (as described above)
1 organic egg, beaten with some (1/4 c?) milk
4 pieces old, stale whole wheat bread (OR toasted dry and cooled down slices of bread)
4-8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (however much you'd like is fine)
1 c leftover or- GASP- JARRED tomato sauce (you can make fresh but I was going for quick)
your favorite pasta, cooked
1-2 olive-oil-greased baking sheets

1. Preheat oven to 375. Put old bread in blender and process until fine crumbs. Dump into a shallow bowl.
2. Coat each eggplant slice with egg, and drag through bread crumbs, shaking off extra crumbs.
3. Place breaded eggplant in greased pan. Spoon a bit of tomato sauce over each piece of eggplant, and sprinkle on some cheese, too.
4. Put sheets in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Serve over your favorite cooked pasta (I picked fettucini). DEVOUR!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Alternatively Delicious Carrot Muffins

In line with my previous post about baking with alternative sweeteners, I made a delicious muffin. Inspired by a recipe from Baking with Agave, a wonderful text covering its title matter as wholly as I've ever seen in any text, these carrot cupcakes are awesome! As I've preached before, I'm trying to experiment with alternative flours and sweeteners. Agave is great because it's sweeter than sugar but has the same amount of calories, so you get the same result with less amount. A problem I've found with agave, however, is that it is a liquid, so it makes wet batters even wetter, which can potentially mess up your baking chemistry in the oven. Which is why I like to scan older recipes as guides for the corrected proportions of wet to dry, taking agave liquid into account. I have to say, this is the first time I've baked with agave and truly truly loved the results. The recipe also calls for barley and oat flour, an interesting combination. I've been a fan of oat flour for quite some time now, but it's hard to use it alone. I like it because it has a slightly sweet flavor, but it does not contain gluten, so (a) it doesn't rise, and (b) it doesn't help form a nice gluten web when mixed, allowing ingredients to stick together. Basically oat flour can't be used alone for baked goods that you want to seem like "traditional" baked goods. Barley flour comes from hearty barley. One of my favorite grains, barley does contain gluten, but not much.
Although I enjoyed experimenting with these alternative flours, and they do help make a great muffin (below), I think I'll continue to experiment with others until I find my favorite match.

Carrot Muffins (makes about 18)

5 carrots, grated
1/2 c raisins, chopped into smaller pieces
1/2 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1 c raw walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 c barley flour+1/2 c oat flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c agave
1 c greek style plain yogurt (nonfat or whole milk yogurt is fine)
1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees if you have a convection setting, otherwise to 375.
Grease 2 muffin tins and line with paper cups (or not).
In a medium bowl, mix shredded carrot, chopped raisins, coconut, and walnut pieces.
In a second medium bowl, mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In an electric mixer (or by hand), cream butter until lightened in color. Add agave and continue to cream. Agave is sticky so be sure to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl while mixing.
With the mixer on low speed, add eggs, one at a time. Wait maybe a minute after adding each egg before adding the next.
Finally add yogurt and vanilla and be sure to mix well, not forgetting to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Add half of the carrot mixture, mix, and then add half of the dry mixture, and mix.
Add the rest of the carrot mixture, mix, and then the rest of the dries, and mix well.
Use a #15 scoop to scoop batter into muffin tins, or just use a big spoon for less-accurately-sized-but-still-beautiful-and-delicious muffins. Fill any empty muffin tin space halfway full with water so the pan doesn't heat unevenly, causing muffins to bake unevenly.

Bake for 30 min, but check after 20 to see how they're doing. Remove from oven when inserted toothpick comes out almost clean (a little wet is good). Once removed from the oven, allow muffins to rest in pan until cool enough to handle, then transfer to cooling rack.
They'll keep for about 10 days. Delish!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tomato Better Than Campbell's, I Promise

I write this post from the dark cave of my bed. When it rains, people say something like, "it rained buckets". What do people say when it snows that much? What does snow fill up? Cones? Shovels? Who knows... Anyway, there's a ton of snow on the ground. So I doubt I'll be going anywhere today. Sure, I have a ton of reading to do, but in general Meg tradition, I plan on doing some cooking or baking first. I think I will try to make carrot cupcakes, continuing my mission to make something good--really good, out of alternative sweetener. Something upstanding.

But first I'd like to share with you a quick soup meal I made last night. I was introduced to this soup by my friend, Rebecca, who makes a very similar version to the one below. It's a tomato soup, way better than anything that comes out of a box or can. I especially like making soups that do not require the use of stocks, because I can be very impulsive with my cooking, and if I don't have a stock on hand, I don't want that to be an impediment to creating something lovely in the moment. The last time I made this stockless soup it was more brothy, but this time I added some tomato paste to thicken it up a bit, and I am pleased with the results: nice, simple soup that is both tasty and hearty. Have it with some crusty bread, a grilled cheese, or alone. It is very good all ways.

"Quick" Tomato Soup Meal

2 T extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed or diced
4 rosemary sprigs
2-3 c cooked chickpeas
1 16-oz can or box diced tomatoes, with their juice
3 c water
1/4 c tomato paste
salt and pepper, to taste
3 c cooked orzo pasta

In a large saucepan or small to medium stock pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic. With 2 of the rosemary sprigs, remove stems and roughly chop leaves. Leave the other 2 sprigs alone. Add the chopped rosemary leaves to the garlic in oil. Be sure not to brown the garlic (eh, if you do, it's not the end of the world).
Stir in the chickpeas.
Add the tomatoes and juice.
If you're using canned tomatoes, you can refill the can with water 1 1/2 times and dump into the soup pot. Otherwise you can just add 3 c water. Stir. Add the tomato paste and the two remaining whole sprigs of rosemary to the pot.
Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, and leave uncovered. I cook the soup for the amount of time it takes me from this point to boil a new pot of water for the orzo and cook it. When the orzo is done, the soup is done. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, spoon some orzo into the bottom of the bowl. Ladle some soup, being sure to bring up chickpeas from the bottom, on top of the pasta. There you have it! Great tomato soup meal.

*If you eat it with grilled cheese, the soup makes a wonderful dipping apparatus for your sandwich!