Sunday, January 31, 2016

Clementine Sugar Cubes



The week before last, when I wrote about that delicious zucchini bread, you may have spotted something in one of the photos that looked like decorative pats of butter (and now that I think about it, I may just make decorative pats of butter, but I digress). They weren't pats of butter at all but, brace yourself, homemade sugar cubes! How cool is that? The idea is not mine, but Sue's from The View from Great Island blog. She'd made a few varieties including rose water and lemon, so, being inspired by the clementines that I have in my fridge, I made clementine sugar cubes.
 I cannot tell you how wonderful these are. First of all, they are a total breeze to make. Second, cuteness notwithstanding, they are absolutely delicious in both coffee and tea. When I made this clementine variety I was thinking about how much I love Cafe Brulot (a New Orleans after dinner coffee with cinnamon, orange, and orange liqueur), and was not disappointed with the hint of orange sweetness in my morning coffee when I used one of these.
You can add a hint of color from paste food coloring, if you like, but I loved the natural look of the pale orange from the fruit. These are easy and big fun. My Sunday night “Downton Abbey” tea and cakes will be enormously enhanced with the addition of these flavorful sugar cubes. Try them!
Clementine Sugar Cubes

1/2 cup sugar
Zest from an entire clementine (please use organic fruit)

Place the sugar into the work bowl of a food processor (a mini one will do, I actually used a small Ninja blender). Remove zest from clementine using a vegetable peeler to ensure that you get just the zest and none of the bitter pith. Add the zest to the sugar, and process until the rind disappears completely into the sugar.

Spoon the moist sugar into plastic molds and press down into mold firmly. Invert the mold onto a cutting board or piece of parchment paper. Tap it gently, if necessary. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour, to fully harden.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Apple Pie Muffins

Do you ever find yourself rummaging through the pantry, ending up with an item that looks completely foreign to you, and wondering how the heck it got there? That was me yesterday morning. I keep one shelf of the pantry full of canned goods that I use in soups and stews (read: cans of tomatoes in all shapes, sizes, and forms, tomato sauce, pasta sauce, coconut milk, enchilada sauce, green chilies, etc.), so was truly amazed to find a can of apple pie filling. I stared at it as if I had unearthed some ancient relic. I assumed it would be long expired, but no, I actually had until May of 2017 to use it. Huh. I don't generally make pie, but when I do I use actual real apples, not canned ones.

Naturally, the search was on to find a use for this mysterious can of pie filling. A pie was out of the question, as was any type of fruit-laden cake, right side up or upside down because I just cannot abide them. A passing thought was to attempt cinnamon buns with an apple filling, but I opted for muffins (no rising time) instead. Because my apple pie filling experience is nonexistent, I tasted one of the apples. Largely, although identifiable as an apple, it was tasteless, so I knew ample spices would be the key to a flavorful muffin.

Success! These are delicious, dense, and spicy, with an addictive streusel topping. We both loved them, and they seemed to improve the next day (read: make ahead!). A suggestion by Mr. O-P (and he's right) is that the apples in the filling be rough chopped before being added to the mix. He got a rather large chunk of apple in one of the muffins that would have been better off dispersed throughout.
 Apple Pie Muffins

2 tablespoons dark rum
1 can (21 oz.) apple pie filling
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup raisins

TOPPING:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350ยบF.

Pour rum into a small bowl and add raisins. Allow to soak while preparing the muffins.

To make muffins, whisk together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Fold in apple pie filling. In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold into apple mixture. Drain raisins and fold them in along with the nuts, if using. Fill muffin tins two thirds full.

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they test done. Makes 2 dozen.
  
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Crockpot Thai Chicken



As you may have guessed from the many Mexican recipes that I post (including yesterday's enchiladas), I enjoy ethnic food. And not just Mexican, but Indian (this easy slow cooker Butter Chicken is amazing), as well as Thai. When I spotted this recipe on the Foodie Crush blog I knew that I had to try it. I didn't want soup as much as I wanted a nice Thai chicken dish that I could serve over a steaming bowl of basmati rice, so I changed it up a bit. I used the same amount of chicken and sauce ingredients, but only one can of coconut milk, and half of the required stock. I also thickened the sauce with a bit of cornstarch mixed with cold water that I stirred in during the last fifteen minutes of cooking. Perfect! It was a great, spicy (but not too spicy) chicken dish that almost had us licking our bowls. 

Crockpot Thai Chicken

2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 12-ounce can of coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1-1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
and sliced into 1/4” slices
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1-2 tablespoons cold water
 1 tablespoon lime juice
Cilantro for garnish
Rice

Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a 4-1/2 to 6-quart slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion, and ginger into the sauce in that order. Cover and cook on high for 4-1/2 hours.

At hour 4, stir in the peas and cook for a half hour longer. If thickening is desired, stir together cornstarch and water and stir into the pot. Cook 15 minutes more. Stir in lime juice and serve with cilantro and white rice.