Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Balsamic Onion Dip

 I admit - not the best photo in the world.
 For whatever reason, I got a hankering for onion dip something fierce the other day (I probably saw it on a menu somewhere).  Guess I really should go back to Phase I of South Beach to kick those cravings, but in the meantime, I decided to just try making my own, so it could be healthier.  How hard could it be right?  Well, version 1 turned out okay - yummy and definitely edible, just not as rich as I was hoping for.  I have some ideas for tweaks - onion powder, Worcestershire, etc.  I even did a little bit of reconnaissance after the fact to see if I had missed some key component that everyone else knew about and hadn't told me.  It doesn't appear so since Alton Brown's recipe looked even blander than mine (and mayo, ew).  However, I really liked the idea over here about adding tofu to the mix for more protein.  (Especially as I sit here making a meal out of baby carrots dunked in it.)  I still want to stick to the balsamic vinegar since that's a flavor profile I love, especially with onion, especially since I fell in love with these sea salt & balsamic vinegar chips in Australia (OMG SO GOOD).  I see that Kettle sells this flavor in the UK, and now I'm praying I can buy them online and have them shipped.
Maybe these ones by Boulder Canyon would be good. . . ANYWAY.  Dip.

I set my sweetie to work with the mandolin and got to caramelizing, but if you're going to chuck these in the food processor as I did, you may not need to worry about slicing quite so thinly.  Also, you can get creative with the base.  Try strained Greek Yogurt for a bit more tang, or maybe cream cheese for a cream cheese spread, or a combo of sour cream and mayo like a traditional dip.  Serve with your favorite dippables - when being healthy I go with veggies of course, but whole wheat baked pita crisps would be great as well.  If you're not a waistline watcher, just go with chips, yum!

Balsamic Onion Dip
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt to taste (I used about 1 1/2 tsp)
freshly ground pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp)
1 16 oz container of lowfat (or non fat) sour cream

Heat up a tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium - high heat.  Caramelize the onions* in batches so you don't overcrowd your pan (I did four separate batches for this amount of onions in the pan size I had, though you could probably get away with three).  If you don't listen to me now and you chuck them all in at once you'll end up just sweating and steaming your onions and they'll go all flaccid and weird, and not caramelized at all.  We do not want this.
Once the onions are nicely caramelized, stir in the balsamic vinegar and turn off the heat.  Allow to cool, and put in the food processor for a smoother dip, with the onions more evenly dispersed, or leave whole if you want folks to hit a nice chunk of yummy onion.

As I mentioned, I think I'll tweak this a bit by adding more vinegar, and maybe some Worcestershire sauce and a bit of onion powder, maybe a kick more salt.

*It should probably be noted that I am not an official onion caramelizer.  It rarely takes me more than 10-12 minutes to "caramelize" my onions, so please don't feel like you have to let them cook for 20-40 minutes as suggested by some recipes.  If you do, they'll be incredible, of course, but I don't find it necessary to let them go that long for most of my impatient purposes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

While walking down the hallway at work one day, I was overcome by an intense need for oatmeal raisin cookies - really good ones.  Alas, all I could find was an apple (South Beach friendly!) and a desire to hunt down some healthy-ish recipes for future use.
I found two that piqued my interest, and I think some combination of them would be perfect.  I'm debating trying each recipe as is to figure things out, or just going for it and doing what I think will work (and if you know me, you know I'll do the latter).  See, the big difference I noticed was milk vs applesauce.  A quick trip over to Calorie King (a favorite site of mine - especially if you're counting) proved my hunch.  1/4 c of lowfat milk is 26 cal with oh, we'll say 1 g fat.  1/4 c of unsweetened applesauce is 49 cal with no-ish fat.  I think swapping 1 g of fat for 23 calories makes sense, but I'm not baking expert.
Plus, I know I can't possibly make these cookies without things like cinnamon (what the hell?!), so yes, a combination is required.

Here is the plan:
1 cup whole wheat flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or Splenda)
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar (the Splenda stuff if you're following)
1 large egg
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup dark raisins (or dried cranberries)

Preaheat oven to 375 and prep baking sheets with parchment or silpat.
Sift dry flour, baking powder & soda, and salt together into a small bowl.
In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar, then add the egg, milk, vanilla & cinnamon.
Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture bit by bit; then fold in the oats and raisins.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the baking sheets, and bake for 8-12 minutes (keep an eye on them!).
Cool on a wire rack.

The worry is over the oats.  One recipe calls for quick cooking, the other cautions against using instant.  I don't know my oats from a hole in the ground, so luckily the nice folks over at Cook's Thesaurus taught me that:
quick oats = quick-cooking oats = quick oatmeal = quick-cooking oatmeal = easy oats       
These are thin flakes of oatmeal that cook up in about three or four minutes.  They're a good choice for oatmeal cookies.   Substitutes:  rolled oats (More nutritious and chewy, takes longer to cook. If substituting rolled oats for quick oats in a cookie recipe, consider refrigerating the dough for 20 minutes before baking-- otherwise the cookies may become too flat and thin)

Aside from type of oat concerns, one recipe calls for 2 1/4 c, the other for only 1 1/3.  HOW MANY OATS WILL IT TAKE?!  I know that mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy (thanks Grandpa!), but not how many oats I should put into my cookies.  I think I'll start with 1 1/2 cups and see what my dough looks like and tweak from there.  But then again, I do NOT understand baking and that might be an absolutely horrible idea.  Especially since the more oat recipe has less baking powder, and the less oat recipe has more baking powder and OMG PANIC ATTACK.
Okay, deep breath, let me think this through.  If I use whole wheat flour, I think I will definitely need more lift so I might need some additional leavening from the powder and will have to add more.

They turned out a bit more like oat balls than oat cookies, and they're pretty dry - but they taste darn good.  More tweaking is clearly needed.

Who is going to eat these sad little bastardizations until I find a recipe that works?!

** thoughts: add more butter or milk, or a tbsp or two of water & brown sugar to increase moisture content and flattenability of finished cookies.
A handy reference in the science played by each ingredient.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sweet Mother Root Beer

Can I just state for the record that I would like to either a) marry, b) become, c) absorb, or d) somehow befriend, Deb over at the Smitten Kitchen?  I mean, seriously.  I don't think I've ever looked at one of her recipes and thought - "eh."  And her photos?!  To die for.  If I could be just like anyone when I grow up it's certainly her.  
As I posted my last post, I saw on my little handy blog roll thingamajiggy down there to the right (* hi!!  * waves to blogroll * ), SK's latest was muthereffing ROOTBEER FLOAT CUPCAKES.
Yes, you read that right.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to be using the rootbeer schnapps to get that extra yummy rootbeer flavor going.  Jeezly crow, I can't wait to make these for something!!!!!

Rootbeer Float Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups root beer
1/2 cup root beer Schnapps
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pint of vanilla ice cream (you’ll have leftover; you’re welcome)
Maraschino cherries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 22 cupcake cups with paper liners. In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Fold the liquid and flour mixtures together in the large bowl. The batter will be slightly lumpy; this is okay. If you overbeat it, it will get tough.
Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 to 3/4 full (a 1/4 cup scoop or measuring cup filled mine perfectly) and bake cupcakes, rotating trays back to front and top to bottom halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Whip heavy or whipping cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until it holds soft peaks. You can do this with an electric mixer, but if you do it by hand, not only will you get a killer arm workout (which you can trade in for a cupcake, very soon), it will be nearly impossible to overbeat the cream. (Which I almost always do with a mixer.)
Use the tip of a knife to cut a small cone of cake out of the top center of each cupcake; feel free to snack on these, I won’t tell anyone. Using a spoon or a small cookie scoop, nest a scoop of ice cream in each indent. Surround ice cream with dollops of whipped cream. Top with a cherry, if using. To keep cupcakes in a holding pattern while you assemble the remaining ones, you can put them in the freezer, but try to do so for no more than 5 minutes or the whipped cream will harden.
Eat immediately.

Some items you can pick up from Amazon right this very second, to help with this recipe:

Curry Soup

Strangely, my cafeteria at work made a pretty kick ass chicken and curried vegetable soup yesterday with lentils and yumbombs.  It was really good and I was hoping to find a similar recipe online, though I'm sure I could give it a go myself at recreating it.  (it was basically chicken and veggies and curry - ta da!  recipe done)
A peek at the interwebs brought up this intriguing recipe though, and I definitely want to give it a whirl.  See, one of the dishes I dream about is the red curry mussels at Fog City Diner.  The only problem with this, is that I don't like mussels.  I can't order a plate of mussels just so I can eat the broth - that would be stupid.  And I can't always drag Andrea with me to eat the mussels and not share any of the broth with her - that would be mean.
So maybe, JUST MAYBE this soup could do for me, just a little, of what the broth does.  And PERHAPS I can live without the crusty sourdough, but I make no promises.

Bon Appetit tells me that this recipe is from Aruns in Chicago, where owner and chef Arun Sampanthavivat has come up with this fresh take on a traditional Thai recipe.

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add curry paste; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken; stir 2 minutes. Add green beans and eggplant pieces; stir 1 minute. Add broth, coconut milk and fish sauce; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in basil and serve.