Lamb, Balsamic & Sundried Tomato Meat Loaf

Yes, I said lamb.  And loaf.  In the same sentence.  Generally speaking, I try to disassociate myself from any meat entitled “loaf”.

It’s a personal thing.  Like refusing to eat in the cafeteria in high school because I couldn’t identify the meat at first glance.  Actually, you couldn’t generally identify it even after a close and detailed investigation!

This, however, is a loaf worth eating.  It is heavenly, and easy, and lamby.  Did I mention I just love lamb?   😀

This is not your mamma’s meatloaf!  Although I’m sure your Mom’s meatloaf is totally awesome, this one has LAMB!!!

Obviously, you’ll need some ground lamb.  🙂  I had a 1 pound package, but it would have been even better if I’d used 2 pounds.  More lamb to love!  😛

You’ll need 1 lemon for zesting, 2 large eggs, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 4 garlic cloves  thinly sliced, 2 large shallots, finely chopped, 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes chopped, and 1 tbsp fresh rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Spray a large loaf pan (9 x 3 1/2) with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and vinegar.

Add the oats.

Then the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, rosemary and lemon zest.

Last, add the ground lamb.

Here is where you’ll want to put the camera down, as it is rather difficult to mix this all together using only one hand.

But I tried.

The hand is a little scary.

Dive in with both hands and mix until incorporated.

Transfer to the prepared loaf pan, and press into a loafy shape.

Bake 40 – 45 minutes.

For enhanced enjoyment, top with a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar.  Rat Boy doesn’t care much for balsamic vinegar.  Something about carrots and a horrid wonderful balsamic honey glaze I forced him to eat  made when he was about 7.  So I left it off.  🙂

More on the sour cream mashed potatoes tomorrow.  They are divine!

I think I might have died and gone to heaven.  Except the dishes are still dirty and the trash needs to go out.  Think I’ll just concentrate on eating for now!

Advertisements

Chicken Verde Enchiladas

I try to avoid going to the market on weekends.  Yes, it’s crowded, and slower than weekdays, but what really gets me is the food tasting. I taste things I wouldn’t normally make, and it’s good.  Then I get a ginormous jar of whatever product it was I just tasted, go home, and make meal X for the family.  Invariably it receives mixed reviews at home.  Sigh.

This one was a winner, however.  I did tweak the recipe on the jar a bit.  Who can possibly argue with more cheese?  Unless maybe you’re lactose intolerant.  But then you can use soy cheese or any of the other non-cheese cheeses that are commonly available these days!

You’ll need to boil a chicken.  I used a whole chicken, because skinless breasts just don’t have that much flavour, and they’re rather expensive in comparison.  AND…you get more chicken, so you can make more than one dish from the same chicken.

When the chicken is fully cooked, set it in a bowl to drain.  Strain the liquid in the pan, reduce it, and you have some delicious non-salty chicken broth.  Save this, and we’ll make some delicious chicken vegetable soup!

Two notes on the chicken:

1) Do make sure to remove the giblets before boiling!

2) De-bone carefully.  You don’t want anyone to choke or lose a tooth later!

Shred 2 to 3 cups of chicken.

Add 2-3 cups shredded cheese.  I used a cheddar Habanero variety, but it really wasn’t very spicy.  Also add 1 cup sour cream, and 1 cup pico de gallo.

Stir together, and then add 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed.

Try not to be like me and pour the black bean juice all over the counter.  Some days I just can’t hold onto things.  This morning, I poured half my cup of coffee on the counter in the same spot.  There is a land shark living there.  That MUST be it.

After the filling is combined…gently as to not squish the beans, pour in about half the jar of Cookwell & Company Green Chile Stew, until the filling is quite moist.

Microwave the corn tortillas until they are pliable, then spoon about 3 teaspoons of the filling into the tortilla, roll, and place into your baking dish of choice, seam side down.  The recipe says to use a 9 x 13.  I chose to use non-stick so I wouldn’t have to grease it.  I made enough filling with this recipe to make 2 pans!  That was about 24 enchiladas!

Cover then with some of the remaining Chile Stew mixture, then liberally apply shredded cheese.

Bake at 350F for 30 – 40 minutes.

Garnish with some salsa and more shredded cheese.  We are not big fans of Spanish rice, so I just threw together some pilaf from frozen peas and corn with Jasmine rice.  It was all quite nomable!  🙂

Hope everyone is having a good week before Christmas!

Christmas Cake

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought today I’d better get busy.  I decided that this would be just the thing to share, as I’m sure we are all experiencing the anticipation and excitement of this time of year (along with the stress).

This cake has a bit of a kick, as it has BOOZE in it!  NOT for the faint of heart…

Begin by sampling the Cuervo to check its quality.  Pour 1 ounce, and drink.  You may add salt and lime.

If the BOOZE meets with your approval, beat 1 cup butter until it is light and fluffy.

Add 1 cup sugar, and continue to beat.  Check teh tequila again to make sure it’s still OK.  🙂

While the mixture is creaming, check tequila.

Turn off mixer thingy.  Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl.  Stir well.

Have a bit more BOOZE!  It’s Christmas by golly!

Chuck a cup of dried fruit into the batter.  Whatever kind you like will be just fine!

Pick the friggin’ fruit off the floor.  Mix on the turner, and put the fruit in there.

Sample the Quervo to check for tonisisticity.

Turn the nister on low.  If fruit gets stuck in the beater, just pry it loose using a splatula,

Then, sift 2 cups salt, or something together in a small vole.

Check the Quervo.

Now shift lemon juice and strain nuts.

Add a stable of sugar or whatever you fine.  Greashe the oven at 350-.

Turn the cake tim and flour.  Try not to fall over.

Don’t forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl out the windoer, and finder the Quervo.  Try not to trype over the kat.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

That’s kind of a mouthful!  🙂  An extremely tasty mouthful, at that!

It is also quite tasty.  And probably not the best for my dieting efforts.  😛

I actually made this cake twice, as the recipe also suggests a bundt version.  This cake is NOT a lie.


It was an excellent excuse to buy that bundt pan I’ve been eying for the last month or so.  Fall just seems like a very bundt-y time of year.  Especially with pumpkin.

The list of ingredients is relatively short for the amazing taste of this cake!

One of the best things I’ve invested in so far has been a digital scale.  It’s the red thing hanging out on the right, under the brown sugar.

I’ve been really amazed at the lack of standardization in quantities and weights of prepackaged ingredients…butter, for instance.  While every stick says it is 1/2 cup, they weigh anywhere from 3.5 to 6 ounces!  That’s a big difference when baking.

Begin by creaming 4 oz butter with 12 oz brown sugar.  I’ve actually mixed 1 bag of light brown sugar with a bag of dark brown sugar, and I’m pretty sure I like the taste better that way.  Holy cow, what an innovation!  I’ve created medium brown sugar!  LOL

Room temperature is suggested for butter, eggs, and other ingredients from the fridge.  I’m finding the term ‘room temperature’ is pretty subjective.  Does it mean winter or summer room temp?  Texas room temp?  Mum’s house (around 80F), or mine (around 70F)?

I’ve decided what it really means is that the ingredients need to be soft enough to mix and emulsify well, but not so soft that they are liquidy and soggy.  Creaming the butter and sugar creates little air bubbles, which in turn, make the cake or muffins or whatever lighter and fluffier.

In a small bowl, bet together 2 eggs and 1 tbsp vanilla extract.  In another bowl, measure out 1 can pumpkin puree.  In a third bowl, sift together 2 cups cake flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.  Set out 1/2 cup buttermilk so it warms a bit to ‘room temp’.

First, add the egg mixture to the creamed butter sugar mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, letting it become fully incorporated before adding the next tbsp.  Stop about halfway through, and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.

Then, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour.  Allow ingredients to incorporate between additions, and stop to scrape the bowl at least once.

For the bundt, just spray the pan with non-stick of your choice, fill and bake at 350F for abut an hour.

For the frosted layer cake, spray a 9 inch round, then line the bottom with a cut circle of parchment paper.  Again, bake at 350F for about an hour.

To make the frosting, toast 4oz pecan pieces.  Blend together 12 oz cream cheese, 3 oz butter, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1 3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Use the best maple syrup.  Not the stuff that is really coloured corn syrup, but the real stuff that comes from trees!  I get mine from Whole foods, in the bulk isle, and it’s really pretty reasonable that way.

Unmold the cake onto a cake flat or tart pan bottom, leaving the parchment paper on the cake.  Level if necessary, and then slice the cake into tow layers.  Place the cake’s top layer onto the serving plate, cut side up, and frost.  Flip the bottom half onto the frosted part, parchment paper side up.  Peel off the paper and frost.

Press the toasted pecans into the side of the frosted cake.

Use a teaspoon to create swirls on the top.

Now it looks like something from the bakery!  No action photos, though, as it was almost 2AM!

I didn’t get the two layers quite even, but it still looks great, and tastes awesome!  Since it has cream cheese in the frosting, I refrigerated it overnight, but it tastes better served at room temperature…whatever that is!

Fudgy Brownies

A week or so back, I was making Cream Cheese Brownies for Mom.  Hubby plaintively asked, “Why don’t you ever make us brownies???”  He likes the plain, fudgy kind.  And since he has been on vacation, I thought I could accommodate his request.

After all, he DID just give me a new bed!

And I’ve been dieing to use the bar pan that Aggie gave me.  So this was a perfect opportunity.


I think my head is in the picture.  😛

In a microwaveable bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter, cut up,  and 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped.  Microwave for 1 minute, stir well.  If lumps remain, microwave again, in 30 second increments, stirring in between until all of the chocolate and butter are melted.  Stir WELL.  Your arm will be very tired.  The mixture should look slightly glossy.

Slowly add (still stirring) 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Stir until well mixed.  Then add 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Keep stirring.  The mixture will look a bit granulated from the sugar, but just keep stirring.

Add 2 large eggs, 1 at a time, stirring well to incorporate each egg.  The mixture should begin to look smooth.

Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 tsp salt.  Stir until incorporated.  Add 1/2 to 1 cup of any nuts that blow your skirt up (or shorts).  I used walnuts, half a cup, but could easily have used more.

Pour into a greased 9×9 inch pan.  I used 1 1/2 times the recipe, and baked the brownies in the 9×13 stoneware bar pan that Aggie gave me.  Go Pampered Chef and Go Aggie!!!  😀

Bake 25-30 minutes if using the 9×9 inch pan, about 1 hour in the 9×13.  Cool on the stove top, then chill in the fridge at least an hour before cutting.  These are VERY fudgy, almost molten brownies.  Delish!

Ciabatta

I seem to be baking a lot lately.  Hubby, Rat Boy and myself are all fans of bready goodness, so my intention to become a better baker is being enjoyed by all.  Today, I made one of my favorite types of bread…among other things.  I’m not going to talk about the other things yet, because tomorrow we are going to visit a friend of mine who has been overseas for a while, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise about what I’m taking him and his family!

Anyhow, back to the ciabatta.  I’m learning that all good bread requires a starter, which must be made in advance…that’s well in advance, like 12 hours is good.  I’m learning why it seemed that, when I read Little House on the Prairie (a LONG time ago), Ma always was making bread.  I’ve learned that I can make awesome bread, but then Hubby and Rat Boy eat it.  I eat some too.  Then I need to make bread again.

We’re all going to weigh 600 pounds by the time I get off this bread kick.  😀

Not really, Rat Boy has 2 hollow legs…he’s at that age.  And Hubby and I have been swimming every morning.  That makes working a night schedule so much more fun, especially when we can nap during the hottest part of the day.  And then there’s yoga, too.

I think North Americans, at least in the South, should adopt the practice of siesta.  With bread.

I didn’t take a gazillion pics of the bread making process.  I’m thinking we all know what starter and dough look like by now, or we’d have stopped reading cooking blogs!  So I’m just going to give the simple directions, and turn the world loose to make awesome bread.

First, you make the starter (of course), which for ciabatta, is called sponge.  They really culd have thought up a more appetizing name, but oh well.  It tastes better than it sounds.  😀

In a small bowl, stir together 1/8 tsp yeast and 2 tbsp warm water (about 110F).  It’s really important that the water not be too hot, or you’ll kill the yeast, so I actually got a thermometer just to be sure until I learn what ‘warm’ feels like.

Let the yeast and water mix stand for about 5 minutes until it looks creamy.  Then add 1/3 cup warm water and 1 cup flour.  I’ve started using bread flour to make bread, and it really makes a difference.  Stir for 4-5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for at least 12 hours, up to 1 day.  This is a good thing to do before you go to bed!

To make the bread, stir together 1/2 tsp yeast and 2 tbsp warm milk.  Let it stand about 5 minutes.  Dig out the dough hook for the mixer, and knead together the sponge, milk mixture, 2/3 cup warm water, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 2 cups flour until just moistened.  Add 1 1/2 tsp salt and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Scrape the dough into an oiled container, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled, about 1 – 2 hours. Turn it out onto a well-floured work surface, and cut it in half.  You really want to work with as little extra flour as possible, as the best bread remains sticky until it goes into the oven, for the best texture.

Form each half into an oval about 9 inches long.  I like to do this on parchment paper, as I can just slide it onto the baking sheet, and use less flour to keep it from sticking to everything!  Dimple the loaves with your fingers, and dust them with flour.  Do not cover this with anything damp, as the flour + water = glue, and is NOT attractive!  Just cover with a lint-free cloth, and set somewhere warm for another 1 – 2 hours, until they look doubled in bulk.

Sources say that ‘room temperature’ for rising dough is 75F.  They obviously don’t live in Texas.

After they’ve risen…again…bake at 425F for 20 – 25 minutes.  I’ve started putting an extra baking sheet under anything I put into the oven.  This is partly due to my unpredictable apartment oven, and also because it really seems to help spread out the heat in any traditional oven.  I’ve never baked in a convection oven, so I have no idea what the difference would be.

When the loaves are done, hopefully they will be golden and crisp, with a slightly chewy texture.  I could eat an entire loaf all by myself!  This is the first time I’ve made this bread, and it’s easy.  It was absolutely spot-on the first time!  Go ciabatta!  😛

I love Italian food.  Someday soon, I’m going to figure out how to post the recipe at the end, so it’s printable.  For now, I’m still trying out new techniques, tools, and trying to turn out yum-tastic food (that looks pretty) to share with the world.  So I guess you’ll just have to follow along with the written directions!

And don’t ever forget…Kitchen Kat is watching!