Tuesday, December 4, 2012

what's cooking in my kitchen this week

"our" fisherman who came to the villa at Diani Beach every day to sell us his catch of the day

I've found I have a lot less time to blog about what I'm cooking for dinner or baking for my family these days.  In fact, I have less time to blog in general.  The more "real" life that is going on, the less time I have to sit down and write.  It's funny how it works.  When I'm busy and I can't blog; words swirl around in my head.  I'm constantly thinking of blog titles as life happens all day long.  I simply have so little time to actually blog.

With the burial of my camera I don't even have pretty pictures to show you.

Anyhow, life is so good right now and everything I am doing, I am enjoying, so having more "real" life occupying me is not a bad thing at all.
Having our week long holiday in Kenya was a lovely cooking break for me.  I baked a lovely pecan pie for our Thanksgiving meal that week but other than that I buttered some toast for the girls in the morning and that's about it. We had a personal chef at the Villa and he made the most amazing seafood feasts for lunch and dinner every day.  I had an entire weeks break from cooking and I was so grateful for it.  I came home with a renewed energy to create meals for my family.
I'm back to cooking this week.

I've been making all sorts of crepes lately.  They are super easy and you can fill them with almost anything.  I was thrilled to come back from Kenya and find that my new cookbook Crepes: 50 Savory and Sweet Recipes had arrived.  The basic versatile crepe recipe in this book is wonderful.  It calls for browned butter. Browned butter makes everything taste amazing!  All those nutty notes.  Another revolutionary tip in this book is to make the crepe batter in the blender.  Awesome!  So easy and no more lumps.  Anyway, the first recipe I tried was the ricotta blintzes with blueberry-lime sauce.  It's a dessert crepe; essentially a sweetened ricotta filling with lime zest enveloped by a crepe that has been browned in a skillet and then baked in the oven to perfection and dusted with powder sugar.  The kicker is the blueberry lime sauce which I will be making double batches of just to have in the refrigerator for pancakes and all sorts of things.  The blueberry lime sauce is what made these blintzes delicious.  I learned a few things from making this dessert.  My daughters don't think cheese is a worthy reward for eating their vegetables and Justin can only tolerate ricotta in lasagna.  OK fine, I admit it.  I ate the rest of these for breakfast the past few mornings.  If you like crepes; get this cookbook.  If you like sweetened ricotta in a not-too-sweet dessert; try the blintzes.  I loved them.  My family is nuts.

Blueberry Lime sauce-adapted slightly from Crepes (I have to share this because I absolutely love blueberries and I bought a bag of frozen blueberries off a friend of mine who is packing up to leave Ethiopia this month.  I don't know where she found them but I am so glad I snagged them from her.  The entire rest of the bag is going in a pot to simmer and turn all syrupy for this weekend's pancakes)
2 cups frozen blueberries (or if you are totally lucky-fresh blueberries)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp grated lime zest (just the green outer skin)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

Simmer the blueberries and the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat .  Add 2 Tbsp of water, cover and let them bubble and cook for 5 minutes.  Uncover and cook another few minutes until the berries have collapsed and all the juices start to turn syrupy.  Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool a tad.  Add the lime zest and juice and taste.  Add a pinch of salt and more lime juice if needed.  Store for a week in the refrigerator OR smother homemade pancakes with this delicious elixir.  Oh, how I have missed blueberries!

For dinner the other night I stared at a pound of ground beef for much too long trying to decide what to do with it.  When I stare too long I almost always go to Smitten Kitchen (thank you Dani!) and punch my ingredient in her search tool and see what comes up.  Sure enough, typing in ground beef gave me the bright idea to make sloppy joes.  Smitten Kitchen doesn't call hers sloppy joes but that what this recipe is folks.  Just as sloppy, but much more tasty than the McCormick's sloppy joes seasoning packet we used to eat as kids.  I don't ever completely follow the recipes I find.  My version of this beefy chili had the same spices but in different concentration.  A quarter cup of chili powder is just crazy.  I added 1 tsp of my chili powder and then cursed myself because I knew it would be too spicy for the kids.* I use the recipe as a guideline.  Adding cider vinegar added great flavor by the way.  I'm sure Deb's recipe would be delicious if you followed it down to the letter but I also believe that a perfectly delicious version of sloppy joes lies somewhere in the heart of all of us.

I'm not sure Sloppy Joes could ever be photo worthy but here you go anyway.  
*You CAN save dinner for your kids if you accidentally add a bit too much spice.  Instead of pulling out a box of mac n' cheese you can do what I did that night.  Spoon out the portion of your meal that your kids will eat.  Place it in another pot and add either water, or broth until the spice is appropriate for them.  In the sloppy joe case I added tomato sauce until the spice level cooled off. My husband and I enjoyed the spicy portion without complaints from the kids!

The key to these sloppy joes was the idea of slathering it on a biscuit.  I made sour cream chive biscuits and they were a huge hit.  Make these biscuits for your own version of sloppy joes (the girls couldn't stop giggling about what dinner was called) or just make these biscuits for the heck of it.  They are delicious.  Super easy and fool proof!

Sour cream and chive biscuits (adapted from a cream based biscuit recipe. I can't remember where I got the original)
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp frozen unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sour cream (or a combo of sour cream, heavy cream, or whole milk)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture using a cheese grater.  Using a fork mix the butter flakes in with the flour mixture.  No need for uniformity.  Form a well in the middle of the butter/flour mixture and pour in the sour cream.  Using the fork pull the dry in to the wet until the ingredients are barely combined.  Add the chives.  Using your hands knead the dough a tad so that it is combined.  Move the lump of dough onto a floured surface and press with your hands to make a 1 inch thick layer of dough. Use a biscuit cutter (or round-ish cookie cutter) to cut out rounds of the dough.  Place the biscuits on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet or a Silpat.  Sprinkle with a little salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes.  They were delicious cut in half while still barely warm and topped with the sloppy joe beefy chili stuff.  Perfect comfort food!  Addie even had a sloppy joe for lunch the next day at school. Score!

What have you been cooking?  How about baking?  I have so many custom orders this week for Ladytroupe Sweets that I don't plan to be at Market Day on Friday. I think I am going to use my extra time on Friday to make gingerbread for our first-ever, from-scratch, mommy-daughters, gingerbread house!  I can't wait.  

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