Recipe: Spice paste

This is a heat-filled paste you can use for guacamole like I did, or in anything you need a hit of heat.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground Chipotle pepper
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Optional “secret” ingredient: 1 Tbsp cold bacon grease

Materials:

  • Mortar & pestle
  • Spatula

Instructions:

Put the minced garlic in the mortar and pestle and grind it into a thin paste. Put the sea salt in next and grind it into the garlic. Add in the remaining ingredients except for the bacon grease, using the pestle to mix everything together. Use the spatula to clean the pestle and gather the paste together. Add the bacon grease at this point if you are using it.

Spice paste in mortar with spatula sitting on top of mortar.

If you are using this for guacamole, this amount of paste should be enough for eight avocados. I only used four. The less avocados you use, the hotter the guac will be. I split the paste in half and added more heat to one half by grinding in a whole pepper each of jalapeno and serrano chiles. In one bowl, I mashed two avocoados, added the base paste and then the juice of one half of a lime and served. This was the “mildish” version. In another bowl, I mashed the other two avocados, the peppered paste, and the juice from the other half of the lime. If nothing else, it will clear out your sinuses!

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Recipe: Apricot Oatmeal Bars

I’m going to be lazy and slap up the email I was sending out to friends a while back for these yummy, yummy bars for which our grammar school teachers would ask us to ask our mom to make for the school bake sales. Due to the toaster oven situation, I currently make the full recipe, but split it in half between two 8″ x 8″ Pyrex dishes for baking.

Apricot oatmeal bars fresh out of the oven in an 8

I cannot remember where Mom got this recipe from, but we’ve been using it since the 80’s.

Katie

Crumb mixture:
1 1/4 /c flour
1 1/4 C Oats
1/2 C sugar
3/4 C butter, melted
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla

Filling:
10oz jar apricot preserves
1/2 C flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13×9 pan. In large mixing bowl, combine crumb ingredients. (It’s easiest to mix the dry first before adding the butter and vanilla. I’d also recommend a dash of cinnamon. ~K) Beat at low speed, scraping sides of bowl clean until mixture is crumbly. (You can do this by hand). Reserve 1 Cup of crumb mixture. Press remaining mixture into greased pan. Combine apricots and coconut and spread to within 1/2 inch of edge of unbaked crust. sprinkle with reserved mixture. Bake at center of oven, 350, 22-27 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

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Bacon and scallion deviled eggs

I made a batch of these the other night. There were lessons I learned and relearned with the process. This was only the second time I’ve attempted to make deviled eggs and this batch turned out *much* better than the first time. I think.

First, the recipe. As the source, I used an Epicurious recipe. I mostly stayed true to it, with the main difference being I finely chopped the bacon slices and incorporated the resulting bits into the yolk mixture rather than reserving as a garnish. The fine chop is infinitely easier to accomplish when the bacon is completely cooled. Here’s the eggs after I finished piping the mixture back into the whites:

Bacon and scallion deviled eggs

Luscious looking, aren’t they?

Well, I don’t know how clear I’ve made this, but I do not have any full-sized appliances in my apartment. The fridge is one of those dorm-style ones with a little freezer tray on top. I would swear that even on its lowest setting, it would ice over Hell. I stored the eggs in two containers and here’s the eggs how I discovered them in the smaller container when I got to work the next morning:

Deviled eggs after accidental freezing. The egg whites have begun to delaminate.

Yeah. The egg whites were not the tastiest. I did eat one, and major rubber. I was not quite ready to give up on the filling as there was bacon in there, and I can tell you that despite the freezing, the yolk mixture tasted just fine. The other three whites ended up in the garbage. So, lesson learned: avoid accidentally freezing hard-boiled eggs. When I got home, I checked the eggs in the larger container which had ended up under a full bag of baby carrots. While the bulk of the eggs in the larger container appeared to have been frozen as well, two might have made it through. This is probably because I stored them in one of those new Rubbermaid lunch blox boxes, entree sized (the sandwich size is in that second picture), and the two potentially okay ones were in the small divider. I moved the whole pack into the crisper drawer as that’s the furthest from the freezer unit (which doesn’t really keep anything that *should* be frozen frozen). They’ll be lunch for me on Thursday if they’re truly fine.

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Bounty bar deconstructed

One of my favorite memories with regards to food from when I was a kid was this dessert snack that my mom would pack in my lunches when I was in kindergarten. I’m not sure if she packed it subsequent years, but I clearly remember eating it in the cafeteria of the school I went to for kindergarten. It’s really, really, stupidly, simple. And, yet, so insanely tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (Mom used Nestle semi-sweet chips, but G’s milk chocolate are *so* much better)

Instructions:
Mix thoroughly. That’s it. Seriously. It comes out looking like this:

Sweetened coconut flakes and milk chocolate chips mixed together.

It may be a little easier to eat with a spoon, but either way, if you like chocolate and coconut, you’ll fall in love. And it really does taste like my favorite candy bar, Bounty bars, in deconstructed format.

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Recipe: Garlic Parmesan Monkey Bread

I made this as a snack for the Super Bowl. I got the idea from Pinterest, but didn’t follow a particular recipe. This is optimized for a toaster oven setup. Here’s approximately what I did:

Ingredients:

  • 8 count can of Homestyle Grands biscuits
  • 1/2 cup or so of freshly grated parmesan cheese – you want the fresh so it’ll melt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. of minced garlic – if you get the stuff already minced and bottled in olive oil, use a little of the oil, too
  • 1 tsp. of garlic salt – I used a specialty spice store version, so it had extra herbs in it, too
  • 1/2 stick or 1/4 cup of butter (or so)

Materials:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • 9×11″ (or whatever the standard size is) bread pan for baking
  • Pan for melting butter

Instructions:

Preheat toaster oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the parmesan cheese, minced garlic, and garlic salt or herbs as you will in the large mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a pan on your stovetop/hot plate. Quarter each of the Grands biscuits and toss the pieces in the garlic/parmesan mixture until thoroughly coated. Pour a little bit of the melted butter into the bread pan and coat the bottom. Place the coated biscuits into the bread pan and spread evenly. Pour the remaining melted butter over the top of the biscuits. Bake for 28 to 31 minutes until the whole top is at least golden brown. Some bits will be more browned than others. Remove from oven and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

Picture of baked garlic parmesan monkey bread

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Menu for February 3-9

Since I last posted a menu, I tried out a couple of different ways of menu-planning, including buying an app for the tablet. As it was only $3, I’m not kicking myself over it, but it’s not the best for the way I think. Live and learn. It seems that until something else rolls around, paper and pen are my best bet with this.

Super Bowl Sunday:

  • Breakfast: Parmesan & herbed scrambled egg, apple-gouda sausage, orange, grapefruit juice
  • Snack for during the game: Garlic-parmesan monkey bread, apple
  • Dinner: Pretzel-parmesan chicken and whatever’s left of the monkey bread

Weekdays:

  • Breakfast: Luna bar, banana, grapefruit juice
  • Lunch: Individual Velveeta shells & cheese, 2 Mott’s Healthy Harvest Granny Smith applesauce packs
  • Snack if I’m still hungry in the afternoon: Apple or pear & slices of block cheddar

Monday dinner: Leftover pretzel-parmesan chicken and any monkey bread that’s leftover

Tuesday dinner: Parmesan & herbed scrambled egg, apple-gouda sausage, grapefruit juice (I like this because it’s tasty, full of protein, and reasonably healthy <G>)

Wednesday dinner: Bagel & cream cheese at Panera

Thursday dinner: See Tuesday dinner

Friday dinner: Eat out as I’m running errands and will still have to make fudge when I get home

Saturday – writer’s group meeting day

  • Breakfast: Cereal & milk
  • Lunch: Some place out near the meeting space
  • Dinner: Out with friends for DC Restaurant Week
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Coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting

Coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting

This recipe is optimized for those with only a toaster oven available for baking, like myself. Adjust baking temperatures and times as needed to what you use.

Ingredients for cake:

  • Box of white cake mix
  • Wet ingredients called for by mix
  • 1 cup of shredded/flaked coconut, preferably sweetened
  • 1 Tbsp. of coconut extract
  • 1/2 Tbsp. of vanilla extract

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups shredded/flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • Milk as needed to thin out the mixture

Materials:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Hand mixer, if you want the cake really whipped up and airy, and you’ll definitely need it for the frosting
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Serrated knife to level the cake
  • 2 8×8″ square glass pans (because that’s what I had that fit in my toaster oven)
  • Spray or butter to grease the pans
  • Toaster oven

Preheat the toaster oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the cake mix as directed by the box. I used my hand mixer to whip up the eggs, oil and water because I knew I was adding the coconut and that might make the batter even denser. Once the mix batter has been combined as directed, add extracts and thoroughly mix in to the batter. Mix in flaked coconut to batter. Pour batter evenly into two greased pans. Bake one pan at a time for about 30 minutes. When the timer is done, check center with a toothpick/tester to ensure it is baked through. You should not have anything wet coming out on the tester! Repeat with second pan.

While the cakes are cooling on a rack, cream together cream cheese and butter for frosting. Add in 1 cup of powdered sugar. Thoroughly mix in. Add in second cup of powdered sugar. Again thoroughly mix in. The frosting may be pretty thick at this point, so slowly add in milk to thin it out. Start with 1 Tbsp. and add 1 Tbsp. at a time until the frosting consistency is like that of a store-bought brand. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and, again, thoroughly mix. Add in flaked coconut.

Since this is a layer cake, your life will be made immeasurably easier if you level out the lumpiness on the layers. You don’t need to take off much, just enough to make it level. And if you didn’t evenly divide batter between the two pans, like myself, don’t worry about making the layers the same thickness. This is a homemade cake. Homemade cakes are not perfect. Just incredibly tasty.

Place bottom layer, bottom down, onto serving plate. Set about a 1/2 cup of frosting on the top of the layer and spread to edges. Feel free to add more as long as you have enough to frost the top and edges of the cake as a whole. Place second layer, bottom up, onto first layer. This will give you a reasonably level surface to make your cake as pretty as possible. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Serve and enjoy!

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