Friday, December 31, 2010

Prickly Pear, Pepper, Pecan Baked Brie

It's hot and sweet with a perfectly lightly salted hunk of brie melting in oozing piles of glory and love over toasted slices of sourdough.
I make it about once a year because well...I actually like seeing my feet on occasion. In the original post for Jalapeño pepper pecan baked brie I used the original recipe: Tangy Pepper-Pecan Brie and I used apricot jam. As I finally had actually accomplished the goal of harvesting prickly pear cactus fruit and making it into jam this year (a lofty goal mind you...) I decided to use my jam in place of the apricot. Apricot used in this recipe was incredible. Prickly pear...let's just say, one of the most amazing uses of a cactus I've ever seen.I thought it was the perfect way to kick off the New Year. What a glorious year 2010 has been. Miracles of life, gifts of mercy and amazing opportunities that have given me hope beyond words. We are looking forward to many more days, weeks and years of happiness. Are you ready to face a new adventure? I am. I'm ready to embrace whatever is put before me! If I can make lemons into lemonade...cactus into jam...imagine what I can make out of all those blessings God has given me right up front and in my sweet little face!
That being said...let's put this New Year's amazing hot appetizer before us. Starting with the prickly pear jam. I made my own on the blog for all to see here (Prickly Pear Jam 101 Tutorial ). Feel free to make it or purchase the prepared stuff. Another evil-delicious jam that will work amazingly well for this appetizer is my Peach Mango Jalapeno Jam . It's almost too good to even share with company though. I warn you. Ace ate the whole case I made in July...within two weeks. Head shake. That's just a shameful display of jam-carnage if you ask me. So is this...

Arizona grown pecans are beautiful. What more can I say about these little nuggets of happiness. Oh, I know what I can more! The Arizona pecan growers are giving me a handsome kick-back for saying that. Okay...not really. I made that part up.

My recipe you will need:
1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped and divided
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, chopped
1/2 cup prickly pear jam (sugar free or regular)
1 clove fresh pressed garlic
1 4-inch round (8 ounces) Brie cheese with rind, room temperature
1 loaf (16 ounces) French baguette ( I useHomemade Sourdough )
Melted butter (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the jam, jalapeno, garlic and half of the pecans.

Using a bread knife, cut baguette on a bias into twenty-four 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange baguette slices around Brie; baste with butter using a pastry brush.
Oh land-o-lakes alive! Have butter. Not every day, but every once in a will not die.

Cut Brie in half horizontally. Place one half of Brie, cut side up, onto center of Large Round pizza stone. Spread half of the prickly pear jam mixture evenly over bottom half of Brie using Small Spreader. Top with remaining half of Brie. Spread remaining jam mixture over Brie; sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until baguette slices are golden brown and Brie begins to soften. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Then of course go outside and light off a few sparklers. Enjoy your family and friends close to your heart.

Because the kids may or may not remember the amazing brie, but they will 100% remember the fist time they held a sparkler.
There you go! Happy New year!

Yield: 12 servings
Nutrients per serving: Calories 230, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrate 38 g, Protein 6 g, Sodium 400 mg, Fiber 2 g

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sugar and Snow...Random Thoughts

Ace announced this morning that there was snow just 60 miles north of Phoenix...and we should really take the kids to see it. Ironically, that same snow storm had just prevented my old friend Andrea from driving to the valley to visit the gals for our scheduled "girl's luncheon" I was free. We crammed the car full of blankets, and kiddos...who had no idea what snow really looked like in person. How is it that they could be this age and never know what snow was like? I guess since I grew up in the snow...I never really connected that my kids had missed this vital part of their childhood. An hour and a half later...I was excited to see this...
Oh yeah! That's it!

I of course, being a bit more "girlie"than I ever remember being about the cold...enjoyed this special view from here...

Ace, who never wears his hat, wore it long enough to walk up the hill and back.

A vital stop for sandwiches to warm our innards.

Then...back to the snow...for about twelve minutes before my kids decided that snow was too cold for any human to really spend time in it.

Oh the twelve minutes of glory though...

I think it was this scene that brought it to an end...(no pun intended)...
What Petersen adventure wouldn't be complete without a small bag of these?! I'm horribly addicted to the little red fish. To my credit, it's been about six months since I had one (or twelve..).

Unfortunately, Face had a few of these and ended up bouncing off the walls of the car. You have to see this... Face on sugar, Little Man trying to raise normal parents...and Ace remembering why he never liked New Kids on The Block...(in that order).

Hopefully we remember this the next time Face asks for sugar, but if not...we'll get it on video.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Homemade Corn Tortilla Tutorial

Tonight for dinner we had a very simple taco dinner...on homemade corn tortillas and I was reminded of one of my favorite kitchen toys. It's a Tortilla Press that I got about two months ago and have adored ever since. Look how loved it is.
We've been playing with corn around here, since I got a big ol' 25 lb Bag of the organic stuff. I learned a few corny facts. Did you know there are more than 400 kinds of corn?! Oh my gosh. I for one have been a little lax in my use of the golden nuggets. How about you? Last week we made Homemade Corn Nuts for our tutorial using organic yellow corn. If you want to make tortillas from the corn, I have found this resource: How To Make Masa (Dough For Tortillas And Tamales) . To make the tortillas you will need to purchase something traditionally called "slaked lime", but chemically called Calcium hydroxide. It's available for 5$ a lb here.
Bottom line, we can buy prepared masa dough in our grocery stores here, due to the fact that we are so close to Mexico and have many of our neighbors and friends who came here from that direction. Un Beso. (That's "smooches" to the rest of you...)
If I don't buy the fresh dough, I generally use the simple method. It's called... MASECA Instant Corn Masa Flour for tortillas. I don't work for them...but it's pretty good stuff.

I use the recipe right on the bag of Maseca if I use the mix. It's quite simple and the 4lb bag makes a very large quantity of it saves us a lot of money. Honestly though, the taste of homemade corn tortillas is absolute heaven. I have never once had a corn tortilla in a restaurant or off a grocery store shelf to match the tenderness of a homemade corn tortilla...ever. It usually takes about 15-20 minutes to make 16 tortillas from scratch. I do that while the meat for the tacos is cooking. It's quick dinner.

This recipe for the corn tortillas is from Doña Masita. MASECA - Tortillas

For the Dough:
In a bowl mix 2 cups loose MASECA®, 1 1/4 cup water and 1/4 tsp salt until it is all incorporated and a smooth dough is formed which doesn’t stick to your hands.

If the dough feels dry, add teaspoons of water (one by one). Once the dough is ready, cover with a wet towel so that it does not dry out.

Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and form little balls.

Cover with a damp towel to keep moist.

Flatten each ball between two sheets of wax paper, using a press for tortillas and start making the tortillas. You can use parchment paper or heavy plastic wrap as well. You don't have to use a tortilla press, but it takes a lot less time and energy to use one.

Hello you lucky dough ball. Brace yourselves...

Once the tortilla is ready, cook on a hot griddle for 1 minute each side, or until the tortilla fills with air. Look how cool they look...

Again, one minute on each side is all it takes to cook them. On a large griddle I can get eight at a time going!

I keep the tortillas in a nice covered tortilla warmer until we're ready to eat.
If you decide to fry them to make chips, be prepared to let them cool completely first. Also, they make amazing enchiladas, tostada shells, taco shells, name it. We went ahead and used some fresh salsa verde. With home grown cilantro...also still growing nicely in the garden. Be jealous. I walked out barefoot and gleaned some from my cilantro forest. Arizona is amazing for year round gardening. I'll be calling you in July when I'm crying in my 200 degree kitchen.

Today, in December, I may gloat...just a little. Eat your heart out Seattle.

Cheese is optional...but always loved. Just like me.

There you go. Make yourself some corn tortillas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Homemade Corn "nuts"

Sometimes I wonder how I could possibly be more weird. Don't answer that. I don't want to know. I do know however, that for the last week or so I've been truly, madly, deeply in love with these homemade corn nuts and cranking them out by the crate full. Thankfully...they are all organic and awesome. I'd be worried otherwise. So how do I make these little corn nuggets of love at home? Well...we start with this...a method I discovered several years ago for getting popcorn to make all "old maids" (It's Good to Be an Old Maid... ). My grandma used to call the popcorn at the bottom of the bowl that "almost" popped but was still super crispy and yummy an "old maid." I'm not sure why. Those where my favorite little pieces of corn. We'd fight over them. Really. So this corn nut method is very similar. Only today we use this corn...

You will need: Hard Organic Yellow Corn, water, a clean towel, Vegetable Oil, and a  Stainless Steel Popcorn Popper 

Step 1: Cover corn in water 24 hours.

Step 2:  Drain and towel dry.

Step  3: Cook on the stove. 
 I use this Stainless Steel Popcorn Popper

which is awesome to make fresh, classic style popcorn right on your stove at home. I love how strong it is. This bad boy is going to last forever. Much more so than the aluminum models. Stainless steel clad aluminum bottom disperses heat quickly & evenly without aluminum contacting the popcorn. It also has a large 6 Quart on popcorn night, it's enough for the whole family. The popper has stay cool wooden handles and a vented lid for dry popcorn and optimum temperature. The hinged lid provides easy loading & dispensing. Pin and Clamp lid removal for quick and easy cleaning. Rotary paddle keeps popcorn moving. Also great for glazed almonds & nuts. However, I've found it most useful for making the homemade corn nuts.

Cooking Directions: I add 1/3 cup of olive oil to every one cup of towel dried corn (that was soaked 24 hours in water).
I usually only cook 2 cups at a time max. Just to be sure it cooks crisp.

Close the lid and rotate the handle for 3-5 minutes until very crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Season as desired. Personally we adore my Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning generously sprinkled over the nuts. I may be a little biased though.

Waaaawhooo! There you go! An awesome way to use some corn. Gluten free and homemade. 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chef Tess Cornbread Mix

With the advent of the cold and drizzle of winter here in Arizona...finally...I have had some desire to make some old school chili and cornbread. Really nothing seems to invoke those feelings of home like that comfort food from my child hood. Maybe it's the warming influence of the beans. Hee hee.
Ironically, it's not the same without a nice rich cornbread to drizzle the chili over is it? So here's my recipe for cornbread mix. First you will need to have some of my Homemade Bisquick.
Cornbread mix
1 cup Homemade Bisquick
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar or sugar free replacement
1/3 cup powdered sour cream (optional)
2T powdered egg

Combine all dry ingredients. At baking, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine cornbread mix with 1 cup water. Stir until just combined. Pour into a greased 8 inch by 8 inch cake pan or a 9 by 5 loaf pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean.
Drizzle with homemade chili. Or for breakfast, our all time favorite is to soak it in butter and maple syrup. Oh have mercy. It's comforting to the core.

If you prefer to make cornbread without a mix, may I suggest my lovely post on Scratch Cornbread from the early days of the blog. Gosh it's a classic.