Thursday, October 09, 2014

Apple Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie is not a lot to look at. I found the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog (follow link for recipe) and wouldn't change a thing - the crust is perfect, the filling is perfect (I used mutsu and shizuka apples). I brushed the top with cream because that's what I had and it browned perfectly.  I baked it exactly 45 minutes.

Slab pie feeds a crowd. Slab pie uses at least 8 cups of apples (if I were to change anything, mine could easily have used 10 cups!).  Slab pie is simple and doesn't require any fancy skills except maybe a light hand with pastry.  I'm not sure I'll make regular apple pie anymore. 

ETA: I did glob on some dulce de leche from a can, on top of the apples before applying the top crust. I'm not sorry!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

On the first cool fallish day, both Nathaniel and I start craving pumpkin chocolate chip bread. I went looking for untraditional versions of the recipe and found a gluten-free, vegan cookie recipe. I didn't need it to be vegan.  I didn't particularly need it to be gluten-free, but I still had a shelf of non-gluten flours from a cookbook review project I had done, so I decided to make a version of it.  From the original recipe, I added an egg (no longer vegan) and used non-vegan butter for the fat. I went with coconut sugar instead of palm sugar, and used sugar-free chocolate chips.  By the time it was mixed together, it was too soft to form into cookies, so I baked it in a 9" square pan. I'd probably add an additional egg next time for better binding of ingredients, but I liked the texture afforded by the three different flours. I also always amp up the spices because I like them! If you want to try her recipe, go for it! But my take on it will be listed below.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

  • ½ cup butter, melted, or vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or some mixture cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
  • ½ teaspoon EACH baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt
  • ⅓ cup EACH tapioca flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour
  • ½ cup (or more) chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the sugar with the wet ingredients.
  3. Sprinkle in the cinnamon, baking soda, powder, and salt.
  4. Continue with the flours.
  5. Beat well, and then reduce the speed and mix in the chocolate chips as preferred.
  6. Pour into a greased 9" square pan, or a round 9" cake pan.
  7. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

I came across this recipe for pumpkin protein pancakes and made a version based on what I had in hand.  Follow the link for a slighty higher-sugar yet lower-fat version.

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

  • 2 scoops protein powder (I used unflavored but vanilla would be better)
  • 1 cup pumpkin canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice, being out of cinnamon)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 jumbo eggs (could use 3 large eggs, 4 egg whites is what the original said)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 tablespoons milk (used almond milk)
  • 3 packets Splenda (original recipe used 1 tbsp honey)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Blend all ingredients except butter in blender, scraping down sides. Batter is quite thick and may need to be spooned into the pan. Cook as you normally cook pancakes, using a bit of butter and non-stick spray for each.

I found that I had to really make sure the center was cooked, and those a bit darker on the outside were a bit better.

We had these with sugar free syrup.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Crepes of the South Carolina Upstate

I'm not sure if the upstate of South Carolina has been having a crêpe-olution or if I simply haven't been paying attention.  Regardless, there are (at least) three tasty places you can enjoy crêpes in the upstate!

1. Mon Amie Morning Cafe
2601 East Main Street, Ste. 21
Spartanburg, South Carolina 29307
Wednesdays - Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm

Mon Amie features an extensive meal with breakfast, lunch, and dessert served during all open hours.  Menu items range from traditional French dishes to American twists on French dishes to sweet and savory crêpes.  Of all the crêpes in the upstate, these are my favorite in texture, and the cafe is so charming on the inside, along with extensive covered outdoor seating.  (Withhold judgment from the strip mall parking lot with paving in need of repair and step inside!)

I ate at Mon Amie with Nathaniel, who had the Garbo Crêpe for lunch while I had the New Orleans Nicoise Salad.  We split the Raspberry Tru ffle Crêpe for dessert, and it was decadent, filled with a homemade raspberry cream and Nutella.  I'm sad Spartanburg is an hour from where I live because I can't wait to go back. Highly, highly recommended.

2. The Passerelle Bistro Crêpe Cart
Falls Park, Downtown Greenville
Wednesdays - Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm

What is it with crêpes and Wednesdays through Sundays?  I work 10-15 minutes from downtown, so I zipped down one Wednesday at lunch to try out this crêpe cart.  That day they were only offering very traditional crêpes - lemon sugar and nutella.  The website says the menu for the cart includes Nutella, ham and Gruyere, roasted pork, chicken salad sandwich, and drinks, so it is definitely possible that the expanded their offerings due to popularity.

I have no picture. I got to talking to the crêpe-maker, who is a student where I work, and completely forgot.  But if you know where the Falls Park Bridge is downtown, it is just at the entrance to the bridge where Passerelle the restaurant is located.  These are sold like typical French crêpes would be - as street food, intended to be eaten with your hands as you walk around.

2 South Main Street
Travelers Rest, SC
8 am - 8 pm Tuesday - Thursday
8 am - 10 pm Friday - Saturday
10 am - 3 pm Sunday

This brand new restaurant just opened a week ago unofficially, and just this week officially. We had contributed to their kickstarter and got invited early. The hours are generous and the space is inviting (I prefer the outside, because the inside gets a bit loud!).  The same menu is served all day long, with sweet or savory crêpes, waffles, and coffee from Counter Culture.  

I've gone three times, and they are really getting into the groove even when it's busy (and it has always been busy!)  The best deal is called "Together is Best," which is their slogan - a lemon-sugar crêpe and a cappuccino.   One of my co-workers really loved the fiesta crêpe, which has beans, corn, chicken, salsa, and sour cream. I love that we have a place like this in Travelers Rest!  If the parking lot is full, you can park across Main Street near the tourism bureau and walk. The outdoor area is great, even in the rain, and you can choose from tables or benches.

The first time we went, pictured below, Nathaniel had the Chocolate and Caramel crêpe with a latte, and I had the Banana Nut with a cappuccino.  I've heard the salted caramel latte is also amazing, so I will try that next time!

Do you know of more Upstate crêpes?  Leave me a comment and I will go exploring!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Brownie Baked Alaska

For our 14th anniversary, I wanted something fancy that didn't take very much time.  I made brownie baked Alaska and it was delicious.

It's more of a concept than a recipe, although I consulted a bunch of recipes in putting it together.

In the end, this is mostly storebought stuff, ha!  I think the best brownies are the Ghiradelli double chocolate, but you could use any brownie.  I cut the 9x9 pan into four squares, and then used biscuit cutters roughly the same width.  I split those in half to have thin layers.  I built the layers in a similarly sized ramekin to add structure to the sides while preparing, but you could use rings, cans, anything.  I bought two kinds of icecream and used one on each, since there were three layers of half brownies.

The cylinders of brownies and icecream were wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen four hours. When we got home from dinner, I whipped up a meringue and spread it generously around the cylinders (without the plastic wrap), making sure no ice cream was showing.  I baked them at 500 F for about 4 minutes, but should have gone for 5 and browned it a bit more.  If you do it right, the ice cream shouldn't melt. 

Highly recommended, fancy preparation of what is really simple ingredients inside.

Oh heck, might as well count this for my Around the USA challenge although I have yet to read a book set in Alaska. :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pönnukökur: Icelandic Pancakes

I was up early this morning with the dog and read about how another member of my World's Literature group had made some Icelandic dishes.  I haven't done much of that this year, so I started poking around the internet.  When I stumbled across pönnukökur, I decided to make a quarter recipe to try it out.  Icelandic pancakes are similar to crepes, with a slightly spongier texture due to the addition of both baking soda and baking powder.  Traditionally they are not served in the mornings, but for afternoon tea or dessert.  I broke tradition for time of day but did prepare them the two traditional ways - rolled up with sugar sprinkled on one side, or folded in quarters with jam and whipped cream.

I learned how to make them from Grandma Margrét as shown in this video, although I had to make do with a normal saute pan.  This pan is cool and I'm going to try to find one - heavy base, completely flat surface - perfect for making pönnukökur.  While pönnukökur is not as tell-your-friends amazing as pannukakku, I think I need to make every pancake from every cold northern country. Don't you?
(Recipe below.)

How to Make Icelandic Pönnukökur from Iceland on Vimeo.

Icelandic pönnukökur

2 cups flour (scant)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
2-3 cups milk, as needed for consistency
4 tbsp butter

Mix dry ingredients, beat in eggs and milk.  You want enough milk to make a rather thin, soupy batter.  Melt butter in pan on medium-high heat and pour it into the batter before it browns!  Cook like crepes, and if you can find a special pönnukökur pan, all the better.

Serve by sprinkling one side with granulated sugar and rolling up, or spread jam thinly, globbing on whipped cream on one quarter, and folding pönnukökur around it.   

I divided this recipe by 4 and that made 4 smaller pönnukökur.  

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Eating Asheville High Roller Tour

This may come across as a paid advertisement post but isn't!  We went on the "high roller" tour from Eating Asheville on Saturday and had a great time.  We go up to Asheville a lot but don't always try new restaurants because we have some favorite places.  The tour took us inside six restaurants, none of which we had eaten at before.  They were very accommodating for dietary needs - we asked for no meat, another woman asked for no alcohol (although I'm pretty sure that's the higher cost for the 'high roller'), and one person didn't want shellfish.  Letting them know in advance allows them to fully prepare for these specific situations.

The first stop was Battery Park Book Exchange and Wine Bar.  I had been here before, but only to look at books, not to eat.  We were served a rosé wine and mini toasts with goat pimento cheese from Sunburst Trout Farms (no trout included) and spinach hummus from the wine bar.  The others had smoked trout paste instead of hummus, which is on the menus of several Asheville restaurants. 

The second stop was Cucina 24, a restaurant I must have walked past on many occasions and never really noticed.  This was my favorite stop on the tour. It made me feel nostalgic for the restaurant I worked at years ago, with a similar sized kitchen and crew (and even more creative food!).  The menu changes daily.  Vegetarians got farmer cheese topped with service berries, lemon olive oil, saba, basil, and a little flatbread.  We had short glasses of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo alongside.

Third on our tour was Zambra Tapas, Asheville's "original" tapas place.  We have eaten at Cúrate on multiple occasions but hadn't tried this one.  Funny because it's on the way to Malaprop's, one of my favorite bookstores.

The veggies got grilled tofu with preserved lemon, harissa, and hummus (SO good and from the current menu), and everyone got spiced sangria.  This place was a close second and we'll be back for sure.

 I loved the kitchen and decor for Zambra.  The kitchen is bulb shaped, wider where all the food gets its final preparation and to allow for a pizza/flatbread oven (I think?).  They would not stand still for their picture! There is a lot of space inside and I bet it gets very busy and loud on a good night.

Up fourth was another restaurant I hadn't noticed - Strada Italiano.  They have a full-throttle bake house in their basement that makes all their bread and desserts, and bread for other restaurants in town.  Since we were there post-brunch, it seemed like they decided to serve us food that used up leftovers - french toast out of chocolate cherry bread with basil and berry coulis.  It was fine, but didn't seem to really represent their cuisine and I still have no idea what eating there is like!  They do a cool family supper on Sundays where everything is served family style, meant for people on a budget.  They served us what they call "marinara wine" but I don't think I wrote it down right - cabriaggiano is what my note says but it doesn't seem to exist.

The last time I went to a concert in Asheville, it was at the legendary Orange Peel.  Right up the road is Chestnut Restaurant, known for it's craft food and craft cocktails (we were to hear the phrase "craft cocktail" many times on the tour, as it's the newest trendy trend.)  We had an energetic speech by the executive chef who was as excited about the food as the space, which they've only been in for 18 months.  He also owns The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village, another place I don't remember seeing but probably should try.  After all, the Obamas ate there!

I love this black and white version of the photo because you can see the 19 people on the food tour, the tour guide Stewart on the end with his NY Yankees hat, and the beautiful beautiful window along the back of the dining hall.  The chef said they do 500 people on a normal busy day, which must be a feat of organization indeed.

We were served a golden and red beet salad with orange reduction, pistachios, and a very thin crostini.  It had a dab of goat cheese in there too.  I love goat cheese with beets but it is something I've had often at various restaurants.  I'd like to take them up on their challenge to make anything with what they have on hand!  Meat eaters got a smoked brisket hash with hollandaise, clearly a remnant of the Saturday brunch.  Oh well, I'm glad they're not wasting food, and everyone completely cleaned their plates.  I'd go back here for lunch, on a day where I could also get one of their marvelous sounding craft cocktails.  But I'd rather come when it was not as busy as it gets at night, personally.  I just don't like crowded noisy places, and I think Chestnut must really get there.  It's to their credit. A noisy restaurant is likely a successful restaurant.  But I want my rhubarb cocktail.

After Chestnut we went to Chocolate Gems, a chocolate shop I had not yet graced with my presence.  I say that somewhat sarcastically because I love the chocolate shops of Western North Carolina, from Black Mountain Chocolate to French Broad Chocolate Lounge to The Chocolate Fetish.  There's also a random place I've encountered in the mountains around a bend but it might have been a mirage.  We were served baby scoops of blueberry lavender sorbetto and vanilla bean gelato, and sent on our way with a pink peppercorn truffle to enjoy at the end of the meal.  I loved the sorbetto, but thought the gelato tasted too much of vanilla alcohol, probably extract.  I really loved the owners/chocolatiers.  Every time he asked if we had questions, I only wanted mine to be, "Please may I work here?" I restrained.  I also came back and bought a cardamom ganache chocolate, which had cardamom infused into the truffley chocolate as well as a cardamom brittle broken up on the inside.  SO good.  Not enough people work with cardamom.  I would have liked to get more of a sampler but we had more walking in the hot sun to do, and I didn't suspect the chocolate would hold up.

We went back to Strada and headed to their rooftop social lounge to end the day. We had samplers of their Mediterranean plate and a craft cocktail that was like a hybrid of a Manhattan and sangria. What a great time!  And even though we were tired, I made Nathaniel pose in the beard corner.

They don't go to the same restaurants every time, so it would be fun to do this in a different season and see where we ended up.  I love Asheville.  It's a great food town with a very walkable downtown, and I'm happy to live just an hour from there.

More fun with rhubarb jam

One of the downsides to making a batch of jam without canning it is needing to use it faster than one person can consume it!  There is a recipe I've been making since I found it in Vegetarian Times in 2008 - [Insert fruit name] Oatmeal Bars.  It's an easy bar cookie that has the additional merit of using up a cup of jam, preserves, marmalade, you name it!

Since I had about two cups of rhubarb-vanilla-earl grey jam, I doubled the recipe and brought it in to work!  Here's what they looked like:

The worst part about using up homemade jam is that you don't have any more.  Who knows what interesting concoction I'll make next!

By the way, I posted this to Instagram almost two weeks ago.  If you want to see my food pictures earlier, including places I go to eat, you can follow me there - sh1mm3r.  I also post a lot of book and beagle pictures.  That's my life!