Monday, November 29, 2010

Cinnamon Cake

Along with Ham Balls, cinnamon cake is another one of those recipes that I inherited after Mr. Kim Chee and I got together. I asked what his favorite food was for his first birthday we celebrated together, and cinnamon cake was what he picked. So I had his mom track down the recipe and it's been a staple at our house ever since.

Cinnamon cake is a very, very basic recipe. It starts with some flour in a large mixing bowl.

The flour is joined by a liberal sprinkling of sugar, as well as a pinch of salt.

A couple teaspoons of baking powder will help your cake rise.

Give your dry ingredients a good whisk, to make sure your baking powder is well incorporated.

Now come the wet ingredients. First is a cup of milk. If I have buttermilk left over from making Buttermilk Pancakes or Honey-Pepper Cornbread, I use that instead.

An egg and some vanilla join the milk.

That's sort of pretty, don't you think?

I started mixing and then realized I'd forgotten something important. Cinnamon!

The original recipe didn't have cinnamon in the batter, but it's cinnamon cake, right? Can't hurt to add more cinnamon when you've got the chance.

Once everything is well mixed, you can pour it into a greased cake pan. This recipe makes enough for an 8x8 square pan. It can easily be doubled to fill a regular sized cake pan.

There's one more step before the cake goes in the oven. Mix up some white sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Then sprinkle it over your unbaked cake.

Whoops, I lied. There's another step after that. Dice up half a stick of butter (I like to cut the stick into tablespoons, and then cut each tablespoon into sixths) and then top your cinnamon-sugar mixture with it.

The butter will cause little sinkholes in your cinnamon cake while it bakes.

Mr. Kim Chee loves his cinnamon cake warm, topped with more butter. He'd eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if he could. Give Cinnamon Cake a try. Maybe you'll find that you feel the same!

Recipe: Cinnamon Cake

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder

1 c. milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

2/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 c. (4 tbsp.) cold butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder) together in a mixing bowl.

To the dry ingredients, add milk, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix well.

Pour batter into a greased 8x8 cake pan.

Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over top of the cake.

Dot evenly with cold butter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Eat warm, topped with more butter if desired.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snowball Cookies

Although I've seen these cookies called Italian Wedding cookies, Mexican Wedding cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Greek Kourambiedes, and butterballs, it's a snow day here so I'm celebrating by callingn these little guys "Snowball Cookies."
I love these cookies in the winter. They're a little soft, a little crumbly, a little sweet, and a little nutty. They're simple to make and use very few ingredients, and they are easily modified to fit your personal flavors and tastes.

Your recipe starts, like many cookie recipes, with softened butter.

With your butter go your flavorings. I went with vanilla and almond extracts.
Almond extract just has such a great smell. I always associate it with holiday cookies, especially butter cookies like spritz.

Be careful not to add too much. Almond extract is very pungent.
After your butter and sugar have been creamed together, it's time for flour and powdered sugar. I add them in two additions.

Now your batter is ready for some nuts. My original recipe called for walnuts, but I was short on walnuts. They're not my favorite nut and I don't always have them on hand. Today I did, but I didn't have quite the full amount the recipe called for. So I topped off my measuring cup with pecans.

I've made these cookies with all pecans before, and all almonds. I'm sure macadamia nuts or hazelnuts would bring something to the table too.

I ground mine in a food processor; if you like your cookies a little more "lumpy", you could grind them for a shorter period of time, chop them with a knife, or pour them into a Ziploc baggie and smash them with a can or a rolling pin.
Add the nuts in and stir gently. You don't want to overmix your cookie dough.

At the very end, add a dash of milk (or other liquid--brandy would be really, really nice about now.) This will help your cookies hold together.

You should have a nice, nutty, moist, but not too moist, dough.

Roll your dough into small, 1-inch balls, and place them on a greased cookie sheet a couple inches apart from one another. I was able to fit 15 cookies onto a single cookie sheet. And this recipe made 35 cookies.
Bake your cookies for 12-14 minutes.

Once they've come out of the oven, I like to let them cool for about five minutes. Just enough time to let them firm up a bit, so they don't fall apart when I touch them, and to cool down so I won't burn myself.

When the cookies are still warm, I let them frolic in a bowl of powdered sugar.

The sugar melts a little bit, sticking to the cookie and adding another layer of flavor.

Once they've fully cooled, I sometimes let them go through the powdered sugar again. Just so they get a fresh coat.

I love these cookies with a cup of something hot--whether it be tea, coffee, hot cider, or some nice cocoa. They also make a great Christmas gift, and if you've got kids who like to help in the kitchen, these cookies are easy enough for even the smallest child. Don't be afraid of your snow days...embrace them!

Recipe: Snowball Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. salt (see note in recipe)

2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar

1 c. chopped nuts

1 tbsp. liquid (milk, liquer, cream, etc.)

Powdered sugar, for dusting (~1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whip butter and extracts together until completely creamed together. If using unsalted butter, add 1 tsp. salt.

Add flour and powdered sugar in two additions (1 c. flour, 1/3 c. powdered sugar).

Add chopped nuts.

Add liquid, stirring gently until just incorporated.

Roll cookies into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned.

Pull cookies from oven. Allow cookies to rest for 5 minutes. Roll slightly cooled cookies in powdered sugar; then place on baking rack. Once cookies have cooled completely, roll again in sugar, if desired.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pineapple and Brown Sugar Ham

Ham is a great food for the home cook. It comes in a variety of sizes, if bought at the right time it can be extremely inexpensive, it has a long shelf life, and it can be used in many meals after its initial roasting. It freezes well, reheats well, and the best thing is that it's already cooked, so there's no worry about overcooking or undercooking. And, if you're not so in to the whole turkey thing, ham is a great Thanksgiving alternative!

I love a sweet glaze on my ham. I usually go with a simple brown sugar and mustard glaze, but I had some pineapple juice leftover from my Whisky-Marinated Steak and saw an opportunity to use some up. I added one small can to some brown sugar.

To that I added a pat of butter and a couple big spoonfuls of dijon mustard.

I turned the burner on medium and waited for things to start heating up.

Once I had a nice bubble going, I turned the heat down to medium-low and let the glaze reduce for about 20 minutes.

While the glaze was going, I prepped my ham. I found a nice, bone-in, 5 pound ham. I always get the end that has the bone--you get more flavor, and the ham bone always comes in handy for other recipes.

While we're on the "tips" section of the recipe, I do not recommend feeding ham bones (or any other bones, actually, apart from the special, kiln-dried bones at the pet store) to dogs. Doing so can be deadly (I know from personal experience.)

Anyhow. Grab a sharp knife and cut lightly into your ham. You'll want to cut both vertically and horizonally, to create diamond shapes all across the skin of your ham.

Now grab some whole cloves and press a clove into every corner of every diamond.

I just love how the cloves look, studded into a nice piece of ham.

All right! By now your glaze should be sufficiently reduced. You don't want it to be too thick, since it will thicken up more in the oven. You just want everything blended together and the sugar dissolved.

Pour the glaze right over the ham.

Nothing makes me hungrier than a picture of a studded, glazed ham.

I like to baste the ham while it bakes. Maybe every 20-30 minutes--so, three or four times. If your glaze begins to get too thick in your roasting pan, pour in a little water to thin it out. Burned sugar is really hard to get off!

Now slice into your big, beautiful ham. Thank the pig that gave its life so you could feast upon such a glorious roast. And keep dreaming--you and your ham will have many more meals together. I love to use leftovers in potato soup, in omelettes and quiches, and sandwiched between my Sweet 'n Easy Dinner Rolls. The bone has a special place, as a flavor enhancer in my favorite vegetable lentil soup. If you ask nicely, I may post it someday ;)

Recipe: Pineapple and Brown Sugar Ham

1 c. brown sugar
1-6 oz. can pineapple juice
3 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. butter
freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 5-10 lb. bone-in smoked ham
whole cloves (enough to stud ham)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Over medium heat, combine brown sugar, pineapple juice, dijon mustard, butter, and pepper. Once mixture reaches a gentle boil, reduce heat to medium low. Reduce for 20-30 minutes.

Place ham in roasting pan. With a paring knife, score ham horizontally and vertically, all the way around, in a diamond pattern. Press whole cloves into corners of diamonds.

Pour glaze over ham. Roast for at least 1 hour, basting with glaze every 20-30 minutes. If glaze begins to burn at the bottom of the roasting pan, add a little water to thin.

Let ham rest before serving. Don't forget to save the ham bone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Favorite Thing This Week

My favorite thing this week is, what else? Thanksgiving food! I look forward to Thanksgiving every year. We have a very, very small extended family that we spend the holidays with, and so that means T-day is more about food than family for us.

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, hot rolls, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce...who can beat it? My favorite dish is the stuffing, but only until the pie comes out.

Here's a list of Kim Chee Casserole recipes that may serve you well this coming week!

Sweet 'n Easy Dinner Rolls (they're even better the next day, stuffed with turkey and mayo!)
Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes (try it with turkey fat!)
Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brined and Grilled Pork Chops (for a quick and delicious brine)
Stuffed Pork Chops (for an easy recipe for stuffing and simple instructions for gravy!)
Simple Roasted Chicken (yes, it's chicken, but the technique will still be the same!)

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Perfect Taco Seasoning

Here's a quick and easy recipe that will save you both time, money, and calories. That taco seasoning that they sell premade at the store is full of MSG, salt, and preservatives. And you never know how long it's been at the store or how old the spices are. By making your own taco seasoning, you're guaranteed to know that it will taste the way YOU want it to taste, and that it was made from quality ingredients right out of your own pantry.

The up-front investment in purchasing these spices may seem high, but  you may have some (or many) of these spices already in your pantry. And if you make a big batch of seasoning, in the end you'll be saving money. And you may end up with leftover spices that you've never tried before.

There are 8 spices in this recipe: dried cilantro, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, onion powder, paprika, ancho chili powder, and chili powder.

Yes, you read that right--two kinds of chili powder. Regular chili powder, which you're probably most familiar with, is a blend of spices that includes paprika and onion powder.

Ancho chili powder is made from just one chili, the dried poblano pepper (called ancho once it's dried. Confusing, right? Just like jalapenos are called chipotles after they're smoked.) You've probably seen poblanos at your store, or eaten them if you like those cheese-stuffed peppers known as chiles rellanos.

Neither of these chili powders are spicy, by the way, so don't be scared! All the heat is from the cayenne pepper, which you can increase or decrease to your liking.

My recipe fit pretty much perfectly inside a 4 oz. glass spice jar. It left just enough room on the top to shake everything together. I used a funnel to pour each spice in.

Oh, you notice that I didn't add salt or pepper? Well, that's right. I didn't. I like to base my salt and pepper use on what I'm making. I don't want to risk whatever I'm making on too much salt.

Plus, my jar didn't have enough space to add salt and pepper. But that's beside the point.

You can use this seasoning for anything--tacos, fajitas, tortilla soups, grilling, or anything else you want to add a southwestern flair to. Today I used it to season simple ground beef tacos.

To start, I browned some beef in a pan with a little oil.

Once the beef has browned, I add the spices. I typically use about 3 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of ground beef.

Then I add an equal amount of water, to help the spices meld into the meat.

If you're used to a thicker sauce with your taco meat (many storebought blends have a thickening agent), add about a teaspoon of corn starch now, too, and a bit more water.

Let everything simmer for 10 minutes or so--just enough time for the flavors to soak in.

You could certainly simmer it for a longer period of time. Or you could pour the meat into a crock pot to keep warm.

Here's my favorite taco--taco meat inside a hard shell, topped with sour cream, salsa, and cheese. I bought an avocado too (I love avocados and tacos!) but it didn't look right when I opened it so I had to toss it. I may be jinxed when it comes to avocados.

Sometimes I use shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro. Pickled jalapenos might be nice, too, or some roasted corn or peppers.

Once you try this taco seasoning, I bet you won't want to go back to the stuff in the envelopes. Make several batches at once and keep it on hand for whenever you might need it. This is definitely the perfect taco seasoning!

Recipe: The Perfect Taco Seasoning

2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. cumin
1 1 /2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (can be increased or decreased depending on your spice preference.)

Mix all spices together. Store in an airtight container.

Use 3 tbsp. per pound of meat when seasoning.