Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beer Bread

I love quick breads. I’ve told you this before. They’re just so, well, quick to make! And I’m all about tasty results with minimum fuss. Except when I have moments of major fuss and kitchen destruction… but that’s another post for another day.

Most of the quick bread recipes I’ve posted thus far are for sweet, fruit-flavored breads. We’ve had cranberry orange nut bread, banana bread, lowfat oatmeal banana bread, banana chocolate chip oatmeal bread – are you seeing a trend? I like me some bananas. (Plus quick breads are the perfect way to use up dead, mushy bananas.)

On the savory side, I’ve told you about a delicious, rich, savory cheddar-chive bread. That one was good, but today’s recipe takes the cake in our house. Beer bread – so easy to make you will not believe. Take six ingredients and less than five minutes and you can have homemade bread baking away in the oven. (Minus the scary yeast part. The natural yeast in beer does all the work for you!) I’ve made this bread three times in the past two weeks and have the recipe committed to memory.

Beer bread is great with dinner; it’s great with eggs for brunch; and man, is it good alongside a steamy bowl of soup. The recipe is also quite adaptable. Use more or less melted butter to adjust the richness (and calorie count) of the bread. Throw in a handful or two of grated cheese to make it a little gooey. Try adding some seasonings like garlic or onion powder. However you make it, just try it. And then be sure to tell me if you come up with something delicious!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon

Friends, I am in trouble. Big, calorie-laden, gut-busting trouble. You see, I have learned how to make baked macaroni and cheese in a whole new way. A you don’t have to cook the noodles, you don’t have to make a cheese sauce kind of way. And best of all, it is crazy delicious.

All you need for this miraculous mac and cheese is a blender – and your oven, of course. You take some milk and cottage cheese (weird I know, but trust me), whirl them up in a blender with some seasonings, and pour the mixture over dry pasta. All that’s left to do is stir in some cheese and bake it in the oven. That’s pretty much it.

Before trying this recipe, I’ll admit I was skeptical about how the finished product would turn out. Would the pasta be cooked all the way through? Would it be overcooked and mushy? Would the cheese sauce thicken up the way a proper baked macaroni and cheese sauce should? Yes, no, and yes. I don’t know how it happens, but this process, quick and easy as it is, results in some rockin’ macaroni and cheese.

You can use this basic method to make pretty much any kind of macaroni and cheese you desire. Stick with basic sharp cheddar cheese and standard seasonings for classic mac. Switch up the cheeses and spices for a French or Italian twist. Or try it out this way, with a little garlic and a smoky chipotle kick. The bacon on top is purely optional. I used turkey bacon because real bacon grease kind of freaks me out. All together, the flavor combination is so good I have had to force myself not to make it every week. Try it yourself and see what I mean. You may never make traditional baked macaroni and cheese again.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is one of those things I only typically think about around Thanksgiving time. No particular reason for that, just tradition I suppose. I grew up eating cranberry sauce only one time per year… maybe twice if we were lucky enough to have leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. However, even if we did have leftover cranberry sauce, until very recently, chances are good it was from a can.

Let me tell you friends, all of this cranberry sauce tradition is going to change. First of all, no more waiting all year for a day or two of cranberry sauce goodness. Why should it have to be such an infrequent treat, especially when it’s so easy to make? And that brings me to my second point. Never again will I willingly serve canned cranberry sauce. While I grew up loving, and if I’m being honest, requesting, jellied cranberry sauce complete with can ridges, I’d like to think my palette has matured a bit. I can handle, and indeed love, fresh cranberries and all the juicy things you can make with them.

And making cranberry sauce? It’s ridiculously easy. Take some fresh cranberries, some sugar (white and brown for this recipe), and some orange juice. Stir them together in a pot, and heat it all up until the cranberries pop and everything magically turns into sauce. Seriously folks, this is easier than waiting in line at the grocery store. And the taste is so much better than anything you can find in a can. The sauce is a perfect balance of sweet and tart. The orange flavor adds dimension without overpowering the cranberries, and the color is incredible. While there are some family traditions that I would never mess with, reserving cranberry sauce for one day a year isn’t one of them. If you’re with me on this one, I strongly suggest you don’t wait until next year to give this recipe a try.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Easy Chocolate Fudge

I have a question for you. It’s super important, so please, stop whatever else you are doing and think long and hard. Here goes: do you know how easy it is to make homemade fudge? If you do, why didn’t you tell me?! I could have been making fudge way too often, eating way too much of it, and gaining way too much weight. Okay, on second thought maybe it’s not such a bad thing that you didn’t let me in on your fudge-making secret. For those of you, like me, who didn’t know how easy it is to make homemade fudge, prepare yourself to get excited… and maybe let out your waistlines just a little bit.

This chocolate fudge recipe is easy from start to finish. The ingredients are basic, easy to find, and inexpensive to buy. We’re talking chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, salt, and nuts if you want them. Even better, the process is simple, quick, and dirties very few dishes. Oh how I wish I had known all of this sooner. I’d have been making fudge for parties, to take to work, to eat in front of the television… In other words, if you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert this holiday season, look no further than this easy chocolate fudge.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

Hello friends, I finally have my computer back up and running (stupid broken charger…grrr), and I must say, I’ve missed you. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and houseguests for us. We’ve either been out of town or had friends visiting every weekend for the past five weeks. And while we certainly love spending time with family and friends, it is good to be home with nothing to do but watch tv in our pajamas and spend some time in the kitchen.

I don’t know about you, but after frequent travel and lots of eating out, I start to crave healthy, hearty, soul-warming foods. Especially when it’s freezing cold and raining outside, and the sun doesn’t seem to want to show its face any more than absolutely necessary. You know the kind of days I’m talking about. The ones with gross weather that make you feel sluggish and in dire need of quality time on the couch. The ones that make you turn down socializing for snuggling. The days that are made for soup.

This Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup is the perfect antidote to all of those heavy holiday meals and nights out on the town. A riff on the Caribbean dish callalou, this soup is simple to make yet has surprisingly complex flavors. Full of nutritious kale, creamy sweet potatoes, rich (light) coconut milk, and a lick of heat, this soup will warm you up on even the rainiest of days.


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