Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fresh Margaritas

Margarita on the rocks in a canning jar
I'm not a big drinker. I'm such a small drinker, in fact, that I can count on one hand how many times I drink each year and still have some fingers to spare. I've never actually gotten drunk either, and neither has my friend Christie, who gave me this recipe. A month or so ago we decided maybe we should set aside some time to try getting drunk for the first time. Well, once our date came around, neither of us really felt like getting drunk. From what we've seen of others' drunkenness, it was going to render us sick and not very useful for the day or so following the drunkenness, so we decided to just make some margaritas and drink them responsibly, enjoy one another's company, and continue with our lives of sobriety. 
Can you tell why my husband would just love for me to drink a little more? Yeah, I'm wound pretty tightly, but it works for me, and 22 years into marriage, I think it's safe to say it's working just fine for him too. 
Now, even though I didn't get drunk on these margaritas, I did make myself a little sick last night because in addition to ingesting about 1/3 of this recipe of margaritas, I also had a few brownies (see previous post from yesterday), and some homemade tortilla chips. I felt awful when I went to bed last night, and I have to say that I'm glad I didn't really go for the drunk thing because I think I'd still be feeling awful today. No, thank you. And the next time I make these margaritas, you can bet I will NOT be eating any brownies with them. These are the ways I make myself sick. Someday I'll learn.
So, thanks, Cook's Illustrated, and friend Christie, for a fabulous margaritas recipe. Cheers!

Fresh Margaritas
      --adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 4 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (from 3 medium limes)
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest 
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (from 3 medium lemons)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch table salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 cup 100% agave tequila
  • 1 cup Triple Sec
  • Cubed ice for serving

About 4 to 24 hours before serving, place lime and lemon zest and juices in a glass container with 1/4 sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate.
When ready to mix up the margaritas, Strain the juice into a pitcher that will hold at least 1 quart (I opted for the Kerr canning jar and it worked beautifully--had a lid and everything). Add the additional 1 tablespoon sugar, orange juice, crushed ice, tequila, and Triple Sec. Stir or cover tightly and shake gently until ingredients are mixed.
Pour into serving glasses half-full of ice cubes.
Makes 4-6 servings

Lime and lemon zest
Zests, juices, sugar and a pinch of salt
After straining
Looks like this mixed margarita could easily travel in this thing.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Brownies with a Shiny Crust

Brownie with a Shiny Crust--and Walnuts

I've never been too concerned with my brownies having a shiny crust on them because I'm in the frosted brownie loving group.
 From time to time, I've heard people discuss how to get the shiny crust--something to do with dissolving the sugar in the butter or eggs--but it wasn't until I read the King Arthur Flour article "How to Make Brownies with Shiny Crust: the Surprising Secret Ingredient," that I really got curious about it. So today, since I "accidentally" purchased a 3-pound can of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate, I decided to try out KAF's claim that chocolate chips are the secret to a shiny crust. What?! That's right: chocolate chips. I was skeptical even while I was prepping my ingredients, but then I went to my Gooey Brownies with Dove Chocolate Chunks recipe, which has Dove chocolate chunks baked into the top of the brownies, and what do you know? I noticed in my pics in that post that those brownies also have a shiny crust. Hmmm...very interesting.

You'll notice that I like to sprinkle the nuts on top of the brownie batter rather than mixing them in. This way, it's not only completely obvious to brownie eaters that they are getting a brownie with nuts, but the nuts also get a little toasty and crunchy up on top there. It just add a couple of other pleasnt dimensions to the brownie, in my opinion. It also allows me to make some brownies with and some brownies without nuts in the same batch. So many good reasons to do it this way.

Brownies with a Shiny Crust

  • 2 eggs @ room temp. 
  • ½ cup sugar 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • ½ cup butter, melted & cooled 
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate
  • 2/3 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 18 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, chopped into big chunks (or 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional) 
Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Prepare am 8x8" brownie pan by spraying lighlty with non-stick cooking spray and then lining with parchment paper. (This helps with removing brownies.)
Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl, in the microwave, on 50% power for about 50-70 seconds. (I like to cover my bowl with the butter wrapper to prevent butter spatter.) If it's not melted after that amount of time on 50% power then put it back in on high for 12-20 seconds. Add the half cup of sugar and stir to incorporate.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ground chocolate, flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a medium or large bowl, whisk the eggs until they just start to froth. Add the butter/sugar mixture and the vanilla and with a spoon, mix to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients and stir with a silicone/rubber spatula until dry ingredients are just incorporated. Mix in the Dove chocolate chunks. 
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with nuts, if desired. Gently press the nuts into the batter with the palm of your hand.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-29 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out relatively clean. (I might even let them go to about 32 minutes.) Allow to cool. Cut into squares. Makes 16-20 brownies.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Beef Wontons

Beef Wontons

Wontons are my mom's specialty (check out Mom's Wontons), but for some reason I just don't like eating them because the pork inside just doesn't seem right to me. I know, I'm a weirdo. I can't explain it. Anyway, when I decided to make won tons for my school staff's end of the year party, I wanted to make sure that my non-pork eating friends and I were able to enjoy them too. My husband's Aunt Willa makes these fabulous egg rolls with a peppery ground beef, carrot, and cabbage filling, so I figured that would make a great filling for wontons too. And it DOES. Thanks, Aunt Willa, for sharing the recipe with me. So these are it. I like a lot of pepper in mine, so I don't actually know the exact amount I put in. The amount stated below is an estimate. This filling tastes meaty, salty, and slightly sweet, with just enough veggies to give it some flavor and make you feel like you're eating something that might be good for you. I don't think these actually are good for your body, but I think they're great for your soul. They made several people happy the other night, including me. So there.

Beef Wontons

  • 1 pound ground beef (90/10)
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded or thinly chopped
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 package (60 count) wonton wrappers
  • canola oil for frying
In a medium frying pan over medium heat, brown the ground beef. When nearly cooked through, add the carrots, onions, cabbage, pepper, sugar, salt, and soy sauce. Carefully stir to cook the veggies. When cabbage starts to wilt, turn the heat off and allow mixture to sit for about 15 minutes to cook a little more and cool slighlty.
Line a cooling rack with paper towels and set aside.
When mixture is cool enough to work with, place one won ton wrapper on a clean plate and wet two adjacent sides with water. Place about one scant tablespoon of filling in the middle of the square and carefully fold in half, creating a triangle shape. Seal the seams by pressing firmly with the sides of your hands/pinky fingers. Place a little dab of water on one of the longer pointy ends. Pick up the triangle with the central point facing downward and bring the two long points together at the top and cross them. Place the non-wet tip on top of the wet one and press to seal. (See below for video of how to fold wontons.) Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers. Set assembled but uncooked wontons on a wax paper lined baking sheet to wait.
Place about three inches of canola oil in a pot you use for frying. Heat oil over a medium heat until the temperature reaches about 360 degrees Fahrenheit, or a little piece of wonton wrapper placed in the oil fries and bubbles immediately when it's put in the hot oil.
When oil is ready, carefully place several wontons in the hot oil, being careful not to plop them in and burn yourself with splashing oil. I cook about 5-6 at a time. Turn wontons over (if they will let you) to make sure they brown all over. When wontons reach a nice golden brown color, remove them to the paper towel lined cooling rack. Allow won tons to cool for 5-10 minutes before attempting to eat.
Makes about 50-60 wontons.

Beef, carrot, and cabbage filling
Wontons ready to fry

01 09