Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Now Love Roast Beef cooked in the Crockpot, Finally!

I am always surfing the web for inspiration and recipes.  I came across an idea (I believe it was on Recipe Goldmine) that I felt dumbfounded by.  It was for a beef brisket cooked in the crockpot.  I went to the local grocery stores in quest for a beef brisket but could only find corned beef brisket so I bought a bottom round roast (I think about 3 lbs).  Here is the part that I was amazed by, the cooking instructions:

Sprinkle dry onion soup mix on all sides of the meat and wrap in foil.

WHAT?  WRAP IN FOIL?  Where's the liquid?  I took two pieces of foil and crisscrossed them placed the roast in the middle and sprinkled the dry soup mix on all sides.  Brought up and wrapped the first piece of foil and sealed and then the same for the second piece of foil.  Placed the meat in the crockpot and cooked on low for 5 hours.

After 5 hours, I removed the meat from the crockpot and placed on a cutting board.  I opened up the foil carefully and found that there was a lot of liquid in there.  I removed the meat from the foil and poured the liquid into a small saucepan and brought to a boil.  In a small dish, I made a cornstarch slurry (2 tsp. cornstarch to a little cold water) and stir until all of the lumps are gone, poured slurry into the saucepan and stirred until thickened. 

Cut roast and was tender and juicy and cooked to medium (I prefer a little pinker).  Next time I cook a roast I will use the meat probe, my crockpot has a probe which will cook it to a certain temperature and then switch over to warm.  I have the Hamilton Beach digital crockpot. 

I have never been satisfied with roasts cooked in the crockpot because they are so tender they fall apart but they are as dry as sawdust.  At last, I now love roast beef cooked in the crockpot!

Update (pictures):
Lay roast on top of two pieces of aluminum foil crisscrossed.

Sprinkle all sides with one package of dry instant beefy onion soup mix..

Wrap with top foil.

Wrap with second piece of foil.

Place foil wrapped roast into slow cooker seam side up.

Cook on low for approximately 4-5 hours.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cheesecake and Cake Together, Really?

An actual cheesecake inbetween two layers of cake.  I actually made this before I had my blog site up and going.  I didn't take pictures throughout the process of making this cake but I can tell you how I did it.  My first attempt was to make a red velvet cake with a regular cheesecake filling and cream cheese frosting. You will need to plan a couple days in advance before serving this cake.  It is not a difficult cake to make, just takes time.

First, planning.  Since you are going to have three layers of cake, you need to make sure you have the right pans.  You will need two 9" round cake pans and a 9" springform pan. 

Making your cheesecake.  You will need to make a parchment paper bottom on the pan.  Lay your pan down on the parchment paper and with a small paring knife, trace around the pan (you will want it a little bigger than the bottom of the pan so it can go up the sides a little bit).  Spray the pan with cooking spray and place the parchment paper on the bottom and spray also.  Make your desired cheesecake recipe but skip the crust process.  Wrap up the bottom of your springform pan in foil because you are going to cook your cheesecake in a water bath.  When you are ready to cook your cheesecake, you will need to boil a kettle of water.  Place a pan with 2" sides that your springform pan will fit into (I used the bottom of my broiler pan) into the oven and place your cheesecake into the pan and pour the hot water slowly around the cheesecake about 1/2" deep.  Cook until just set (unlike a cake, you will remove it while it still wiggles a little).  Overcooking will cause your cheesecake to crack.  If it does, it's still fine, you are going to be covering it up with cake!  After you remove it from the oven, remove the pan from the water and place on a cooling rack.  Once it has cooled, place it in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up.  Remove from refrigerator and carefully remove the outer ring (keeping the bottom intact for support) and wrap loosely in foil and place in freezer overnight.

Bake your favorite cake using the two 9" cake pans, a cake mix works just fine for this, make sure you divide the batter evenly between the two pans (I use a scale).  Cook as directed and cool.

The following day, after the cheesecake has had time to freeze, it is time to assemble your cake.  Place bottom layer cake onto cake place (or cardboard disc). Unwrap cheesecake remove the pan bottom and parchment paper and place onto the bottom layer of the cake, and finish by placing the top cake layer on the cheesecake.

Frost the cake as usual.  After decorating, you will need to make sure you refrigerate the cake to keep the cheesecake cool.  Serve the cake after it has had time to defrost in the refrigerator.  I served mine after it had defrosted overnight in the refrigerator.

People were really amazed at the outcome.  My second attempt was a lemon cake with a blueberry cheesecake and lemon frosting.  I do have to admit that the lemon/blueberry was my favorite.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Keep Avocados From Browning

I just found a product that I have fell in love with.  Lime Salt!  I love avocados but I only eat half at a time.  In the past, I would save the other half in a bowl and put a fair amount of lemon juice on it and toss, put plastic wrap both loosely and tightly against the avocado as well as with the pit and without.  Each and everytime, the next day, it would look disgusting.  I'm sure it was fine to eat but I just couldn't do it.  I found the lime salt in the Mexican section of my local grocery store and it sounded good and got it home and couldn't think of anything to use it with.  The first thing I tried it on was a batch of margarita mini cupcakes.  I frosted the cupcakes with a lime buttercream frosting and then a slight pinch of the lime salt.  It was great, and really made a huge difference in the taste.  Then about a week after the cupcakes, I decided to have a salad with avocado and only used half of it.  I cut up the avocado to use later and tossed it in about 1/8 tsp. of the lime salt.  Well, the next day I didn't eat the avocado.  Two day old avocado in the refrigerator, still looked and tasted great.  So, I decided to take my little experiment further and retain some of the avocado for another day.  Three day old avocado was just starting to turn, it wasn't quite as green as day 1, but it was not brown nor blotchy.  That was as far as I took the experiment.  Finally, a successful attempt to save avocado for another day.

Lime In The Coconut Jello Shots

The ultimate party treat!  These Jello shots are not like any other.  They contain coconut milk which makes them creamy and not harsh like other Jello shots.  Even people who don't care for other Jello shots like these.  Serve these for your next adult party!

Lime In The Coconut Jello Shots

1 Pkg Lemon Jello (large box)
2 Pkg. Lime Jello (large box)
2 Tbsp. Lime juice
2 cups Coconut rum (see cooking tip below)
1 can (13.5 oz.) Coconut milk (shake well before opening)
2¼ cups Water

Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Slowly stir in all 3 Jello packages into the water until the gelatin is dissolved. Add the coconut milk and lime juice and stir. Add coconut rum and stir.

Pour into individual 1 oz. size plastic cups (condiment cups) and chill until set. You may have to stir occasionally to keep the coconut milk incorporated while filling the cups.  Don't worry, the coconut milk will settle at the top of the shot giving them a little two tone look. The shots are quite firm.  If you don't have access to the plastic cups, pour into a 9" x 13" dish and chill until set.  Precut into squares before serving, they are quite firm and are just like finger jello.  Make sure to keep them cool as they will turn back to liquid if they get too warm.

Cooking Tip

Since flavored alcohol can be quite expensive. I use 1 1/2 cups of regular rum and 1/2 cup of the coconut syrup like what is used in the coffee shops.

Babycakes Mini Donut Maker

I was a Kohl's yesterday and found the Babycakes Mini Donut Maker.  I have the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker so decided to make the purchase.  Who doesn't like donuts?  I figured that since they are not deep fried, they may be better for you.

This morning I decided the make the Buttermilk Spice Donut from the recipe book included with the cooker since I had all of the ingredients (including the buttermilk which was leftover from another recipe).  Followed the instructions and decided to go with the tip listed in the manual which is to put the batter in a plastic bag with the tip cut off. 
 When you cut off the tip of the bag, be sure to place the cut side up so that all of the batter does not come out.

Fill the wells with the batter until it just reaches the top and close the lid and make sure it locks.  Cook for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes and open the lid and turn and cook another 2 1/2 minutes.  Since these donuts start cooking from the bottom first and then start to rise, the tops don't brown as evenly and the bottoms and this is unavoidable in any cooker.  It is the way it is, don't worry about it, but turning half way through helps.

Remove the donuts from the cooker and place on the cooling rack (which is provided along with the donut fork for turning and removing donuts).

Now to apply a coating.  I decided I would like a maple glaze.  I followed the recipe book for the vanilla glaze but used maple instead of vanilla.  I do have to tell you that I was not happy with the way the glaze was adhering to the donuts, I had to keep putting the glaze into the microwave to keep it thinned because it kept setting up.  But, problem solved, I put the bowl over a pot of simmering water to keep it warm and liquidy and it was a snap to glaze the donuts.  I also tried a blend of cinnamon and sugar and put them into the mixture right out of the cooker.  There wasn't a lot of sugar mixture that stuck to the donuts but it was enough.  If they were fried, the oil would make the sugar mixture stick more but I am not into fried donuts, I don't like the oilyness of them. The donuts turned out great, and tasty!  I liked it, easy to use!   I am thinking of a pumpkin spice donut next with vanilla frosting.  They turn out like little cakes with a hole in the middle.

Recipe made about 36 mini donuts I think (I was "tasting" while cooking).  Easy to make, didn't take long, tastes good, and not fried.  Makes a good party treat.

More Mini Donuts from recipe book:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

French Toast To Go

We entertained during summer weekends at Summit Lake, Washington for sometimes large crowds of people, and since it was in a somewhat remote area, packing the groceries required planning for just about anything because you never knew the weekend had in store.  At times, we were ending up with an over abundance of leftover hamburgers buns. I found a use for these leftovers - French Toast! Even better, they would make a great breakfast sandwich.  It works best with stale buns, I would just throw leftover buns into the refrigerator until I was ready to use them for the French toast, sometimes not until the following weekend.

To prepare, it is simple.  Take the top bun and with a serrated knife, skim off the top crust exposing the bread to prepare for dipping into the egg mixture and do the same with the bottom bun.  I also make my batter up differently than other people.  I don't add cinnamon to the egg mixture, I sprinkle it over the top of each piece of french toast, so each piece has the same amount of cinnamon.  If you add the cinnamon to the egg batter, the first piece of bread gets the cinnamon and the rest keep getting less and less. 

Here is my recipe for french toast.  You can either serve it up on a plate with maple syrup or make it into a sandwich with a piece of maple flavored sausage in the middle (this is why I call it French Toast to Go).

French Toast To Go
3 Large eggs
1 cup Milk
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
dash Salt
"Day Old" Hamburger Buns (works best if not fresh)
Maple flavored Sausage patties or links

Separate buns. With a serrated knife, skim off the top or bottom crust from each of the buns (make bread crumbs out of the crusts for other recipes). Set aside.

Cook sausage patties according to directions. If you have bulk sausage, form into bun size patties. If using link sausage, cook and then cut in half lengthwise.

In flat bottom bowl, wisk eggs, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla.

Preheat griddle to med-low heat (or about 325°). Lightly butter griddle. Briefly soak each bun on both sides and place onto griddle. Sprinkle cinnamon on each of the buns. Cook until golden brown on each side.

Take two pieces of the French toast buns and place a sausage or sausages between the buns. You now have French toast to go. Or, you can serve it the traditional way with butter, warmed maple syrup and powdered sugar.

Variation: if you are making orange juice from concentrate to serve with the breakfast, take a teaspoon of the orange concentrate and add it to the egg mixture and omit the sugar.

Cool Cucumber Salsa

Looking for a refreshing summer appetizer?  This one is a HUGE hit.  I always have people asking me when am I going to make a batch of that wonderful salsa?  The recipe makes a large amount and has a lifespan of only a few days.  If you are going to make this (and I strongly suggest you do) for a crowd of people, you can make it up the day before you event, but do not add the vinegar and salad dressing packet until just before serving.  The vinegar makes the veggies soften and give off liquids, day 2 and 3 you may want to drain off some of the liquid. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Almost Caesar Salad Dressing

1 Egg
½ cup Oil
2 Cloves Garlic - crushed
¼ cup Lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. Pepper
¼ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Add all ingredients except for the oil into a blender. Mix on a high speed and slowly pour oil into blender while mixing. Pour into a shaker jar and refrigerate. Serve with romaine lettuce, shredded parmesan cheese and croutons.
Serves 8
Preparation time: 10 minutes

My First Blog

Here it is. A new chapter in my life of cooking.  I have always loved to cook for people and love to experiment in the kitchen.   My goal is to help you in your kitchen by providing creative recipes and ideas for you to use for entertaining a group of people or your family.