Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reuben Sandwich Squares

This is another of my favorite make-ahead packable lunches. If you like a Reuben sandwich this is really worth making up. You bake off the sandwiches, cut into serving size portions, cool, wrap and freeze. Then in the morning you pull the frozen sandwich out of the freezer and pack in your lunch bag. It should thaw out in about 4 to 6 hours at typical room temperature and it will have the bonus of keeping the rest of your lunch cold too. If you use an insulated bag you might want to thaw it overnight before packing it to ensure it is thawed by lunch time.

These are great cold or at room temperature or if you have a microwave or toaster over available at lunch time go ahead and warm it up.

By starting with a box of hot roll mix most of the work of bread making is done for you. You don't even have to knead the bread to get the fabulous home-made bread experience.

Every time I make this I think I need to make some other versions of the sandwich squares. Almost any meat cheese combo you love in a sandwich would work wonderfully in here. How about swapping the corned beef with ham and the sauerkraut- thousand island dressing mixture for some honey mustard, keep the Swiss cheese and you would have a killer ham and Swiss to take with you. Or maybe turkey and provolone with some cranberry sauce. The possibilities are endless, just use you imagination.

Let me know if you try your own combinations and tell me your favorites so I can try them too.

Reuben Sandwich Squares

1 package hot roll mix (about 13.5 oz)
ingredients called for on box of mix

1 cup sauerkraut, rinsed and drained well
½ cup thousand island salad dressing
¼ cup tomato sauce

12 oz Swiss cheese, shredded and divided
8 oz deli style corned beef (or pastrami)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Grease a 13”x9” baking pan

Prepare the hot roll mix as directed on package through the mixing step. Divide the dough into 2 equal balls and let rest, covered for 10 minutes.

Set one of the balls of dough to the side for later (that will be the top layer of your sandwich.

Roll the other ball of dough into a rectangle that is approximately 13”x9” and place in your prepared pan. Stretch to fit bottom of pan. Set in a warm place to rise for 20 minutes then bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile combine the drained sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and ketchup in a small bowl and set aside.

When bottom crust is baked remove from oven top with half the Swiss cheese, all the corned beef, the sauerkraut mixture and finally the remaining cheese. Don't go all the way to the edge of the crust, leave a border of bread so your top crust has something to grab onto.

Roll the 2nd ball of dough out to 13”x9” and place over top of cheese layer. Press the top crust to the bottom crust.

Let rise 10 minutes

Brush top of crust with olive oil and sprinkle with caraway seeds.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until dark golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from pan and cool on wire rack 1 hour. Cut into 6 equal squares, wrap, label and freeze to enjoy in future lunches.

Will keep in freezer up to 1 month.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dutch Baby Pancake

First let me make it clear that this particular recipe is for a special occasion! It is very rich, very calorie laden and just over the top but it is so yummy and looks so impressive. No one needs to know that this is one of the easiest things to make. That can be our little secret, okay.

I have been making these for way more years than I want to remember. We first had a similar item in a local restaurant and loved them but they were expensive to order. I decided that I had to figure out an at home version. Most of the recipes I found at the time were made in large pans to feed a group. I really wanted to make the individual version just like our local restaurant. I fiddled around with this one and we have been enjoying them ever since.

You will need to figure out how many pans your oven can hold safely at one time because these won't wait for anyone. When you are serving a larger group you will either need to use two ovens or eat in shifts (sorry)

Back when I came up with this we used to do a Sunday breakfast with a couple that were really good friends of ours. One week they would come to our house and the next week we went to theirs. I have to admit that Patty and I became very competitive over these breakfasts. LOL That is probably why I came up with this one.

You will need a blender for this recipe, it is just too hard to get the batter right without one. Also you will need a regular size pie pan for each serving. I have even used the disposable foil ones and they work just fine.

If I am making more than one of these I go ahead and put the pans in the oven to heat and line up some measuring cups or other containers to hold the individual serving worth of batter as I go. I then make up each batch of batter and transfer it to its own container to wait until I have all the batter finished. Then I quickly pour each batch into its own pan, I don't remove the pans from the oven I just pull out the oven rack and carefully pour in and then just as carefully push the racks back. Work quickly though so you don't loose too much heat from the oven.

Whatever you do DON'T open the oven door until these are done (or at least almost done) they need the heat to puff up.

Dutch Baby Pancake
(ingredients for each pancake, multiply by however many you are making)

2 Tablespoons buttermilk
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup flour
powdered sugar
lemon wedge

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Place the butter in pie pan and place in hot oven to melt and get hot. It is alright if the butter browns a bit in this process.

Place the eggs in your blender and blend at high speed for 30 seconds, the eggs should become light yellow and gain volume in this process.

Slowly add the milk to the eggs with the blender running at a medium high speed. This must be done slowly. Now add the flour, again slowly and with the blender running. Replace the lid on the blender increase speed to high and blend for 1 minute.

Pour into hot pan on top of butter.

Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and well browned.

Sprinkle with a dusting of powdered sugar and a lemon wedge to squeeze over the pancake.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cookie Dough Brownies

Back when my older boys were growing up they were involved in scouts  and there were potluck dinners to be attended both there and with other places, I was asked to bring these brownies to a lot of those potlucks. They are fantastic and very rich and because you start with your favorite brownie mix (a plain fudge one please) they are easy to put together. And who doesn't love cookie dough? Which is what the topping tastes like but with no worries about raw eggs like with real cookie dough.

The brownie layer of these brownies calls for 1 cup of chocolate chips and then there is another 1 cup of chocolate chips in the glaze. You will need a regular 12 oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips to make this recipe (using half in each place)

Cookie Dough Brownies

Brownie layer:
1 box (about 19 to 20 oz size) fudge brownie mix
the ingredients called for on the box of brownie mix
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Filling layer
½ (1 stick) softened butter
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or temperature specified on your brownie mix) Grease the bottom of a 13”x9” baking dish and set aside.

Combine the brownie mix and ingredients called for on the box in a bowl and comine as directed on the box. After the ingredients are combined add the 1 cup of chocolate chips and stir just to distribute evenly. Pour batter in prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake according to directions on your brownie mix box.

Be careful not to over-bake!

In a large bowl beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla and blend well. Add flour and mix until well combined.
Spread this filling evenly over the cooled brownies.

In a small microwave safe bowl combine the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips and oil and melt in the microwave on medium for 1 to 2 minutes just until melted. Stir until smooth.

Carefully spread the chocolate mixture over the filling on the brownies and spread to cover. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top and press down lightly.

Allow to cool completely, cut into bars (36)
Store in refrigerator

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beer Can Chicken

We make this chicken several time every summer and it is really popular every time I start just like I do every time I cook a whole bird, I brine the chicken. If you have never brined a bird check out my blog post on roasted chicken (here) to find my brine recipe. I use the same brine whether anytime I cook a whole bird everything from a Cornish game hen to a turkey. For a small bird (like the Cornish game hen) I only brine for an hour or two, the chicken today for 4 to 6 hours and for that turkey overnight. It really does make a difference in the not only the flavor but the moistness of your finished bird.

For beer can chicken I buy a 12 pack of beer in 12 oz cans at the beginning of every summer. These are reserved as my “cooking beer” and by summer's end they will be gone. I use them in a lot things from the this chicken to BBQ sauce.

So on the morning you want to cook your beer can chicken get that chicken into the brine solution and let it hang out in the fridge soaking up the brine all day. About 3 hours before we want to eat we get the charcoal grill started up, I want that charcoal to burning really well and have a chance to get the grill nice and hot. I do only cook on charcoal and in a typical week we can go through 20 to 40 pounds of charcoal in the summer, especially if it is hot and I want to avoid my kitchen. We started using a charcoal chimney several years ago and I haven't bought lighter fluid since. We find we can taste the lighter fluid in the food so we are much happier with this method.

We are going to cook our chicken using the indirect heat method. After those coals get a chance to get going really well, divide them into two piles one of each side of your grill. Add more charcoal to each pile, you need to have enough to maintain a medium fire for about 1 ½ to 2 hours depending on how big your chicken is. In the open space between these piles of charcoal place an aluminum foil pan to catch the drippings from your chicken. Place your rack on the grill.

Now drain the brine off the chicken and rinse off the skin then dry the surface off with some paper towels.

Open your can of beer and make several additional openings in the top with a can opener. Pour off ½ to 2/3 cup of beer from the can and add a couple of peeled cloves of garlic to the beer in the can. Coat the outside of the can with vegetable oil.

When you are ready to grill the chicken carefully place the chicken over the can (inserting the can into the opening in the chicken)

When placing the chicken and beer can on the grill you will have to adjust the balance a bit to make it stand up. This can be tricky the first time but be patient and you should be able to balance the combination. Now carefully lower the lid on your grill and cook the chicken for about 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the chicken is cooked through (meat thermometer inserted in the thigh should read 180 degrees Fahrenheit)

Carefully, using thick hot pads and a spatula (long tongs and an extra set of hands are good too) remove the chicken and the can from the grill. Remember the contents of the can are extremely hot don't get it on yourself. Carefully remove the can from the chicken (you might need to twist it a bit to get it to release) and discard the contents of the can.

Allow the chicken to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting up and serving.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Potato Salad

We eat a lot of potato salad at our house, I find it to be one of my comfort foods. In the summer it just seems to be the perfect partner with so many of the main dishes we enjoy, especially those that come off the grill. I think another reason I love it so much is it is made ahead, so I don't have to be in the kitchen at the last minute. Face it by dinner time in the summer the kitchen is one of the last places we want to be, especially on a hot day. With potato salad I can make it early in the day and let it sit in the fridge all day. It is one of those dishes that really does need the time to sit too, the flavors need to have time to come together and the potatoes need some time to soak up some of the dressing.

This (like most of my potato salads) is a mayonnaise based version. I grew up eating mayo based potato salad and to me that is what makes it potato salad. I have eaten a few oil/vinegar based salads that were good but for me they don't hit that same comfort food level.

In today's version of potato salad I use a trick I picked up from a friend over 30 years ago. She made the best potato salad and one day I asked her what her secret was. She told me she always used pickle juice in her potato salad in place of vinegar that most recipes call for. I tried it and it is magic.

I may post other versions of  Potato Salad in the future because I tend to change it up a lot from time to time. This is just a really basic version that goes with everything (especially the Beer Can Chicken I am going to post tomorrow)

If you don't have any hard boiled eggs on hand you can boil the eggs along with the potatoes if you want to. Just add them to the pan with the potatoes. They should cook in about the same amount of time as the potatoes. That's a little hint I picked up years ago from another friend.

Potato Salad

6 medium (about 2 lbs.) potatoes, peeled and cut up
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon pickle juice
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard (any flavor you like)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 bunch green onions, white part and tender green part chopped (about ½ cup)
½ cup chopped bread and butter pickle (or your favorite pickle)
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped
paprika (optional)

Place peeled, cubed potatoes in a pan of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and cook until fork tender (mine usually takes about 7 to 10 minutes) Be sure to check them with a fork from time to time. You don't want to over cook them.

Drain and cool potatoes to room temperature.

Meanwhile combine mayonnaise, pickle juice, mustard, salt and pepper until well combined.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, chopped onions, chopped pickles and chopped hard boiled eggs. Add the mayonnaise mixture and mix gently to combine.

Put into a serving bowl, cover and chill until serving time, at least 3 or 4 hours.

Sprinkle top with paprika if desired.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mediterranean Bagel Sandwiches

These sandwiches were a real favorite of my daughter when she was growing up. She is a real lover of humus and pita bread and these sandwiches have a very similar flavor but in a sandwich form. I loved them because I could make them all at one time and then freeze them for when she needed to pack them in her lunch. They keep very well in the freezer, properly wrapped for about a month.

One wonderful thing about these is that you can pull the frozen sandwich out of the freezer in the morning and put in your lunch bag and it should be thawed by lunch and it will keep the rest of your lunch cold at the same time. We did find that with an insulated lunch bag we needed to give the sandwiches a head start of thawing in the fridge overnight or they were still frozen at lunch time.

You will need either a blender or better yet a food processor to make these. 


Mediterranean Bagel Sandwiches

1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans
¼ cup tahini paste (sesame seed paste look in the “healthy food” area of your grocery store)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ cup fresh parsley
1 (2 oz) jar pimentos
5 split bagels

Put all the ingredients (except the bagels) into the container of your blender or food processor and process until smooth

Divide the filling between the 5 bagels and spread evenly. Wrap each bagel separately and place them all together in a gallon size freezer bag. Label with the contents and date and freeze.

To serve simply pack a frozen sandwich in your lunch bag. They should thaw in about 4 to 6 hours at room temperature. Can be frozen for up to a month.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Raspberry Coffee Cake

I came up with this recipe years ago because my mom always had several raspberry bushes in the garden. Some years they produced just a few berries then there were those years that they went somewhat overboard. When all the weather conditions were right those few bushes produced so many berries that we had to find was to use them all up. After all you can only use so much jam and eat so many pies in addition to eating them fresh. So I came up with this coffee cake and we have been making (and enjoying) it ever since.

If you need to buy berries it will take about 2 of those little 6 oz containers of berries they sell in the store.

Raspberries are extremely delicate and there is really no way to not smash some (or all) of them as you mix them into the batter this results in a very pretty pink batter.

Raspberry Coffee Cake

¾ cup sugar
¼ soft shortening
1 egg
½ cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh raspberries, washed and well drained.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Grease a flour an 8”x8” baking dish

In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, shortening and egg and mix together thoroughly (until well mixed and a little fluffy)
Add the milk and again mix well.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix into the batter. At the very end when everything else is combined add the berries and mix very gently.

Spread batter in prepared pan.

½ cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ softened butter

Combine all topping ingredients to make a crumbly topping.

Spread topping over coffee cake batter in pan

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the coffee cake tests done in center.

Serve warm or at room temperature