Friday, March 31, 2017

Life Made Simple: Mint Chocolate Brownies

I don't know why, but lately I've had the most ridiculous craving for mint.  Well, mint and chocolate actually.  And what better vehicle for getting mint and chocolate into your face than making up some rich brownies and then slathering them in mint frosting?  There's none, I promise you that.  And to just gild the lily a touch, you top it off with more chocolate.  I would eat something light for dinner, because you're going to want room for dessert.

Note:  I used some natural food coloring to add a slight green color to my frosting, but this particular food coloring came in small individual packets which cannot be closed again after using a small portion, which seems a ridiculous waste of almost $7.  My wish for all those food scientists out there: make some good natural food coloring that comes in resealable mini bottles and doesn't cost a small fortune.

Mint Chocolate Brownies
From Life Made Simple blog

For the brownies:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup chopped chocolate or nuts (optional)

For the mint frosting:
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-2 drops green food coloring (optional)
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

For the chocolate ganache:
¾ cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and lightly coat with baking spray, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the melted butter, sugars and vanilla extract for 30 seconds on medium. With mixing speed on low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. With mixing speed on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until no flour pockets remain. Remove the bowl from the stand and using a spatula, fold in the chopped chocolate or nuts if desired.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading into an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 23-26 minutes or until set, taking care not to overbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes or until brownies are no longer warm (you can speed up the process by letting them cool uncovered in the refrigerator).
Meanwhile, to make the mint frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, food coloring, peppermint extract and salt until creamy, about 1 minute on medium high. Add the powdered sugar, then the milk (or heavy cream) until it reaches the desired consistency. Beat for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Frost cooled brownies, then toss uncovered into the freezer for 10 minutes.
During the last minute of freeze time, in a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter and heavy cream. Heat on half powder (mine is usually power 10, so I did 5) for one minute, stir, then repeat. Stir chocolate until all of the chips are melted and it becomes smooth. Beat for 1 minute and then pour over the top of the cold frosted brownies. Spread evenly and place in the refrigerator uncovered to set for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving (SEE NOTES).

-This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9x13" pan. Adjust the baking time accordingly.
-For easy cutting it's best to chill these brownies for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in the freezer before slicing with a sharp knife. The hot water method is not necessary, for a clean cut wipe your knife on a paper towel after each slice.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Abuelo's: Papas con Chile (Potatoes with Chile)

I know this is probably going to seem strange to some, but one of my favorite things at a local Tex-Mex restaurant is their mashed potatoes.  Now wait, these aren't just any old mashed potatoes.  These are cheesy, chile mashed potatoes.  And somehow they go perfectly next to that enchilada doused in chili sauce.  In fact, the chile sauce is almost like the perfect Tex-Mex gravy for these puppies.  And lucky me, the restaurant actually released the recipe on their Facebook page.  And the crowd goes wild!

Note: Yes, I know.  Velveeta.  Chemical cheese.  I hear you.  But if you do any sort of investigating into restaurant recipes, you'll quickly realize that any sort of melty cheese dish incorporates a type of special melting cheese (I've heard rumors that it's from Land o' Lakes) that closely approximates Velveeta.  So basically, you're eating it anyway.  Ignorance is bliss.

Papas con Chile (Potatoes with Chile)
From Chef Luis at Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant

3 pounds red potatoes
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into 2-inch squares
½ cup heavy cream
10 ounces Velveeta, cut into 2-inch squares
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup diced red bell peppers
½ cup diced green bell peppers
2 cans chopped green chiles
½ cup chopped green onion tops
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño, seeds removed

Wash and scrub potatoes until clean. Place potatoes in a pot covered with water and boil until soft. Drain potatoes. Add the rest of ingredients and mash. Be sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chowhound: Jamaican Curry Goat

Whenever there's something unusual to be found at my local grocery store, I'm the first to snatch it up.  Okay, maybe not the first first, but pretty close.  I know exactly where they put all the cool stuff.  And I certainly noticed when they set out some fabulous slabs of frozen goat.  The first thing I thought of was the amazing curry goat that I'd had at a local restaurant, and I really wanted to replicate that experience.  Luckily, the owner of that restaurant has a small dry goods section near the register with some imported Jamaican goodies.  His suggestion?  Add a little bit of jarred jerk paste at the end of cooking to give it that fresh hit of spice and flavor.

Jamaican Curry Goat
Adapted from Chowhound

3 pounds goat meat with bone, cut in large cubes
3 tablespoons Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
1 large yellow onion, medium-dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped medium-coarse
4 sprigs fresh thyme
5 whole allspice berries
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 fresh Scotch bonnet pepper, leave whole and cut small "X" in bottom
2 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder

Trim excess fat from meat cubes, season with 2 tablespoons of Adobo seasoning and let sit for 30 minutes.

Chop onions, garlic, and green onions while meat is marinating in Adobo seasoning.

Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot and fry 1 tablespoon of the curry powder in the oil until curry powder darkens. Immediately add goat meat cubes along with chopped onions, garlic, green onions, thyme, whole allspice, and black pepper. Stir and fry over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add remaining curry powder, the whole scotch bonnet pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning. Add hot water to cover, stir well, and bring to boil. Lower heat to a simmer.

After 40 minutes remove the whole scotch bonnet pepper (if you like extremely hot food you can leave it in the pot).  Continue cooking, uncovered, until meat is very tender (almost falling off bone), about another hour. You will need to replenish hot water several times in the cooking process, as needed. You will want a somewhat thick sauce on the meat, so if it’s still a bit watery when the meat is tender, turn up heat to medium, and cook off excess liquid until a somewhat thick sauce is formed.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, March 18, 2017 Jamaican Peas and Rice

When I visited San Francisco a year ago, one of the things I brought back with me was a package of some very fine red beans.  Smaller than kidney beans.  Perfect for red beans and rice (still on the to-be-cooked list).  But also perfect for a Jamaican side dish.  Especially for someone who likes her beans on the smallish side.  And when you cook this dish with all that ginger and allspice and coconut milk, you get the best darn rice and beans...err peas...that you've tasted.

Jamaican Peas and Rice
Adapted from

¾ cup dried small red beans
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 slice ginger, ½-inch thick and 1 inch in diameter
3 allspice berries
4 cups water
1 (14½-ounce) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon Goya Adobo seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, root removed, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 fresh Scotch bonnet pepper, pierced with a sharp knife
1½ cups basmati rice

Combine the beans, garlic, ginger, allspice, and water in a saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium heat until tender, about 2 hours.

Add the coconut milk, butter, Goya seasoning, pepper to taste, green onion, thyme, and whole fresh pepper.  Bring to a boil, then remove the hot pepper.  Add the rice and stir.  Return to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the liquids have been absorbed. Serve hot as a side dish.

Makes 8 servings

Monday, March 13, 2017

Brennan's and Sally's Baking Addiction: Bananas Foster Cake

It's time for my lovely niece's birthday, and I was racking my brain for a delicious, moist cake that was kid friendly and could be baked up in a six inch pan, but was still enticing to the adults attending the dinner.  And what I came up with is this lovely banana cake, with a twist.  I made Bananas Foster, and then mashed it up and dumped it into the cake mix.  And what came out was pretty fantastic.  I think if I make this again, I'll make a double batch of Bananas Foster, and slather some of it in between the layers.  For the adults only, that is.

Bananas Foster Cake
Adapted from Brennan's and Sally's Baking Addiction

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 medium bananas, sliced
¼ cup dark rum
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting

Melt butter, sugars, and cinnamon in a 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 4 minutes. Add banana liqueur and bananas; cook, until bananas are soft and slightly caramelized, 4 to 6 minutes. Add rum, and using a match or lighter, ignite to flambé; cook until flame dies out.  Spoon banana mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until cooled.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cooled banana mixture on low speed until creamy - about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter will be slightly thick and a few lumps is okay.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box confectioner's sugar (about 3½ cups)
Milk or cream to adjust consistency of frosting, if necessary

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Add a teaspoon of milk or cream if the frosting is too stiff to spread; add additional sugar if it's too thin.