31 July 2009

Cherry Clafouti


Clafouti. Don’t you love that word? It is pronounced klah – foo – tee. It is French, of course, a country-french dessert from the Limousin region made from fresh fruit, traditionally cherries, and a crepe-like batter. It is similar to a fruity pancake or a Dutch Baby though generally less rustic in appearance.

Clafouti is surprisingly easy to make and delicious served warm from the oven, especially when served with the luscious sauce that is suggested with this recipe I found in The Oregonian some time ago. I understand it is also traditional to leave the pits in the cherries but I have a nifty little cherry pitter my long time friend Alanna, from Kitchen Parade, gave me years ago so I am not going to try that. I just don't want that kind of responsibility.

This recipe for Clafouti was great. If I were to change it I would add even less sugar to the cherries up front. The newspaper article also suggested that one or two more eggs could be added to give it more of a custard-like texture that some prefer. Experiment. It is a simple and forgiving recipe. Enjoy it as a sweet addition to brunch or as a summer dessert.


Cherry Clafouti
from The Oregonian

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (divided)
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 pound cherries, pitted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons sour cream
2/3 cup whole milk
vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar) for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch round cake pan or quiche plate with 1 Tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of sugar in the pan and turn to coat, shaking off any excess.

Place the cherries, 4 teaspoons of sugar, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, flour and salt. Add the eggs and sour cream, whisking until smooth. Add the milk in two parts, whisking until blended after each addition. Add any juice accumulated on the cherries.

Pour 1/2 cup of batter into the prepared pan and distribute the batter evenly over the bottom. bake for 10 minutes, or until batter sets and is a pale golden color. Remove from the oven.

In a single layer, arrange the cherries in the pan on top of the baked batter and pour the remaining batter over the top. Dot the top with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with a Tablespoon or so of vanilla sugar. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven. Cool slightly then eat warm.

Just before serving dust lightly with powdered sugar and top with whipped cream, ice cream or Cherry Sauce (recipe below).

Cherry Sauce
from The Oregonian

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
squeeze of lemon juice
zest of half a lemon
2 cups cherries, pitted

Place ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the volume is reduced by half, approximately 15 minutes.

Place the sauce in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Enjoy!!

28 July 2009

Blueberry White Chocolate Bars


Heat Wave

The Camas Farmer’s Market has been canceled this week because of the heat wave. It was over 100 degrees here yesterday and the temperature promises to reach into the 100’s through Wednesday. Now that the Camas market is being held on Wednesday afternoons the challenges are different. When the temperature soars, it does get brutal out there on the pavement in the afternoon and due to National Weather Service recommendations that people avoid the sun the organizers felt it was best to close the market this week for the safety of visitors, farmers and volunteers.

Luckily I have some blueberries left from last week’s market. They have been nestled in the refrigerator and still look great. There are enough to make a batch of Summer Berry Basil Sauce. Poured on top of a white chocolate yogurt based cake batter and topped with lots of toasted almonds this spiced blueberry sauce adds a complex tart-sweet blueberry edge as a counterpoint to the dense rich cake beneath and the crunch of the toasted almonds on top. It makes a delightfully fresh and summery taste combination.

Enjoying the Dog Days of Summer

I plan to avoid the heat of the day by baking these delicious Blueberry White Chocolate Bars early. Maybe I’ll serve them for an afternoon snack with a glass of iced tea or some beautiful Lavender Lemonade. Or, plated on top of a drizzle of the same Blueberry Basil Sauce, maybe even topped with a little ice cream, these cake squares would make a delicious conclusion to a light evening meal.

Then again, maybe I’ll pack them in a basket along with some good bread, olives, cheese, and a salad for a picnic at Crown Park. There’s lots of shade under the big trees there.  With a picnic blanket and some cold drinks it would be a great way to make the most of these dog days of summer.


Blueberry White Chocolate Bars

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped or in morsels
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
5 ozs. plain yogurt (I used 1 carton Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 batch of Blueberry Basil Sauce (recipe below)
1 cup toasted sliced almonds
More Blueberry Basil Sauce for plating, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Set aside.


Prepare the Blueberry Basil Sauce (see below). Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Place the white chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. Set over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted. Remove from heat. Transfer the white chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Stir the sugar, yogurt, eggs and vanilla into the white chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Stir the dry ingredients into the white chocolate mixture just until combined.

Spread batter in prepared pan.

Spoon Blueberry Basil Sauce over batter.

Insert a table knife or thin spatula through the berry sauce and into the batter. Draw the knife through the batter, back and forth, from end to end, then side to side, every few inches to achieve a lightly marbled effect.

Sprinkle toasted sliced almonds evenly across the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until done. (The edges will begin to brown and the fruit will appear somewhat set.)

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

When cool, cut into squares.


Blueberry Basil Sauce

2 cups blueberries
¼ cup fresh basil (several sprigs)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan stir together the basil sprigs, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and the blueberries.

Cook gently, over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes, or until berries have begun to soften. With the back of a spoon squash some of the berries against the side of the pan while cooking.

Remove from heat. With a spoon, remove the basil sprigs and discard.

Enjoy!

26 July 2009

Blueberry Chicken Salad


Summer's Heat

Summer's heat has descended on the Portland area this week. Everywhere I go people are trying to outdo each other in relating the dire forecasts they have heard for a record breaking heatwave in the days to come. I smile and nod my head trying to suppress my happy dance. I know it's not a popular sentiment but I love this weather!


Hot summer weather can't help but remind me of wonderful adventures, tasty meals and delightful conversations. It reminds me of childhood summers, before air conditioning, when the temperatures in Kentucky would soar into the 90's and the humidity would try to match it, leaving a heavy stickiness in the air. Then we sank beneath the weight of the heat into the deep shade of the locust trees out back with big glasses of iced drinks and dreams of cold salads with fried chicken and a tub of ice cream being churned in a freezer.


That kind of heat is rarer in this part of the country. In fact heat waves of any kind are rare enough that I look forward to them. Still it's no lie that I don't want to turn on the oven in the afternoon or hover over the stove either. Salads are especially appealing at this time of year and the less cooking involved in making them the better.


A New Summer Recipe

Here's my latest creation using fresh summer blueberries and basil from my garden. I added a little fresh ginger and some minced shallots for interest and some sliced almonds for texture. If you want to cook some chicken it can be diced to make a prettier salad to serve on a bed of dressed arugula or baby greens. Especially at this time of year, I find rotisserie chickens from the deli department at local grocery chains to be an economical no cook alternative to cooking the chicken myself. The moist meat, when shredded, holds together well for making chicken salad sandwiches.


As my regular readers must know by now I have something of a mayo phobia. I needed an alternative to hold this salad together. The easy solution was to reach in the refrigerator for a bottle of my favorite Newman's Own light vinaigrette dressing. I used Light Italian Dressing this time, but have also used Light Balsamic Vinaigrette and think the Light Cranberry Walnut Dressing sounds like it would be delicious too. Use one of these or your own favorite homemade vinaigrette.


Then serve on your choice of bread. I used my favorite Franz Oregon Bread Western Hazelnut, toasted. Western Hazelnut Bread is a delicious loaf made with Hazelnuts, Cashews, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts, Flax and other seeds. It has a lot of texture and a terrific taste.



Blueberry Chicken Salad

2 cups shredded chicken (I used leftovers from a rotisserie chicken I served the night before)
1 cup blueberries, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1 Tablespoon shallots, finely minced
I Tablespoon chopped basil
pinch of salt
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted (or use pistachios if you like)
¼ cup vinaigrette dressing (I used Paul Newman’s Light Italian Dressing but use your favorite)

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Serve on salad greens or on sandwiches.

Enjoy!

24 July 2009

Blueberry Pomegranate Granita


Summer Berries

One of my favorite things about summer in this part of the country is the glorious local blueberries that are so abundant in markets at this time of year. From tiny and tart to huge and juicy-sweet this berry is a pleaser. My favorite berries from Meadowglenn Farm are enormous. These are some of the blueberries I bought from them yesterday at the Camas Farmer' Market...


Blueberries have their advantages over other seasonal berries in the Northwest. Their bushes are neat and pretty and, best of all, thornless, making the berries easy to gather cleanly without prick or stain. What's more, the flavor is nothing short of amazing. Tangy-sweet, smooth and attractive these berries hold up to cheeses, nuts, herbs and spices in both looks and taste. Fresh berries also cook rather cleanly in muffins and cakes, and make a beautiful garnish.

Who Needs An Ice Cream Freezer?

Here is a recipe that makes the most of the blueberry's great summer flavor. I don’t have an ice cream freezer but when the temperature soars I always find myself reconsidering. Still I wonder where to put another appliance and know I would likely make more ice cream than I need to eat.

Talking myself out of a new ice cream maker I decided instead to dig through my recipes for notes on a granita I used to make when we lived in Texas. Granitas are like shaved ice but softer and frozen with the flavor in the ice.

I never found the recipe I remembered but decided to try making a granita anyway. With my comments above in mind I took fresh blueberries, herbs, spice, tangy pomegranate juice, a splash of summery lime and honey, then cooked it briefly to meld the flavors and pushed it through a sieve to get out berry skins, leaves and stray bits before freezing it in a shallow pan.

The flavor was nothing short of wonderful. Fresh, tart-sweet, complex with a lingering note of ginger, it is a great way to end a light summer meal. Who needs an ice cream freezer? This stuff is amazing!


Blueberry Pomegranate Granita

2 cups blueberries
¼ cup loosely packed basil leaves or sprigs
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger
½ cup pomegranate juice

Place ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until berries are soft, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place a strainer over a bowl. Pour the mixture into the strainer and press it through the mesh with the back of a spoon. Scrape the thick part from the bottom of the strainer into the bowl. Discard the skins and solid bits remaining.

Pour the strained mixture in a shallow pan and place it in the freezer.

After 30 minutes, stir the mixture with a fork, scraping the sides and bottom and crushing any frozen lumps. Return to the freezer repeating every 30 minutes until the entire mixture is frozen, approximately 3 hours.

This can be made a day in advance. Crush well, again, just before serving.

Enjoy!!

22 July 2009

Party People


On a trip to World Market earlier this week I saw something that caught my eye - Drink Markers by Vacu Vin. These cute little guys come in sets of twelve unique plastic shapes with a small suction cup on the back that will attach to the smooth surface of a glass. With a different shape and color on each glass it makes it easy to identify which glass is yours.



Even more fun each different shape is given a descriptive name on the back of the box identifying it with a personality trait. The set I bought was called Party People. The names include Jolly, Sneaky, Devilish, Macho, Naughty, Curious, Cool and, oddly, Veggie. Deciding who gets which marker could lead to some interesting conversation.

I attached Honest and Deep to the sides of some great glasses I just bought at Ikea and filled them with lemonade, a splash of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, and some cherries macerated in vanilla sugar and kirsch. Then I chose Cuddly and Mysterious for two summery glasses of lemonade I poured for my son and a friend.

Since I don’t have any wine glass charms I think these guys are a practical addition to my small collection of partyware. Even if they aren’t practical they are pretty fun and they make me smile. Do they stay on? Yes, especially once the glass begins to sweat. As the box says, they “stick around longer than most guests.”

21 July 2009

Saké Sunset Cooler


Jewel-like Flavors

What must have been a long time ago now, the nice folks at POM Wonderful sent me a POM Care Package including a case of their fabulous pomegranate juice. It is always fun to get a package in the mail and the contents were intriguing. I must admit, I don’t know much about pomegranates. I have used the seeds on salads and was impressed by the unusual texture and the exotic jewel-like beauty they lend to the presentation. Still, I knew next to nothing about the juice except that my oldest son had told me he liked it. So when my box arrived I was eager to try this deep red beverage in the interesting shaped bottle. My husband had heard about it’s reputation as an antioxidant superpower and he wanted to try it too.

The juice itself, all natural and containing no added sugars or preservatives, is tart with a deep rich flavor. It is somewhat similar to cranberry juice in look and flavor but tastes richer. It appealed to my affinity for tart flavors and I found the juice interesting but when I tried to think of new ways to use it in recipes I had to admit that I was stumped. It would be great in a vinaigrette on a salad garnished with luscious pomegranate seeds or in a dessert topped with the seeds but since pomegranates have been out of season and hard to come by since then those applications fell short in my mind. Stumped, I stashed my POM Care Package away and waited for inspiration to strike.

Some New Discoveries

Even longer ago I went with some friends to visit Saké One in Forest Grove, OR. Saké One is a “craft saké brewer” and the only American owned sake brewery in the world. While we were there we went on a brewery tour where we learned about the process involved in making this unique beverage. Our guide was knowledgeable and eager to answer questions making the tour fun and informative. In the tasting room we learned even more and were introduced to a variety of different sakés. We were also given a taste of the saketinis that had been served for Saketini Saturday the day before.

I am a fan of saké and was intrigued by the interesting and innovative things that Saké One is doing with this traditional Japanese beverage. I found their Moonstone line of fruit infused Ginjo saké especially interesting. The Coconut Lemongrass Saké, with its creamy texture and bright tropical flavors, was my favorite and I brought home several bottles including some small 200 ml bottles.

One of those small bottles seems to have been pushed to the back of my cabinet and I found it over the weekend. Yum! But as small as it was I needed to think of a way to stretch it if I was going to share it. I seldom mix drinks and have little imagination for cocktails so my solution was simple but satisfying. The refreshing drinks I made used bottled limeade, some of my POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and the little bottle of Moonstone Coconut Lemongrass Saké to create a surprisingly pretty and delicious tropical flavored drink, a sort of light saké cooler.


Saké Sunset Cooler

4 ounces Simply Limeade
2 ounces Moonstone Coconut Lemongrass Saké
A big splash of POM Wonderful pomegranate Juice
Ice
Lime slices, for garnish

Fill a tall glass with ice.

Pour limeade over the ice.

Pour the Coconut Lemongrass Saké on top.

Pour the pomegranate juice, gently, over all.

Let the pomegranate juice seep down into the beverage or stir gently, if desired, allowing the pomegranate juice to color the top half of the drink.

Garnish with a slice of lime.

Serve and enjoy!

Note: To make a nonalcoholic version of this beverage I substituted natural coconut juice for the Coconut Lemongrass Saké. The flavor was good, though less complex, but the texture of the coconut juice was lighter so the drink was less creamy and the suspension of the pomegranate juice was less interesting in the nonalcoholic version.

15 July 2009

Savory Gooseberry Sauce - Camas Farmer's Market 2009


Midsummer Groove

I can't believe it is already midsummer! It's just been in the past couple of weeks that I've gotten into the habit of shopping at the farmer's market again, reveling in the abundance of fresh berries and other wholesome tastes of summer. My zucchini plants in my backyard garden are just beginning to set fruit and the first tomatoes on the vines are just beginning to blush. Nonetheless, the garden section at Target has already been marked down, moved to clearance and replaced by back-to-school merchandise. I feel so out of step just as I am finding my summer groove here in the Pacific Northwest. I guess that's as good a reason as any to avoid the chain retail stores as much as possible, especially during the beautiful summer months.

The farmer's markets, on the other hand, are just now beginning to offer a wide variety of seasonal products from local growers. More and more venders are showing up with the things I crave most at this time of the year. While the blueberries in my backyard are still green, huge luscious berries from my favorite grower, Meadowglenn Farms, showed up at The Camas Farmer's Market last week. They were almost sold out by the time I got there but I managed to get home with a few cartons of blueberries. I'd love to share a recipe but the first few times I bring them home each year they disappear so fast by the handful that I hardly have a chance to cook with them.


Camas Farmer's Market

The Camas Farmer's Market has changed it's location and schedule this year. It is now held on Wednesdays from 3-7 between the beautiful Camas Public Library and Camas City Hall. After 5 there is live music at the market and there are food vendors where you can grab a snack or a meal.

The new time and location also encourages shoppers to combine their trip to the market with a visit to the art exhibit at the Second Story Gallery upstairs at the library. Starting later this month a visit to the market might also provide for a sumptuous picnic at Crown Park while enjoying this summer's free concert series.


Market Finds

Other discoveries at the market this summer include Heather's Toffee. Heather makes delicious toffee using high quality, and often organic, ingredients in a number of fun and original flavor combinations. One of the most intriguing is Key Lime Macadamia Toffee, an enticing combination of butter, coconut, white chocolate and macadamia nuts with a twist of lime and a smart crunch. She also offers a melt in your mouth soft Salty Peanuts-n-Chocolate Toffee, Mud Pie Toffee, Minty Rum Toffee and more. Or if you don't find a flavor you like ready made you can order your own custom flavor combination on her website. How fun is that?

There were also some delicious looking tarts, cupcakes and more at a booth shared by Around the Table, a fabulous restaurant in downtown Camas, and Truly Scrumptious, boutique baking by Kimberly.


Lacamas Lavender Farm was back this year with a variety of lavender products including homemade soaps, spice rubs and lavender sachets in addition to lavender bundles. I picked up a bundle for cooking and plan to buy more for a craft project in the near future.

There was also a variety of inviting produce from Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, Hood River, Portland, Canby and more. Fresh vegetables were brimming from baskets, bright and beautiful. Still, so far the stars of the market have definitely been the abundant fresh berries.


Gooseberries

Ever looking for something new and different I spied boxes of bright green gooseberries among the more familiar offerings from Boones Ferry Berry Farm. There, in marked contrast to the red raspberries and dark purple blackberries around them, these beautiful, subtly striped gems stood out and grabbed my attention. I had never before seen or tasted a gooseberry. Curious, I had to try them.

Once home, my web search suggested they are far better known in the UK than in the states. The most interesting suggestion I found was for a savory sauce made from these tart little berries to accompany salmon or pork.

As my research suggested, these berries were indeed a bit "fiddly" to prepare. Both ends need to be trimmed before cooking. That done I cooked them with a little onion, sugar, salt and pepper for a simple savory sauce that was bright and interesting, and similar to a tart applesauce. Though I didn't find the taste to be a perfect fit with the wild salmon I had for dinner, I do think it would be delightful with pork or lamb especially with the addition of few fresh mint leaves to the cooking pot.


Savory Gooseberry Sauce

1 cup gooseberries
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup water
1 Tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper

Place gooseberries, onion, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until berries soften. Remove from heat.

Place the sauce in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold over salmon, lamb or pork.

Enjoy!

12 July 2009

Cantaloupe Salsa


A Favorite Fruit

For many years my favorite fruit was cantaloupe. I couldn't get enough of its soft pastel flesh. I loved the texture and the deep sweetness, the way it could be scooped into perfectly rounded orbs with a melon baller, the way it holds up to dressings, the way it smells when perfectly ripe and fragrant.

In Texas it was an extremely practical relationship. Cantaloupe was abundant there, even hard to overcome. It grew in my garden as a volunteer, the seed lingering in the compost heat beyond all reason. In Texas cantaloupe were inexpensive and prolific. My children loved them. Our pet box turtle loved them. They were a staple in our summer diet.

Then we moved. Here it's not that they are hard to get but they are not as ubiquitous as in Texas and are often a different variety than the ones I learned to love there. Here I eat them less frequently and it is harder to find them farm fresh and perfectly ripe. Still, when I can find them perfectly ripe and for a reasonable price I thoroughly enjoy them.

Salsa Variations

Last summer I made a great salsa from the delicious local blueberries that are so fresh and abundant for a time each summer. It was a great discovery, a sort of culinary revelation. While I love tortilla chips and fruit I had never thought much about making fruit salsas before. My mind began to race. What other salsas could I make to take advantage of the fruits that I love. An impromptu trip to a local market gave me a few unplanned purchases to work with. One of them was a beautiful ripe cantaloupe. As I cut the cantaloupe for my family's breakfast I began to think about what a nice salsa it would make. On my next pass by the market I bought a serrano pepper and some jicama. At home I had cilantro and an orange bell pepper so I chopped and mixed and experimented until I came up with this pleasing combination.


Cantaloupe Salsa

2 cups cantaloupe, diced
1 cup jicama, cut in small matchsticks
½ yellow, orange or red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno or Serrano chile, minced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lime
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ - ½ cup minced shallots or finely sliced green onion

Stir together. Allow flavors to blend for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Enjoy!

07 July 2009

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches


Getting Started

My daughter has called me several times since she moved away this summer. She often calls around dinner time to tell me about what she is planning to cook for dinner or what she is making to take in her lunch the next day.

It is a thrill to learn that she is using the recipes I have posted here over the past year or so! So far she has made Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Amazing Chicken Salad, Thai Chicken Thighs and Macaroni and Cheese.

Sometimes she has a question about what she is cooking. As she was planning her menus one evening she decided she wanted to try Four-Pepper Pasta. The challenge was that it required a lot of ingredients she hadn’t collected yet, several different herbs as well as picante sauce, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It also calls for a variety of peppers which can be expensive when they are not in season. I suggested she use less expensive green bell peppers in place of the more colorful ones (at least until they are in season), choose just one herb to experiment with for now and substitute another vinegar if she couldn’t find balsamic at a reasonable price.

I was reminded that cooking can be a substantial creative challenge when you are starting out or are on a limited budget for any reason. Most of us were there at one time or another but for some of us it has been a while and it can be a challenge to remember.

Keeping It Simple

Since then I have been more conscious of what goes into the recipes I have been cooking so that I can make recommendations to her when I remember something easy or simple or inexpensive that is also delicious. For the 4th of July I often make Pulled Pork Sandwiches. There are several different ways I do it. Some are more complicated than others but this year, looking over the meat case, I decided to buy a boneless top sirloin pork roast and to cook it in my Crock Pot. When I put it on to cook I decided to keep it simple. I added only salt and pepper and a little water.

The result was simply wonderful! The meat was tender and delicious. There was no fat to be cut off and thrown away, no bones to be removed. When the meat was tender I quickly pulled it apart and it was ready to go on sandwiches with a little barbecue sauce.

So here’s one for my daughter and anyone who enjoys a good meaty Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwich that could scarcely be simpler to prepare.


Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches

2 – 2.5 pound boneless pork sirloin roast
½ cup water (or cooking liquid of your choice)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Barbecue sauce of your choice
Sandwich buns

Place the pork roast in a slow cooker. Pour the water over the roast and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on a low setting for 8 to 10 hours, or until the pork roast is cooked through and tender enough to be easily pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the pork roast from the slow cooker and place in a serving dish. With two forks, pushed into the meat close together, pull the meat in opposite directions. Repeat and continue until the meat is separated into bite sized pieces.

Pour accumulated pan juices over the meat 1/4 cup at a time, stirring each time until fully absorbed. Repeat several times if desired but do not add so much that the juices gather in the bottom of the dish.

Serve on sandwich buns with barbecue sauce.

Note: This recipe is easily doubled for a crowd. I put two boneless pork sirloin roasts in my ancient Crock Pot last weekend and they were ready to eat in approximately 10 - 12 hours. Cooking time will vary. Just make sure the meat is cooked through and pulls apart easily.

Enjoy!!

03 July 2009

Fancy Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting


Leftovers

It’s a chain reaction. Left over bits and pieces accumulate from the things I buy to help me use up the leftovers I already have. And then what do you do with those leftovers?

Sometimes I think convenience foods or mixes are the perfect thing to balance the playing field.

A few weeks ago I had half a bar of cream cheese sitting in my refrigerator and nothing on the menu that could use just half a bar. Then I remembered that I had one round layer of Italian Wedding Cake in my freezer that I made from half of my Italian Wedding Cupcake batter just before we went on our California Road Trip.

I took the cake out of the freezer and made a batch of Cream Cheese Frosting to ice the single cake layer. I just frosted the top and it was nice. Kind of pretty and very tasty, I served it to some friends.

Now the cream cheese was used but half of the Cream Cheese Frosting was leftover because the cake was only one layer. What should I do with that? I didn’t think it would freeze well.


Inspiration

Then I saw Robin Sue's recipe at Big Red Kitchen for Fancy Brownies. They were really pretty! They seemed like they would be fun to try. I almost always have a box of brownie mix in the cupboard, so I could make them quick and wouldn't need to go to the store. It seemed like a great way to use the frosting and try something simple and new.

My Fancy Brownies didn't turn out quite as pretty as Robin Sue's but they were a hit! Rich and chocolaty, they made a great casual dessert with very little prep time. I used Cream Cheese Frosting instead of the Buttercream Frosting Robin Sue suggests but I think Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting or almost any frosting would do the job. I can also imagine stirring a little mint flavoring or a cup of crushed oreos or butterfinger bars into the frosting before spreading it onto the brownies. Use your imagination!



Fancy Brownies

1 13x9 inch pan of your favorite brownies
1 to 2 cups of frosting (I used Cream Cheese Frosting, see below)
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Bake the brownies as directed. Let cool on a wire rack.

Spread the frosting over the cool brownies.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate chips over low heat stirring constantly until smooth.

Spread the glaze over the iced brownies smoothing to the edges. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.

Cut, serve and enjoy!

Cream Cheese Frosting
From "Better Homes and Gardens Complete Step-by-Step Cookbook"

1 3-ounce package cream cheese (I used 1/2 of a larger bar of cream cheese, or 4 ounces)
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted powdered sugar (I usually don't sift it but that risk lumps)

In a medium sized mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla at medium speed until smooth and uniform. Add the powdered sugar gradually and mix at high speed until the sugar is incorporated and the icing is smooth and fluffy.

Note: If the frosting seems too soft to spread as you would like, refrigerate it briefly before spreading. Store leftover frosting in the refrigerator.