Monday, January 30, 2012

meat pie attempt # 1 . . . Shortcrust

So ever since we returned from Australia, I've been wanting to attempt making meat pies. Legit meat pies. Not just savory mince pies, because that's not what they are.... they're Aussie meat pies and they're better than anywhere in the world. Remember when I talked about them?

Naturally, instead of settling for only having them once a year when we go to Australia, I've decided to attempt the perfect pie... from scratch. This is the account of attempt number one. The part I totally nailed perfectly was the shortcrust, the bottom dough. This was a huge accomplishment if I might say so... it's James' favorite part of the pie, and he wasn't sure I'd get it right. ;) Little did he know....


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces crisco
  • chilled water
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the crisco in dollops and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until the dough starts to form pea size balls.
Now add chilled water, 1 tablespoon at a time to help the dough gather and get stickier. I'd say start of with about 4 tablespoons of water and add from there if you need to. (don't add too much though, just add enough so that it mostly sticks together)
Now gather it into a ball, leave it in the bowl and cover it with a towel and set aside for about an hour to let the dough rest. You've gotta do this step, otherwise your dough will start to expand and do strange things in the oven while you're trying to make a pretty pie or tart. Just trust me.
Once it's been an hour, flour your countertop or your pastry cloth and plop the dough ball on it. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on the top so that when you're rolling it, it doesn't stick to your rolling pin. This dough is particularly sticky once you start rolling, so don't be afraid to keep lightly sprinkling flour over the top of the dough while rolling it out. Whether you're making one 9 inch pie with this dough or making 5 or 6 individual mini pies, you'll want to roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Now lay it in your pie dish or start cutting away the mini circle shapes for your individual pies or tarts and press them into the bottom. Helpful hint that my mother taught me: to neatly place a pie crust into the dish without ripping it or stretching it out too much, lightly flour the rolled out surface of dough, place your rolling pin at the top, and gently and slowly roll the rolling pin towards you, bringing the dough with it... you're rolling the dough onto the pin like a wheel of carpet. Then place the rolling pin on the pie dish and unroll just the same way... ta da!
Doesn't that dough look delicious and perfect?? By the way, shortcrust is supposed to be a thicker dough. It's made to handle gooey desserts or savory pies, which you know are pretty heavy fillings. This dough can withstand anything! Anyways, depending on what pie you're making, follow the instructions for the oven heat and bake time! Mine went in at 200 degrees for about 45 minutes. You should end up with the perfectly substantial, but not heavy dough, with enough crustiness to hold your filling but enough chewiness to be completely irresistible! All I have to say is that my mother would be proud... and that's saying a lot when it comes to pie dough. ;) Take my word for it, this is the shortcrust recipe for you. Also how easy is it?!

Hopefully next time I will have mastered the filling and the pastry puff dough so I can give you those recipes as well. But until then, I'm not sharing. Even though the filling I did make was amazing, it wasn't Aussie meat pie filling... it was just really nice mince meat filling and didn't quite cut it. So wish me luck as I go for meat pie attempt number two! Stay tuned... you just might find the winning recipe outta me yet!

Hope you all had the BEST of weekends! We sure did...
Lots and lots of love! Anybody have any great recipes to share?? :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

A N Z A C biscuits . . . & by ' biscuits ' I mean cookies

Just as promised, I'm gonna give you a really fabulous recipe for ANZAC biscuits that my mother-in-law gave me. I know, you're wondering, "what on earth is she even saying, anzac?" Ok so ANZAC simply stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. These biscuits used to be made by the wives and family members of the soldiers. They would make them because they had a really long shelf life and ship them over to wherever the soldiers were. It's the simplest recipe but they're DELICIOUS. And it's fun to know that when you make them, you're making a "creature comfort" food that used to boost and sustain the general moral of the soldiers. And seeing as how yesterday was Australia Day, we celebrated with ANZAC cookies and heading over to Outback Steakhouse for a James Boag's beer. (which by the way.... BIG TIME FAIL Outback, for not even KNOWING it was Australia Day yesterday, and for laughing at us when we asked where the party was and why no one was celebrating... the least you could've done was hook James and Kobes up with a free drink considering their nationality. we were highly UNimpressed.)

Whew. That felt good to say that!

Right... anybody for trying these babies? By the way, they're sort of like ranger cookies, to give you an idea. They're the simple, oat-y and good with anything kinda cookie so I highly suggest them, even if you don't care about their history... I am aware that not everyone is married to an Australian. ;)
Ingredients you'll need:
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar... i used white granulated but next time i'm gonna try raw so the color is prettier.
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup butter... that's 1 stick. i used salted. i usually do use salted.
  • 1 Tablespoon honey... the actual recipe calls for golden syrup but since we can't find that so easily, i used honey and i loved it. besides, honey is healthier!
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon boiling water
too easy, right?

Okay so preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Get out two baking sheets and line them with baking parchment paper, or grease them.
Combine the rolled oats, flour, sugar and coconut and stir.
Now put the butter and honey together in a small bowl, pop it in the microwave and melt it.
stir it well after melting to make sure all those butter clumps get totally melted and incorporated.
Now, combine the boiling water and baking soda and stir. Add that watery baking soda combination to the butter and honey and stir.
Combine the butter mixture with the dry ingredients and mix well!
Your mixture should look crumbly and balled like this. Also, I know it doesn't look like much dough but these biscuits are supposed to be small, so don't worry.
Now just form little-ish balls and place them on the tray to go in! Side note: the coconut and rolled oats make these dough balls a little tricky to stick together cause they're fairly dry, so just really press them into the palm of your hand to make them hold together. If you want, you can pat them with the palm of your hand and make them more flat instead of round... I just preferred round. You should have 2 dozen dough balls by the time you're through.
Stick these babies in the oven for 15-20 minutes... but caution, every oven is different, and because this dough is already a little bit dry, MAKE SURE you don't over do them. I set my timer for 20 minutes and pulled them out at 15 and they were JUST right. Had I left them in 2 minutes longer, however, we would've been breaking our teeth trying to bite into one. I highly suggest you set your timer for 15 minutes and check. They should be just golden on the tops. Remember, they'll keep baking when you take them out of the oven for probably another 5-10 minutes. Besides, what's better than a hot, gooey cookie? Take them out earlier rather than later.
That's it! :) Now enjoy them, knowing that you've just partaken in a little bit of Aussie history! They may not look like much, but when you start to smell that butter baking... oh man... watch out. You'll lose all sense of "beach body by summer" and the next thing you'll know, there will be 5 less cookies on that baking sheet than there were 5 minutes ago and you'll wonder why your fingers are coated in butter and coconut. Seriously, these were out of the oven for one episode of 'Touch' last night, and this morning there's 9 left. Yes, that means the three of us ate 15 cookies in 45 minutes. No joke.
 two Australian boys + 1 honorary Australian girl + a pile of ANZAC biscuits = great ending to Australia Day
Enjoy these friends... and next time you think of supporting Outback Steakhouse, think twice. Just kidding. ;) ......................................except I'm not.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Burgers . simply put .

First things first, HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY! Technically it was yesterday since yesterday was January 26 for all the Aussies, but I live in the here and now, and today is Australia Day for us! So later tonight, I'm making ANZAC biscuits, which I'll explain in a later post.

So this is by no means a super "healthy" burger... but it's not awfully unhealthy either... just the bagel part of it is sinful really. All I'm sayin' is that James and I have MASTERED the art of a "better than a restaurant" burger and you should be able to enjoy it too.

(disclaimer: we don't usually use bagels for these, seeing as how they're massively thick and a meal on their own, not conducive to 'healthy' consumption levels of carbs... but we were out of bread and not about to go buy new when we had a STACK of uneaten bagels in the bread box.)

Burgers for two:
slice up half an onion, pour some olive oil in the skillet, dust with seasoned salt, drop the onions in, slightly olive oil and seasoned salt some more and keep the heat on low. stir occasionally until they turn translucent and brown.
spread your ground round (we use 90/10) on a plate and season it with ground pepper and seasoned salt- nothing else... let the meat speak for itself. (sorry jord) form the meat into patties and place it in the skillet that you had the onions cooking in. (keep the heat low, maybe raise it just a little) this way, the meat will be seasoned with the cooked onion flavor and juices as well.
while these are cooking, prep your goodies:
  • grate two kinds of cheese. yes grated. yes two kinds. be adventurous. so much better than pre-done slices of junk.
  • slice up half of an avocado.
  • slice up some tomato.
  • if you have it, finely chop some basil. yes do it. that was James' contribution last night and it kicked you know what.
  • chop up some super crunchy, green green lettuce.
  • dish out some hummus. YES! hummus on a burger should become your new staple.
  • OBVIOUSLY, get out the ketchup and pickles.

now, back to the burgers.
you should probably have flipped these babies once by now and they should be close to being done. here's the trick, don't cook them fully and then pull them out of the pan... we want to melt the cheese on top while they're still in the skillet so just be mindful. when they're looking close to being done, put those two kinds of grated cheese on top. now, we don't have a lid for our cast-iron skillet so james uses our wok to do the job. if you have a lid to your skillet, put it on top and turn the heat to a little lower again and let that cheese get gooey and awesome.
(works like a charm, that wok)
while the cheese is melting, grab a plate, drizzle in some olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. get out whatever kind of bread you'll be using and let them sit in the olive oil and salt mixture, and be sure to turn them so both sides get a little of the oil. (don't drown your bread you guys, remember, your onions and burgers were already cooked in some olive oily goodness)
now the burgers should be done. take the onions and the burger patties off the skillet but leave the heat on and all the juices in the skillet. place the all four bread pieces in the skillet and let them get golden on both sides, or at least golden and brown on the edges.
(what's better than fried bread? oh my gosh what's wrong with me? i should not be saying that.)

here's the fun part...
  • spread hummus on the bottom pieces and ketchup on the top pieces.
  • place the burger patties on and top with the sauteed onions.
  • top the onions with a little chopped basil.
  • spread some avocado and pickles on the top pieces of bread.
  • place lettuce on the top pieces so you can hold in the pickles and avocado when you put the top on.
  • place the sliced tomato on top of the basil and onions.
  • wish yourself good luck trying to get your mouth around this glorious, monstrous burger and ENJOY!
 seriously? look at those onions. if you're not an onion person, it doesn't matter. use them here. don't think about it. just do it. worth it.
I'll tell you this much... no burger out there is gonna be able to hold a candle to this one... so if you have a love affair with IN-n-OUT, Burger Up, or Mickey D's, stay away. BUT, if you're an adventurer, a lover of good food, and the master of your own kitchen who doesn't settle for crappy food, have at it friend. and invite over a few neighbors to enjoy too!

Lots of love you guys... jordan, sorry im not vegetarian and have to post semi-gag reflex prompting things. maybe one day i'll understand life without meat. ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

turnip greens & other things

So I'll share with you my dilemma...

Normally, I go to bed with at least a little bit of an idea about what I want to blog about the following morning. I get up, think about it, analyze the photos I have or have yet to take, see how the blog is gonna shape up, and go. HOWEVER, four nights ago, my family was in town and we decided to go to an Italian restaurant... this restaurant prides itself on their "order one pasta, and the chef will make you another one of any choice to take home" policy. WHAT?? What is that?! We asked the server. He said it was their "marketing scheme" to get people to come back... right... as if I EVER need to come back to your restaurant again, sir! I have take out for WEEKS because of your stupid marketing scheme! I don't want to see another noodle for at LEAST a month! We LITerally won't be coming back for a very long time. Eh hem... thanks for letting me rant, guys. ANYWAYS, the point of all this is to tell you that I haven't been ABLE to cook all that much the last 2 nights because we've been trying to make it through all this pasta! (mind you, it wasn't just james' and my pasta... it was from my dad's and Brent's take out pasta as well... they left it here considering they were driving home 6 hours the next day.)

My dilemma is that I have no great MEAL to show you today... and maybe not even TOMORROW! (hopefully tomorrow) So I thought, "right, what can I show them?" I talked to my sister this morning about what I might blog about... I thought about making the entire post about her failed TollHouse chocolate chip cookies story, but I didn't want to embarrass her. ;) (ps- she did actually make them again yesterday and they turned out beautifully) Then she suggested that I just give you some side dish options... then I remembered! Just before we left for Australia and we were trying to get through all of our groceries, (remember that?) I made a really great, weird, vegetarian dinner for myself of turnip greens, skillet potatoes, sauteed onions zatar pita and hummus! I know, I know, hodge podge but it was all that was left in the fridge, so I went with it! Anyone interested?

Turnip Greens: Listen, I am not a "southern belle" by any means, but turnip greens are SO FAR UNDER. RATED. They're great! Seriously... they're totally delicious, they're totally easy to cook, and they're HIGHLY nutritious! Turnip greens are chocked full of calcium and a little something they call glucosinolate, which helps prevent cancer! Hello ladies?? EsPECially ladies! Don't we all have the tendency to have low calcium levels, bone density issues, cancer...? Turnip greens help! So let's learn to love them and incorporate them into our weekly diet! (besides... they're SO CHEAP.. win!)

  • Grab a bunch of turnip greens and wash them really well. I mean well. They git gritty and it's so gross to chomp down on who knows what that feels like beach sand when you're just trying to enjoy dinner.
  • I like to leave mine in whole leaves because I think it looks prettier, but it can get annoying trying to cut them after they've been cooked, so if you want, chop them in 3 sections per leaf.
  • Warm up a little saute or saucepan with some olive oil (surprise) and balsamic vinegar. Do it on medium-low heat.
  • When it starts to get a little sizzling, put the greens in. It's okay to stuff them... remember, turnips cook WAY down.
  • Put the lid on and let them soak in all that oily vinegar goodness for about 3 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and add some water. Don't drown them, but don't be shy either. Now stir.
  • Put the lid back on and turn the heat down just a little. Now let them steam in there for about 5 minutes. But don't do them too much longer than that! You want them to still hold some of their brighter green color and some crispness... otherwise you've nuked out all the nutrients and there's no point. If you're not used to eating crunchier greens, get over it... your body will love you for it.

yes, that is vegemite toast with melted cheese... james made it and i couldn't resist. "cheesy-mite," as we affectionately call it.
Remember how to make homemade hummus ?
Sauteed onions: olive oil and seasoned salt in a frying pan or skillet... go to town 'til they turn brown! (oh my gosh- I'm DEFinitely coining that phrase. that was a moment of genius for me... "go to town 'til they turn brown"!? win.)
This is zatar on pita. (ZAT-uh) It's a middle eastern mixture of spices, sesame and salt. You can buy it at an arabic grocery... harder to find other places. You make a paste out of the mixture and olive oil, spread it (sort of sparingly if it's your first time trying it) on some pita wedges, and stick it in the oven for 10 minutes. Killer. Especially with hummus.

Skillet Potatoes: aka- homemade steak fries...?
  • Warm up on low heat some olive oil in your cast-iron skillet. (or whatever skillet you do have... you should get a cast-iron though, they're amazing)
  • Generously sprinkle in some seasoned salt.
  • While that's warming up, slice up your potatoes into longer bits and maybe half to an inch thick. If you have time, let them sit in boiling water for about 5 minutes before putting them in the skillet, but if you don't have time, that's alright.
  • Throw them in the skillet, toss a little more seasoned salt and olive oil on top, and put the lid on.
  • Let them sit with the lid on for about 10 minutes. Now remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium heat, add some sea salt and ground pepper and start stirring them. Now you should start to see them turning golden brown on the bottom. Because these aren't shaped circularly, you're gonna have to make sure to check out each one and make sure they're browning nicely on all sides. So at this point, keep them cooking until each one looks pleasantly golden and crispy on a few edges.
  • That's it! Enjoy!
yes please! (mind you, i wouldn't make these on a regular basis... but when I'm having an all vegetarian night, I don't feel so bad) ;)

So excuse the random, "side dish" quality of this post, but I hope it was helpful and fun and tomorrow, we should be back on track and completely PASTALESS! In the meantime, wish me luck trying to devour baked ziti for ONE more night. I've resorted to adding my own italian spices, fresh parmesan reggiano and olive oil to freshen things up a bit. Everybody needs a little spice in their leftover pasta life, right?

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 and " I wish I were in Bryant Park" frittata

Good afternoon, you guys!

I am SO glad to be back HOME, cooking and blogging again! James and I returned to the states just 5 days ago and I'm still heavily jet-lagged. (hence the no blogging thing) HOWEVER, this morning I woke up with so many fun ideas and some really great news to share with you, so I'm back on the horse! Thanks so much for being patient with me as we were away for so long and without our normal routine of creating masterpieces in the kitchen everyday!

SO, get this: Jordan and Brent (my sis and her hubby) couldn't make it to Australia for Christmas to join us all, so this past weekend when we got back, everybody drove up from Charlotte to spend a few nights in our place so we could have our normal family Christmas. (it was so great... Jim Brickman was even played, just as tradition calls for) My clever, thoughtful and out-of-the-box thinking sister and brent surprised me with the best gift ever.... RECITHERAPY.COM! Yes! That's right! No more 'blogspot' blocking the flow of our brilliant name.... it's now just plain old, perfect and we are SO EXCITED about it! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, jd and brent for being so fun and thoughtful and for blessing me with that! (i totally feel more 'official' now... i am more official now) From now on, get used to it... type in to read up on everything, and leave out mr. blogspot.

Now back to the good stuff.... I woke up this morning and do you know what I was thinking of? Seriously, my first thought was, "I wish I were in Bryant Park right now... it'd be great to go have a fancy breakfast and great coffee at the Bryant Park Grille." (bryant park is in the heart of NYC and the bryant park grille is a FAB-U-LOUS restaurant right in the property... unbelievable little spot with floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out onto this gorgeous manicured green lawn... gotta go if you haven't been) Anyways, I continued thinking... " maybe I'll go to Frothy and get an espresso and blog and pretend I'm in NYC..nah, I don't feel like going out in the cold." And then it came to me... mom and dad just bought us some beautiful farm fresh eggs from a local guy at a stand at Whole Foods, I have some unbelievable cheese selections and mounds of fresh vegetables, and I have to use up our whole grain bread in the next 3 days before it goes bad.... "I'm gonna make my OWN fancy breakfast, right here, RIGHT now!" So that's what I did. And it was so great, I decided to blog about it so that you could enjoy it too. I've named it my "I wish I were in Bryant Park" frittata! Anyone interested?? Let me show you... (this will easily serve 2 people in lavish portions, comfortably serve 4 and light brunch serve 6)
cook 2 strips of bacon in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat until crispy. you'll want to flip them once.
while the bacon is cooking, grate a generous, but not ridiculous amount of extra sharp white cheddar... or whatever kind of cheddar you like, but I suggest it be sharp whether it's white or not.
bacon should still be sizzling, so crack 6 eggs into a bowl and whisk. Then slice 1/4 of a lemon, and squeeze the juice into the eggs and whisk again.
Now pour in about 1/4 cup half & half cream into the egg lemon mixture and stir just until mixed.
Grab a handful of broccoli and half a tomato and chop them up. These are going right into your frittata fresh and raw. Now slice up half of an avocado in length strips. These will be used to top your frittata when it's finished.
(this is not photographed)
Now that your bacon is probably done, pour out the excess bacon grease (just tip it over the trash or into a bowl, do NOT put it down your sink. issues for weeks.) and slice up the bacon strips into inch or smaller size bits.
Pour the egg mixture right into the skillet over the bacon pieces and quickly sprinkle in all the broccoli and tomato pieces.
sea salt and pepper!
now drop that grated cheddar all over the top... sorry the photo stinks. I must've moved.
Now put a lid on it and turn the heat back to medium low.
While the frittata is cooking, slice up some fresh whole grain or sourdough toast. Don't put it in the toaster yet... you want it to go in when the eggs are almost done so that you're serving hot, buttery toast with warm fluffy eggs. Nothing's worse than warm eggs with cold toast... or visa versa.
yes, that's honey. We're making honey butter to go with this frittata... isn't that something Bryant Park Grille would do? Slice off a generous amount of room temperature salted butter. I probably used 3-4 tablespoons. Put it in a little dish or espresso cup and pour in 1-2 tablespoons of honey. My wild flower honey is from a local nashville farmer and it's CRAZY potent, so I think I used just about a tablespoon and it was perfect.
Mix it all around with your knife! See how the room temperature thing makes all the difference? The honey really mixes better for a tastier texture if the butter isn't melted, just softened.
By now, your frittata should be close to finishing, so push down that toast! Grab a spatula and start to loosen up the edges and the bottom of the frittata... if it looks a little browned on the bottom, that's normal, you probably didn't burn it so don't worry about it. You want it to be pretty solid on the bottom anyways for serving purposes.. it'll come out like a pancake. If it's a little 'liquidy' on the top still, that's alright, as long as your fork can come out clean and it feels fluffy but solid in the middle, it's done! Now slice it into fours (or smaller if you're doing a light brunch thing) and dish it out! If it is, in fact, a little liquidy on top still, gently tip it as you spatula each piece out so the excess dripping comes right off. Now remember that avocado you sliced? Spoon out the long strips and lay them smack on top of the frittata slice for serving.
Honey butter that warm toast and serve with a little garnish of cheddar and apple slices, and maybe some blackberries! Or even a little martini glass of berries and plain yogurt!
THAT, my friends, is a Bryant Park Grille worthy breakfast! I've successfully taken myself on a healthy, cheap, mini NYC vacation... and I highly suggest you do the same. And don't forget the coffee... make a french press. And if you don't have a french press, go get one. Really, it'll make your life feel SO luxurious, even if it's exactly the same as it was before you had the french press. Making french press coffee is the equivalent of wearing rose colored glasses. Always a good thing.

SO so glad to be back with you guys and back in my own kitchen! And HOW GREAT that we have our own SITE now!! Yippee!! Don't forget... is our new home! If you want, help me get the word out and post it on your social media sites so that everyone gets the new address... but don't worry, if you forget, you'll be automatically re-directed. :)

LOTS and LOTS of love to you guys, and happy Bryant Park Tuesday!