Sep 06
2012

Basil Salt

With the early days of fall upon us, each trip that I make to the farmers’ market, I find myself wanting to buy up as much produce as possible and preserve it any way that I can think of.  I spent a week at home last week with my mom and we canned pickled beets and green beans, turned several large basil plants into pesto and made bell peppers and jalapenos into pepper jelly.

When I have a large excess of basil, I love to make pesto and then form it into balls to be frozen and used at a later time.  Even with a very large bundle of basil, it shrinks down so much once it has been processed with garlic and olive oil that you end up with only a few cups.  That’s why when I have smaller amounts of leftover basil, I still can’t stand to throw it away, but also don’t feel that it is enough to make a decent amount of pesto.  Enter Basil Salt.

Basil salt could not be easier to make and it is a great way to carry a bit of summer flavor into the doldrums of winter.  It has endless application possibilities such as seasoning for fish, adding a little boost of flavor to a pasta sauce or sprinkling over some cherry tomatoes.

So, next time you find yourself with a couple of cups of basil leaves leftover, make some of this salt.  A small jar of Basil Salt would also be a great addition to a foodie gift basket or a hostess gift!  Christmas will be here before we know it…..

The only ingredients you will need to make your own Basil Salt are 1 cup of fresh basil leaves and 1/2 cup kosher salt.

Pulse basil and salt together in a food processor.

 

Pour the basil salt out onto a cookie sheet and spread evenly.

Bake at 225 degrees for 30 minutes to dry.

Return to food processor and pulse do desired coarseness.

Store in a sealed container.

 

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Adios Mexico Week!
Life lately
Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

As soon as I saw this recipe for Italian Beer Bread I could not wait for an excuse to make it.  And so on Super Bowl Sunday, a day when beer in anything goes, I had already added a bottle of beer to my chili and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to keep the theme going and make this bread.

Although I am certainly overcoming my fear of yeast breads, I still appreciate the ease and convenience of a bread that can be ready to place into the oven in a matter of minutes.  This bread is dense, moist and flavorful with a lightly crunchy outside crust.  The mix-in combinations and therefore flavor possibilities are virtually endless.  I kept it simple in this batch with Italian seasoning, red  pepper flakes, cheese and a little garlic powder, but I think next time I will add fresh garlic and chopped sun dried tomatoes to the dough.

As if the bread isn’t’ special enough, a kicked-up compound butter is the perfect thing to top it off.  The components of this Sundried Tomato Basil butter are so great that if you want to try to limit your indulgences, you could even use a butter substitute of your choice and not feel like you are missing anything.

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combine all dry ingredients

add beer and stir to combine

place dough into prepared loaf pan and bake

for the compound butter, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth

serve bread warm smeared with butter

What is your favorite quick bread and/or flavor of compound butter?

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So it’s time to reveal this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge!  If you remember, back in November I shared this very challenging cake with you and explained a little bit about the Daring Bakers.

This month’s challenge was much more manageable and so easy and fun to make.  Who doesn’t love a good biscuit?  Or scone as they are referred to in other parts of the world.  Sure, they only have a few ingredients and are relatively simple to make, but ask anyone who has failed at attempting to make biscuits and they will tell you that just a few too many kneads or not using the ingredients at the right temperature and you may end up with hard, unappetizing biscuits that resemble hockey pucks more than you would actually like to admit.

But with a few helpful tips and fresh ingredients, you can make light, tall and flakey biscuits in literally just a few minutes.  Before you know it, you will be smearing a warm and tender biscuit with honey, butter or whatever your little heart desires.

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

Tips for making successful biscuits:

  • Butter and milk must be cold because the chunks of butter are what result in a flakey biscuit (and we want flakey biscuits)
  • Dough must not be overworked or your scones will be hard hockey pucks
  • Make sure your ingredients are fresh and more specifically your baking powder.  How to tell if baking powder is fresh?  Add a 1/2 tsp of baking powder to warm water and it should bubble.  What about baking soda?  Add the same amount to some vinegar and again look for bubbles.  No bubbles=time for new leavening agents!

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 combine dry ingredients and sift together

cut in cold butter until looks like tiny peas (coarse meal)

mix in milk

pour dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead minimally

flatten out dough to about 3/4 thick and cut biscuits

bake

What would you like to slather onto one of these tender,  flakey biscuits?

 

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My Thanksgiving plans are somewhat up in the air right now due to the poor health of my grandfather.  If grandpa stays with us a few more weeks, then it will be a celebration with the in-laws.  However, if he is relieved from his suffering in the next few days, my husband and I will be heading home to be with my family under less than ideal circumstances.  Since my holiday meal plans are uncertain, I would like to share some wonderful tips, ideas and recipes from some fabulous fellow bloggers and vendors.

Is it your first time making the turkey this year?  I’m sure you want yours to look as gorgeous as perfectly golden bird from Simple Bites.  The post that accompanies this mouthwatering photo will give you day-by-day, step-by-step instructions for roasting the perfect turkey and even how to make gravy.

(source)

I love turkey but like many of you, I also go crazy for all of the wonderful sides!  Do these Parmesan Mashed Potatoes that Lacey whipped up not make you drool?  I would love the saltiness from that cheese and they just look so fluffy and light!

(source)

Don’t forget the brussels sprouts!  Are you a lover or do you need more convincing?  If you are on the fence, this brussels sprouts dish from A Cozy Kitchen might convert you!  Subtle sweetness from maple sugar and slight tang from balsamic vinegar.  Yes please.

(source)

Naturally Marla over at Family Fresh Cooking has got us covered for a healthier way to enjoy our sweet potatoes.  In this recipe, she incorporates coconut milk, cinnamon and maple syrup and suggests creative toppings for your mashed sweet potatoes such as coconut flakes, dried figs and nuts.  You know I love to use recipes simply as guides and them make them my own, and Marla allows you to adapt this recipe using the ingredients that you prefer.

 

(source)

No we have got to add a little salt to our sweet and one of my favorite salty sides is stuffing!  I don’t want sausage.  I don’t want oysters.  I want it straight up traditional just the way that Michelle that Brown Eyed Baker does it.  Her Classic Bread Stuffing Recipe has all you need:  bread, onions, sage and parsley.  What can I say?  I guess I am a traditionalist when it comes to stuffing!

(source)

And finally, you know what my top priority is:  dessert.  Cheesecake is a dessert that I would choose last in most cases.   There is one exception the I know of and that is this Marshmallow-Sour Cream Topped Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust found on Epicurious.   I had it for the first time when I was in Guatemala on a mission trip over Thanksgiving week and it was love at first bite.  The gingersnap crust is enough to make me swoon and the cheesecake itself is lighter than most traditional cheesecakes which is why I believe it is the exception to my lack of enthusiasm about cheesecakes.

(source)

Then there is this Caramel Apple Pie that I made last year for Thanksgiving.  You incorporate some of the caramel into the the apple filling and then also drizzle the remaining caramel over each piece as you serve it.  It takes a little more effort than your average apple pie, but the results are so worth it.

 (source:  Williams-Sonoma)

There will inevitably be some Pumpkin Cookies lying around the house for post-food coma snacking.

And if you are looking for an easy fall cocktail to serve make some ginger simple syrup and combine it with some apple vodka and ginger ale for a festive and easy to sip on drink.

I wish you all safe travels and quality time with friends and family over this next week.  I am thankful for your readership and support.  

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There is nothing that adds flavors and depth to a dish quite like fresh herbs.  I love to buy bunches of basil and cilantro at the farmers’ market during the summers, but during the winter fresh herbs are a little more of an expense and luxury.  It kills me to spend money on a bunch of fresh chives or parsley and then only use a small portion for garnish or to add some freshness to a dish.  Again, the flavor is worth it, but it just breaks my heart when I can’t think of what to do with the rest of the bunch of herbs and it goes to waste!  Am I alone on this one?  Anyway, last summer, I had this dilemma and my mom suggested that I throw all of these unused misfit herbs into the blender, add some garlic and olive oil, form them into balls and freeze them for later use.  I am so excited that I took her advice because I at way too much Halloween candy and need a healthy dinner!  I have a spaghetti squash in the oven right now and I can hardly wait to throw one of the herb balls from my freezer into a sautée pan and pour the freshness of summer over my beautiful fall squash!

 Purée herbs, garlic and olive oil

Divide herb mixture,  form into balls and place on wax paper-lined cookie sheet

Once frozen, place herb balls into a freezer bag and store

To use, remove ball from freezer,  place into small saucepan, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and warm

For my spaghetti squash, I pierced the squash several times with a knife and baked at 350° for 1 hour.  Then I cooled the squash for 15 minuets, cut it in half and removed the seeds.  I removed the flesh and added it to my saucepan to combine it with the herb mixture.  Topped off with parmesan cheese and served with some sautéed kale, you have a healthy and satisfying meal!

  •  “As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway

 

 

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