Happy 4th of July Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

forth mountainRabbit Rabbit! Can you believe it’s already July 1st?

I hope all of you are able to take a little time off this weekend to enjoy the local parades and fireworks. I spend an afternoon or so this time of year in the kitchen cooking so there are handy things in the fridge to grab for picnics at the lake: salads, dips, and a batch of cold chicken. This week’s recipe, a revisit from last July, isn’t particularly portable, but oh, is it good and worth eating at home!

Strawberry season in Vermont is a short one and I hear this year is a bumper crop. So for the next couple of weeks you’ll find me down the road at the farm stand grabbing a quart or two until they are gone. I can’t get enough of them. So with this plethora of riches, I always take the opportunity to make a strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream. Because if you’re going to have dessert for dinner, you should go all out, right?

This is the way I grew up eating strawberry shortcake, a biscuit-like “cake,” split it in the middle, the middle filled with whipped cream and lots of berries, and then topped with more whipped cream and berries. A sort of layer cake, if you will. While the Egg Biscuit Cake is from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, the assembling instructions and whipped cream recipe are my own.

You can always make drop biscuits if you have a small family or want to tote this to a friend’s house. It really doesn’t last past a day once assembled. But then again, there is always breakfast!

strawHomemade Strawberry Shortcake
1+ quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced (set aside eight perfect berries)

Egg Biscuit Cake
This cake recipe was published in The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, 1999.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces
1 egg
½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Whisk the egg with the milk in a glass measuring cup. With the motor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process just until the dough begins to clump together. (To make the dough by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter with your fingertips, add the egg and milk and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.) Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, knead lightly a few times, and roll or pat into an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it gently to the edges. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 pint of heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla. With a hand mixer set on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form—about 6 minutes or so. Set aside.

To assemble
Take the shortcake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack. When cooled, carefully slice it in half horizontally and divide. With the bottom of the shortcake, add some whipped cream and berries. Add the top of the shortcake, add more berries, whipped cream, and dot with the reserved whole berries.

Quirks-1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: The 10 Most Annoying Food Packaging Quirks
Here’s a laugh for you this morning. I could identify with almost every single packaging on this list! Flour on the counter, foil seal tabs on the peanut butter jar, shrink-wrapped goat cheese, I didn’t realize how aggravated these made me until I read this article! Take a look here, it will make you feel better that you’re not alone!

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A Sweet Treat for the Sweet Day: Double Chocolate Cookies

valentines useWhile I’m not that crazy about the actual “holiday” of Valentine’s Day, I do use it as an excuse to make something sweet for the Eater of the House (plus myself!). Since Shrove Tuesday is coming up and my annual 40 days of no sugar is almost here, I decided to make something delicious and chocolaty before I can’t!

These little cookies are a true delight, just 100 calories, and since they are small, the size a bit bigger than a quarter, you are getting just a bite-size of deep, rich chocolate flavor. The batter itself isn’t particularly sweet, but the chocolate chip adds just the right amount. And it comes together super easy and most of the ingredients you probably have on hand. Some of the cookies I molded into a ball and some I just spooned on the tray. I have to say, the molded ones look a lot better (see below); the others, while delicious, had something to be desired in terms of their appearance! (As you can imagine!)

For years I have always used King Arthur flour for all baking,  but it wasn’t but a year ago that I switched to all-purpose flour for most of my baking except from bread. KA has a high gluten content, and while all of my goodies turned out alright, an all-purpose flour like Pillsbury or Gold Medal make things a little lighter, I think.

The directions are right, don’t overbake them; I found them similar to the texture of a brownie. And the way I look at it, they say a little bit of chocolate is good for you, so these are perfect to make for your own sweetheart this weekend!

choco cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

The secret to these rich chocolate cookies is not to overbake them. For a gooey, creamy cookie center, pull them out of the oven when they are still a bit glossy.

Makes 26 (serving size: 1 cookie)

6.75 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Place sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat 1 minute. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Add chocolate; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Drop dough by 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pan 2 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Soups, Broth, and Stocks

zoup1It seems like everywhere I turn these days I’m seeing something about bone broths. I never really knew what anyone was talking about until I listened to Tom Ashbrook’s On Point episode last week and realized I’ve been doing this for years, since I boil up my chicken and turkey carcasses after dinner.

Two of my favorite cooks, Ming Tsai and Bridget Lancaster, joined Tom to talk about soups, broths, and stocks. The show was so inspiring that I thawed a package of homemade chicken broth and made chicken noodle soup this past weekend. Mind you, this was the second soup I made in a week. When it’s as cold and snowy as it’s been here in the Northeast, you need something warm and comforting when you come in from shoveling! And this show was the perfect inspiration

You can listen to the story by click here: Get It While It’s Hot: A Show About Soup.

Goodbye 2014! Hello 2015!

newyear4I am one of those people who laps up year-end lists. Give me the best books, best movies (and worst), best TV shows, I love reading them and seeing if any of my favorites made it. So why should I be any different? I love that I can look at my stats on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, but what I find really interesting are the yearly stats. Who knew MVK was so popular in Brazil, Canada, and Italy? But what I found even more interesting, was the five most searched for recipes throughout the year.

2014 Reader Favorites

Dark and Moist Gingerbread

Baked Artichoke Dip

Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans

Floating Island

Mad Men Caesar Salad and Manhattan Cocktail

So I decided to go to the archives and select what I thought were the best recipes of the year, either those I liked creating—or eating!

2014 MVK Favorites

Mediterranean Kebabs

Mocktails

Nicoise Salad

Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

Honey-Glazed Pork Chops + Tomato Salad + Corn Cakes

I obviously like summertime cooking!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Blackeye Peas for Good Luck on Thursday!

I’m not one for superstitions, but I always fix a batch of blackeye peas for New Year’s Day. I created this simple recipe a couple of years ago and it’s been my standby every New Year’s Day. When cooked, blackeye peas swell which symbolizes prosperity, the greens represent money, and because when pigs forage they go forward, the meat symbolizes positive motion!

So here is to good luck and good eating in 2015!

DSCN0064
Good Luck Peas
Just omit the meat for a vegetarian version and it will taste just as good! Spinach, Swiss chard, or kale can be substituted for the collard greens.

2 tsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
½ medium onion, finely diced
3 cups of greens, chopped
1 14 oz. can blackeye peas
1 ¼ cup chopped ham, sausage, or kielbasa (optional), cooked
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until soft.

2. Add the meat, if using, and saute until warm.

3. Add the greens and sauté until wilted.

Happy Thanksgiving!

tday2How has your week been so far? Did you cook over the weekend? Have you cleaned out the fridge so there is room for the turkey? Are your linens pressed? Do you have your time-table ready for the big day or are you one of the lucky ones and eating at someone else’s home?

Despite the fact they are predicting snow for the big day, I am forging ahead with the biggest culinary day of the year and not listening to the forecast! I am a little bit behind the 8 ball this year and next week I’ll tell you why! I made my favorite Astor House Rolls over the weekend, but I still have squash to roast, creamed onions to make (I’m probably the last person on earth who likes these, but I had a craving for them this year), and I still need to make a pie! No rest for the weary cook! But in the meantime, I raise my glass to my ever faithful and supportive readers for a happy holiday and for a meal filled with delicious food!

Happy Thanksgiving!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving Day Culinary Crisis Averted!
endors2I enjoyed listening to a recent “America’s Test Kitchen Radio” podcast, where Christopher Kimball chatted with an expert from Butterball’s Turkey Talkline and some of the questions they have received through the years. So don’t worry if you have questions about your turkey on Thursday, they will be available to answer them for you! Just call 1-800-Butterball! Or a local chef who has her own cooking shop has her own Thanksgiving hotline and will be accepting calls from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday! You can call Chef Contos at 802-318-7328.

Recipe Redux: Astor House Rolls

I first brought you this recipe two years ago around this time and since then they have become an early winter staple in our house. If you aren’t afraid of yeast and want to make rolls for your Thanksgiving meal, these are the ones to make! Warmed with some good butter, they are to die for. I like all rolls, but those made with milk add a bit of richness to them. Light and airy, I have made these several times and have never had any problems with them—a foolproof recipe! You can make them this weekend and pop them in the freezer; take them out Thursday morning and they will be thawed by dinner time!

astoruseAstor House Rolls
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, p. 652

1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
About 6 cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups whole milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy. Put 5 cups of flour in a large bowl (you can use a mixer with a dough hook if you want) and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, salt, sugar, softened butter, and milk and stir, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Then stir and beat the mixture until a ball of dough has formed. Pour the dough and any remaining flour onto a work surface and gradually knead in the remaining 1 cup flour.

2. Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover, and let rise until light and fluffy and almost doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes–you should need very little, if any, extra flour for this step. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.

4. Punch down the dough and divide into 22 pieces. Shape each piece into a tight round (see ** at end), keep the other pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work. Beginning with the first round, flatten each roll, seam side up, to 1/2-inch thick. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the center, lift one edge of the dough, and pull it up and over the butter, forming a turnover-shaped roll, and pinch the ends firmly closed to seal in the butter. Arranged rolls 3 inches apart on nonstick baking sheets (or baking sheets covered with parchment). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

6. Bake until the rolls are puffed, golden, and cooked through, about 16 minutes. Cool on baking racks.

Makes 22 rolls.

Originally published in the New York Times, October 27, 1878: “Useful Hints for Housekeepers.” Recipe signed Lillie.

** To shape rolls, follow the instructions of Nancy Silverton in her book Breads from the La Brea Bakery: “Shape the dough into balls by cupping your hand lightly around the dough and rounding it against the friction of the work surface to form a smooth bun. Begin slowly and increase speed as the ball becomes tighter and smoother. Use as little flour as possible to prevent sticking.”

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving all in one place!
I know I extol the ingenuity of The New York Times probably a little too much, but when it comes to holidays, it is one of my first stops! So if your Thanksgiving meal isn’t completely planned, take a look at their website, where you can find everything from the turkey to the desserts and everything in between. Tips on how to roast a turkey, make a pie crust, how to make gravy, plus tips for a vegetarian meal. You name it, they have you covered!

I’m not completely set on my menu, so I know I’m going to spend a lot of time here this week! You can find this great resource here.

Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti

As someone who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd for several years now, I find one of the hardest things to make for the meal is mashed potatoes. I don’t have a microwave, so if I make them in advance they are difficult to reheat, but then I don’t want to make them at the time I’m head over heels fixing the turkey and gravy either. So when I suggested to the Eater of the House the idea of a different kind of potato dish that I could make in advance and reheat easily, I was greeted with silence. “Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes?” I heard a few minutes later. I got it. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes!

But, if I were making a potato side for the meal, this would be it. I tried it out with a roast chicken supper one Sunday night and it was so delicious. Crispy potatoes and leeks, my favorite, with a hint of smoky meat and fresh sage. I substituted three slices of bacon for the pancetta and it was delicious. It would also make for a tasty weeknight main dish with a side salad. So for those of you looking for a different kind of potato side for your Thanksgiving meal, try this! And you can make it ahead! Cool on a wire rack, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in an ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until it is recrisped. And just leave out the pancetta for the vegetarian version!

rosti
Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

4 1/2 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 2 pounds)
3 ounces diced pancetta (such as Boar’s Head)
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place shredded potato on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; squeeze cheesecloth to extract excess moisture. Place potato in a bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Stir in leek; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add pancetta mixture, flour, sage, salt, pepper, and egg to potato; stir well to combine.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add potato mixture to pan; flatten with a spatula into an even layer. Cook 12 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Place a large plate upside down on top of pan; invert onto plate. Carefully slide potato cake into pan, browned side up; cook 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place potato cake on a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut into 8 wedges.

chefMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: “Chef”
Enough about Thanksgiving! If you are looking for a feel-good movie that is a love story to food, check out “Chef.” It’s just out on DVD. I had been wanting to see this movie all summer when it was in the theater, but there was never a right time. So a lazy November Sunday afternoon it was! A well-known chef quits his comfortable job in a restaurant where his creativity is hindered and decides to open his own food truck where he lets his creativity shine. It’s one of those movies that makes you feel good, which seem to be few and far between these days. It has a happy ending, a bit unrealistic, but I walked away inspired, wanting to get in the kitchen and start cooking! And you’ll also think about making and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Trust me!