Saturday, 26 May 2012

Swedish Meatballs

Once upon a time, when I was a much younger woman, I worked for a man by the name of Dave.

Every year, our office would host a Christmas Luncheon, and everyone brought in their special dishes. 

Mine were Caramel Squares (which were promptly devoured), Dave's were Swedish Meatballs.

I would be lying to you if I told you that I waited ALL.  YEAR.  LONG.  for these crazy meatballs.  And I would try and sneak out at least seconds - but generally they were gone.

So I begged of Dave the recipe, and he brought it in for me.

It was a happy day.

That year for Christmas, my brother and his wife got me a Slow Cooker (crockpot, what-have-you).

I couldn't wait to give the all-famous Swedish Meatballs a try.

And so, fairly inexperienced in the kitchen, I set out one day to make my grand attempt.

And an attempt was all it would be.

For starters - the recipe says to broil the meatballs quickly until browned.  I had no idea what that meant.  So when they looked sort of brown, I pulled them out.

Then the gravy....  Ugh.  I do recall reading to add the water and consomme GRADUALLY, whisk until no lumps were left then bring to a boil and thicken.  But I seem to think that I dumped the water and consomme into the pot with a hope and a prayer.

It separated.

But I figured - it'll come together in the slow cooker FOR. SURE. 

*sigh* I was so young then.

So everyone went into the pool and left on low for 8 hours.

When I pulled the lid off at the end, all that I had to show for things was a gloopy, congealed mess.  It kind of looked like spoiled canned cat food. 

Needless to say, I was incredibly disappointed.  And the bowl of my slow cooker still bears the stains of the mess.  And I was scared of my slow cooker. 

That's weird right?  Is anyone else besides me scared of an appliance?  Maybe those electric knife thingys.

A number of years later, I e-mailed the good people at Company's Coming and told them my disaster story and asked for some helpful hints that would make the next go-round more of a success.

And they REPLIED!

How awesome are they?

The lady who e-mailed me suggested baking the meatballs in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes and reducing the time in the slow cooker, as Company's Coming is no longer suggesting putting raw or undercooked beef into a slow cooker.

I have held onto that e-mail since November of 2009.

And when it occurred to me to make another attempt, I pulled it out.

Here's how it went.

First, mix together the milk, breadcrumbs (I made my own by toasting cut up slices of bread at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes), onion, fork-beaten eggs, allspice, salt, and pepper.

I'm sorry about this picture - there's really no way to NOT make that look like a horrible pukey mess
Then mix in the pork and beef (I used elk here).

Shape into balls.  I used a cookie scoop and it worked quite brilliantly.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes.  I baked them for 15 minutes and they were pretty well all the way cooked through.

I waited until they stopped sizzling and then threw them in the bowl of the slow cooker.

While the meatballs were baking, I used that time to make the gravy.

Mix the salt and flour into a saucepan and heat it up.  GRADUALLY, add the water and consomme, whisking so there's no lumps and cook until it's thickened.

Let's just say....  This SO did not happen last time.

After the meatballs were all in the bowl of the slow cooker, pour the gravy on top, set the slow cooker to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours.

On this particular day, I woke up with a nasty headache and had to wait for some time for it to subside.  So I didn't even START putting these together until noon.  By the time they were finished it was almost 8:30 and I was STARVING.

I guess the only question that remains is - how were they?

I tried desperately to remember what Dave's tasted like.  But it's been - oh, 4 years or more since I've had them!  I DO think that Dave's sauce was a little more creamy - like, maybe he used milk instead of water?  And there was a lot more of it.

I guess that I would say that the sauce would definitely have to be doubled.  The meatballs were juicy and tender and a little delicate, when I was scooping them out onto my plate a few of them fell apart, so they might need one or two minutes more in the oven. 

The meal itself was delicious and I enjoyed every last bite!

Now I just have to figure out how to make the meatballs keep their bally shape.....  This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

PS - I'm not posting the recipe here - because I'm not sure about the "rules", especially when it comes to Company's Coming.  You can find the recipe in their Slow Cooker Recipes book.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Cupcakes A to Z: Bailey's Cupcakes

I wish I could tell you that my absence has been because some tall, dark, handsome man swept me away in a whirlwind of romance and that I've been getting fanned by palm leaves and being fed peeled grapes by said handsome man and basically living in a crazy-mad fairytale.....

The truth is that my brain literally stopped functioning.  Well - except for the living, and breathing, and moving, and stuff. 

As someone who rarely lacks something to say, I had such huge writer's block (at least I like to think of that way!) that everything I typed into this little box ended up being "blah, blah, blah, yakkity, yak, yak.  Boring, boring, yawn."  I know it had been evident in some of my previous posts.

Truth be told - I thought it best to just put the whole thing aside and wait until I felt more like myself.

And it's NOW.

I know I already posted about Bailey's Cupcakes, but I really wanted to find a "from scratch" variety - as you know about my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to boxed mixes.

I also wanted to find both a vanilla and a chocolate variety - for those who prefer either/or.

On a windy May afternoon, I dragged myself away from Season 3 of Lost (which PS was REALLY. HARD. to do) and dug in.

Let's start with the chocolate one.

First, mix some cocoa powder with boiling water and stir until there are no lumps left and the cocoa powder is completely dissolved.  Then let it cool.

Then add the Bailey's.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Then add an egg.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add the cocoa mixture, then the remaining flour.

Then portion and bake.

Now for the vanilla version.

You'll need to separate the eggs. (Or egg, as the case is here - I halved the recipe)

Cream the butter and sugar.

Add the egg yolk.

Then add the vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Then add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the Bailey's.  The recipe says to add a splash of milk if it seems dry - but I didn't need to do that.

Remember how you separated that egg?  Well, now beat that white until stiff peaks form.

Then gently fold it into the batter.

Then portion and bake.  The recipe says 22 to 25 minutes, but I can't remember the exact timing on that.

I have to say that I was not terribly impressed with the chocolate version.  It seemed off somehow - like maybe it needed more sugar?  The texture was lovely, but I wasn't terribly excited by the taste.

The VANILLA version however.  Yum, yum, yum.  Moist and decadent with a strong Bailey's taste.  So, so good.

YUM!  That's a keeper for SURE.

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mac & Cheese Monday: Crab & Brie Mac & Cheese

When we were visiting my Grandmother over the Easter holiday, my Mom and I were snooping around in Wal-Mart and while waiting in the check-out line, I spotted a copy of Better Homes and Gardens "135 Best-Loved Reader Recipes from 1930 to Today".

I actually LEFT the store without it.  And then insisted that I needed to go back and pick it up.

Because I couldn't wait to snoop through it.

I will admit that I had hoped for more recipes from earlier decades - as there weren't that many from before 2000.

While I was somewhat disappointed, there are more than a few recipes that I really want to try.

Before our trip to Manitoba, I had asked my Mom what she would like for dinner when she brought me home...

She simply said, "Pizza".

Then I showed her THIS recipe. 

She changed her mind.

The recipe calls for medium shell macaroni, but I just used the elbows.  It's what I had.  Though I suppose if you were serving this to grown-ups (we have totally clarified that I do not fall into this category), you could use the shells to impress them.

The prep time states 40 minutes, but I know for sure I spent much longer than that prepping.  Maybe I'm just slow. 

Start out by cooking up the macaroni according to the package directions.

The next thing you should do is start cooking the butter and onions.  The recipe states to cook the onion over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes or until tender and golden.  I should have done this while I was cutting the rind of the brie.  Because it took FOR.EV.ER.

So start there.  While the onions are cooking, you'll basically have until you're 95 years old to do other stuff.  If you are currently over 31, maybe try a different recipe.  (Kidding!)

Take the brie and start cutting the rind off.  I took off as much as I could, but I wasn't going for perfection.  Plus, it was nearly impossible to get all the rind off without wasting a whole bunch of cheese.

Maybe if you can find it - use RINDLESS brie.  Yeah.  Way less hassles.

And give the now rindless brie a rough chop.

And try not to snack on it.  It will just create more work for you.

More work = badness.

Then, take a firm-texture bread, tear it into pieces and throw it into the food processor to make bread crumbs.

What the heck is a firm-texture bread ANYWAY?  I totally guessed and used a french loaf.  I think it worked pretty well. 

But why not just SAY "French Loaf"?  I mean, what if you don't know what that means?  Like me?  It kind of makes me stressed out.

Anyway, this is what it should look like.

Okay, now you've been cooking your onions on medium-low heat for 100 years.  Up the heat to medium and add in the flour, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.  Then add in the milk and stir until thickened and bubbly.  Lower heat to medium-low and gradually add in the brie, stirring until melted.

Then, in a greased casserole dish, add the cheese mixture to the cooked macaroni and gently fold in the crab meat.

Top with the bread crumbs and extra brie.

And bake in a 350 degree F oven, for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is heated through and the crumbs are golden.

I made an oops.  I put the brie on top before I started cooking it.  But the recipe clearly says to put the brie on the top during the last 5 minutes of baking.

Before I go on, I need you to meet someone....

That's my Mom.  She is also known as Mommy.  And that's her little dog Zoe.  Zoe also goes by the names of Bad Dog, Little Dog, Big Dog, or Oh You're The CUTEST IN THE WORLD!!!!.

PS - it's nearly a miracle that Zoe doesn't look completely insane in this picture.  She's not terribly photogenic (she gets the crazy reflected light in her eyeballs ALL THE TIME) and she's horribly camera shy. 

Mom was totally patient while she waited 230 years for dinner.  And she didn't even petrify.  That was cool.

Oh, this was soo good.  Soooo goooooood.  Although I still think it could have used more crab meat.  And I was totally expecting it to be REALLY rich.  Would you believe me if I told you that it wasn't?    Cause it's true.

I would definitely have this again!

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.