October 16, 2017

Stove-top Pimento Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

1 1/2 cup dried elbow macaroni
4 oz jar diced pimentos, drained
8 oz brick extra sharp cheddar, shredded
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

 Prepare noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in the pan. Add the flour and spices. Whisk until it forms a paste, about 1 minute. Pour in the milk. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the cheddar, pimentos and Worcestershire sauce and whisk until thickened 3-5 minutes. Stir in drained noodles. Serve.
My thoughts:
I've never made stove top mac and cheese before! I'm normally a heavy seasoned, baked mac person (crispy, cheesy bits!) but since I am back into the cooking around my husband's work and school schedule time of the year again, I thought I'd try a quicker version.

I love pimento cheese and it really is a shame it is not more popular here in Baltimore. One of my favorite things about the South besides barbecue and meat and threes is the amount of what we call "ladies who lunch" restaurants; places where a salad plate means a scoop of chicken salad, pimento cheese and a scoop of tuna salad. Or if you are in Kentucky, benedictine.  The pimento cheese is always on point at those places. I've made a fair amount of pimento cheese over the years but never pimento mac and cheese before which seems like a major oversight.

I'm so glad I finally made it. There are no chewy bits in this macaroni and cheese but it is very creamy and very, very cheesy! It is also full of flavor thanks to the spices and pimentos. No bland box mac and cheese here! I went old school and served it with ham but anything would be good. Just be forewarned, it does cook up very quickly! We ended up eating way earlier than expected as it went from milk to thick cheese sauce in just minutes. I'm used to having to make it and bake it for nearly an hour in a casserole so having homemade mac and cheese in like 20 minutes was a bit of a foreign concept.

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October 13, 2017

Hangtown Fry-ttata

1 pint shucked oysters, preferably "select" size
1 1/2 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped scallions
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup milk
10 eggs
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil


Preheat oven to 350. Heat 1-inch canola oil in a heavy skillet.

In a small, shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge each oyster in the cornmeal mixture and fry, turning once until golden. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper until fluffy.  Stir in the scallion and bacon. Oil an 8x8-inch baking dish.  Arrange the oysters in a single layer in the bottom of the dish.

Pour the egg mixture into the dish and bake for 40 minutes or until fully set in the middle. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Slice into 9 squares and serve.

My thoughts:
It is prime oyster season here and I've been scoring pints of local oysters for under $10. The Hangtown fry is one of those weird dishes that had to have been invented by an American. Who else would think of adding fried oysters to scrambled eggs? There are a lot of variations and stories about the Hangtown fry but basically, it was an expensive breakfast that originated with minors during the California Gold Rush. Think: oysters were plentiful but not up in the mountains. It is only relatively recently that oysters can be safely purchased year round so think about having to keep them cool and alive in the 1880s and hauling them up a mountain! Only a successful prospector would think of such a meal! Other expensive ingredients would have been bacon and eggs so why not throw them all together in a sort of loose omelette?

 It is a little labor intensive to make a Hangtown fry and it is tricky to make it for a crowd and have it ready for everyone to eat at once so I thought turning it into a frittata was a clever move. It really only took about 20 minutes of prep time--I fried the bacon and the oysters at the same time and since it is a one-step breading process, I just dredged and dropped them in the hot oil one after another. Oysters only take about 5 minutes to fry, even if they are big "select" size oysters. I was worried about the texture but the oysters held up perfectly and the breading was still pretty crisp and provided that "fried" taste that is really needed to make this a Hangtown Fry-ttata vs a generic oyster frittata. It helps to use good bacon too, I like True Story bacon for dishes like this because it is thick and has a good porky, smoky flavor and isn't too salty but any thick cut bacon would work.

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October 11, 2017

Goo Goo Cookies

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup salted dry roasted peanuts
10 soft caramels, cut into 1/4 inch pieces*
3/4 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips, marshmallow, peanuts and caramels. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14 minutes. Slide them out ON the parchment paper on to a wire rack and allow them to cool 2-5 minutes (or until the caramel isn't quite so molten) on the parchment on the wire rack before removing the parchment and allowing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Yield: about 1 1/2-2 dozen cookies

*I used Werther's soft caramels and halved them. (they are super cheap at Aldi BTW)

My thoughts:
One of my favorite candy bars in the Goo Goo Cluster. Unfortunately, it isn't sold here in Baltimore so I have to stock up in airports and on trips further south. (You can order them online but I have had bad luck ordering chocolate outside the absolute dead of winter) For the uninitiated, the basic Goo Goo Cluster is a chocolate-covered mix of peanuts and caramel with a marshmallow cream center.

Since I don't have access to Goo Goo Clusters, I had an idea that makes me either a mad genius or just plain mad. Why not take all of the ingredients that make Goo Goo Clusters so awesome and turn them into a cookie? Why not, indeed. It worked surprisingly well! A few had some caramel ooze but that is to be expected. Any extra caramel was easily broken off the cookies after they cooled and the marshmallow basically melts into the batter and gives it a soft, chewy texture. The cookies were oddly not super duper sweet (thanks to the peanuts and dark chocolate, I think) but they are very satisfying to eat. The cookies really do taste like a Goo Goo Cluster and a chocolate chip cookie had a baby. So if slightly sticky, chewy, caramel-y, chocolate-y, peanut-y desserts are your thing, make these cookies today!

The dough is very chunky and a little sticky so if you have a cookie scoop, this a good excuse to put it to use.

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October 09, 2017

Roasted Oyster Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts with Shiso and Shichimi Togarashi

1 lb Brussels sprouts, quarted
1 onion, sliced into half moons
1 1/2 lb oyster mushrooms, stems removed and mushrooms separated into pieces
1-2 tablespoons shichimi togarashi*
1-2 tablespoons shiso fumi furikake* (rice seasoning)

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange the onions in a single layer, top with mushrooms and potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi and furikake . Bake for 18 minutes.

*I buy shichimi togarashi by the bag on Amazon and we bought this mixed case of furikake but any store with a well-stocked Japanese section should have it.

My thoughts:
Shiso, also known as perilla, has sort of a minty flavor that I really enjoy. The shiso furikake is basically just dried, shredded shiso so I thought it would be interesting to try in on something other than rice (or popcorn, my other favorite use for furikake). I'm glad I took the risk, it added a herby note to the dish and complemented the spices in the shichimi togarashi quite well. I love side dishes like this that are super easy but very tasty and satisfying.

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October 05, 2017

Crab Imperial


for the imperial
16 oz lump blue crab meat
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground mustard (I like Colman's)
2 tablespoons Old Bay
1 egg, beaten
juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2-3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used cheese bread from the bakery)

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, stir together imperial ingredients until all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Spread evenly in a 1 1/4 quart baking dish. Top with a layer of breadcrumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Serve with crackers, bread or just a fork.
My thoughts:
Crab imperial is one of those dishes you don't see on menus too often, even here in crab-loving Baltimore. You see it more often as part of a larger dish (like shrimp stuffed with crab imperial--my fave) but not always by itself, either as a main dish or an appetizer. I don't know why not! If you like crab cakes you will love crab imperial because it is very, very similar but in some ways even better---there is literally no filler of any kind in crab imperial. So if you are a crab cake fanatic who searches for the crab cake with the least amount of bread cubes, crackers or bread crumbs, crab imperial is going to be your new favorite dish.

I personally had never made it at home before but crab season is still going strong so Maryland crab meat has been on sale and I've picked it up a few times. Last time I made crab cakes, which I love but are a little time consuming and hands-on so I thought I'd try something different. This was so easy! You just stir everything together, top with some crumbs for some crunch and there you go! Perfect for a meal or appetizer. I served it with bread slices and crackers but you can also serve it in spoons or individual ramekins. It is so flavorful and impressive. 

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership and I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.
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October 04, 2017

Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)


for the buns:
1/4 oz active dry yeast (1 packet)
5 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons freshly ground green cardamom*
1 egg
pinch salt

for the filling
1/4 cup butter, softened
2-3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

for the topping:
1/3 cup Swedish pearl sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons water

wide muffin liners**


In the bowl of a standmixer or a large bowl, pour in the yeast. Add 1/4 cup of the milk. Stir.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan melt the butter.Whisk in the milk.

Pour the flour,  sugar, and cardamom into the bowl and whisk. Add the melted butter/milk mixture. Using the dough hook attachment, until a cohesive dough forms, about 10 minutes. Cover and allow to sit 30 minutes.

Arrange 24 liners on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 425.

On a clean, floured surface, roll out the dough into 1/8 inch thick,  approximately 12 inches long, 8-inch wide rectangle. Spread with butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll into a tight 12-inch long log. Slice into 24 even slices. Place each slice, spiral side up, in a muffin liner. Cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Beat together the egg and water. Spread over the top of each risen bun. Sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Cool on wire racks.

*Green cardamom is the secret in making authentic tasting Swedish baked goods. It is the whole pod of the cardamom and is very fragrant. I buy mine in Indian grocery stores or online. If unable to locate, use ground regular cardamom.

**I buy mine at Ikea, they are shorter than regular cupcake/muffin liners and about 3 inches wide. They come in a pack with other liners that work well with Swedish goodies like tiny ones to make Knäck (Swedish Toffee). If you can't find liners, place the buns 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Ikea often has Swedish pearl sugar for sale as well.

My thoughts:
Over the years we've gone to a quite a few Swedish celebrations. A lot if you consider that neither of us is Swedish! We've been to St Lucia and Midsummer celebrations at the Swedish museum in Philadelphia and several Swedish bazaars during the winter months around Washington DC.

What can I say? We like Swedish food! And  Swedes love baked goods. Go to any event, any time of the year and you will find kanelbullar, the Swedish version of cinnamon rolls. They are insanely popular in Sweden and are often found at fika, the coffee break they take every day. So it is only natural they have a day devoted to the cinnamon rolls, Kanelbullar Dag! Started in 1999, October 4th is celebrated by eating (and making) kanelbullar. The purpose is to celebrate the bun driving sales of dairy, yeast, and sugar. October was chosen because it was far from many of the other Swedish food holidays which celebrate everything from cheesecake , kräftskiva (the crayfish party celebrating the end of summer), to Kåldolmens dag (stuffed cabbage day)   Vårfrudagen (celebrating Swedish waffles). Not to mention all of the very specific traditional foods they have for Christmas (Janssons FrestelseJulköttbullar) , Shrove Tuesday, Midsummer (dill new potatoes), St Lucia and other major and minor holidays and the tradition of having pea soup on Thursdays.

Kanelbullar is a great first Swedish baked good because it is really easy. It takes a while because of the rise time but it is an easy dough to work with and comes together quite quickly. Unlike American-style cinnamon rolls, kanelbullar are made of cardamom flavored dough and topped with pearl sugar vs being drizzled in sticky icing. The result is a less sweet, less messy, slightly more cookie-like cinnamon bun that is great with coffee or tea. Plus they are pretty and impressive looking!

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October 02, 2017

Classic Red Beans and Rice

16 oz dried small red beans*
4 cups chicken or ham stock
3 stalks celery (with leaves), diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cubanelle peppers, diced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4 inch coins then halved

to serve:
a few cups of cooked, white rice
chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

In a large pot with a lid, soak the beans overnight. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Fill with water and bring to a boil for at least 10 minutes**.

Drain the beans and add them to a 4 quart slow cooker. Add the stock, celery, onion, garlic, peppers, thyme and bay leaf. Stir. Cook on low 8-10 hours.

About 30-45 minutes before you would like to eat,  use a potato masher to mash some of the beans in in the slow cook. Stir.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage on both sides in a nonstick skillet. Stir into the beans. Continue to cook the remaining 30-45 minutes. Stir before serving over hot rice.

*You can use kidney beans but I find that smaller red beans (aka frijoles rojos pequeños) yields a creamier final product.

**Red beans must be cooked before serving in order to avoid kidney bean poisoning. Do not skip the boiling step.

My thoughts:
I had inexplicable craving for red beans and rice the other day. I mean, I always enjoy it when I have it but beans and rice isn't normally something I crave. I put it out of my head but then I saw some Texas-made andouille sausage on sale so it seemed destined that I make it.

This week I was laid up with an awful cold but I was still able to pull it together long enough to chop some vegetables in the morning and pop everything in the slow cooker. Then it cooked forever, I browned some sausage and there it was: creamy, comforting red beans and rice. I was happy without how well it turned out: well seasoned but not crazy spicy and the beans were super creamy the way I like them.

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