Friday, January 13, 2012

Update from a reader & a couple of new questions.

I wanted to let you all know that the loaf pan worked for the Monkey Bread recipe.  Also the cooking at 325 F for 35 minutes turned out to be a time that worked for her pan. So, if you don't have a bunt pan & want to try it out using a loaf pan this might be an option for you.  Just be aware that different pans may require a slightly different bake time.  She used the Pillsbury brand instead of Rhodes, so that's another option.

She also wanted to know some additional suggestions for the Vanilla Sugar recipe besides using it on berries.  Essentially, you can use vanilla sugar in the place of regular white sugar in any recipes you want a touch of vanilla flavor added to.  You can also use it in coffee, tea, or other drinks you use sugar to sweeten.  You can use a coarser baking sugar when making the vanilla sugar and then use it to top muffins or cookies.  You can also use a glass container to hold your sugar in; basically you want a container that won't let extra air into it.  You want to keep all of the vanilla goodness inside.

Finally, I wanted to share that I made a batch of meatballs last night but I didn't make them into soup.  In fact, I didn't even add any seasonings except for salt & pepper.  I did use the rest of the ingredients pretty much like what I did for the soup, though.  I started to brown them up, got lazy & then threw them into a 350 degree oven to finish cooking.  You could bake them in the oven the whole time if you don't want to brown them on the stove.  The caramelized/browned parts taste the best, but sometimes we all need an easy meal.  Make your meatballs, put them on a baking sheet, and then put that into a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Go ahead & cut one in half to see if they are done.  The time will vary depending on the size of your meatballs.  The reason I used a 350 degree oven to finish mine the other night was because I was getting ready to bake some muffins and I didn't want to change the oven temperature.  (The muffin recipe is on the Cat's Muse facebook page for those who want it - Gingerbread Pear with dark chocolate, they were yummy).

What did I do with my meatballs the other night?  I made meatball sandwiches.  I took hamburger buns, put a piece of Provolone cheese on one half & then toasted them in the toaster oven.  I topped them with the meatballs & some Roasted Marinara Sauce I had in the fridge (I did warm it up first before putting it on the sandwiches).  Any tomato sauce you like will work.  The kids didn't want sauce & one didn't want bread, so it was an easy meal for our family.  I served it with chips, which we don't have very often, sauteed rainbow chard, and some fresh blueberries.  The muffins were dessert.

Another option that the meatballs can be used for is the traditional spaghetti & meatballs.

Hope this answers most of the questions for now!  Keep them coming.  I think that the questions & answers help everyone.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vanilla Sugar

 First of all, I would like to apologize for how long it's taken me to post this.  I took pics shortly after the new year and well, life has happened.  I love the blogging, but my real life comes first.

So, let's talk vanilla sugar.  Here is a batch I made about a month ago.  We get a bi-weekly organic produce delivery & they have a grocery area you can order items from .  So, I ordered 2 vanilla beans one week since they had them for a decent price.

I put 4 cups of sugar into one of my taller ziploc plastic containers, dropped in my two vanilla beans, put the lid on, and then forgot about it for a couple of weeks.   Here's what the vanilla beans looked like in the container:

Here's what the vanilla bean looked like when I went to pull one out when I went to make some gelato (recipe will be coming soon).  I did leave the other bean in the sugar so I'll know where to find it when I need to use it:

So, this is the vanilla sugar I used on the strawberries when we had our Italian Wedding Soup  a couple of weeks ago.

I also wanted to talk about another way you can make your vanilla sugar.  You can go ahead and harvest the seeds from the middle of the vanilla bean using a knife or other scraper and use them in a recipe or what you have planned for them.  Before you throw away the pod you can go to step one and insert the split pot into some sugar to make the vanilla sugar that way.  Set aside the container for at least a couple of weeks.

When I make custard, I usually soften up the entire pod in the warm cream/milk before I put in the sugar/egg part.  I take out the vanilla seeds and then put it into the custard and then discard the pod.  By making my vanilla sugar first, I've re-used my pod a couple of ways before harvesting the seeds for what I want to use them in.  You can't make vanilla sugar with a pod that's been soaked in milk/cream first. 

Any questions?