Crazy Delicious: Monkey Bread!

Yes, my friends, this is monkey bread with a little "too much" sugar on that one spot.

Much to my shock, everyone does not know what monkey bread is. I'm not sure how this escaped people, but then again as one of those people is my father this brings up a good question - when did I first try this completely delicious sweet treat? Answer? Unknown! I'd insist I ate it as a kid except for the fact that my father seemed unaware to the existence of said treat and, well, I imagine he'd probably know something that I grew up eating.

Maybe Girl Scouts?

Side thought: I should remake a bunch of GS recipes. Not cookies, not yet anyway, but just the things I remember from camp and what not. As someone who ran units for long summers at a time, I think I can bring the vibe back and do it delicious and not-actually-in-that-hell-hole style. (sigh, sometimes I miss that hell hole...)

Well. Where it came from is not the point and the sheer, utter deliciousness is.

It is a pull apart bread, typically involving cinnamon and sugar and butter and biscuit/bread dough. And a lot of butter. I should tell you, this is NOT a low-cal snack. This is a "fuck bathing suit season, I'm hot enough!" sort of snack. And oh god, it's so good, you won't even care that you just consumed an ungodly amount of calories in one go.

Seriously. It'll be just fine.

Now, it is more than worth mentioning that there at multiple ways to do this. Sweet, savory, whichever. The Bristol does a dill and sea salt monkey bread that absolutely killed me. Oh, my lord, do I ever daydream about that dish. So much so, that I will point you to this video from The Bristol's website called Monkey Bread 101. Also, if you are in Chicago and have the means, I suggest you try out The Bristol.

I seriously consider going just for a cocktail and this bread. It would be worth it.

But back to MY culinary success, instead of theirs. It was my roommate Ali's birthday and we often speak of monkey bread in sweet, dreamy tones, so I knew exactly what to make. And make it I did!

To blow someone's mind, you will need...

- two tubes of (non flaky!) biscuits (or, you know, make your own little dough bits. use left overs. be better.)
- one and a half sticks of butter
- two teaspoons vanilla (or more, to taste. you like really vanillay things? flavor that shit UP yo)
- a few tablespoons sugar
- a few tablespoons cinnamon
- a dash nutmeg
- a dash clove (powdered, clearly)
-  one third cup brown sugar

How you will blow their mind....

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Get a bundt pan or a cake pan or a loaf pan or even a muffin tin! Maybe grease it just a tad, but don't worry. The butter will take care of this.

Mix the cinnamon, white sugar, nutmeg, and clove together.

Pop open the biscuits and pull into their individual biscuits. Cut each one into four pieces and shake or roll or whatever-you-like to coat completely, then chuck in the pan you are using.

Melt down the butter and add vanilla and brown sugar, stir until mixed, then pour over delicious biscuits. Put this in the oven for, oh, about a half hour. The bottom will be browned and delicious.

Let cool a bit, turn over onto a plate, and then watch an army of people consume all the food you just made in waaaaaaay too little time to be reasonable. Fight off others so any straggling roommates may have at least a single bite. Feel damn good about yourself. Be pleased that you have more biscuits in the fridge and can do this agian.

Mmmm. Monkey bread. Delicious.

Too much brown sugar/butter/mess-sauce!
Well. Not for a birthday girl.

I ended up with a half-standard size bundt pan worth and then a smaller, single-serving sort of pans worth.

This can be easily adapted, especially once you get the hang of how you like it, to fit any size anything. Also, I'm putting "kids" on here, if only because they would love to pull it apart and eat it. But also, it's pretty okay to do with them...says the ex-Montessori teacher, who gave her kids sharp things.

Whatever, just eat this. Nom!


Valentine's Day of the Tiger

Yeah, I gave someone those. 
Not the really awful looking ones, clearly. 
Delicious though. Very light. Sugar! Nom. 

Valentine's Day was also Lunar New Year this year, which played right into my hot little hands because this year I had an idea to make something cool and holiday appropriate, 'cause I'm sweet like that. Plus, I'd given fortune cookies a go ages and ages ago and learned some valuable lessons in my failure.

I learned that the dough makes a fantastic apple pie crust.

I learned also that I hated life.

But I've grown! I've learned! I've made tuilles! I've discovered patience I didn't know I had!

Well, now I've learned new lessons. Such as it is damn fucking hard to make these buggers. But filled with fortunes like "Give Beth a present!", "You will eat a delicious cookie.", and other things for my friends and then sweeter ones, cleverly, rolled up instead of folded...

Yes, much better.

I think next time I'd involve star anise and a few other things, but we'll see. This drove me insane. Ha ha.

Fortune Cookies of Stress (but delicious stress),from The District Domestic's recipe.

- three egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 tsp vanilla (I used more. god, I love vanilla.)
- one cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients together, chuck dough in the fridge for around fifteen (I did longer) minutes, then put a spoon of batter on a well-greased cookie sheet. Spread it around thin, very thin, until the diameter is three inches. Cook for five minutes (browned edges).

Now, be quick here, and put your fortune in the cookie before you either a) roll it up like I did or b) fold it like a fortune cookie. Use a muffin pan to help shape these babies while they cool.

And best of luck to you, strangers, as you attempt this.

If you don't need it, please god tell me the secret!

If you do, then you, like me, will likely just really enjoy the fun of this.

There is totally a "me" in Meez : A Daring Cooks Challenge Discovery

Let the record show that I did, in fact, do the Daring Cooks challenge on time. But work, Valentine's Day, fortune cookies, and so much more conspired to make sure I couldn't post. End record.

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

I was excited for a few reasons about this challenge. One, I'd never made any of the things on the list. Two, I love me some Middle Eastern food. Three, oh man was I ever broke and chick peas are so cheap! 

The challenge demanded hummus and pita to be made, but the rest was up to us. I ended up doing a garlicky hummus, a standard (homemade!) pita (not all of them puffed, but oh man! the excitement! and it was an oven/timing issue, I suspect), falafel, and vaugely Middle-Eastern chicken tenders. Oh. And a tahini-yoghurt sauce. 

Yeah, I'm a crazy person. 

Look! They puffed!
A deliciously stuffed crazy person. 

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook
2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Now, I halved this recipe, but only because it worked for me. I got about six or seven pitas out of it - only a couple were very big (another reason the puffing failed, perhaps? mis-sizing?). The rest were small, snacky sized.

I think I shrieked a little when the puffing began. So. Exciting.

It looks more appealing in person.
But it is so delicious. 

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.
1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

I had canned chick peas and I used the whole can (15oz). Ah, well, such is the way. I sprout my own sprouts but I am totally fine with canned chick peas and this made the taste killer for me. I also lost my lemons. I used oranges! It was delicious. Extra garlic, pepper, and a little olive oil. I also upped the tahini by about two tablespoons. I really, really, reeeeeally like tahini.


Falafels - Recipe from Joan Nathan and Epicurious.com

Prep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight OR use well canned drained chickpeas (7 ounces/100 grams)
1/2 large onion (roughly chopped, about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried parsley (.2 ounces/5 grams)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried cilantro (.2 ounces/5 grams)
1 teaspoon table salt (.1 ounce/5 grams)
1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne) (.1 ounce/2 grams)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin (.1 ounce/2 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder (.13 ounces/4 grams)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 ounce/24 grams) (you may need a bit extra)
tasteless oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, soybean, etc.), you will need enough so that the oil is three inches deep in whatever pan you are using for frying
1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, and then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. If you don’t have a food processor, then feel free to mash this up as smooth as possible by hand.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees (190C) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
6. Drain on paper towels.

Everyone wanted the hummus and I sort of guarded my chicken tenders  (slightly over-floury, cumin was a nice addition, and I crisped it better - so I will just point you to my other chicken tender recipe as this is essentially that. not at lock it down status yet, sadly.) because I work long shifts where I like to have a meal. Everything was pretty delicious though. I might have been the only person concerned about the chicken.

I made a sammich out of my pita - hummus, chicken, some tomato, some peppers, tahini - and chowed down. So very, very happy!

So very very delicious!

Also, this was much easier than I expected. I didn't have all the time to do what I wanted (an Aladdin veiwing party, duh, with loads of food) but still. So happy.


Stress and Limited Options = Delicious Dinner Time!

Not an awesome picture, but totally awesome food. 
Does anyone know where one can get a dirt cheap, not sucky camera?
Sigh. Nom. Nom. 
Oops. Got distracted by delicious food. 

It's probably because I am fantastically creative and clever, but I'd like to point out that my brain has been on the verge of exploding lately and that today - while a good day - involved nearly no sleep, insane amounts of coffee, and, around the time I was making dinner, a headache that was not helped even by Torchwood. 

Whilst I was staring into the abyss known as my post-rent, pre-payday fridge, debating on what to make and if I really wanted anything anyway and just how many poached eggs can one eat before, in fact, becoming an egg themselves...I decided to go a dinner-route that occasionally works wonderfully. I just start chopping things and figure eventually, inspiration will strike. Does it alway work? Oh, god no. 

This time, though, it did. 

I hadn't really gotten into the idea even when I began slicing the chicken, but then a bag of whole wheat flour caught my eye and I realized I had some chopped potato already boiling and...well...I went with it. The boys were stealing bits from the get go and I've been mightily praised and even though I don't have a decent camera at the moment, I camera-phoned it to share. 

This is the first on what I hope to be several attempts at finding my perfect chicken tender ability. I'm really looking forward to locking this recipe down.

I'm giving the recipe as I made it, which means that it isn't enough. Ha. I was fine, I actually feel too full, but then again - I did have some bread and such and am just not feeling at my peak today. 

Ultra Delicious Chicken Tenders 

- one large chicken breast, cut into thin strips or bits, however you prefer. Fat and gross bits removed.
- a small cup of milk
- a few tablespoons whole wheat flour
- pepper, Lawry's Seasoning Salt (and when did that get in the kitchen? I couldn't find my actual salt at first.), a teaspoon or two of Gateway to the North Seasoning or, alternatively, a lemony-garlicky seasoning (see - Trinidad Lemon-Garlic Seasoning) Use any spice you like! I'd suggest things with a touch of spice, but then again, I really peppered mine up to make up for the slight hit of sweetness from the maple flavor of Gateway to the North.
- oil, tablespoonish? Not loads.

I soaked the chicken in the milk and then dredged it through my coating of flour and seasoning. After getting a nice amount of flour on, I chucked them in batches into a frying pan I'd heated up some oil in.

Cook on both side, until cooked through, and then scowl at the people trying to eat your food before you can. I had this alongside a mushroom-and-onion-filled mashed potato, but a salad would be killer or fries or anything. It's quite delicious, cooks in a flash, and thrills everyone. I find that pan frying it gets a nice bit of snap to it but also is better than deep fried. 

Not that I don't love me some fried.

I'm excited to try other ways to do this - oven bake! Different crusts! Oh, the dreams I have!