Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jazzed up Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Herb Butter

As a kid, I loved spicy, super-garlicy sausages.  So did all of my family.  Then, I married a guy who did not really care for sausages. Sometimes I crave for it but all the beef sausages I find are stuffed in natural hog casing.  So from time to time I'd make my own beef sausages, stuff them in sheep casing (!!!) or I just wrap them in plastic then freeze them to keep their shape when cooking. They never were quite as good as the ones I had as a child. My son never liked beef sausages specially my homemade version.

One day, FoodBuzz Tastemakers Program sent me a Party Planner Gift Box to try out.  It was a Home for the Holiday Gift Box from Hickory Farms.  It had beef summer sausages, cheeses, honey pineapple mustard and cracked wheat crackers.  Hickory Farms has been making gourmet beef sausages and cheeses since 1951 and this time of the year they offer gift boxes at very reasonable prices.  Right now they are 50% off. 
My failed experiments in making beef sausages must have given these sausages a bad rap with my son.  He did not even want to try them!
Last night, he had friends over and they wanted baked potatoes but I did not have sour cream, green onions and cheese.  Instead of heading to the store, I made a garlic herb butter and hasselback potatoes with slices of beef sausage in between.  Guess what?  It was a big hit with the boys!  Better than baked potatoes is what I heard. Even my son said the beef sausage was crazy delicious! 

Jazzed up Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Herb Butter

2 lbs baking potatoes
2 sticks of salted butter, softened at room temperature
3-4 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced 
lots of finely minced parsley
3 mm round slices of Hickory Farms beef sausage, cut in half

To prepare the garlic herb butter, mix softened salted butter, fresh minced garlic and parsely in a small bowl. Stir well until garlic and parsely is well distributed.  Take plastic wrap and shape the garlic herb butter into a log.  Place in the freezer to solidify. If you are on a low salt diet, go ahead and use unsalted butter.

Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush and rinse well to remove any adhering soil particles.  Do not peel the potatoes. Boil the potatoes and when they are almost completely cooked, drain the water and lay them on their flat side.  Start from one end of the potato, cut across almost all the way through, at 2-3 mm intervals. The potatoes should now look like an open accordion.

Insert slices of garlic herb butter and/ or half discs of beef sausage into the cuts. Place potatoes on a baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated oven at 400 F until the potatoes are golden brown and crispy outside.  The inside will be soft and buttery.  When serving up, top with more garlic herb butter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Quinoa Corn Salad

Have you heard of red quinoa? My friend Janet introduced me to this seed crop from the Andes where ancient Incas revered it and referred to quinoa as the "Mother of all Grains".  It is a high protein, high fiber "grain" similar to oats in that it has all 20 essential amino acids nutritionally important for humans.  Best of all, it's easily digestible and gluten-free so it's a boon to people with difficulties digesting gluten.

We found red quinoa on sale for less than $3 a pound at a bulk organic food outlet. It was a bargain considering a pack of eight 16 oz pouches can cost about $40.  If you soak it for a few minutes before boiling, it cooks faster and swells up and 1 cup of uncooked quinoa is enough for two people.  I really like its mild nutty flavor that goes well with corn and cilantro and a light vinegar dressing.  Here is a yummy, nutritious and easy side dish that can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature. 

Red Quinoa Corn Salad
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup drained, sweet corn kernels (add more if you wish)
finely chopped cilantro
about 1 T seasoned rice vinegar* (you can adjust the acidity to taste)

Soak red quinoa  for about 10 minutes in 2 cups water.  Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it in running water. This step removes saponins (a mild laxative) and makes it even more digestible.  Pre-rinsed quinoa is available too if you prefer to skip this step.  Cook quinoa in a rice cooker with 2 cups water or cook covered in a pot at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes till nearly all the water is absorbed and the cooked germ looks like a tiny curl separating from the red seed coat and the cooked "grain".  Fluff up the quinoa with a fork and place in a bowl. Add drained sweet corn kernels, cilantro and seasoned rice vinegar. Serve and enjoy!

*One time, we tried balsamic vinegar but it tended to overpower the flavors.

This post is part of this weeks Simple Lives Thursday.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's in my sling backpack? Jackfruit Custard Bonbons!

If I asked you to name one thing you can't do without when you step out of the house, what would it be?   For me, it's my bag.   With never-ending deadlines and a gazillion things I have to do at work and home, I rely on sling_backpacks to make sure I don't forget stuff.  They're handy specially at parties or picnics. Along with keys, purse, etc, I often pack cookies or other treats (for emergencies..LOL) in my bag . What's in it right now? Jackfruit Custard Bonbons for a party!

Custard bonbons are simple to prepare.  What makes these special is the addition of jackfruit. Jackfruit is a tropical fruit found in South-East Asia. The edible part of ripe jackfruit is brilliant yellow-orange in color and sugary sweet.  It can be eaten raw or in desserts.  It's unique aroma is sweet and inviting.  A little fruit goes a long way.
I learned this family recipe for Jackfruit Custard Bonbons when my in-laws stayed with us for more than a  month.  These festive bonbons are absolutely delicious so I'm sharing the recipe with you. They were my hubby's favorite treat as a child and now my son's too!

Jackfruit Custard Bonbons

1 can condensed milk
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoon flour
1/2 tablespoon of melted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped jackfruit or 1 tsp jackfruit extract

In a bowl, combine egg yolks, flour and condensed milk.  Pour mixture into a saucepan and cook the custard slowly over medium-low flame.  Keep stirring to ensure that the custard cooks evenly without scorching the milk.  It will take a while for custard to thicken.   Blend in the jack fruit pieces when the custard attains the consistency of dulce de leche.  Cook 2 minutes more while stirring.  Transfer custard to a bowl and let it cool for 10 minutes. Shape into tiny balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature. You'll love these!