Jul 26, 2015

French Dip Sandwich au Jus made in the Slow Cooker

French Dip Sandwich au Jus made in the Slow Cooker

This French dip sandwich has got to be one of the best dishes I've ever tried in the slow cooker. It's really good and incredibly easy.

The beef is cooked for about 6 to 7 hours on low, then sliced and placed back into the slow cooker and kept warm. I think this step of keeping the sliced beef warm in the juices is key, as it really infuses the beef with the flavors of the au jus. I left mine in the slow cooker for about an hour, and was amazed with the flavor. The beef also is excellent warmed up the next day. It's ridiculously good.

French Dip Sandwich au Jus made in the Slow Cooker

French dip sandwiches originated in Los Angeles, and there is evidently a debate as to who invented them, Philippe's The Original, or Cole's Pacific and Electric Buffet. I think most Angelenos, myself included, think of the better known Philippe's. I remember my grandmother taking me there for lunch when we went shopping in downtown Los Angeles, and later my dad taking me there to lunch when visiting me in college (as well as Julie's Trojan Barrel, which is now closed). This restaurant, along with The Original Pantry, are wonderful places to visit for a sense of old working class Los Angeles.

I can't give myself any credit for the deliciousness of this slow cooker version of the French dip. I found it on the blog The Spiffy Cookie, my Secret Recipe Club assignment. Secret Recipe Club? Find out more about it here. It's a fun group of great food bloggers.

The Spiffy Cookie is a blog by Erin, who has her Ph.D in microbiology. Yup. She's really smart! Check out her About page, and you'll find out that she is pretty awesome. You must also check out her post, Steph's Virtual Bridal Shower, which includes Stuffed Flank Steak with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Basil; Spinach Potato Cakes; and Amaretto Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Bars. I plan to make them all.

French Dip Sandwich au Jus made in the Slow Cooker

I loved the sweet slow simmered onions in this recipe, as well as the au Jus, in which I liberally dipped my sandwich. I also baked my own baguettes. Because.

Get a recipe for my baguettes here

Baguettes for French Dip Sandwiches

One of the ingredients in the braise is Creole Mustard. I was able to find it in a small gourmet restaurant supply store. If you can't find it, spicy brown mustard will work just fine. 

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwich with Au Jus Recipe

Adapted from The Spiffy Cookie, adapted from The Brewer and the Baker

Ingredients


1 medium yellow onion
3/4 C beef stock/broth
1/4 C reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 C water
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T Creole or spicy brown mustard
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 pound chuck roast
Salt and pepper
6 to 8 sandwich rolls, or three demi baguettes, sliced into three rolls each
6-8 slices aged Swiss cheese

Instructions

  1. Slice the onion into 1/4 inch thick round slices. Do not separate. Place the slices on the bottom of a slow cooker.
  2. Add the broth, soy sauce, water, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and garlic to the cooker.
  3. Salt and pepper the roast on all sides and lay it on top of the onions. 
  4. Cook the meat on low for 6 to 7 hours. 
  5. Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let sit for about 15 minutes while you prepare the au jus. 
  6. Remove the onions from the pot and place them in a small bowl. 
  7. Strain the liquid into a fat separating measuring cup and let the fat rise to the top. Alternatively, skim the fat off of the top. 
  8. Thinly slice the roast and return it to the slow cooker and switch it to "warm." Add the onions and the liquid. Let sit for about an hour. 
  9. To make the sandwiches, slice the rolls/baguettes in half, lengthwise, and place them on a baking sheet. Toast under a broiler, keeping a close eye, about 1 minute. 
  10. Remove the pan from the oven, and remove the top halves of the rolls from the pan. Pile the beef and onions on the bottom halves of the rolls, top with the cheese, and broil until the cheese is melty. Top with the other half of the bread and serve with small bowls of the jus. 

Jul 25, 2015

Pork Spring Rolls with Spicy Plum Dipping Sauce

Slow cooker Pork Spring Rolls with Spicy Plum Dipping Sauce

These Pork Spring Rolls are so easy to prepare, and they can be assembled ahead of time. You can also scale the recipe for a crowd. They are wonderful for an appetizer (sliced into smaller pieces), light lunch, or summertime dinner.

The pork is rubbed with coriander, salt, and pepper, and then prepared in the slow cooker in orange juice, chicken stock, onions, orange slices, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce. The vegetables and herbs are uncooked, and can be cut and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the spring rolls.

Slow cooker Pork Spring Rolls with Spicy Plum Dipping Sauce

These are also pretty healthy. They are filled with fresh vegetables and a small slice of lean pork. The rice papers are only about 30 calories each according to the package.

Slow cooker Pork Spring Rolls with Spicy Plum Dipping Sauce

The plum sauce is sweet and gingery, with just a bit of heat. I think these would be fun to assemble with kids too. What a great way to get them to eat their veggies!

Pork Spring Rolls with Spicy Plum Sauce

Ingredients


Pork Roast

2 pounds boneless pork roast
Salt and pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cup orange juice
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp fish sauce 
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 onion, thinly sliced 
1 orange, skin on, thinly sliced

Spring Rolls

2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 cucumber, julienned
1 bell pepper, color of your choice, julienned
4 ounces baby spinach leaves
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of basil leaves
1 package spring roll wrappers

Plum Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup plum sauce
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Rub the pork roast on all sides with salt, pepper, and coriander.
  2. Add the juice, stock, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger to the slow cooker and stir.
  3. Lay half of the onion and orange slices to the bottom of the slow cooker. 
  4. Lay the roast on top of the onions and oranges, and top with the rest of the onions and oranges. 
  5. Cover, and cook on low for about 5 hours. 
  6. Remove the roast from the slow cooker and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Thinly slice the pork. 
  7. When you are ready to assemble the rolls, fill a pie dish with warm water. 
  8. Dip a wrapper in the water, about 2 to 3 seconds per side. Shake off excess water and lay it on a clean, dry surface. As it softens, fold it in half into a half circle. 
  9. Lay a slice of pork on on once side, and layer with vegetables and herbs. Roll it up tightly from one side to the other. You can also do "closed end" spring rolls, wrapping them up like a burrito. 
  10. Continue to assemble, one roll at a time. Place in a dish or baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  11. Serve with the dipping sauce. 

Jul 21, 2015

Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies | #CreativeCookieExchange

Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies

Aren't these Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies the cutest? Everything about them says celebration.

The Creative Cookie Exchange is baking cookies this month with the theme of ice cream. We were given carte blanche on the theme, in that our cookies did not actually have to have ice cream as an ingredient. In other words, the cookies just had to be in the spirit of ice cream!

Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies

In the spirit of a chocolate sundae, I made these vanilla shortbread cookies. They are dipped in a dark chocolate coating and then doused in tons of sprinkles.... sort of a portable ice cream sundae, right?

Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies

They are excellent dipped in ice cream, and are so whimsical!

Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies

I am pretty sure sprinkles make everything better!

Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies

For the chocolate coating, I used Dark Molding Chocolate from Surfas Culinary District. It contains tons of dark cocoa and tastes amazing. You can also use chocolate bark or candy melts. If you choose to use chocolate bars or chips, check out this coating recipe.

After the recipe, check out all of the links from the Creative Cookie Exchange members' take on the theme of cookies and ice cream!

Chocolate Sundae Shortbread Cookies


Ingredients

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
9 1/2 ounces (2 cups) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
0-4 tbsp water
4 ounces chocolate candy coating, bark, candy melts, or chocolate chips
Lots of sprinkles

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and light. Add the powdered sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.
  2. Slowly add add the flour while mixing on low. If the mixture does not come together, add the water, by tablespoon, until you have a dough that is dry but cohesive. 
  3. Roll the dough between two pieces of waxed paper to 1/4 inch thick. Slice the dough into 1 inch by 3 inch sticks and place the sticks onto a parchment lined half sheet baking pan (I used two quarter sheet pans). 
  4. Gather up the scraps, re-roll, and continue to cut the dough into sticks. 
  5. Cover and chill the cookies in the refrigerator while preheating the oven to 325 degrees F. 
  6. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes, and then cool completely on a rack. 
  7. Melt your chocolate in a microwave, double boiler, or in a candy melts melting pot. 
  8. Line baking sheets with wax paper. Dip the cookies into the chocolate, place them onto the wax paper, and sprinkle with jimmies, nonpareils, or other candy sprinkles. 
  9. When chocolate hardens, store in an airtight container. 

The theme this month's Creative Cookie Exchange is Ice Cream Cookies--any kind of cookie that works well with ice cream in any form--could be an ice cream sandwich, could be the perfect cookie garnish! If you are dying to beat the heat with a fun ice cream creation involving cookies, we’ve got you covered! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links. You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Jul 18, 2015

Three Bread Baking Hacks - Bread 101

Have you ever wondered if your dough has actually doubled? Is your kitchen too cold for your dough to rise? Don't have a Dutch oven for baking artisan bread?

These hacks have worked great for me. 

How to tell if your bread dough has doubled

Hack #1 - How to tell if your dough as doubled in size:


I sometimes (often) forget how large my dough was prior to the first rise, especially when there is a long rising time. I love using large rubber bands and Cambro containers to mark either where the dough started out, or where the dough is supposed to end up. If you don't have the large rubber bands, or if your container is too large, using tape to mark either the starting or ending point is also good, especially when using a flat rectangular container.

I know this sounds simple, but you'd be amazed how helpful it is to have this as a reminder. Bread baking involves a lot of down time, which means, you can easily forget some of the details. Trust me.

How to create a warm spot for letting your bread dough rise

Hack #2 - Is your kitchen too cold for your dough to rise? 


Don't have a Brod and Taylor Bread Proofer? No worries. Just place two coffee cups filled with water in your microwave and cook for two minutes. Place each cup in opposite corners, place the dough in the middle, and shut the microwave door. This creates a warm, moist environment for your dough. I especially love using this hack in the winter.

How to create a steam oven for bread without a Dutch oven

Hack #3 - Don't have a Dutch oven for baking artisan bread? 


There is a lot of lore about using a preheated Dutch oven for baking bread, however, you don't really need one. You can use an upside down stainless steel bowl over a baking stone, or even a large stainless bowl over a baking sheet. It's the dough in an enclosed space that creates the steam, not the magical powers of the Dutch oven. Yes, cast iron or clay Dutch ovens may hold their heat a bit longer, which will help you as you are transferring your loaf to the oven, but in a pinch, try this hack. 

Happy baking!

Jul 16, 2015

Power Bread - The Babes Flex Their Muscles


Power Bread got its name from its creator, Peter Reinhart. The bread is high in protein and fiber to "power" you through your day. Ingredients include whole grains, bran, raisins, flax seeds, and sesame seeds.

Flax seeds, in particular, have come into their own as a superfood, as "they are high in alpha-linolenic acid, and essential omega-3 fatty acid" (Reinhart). If you eat them whole, you will miss out on their benefits. In this recipe, they are soaked for several hours to start the germination process and activate their enzymes.


The recipe also includes ground sesame seeds, both for their deliciousness and their nutrition. I used toasted sesame seeds, and I ground them in a mini food processor after freezing them, which helped them to not turn into sesame seed butter. You want a fine powder, not a paste.

I had a couple of thin slices toasted for breakfast this morning, and I was able to last until lunch without a midmorning snack... well... except for a couple of mini Snickers that just happened to be in the bag of candy I had to take to a table display at work. I'm pretty sure that doesn't count though...

The bread requires some planning in advance (I have "occasionally" been guilty of not reading a recipe all of the way through, or not paying enough attention when I do read it). As a public service, I'll spell out a suggested schedule for making this bread (I followed schedule 2):

Suggested schedule 1:

Day 1: Make the pre-soaker
Day 2: Make the soaker and the biga
Day 3: Mix and bake the bread

Suggested schedule 2 (to speed things up, for lousy planners like myself):

Day 1, early morning: Make the pre-soaker
Day 1, evening: Mix the soaker and the biga
Day 2: Mix and bake the bread



This month, the Bread Baking Babes' Kitchen of the Month is Judy of Judy's Gross Eats, and she challenged the Babes with this Power Bread!

Guess what? You can bake along as a Bread Baking Buddy! Visit Judy's post for details on how to participate. You don't even have to have a blog. Woo hoo!



The Bread Baking Babes are:

Bake My Day - Karen
blog from OUR kitchen - Elizabeth
Bread Experience - Cathy
Feeding my Enthusiasms - Pat/Elle
girlichef - Heather
Judy's Gross Eats - Judy
Karen's Kitchen Stories - Karen
My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna
My Kitchen In Half Cups - Tanna
Notitie Van Lien - Lien
Thyme for Cooking - Katie (Bitchin’ Bread Baking Babe Biblioth√©caire)
Life's a Feast - Jamie
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya
Lucullian Delights - Ilva

Power Bread

Adapted from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads


Pre-soaker
71 g (or 2.5 oz or 6.5 Tbsp) raisins
14 g (or 0.5 oz or 1.5 Tbsp) flaxseeds
170 g (or 6 oz or 3/4 cup) water

Mix all pre-soaker ingredients together in a small bowl, cover, and let sit at room temp for 8-24 hours.

Soaker
All of pre-soaker
170 g (or 6 oz or 1 1/3 cups) whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
14 g (or 0.5 oz or 2 Tbsp) oat bran
4 g (or 0.14 oz or 1/2 tsp) salt

Puree the pre-soaker in a blender, and mix with the remaining soaker ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir for about a minute, until everything is thoroughly combined and it forms a ball. Cover the bowl and leave at room temp for 12-24 hours (or, refrigerate it for up to 3 days, but let sit at room temp for 2 hours before mixing the final dough). Go ahead and make the biga now.

Biga (mix at the same time that you mix the soaker)
170 g (or 6 oz or 1 1/3 cups) whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1 g (or 0.03 oz or 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
142 g (or 5 oz or 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp) milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk, or rice milk, at room temp

Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a large bowl. Wet your hands, and knead for 2 min. Then let it rest for 5 min and knead again for 1 min. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 8 hours to 3 days. Two hours before you're ready to mix the final dough, let the biga sit at room temp for 2 hours.

Final dough
All of soaker (at room temp)
All of biga (at room temp)
56.5 g (or 2 oz or 6 Tbsp) sunflower seeds, ground into a flour
56.5 g (or 2 oz or 7 Tbsp) whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
28.5 g (or 1 oz or 3 Tbsp) sesame seeds, whole
4 g (or 0.14 oz or 1/2 tsp) salt
7 g (or 0.25 oz or 2.25 tsp) instant yeast
21 g (or 0.75 oz or 1.5 Tbsp) honey or agave nectar or sugar or brown sugar

Cut the soaker and the biga into 12 pieces each. Grind the sunflower seeds into flour in a blender, food processor, or spice grinder (gently pulse or it will turn into sunflower seed butter, not flour). Mix ground seeds with remaining ingredients, including the soaker and biga pieces. Knead the mixture with wet hands for 2 min, or until everything is thoroughly mixed. Dough should be slightly sticky; if it's very tacky, add more flour; if it's very dry and not sticky, add more water. 
If using a stand mixer, put the pre-dough pieces and all of the other ingredients except the extra flour into the mixer with the paddle attachment or dough hook.  Mix on slow speed for 1 minute to bring the ingredients together into a ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, occasionally scraping down the bowl, for 2-3 minutes, until the pre-doughs become cohesive and combined.  Add more flour or water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.

Dust your counter (or whatever you're using) with flour, and roll the dough around in it. Knead it for 3-4 min. Let the dough rest for 5 min, and then knead for another minute. At this point your dough should pass the windowpane test. If not, knead more until it can pass the test. Then form your dough into a ball, place it into a lightly oiled bowl, roll it around in the oil, and let it sit covered at room temp for 45-60 min (until it's about 1.5 times its original size).

Lightly flour your counter again, and form your dough into either a loaf shape or rolls.  Put the loaf-shaped dough into a lightly oiled 8.5" x 4" loaf pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let it sit at room temp for 45-60 min (until it's 1.5 times its original size).  Or, if making rolls, place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Preheat the oven and a steam pan (an empty metal pan on the bottom oven rack) to 425. Put bread in the oven, pour 1 cup hot water into steam pan, and reduce oven temp to 350. Bake for 20 min. Then remove steam pan, rotate bread 180 degrees, and bake for another 20-30 min, or until loaf or rolls are brown, have an internal temp of at least 195, and have a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely (at least 1 hour) before serving.


Check out the loaves from the Babes:



Jul 13, 2015

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread | #BreadBakers

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread

This cinnamon raisin oatmeal bread is super easy to make, and is the perfect bread for breakfast toast. It is also wonderful for French toast and peanut butter sandwiches.

There's something about toasted raisin bread spread with melty salted butter for breakfast.... and it's full of whole grains... a little healthy with your butter.

Note: This recipe makes a lot of dough, about 4 3/4 pounds, including the raisins. You can divide the dough into pan loaves, free standing loaves, or rolls. You can also spray the tops of the loaves with water and press rolled oats into the surface to make them extra pretty.

Math whiz that I am (not), and with my collection of 6 sizes of bread pans (not counting baguette pans), I broke out a 1 pound pan (4 1/2 x 8 inch), a 1 1/2 pound pan (5 x 9 inch), and a 2 pound pan (5 x 10 inch), and, using my kitchen scale (get one! you totally won't regret it), divided the dough among all three. They kind of looked like loaves from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We gave away two of the loaves, and kept Papa Bear's.

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread

The surface of this bread may burn easily in the hot oven, so keep an eye on your bread and tent the loaves with aluminum foil when they are sufficiently browned. There are few things more fun than watching bread bake through your oven window. Magical, at least for a bread geek like me.

Do you like oats in your bread? After the recipe, check out all of the #BreadBakers members' contributions this month. There are over two dozen different recipes for bread using oats!

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread Recipe

Ingredients

1 pound, 8 ounces (5 1/2 cups) bread flour
8 ounces (1 7/8 cups) whole wheat flour
5.3 ounces (1 5/8 cups) rolled oats
2 1/2 cups water
3/8 cups milk
3 T honey
5 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 T plus 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 T instant yeast
2 T ground cinnamon
10.6 ounces (2 1/8 cups) raisins, soaked in warm water for about 30 minutes, and then well drained

Instructions

  1. Add the oats to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water and mix to moisten for about a minute. Let stand for about 20 minutes. 
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the raisins and mix with the dough hook on low for three minutes. Change the speed to to medium low and mix for about 4 minutes. 
  3. Add the raisins and mix on the lowest speed for about a minute, until the raisins are mixed in. If necessary, knead by hand to get the raisins thoroughly distributed. 
  4. Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for 2 hours, folding at the one hour mark. 
  5. Divide the dough and shape as you wish, into loaves or rolls (see Note above). 
  6. Let rise for about 90 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and set a pan on the lowest rack for creating steam, and a rack in the middle for baking the bread. 
  8. Place the bread pans on the middle rack and add 4 ice cubes and 1/2 cup of water to the steam pan. Quickly shut the oven door. 
  9. After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 425 degrees F and tent the bread if it is sufficiently browned. Depending on the size of your loaves, the bread should take an additional 30 to 45 minutes more. I use an instant read thermometer to test the loaves. The internal temperature should be about 190 to 200 degrees F. 
Recipe adapted from Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman


BreadBakers
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. This month's host is Rocio from Kids & Chic. Thanks for the wonderful theme!

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Here are the amazing breads!

Oatmeal Bread themed #BreadBakers:

Jul 10, 2015

Garlic and Ginger Caramel Chicken Thighs

Garlic and Ginger Caramel Chicken Thighs

Garlic and ginger caramel chicken thighs. Imagine crispy chicken coated in a succulent sticky sauce with Asian flavors. Beyond delicious.

We had this with sticky white rice and a salad. The rice is perfect for sopping up all of the sticky caramel sauce.

This chicken is pretty luxurious. The brown sugar in the sauce is perfectly balanced with the vinegar and soy sauce. The sauce is so good, I could imagine doubling it.


Garlic and Ginger Caramel Chicken Thighs

Garlic and Ginger Caramel Chicken Thighs

Adapted from Bon Appetit, October, 2013, serves four

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs 
Kosher salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 - 1/4 inch slices of peeled ginger
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken pieces with Kosher salt on both sides. 
  2. In a large heavy pot with a wide bottom, such as a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. 
  3. Cook the chicken in batches, about 8 minutes per side, until crispy. Transfer the pieces to a plate. 
  4. Add the garlic to the pot and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Transfer the garlic to the plate with the chicken. 
  5. Turn off the heat, and pour off the fat from the pan. 
  6. Return the pan to the stove and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the water, and scrap up all of the brown bits. Add the brown sugar, and cook for about 5 minutes, until thickened. 
  7. Add the vinegar, and stir until the crystalized sugar redissolves. 
  8. Add the ginger, chicken broth, and soy sauce. Add the chicken, skin side up, along with the garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked. Transfer the chicken to a plate. 
  9. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thick, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken back into the Dutch oven and coat with the sauce. Sprinkle with the green onions.