Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ovenless Carrot Cake!

I am having an amazing afternoon snack of freshly baked Carrot Cake. I am thrilled by it.

When I was little, my mom almost always had an after school snack for us. Cookies or cake or popcorn or who knows what. To be honest, I mostly remember cookies. There may have been other things. It was so consistant that we would sometimes have other people drop in. They were boys, just older than my sister, and I kind of wonder if she was the one to make it sometimes to get them to come over...

In Morocco lunch is the main meal of the day, often around 1 or 2pm, and dinner might not be until 9 or 10. So there is a 'casse-croute' around 5 or 6pm a lot of times, because who can last 8 hours between meals?? Coffee or tea and bready treats with jam or butter or olive oil or honey. I need to learn how to make a bunch of those things, but that will take time. I have also been bemoaning the typical lack of oven, as you saw with the biscuits, and found a crazy idea to bake on a panini press. For whatever reason panini press-like electric grills are common, and one came in my furnished apartment, so I headed out today to buy ramekins!

I started with the brilliance of CCK's single serving cakes, since I know they work well, and had to adjust for availability of ingredients and 'baking' method. Luckily I found a bunch of spices at a store nearby, including whole nutmeg! Awesome.  For all of you with access to a microwave, feel free to use the original recipe here. You can also find suggestions to decrease the calories and fat. For anyone else without an oven, or with a taste for odd methods, continue on.

Carrot Cake, 'baked' in ramekins on a panini-press 
Serves 2 (or 1 me)

1/3 cup flour (I happen to have cake flour, but at this amount I doubt it matters)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp fresh nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs white sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or use 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1 egg (original uses just half an egg's worth of replacer, so mine is certainly heavier, but I had no good way to keep half an egg!)
1/2 cup finely grated carrots, 
2 Tbs milk
2 tsp oil (or more milk if you'd rather)

- In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients (not carrots).
- Mix carrots and wet ingredients in a separate bowl. 
- Mix wet and dry ingredients and mix well.
- Pour into four greased ramekins (mine are 1/2 cup)

- If on press, 'bake' at just under 2 (or medium-low) for 10-15 minutes. Let the top of the press sit on the tops of the ramekins, which is why mine have the lovely grill marks on top. If using microwave, Katie says 1 minute, 20 seconds, or 350ยบ for 15 minutes.

- Let cool a bit before wolfing down.

First attempt - heavier than the final recipe

Nutrition info: Cal: 227    Fat: 7.4g    Protein: 5.7g    Carbs: 35g    (Also has 94% of your vitamin A needs!)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fried Apples

After looking around the interwebs, it looks like the secret to these is typically bacon grease. And of course that is an ingredient that I will have less than no access to for the next four months. Even if it sounds pretty likely. So I went with what I could get - margarine. Not exciting, but you do what you can. I suppose I could call it vegan then, eh?

With four apples I had sitting in the fridge, I used three of them.

(Vegan) Fried Apples
Serves 3-4

3 medium apples (green apples are said to be best)
3 Tbs margarine
3 Tbs sugar (brown if you have it, I had white)
1 tsp cinnamon (you could add nutmeg if you have it)

- Cut apples into thin slices (mine were 20-24 per apple.) and then in half so they're kind of small squares.
- Melt margarine in a skillet over medium-high.
- Add apples to hot skillet and make sure they are not fully stuck together. Unless you have an insanely large pan they'll be on top of each other, but that's fine.
- Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples. And let cook for a several minutes.

- Stir occasionally for 10 or so minutes, until the juices are all bubbly and the apples smell amazing.
- Enjoy while still hot, preferably with some buttermilk biscuits!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stove-top biscuits

Being in another country means adjusting ingredients and cooking methods. Let me show you around my kitchen.

First, here it is! The fridge is to the left, and there is a small set of shelves that you can see on the right. I think the stove and oven are recognizable, and to the right of those is the sink. That's right, no cabinet. Those who are more observant may notice a large bottle of gas under the counter and next to the stove. Yep, that's what we use for cooking.

And here is a closer look at my oven. You see those knobs at the top? They don't have any really levels. Just a sort of more or less. But it's not at all precise or very helpful. And you see the row of white dots in the back across the top and down the left? Those are the vent holes. I mean, I know that ovens need vents, but.... I don't think I'll be trying this thing out until it's cooler outside.

So my solution was to find a way to 'bake' on the stovetop. I easily found a recipe for "Cowboy biscuits" and decided they looked worth a try!

Of course, I haven't gotten a big enough mixing bowl yet, so I had to halve the recipe. And when I end up at a one of those "homey" chain restaurants, I like fried apples. And happened to have 4 in the fridge that are in danger of going bad. It's hard to buy less than a pound of fruit, or else you end up paying a lot more or getting lesser quality, so I have only been getting one kind at a time.

But back to the baking! Or cooking. Or whatever I should call it. First, the Stove top biscuits. You can have fried apples another day.

Stove Top Biscuits
Made 8 little biscuits (2-inches roughly)
All measurements are rough, due to lack of measuring implements

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter (I had to use margarine, but butter is always better and all)
1/2 cup buttermilk (mine was vanilla flavored, lol)
- Preheat your skillet to medium if you are quick enough, or leave this until you have the biscuits almost ready.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter however you can - pastry blender, fork and knife, or your fingers. Blend until the butter chunks are smaller than peas.
- Add the buttermilk and mix until JUST blended. Dryish spots are fine.
- Flour your counter or table and put the dough onto it. Make it stick together, and pat until it's about half an inch thick, if you don't have a lid, or a full inch if you do.
- At this point, you could cut it out with a biscuit cutter, but I just cut it into eight pieces.
- Put the biscuits into your heated skillet. Add lid if you have one.
- Cook until they start to look done at the bottom and soft on the top. The butter in them will look all wet and melted. Flip and cook until they look done through. If you are using a lid, take it off toward the end so they can get a nice crust.
- At this point, mine didn't quite look done. I actually opened up the first one, and it was basically baked, but I decided to cook the others on their sides to help them finish. Yes, I lost track of one and it got burned.
- Serve with fried apples, or whatever else sounds delicious to you.