Welcome to the Circle B Kitchen! 
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The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...    Contact me at      pberry@circle-B-kitchen.com

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Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .

 

 

Saturday
Apr302016

Pizza Monkey Bread

 

Sometimes you just have to set aside your plans for that kale and quinoa salad, kick off your shoes, pour a glass of wine and make yourself some monkey bread.  You will not regret this decision, at least not until tomorrow.  But tonight!  Tonight will be fun!  And that's what this is, people; maybe sort of too much fun...little balls of pizza dough stuffed with mozzarella cheese, rolled in olive oil and then parmesan cheese and stacked into a pan to be baked until golden and then pulled apart, one little ball at a time and dipped in warm marinara sauce.  You in?

The idea for this has been rattling around inside my head for so long, I had to finally just get it made and now I wish I hadn't waited so long, but I'm awfully glad I didn't wait any longer.  It's one of those incredibly wondrous culinary experiences that you think about long after it's over.  Partly because you know you ate too much, but mostly because you can't wait to do it again.  The Husband is still talking about it in reverential tones reserved only for great architecture and golden summer days.  See?  We're not kidding around here.

And honestly, it's so easy to throw together.  You can use your homemade pizza dough or some good store-bought or pizzaria dough and then...

And that's pretty much all there is to it.  Well, not really.  There's so much more to it but you'll get to find that out when you have this platter sitting in front of you.  Here's the recipe...

Pizza Monkey Bread

Click here for a printable recipe

Just a couple of tips… if you’re going for a good cheese pull, you’ll want to use regular mozzarella, like string cheese, rather than fresh mozzarella.  Also, I got all of my dough balls stuffed before rolling them in the olive oil and parmesan; just a little neater and easier.  Also, I used a 10-inch springform tube pan which made removal easy, and I made 3 layers of dough balls.  Baking times may vary based on the size of your pan and how many dough balls you make.  Enjoy! 

Pizza dough (homemade or store-bought –here’s my recipe)
Small mozzarella balls, cut in half or string cheese sticks cut into pieces
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Marinara sauce 

Spray a tube pan, springform pan, bundt pan or angel food cake pan with cooking spray and set aside. 

Place about ½ cup of olive oil in a little bowl and about 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese in another bowl. 

Pull off a little piece of pizza dough and form a ball around 1 ½ inches around. 

Make a little indentation in the middle of the dough ball and stuff the piece of mozzarella cheese inside.  Pull the dough up and around the cheese to enclose it and then roll the dough into a nice round ball.  

Roll the dough ball in the olive oil, then into the parmesan cheese and then place it in it in the prepared pan. 

Continue making little dough balls like this until your pan is about ¾ or 2/3 filled. 

Cover the pan with a cloth and let the dough balls rise for about an hour. 

While the dough rises, place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. 

Remove the cloth and place the pan in the oven.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the dough balls are golden and spring back when touched.  

Let cool briefly and then turn it out onto a serving platter.  While still warm, pull little dough balls off and dip them in warm marinara sauce.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Sunday
Apr242016

Creamy Orzo with Shrimp and Spring Peas

 

This is what happens when you spot fresh spring peas at Trader Joe’s and you must have them because after 6 months of Midwest winter, anything spring-related is essentially seductive and irresistible.  

Peas, asparagus, artichokes... they're all irresistible at the moment and happy harbingers of life without coats, boots, scarves, gloves and there's flip flop weather ahead!!  And then. of course, the question arises as to how best to celebrate these little beauties. 

One might easily just do a quick sauté with nothing more than a little butter and a sprinkling of salt and it would be perfectly lovely.  Or one might go big and create THIS!!

As it turns out, this is a seriously delicious way to celebrate spring peas or spring or just dinner or nothing at all.  It is celebration itself… a lovely concoction of orzo, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, a little lemon, some spring veggies and perfectly cooked shrimp.   

It's pretty much a one-pan meal, except that you'll be boiling your orzo separately.  So two pans. Hopefully, you're down with that, because I honestly don't think you'll find this burdensome.  I'd be willing to use, say, 5 or 6 pans; it was that good.  But only 2 pans and a few minutes will produce this incredibly scrumptious spring meal.  Veggies are optional and swappable, which also makes this an any-time of year thing.  

Here's the recipe...

Creamy Orzo with Shrimp and Spring Peas

Serves 4 

This is an amazing one-pan meal that is amenable to any veggies you would like to add.  I used asparagus and spring peas, but zucchini would be great too.   You can easily make this in one skillet (besides cooking the orzo), but you can also transfer it to an oven proof serving dish before adding the shrimp for a nice presentation. 

1 1/2 cups orzo
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 oz fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/4 lb asparagus
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
3/4 lb extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Another 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
fresh basil and lemon wedges for serving (optional) 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to broil 

Place the shrimp in a bowl or ziploc bag with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Squidge around to be sure the shrimp are all coated.  Set aside.


Bring about 5-6 cups of water to a boil, add a good amount of salt and then the orzo.  Cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring once or twice, then drain. 

While the orzo cooks, snap the woody ends off of the asparagus and discard (or save for stock).  Cut the tops off the spears and then cut the stalks into small pieces. 

Heat the olive oil in a medium-large (10-12 inch) oven-proof skillet.  Add the shallots and saute until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Pour about 1/4 cup of water or broth into the pan and add the asparagus pieces and the peas.  Shake the pan to evenly distribute them and then cover and simmer for about 3 minutes to par cook the veggies.   The water should be almost all evaporated.  Remove the pan from the heat.   

Add the orzo to the pan along with the goat cheese, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the chicken broth.  Stir to combine really well and let sit, covered, for about 5 minutes.  Taste for salt, pepper or if you would like to add more lemon juice. 

Remove the shrimp from the bowl or bag and place them on top of the orzo.  Place the pan under the broiler for about 4-5 minutes or until the shrimp are just opaque and turning pink.  They will continue to cook a little after you remove them from the oven.   

Before serving, drizzle the shrimp with a little more olive oil and another little sprinkling of black pepper. Sprinkle the top with fresh basil and serve with lemon wedges, if you'd like. 

 Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Apr162016

Simple Baked Macaroni

That photo right there freaks me out a little.  I mean, it looks just a bit over the top with the cheesiness, don't you think?  I debated about even using the photo (I have a couple more demure pics below), but decided in the end to go with the more dramatic approach seeing as how this is titled a "simple" baked macaroni.  I didn't want you to think that just because we're calling it simple, it's not remarkably delicious.  Cuz it is.   

I think the reason it's been referred to as simple has to do with it's origins and the very basic ingredients required to put it together.  But it's also called Macaroni and Beef (Michael Ruhlman) and Johnny Marzetti (after its namesake, Marzetti's restaurant).  I couldn't call it Macaroni and Beef cuz I used ground turkey, and Macaroni and Turkey sounded more odd than compelling.  

 I came across the recipe from Michael Ruhlman, the author and once New York Times food critic. He posted the recipe on his blog and it caught my eye, not only because it looked so good, but because it also looked so familiar.  In his post, Mr. Ruhlman mentioned that any one who ate in a school cafeteria in the 50's, 60's or '70's had probably dined on some version of macaroni and beef.  Lots of Moms were making it back in the '50's too.  In actuality, it was first made in Marzetti's Italian restaurant in Ohio in 1896, so it really has been around awhile. 

And what we're talking about is simply a casserole of ground meat and macaroni in a seasoned tomato sauce, baked, then topped with cheese and broiled until perfect.

Of course, there are a myriad of versions out there, but I think this is pretty close to the original, not that it matters all that much.  What really matters is that it's totally scrumptious and addicting.  I would put it near the top of my list of favorite comfort foods, should such a list actually exist.  Kids love it, no matter what their age, which is possibly why The Husband said he prefers it to mac n cheese.  And crazy as it sounds, I may just agree with him on that.  I've made it a few times since first discovering the recipe a few months ago and it already feels like an old friend.  Might be time for you guys to get acquainted.  Here's the recipe...

Simple Baked Macaroni

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of Michael Ruhlman 

What we have here is just a pan of down-home, simple comfort food goodness and a pretty simple meal to throw together for a family on a weeknight.  It makes enough for your entire neighborhood, so unless you’re planning on feeding a very large group, I would cut the recipe in half, which would nicely feed 4-6.  I made the full recipe, divided it into two pans and froze one for later (without cheese).  Also, don’t be tempted to mix some cheese in with the meat, sauce and macaroni; it totally changes the flavors and textures and just isn’t as good.  The cheese-y layer on top is where it’s at.

(I printed the recipe here exactly as Mr. Ruhlman published it and noted where he interjects his own comments as well as my comments on the recipe.) 

Ingredients:
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
salt to taste
one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, pureed in the can with a hand blender or in a blender
2 pounds lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 pound macaroni
1 cup each grated cheddar and mozzarella cheeses 

optional seasonings: black pepper, oregano, cumin, coriander, chopped garlic, hot smoked paprika, chilli powder—whatever you’re in the mood for (Ruhlman: I just used black pepper, garlic and a tablespoon of fish sauce, which gives it depth) (Me:  I used Circle B House Seasoning and crushed red pepper). 

Directions:
Sweat the onions in the oil with a three-fingered pinch of salt.  Add the beef (or turkey) and cook it, breaking it up as you do. (Ruhlman: Because my beef was very fatty, I cooked it separately and added it to the pot along with the tomatoes. Also an option, but uses an extra pan.)  Add another three-fingered pinch of salt or two, along with any dry seasonings you want.  Add the tomatoes and any fresh seasonings you may be using, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook for an hour.
 

Cook the macaroni in boiling water till it’s half done.  Drain it and add it to the tomatoes.  (Ruhlman: I wanted this to stretch into two meals, so I used the whole box, but if you want your dish to be very tomato-y and beefy, you might want to add only half the macaroni).  Stir it into the sauce.  Taste it.  Add more salt and other seasonings as needed, and cover.  When it’s cooled and the pasta has absorbed the tomato juices, transfer it to a large baking dish and cover it with foil.  It can sit out for several hours like this, be refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen a few weeks.

Bake it in a 400 degree oven till it’s piping hot (about 45 minutes if it’s cold to room temperature).  Just before you’re ready to eat, remove the foil, cover macaroni with the cheese and broil till it looks beautiful.

Note from me:  When I reheated this, I stirred in a cup of marinara sauce.  The pasta will continue to absorb the sauce in the fridge or freezer, so the extra sauce helped to keep it from drying out when baking.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Tuesday
Apr122016

Coconut Pie Cream Puffs

For a person who repeatedly declares that she doesn’t have a sweet tooth, the list of desserts in the index might call that into question.  It seems a mite long for one who professes to lack the requisite sugar crush.  But I liken my sweet tooth to an introvert, preferring to sit quietly and discreetly in the back row, mostly avoiding unwarranted attention.  But once noticed, there’s no denying its power to create havoc.  I’m not saying that introverts are trouble-makers, but having lived with one for 45 years, I know to always expect the unexpected. 

But I digress.  Cream puffs in any form will put my sweet tooth on high alert, but what really put me over the cream puff ledge last week was firstly the idea of a coconut pie cream puff, and then secondly, the actuality of getting to eat one.  It might just be awhile before my sweet tooth is willing to sit quietly in the back row again.

If you've never made cream puffs before, you'll be amazed at how easy they are.  There's just one part where you have to do some stirring; OK, a lot of stirring.  But I'm going to assume that we've all previously stirred something in a pan, so this most likely isn't a deal breaker.

And the creamy filling is basically a luscious pastry cream with the delicious addition of coconut milk. The recipe called for also adding shredded coconut, but I couldn't quite texturally go there, so I stirred in a bit of coconut extract (the real stuff) and it was absolutely just right.  There's also some coconut milk in the cream puff itself, so we're getting our coconut fix at every level.

Alrighty then, people, just in case you need to calm the sweet tooth beastie...here's the recipe...

Coconut Pie Cream Puffs

Click here for the printable version

Recipe adapted from Buzzfeed

These are just as advertised, people… so incredibly scrumptious.  I made a couple of changes to the recipe which I would highly recommend.  The first was to eliminate the shredded coconut and add a teaspoon of coconut extract (not flavoring) instead.  The other change I made was to simply slice the top off of the cream puff, pipe in the filling and then replace the top.  (I've noted my changes below in italics)

Makes about 18 cream puffs

FOR THE CREAM FILLING

5 egg yolks
2 cups half & half
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn starch 
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon real coconut extract (not flavoring)

To a medium saucepan whisk together egg yolks, half and half, and coconut milk over medium/low heat. Once combined, add in sugar and corn starch, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a light boil. Remove from heat and mix in the shredded coconut and vanilla (I used coconut) extract. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least two hours.

FOR THE PUFF
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs (+1 for egg wash) 

Preheat oven to 425˚F 

To a medium saucepan add the butter, coconut milk, water, and salt over medium heat. Allow all the butter to melt and bring the mixture to a boil. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and add in the flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix thoroughly to incorporate the flour. 

       

Continue stirring until the dough starts to pull away from the sides and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pan (about three minutes). Remove the mixture from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Let the dough cool slightly. (I mixed the eggs right into the pan off the heat.)  Add in the eggs, one at a time, being sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next.

Once the dough comes together, transfer it to a piping bag and pipe onto a parchment-lined baking sheet into 1 1/2- inch mounds.                              

     
                        
Smooth out any peaks/ridges with a wet fingertip (this will ensure your puffs cook evenly.  Then brush the dough with egg wash and place in preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then without opening the oven, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  (Mine were done in 10)

Remove the puffs from the oven.  Using the tip of a knife, cut a small "x" into the bottom of each puff and transfer ("x" side up" to a cooking rack.  (I didn't do this step)
 
Just before serving (or up to two hours in advance), pipe the cream filling into the cooled puffs (I sliced off the top, piped in the filling and then replaced the top).  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

 

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment 

Monday
Apr042016

The Why and How of Caramelized Onions

  

What could possibly be more fun than a spring head cold that leaves you either stuffy and congested and curious as to how this whole breathing thing is going to work itself out, or otherwise needing to just strap the Kleenex box around your neck?  This is not actually a rhetorical question.  Cynical, yes.  But the answer is that, in fact, the real fun didn’t set in until I was completely deprived of the ability to smell and taste.  Well, to clarify, I could smell and taste, just not accurately.  Not even close.  And to let you in on the devastating truth of this situation, I was the only person within a 3-mile radius who could not smell these onions caramelizing.   

This is when it’s good to have an active imagination and the helpful feedback from those whose olfactory nerves are still in working order.  Of course I’ve made caramelized onions many times in the past and knew they smelled way better than what my nose had to say about it, but it was still so sad to miss out on what could arguably be one of the most awesome aromas one might generate from their stovetop. 

Be that as it may, I was actually mostly focused on the method at hand, which I came across on the Serious Eats website.  They suggested that you could improve the caramelization process by steaming the onions first, and boy howdy, if they weren’t dead on right.  By covering the onions for the first 15 minutes, and letting them steam and sweat out their natural juices, they actually caramelized more easily and quickly.  I’m not sure it cut down on the overall time, but I think it significantly cut down on the amount of time that you are required to spend watching and stirring and babysitting. 

But this all begs the question… why?  Why slice up all of these onions and spend all of this time stirring and tending, only to end up with this little mass of brown bits at the bottom of the pan?  Again, not a rhetorical question.  The answer is simply that not only do they smell incredibly wondrous as they’re cooking, but in the end, the complex sweetness and depth of flavor will make you wonder if these were ever actually onions to begin with because they are something entirely different now.

They have now become an aromatic and flavorful condiment that you can add to sandwiches and omelets and pizza and burgers and grilled cheese and bruschetta and bagels and meatloaf and focaccia and frittatas and scrambled eggs and potatoes and salads and gratins and casseroles.  And crostini… 

We are so crostini crushing on these right now.  I just mixed together a couple ounces of fresh goat cheese with some olive oil, herbs de provence, crushed red pepper and a little kosher salt.  Top your grilled or toasted baguette slices with the goat cheese and then some of your caramelized onions and this alone will be reason enough to never let your jar in the fridge get empty.  Here's the recipe...

Caramelized Onions

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy Serious Eats

This method really did turn out the best caramelized onions I’ve ever made.  The secret is sweating the onions, covered, before you begin to caramelize them.  All you’ll need is a good pair of tongs and just a little patience and you will be richly rewarded.

Total prep and cooking time:  about 45 minutes

Note: 6 cups of sliced onions will yield 1 cup of caramelized onions

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4-6 cups of sliced yellow onions (about 3 or 4 large onions)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon each Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over low heat until butter is melted.  Add onions.

Cover and cook, stirring periodically, until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.  Remove cover and add sugar and season with salt and pepper.

Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often with tongs and adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time if onions begin to burn, until onions take on a deep brown color, about 20 minutes.  

Note: I've only ever had to add a few teaspoons of water to the pan.  If your onions seem to be burning, just turn the heat down a bit.

Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment