Monday, October 29, 2007

Cookie SOS

For the love of all things cookie... I need some help. I can't bake cookies to save my life. This is more than a little unfortunate because a) I like cookies, b) Todd LOVES cookies, and c) I was thinking about having a cookie bar for dessert at our wedding reception, and I have grand plans to bake all these cookies ahead of time, freeze them, and then serve zillions of cookies in big glass jars at the end of the reception.

And I can't bake myself one damn cookie. Please tell me what I am doing wrong. My cookies don't rise, and they stay gooey, but in a bad way -they won't come off the cookie sheet in the form of a cookie - they smoosh all up when I try to life them off the cookie sheet, and then they fall apart when I try to unsmoosh them onto the drying rack. It's a big disaster. So, here are the details:

I'm using the air-bake dual-layer cookie sheets with the layer of air in between so the bottoms don't burn. For what it's worth, the bottoms of my cookies never burn.

I put the bowl of dough back in the fridge between batches to keep it cold.

Tonight I started with eggs that had been sitting out for about an hour, because room temperature eggs are supposed to help the cookies rise.

I let the cookies sit on the tray for a few minutes when they come out of the oven before I move them to the drying rack. How long is this step supposed to take? I usually only leave them on the tray for a few minutes (3 minutes maybe? Should I leave them there longer?)

I don't know what's wrong. They just melt all over the cookie sheet, every time, whether it's the recipe on the back of the yellow bag, or some fancy recipe I found online with a hundred comments from other people who have tried the recipe and had fantastic results. My cookies TASTE good, but they're not something I could serve to others, unless it was crumbled on top of an ice cream sundae. They don't hold their own as cookies... they just end up in a big falling apart, ugly mess.

Any suggestions? I get really frustrated every time this happens. I just want to be able to make a good cookie, dmn it. Sigh.

Pear & Goat Cheese Tarts

Another recipe from Geoff's and my party, at Shannon's request. We made these the night before, then reheated them. Yum!

Pear & Goat Cheese Tarts
from Southern Living

1 (15-oz.) package refrigerator piecrusts
2 (4-oz.) packages goat cheese, crumbled
1 to 2 ripe pears, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Unfold piecrusts, and cut each in half; cut each half into 3 pieces. Place 1 piece into a lightly greased muffin cup in a muffin pan. Fold and press pastry piece to form a cup shape. Repeat procedure with remaining pastry pieces.

2. Bake at 375° for 8 minutes or until edges of pastries are lightly browned. Remove pan to a wire rack.

3. Stir together goat cheese and next 3 ingredients. Spoon evenly into pastry shells.

4. Bake at 375° for 8 to 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool 2 minutes.

Yield: 12 tarts

Pumpkin cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting

This is something else Geoff and I made for the party. We actually did mini-cupcakes instead of regular-sized ones. One batch makes about 36 minis.

from Sunset magazine

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
Orange cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)
Candy sprinkles (optional)

1. In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add pumpkin and vanilla and beat until well blended (mixture will look separated at this point).

2. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Stir half the flour mixture into pumpkin mixture. Stir in milk just until blended. Add remaining flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Spoon batter equally into 12 muffin cups (1/3-cup capacity; cups should be about 3/4 full) lined with paper baking cups.

3. Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until tops spring back when lightly pressed in the center and a wooden skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes; remove cupcakes from pans and set on racks to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

4. Spoon orange cream cheese frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch star tip and pipe onto tops of cupcakes, or spread on cupcakes with a knife. Decorate with candy sprinkles, if desired.

Orange cream cheese frosting: In a bowl, with a mixer on low speed, beat 6 ounces cream cheese and 6 tablespoons butter, both at room temperature, until well blended. Beat in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon finely minced orange peel, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon orange extract until smooth.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Candy Apple (Rum) Punch

Geoff and I had a party over the weekend, and we made 4 batches worth for about 30 people. It was nearly gone by the end of the night, proving its popularity. Super easy, but be sure to allow time for it to "marinate."

Candy Apple (Rum) Punch
from Cooking Light

6 cups cranberry-apple drink
3 cups water
15 hard cinnamon candies
1 (6-ounce) can thawed limeade concentrate, undiluted

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Cover and chill 8 hours, or until candies are dissolved. Pour mixture into a large Dutch oven, cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated.

Yield: 10 servings (1 cup)

*If using rum, substitute one cup of rum for one cup of water.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ribeye steaks in red-wine sauce

from Gourmet Nov. 2007

This recipe was super good, and easy to put together. If you're looking for a good, quick steak recipe, I'd recommend this one.

4 boneless ribeye steaks (we used two, because there were only two of us)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used the garlic press)
3/4 c. dry red wine
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley

Pat steaks dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat untl it shimmers, then saute steaks, turning once, about 4 minutes for medium-rare.
Transfer to a large plate and cover with foil.
Pour off fat from skillet, then saute garlic in remaining oil over medium high heat until pale golden, about 30 seconds. Add wine and boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add water, soy sauce, and any meat juices from plate and boil until reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium low and whisk in butter, 1 piece at a time, until slightly thickened. Stir in parsley and pour sauce over steak.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Curried Carrot and Cauliflower Quiche

"Basic quiche recipe" adapted from (Basic quiche by Shelly).
Curried Carrot and Cauliflower created by my supervisor, Karen

Start with the basic recipe, and then add whatever filling ingredients you like!

Basic Quiche:

5 eggs
1 1/4 cup half and half (or combination of half-and-half, cream, or milk)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
4 oz Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
2 oz mozzarella, shredded
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
* any additional filling ingredients, optional

Preheat oven to 425. Place pie crust in ungreased pie plate. Place in oven for 5 minutes to crisp the crust. Remove crust from oven. In large bowl, whisk together the eggs and half-and-half. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir cheese into egg mixture. Pour egg mixture into pie crust. (add optional filling ingredients). Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 25-30 minutes longer, or until crust is golden and filling is set. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Filling possibilities are endless - try different combinations of veggies and cheese - gruyere, gouda, cheddar, havarti, swiss, etc. Zucchini, mushrooms, tomato, broccoli, bacon, ham, sliced apples, etc, etc, etc.

Curried Carrot and Cauliflower filling:
Karen made this up as she went along, but the results were really tasty. I'm just guessing on the measurements here, since there really isn't a recipe to go from. This is my best estimate of how much I used when I tried to duplicate her recipe on my own tonight, and it came out pretty well. I didn't use much cheese with these ingredients, but I did add just a bit, because I can't imagine quiche without cheese!

1/2 yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
olive oil
3/4 cup shredded carrot (or more, depending on taste)
1 cup chopped cauliflower
curry paste or powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
cumin, to taste

Saute the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and saute until just beginning to turn golden. Add shredded carrot and cauliflower. Sprinkle mixture with curry, salt, pepper, and cumin. Stir mixture to coat with spices. Cover pan with a lid for a few minutes to help the cauliflower soften. Add this mixture to the basic quiche recipe after the pie crust has been filled with the egg mixture, or add to the egg mixture before it is poured into the crust. Bake according to directions listed above.

two apple butter recipes

At Shannon's request. I'm not sure if I've made both or one or neither of these recipes, so I can't really vouch for them. But what could be bad, really. The first is stovetop, the second is crockpot. Cook-off time, Shannon! :)

Spirited Apple Butter
from Betty Crocker

1 can (12 oz.) frozen apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup sweet red wine or apple cider
4 lb. cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into fourths
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. apple brandy or apple cider
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves

1. Heat apple juice conecntrate, wine and apples to boiling in Dutch oven; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft. Mash with potato masher if necessary, to remove all lumps.

2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until no liquid separates from pulp.

(this is hopefully optional) 3. Immediately pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars; seal. Cool on rack 1 hour. Store in refrigerator up to 2 months.

Apple Butter
from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

5 lbs. tart cooking apples, unpeeled, cored and cut up, or enough apples to fill your cooker
2 c sugar
1 c apple juice or cider (optional; see step 1)
1 1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground allspice
pinch of salt

1. Coat the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Fill with the apples, almost to the top; the exact amount is not critical. As you load in the apples, sprinkle the sugar in layers. Cover and let stand at room temperature all day; the apples will exude some of their own juice and collapse slightly. If you want to skip this step, just add the apple juice.

2. Add the spices and salt and toss the apples with a large wooden spoon. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, or overnight.

3. In the morning, remove the lid and let the apple butter cook an additional 2 to 8 hours on low to reach desired thickness.

4. Turn off the cooker and let cool to room temperature in the crock. ["the crock"? really? this cookbook is weird] Transfer to a blender or food processor, or use a handheld immersion blender right in the crock [seriously...] and puree the butter until completely smooth. Scrape with a rubber spatula into spring-top glass jars (or use screw tops with new lids). Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Or transfer to small plastic storage containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

Mushroom Stroganoff

I've been meaning to post this for a while. I think Real Simple includes lots of tasty-sounding recipes within its pages but there aren't that many that are meatless so I modify where I can and end up with very tasty veg suppers.

adapted from Real Simple*

1 T olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1.5 t kosher salt
.5 t pepper
1 lb (or more) mushrooms (I use a mix of button and baby bellas)
1 C dry white wine
1 C veg broth
1 t Worcestershire
2 T dijon mustard
1/2 C sour cream
splash or two of hot sauce

Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat and add onions and cook until soft. Add peppers and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms sweat out their liquid (about6 min.). Remove veg and add S&P, wine and broth to pan and bring to a boil. Add Worcestershire, dijon and hot sauce and whisk until smooth. Reduce liquid to about half, reduce heat and whisk in sour cream. Do not let sauce boil. And watch the heat or your sour cream will break and become grainy. Add veg back in and heat through. Serve over egg noodles, rice or toast.

*the original recipe uses 4 chicken breasts and 8 oz. of mushrooms. If using chx, cook veg and remove, then cook breasts and remove, then make sauce.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Apple Cranberry Stuffed Pork Roast Recipe

from: Simply Recipes

ok, this recipe sounds a little involved... and it is, but just a little. It really wasn't that bad, and the results were super fantastic. I should have taken a picture after I made the first slice. It was definitely an impressive holiday-worthy dish. Check out the original post here for pictures of the whole butterflying process. It really was not difficult. I didn't have a few of the ingredients, so my substitutions are in parentheses. Also, I was thinking you might be able to do this with a boneless turkey breast as well, if you're not a pork eater.

1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large shallot, peeled, thinly sliced (I used a yellow onion)
1 1/2 cups dried apples (packed) (I used 2 Granny Smith apples, chopped)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds (I stirred in a little dijon mustard instead)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (I used cinnamon and nutmeg instead)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pork Roast
2 1/2 pound boneless center-cut pork loin roast (short and wide - about 7-8 inches long and 4-5 inches wide)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Before starting on the pork, put the pork roast in the freezer for 30 minutes to make it easier to cut. While the pork is chilling, you can make the filling.

2 Bring all the filling ingredients to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until apples are very soft, about 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid. Use a rubber spatula to press against the apple mixture in the sieve to extract as much liquid out as possible. Return liquid to saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside and reserve this liquid for use as a glaze. Pulse apple mixture in food processor, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside. (I forgot to put it in the food processor, and it was fine just the way it was).

Preheat oven to 350°F or prepare your grill for indirect heat. You will be "double-butterflying" the pork roast. Lay the roast down, fat side up. Insert the knife into the roast 1/2-inch horizontally from the bottom of the roast, along the long side of the roast. Make a long cut along the bottom of the roast, stopping 1/2 inch before the edge of the roast. You might find it easier to handle by starting at a corner of the roast.

Open up the roast and continue to cut through the thicker half of the roast, again keeping 1/2 inch from the bottom. Repeat until the roast is an even 1/2-inch thickness all over when laid out.

If necessary, pound the roast to an even thickness with a meat pounder.

3 Season the inside of the roast well with salt and pepper. Spread out the filling on the roast, leaving a 1/2-inch border from the edges. Starting with the short side of the roast, roll it up very tightly. Secure with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals. Season the outside of the roast generously with salt and pepper.

4 Place roast on a rack in a roasting pan, place in oven, on the middle rack.

You can also grill the roast, using indirect heat either gas or charcoal. If you are using charcoal, use about 5 pounds of coals, bank them to one side. Preheat the grill, covered. Wipe the grates with olive oil. Place roast, fat side up, on the side of the grill that has no coals underneath. Place the lid on the grill, with the vent directly over the roast. If you are grilling with gas, place all the burners on high for 15 minutes to heat the grates, brush grates with olive oil, turn off the middle burner, place roast fat-side up on middle burner. If you are grilling, turn roast half way through the cooking.

Cook for 45 to 60 minutes, until the internal temperature of the roast is 130 to 135 degrees. Brush with half of the glaze and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove the roast from the oven or grill. Place it on a cutting board. Tent it with foil to rest and keep warm for 15 minutes before slicing.

5 Slice into 1/2-inch wide pieces, removing the cooking twine as you cut the roast. Serve with remaining glaze.

Chicken & Broccoli Casserole

Geoff and I had my parents, grandmother, and aunt over for dinner on Friday night, so I went on a recipe hunt for something quick, easy, and could be made ahead of time. This casserole fit the bill.

Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
from Cooking Light (online recipe database)


3 quarts water
1 (12-ounce) package broccoli florets
(6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of nutmeg (I did 4 shakes of the container)
1 cup fat-free mayonnaise (we used full-fat, since we couldn't find an 8-oz jar of fat-free, and didn't want extra mayo hanging around in the fridge)
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream (we had light sour cream on hand, and used that instead)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Bring water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, and cook 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer broccoli to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Add chicken to boiling water; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until done. Transfer chicken to a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, and add chicken to bowl with broccoli.

Combine evaporated milk, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a saucepan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add mayonnaise, next 4 ingredients (through soup), and 1/2 cup cheese, stirring until well combined. Add mayonnaise mixture to broccoli mixture; stir gently until combined.

Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 50 minutes or until mixture bubbles at the edges and cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven; let cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.

8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

1. Ours only took about 30 minutes to cook, so be sure to keep an eye on it, in the event it doesn't take a full 50 minutes.

2. According to Cooking Light, if you want crisper broccoli, boil it for only 3 minutes instead of 5. They also suggest serving this dish with a simple green salad.

3. This will probably not be very pretty when you pull it out of the baking dish. Don't worry, the flavor makes up for it.

Nutritional Info:

Calories 276(25% from fat)

Fat 7.8g (sat 3.5g, mono 1.8g, poly 1.1g)

Protein 31.1g

Cholesterol 66mg

Calcium 365mg

Sodium 696mg

Fiber 2.1g

Iron 1.6mg

Carbohydrate 18.9g

Caramel apple cake

Adapted from Grazing by Julie van Rosendaal (my notes in parenthesis)

2 1/2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can evaporated milk
2 large eggs
3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (she called for 2)
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecans (I also left this out, because Ernie just had the bone graft in his mouth)
caramel ice cream topping (the original recipe called for caramels)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together 1 c. evaporated milk and the eggs. Add to the dry ingredients along with the apples and stir until just blended.
Spread batter into a 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle with brown sugar, coconut and pecans. Bake for 40-35 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. If the top is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a piece of tin foil.
If you were going to use the caramels, here's the step where you'd unwrap 20 caramels, and then melt them in a saucepan with about 1/2 c. of evaporated milk.
Or you can do like I did, and just use the squeezable caramel ice cream topping. Squeeze evenly over cake (as much or as little as you like), as soon as it comes out of the oven. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Cream of broccoli soup

from Mama Now Cooks Like This by Susan Mendelson

2-3 lb. broccoli
6 Tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. flour
2 c. half and half
2 c. Vegetable Stock

Steam broccoli for 10 minutes, then drain. Melt butter and add flour, stirring constantly. Add half and half and vegetable stock and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes. Process half the broccoli in a blender with the soup mixture. Chop remainder of broccoli and add to above.
(This was a little thicker than I like. I think next time I'll thin with some milk or some more vegetable stock. And also add garlic, because everything's better with garlic.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Vegetable stock

I know this is a super easy thing, but it's always good to have a good stock recipe on hand.

from "Mama Now Cooks Like This" by Susan Mendelson

2 medium leeks (I didn't have on hand, but I did have large bulb onions. I threw 4 into the pot, and omitted the other onions)
2 large onions
6 large carrots, chopped into large chunks
1 small bunch celery
1 yellow or red pepper, seeded and chopped into chunks
1 small bunch parsley
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried thyme (optional)
16 c. cold water

Place all ingredients in large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Strain in colander. Chill or freeze until ready to use.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

quinoa salad with mango & herb marinated shrimp

Crazy amounts of fresh herbs make this really, really flavorful and delicious. (Recipe from a blog that I really need to bookmark. See the full post for helpful photos.)

(For the shrimp)
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails cut off
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup each of chopped fresh cilantro, parsley (I skipped but probably would have been good) and mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

(For the curry dressing)
2 tablespoons yogurt, mayonnaise, or sour cream (I used fat-free plain yogurt)
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

(For the Salad)
1 cup quinoa
2 large, ripe mangoes
1 jalepeno, seeded and minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 English or 2 Persian cucumebrs, chopped
1/3 cup roasted almonds
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
a handful of fresh spinach leaves

First make the marinade for the shrimp. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, and the chopped cilantro, mint, and parsley. Stir to combine. Add the shrimp, a teaspoon of salt and a grinding of black pepper and stir again to coat the shrimp with the marinade. Cover and put the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Next make the curry dressing. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, curry powder, lime juice and zest, the chopped cilantro and mint.

Whisk in the olive oil and then season with the salt and pepper.

Place the quinoa in a small sauce pan with two cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed the water.

Meanwhile in a large bowl, combine the cucumber, mango, sliced green onions, and minced jalepeno. When the quinoa has finished cooking, add it to the bowl and stir to combine.

Pour in the curry dressing and the chopped almonds and stir to coat.

Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator. Heat a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook for about two minutes per side, just until the turn pale pink.

To serve, place a bed of spinach on a plate, top with the quinoa salad and 4 or 5 shimp and then scatter over the chopped mint. (I skipped the spinach and ate it plain.)

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

From Simply Recipes

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
1 tart green apple, peeled, cored, chopped
(squash and apple should be 3 to 1 ratio)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
pinches of nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper

* I added some maple syrup at the end, too, to add a little more flavor and some sweetness
* I was wondering how this would turn out by using half chicken stock and half milk... I like my butternut squash soups to be creamy.... I might try it that way next time.

Combine butter, onion, celery and carrot in large saucepan. Cook for 5 minutes. Add squash, apple and broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until squash is soft. Puree. Add spices to taste.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Peanut Butter & Honey Gorp

This was super easy to throw together, and it's tasty. My notes in parenthesis.

from Grazing, by Julie van Rosendaal

1/4 c. light or natural peanut butter (I just used my standard Jiff, because that's what I had in the house)
1/4 c. honey or maple syrup (I used honey)
1 c. low fat granola or any dry cereal you like
1 c. cinnamon Teddy Grahams or crumbled graham crackers
1 c. stick pretzels
1 c. dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries or slivered apricots (I used a blend of raisins, cranberries, cherries and blueberries from Trader Joes)

Preheat oven to 300. Combine peanut butter and honey in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted, stir until smooth. Place granola, Teddy Grahams and pretzels in a large bowl; pour peanut butter mixture over top and toss to coat.
Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and stir in dried fruit.
Cool completely in pan. Store in a tightly sealed container.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fried fish tacos

This recipe is sort of a no-brainer to put together. But the batter for the fish was REALLY good, and we devoured all the fish.
(Also, I finally finished tagging all of the entries. I'd suggest going through some of the older entries -- we've cooked some really good things over the years.)

1 quart vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup beer (not dark)
1 pound cod fillet, cut into 3- by 1-inch strips
Shredded lettuce
Sour Cream
Avocado slices
Chopped or sliced radish
Red or green salsa
Lime wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat 1 inch oil in a 10-inch heavy pot (2 to 3 inches deep) over moderate heat until a deep-fat thermometer registers 360 degrees F.
Meanwhile, separate tortillas and make 2 stacks of 6. Wrap each stack in foil and heat in oven 12 to 15 minutes.
While tortillas warm, stir together flour and salt in a large bowl, then stir in beer (batter will be thick). Gently stir fish into batter to coat.
Lift each piece of fish out of batter, wiping any excess off on side of bowl, and fry fish in batches, turning once or twice, until golden, 4 to 5
minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Increase oil temperature to 375 degrees F and refry fish in batches, turning once or twice, until golden brown and crisp, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels.
Assemble tacos with warm tortillas, fish, and accompaniments.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pasta with White Beans, Greens, and Lemon

from Cooking Light, September 2007, page 214

This had a nice flavor to it, due to the lemon and crushed red pepper. According to Cooking Light, "this easy dish is comforting for weeknights or a casual dinner with friends."

1 pound uncooked orecchiette ("little ears" pasta -- Geoff and I used twists)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
cooking spray
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil (ours came sliced, we just left them like that)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups trimmed arugula or baby spinach
1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped (about 1 [1-oz] package)
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (we forgot about these, and it was ok, but I think they would have added some good texture)
1/4 cup (1 oz) grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place pasta in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat.

Heat a large Dutch oven (we used a 5-qt saucepan, and it worked well) over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic to pan; saute 1 minute or until garlic begins to brown.

Add pasta mixture, tomatoes, pepper, and beans; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in arugula, basil, rind, juice, and salt; cook 1 minute or until arugula wilts.

Spoon 1-1/2 cups pasta mixture into each of 6 shallow bowls; top each serving with 2-1/2 teaspoons pine nuts and 2 teaspoons cheese. Serve immediately.

Calories 438 (25% from fat)
Fat 12.2g (sat 2g, mono 4.7g, poly 3.2g)
Protein 16.2g
Carb 68.2g
Fiber 5.5g
Cholesterol 3mg
Iron 4.4mg
Sodium 623mg
Calcium 132mg

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

low-fat eggplant parmesan

I usually don't trust Weight Watchers recipes, but this one was great. I did it with half zucchini, half eggplant.

cooking spray
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs, Italian-style
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 medium raw eggplant (I needed a lot more than this)
2 large egg white(s), lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce (I used TJ's marinara sauce)
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (hi, Weight Watchers, you need more than this :) )

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 X 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder in a medium-size bowl; set aside. Remove skin from eggplant and trim off ends; slice eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Dip eggplant first into egg whites and then into bread crumb mixture. Bake eggplant on a nonstick cookie sheet until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once.

Place a layer of eggplant on bottom of prepared baking dish, then add 1/3 of tomato sauce and 1/3 of mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 2 more layers in same order. Bake until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling, about 10 minutes more. Slice into 4 pieces and serve.

Shrimp gumbo

Ernie cooks dinner once a weekend now. It's good, because it gives me a break and he makes something fantastic. Last Saturday he made this, from a Good Eats recipe.

4 ounces vegetable oil
4 ounces all-purpose flour (my note: just make sure you use equal parts oil and flour, if you're not going to measure by weight)
1 1/2 pounds raw, whole, head-on medium-sized (31-50 count) shrimp
2 quarts water
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomato
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and browned (or smoked sausage, if you don't want spicy)
1 tablespoon file powder (where to find this? what? you haven't been to Penzey's yet?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process.
While the roux is baking, de-head, peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set in the refrigerator. Place the heads and shells in a 4-quart saucepan along with the 2 quarts of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced to 1-quart. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a container, discarding the solids.
Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Gradually add the shrimp broth while whisking continually. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp and sausage and stir to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Spicy grits with chorizo, leeks, and corn

from Real Simple, September 2007

Geoff and I really liked the flavors of this dish. It also had a nice fall color, and was pretty hearty. Not a great dish for summer perhaps, but fabulous for fall. Yum!

8 ounces Spanish chorizo (cured sausage), sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 leeks (white and light green parts), thinly sliced*
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, including liquid
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup grits or polenta
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 4 ears) or frozen corn, thawed
1 large bunch spinach, tough stems removed

Cook the chorizo over medium-high heat in a large saucepan (we used a 5-qt stockpot, it was plenty big) until browned, about 3 minutes. Spoon off and discard any fat.

Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring until slightly soft, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their liquid, 2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil.

Stir in the grits. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the grits are tender and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the corn and spinach and cook, stirring, just until the spinach wilts. Divide among individual bowls.

Substitution: In place of Spanish chorizo -- a flavorful, garlicky sausage -- you can use Italian sausage. Remove it from the casings, crumble, and cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, then continue with the recipe as directed.

* Can I just say I hate cleaning leeks? I can never get all the dirt and grit out of the leaves before I start chopping. Ew.