Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shrimp, Lemon, Herb and Feta Macaroni and Cheese

From: A Perfect Pantry

Yum! This was really good. I mostly went exactly off the original recipe, with the only changes being dried rather than fresh herbs because I didn't have the right ones on hand. This was a good main-course meal, but I could also see omitting the shrimp to make a totally meat-free entree or side dish (we're still eating seafood though we are not eating other forms of meat during Lent).

13.25 oz rotini (I used whole wheat)
1 lb frozen large shrimp, 31-40 size
2/3 lb feta, crumbled, divided
3/4 cup panko
Zest of 2 large lemons, divided
4 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided (I used a palmful of dried)
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
4 cups milk (whole or 2%)
1/2 lb gruyere or fontiago or Danish fontina, grated (I used fontina)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill weed (or dried to taste)
1/2 to 1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 to 1 tsp fresh black pepper

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook for 8 minutes; the pasta should be a bit underdone. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Remove shrimp from the freezer, and set in a bowl of cold water.

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup of the feta, half of the lemon zest, all of the panko and 2 Tbsp parsley. Mix well and set aside.

Peel and devein the shrimp as soon as they are defrosted enough to handle (but not fully defrosted) and add to the pasta.

Make the sauce: In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the flour and stir until the flour is absorbed by the butter to form a paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the milk, and, with a wire whisk, stir vigorously to remove any lumps. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with the whisk, for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove pot from heat, and whisk into the sauce the gruyere and the remaining feta. Whisk until the sauce is smooth; the gruyere will melt completely, and the feta will be well incorporated. Add the remaining lemon zest, the remaining parsley, dill weed, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce on top of the pasta, and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish (approximately 9x13 inches). Sprinkle the panko mixture on top. Place in the middle of the oven and bake at 400°F for 25 minutes, until the top is browned and the cheese is bubbling a bit along the edges. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, and serve hot.

Garlic Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

I've been in the mood for garlic soup for some time now and regrettably it was not a recipe I thought to swipe from I's many years ago. Deb, however, recently posted a recipe for it and it was just the thing to serve as a starter for the dinner we hosted Friday night. Mine turned out a darker, more caramel-ly color because I let the onions get a little darker but I think it tasted all the better. Also, this is the vegetarian and low-fat version. Feel free to use chicken broth and cream as called for the in the original recipe although my version still tastes every bit as rich, I think.

26 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 1/4 cups sliced onions
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
18 garlic cloves, peeled
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth (more like 4 C since I just poured in the whole container)
1/2 cup non-fat evaporated milk
1 slice bread (use bread plain bread here--you don't want seeds in this)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small baking dish. Add olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. It may take less time depending on the size of your cloves. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Tear the slice of bread into small chunks and stir into soup. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend soup until it is uniformly smooth--be careful tho, soup is hot! Add milk and bring to a bare simmer. Non-fat milk should not be boiled without a stabilizing ingredient such as flour so watch carefully or the soup will break and become grainy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This soup can be made a day ahead. Allow to cool and then place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the soup to prevent a skin from forming. When ready to reheat, remove plastic wrap and heat gently to desired temperature. Serves 6 as a starter and 2-3 as a main dish. Deb calls for parmesan croutons but I served with homemade parmesan wheat rolls so I omitted the croutons.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Bread

From: Culinary in the Desert

I don't know to call this, but I didn't think the original name, "hot spinach ricotta loaf" was quite right. It's pizza dough stuffed with ricotta and spinach, rolled up and baked. It's kind of like a stromboli with non-traditional ingredients. Call it whatever you want. It was tasty. I used whole wheat pizza dough from Trder Joe's.

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) fresh grated Asiago cheese
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 ounces prepared whole-wheat pizza dough (Joe has a recipe on his site)
2 teaspoons olive oil
warmed marinara sauce for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together spinach, ricotta, Asiago, nutmeg, salt and garlic.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 12" x 9" rectangle. Spread spinach mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2" border along the top long end clean. Starting with one long side (opposite of the clean edge), tightly roll dough up, jelly-roll style, pinching ends and seam to seal. Transfer log onto a baking sheet lined with parchment - brush the dough with olive oil.

Place sheet into the oven and bake until well browned, about 14 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minuets before slicing. Serve warmed marinara on the side for dipping, if desired.

Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

Mario Batali's Pappardelle with Peas and Parmesan

Adapted by The Wednesday Chef

This was unusual, but we both liked it. I'm still not 100% sold on the mint, but I'm not usually a fan of mint with savory foods. This was on the table in under 30 minutes, and Todd didn't complain that his pasta didn't have meat in it.

Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon wildflower honey
3 cups fresh shucked peas (or frozen)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound fresh homemade pappardelle or 1 pound dried fettucine
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn in half

1. In a large saute pan, heat the oil until it is just smoking. Add the onion, honey, and 2 cups of the peas, and saute until softened and cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Place peas in a food processor and pulse until coarsely pureed (I used an immersion blender), season generously with salt and pepper, and set aside.

3. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Melt the butter in the saute pan, add the remaining peas, and cook slowly until just softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pea puree to the whole peas and set aside.

4. Just before the pasta is done, pour a ladle of the starchy cooking water into the pan with the pea puree and stir to loosen the sauce. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain well, reserving more of the pasta water. Immediately toss the pasta into the pan with the pea mixture and place over medium heat. Stir gently to mix well, adding a little pasta water to achieve the correct texture, not too dry and not too wet - the noodles should be dressed like the greens of a salad. Add the cheese and mint leaves, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Korean bbq flank steak

I had a flank steak defrosted earlier this week and needed something to do with it that was a little different than the norm.
This was quick, easy and tasty.

adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe

2 tablespoons grill seasoning blend (recommended brand McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning)
1/4 cup Tamari dark soy
2 tablespoons honey
3 Tbsp. garlic chili paste
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons toasted (dark) sesame oil, eyeball it
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 pounds flank steak

In a shallow dish, combine grill seasoning, dark soy, a tablespoon honey, chili paste, chopped garlic, sesame oil, scallions and a drizzle of vegetable oil. Coat the flank steak in the mixture and let it stand 10 minutes.
Preheat broiler, and cook 5-6 minutes per side for medium rare, a little longer for less pink.
To serve, let meat rest 5 minutes for juices to redistribute. Thinly slice the meat on a heavy angle against the grain (the lines in the meat).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

French toast stuffed with ricotta and strawberry jam

Therapeutic snow-day food! Original recipe here.

Eight 3/4-inch-thick slices of firm white bread [I used up some soft oat sandwich bread and then some seven-grain stuff... the oat was much better]
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese [I didn't measure this but just spread a layer on half the bread]
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons strawberry jam [we used gooseberry, and ditto, no measuring]
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting [skipped this]

Spread 4 slices of the bread with the ricotta. Spread the remaining 4 slices of bread with the strawberry jam. Close the sandwiches, pressing gently so they stay closed.

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk the eggs with the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Dip both sides of each sandwich into the egg mixture until well coated.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add 2 of the sandwiches and cook until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining butter and sandwiches. Cut the sandwiches in half on the diagonal and transfer to plates. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Prize-winning Crusty Rolls (bread machine - dough cycle)

One of the best things about a bread machine is the dough cycle - rolls and pizza dough, coming right up!

My neighbor made these to go with crockpot pulled pork for one of our blizzard pot lucks this past month. When I asked about them, she said she typed "crusty rolls bread machine" into google and made the first recipe that came up. I've made them once following the recipe exactly (plus a few extra minutes in the oven) for sausage, onion and pepper sandwiches. The second time I made them for turkey burgers and I subbed one cup of wheat flour with good results.

These crisp on the outside, tender on the inside rolls won a blue ribbon at the state fair. They have a great flavor!
by Chris from Kansas

3 hours | 10 min prep

12 rolls

* 1 1/4 cups warm water
* 1 egg white
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 3-3 1/4 cups bread flour
* 2 teaspoons fast rising yeast or quick-rising yeast

1. Place ingredients in bread machine pan as suggested by manufacturer.
2. Choose dough cycle and start machine.
3. Upon completion of the dough cycle, remove dough.
4. Form rolls, place on a greased baking sheet.
5. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free location for 30 to 40 minutes.
6. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Banana nut oatmeal

I am obsessed with oatmeal in all forms lately -- warm oatmeal in a bowl, granola, cookies, granola bars (which I'll be making this afternoon) -- and I'm not the only one. I've been spying lots of recipes on cooking blogs lately for different variations of your morning bowl of oatmeal.
This is the one I made today, which is adapted from the recipes here. I'm planning to make the other one soon. Like maybe tomorrow.

handful pecans (or walnuts -- I used pecans because that was what was in theh ouse)
1 slightly overripe banana
1/2 cup Quaker old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup milk
a little less than 1/2 cup water
3 teaspoons honey, separated
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few shakes cinnamon
1 shake nutmeg
A few dashes Kosher salt

In a small pan, toast pecans. Remove from heat and set aside.
Cut banana in half. Chop one half into chunks and set aside. In your breakfast bowl, mash the other half with a fork until it forms a wet puree.
In a small pot, combine banana puree, oatmeal, milk, water, 2 teaspoons honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Heat over medium until it reaches your preferred consistency, stirring occasionally.
Pour oatmeal into your breakfast bowl. Top with walnuts and banana chunks. Drizzle with remaining teaspoon honey.

Monday, February 22, 2010

baked pasta with butternut squash and ricotta

This is the first thing I cooked at the goat farm, and it was kind of interesting, because they dont' have a lot of things I consider staples (such as... garlic! and also thyme, which I'm not sure we have at home either). Also, it's a Weight Watchers recipe and I think they often underseason things, so some modifications were in order.

2 spray(s) cooking spray
20 oz butternut squash, fresh, peeled and cubed [they suggest buying the precut and prepackaged squash, which I had done, and it was pretty darn convenient]
1/8 tsp table salt, for cooking pasta [I skipped]
12 oz uncooked whole-wheat pasta, penne
1 1/4 cup(s) fat-free skim milk
2 Tbsp white all-purpose flour
2 tsp minced garlic [I skipped]
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground, or to taste [I used more than this]
1 Tbsp thyme, fresh, chopped, divided [I substituted Herbs de Provence]
[I added some nutmeg and rosemary, too]
1/2 cup(s) part-skim ricotta cheese [I used more than this]
1/3 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended [I used shredded Romano]
1/4 cup(s) chopped walnuts, toasted [I skipped but I bet it would be good]

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Coat a 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Place squash on prepared baking sheet; roast until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. [you could also microwave it in a little water, says the recipe]. Place in a large bowl and mash.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. After squash has been roasting for about 10 minutes, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, flour, garlic, salt and pepper [I also added dried herbs to the roux]. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in mashed squash and 2 1/2 teaspoons of thyme. Add sauce to pasta; toss to mix and coat.

Transfer pasta mixture to prepared baking dish; dot with spoonfuls of ricotta and then sprinkle with Parmesan and walnuts. Bake until top is lightly browned in a few spots, about 15 to 20 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

Angel food cake

Ernie made flan and creme brulee for Valentine's Day, both of which require egg yolks. I just happened to have a bunch of egg whites leftover from his cooking, so I figured I'd make an angel food cake.
This is far easier than I figured it was, because I'm always apprehensive about working with egg whites once they've been whipped. The cake is a little sweet for me; I'll probably cut down the sugar to 1 1/2 c. the next time I make it. All I know is, I'll never make angel food cake from the box again.

from The Man, Alton Brown

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.
In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (Mine took 45 minutes to bake)
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cheesy potatoes au gratin

I've never met a potato I didn't like. It's true. Which could partially explain the extra 10 pounds I would like to lose.
In any case, I needed something quick and easy to do with potatoes, with the ingredients I had in the house. So I altered the original recipe by Pioneer Woman, and made these potatoes. They were tasty.

4 whole Russet Potatoes, Scrubbed Clean
cooking spray
1-½ cup light cream
½ cups 2% Milk
2 Tablespoons Flour
4 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Freshly Grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray bottom of baking dish with cooking spray.
Slice potatoes, then cut slices into fourths.
In a separate bowl, whisk together cream, milk, flour, minced garlic, salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Place 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour 1/3 of the cream mixture over the potatoes.
Repeat this two more times, ending with the cream mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and really bubbling. Add grated cheese to the top of the potatoes and bake for 3 to 5 more minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving by the spoonful.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Slightly adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, 30th Anniversary Ed. p. 81

Like Shannon, I've been on a bread bender and have baking up a storm. I made from-scratch bread baking a priority for this year's personal goals and it has been a fun process. I own a bread machine and have been making bread in it for years but I wanted to learn how to make and bake it myself. This book has been a fantastic resource and I highly recommend it. Mine came from my local library but I hope to find a copy of my own under the Christmas tree later this year.

This is a wonderful WW loaf that makes a great sandwich bread, french toast or, as I've been eating it, well-toasted and served on the side of soup/stew.

1/4 C clover honey
1/2 C buttermilk (or soured milk made with vinegar)
1 1/4 C hot water (120 to 130 degrees)
2 t salt
2 pkgs rapid rise active dry yeast (you must use rapid rise for this recipe)
4 C whole wheat flour, approx.
1/2 C toasted wheat germ plus one cup for crust
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 T milk

This bread can be made by hand or in a mixer. I did it by hand for the fun of it but the directions are the same for either.

In your mixer bowl, combine honey, buttermilk, water and salt. Stir to dissolve honey. Add yeast, 2 C flour and wheat germ. Beat to blend using paddle attachment or wooden spoon. Add remainder of flour 1/2 C at a time, allowing the dough time to absorb each addition. Do not overload the dough or it may turn into a hard ball. When dough is a rough mass, switch to a dough hook or use your hands.

Knead by hand or machine for 8 minutes. Grease a large bowl and form dough into a ball and place inside. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temp to rise for 20 minutes. If your kitchen is on the cold side as mine is, turn on the oven to 350 for a few minutes and then turn it off. Place dough inside the oven and leave door ajar.

Remove plastic wrap and punch down dough lightly with fingers. Turn dough over and replace plastic wrap. Leave to rise a second time for 40 minutes.

Turn out dough and form into an oval the length of a 9x5 loaf pan. Fold in half and pinch the seam together. Allow to rest while you spread the wheat germ on your work surface. Brush top and sides of loaf with egg yolk and milk mixture and roll it over the wheat germ. Rock it gently back and forth to pick up the wheat germ. Tuck in the ends and place inside your *greased* loaf pan. Don't forget to grease your pan or your bread will stick to the inside like mine did and you have to tear it to get it out. Oops.

Press down bread with the back of your hand and cover pan with a clean towel or wax paper. Allow to rest until risen about 1" above the top of the pan or about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 20 minutes before you plan to bake your bread. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the loaf is dark brown and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it.

Unmold bread and let it stand, wheat germ side up, on a rack until cool. Wait 2 hours before slicing. Your house will smell like freshly baked bread for 2 days afterwards...such a lovely, lovely smell.

Cranberry Millet Muffins

I know, another muffin recipe. But, the way I see it, there is always room for one more healthy and delicious muffin recipe in one's repertoire.

Adapted loosely from Martha. I was intrigued by the description of the muffins on her website but then I got a good look at the ingredients list and realized that simply adding millet to muffins does not a "healthy" treat make.

2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C millet
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 C honey (I used clover honey)
1 egg
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
1/2 C reduced fat sour cream or greek yogurt
2 T canola oil
1 t vanilla
12 oz bag of sweetened frozen cranberries from TJ's (or 2 C fresh/frozen but add more sweetener if the berries don't have added sugar; dried would probably be good here as well)

Now, if you've seen Alton Brown's episode on muffins, you know to always assemble the dry and wet teams separately and never overmix. If you haven't seen it then go watch it. He's a genius.

Preheat oven to 350. Assemble all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients. If your cranberries are on the large side, consider chopping them up a bit. Combine half a cup of the dry ingredients in a bowl with the cranberries and toss to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir together about 10 times or until batter has mostly come together. Add cranberries and stir just to combine. Do not overmix. Using a cookie scoop, portion out batter into muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray. I used my mini muffin tin (yield 24) and poured the rest into a 9x5 loaf pan also sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes clean. I filled my muffin cups a bit on the full side so mine took about 25 min. Remove muffins and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before storing. Makes 41 0.90 oz servings. Yes, I weighed the muffins and the bread. This is what happens when you only have one muffin tin. 66 kcals; 1.2 g fiber. These definitely are healthier and are quite delicious.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

lemon yogurt bundt cake

I first saw this recipe as part of the Food Librarian's "I Like Big Bundts" month, and decided I'd break out the old bundt pan too. Mine didn't look as cool as hers, but it was really tasty, and I made some modifications to the Barefoot Contessa's original recipe.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt [I used nonfat Greek yogurt]
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons) [I was using Meyer lemons, and they are so good. it took more than two lemons to get this much zest]
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice [I used more than this. I'm not sure if I did something wrong here, but the glaze with only 2T was more like thick paste and not drizzle-able...]


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Asian Nachos

Adapted from the Grand Luxe Cafe on the Mag Mile in Chicago, courtesy of my brother.

I wasn't going to post this but Gwen talked me into it. It's just that I'm not following a recipe so much as using recipes I have on hand already and then using proper nacho preparation technique (courtesy of Cooks Illus.). And Asian nachos are exactly what they sound like: nachos with Asian flair. And had we actually been competing at this year's Super Bowl Top Chef party, I dare say I would have been a top contender with these. Take that Bobby Flay and your nacho dogs! Note that I've made these with tofu but they are commonly served with chicken or pork. Here's how it goes:

1/2 pkg of square won ton skins, cut in half on the diagonal
1/2 medium red pepper, minced
1/2 medium yellow or orange pepper, minced
1/2 medium carrot, minced
3 scallions, finely sliced
1 T chopped cilantro
1/2 pkg extra firm tofu, cut in half lengthwise, pressed and marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and sriracha (I did this the day before)
1.5 C fontina cheese, grated
1 C peanut sauce of your choice (I make my own using a little of this-a and little of that-a)
3 T toasted peanuts, chopped
wasabi cream (directions to follow)

Here's the thing: you must fry the won tons. I tried other methods of baking and pan frying with just a smidge of oil and they are just not the same. Besides, you aren't going to eat this sort of thing every day.

Heat a half gallon of a neutral-tasting oil or Crisco (my brother recommends peanut oil but I used Crisco since that's what I had) in a large dutch oven and bring to 360 degrees. Temperature is important in frying because if the temp is too low, the won tons will absorb lots of oil leaving you with greasy nachos. Prepare a baking sheet with paper towels or newspaper and lay a cooling rack on top; place next to stove top.

Place just enough won ton skins in the pot to permit turning of the skins--don't crowd the pot. Watch closely and do not allow to burn. Fry skins until lightly browned and then remove to waiting baking sheet. You'll end up with more than enough nachos which is good in case some of them break along the way.

In a saute pan over medium heat, pour in a tsp of sesame oil and add both halves of tofu. Brown on one side then turn over. When both sides are sufficiently browned, set aside on a cutting board until cool enough to handle. Once cooled, slice into strips or cut into small cubes. Prepare your peanut sauce at this time and toast and chop peanuts for garnish.

Once you're ready to serve, turn on your broiler. Arrange a layer of nachos on an oven-safe platter. Pour over some peanut sauce and sprinkle on some tofu. Sprinkle over some peppers, scallions and carrots and top with some cheese. Add a second layer of nachos and repeat layering of ingredients. Top with a final layer of cheese and pop under the broiler until cheese is melted and everything is warmed through.

Garnish with remaining vegetables, cilantro and chopped peanuts. Dollop on some wasabi cream, serve and enjoy.

*Wasabi cream is made by mixing 2 t wasabi paste, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 T mayonnaise and 1 T fresh lime juice. Adjust flavor with further addition of wasabi paste or sour cream until desired heat level is reached.

Cookie dough truffles

You guys! These are so, so good. And no eggs, which means I don't worry about giving anyone food poisoning. Just linking to the recipe, because I didn't change one single thing.

Go here to Annie's Eats and make them!

Merlot sauce

I made beef tenderloin for dinner, and wanted a sauce to put on top once I'd sliced the beef and put it on the plates, on top of the fried potatoes.
This one worked really, really well.

from Epicurious

1 750-ml bottle Merlot (I used Fish Eye -- it was $6 a bottle and pretty decent for cooking)
2 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can beef broth

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 c. shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced

Boil wine, chicken broth and beef broth in heavy large saucepan over high heat until mixture is reduced to 2 cups, about 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Mix butter and flour in small bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle tenderloin with salt and cracked pepper. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, then put in the oven to finish. Remove tenderloin from the oven, put on a cutting board to rest.
Add shallots, garlic and thyme to skillet; stir 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cups reduced wine mixture to skillet (reserve remainder for another use). Bring mixture to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add butter mixture and whisk until smooth. Boil sauce until thick enough to coat spoon, about 2 minutes. Serve steaks with sauce.


I've really, really been wanting steak frites from Mon Ami Gabi lately, but with two kiddos, it's sort of difficult to get over there these days. Especially since I try not to ask friends and family to watch both girls at once -- that's like a double whammy for whoever we've asked.
So, I set out to make my own for Valentine's Day. The fries were not the same as Mon Ami Gabi's, but they were good.

adapted from this recipe, only because I have a deep fryer

1 1/2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes
About 8 cups canola or peanut oil (I used peanut oil)
Kosher salt

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Rinse well, then soak in cold water, chilled, at least 2 hours.
Drain potatoes and pat dry thoroughly. Heat 2 1/2 inches canola oil to 275°F in a 4-to 5-quart heavy pot over medium heat. (Or in your deep fryer, if you've got one)
Fry potatoes in 2 batches, stirring once or twice, 3 minutes per batch (potatoes will not be golden), transferring with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 275°F between batches.
Heat oil to 320°F. (I actually heated oil to 370, because that's what the fryer tells me is the best temp for potatoes) Refry potatoes in 2 batches, stirring once or twice, until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes per batch, transferring to fresh paper towels.
Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Pasta with alfredo

I made this for the girls for Valentine's Day yesterday, and Gaby inhaled her entire dinner. I guess it was good.
This was a super easy recipe, and will be the way I make alfredo sauce from now on -- no more buying jarred sauce for me. Yay!

adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe

1 pint heavy cream or light cream, or a combination of the two (this is what I used)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

To prepare alfredo sauce: Heat heavy cream over low-medium heat in a deep saute pan. Add butter and whisk gently to melt. Sprinkle in cheese and stir to incorporate. Season with freshly cracked black pepper.
In a large stockpot, cook pasta (I used bow ties) according to package. Quickly drain the pasta and add it to the saute pan, gently toss the noodles to coat in the alfredo. Transfer pasta to a warm serving bowl. Top with more grated cheese and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

From: Smitten Kitchen

I made a half-batch of this in a regular-size loaf pan. I served this with fresh cut fruit and chocolate fondue. It was delicious - moist and dense. I liked the touch of almond extract and could see mixing up the flavor by using lemon or orange instead. I put the original full-size recipe below, but it halves easily.

Serves (at least) 10

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) Philadelphia brand cream cheese*, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract plus 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 10-inch tube pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Alternately, you can use a 12-cup bundt pan, and simply butter and flour it.

2. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, increase the speed to high, and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla, almond, then the flour and salt all at once. Beat just until incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 hours.

4. Place the pan on a cake rack and cool for 20 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

* Philadelphia cream cheese is often recommended for baking for consistency purposes, as in, bakers know this brand works, and because it contains less water than other brands.

Variations: Add some chopped chocolate, orange zest, lemon zest, grapefruit zest whole raspberries, different extracts, etc.

Smaller cakes: Divide full recipe into two loaf pans, or half the recipe and make one loaf pan.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spinach Pie with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Adapted from Cooking Light. I made this a few weeks ago and just didn't get a chance to post it until now. This is a nice dish to feed a crowd and the left overs are quite tasty even though they aren't as crispy the next day. Next time, I think I'll forego the phyllo and just use puff pastry; it's easier to deal with and is a bit less time consuming.

1/3 cup olive oil, divided
2 cups minced onion (about 1 large)
5 (9-ounce) packages fresh spinach, roughly chopped (I used two 10 oz pkgs of chopped frozen spinach)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 egg
1 C fat free cottage cheese
1/2 C crumbled reduced-fat feta
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
a few gratings of nutmeg
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot set over medium heat, add 3 T olive oil. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add spinach, 1 bag at a time; cook 3 minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. Simmer spinach mixture 40 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in raisins. Remove from heat; cool completely. In a food processor, add egg and cottage cheese; blend to combine. Stir in cheese, nuts, salt, pepper and nutmeg to cottage cheese mixture then stir into spinach.

Press 1 phyllo sheet into bottom and up sides of a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray (cover remaining dough to keep from drying); lightly coat phyllo with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with 7 phyllo sheets.**Spread spinach mixture in an even layer onto phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board or work surface (cover remaining dough to keep from drying); lightly brush with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Repeat procedure with the remaining 3 phyllo sheets and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil (I just used cooking spray for this part as well). Place phyllo layer over spinach mixture; tuck in sides to enclose spinach fully. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 15 minutes. I served this with warm pita wedges and a Greek salad.

**I found it easier to work on a large cutting board and stack the phyllo sheets on top of each other and then place the whole thing into the baking dish.

Lemon Frozen Yogurt

Adapted from So fresh tasting and delicious. As with any fro-yo or ice cream recipe, this is best made the day before you want to serve it. Also, depending on what kind of ice cream maker you have, make your preparations now. I have a Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment that requires freezing for a minimum of 24 hours prior to use.

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2-3 strips of lemon peel (be sure to just get peel and not pith)
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt (use Greek here)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk (I only had a half cup so I added a half cup of skim)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Bring water, sugar, light corn syrup, and lemon peel strips to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil 2 minutes. Remove strips of peel and pour into a medium bowl and chill until cool. Whisk in yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon grated peel. Allow to chill overnight. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions; cover and freeze.

I served this with shortbread cookies and raspberry coulis. Our dinner guests loved the lemony-ness of it and Michael and I happily polished off the remainder the next night. So good and practically guilt free. Unless you eat a lot of cookies with it...

Sauerkraut & Cabbage Roll Soup

Adapted from Closet Cooking. I made this with Gimme Lean and, frankly, I'm sorry I did. It just had a taste to it that I did not care for. Next time, I'll just make it with potatoes and not bother with meat. But this is good soup. Here, the kraut is the star but I bet it would be quite tasty with ground beef if that's your thing. The kraut, tho, it was amazing. Serves a lot, probably about 6 servings.

1 pound ground beef (or not)
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 cup long grained rice (I used frozen brown rice)
4 cups vegetable broth (use beef if using ground beef in soup)
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
2 cups sauerkraut (with liquid)
1 teaspoon hot paprika
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream (optional)

In a heavy pot or dutch oven, brown the ground beef (if using) and set aside draining the grease from the pot. Heat the oil in the pot add the onions and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute then add the rice and toast for a few minutes. Pour the broth and deglaze the pan. Return the beef to the pot and add tomatoes, sauerkraut, paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is cooked, about 20 minutes (50 minutes for brown rice). If using frozen rice like I did, simmer until rice is heated through and soup flavors have a chance to meld a bit. I also tossed in a handful of cooked and cubed fingerling potatoes that I had languishing on my counter and they were a nice addition. Serve garnished with sour cream.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day Appetizer Suggestions?

We are having another couple over for Valentine's Dinner at our house. So far the menu looks like this:

Appetizer: Uh, this is where I need your help
Entree: Beef Daube Provencal (red wine beef stew), mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, crusty bread
Dessert: Caramel Chocolate Pie or chocolate fondue with fruit (haven't decided yet)

Any suggestions for a nice appetizer? Preferably something that does not involve too much cheese or mushrooms.

Pecan and Dark Chocolate Toffee Pieces

From Field Guide to Candy.

Michael is flying out to visit his family tomorrow and I wanted to send some goodies along with him. I thought about making Shannon's salted caramels but I didn't have heavy cream on hand and also I thought that toffee pieces were less likely to get squished in his suitcase. They might get a bit crunched up but will still be good.

1 C sugar
1/3 C brown sugar (I used dark because that's what I have)
1 T light corn syrup
1/8 t salt
4 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 t vanilla
1/2 bar dark chocolate
handful of nuts, toasted and chopped (I used pecans)

Line an 11x17 baking pan with foil and spray liberally with cooking spray, set aside. In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients except vanilla and turn heat to med-high. Stirring constantly, allow mixture to come to a boil. Continue stirring until a thermometer reads 298 degrees (you will need a candy therm since a meat therm will not go that high. Well, at least mine doesn't). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet and spread into a thin-ish layer with a spatula. It will set up quickly and it will be very hot--so no tasting!

While toffee cools, temper your chocolate using a double boiler. For dark chocolate, add 2/3 of the chocolate and allow to come to 120 degrees, stirring frequently. Take off boiler, wipe off condensation from bottom of bowl and add remaining chocolate, stirring until completely melted. Allow chocolate to come to 82 degrees and then return to double boiler. Bring chocolate up to 88 degrees and then remove from boiler. Chocolate is now tempered and can be poured over toffee. Spread chocolate into a thin later completely covering toffee. Sprinkle on nuts and allow to set for one hour. Break into shards. Store in an airtight container for one week.

Salted butter caramels

Okay, these are seriously good. Since I don't often work with a candy thermometer, it tends to make me nervous, but this was really easy.
Note: Mine came out slightly harder than I would have liked. I'll be playing with the temps a little soon. Might have just been my candy thermometer.

adapted slightly from Nosh with Me

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
rounded 1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (I had some French grey sea salt in my pantry)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cubed, at room temperature

Line a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan with foil and spray the inside with cooking spray.
Heat cream, two tablespoons butter, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in a small saucepan until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm while you cook the syrup.
In a medium, heavy duty saucepan (4 quarts, 4l), fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the corn syrup with the sugar and cook, stirring gently, to make sure the sugar melts smoothly. Once the mixture is melted together and the sugar is evenly moistened, only stir as necessary to keep it from getting any hot spots.
Cook until the syrup reaches 310ºF (155ºC). To get an accurate reading while the syrup is cooking, tilt the saucepan to make sure the bulb of the thermometer is fully submerged in the syrup.
Turn off the heat and stir in the warm cream mixture until smooth.
Turn the heat back on and cook the mixture to 260F (127C).
Remove the pan from the heat, lift out the thermometer, and stir in the cubes of butter until they’re melted and the mixture is smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and wait ten minutes, then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt over the top. Set on a cooling rack and let cool completely. Once cool, lift out the foil with the caramel, peel away the foil, and slice the bar of caramel with a long, sharp knife into squares or rectangles.

Storage: These caramels can be individually-wrapped in cellophane or waxed paper. Once cut, they may stick together if not wrapped. Store in an air-tight container, and they’ll keep for about one month.

Buttery brown sugar slices

We're stuck in the house, obviously, and I don't have much to do besides hang out with the kids (which is fun all on its own), clean (ugh) and cook.
So I've been scouring my cookbooks and bookmarks, looking for different-than-usual recipes that might be fun.
Of course, none of them are good for you. That wouldn't be very much fun at all. Besides, we've been doing a lot of shoveling and sledding.

This is from a cookbook I found on my shelf called "500 Best Cookies, Bars & Squares." They're really good and -- a bonus -- you can just take out as many as you want at a time and bake them. They're better right out of the oven.

3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 c. finely chopped walnuts, optional

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add flour misture and mix well. Fold in nuts if using.
On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half. Shape into two rolls about 2 to 3 inches wide. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, remove the wrap and cut dough into slices 1/4 inch thick. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Kale, mushrooms and tomatoes over polenta

Adapted from a recipe I found here. We ate it over goat cheese polenta (which I posted here a couple weeks ago), but you could use whatever polenta recipe you like.

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound sliced button mushrooms
1/4 c. diced onions (or more)
Salt and pepper
8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch kale (about 3/4 pound), stemmed and roughly chopped
red wine

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in kale and 1/4 cup red wine, cover, reduce heat to medium low and cook until kale begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Toss well, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes more. Cover and set aside.
Serve over polenta.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Oatmeal Toasting Bread

Two kinds of oatmeal in one bread = heaven.
This recipe has turned out moist and hearty loaves with a delectable chew. The first attempt last week was an easy and fairly quick success, resulting in my eagerness to make another two loaves this week.
It is another new family favorite from A Year in Bread's Friday Favorites.

Anne's Oatmeal Toasting Bread
Makes 1 two-pound loaf or 2 small one-pound loaves

This bread is both hearty and light. More than just a simple vehicle for jam, it could almost be a complete meal. If you omit the vital wheat gluten, it will be tasty but will crumble all over your toaster. [Editor's note: Gluten is the mix of proteins in flour that provides the structure and texture of bread. It does this by forming long strands as you knead the dough. Because there is a substantial quantity of oats—which do not contain gluten—in this recipe, adding some vital wheat gluten helps this bread hold its shape. Look for vital wheat gluten—also sometimes called gluten flour—in the bulk section of natural foods stores.]

To make fresh 'porridge':
Bring 1½ cups (12 oz.) water to a simmer. Add 1/2 cup (3 oz.) steel-cut oats. Simmer on low, covered, for about 25 minutes.

For the bread:
1½ cups / 5 oz leftover steel-cut oatmeal, room temperature
4 Tablespoons / 2 oz unsalted butter
1/4 cup / 2 oz light brown sugar
1¼ teaspoons / .25 oz salt
1 cup / 3.65 oz raw old-fashioned (not quick) rolled oats
1/4 cup / 1.2 oz oat bran
2 cups / 10 oz bread flour
1/4 cup / 1.2 oz nonfat dry milk (If you prefer to make your porridge with milk, omit this.)
2 Tablespoons / .5 oz vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons / .25 oz instant yeast

1. Melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar and salt. Stir this into the leftover porridge.

2. Put the rolled oats, oat bran, bread flour, dry milk, vital wheat gluten, and yeast in a large bowl.

3. Stir in the porridge mixture.

4. Knead by machine or hand for about 10 minutes. This is a very sticky dough. You may need to add more flour so that you can move from sticky towards tacky, which is desirable.

5. Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl. Cover with a cloth, and let the dough rise for 1 hour.

6. Flour a work surface. Gently flour the dough and fold over about four times. Dust with flour if the dough is sticking to your hands. (If making multiple loaves, divide the dough now into equal pieces.)

7. Fold the dough in half, pinch the seam, and gently roll into a loaf shape the length of your pan. The dough will be stiff. If needed, pinch the seam with moistened fingers.

8. Place in greased loaf pans. You want the ends of the loaf to touch the short ends of your pan (so it will rise evenly.)

9. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and a towel. Let dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

10. Dust the top with oat bran, if you like.

11. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes.

—To double the recipe and make 2 loaves, start with: 3 cups water and 1 cups uncooked oats. This will result in 3 cups of cooked oatmeal, which is your goal.

—If you've made fresh oatmeal, go ahead and stir the butter, brown sugar, and salt into it. Cool your oatmeal down to below 120°F, before proceeding with the recipe.

—This bread freezes well. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator to retain moisture.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Red wine beef stew with potatoes & green beans

This is from a cookbook I've got called "Food Network Favorites." It's from Dave Lieberman. And, was really good on a cold and snowy night. When we couldn't have gone anywhere even if we'd wanted.

2 lbs. beef chuck for stew, cut into cubes
kosher salt and pepper
3 Tbsp. butter
4 medium carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 small onions, diced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 14.5 oz cans reduced-sodium beef stock
2 c. red wine
1 c. crushed tomatoes (I used diced, with the juice)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (I used 4)
2 handfuls green beans, ends trimmed (I used about 4 handfuls

Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in heavy 6-quart pot over medium heat. As soon as the butter starts to turn brown, add half the beef and raise the heat to high. Cook, turning the beef cubes, until all sides are evenly browned, about 5-6 minutes. If the pan gets too brown, turn down the heat. Scoop the browned beef out, add remaining butter, then brown rest of the beef.
Scoop out the second batch of beer, then add the carrots and onions and adjust the heat to medium high. Cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour until it has been worked into the veggies. Pour in the beef broth, wine, and crushed tomatoes and toss in the rosemary. Slide the beef back into the pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat so the liquid is just breakin ga gentle simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook 50 minutes, stirring several times.
Stir in the potatoes, cover the pot completely and cook another 45 minutes. Add the green beans and cook 5-10 minutes.

Vienna bread -- bread maker

I just wanted a very simple white bread last night to go with our stew, and this one fit the bill. So soft and tasty.

from "The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook"

for 1 1/2 lb loaf

1/2 c. water
1/2 c. milk
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 c. bread flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. gluten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. bread machine yeast

Place all the ingredients in the pan, in order. Set crust on medium and program for basic or french bread (I used french bread).
When the baking cycle is over, let cool before slicing. (We didn't do this. We immediate sliced it up and ate with our stew. So, so good.)

Semolina pizza dough -- bread machine

Nothing to do around here but cook. And eat. Good thing I have a well-stocked pantry/fridge/freezer and I ran out to get a few things before the blizzard hit the area.

from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

1 1/2 c. water
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. semolina flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast

Place all ingredients in the pan according to the order in the manufacturer's instructions. Program for dough or pizza dough and press start.
When the machine is done, remove the bread from the machine and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into desired number of portions (I divided into 6 portions for personal pizzas). Flatten each portion by kneading a few times and then folding the edges into the center. Cover with a damp town and let rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough as directed in your pizza recipe, or place in ziploc bags and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To use, let rest for 20 minutes at room temp before rolling out. Dough may also be frozen for up to 3 months; let dough defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

tofu with spinach sauce

Who am I to question Mark Bittman, but the name of this recipe is wrong... it's tofu with spinach, but not spinach sauce exactly, and isn't it just saag paneer but with tofu instead of cheese? Whatever, it was good. I ate it with some of the Wegmans-brand naan, which is also good.

* 1 1/2 pounds spinach
* 12 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu
* 2 tablespoons butter or oil (I used Earth Balance)
* 1 tablespoon minced ginger
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 3 dried chilies
* 2 tablespoons garam masala or curry powder
* Salt to taste
* 1/2 cup yogurt (I used light sour cream)
* 1 1/2 cups light cream or half-and-half (I used a can of lite coconut milk)


* 1. Trim and wash spinach; do not dry. Chop leaves in one-inch pieces. Cut tofu in two horizontally and wrap in paper towels. Put it under a couple of plates.
* 2. Put butter or oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. A minute later, add ginger, garlic and chilies and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic begins to color.
* 3. Stir in garam masala or curry powder and a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until it wilts, then add yogurt and a cup of cream. Pick out chilies and discard.
* 4. Cook mixture over medium-high heat; liquid in spinach will boil off. When mixture is nearly dry, cut tofu into half-inch pieces and incorporate. When tofu is hot, add remaining cream and cook for another minute or two, stirring. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mississippi Mud Balls

A.k.a. Oreo truffles. A.k.a. the most delicious thing you'll eat all week. Basically, you make these like you would cake pops only instead of cake and frosting you use oreos and cream cheese. Makes approx. 40 mud balls (depending on how much you taste for quality assurance).

1 pkg oreos
8 oz cream cheese, softened
milk or dark chocolate for tempering/chocolate bark

Here's the deal: you whiz the cookies in your food processor until they are rendered into small crumbs. Try not to get oreo dust all over your kitchen like I did. Add the cream cheese and whiz some more until fully combined. Decant into a small bowl and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with waz paper and set aside. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop little balls of deliciousness and roll into a round truffle shape; place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for one hour or stick in the freezer for 30 minutes. When ready, either temper your chocolate or melt the bark according to pkg directions. I had a huge block of milk chocolate (about 1 lb) left over in my fridge (gift from a patient) so I tempered it and dipped all the balls in it. Place each ball on your baking sheet (this is why the waxed paper is so important--easy clean up!) and allow to rest at room temp for one hour (15 min if using bark). If desired, temper dark or white chocolate (or both!) and drizzle on top of balls and allow to cool. You can speed this up a bit by putting the tray in the freezer. Refrigerate or freeze until firm (won't take long) and serve. I placed mine in mini cupcake liners and took them to Michael's office. Here is the end product:

Bread with Golden Raisins and Hazelnuts or Pecans

Kelli's Pain aux Raisins Secs et Noisettes ou Pacanes

from the Friday Favorites contributors on A Year in Bread

Makes 3 to 4 loaves (I halved everything and made two loaves. Everything else I did exactly as instructed and was happy with the results. I was not happy to remember too late that Gwen's J. can't eat nuts...I don't get to be the hostess with the mostest this time around...)

On special occasions we serve this bread with homemade honey butter, but it's moist enough to be delicious on its own. Because we're always in a hurry, the bread only rises once. We also use Rapid-Rise yeast* to speed along the process. [note: You can substitute an equal amount of instant yeast and let your dough rise a little longer.]

6 cups whole wheat flour, preferably organic
2 Tablespoons Rapid-Rise yeast*
2 Tablespoons salt
4 Tablespoons sugar
4 cups (32 oz) very warm water
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans or hazelnuts
1/4 cup flax seeds (optional, but we like to add these when we have them; they're good for you!)
5 - 6 cups white all-purpose flour (this amount may vary), preferably organic

1. Place the whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk together.

2. Add the warm water and whisk until the flour is completely incorporated.

3. Stir in the raisins and nuts (and flaxseed if using).

4. Add enough white flour to make a stiff dough; in our humid climate, that's between 5 and 6 cups. It varies, so add just enough so that the dough no longer sticks to your hands.

5. Knead vigorously for 5 to 10 minutes, additional flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.

Telling someone to knead for a certain amount of time seems like giving directions by suggesting one 'walk five minutes and turn left.' It all depends on how quickly you get from point A to point B. With bread, how much dough you’re working with also factors into the equation.

We usually make 12 loaves at a time, and that amount of dough needs a little more work before it’s thoroughly kneaded. So how do you know when it’s ready? Experienced bakers can feel it in their hands, but there’s a great way to double check!

Pinch off a small piece of dough and powder with flour (so your fingers won’t stick). Then slowly flatten and stretch the dough as if you were making a thin pizza crust.

If the dough is well-kneaded, you should be able to poke the stretched dough gently with your finger without tearing the dough. This is the best way I know of to tell when bread dough is ready to move to the next stage.

6. Divide the dough into four pieces (or three if your loaf pans are large), shape them into loaves [see this post for step-by-instructions on how to shape pan loaves], and place them in four greased baking pans. Let rise for 30 minutes.

The climate in our home varies wildly from season to season—warm and in the 80s during the summer, and in the 50s and much drier in the dead of winter. We’ve found the easiest way to make sure our dough rises in a timely and predictable manner (because people are waiting for us) is to place it in a warm oven to rise.

Our oven’s lowest temperature is 170° F, and that seems just right. Just heat up the oven, turn the oven off, then place the bread in to rise. For us, 25 minutes does the trick. [You can read more about bread baking basics, including how to tell when your dough has risen enough, on Susan's Farmhouse White Basic Sandwich Bread Recipe post.]

7. After the loaves have risen, preheat the oven to 350° (take your loaves out if you let them rise in the oven), then place the loaves (back) into the oven when it has heated up. Bake until browned on bottom and top — for us it's about 25 minutes.

8. Remove the loaves from the pans, let them cool on a wire rack, and try your best to wait 30 minutes before slicing into them because the bread continues to bake after you take it out of the oven.

*From Wikipedia: Rapid-Rise yeast is a variety of yeast (usually a form of instant yeast) designed to provide greater carbon dioxide output to allow faster rising at the expense of shortened fermentation times. There is considerable debate as to the value of such a product; while most baking experts believe it reduces the flavor potential of the finished product, Cook's Illustrated magazine, among others, feels that at least for direct-rise recipes, it makes little difference. Rapid-Rise yeast is often marketed specifically for use in bread machines.

Habitant Pea Soup

Geoff and I made this the other day, and it was delicious. It tasted even better the day after. Note: store the salt pork separate from the soup. Reheat the soup, then drop in the salt pork without reheating. That way, the crunchiness is maintained, and the soup warmed up the salt pork nicely.

Source: Cooking Light, January/February 2010

Habitant Pea Soup

Habitant refers to people who live in rural Québec, where this hearty soup is a popular staple.

Yield: 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cups yellow split peas
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth (we used chicken broth)
2 cups water
6 ounces salt pork
2 bay leaves
1 (12-ounce) ham hock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche (we had heavy whipping cream on hand, and used that instead)
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)


1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups onion, carrot, and celery to pan; sauté for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in peas; sauté for 1 minute. Add broth and the next 4 ingredients (through ham hock); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until peas are tender, skimming surface occasionally, as necessary.

2. Remove ham hock and bay leaves; discard. Remove salt pork; cool. Remove 1 1/2 cups pea mixture; let stand 5 minutes. Puree 1 1/2 cups pea mixture, and return to pan, stirring to thicken slightly. Stir in parsley, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper.

3. Dice salt pork. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cover and cook 5 minutes or until crisp and browned, stirring frequently. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon pork and 1 1/2 teaspoons crème fraîche. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, if desired.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

This is adapted from a recipe I found on Sweetnicks. Super easy and definitely comfort food. We ate ours with buttered spaghetti and salad.

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups spaghetti sauce (either your own, or your favorite pre-made)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Stir 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese into the pasta sauce in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until it’s well browned on both sides.
Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken, turning to coat with the sauce. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Top with the mozzarella cheese and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.