Monday, December 28, 2009

It's good to have friends with whom you can share leftovers.

This wisdom today brought to you by too many so-so dumplings (not the Asian kind) with a yummy turkey soup and a Native American med student with a great metabolism who is hopefully bringing dessert.

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

If you like coffee, and have a penchant for chocolate, why...you'd love this cookie. =) It's straight from Martha Stewart's Collectible Cookie Edition of Everyday Food (2006) again, and available online too.

It gets a little messy to make, but that really is part of the fun, hee hee...^_^ The original recipe says it makes 18...I doubled the batch though, and got about 52 of them! O_o Perhaps I made them a little smaller than instructed...^_^ Below is the recipe for "18" snowcaps.

Ingredients:

- 4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I just used the Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips and melted them)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

1. Place chocolate in a bowl, and melt in the microwave in 30 second increments; let cool. In a separate, medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat to combine. Stir in cooled chocolate. Add dry ingredients alternating with the milk. Mix just until combined.

3. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disk; wrap in plastic and chill in freezer until firm, about 45 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl. With slightly damp hands, shape dough into 1-inch balls (about 1 tablespoon of dough each). Roll each ball in powdered sugar. Leave in sugar while shaping remaining cookies. Roll cookies a second time to completely coat.

5. Place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake until sugar coating splits, and cookies have spread but are still soft to the touch, 12 to 14 minutes (my oven = 11 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

organic produce

As today's public service announcement, here's information from Dr. Mercola. It's expensive to eat organic, and even though that's my real desire (so many darn toxins in life in New Orleans, don't need to eat them) I can't always do so. So, this helps me make the determination of what's most important to get organic. The first chart - things that are least important to buy organic (though, the picture is broader than just pesticide load: there are some serious human rights violations especially with conventional banana production); second chart - things you really should.

Of course this all gets complicated because the overwhelming majority of vendors at the farmers market do not grow organic. It's far more difficult to do that it here in the South than other places (as my own experience - and research - has shown). So when faced with local or organic choice, it's always a tightrope walk for me. I avoid the Georgia peaches because they laughed at me when I asked if they spray them, and I avoid the fellow who says, "Pesticides are the least of your worries - I grow one mile downstream from a nuclear power plant! Why do you think everything looks so good and big?!" I talk to the apple man about which sprays he applies and when, and I hit strawberry season early (and freeze a bunch), before they spray.

I wash produce well - especially those on the high pesticide load chart - and consider peeling when conventional.

Sigh. Eating well is complicated!

The following 12 foods have the lowest pesticide load when conventionally grown. Consequently, they are the safest conventionally grown crops to consume:
Broccoli Eggplant Cabbage Banana
Kiwi Asparagus Sweet peas Mango
Pineapple Sweet corn Avocado Onion

Meanwhile, these 12 fruits and vegetables had the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy or grow organic:

Peaches Apples Sweet bell peppers Celery
Nectarines Strawberries Cherries Lettuce
Grapes (imported) Pears Spinach Potatoes

Friday, December 25, 2009

Zucchini Latkes


Zucchini Latkes
Originally uploaded by gummychild
With lots of sweet baking going on, it's nice to balance it with something that's a little savory...^_^ I made these Zucchini Latkes today for lunch, to go with leftover pizza that Mello brought over on Wednesday. ^_^

I love making potato pancakes, but this new discovery is a new species of its own! It's very, very light, and extremely tasty. ^_^ The outside is just a bit crispy, and the inside is moist (I did not squeeze out the water from the zucchini as indicated in the original, because I didn't want just crispy zucchini cakes) and full of zucchini flavor - perfect if you love zucchini as much as I do. =)

The only problem is, I modified this quite a bit from the original at gourmet.com, and went on my own, eyeballing the amounts of ingredients I used, so I'll do my best to give you the best estimate in terms of measurements.

Ingredients:

- 3 regular size zucchinis, peeled and shredded with a grater.
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 Cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1 Tablespoon of parmesan cheese with tuscan herbs (dried basil, thyme, etc...)
- Oil to pan cook with

Directions:

1) Mix everything together well. =) Season to taste.

2) Make one circle of oil on a hot skillet, and wait for the oil to heat up.

3) Drop mixture in by giant spoonfuls (I used a serving spoon; I'm guessing it's about 2-3 Tablespoons) but make sure they are packed together into a latke/thick pancake shape so that it will cook and hold together.

4) When the bottom is browned, flip carefully and wait for the other side to brown.

5) Serve fresh! It's light, tasty, and doesn't need additional seasoning. The original suggests sour cream, but I liked it just as it is. =)

fennel, feta, kalamata salad

Super duper yummy! Inspiration here.

Dressing:
  • 1/4 c lemon juice (fresh-squeezed Meyers lemons, please)
  • sugar to taste (about 1 tsp)
  • salt & pepper (go light on salt because of olives and feta - how salty are they?)
  • 1 tsp - 1 T olive oil
Mix together & set aside.

Salad:
  • fennel (I used one bulb sliced as thinly as I could, but I need a mandoline!) - set in ice water while preparing everything else
  • romaine or other lettuce you have on hand (or none)
  • olives (kalamatas, about 1/3 cup because they're yummy!); I prefer them chopped in 1/4 or so
  • 4 oz of feta (fresh goat feta, please!)
Mix the dressing in with the ingredients and enjoy!

Hague Cookies =)

Mr. Hague makes these gigantic cookies regularly for our staff at Sierra, and he shared the recipe with me years ago. =) Though they're still very, VERY good and the ONLY chocolate chip cookies I ever make (I know it sounds snooty, but really...I've not had another chocolate chip cookies better than these! ^_^), they're always better when Mr. Hague makes them, just because. ^_^

They're not the most photogenic, aesthetically beautiful cookies, but they're probably one of the best tasting. You simply can't beat that rustic, homemade cookie taste. ^_^

Ingredients:
- 3/4 Cup white sugar
- 3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
- 1 Cup of butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 2.25 Cups flour (AP or whole wheat flour)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup of coarsely chopped nuts (pecans for me)
- 12 ounces (or 2 cups) of semisweet chocolate chips (I use bittersweet Ghirardelli because I'm a dark chocolate girl...)

Directions:

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Mix the sugars, butter, and egg in a large bowl well.

3) Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt (dough will be stiff). Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

4) Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls (or, if you're Mr. Hague, rounded palmfuls, hee hee...), about 2 inches apart onto the baking sheet.

5) Bake 8-10 minutes (I find 8 minutes is fine for my oven; as the oven stays on for each batch, by the 3rd batch, I usually go down to 7 minutes) or until light brown.

6) Cool slightly, and then remove from the cookie sheet. I like to put them up on a wire rack to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container, but you can also eat them at this point, hee hee hee...^_^

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

apple phyllo pastry



My fennel-kale phyllo pastries are wonderful, but the phyllo was larger than the space I planned for it to sit so it got pretty beat up and I want to use it up.

So, what to do with phyllo? Well, I do have apples and dried cranberries I've been wanting to use up ...

****
  • apples, chopped (2 large ones was all I had but more would be good)
  • dried cranberries, soaked in rum or bourbon for a couple of hours or overnight (1/4 c)
  • pecans or almonds, chopped or sliced (1/2 c)
  • sugar (to taste - I used 2 T brown sugar)
  • cinnamon (I like a LOT of cinnamon, so about 1-2 T; nutmeg is also good but I'm not a real fan)
  • lemon juice (Meyer's lemon juice, about 1 T)
  • dash salt
Mix together and simmer on the stovetop until apples soften a bit - about 10-15 minutes. (Adding cornstarch w/water to thicken it would be a good step but I just was so not in the mood for Argo.)

Melt 2-3 T butter w/2 T honey. Lay out a sheet of phyllo and lightly brush it with butter/honey; add another sheet and repeat. I had 10 sheets of phyllo to use up, but about 5 would be good or anything in between.

Put filling on phyllo and roll up like a jelly roll - or put on parchment and tuck up (like picture above) and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until phyllo is browned.

***
The melted butter makes it not really low fat, but it's so much better than a pie crust. This would be great with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

phyllo with greens & cheese

I have some ingredients to use up, and what brings things together better than (organic) phyllo dough? Me = very excited. I used to make a chard phyllo thing when my garden was overabundant. I remember a roommate coming home and sniffing, "I don't eat anything green," and I remember they were very tasty - but beyond that, not so much.

****
  • kale - I have quite a bit left, so I will boil it down and chop it up finely.
  • spinach - frozen, thawed. Note, other greens such as chard and beet greens would be phenomenal.
  • fennel greens, chopped up
  • onion (1)
  • garlic (2 cloves)
  • ricotta - leftover from bruschette adventures, I was wondering what to do with it (4-6 oz)
  • feta - picked up today, I'll use some for a good flavor (4 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg - really, just a little bit
  • salt and pepper (other things as desired such as lemon juice, mint, other spices, etc.)
  • phyllo
Sweat onion and garlic to soften. Either cook the greens with that or boil greens separately & then drain/chop and then add in. Add fennel greens. Do drain the greens well or it'll be too soupy.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except phyllo) and mix it up. Taste it and see if anything is missing, adjust, etc.

Let it cool (or prepare the day before). The phyllo should thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

There are many tutorials on-line about how to use phyllo dough; I don't remember it ever being a hassle so I just follow the directions on the box. Lay it out, brush some olive oil, cut it in strips, make it triangles. I like a lot of filling and not much phyllo - probably because I've never had the pleasure of fresh phyllo.

Bake at about 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Also freeze well to be baked later!

***

Phyllo is fun, and if I have any left over I will do some little things with apple, thyme, and pecorino cheese. Yum! You can stuff anything in it and enjoy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

hummus

I apologize to anybody wanting directions to make hummus - I don't measure. I taste, and because I've made hummus dozens of times I eyeball. There are myriad recipes and they're all pretty similar but with different measurements, and you just have to try it and see what you like best.
  • garbanzo beans. I always soak and cook them myself - not only is that cheaper than cans (and create less waste), but their texture is better because I cook them for a long time. Garbanzos don't overcook though - and I tell you this after cooking some for about 9 hours today. I soak them overnight and then cook them in the slow cooker - high if I'm home, low if not (with plenty of water). I do love the smell! I make a whole crockpot full because I might as well if I'm using the electricity, and I make a TON of hummus and freeze it in containers to have for months until the next batch.
  • lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • sesame tahini (when what I have is gone, I'm going to try to make my own)
  • olive oil
These are the key ingredients to get texture and taste right. I like to grind in a food processor and then a blender - this gets it very smooth. It's a bit of work, especially when I make 4 quarts of garbanzos and have to do a few batches. But again, now I won't have to make hummus again for months.

Other things to add to taste:
  • green onions
  • garlic (I always put in a TON of garlic, and since I usually eat pita & hummus for breakfast, it can have a little bite - so this time I tried cooking cloves & green onions in with the garbanzos) (Know too that the garlic flavor ripens - it may taste bland, but after sitting for awhile the garlic will be like WOWZA! - so be gentle)
  • cumin
  • salt
  • roasted peppers (I really like roasted anaheim peppers, and a lot of them, but last time when I did a taste test with friends I heard more favorable results with roasted red peppers)
  • Whatever your heart desires! (sundried tomatoes, chipotle, cilantro, pepper, paprika, cayenne, parsley ...)
When you serve it, it's nice to have some whole garbanzos to scatter, then a sprinkle of paprika and a glug of olive oil.

***
I have a hard time with breakfast foods, and pita & hummus is a perfect one for me so I freeze up batches of hummus and a dozen pita at a time. Hummus can be pretty darned expensive in its own tubs at the store so you can really save money by making your own - plus then you can make it just how you want it, and awe and amaze your friends if you accompany it with homemade pita bread. Nobody dislikes the woman who brings the homemade bread.

roasted sweet potatoes with thyme


(I apologize that I'm a horrible photographer.)

Taken from here, with some modifications.

  • 3-4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1"-1 1/2" thick rounds
  • 2-3 tablespoons melted butter (or olive oil, but butter & sweet potatoes is a match made in heaven!)
  • 1/2 - 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
Mix it all together. Lay out rounds single layer on a pan and cook at about 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.

roasted cauliflower



It's cauliflower season again - YAY!!

Taking the idea from here, roasted cauliflower with cumin is one of my very favorites. Amy just facebooked me yesterday asking again how to make it - I love sharing with friends!

I think this is a wonderful side with just about anything, especially Indian food.

****
  • cauliflower - 1/2 - 1 head, broken into florets

Mix it with (quantities depend on how much cauliflower):
  • good glug or two of olive oil
  • salt (not too much)
  • cumin (I put in quite a lot)
  • cayenne pepper (not much)

Mix it all up and then put single layer on a pan.

Roast at about 400 degrees for about 40 minutes (flipping midway). I like mine really well done. Unfortunately it shrinks so much, but alas. And truth be told, no matter how much I make there are rarely leftovers. I have been known to stand at the oven and just eat the entire head of cauliflower - it's THAT GOOD. And cauliflower is super good for me, as is cumin.

Lemon Pecan Cookies with Lemon Glaze

I didn't looove how these came out, but they weren't too bad, and others might have liked it more. The recipe came from Henry's Market, which is where I get the recipe for that very tasty Citrus Salt that the Chris H. loves, hee hee...=)

Ingredients:

- 1/3 c. powdered sugar
- 1/3 c. butter, room temperature
- 1 Large Egg
- 2/3 c. honey
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 Tbsp. lemon zest
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. finely chopped walnuts (*I used pecans)

For the Glaze:
- 2 c. confectioners’ sugar
- 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. lemon zest

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Cream together sugar and butter at low speed. Add egg, honey, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice. Mix until smooth.

3. Sift together flour with baking soda and salt. Mix flour mixture into margarine mixture, until just combined. Fold in walnuts.

4. Dust work surface lightly with flour. Roll dough into an 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Using cookie cutters of choice, (I just used a cookie dough scoop, and didn't shape them), cut out cookies and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, about 1-inch apart.

5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

6. While the cookies cool, mix together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar with lemon juice and lemon zest to create a spreadable glaze. Spread glaze over cookies and top with lemon zest, or chopped nuts.

Lemony White Chocolate Chunk Biscotti

I've been playing and experimenting in the kitchen again...hooray! ^_^

This is one of my recent creations...

Even BatNomi would be proud of me, because these came out pretty dang tasty! =) And they were the first time I've ever made biscottis before...=)

Granted, they're not photogenic, but they are wonderful in taste! =)

Modified slightly from KraftFoods.

Ingredients:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. lemon extract
- 4 ounces of White Chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup Sliced Almonds, toasted

Directions:

1. HEAT oven to 350ºF.

2. SIFT together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. Beat butter, sugar and lemon zest in separate large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Blend in extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate and nuts.

4. DIVIDE dough in half; shape each half into 12x1-inch log on floured surface. Place on greased baking sheet.

5. BAKE 20 min. or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet 10 min.

6. Transfer to cutting board. Cut each log diagonally into 21 slices, using serrated knife. Return, cut-sides down, to baking sheet. Bake 5 min. or until crisp. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Toffee Blondies


Toffee Blondies
Originally uploaded by gummychild
Oh my. Shelton LOVES these. =)

They're kinda like brownies, but not made with chocolate at all, so they're called "blondies".

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food's Collectible Cookie Edition (2006)...a little cookie recipe book that I love and clutch onto. I've made many, many cookies from this book, including yummy Butter Pecan Cookies, Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps, Coconut Balls, Icebox Shortbread Cookies, and so forth. =) It's probably where most of my favorite cookie recipes come from. ^_^

So here's how you too can make these yummy Toffee Blondies!

Ingredients:

- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted
- 1 Cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1.5 Cups of AP Flour
- 1 Cup of Toffee Candy Bits/Almond Brickle Bits. =)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8"x8" square baking pan with parchment, leaving a 2 inch overhang on both sides. Set the pan aside.

2. Beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and salt well. Add in flour and beat until just combined.

3. Fold in the toffee bits.

4. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan and bake for about 30 - 35 minutes, when the toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack..

5. Using the parchment overhang, lift the cake from the pan and peel off and discard the parchment. With a serrated knife, cut into desired size and be ready to serve! =)

*The original recipe uses foil, and an electric beater. Unless I have to, I usually always use parchment paper, and mix things by hand with the whisk that comes with an electric better, ha ha, or a spatula. =)

Monday, December 14, 2009

birthday cake

Yellow cake recipe from here was pretty good, and chocolate frosting from here was outstanding!

roasted chicken & vegetables

Oh, YUM! The chicken was sooo moist and juicy and the vegetables fantastic as well.

***
Prep vegetables. This is the mixture I used but it could totally be altered:

*10 small potatoes, de-eyed and chopped in half
*3 carrots, chopped in rounds
*1/3 head cauliflower, in florets
*1/2 onion in big chunks
(sweet potatoes would be good, but I wouldn't recommend beets unless you want pink chicken)

I tossed all that with about 1 T of olive oil and a dash of cumin & salt & pepper. Lay it out in a 9x13 pan (or equivalent).

On top of that put a washed chicken. I put it breast side up first. Rub about 2 T kosher salt and some pepper into the skin with 2 T or so of olive oil. I also rubbed some garlic and then threw the cloves in the body cavity.

Lay the chicken on top and bake at 425 for 45 minutes.

At that time, mix up the vegetables and pour the chicken juices from the cavity onto the vegetables. Put the chicken its other side and bake another 30 or so minutes at 350 degrees - you want the temperature in the chicken to be about 170 degrees (use a thermometer).

Let it sit about 15 minutes before carving and then enjoy - and shock and awe your friends! :)

roasted beets and sweet potatoes


from here ... so good!!
  • 4-6 medium beets, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 (or so) cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 - 1 large (sweet) onion, chopped (needn't be sweet)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. In a bowl, toss the beets with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and sugar into the sweet potatoes and onion, coating well.
  4. Bake beets 15-30 minutes in the preheated oven (20 minutes was insufficient). Mix sweet potato mixture with the beets on the baking sheet. Continue baking 45 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes, until all vegetables are tender.
***
This is super yummy and really hit the spot. The trick is to get fresh, local produce and let it stand on its own.

By the time the beets were no longer too crunchy, the sweet potatoes were too soft - so I'd cook the beets longer alone or chop even smaller.

Also, I cooked this in an oven that was 425 for 1/2 hour and then 350 degrees - I don't think temperature really matters and you can roast them at any temperature.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Russian-style beet potato salad


From Laurel's kitchen

2 (or so) medium beets, boiled and then skinned and diced
2 (or so) potatoes, chopped and boiled
1/2 c peas

Cook and chill all.

Then add sauce:
1-2 T mayonnaise
4-6 T yogurt
1-2 T vinegar
salt & pepper & sugar to taste
fresh dill if you have it
****
This craves my root vegetable cravings! I flash back to memories in Russia, where this was common summer fare. I like to let it sit for a bit before consuming to let the flavors meld.

It makes a very pretty pink salad that is oh so tasty!

oh what a beautiful morning!


All the makings of a crappy day: Cold. Rain. Ate cookies for breakfast from last night's cookie exchange.

And yet, the charms of New Orleans are too seductive for that miserable nonsense. I started at the Farmers Market and it was amazing. I got strawberries from Pontchatoula. Strawberries in DECEMBER! I love Louisiana! And tomatoes (he grows in the greenhouse and promised me they would thrill me beyond all reason). And acorn squash and romaine lettuce and could have gotten beautiful carrots and beets but I was already set. Milk from Smith Creamery ("Would you like a taste of chocolate milk?" Trust me - it's sooooo good.) Cilantro and sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Satsumas and goat ricotta and eggs. Bell peppers and I begged the man to come back next week with his beautiful fennel because I simply couldn't face that challenge on top of everything else I got.

Oh, I just smelled the tomatoes and I think I orgasmed. Breathe deeply and enjoy the bounty. When he said something about "refrigerator" and I said, "You said I should put them in the refrigerator?" he almost snapped and confiscated them from my possession. Soul, no. Never, ever put tomatoes in the refrigerator. And I was thinking of something lovely with the strawberries for Monday dinner but they will not last that long because they are so aromatic and inviting.

Then I went to La Boulangerie and picked up a couple of baguettes for bruschette (or probably crostini since they're narrow). They have such wonderful baked goods and staff with French accents.

Then on to Whole Foods where I appreciate the attempted help of the staff but they don't know anything compared to the customers. In the wine aisle, a woman had six children with her and they appeared to not all be hers because the girls (all under twelve) were sipping from hot liquids and discussing the relative merits of different brands of wine that they have tried. And checking out, a woman had a small bundle of thyme for cheap which I hadn't seen so she pointed me in the right direction. Because of the dash I didn't have time to ask her what she was doing with 8 pounds of beets. Bummer.

You know how when you're madly deeply in love and seeing that person makes your heart flutter and stomach flip? That's how I feel about New Orleans.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Russian tea cakes

A Christmas classic! I've since heard these powdered sugar-covered shortcakes called other things such as Mexican wedding cakes, and they're probably completely unknown in all foreign lands. But since I grew up in the capital of Russian America, I get to call them Russian tea cakes!

There are many recipes for it but they all are only slightly different. Here's one.

And here's the one I have in my recipe box (makes about 3 dozen):

1 c unsalted butter, softened (you need to let it sit out for hours - don't microwave or other shortcut!)
1/4 c powdered sugar (sift if necessary)
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour + 2 Tbsp
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 - 1 c chopped toasted walnuts or pecans.

Toast the nuts on an ungreased baking pan for about 8-10 minutes at about 350 degrees (until they smell toasted). Set aside until they cool. Then if you're using a food processor, toss them in with 2 T flour and pulse just about 5 times. Too much and you get nut butter which is not what we want here! (If you're not using a food processor, just chop them finely and add in the 2 T flour with them.)

Mix powdered sugar well into butter (beat for awhile - until butter looks whipped) and add in vanilla. Add salt and 2 c flour (gradually is easier) and stir well (this is when I start using my hands instead of a spoon). Add the nuts and mix well.

Roll into small balls (about 1 1/2" diameter) and bake 10-12 minutes in an oven about 375 (between 350 and 400 is fine). They're done when they start to brown on the edges and smell done.

Roll the warm cookies in powdered sugar; let cool and then roll them again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

three bruschette

The farmers market and an early dinner guest inspired this research on bruschetta. All need to made just before serving and eaten immediately - otherwise the bread will be a soggy mess.

****

WINTER SQUASH BRUSCHETTA from here (I followed his directions but would change in the future)

(makes about 16 pieces)

1 1/2-lb butternut or acorn squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped to a ½-inch dice (it wasn't easy peeling the acorn squash but it wasn't impossible)
½ multigrain or whole wheat baguette, sliced to 16 ½-inch rounds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh ricotta (goat cheese would be way better)
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
few pinches rosemary (optional) (necessary, and three big sprigs of fresh)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss diced squash pieces in two tablespoons of the oil and optional rosemary and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes (or longer - more like about 50 minutes), rotating or flipping them once midway through cooking. Pieces should be caramelized and crispy in parts but not too crisp. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Line the bread slices in an even layer on a baking tray and bake at 250 degrees for about 5 minutes, until just crisp (or a toaster oven). Remove from tray and let cool completely. (If desired, rub a garlic clove on the bread for a little kick.)

Spread a layer of ricotta on each piece of bread. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top of each one, then place a spoonful of the squash on top. Squirt a few drops fresh lemon juice on top of each piece. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil across the tops (I skipped), and serve immediately.

I found it rather bland and I'm hoping a day in the fridge will deepen its flavor. I think it would be great with a chevre rather than the uber-bland ricotta, and maybe some sweetness in the squash to deepen its flavor.

***********

BEET GREEN BRUSCHETTA inspired by here and here.

  • 2 cloves (or so) garlic, minced
  • beet greens, chopped (I used the tops of about 8 beets)
  • salt & pepper to taste (go light on the salt)
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 1/2 T sundried tomatoes, minced
  • cheese such as Pecorino

Crisp up the bread (I cut at a diagonal, about 1/2-3/4" slices - this would be good on larger bread slices) in a toaster over broiling for about 4 minutes. You don't want to turn it into Melba toast though, so more is not really more.

Heat oil on low and gently saute garlic for a couple of minutes. Then add in the chopped beet greens (no need to dry - the liquid helps them cook) and salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Stir while cooking over low heat, then put a lid on for a few minutes to let the greens cook. Remove from heat and stir in sundried tomatoes.

Top the bread with the beet green mixture and shave a bit of cheese on top. Return to oven/toaster oven for about 2 minutes just to barely melt up the cheese.

****

TOMATO-BASIL BRUSCHETTA, the old standby

  • 1 garden-fresh tomato (or more!), chopped and deseeded/liquid removed if there's too much
  • fresh basil (about 5-6 medium leaves), minced finely
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 T olive oil (or as desired)
  • a dash of vinegar or lemon juice.

Mix up and let flavors meld for an hour or so.

Crisp up the bread. Rub garlic along the bread but NOT too much (I was so zealous I can guarantee no vampires will be near me anytime soon). Top with tomato mixture just before serving.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

preserved lemons

Meyers lemons only come around once a year, and at the farmers market they call to me so seductively. They're sweet and floral and so yummy - but when I end up with dozens, what am I to do? (though I dreamily do fantasize about the day when I have my own home with my own fruit orchard with at least a couple lemon trees)

First I juice a bunch and freeze in ice cube trays (each cube is about 2 T) - I'm very happy to have fresh-tasting lemon juice throughout the year.

I take the peels of these lemons and freeze them. My thinking is that I could just zest them as needed since they're frozen basically intact. I haven't tried it yet, but it's a to-do and I think it would work fine.

But the OTHER THING - and the purpose of this post - is PRESERVED LEMONS.

Last year I did some internet searching when my lemons were starting to turn and I learned for the first time of these. They're used heavily in Moroccan and Algerian cooking, and so I was game. I made a quart which I have very happily used throughout the year. They taste, I'm told, like capers - however, I really don't like capers but I really liked preserved lemons, so there's a limitation to that theory. But they are pickled and not sweet or sour, and taste extremely different than when fresh.

I got advice from several sources, including here. I just made some more today - two pints, and in the second pint I added a bay leaf, a few cardamom pods, a few pepper corns, a cinnamon stick, and a couple cloves. I thought it would be a fun try but I didn't want a full quart of the seasoned ones.

****
Wash some lemons thoroughly (organic is best!). I needed about 3 1/2 lemons for pints and about 8 for a quart - depending on the size.

Put 2 T kosher or sea salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar.

Cut the lemon as if you were going to cut in half through the top, but stop before you actually cut through. Then do the same so it is almost quartered but still attached at the bottom.

Salt heavily inside and outside the lemon.

Squeeze it into the jar - you want juice to come out. (You do NOT, however, want to lemon juice to shoot up all through your kitchen as though a blue whale's blow hole is in your lemons. You know, like I did today. Twice.)

Fill the jar, cramming them in tight, making sure there's lemon juice covering the top (either from these lemons or from extra juice).

I like to cap with the plastic lids Ball makes - the metal will corrode.

Leave the jar out for a few days and turn it upside down every so often. More juice should come from the lemons, but if the lemons aren't covered you can add more juice.

The texture and appearance of the rind will start to change - it's pickling - and after a few days you can put in the fridge. I'm told to not use for a few weeks to allow the process to complete.

It should be fine to keep the jars in the fridge for a year or so - I just make sure there's always lemon juice covering the lemons.

***
TO USE:

I use in recipes calling for them (I'll post some later). Take a lemon out, or use just a half, and remove the pulp. Rinse off the salt and then chop it very finely and add in. I think I read somewhere it can get bitter if cooked a long time, so I add near the end.

Preserved lemons have such a unique flavor and couldn't be substituted with anything else - and since I'm a fan of northern African cuisine, they've been a great discovery for me!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

roasted chicken & vegetables

Now this just looks darned good - will have to try it soon!

I like carrots and potatoes roasted with the chicken, and I'd like cauliflower ... I wonder if beets would bleed too much? Hmmmm ...

citrus spinach salad

This is always a hit - I love the different tastes and how healthy, yet satisfying and tasty it is!

Citrus Spinach Salad

2 cups fresh spinach leaves
OR
2 cups torn Romaine Lettuce
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (go light)
1 fresh navel orange, peeled and separated into sections
OR
2 blood oranges, peeled and separated into sections
OR
1/2 small can mandarin oranges
2 T toasted pine nuts

Dressing
2 T orange juice
2 T white wine vinegar
3 T olive oil (usually I use less)
2 tsp. honey (or save the juice from the can of mandarins for sweetener)
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Serves 2

Toss spinach, onion, oranges and pine nuts together. Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and serve.

(Note: I would double or treble the salad fixins for that amount of dressing)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

pita

Here's the recipe I used from my bread cookbook. It's not the greatest, but it works.

2 T dry yeast
2 T sugar (or honey)
2 tsp salt
2 C whole wheat flour
2.5 c very warm water (up to 120 degrees if it's cold in the kitchen)
1/4 c oil or melted butter
another 2 c whole wheat flour
1 cup+ white flour

Make bread with it (put yeast, sugar, salt & some flour together, then add the oil & water to form a sponge [just to make sure the yeast is working well], mix in the rest of the flour, knead, etc.). Let it rise for about an hour (double in bulk). Then divide into 16 pieces and heat the oven to 475 degrees (letting them rest as oven heats).

Roll into rounds (about 3/16" thick, about 6" round) and put on baking sheets sprinkled with corn meal (corn meal only underneath the bread, or it'll burn, smoke, and start the smoke detector). Alternatively, put on parchment paper. I just made a batch (12/24/09) and half of them stuck badly to the pan, which was a real bummer.

Bake about 8 minutes.

They freeze well and are great with hummus! Hm ... and falafel sounds good ...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

turkey carcass soup

Take a turkey carcass, preferably with some meat on it still, and definitely skin and fat, and throw it in a big pot or a crockpot. Cover with (filtered) water and simmer for hours. Season if you like, but I just throw in some bay leaves and dried minced onions.

Turn it off and let it cool a bit, then strain it. Pick the meat off the bones and chop it. Toss the bones, skin, fat, etc. If you want to refrigerate the stock overnight, I've heard you can scrape the fat off the surface then - but truth be told, that hasn't been my experience (this time, it was all gelatinous with a thin white surface that couldn't be separated really).

Put the crockpot back on.

Chop and saute a bit:
*the trinity (onion, celery, pepper)
*carrots
*garlic

Add to the crockpot with the chopped turkey meat.

Add spices (I used all dry and they were fine):
*bay leaves
*basil
*thyme
*marjoram
*rosemary
*black pepper
*oregano
*(salt - though I don't add)

Simmer for a few hours. Add frozen vegetables such as peas and beans for the last hour.

In a separate pan, boil water and cook noodles (I like egg noodles). Add a little olive oil after draining. I like to cook the noodles separate so that they don't turn to mush and soak up all the liquid when stored and reheated.

*****
This turned out really, really, REALLY good - perfect for the cold weather, and for my health.

I used only about half the carcass I came home with and froze the other half. I'm looking forward for more turkey soup later - and I think next time I'll make dumplings instead of using noodles.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

oatmeal dinner rolls

AWESOME. From here.

*about 30 rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups water or milk (I use whey or potato water)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey (or so)
  • 2 packages (or Tablespoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2+ cups white flour (as needed)

Directions

  1. BRING water, butter, and honey to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, add oats; let cool to 110 degrees (or more like 120 degrees if it's 55 degrees in your kitchen like mine).
  2. STIR together yeast, wheat flour, salt.
  3. BEAT oat mixture into dry (can use electric mixer or wooden spoon) until smooth. Add white flour until it's the right consistency.
  4. TURN dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10-15 minutes). Place in bowl and cover with towel.
  5. COVER and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk. (I put in gas oven - pilot keeps it warm)
  6. PUNCH dough down, and divide in half; shape each portion into 15 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place evenly into 2 lightly greased cake pans or cookie sheets.
  7. COVER and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
  8. BAKE at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

carbo loading: how I know I'm a Yankee

I've always thought of Thanksgiving as a carbohydrate-loaded meal: stuffing, potatoes, rolls, pies, and various topping on various sides. Not a holiday for Dr. Atkins.

That said, I had no idea how truly carb intensive it is until I moved to the South. Because on top of all those things, there are the traditions of potato salad and baked macaroni! It boggles the mind!

To me, potato salad = Fourth of July and macaroni & cheese = from a blue box for a picky child. I lived on Kraft mac & cheese in my tween years because I didn't like my parents' cooking and I was semi-vegetarian - and oh yeah, I was a pain in the ass. I grew out of the blue box and recognize mac & cheese for what it is - a heart-stopping, artery-clogging extreme indulgence for only the most special of occasions. To eat it on the same day as pecan pie and sweet potatoes loaded with butter and deep-fried turkey - well, it seems INSANE.

And that, my friends, is life in the South.

L called me the other day as her personal bread-making hotline, and when I talked about taking the Oregon bar exam she said, "You cannot leave! The food in Oregon must be horrible!"

Horrible, I wouldn't say. But lower-fat, I will agree. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

tamale pie in the slow cooker

From Stephanie's wonderful crockpotting blog.

Filling:
Mix these all together. Spray cooking spray in crockpot and put in filling.

*black beans (sorry, I never measure, I'm guessing about 3-4 cups?; you could use a couple cans, or as I did - soak overnight then cook a few hours in the slow cooker - I season with cumin, basil, and oregano)
*corn (a can, drained, or frozen - I used about a cup but can vary)
*canned tomatoes (I used a can of Ro-Tel [generic] and about 1/3 can of diced tomatoes)
*onion (I sprinkled a bunch of dried minced onion that a friend left, but could use fresh chopped)
*cheese - about 1/2 c, shredded (can be omitted - not sure it really added anything)
*chili powder - 1 T
*cumin - 1 tsp (depending on seasoning of beans - if they're not seasoned, amp these up)
*paprika - 1/2 tsp

Topping:
I followed Stephanie's directions and I think it made too much topping, so I would halve this next time:
*corn meal - 3/4 c
*flour - 1 1/4 c (I used about 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 3/4 c white)
*baking powder - 1 tsp)
*a little bit of sugar (maybe 1 T)
*1 c milk (rice milk was fine)
*1 egg

Combine dry ingredients, then add wet. Put on top of filling, and cook.

On high, in my pretty hot crockpot, it was done in about 4 hours. The top middle didn't really brown, but it got hard so that's good enough. It did stick to the crock, so spraying is worth it.

**
Comments -
As I said above, I'd cut the topping in half or so. The filling is really open to variation and you could throw in different vegetables and beans in whatever quantity.

In addition to the beans, you could add browned ground meat. If you don't brown, you could deal with a grease situation so I'd brown first; I think buffalo would be great.

It was pretty good, especially on a chilly day, and I hope it freezes well!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

food and its relationships

I think that for the vast majority of Americans, food is depersonalized. You go to a grocery store where you don't know anybody, having no idea where the food came from. You go to restaurants where you don't really know how they prepared the food, and it's usually handed to you in layers of wrapping through a window as your car is running.

Like all things, food is different in New Orleans. As a culture, we eat red beans on Monday. Even if you don't personally eat red beans, you know it's red-bean eating day. People here start talking about their next meal before they finish the one they're currently on. And in the line at the grocery store, it is very usual to ask somebody what they're doing with the food they're buying. We frequently swap recipes and ideas and share good deals with total strangers. It's our way, in part because there are no strangers in New Orleans. So even in the most depersonalized situation - rows of wrapped and sanitized foods from who knows where - it's pretty personalized.

I've stepped it up a notch, too. Farmers markets are an amazing source of information. Not only do I get to meet the people providing the food and know that it's local (though some of our local is pretty far, truth be told - some of those vendors drive a few hours), but they share the greatest ideas ever - recipes and culture.

Today I went to the grocery store up the road for a can of green chiles and an onion, and was startled at the tag on the onion: Peru. Now, no offense to the lovely people of Peru, but why am I eating their onions? And where do the chiles come from? I really like the grocery store because I think it does a real community service - most people walk there (which is good because there's no parking - I almost always walk or bike myself), and as a locally-owned business keeps revenues in the city - plus some of their products are organic. I'll shop there as necessary because I like supporting them.

And then this afternoon I went to the Food Coop, sort of. It hasn't really opened yet - won't until next year - but they are selling a few things. It's only 1.5 miles from my house so biking is the way to go (which is always a bonus for me) and they actually really had a great deal on some things. Organic raw almonds cost $12/pound at Whole Foods ($11.99) but at the coop, only $6.58/pound. Awesome. They were super disorganized and a fellow kept walking through shouting "I'm here to help if anybody needs it!" when it was apparent to me what needed to be done (weighing, labeling, etc.). Everybody kept asking my name and introducing themselves and trying to give me information I already have. They couldn't figure out how to make change, but they took my wishlist suggestions and asked my advice. I will be returning, definitely.

Living in New Orleans, I have long lost my expectation or even desire for things to run smoothly and efficiently. When I first moved here I was exasperated at all the U-turns I had to make to get anywhere (a plethora of one way streets and no left turn signs), but now I just roll with it. So, I have to make a U-turn. It's a metaphor for life in New Orleans. Rarely do I get where I want to go as I thought I wanted to get there, but always something wonderful happens and I meet all sorts of people along the way.

Rarely do I set foot in a "regular" supermarket now because I find it so depressing - all the trans fats and the clerks on food stamps and the harsh lighting and unsanitary baskets, they make me just turn around and walk out. I expect relationships to the people who provide my food, and I reject a cellophaned plastic world.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

bacon grease

I've always been frugal, but my current economic situation makes me take it just a step further.

When I made broccoli salad, I was shocked at how much grease came from the bacon that I fried up. I was frustrated because I don't buy the cheap crap - I got it on sale, but I got the kind without nitrates, not so processed, from "natural" farm. When I fried up the whole package, there wasn't that much bacon to use and freeze, and that bummed me out. But there was a whole lot of grease.

I tried to throw the grease away but when I put it in a plastic container of course it melted the container and spilled all over my back porch. So I poured it into a glass container, but then I got to thinking ... and next thing you know, I'm cooking eggs and vegetables in it. I haven't yet baked with it as an ingredient, but that might be next. The thing is that butter and oil are expensive, especially if you're trying to avoid GMOs and rGBH and THC and TNT.

Next time I'll think it through and drain it through a paper towel. Honestly I very rarely cook bacon, but this might make me more willing.

And yes, I feel like a proverbial Plains Indian, using all of the buffalo.

soups for chilly winter days

Sometimes it's shocking to me the things that I've never eaten. Going to the retreat last weekend was a great opportunity to try and share new things with people - I changed L's life by teaching her how to make her own bread, and K changed mine by bringing white chili. She uses a base/flavor packet from where she works, but a quick look on the internet reveals a number of possible recipes that I can make from scratch.

Here's Paula Deen's white chili recipe, and probably what I will try first with a few tinkers. In fact, I think I'll make it tomorrow since I think I have everything on hand. Yummm ...

And here's her lasagna soup recipe, which another member brought and it was SUPER yummy too. I don't think it would freeze well because of the pasta, but would be a great casual dinner with others, especially with a good French bread or crostini.

It's rainy and dreary and chilly, so more soup it is!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

borscht

This was long a stand-by for me - I love me some root vegetables, and then learned how to make it for real when I lived in Russia. But somehow it fell by the wayside. Yesterday when I went to the farmers' market, though, the beets called out to me provocatively. "Hey baby, you know you want to take us home." And there they were, so beautiful, so robust, so vibrant, so beety. And now they are in my fridge (and don't get me started on how upset I am that 2009 is The Worst Gardening Year Ever). So, back to borscht I go (though, there's there AMAZING beet/potato cold salad we used to eat in Russia that was to die for - that may be next).

****
Beef (or goat) meaty bones (make broth from them in slow cooker, drain fat, then add):

3 medium beets, peeled and diced
1 diced carrot
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded
can diced tomatoes and/or small can tomato paste
1 T lemon juice or vinegar
1 1/2 tsp dried dill (if don't have fresh - which is really far superior)
salt and pepper to taste

Toss it all in the slow cooker, give it a good stir and cover with water if necessary (and maybe a little beef bouillon if the broth doesn't look rich enough). Don't cook it too long or it'll all get mushy (I've never slow cookered it before, though I like not having to stir regularly).

[That's the easy & quick way; better to saute onion & garlic first and then toss it all in.]

Serve with sour cream or yogurt (сметана would be best but I've never seen it for sale here) and dark, grainy Russian bread.

Monday, November 16, 2009

goat stew

Modeled after this. Used to have really excellent goat stew (called soup) in Ghana but I want to put some vegetables in it. I think the important things are the tomato, a little peanut butter, chilies and garlic, and cooking the goat a long darn time.

1 lb of goat
1-2 large onions (include the trinity of celery & pepper if desired)
2-4 cloves of garlic
a jalapeno or small chilies
2-3 T peanut oil
2-3 T tomato paste
a bay leaf or two
1/8 tsp of cloves
1/8 tsp of ginger
1 dash of cayenne
salt and white pepper
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of beef stock (I'll use bouillon) (add more water as necessary)
2-4 carrots (or some pumpkin or a yam), in chunks
1 pound okra
2 T peanut butter

Peel and dice the onions, and slice the carrots (or pumpkin).

Crush the garlic and chilies with mortar & pestle.

Heat up the butter to medium heat and saute the meat and onion, garlic, chilies for a few minutes (till onions are translucent). Put them in a crockpot.

Then add tomato puree, spices, lemon juice, and the stock.

Cook several hours in the crockpot (about 5 hours on high).

About an hour before serving, stir in vegetables and peanut butter.

Check the seasoning. I like it with white rice.

***
This turned out really good, though I'd go lighter on the cloves. It has a rich, deep flavor. Other vegetables would be really good too, such as green beans and zucchini (though added late, to make not mushy).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Recipe from here.

INGREDIENTS:

* 2 cups granulated sugar (I put in 1 1/2 c but less than that and I worry they won't harden)
* 1/2 cup evaporated milk (or regular milk, or diluted half and half)
* 2 tablespoons cocoa (or more like 3 for me)
* 8 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons peanut butter (2-3 T - I like PB as backdrop, not central flavor)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans
* 2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (I use regular oats, up to 3 c until it seems right)

PREPARATION:
Combine sugar, milk, cocoa, and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, peanut butter, and chopped nuts.

Add oatmeal and stir to blend thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Makes about 4 dozen no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Survey

How does everyone feel about buying special ingredients for one recipe, knowing that the extra ingredients will probably not get used beyond the one recipe? Does it deter you entirely from making the recipe in the first place?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

stewed okra

I admit it: I'm a complete okra fiend. If I had to choose between chocolate and okra, I'm not sure which would win. It might be on my top 10 list (see Jenny's prior post), though I have a really hard time conceptualizing my diet like that.

One of the key reasons I love it so is that it grows like a weed in my backyard. For a few months of the year, it's the key vegetable of my diet. Because it's soooo darn good. And while I may be a Yankee by birth, I'm all Dixie in the kitchen.

Today's stewed okra was born of necessity: I'd been hoping to save up enough okra to pickle some more, but with the cooler weather I'm not harvesting enough. I had a bag of maybe 50 pods that was going down hill fast, and it needed stewing 911. And it is amazing. I meant to eat it with rice and white beans tonight, but it won't last that long.

****
In a cast-iron skillet, heat some peanut oil. If said skillet was recently used for sauteing andouille, bacon, or other such meats - so much the better. Erica at Bacon Concentrate waxes poetic on her love for pork fat, and let me just say: she's not wrong. But one of the best parts is that a little goes a long way.

Saute the trinity and garlic over low heat. (However, today I had used all the garlic, bell pepper, and celery in the beans and had none left. So it was just onions, which I had frozen when I got onions on sale months back.)

Add in the okra, sliced to about 1/4" thickness (or larger). I like a variety of sizes for a variety of textures. Stir it up good, let it heat up.

Add in a can of diced tomatoes. Sprinkle some Creole seasoning on the top. Stir well, and let it stew, stirring occasionally.

I probably let it cook for about 20 minutes, but then some okra stuck to the pan so it was done.

And soooooo good!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

You're stranded on a desert island...

Have you ever been asked what top 10 items you'd bring along with you if you were ever stranded on a desert island? Books, albums, movies?
I have a friend who adores food and cooking and relishes variety, and the other night, I somewhat sharkishly asked her what 10 food items she's bring with her. We spent the next 2 hours discussing and making our lists.
Here was mine:
- cashews
- a goat (for yogurt, cheese, and milk)
- oranges, watermelon, or strawberries
- steak
- dark chocolate
- squash
- mushrooms
- tomatoes
- eggs
- crusty bread

Here's the thing: I treated my top 10 as my grocery list the next time I was at the supermarket, and I had the most satisfying food week ever using up those groceries. I enjoyed frequent breakfast omelets, made a nice pasta primavera using sauteed squash and mushrooms, which became lunch and dinner, and I had yogurt and berries and nuts to snack on between meals.
I guess really it was a meditation exercise that helped me discover what my staples are. My knowledge grows....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chicken Stock

I have bones! I have bones! About two chicken's worth, in my freezer.

Anyone know a basic recipe so I can attempt my very first chicken stock?

Cooler Weather = Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Everybody knows this--it's hard science, folks.

Cooking's been a nemesis in my family for generations, probably. But baking? Baking's never been a problem. And everybody I talk with lately has the same thing on their mind: chocolate chip cookies.

So today I did the deed. My friend mailed me these three recipes that vary slightly depending on the desired outcome. I tried the puffy ones, except I just used butter instead of butter-flavored shortening, which I know will probably make them less fluffy.

The dough is chilling tonight and if I manage to make the cookies before I and other "enthusiasts" in my household "sample" all of it (it's happened before), I'll report on the resulting puffiness or lack thereof.

Monday, October 19, 2009

tasty marmalade cookies

So, Erin and I slaved over a hot stove for many hours on Saturday to make our delicious satsuma marmalade.

But, it gives me heartburn (probably the white sugar). So what to do? Make cookies!

From here, except I didn't have any chocolate chips so i dab a little faux Nutella on them. I've been using farm-fresh eggs and they taste really different - can taste it in the cookies. They're very soft and fluffy. The marmalade is very subtle, and I like that they're not too sweet.

Ingredients

  • 4 T butter, softened
  • 1 egg yolk (or one small egg)
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade (this is the only sweetener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • [1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips]
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  • In a small bowl, cream the shortening, egg yolk and marmalade until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
  • Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks. Yield: 2 dozen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Bean Baked Mochi Cake


Mmm...my Auntie #4, one of the great cooks I know besides my mom, told me how to make the cake from memory, so I did my best to try it out today, since I had all the ingredients at home. It came out deeeelicious! Because it's made mostly of mochi, it's got this tasty, chewy texture on the inside; the outer crust, because it's baked, is sweet and cakey. And, you can never go wrong with red bean filling, of course. =) I think she made the red bean mixture on her own, but I cheated since I had a can of sweetened red (azuki) beans in the pantry. ^_^


You'll Need:

-1 pound of Sweet Mochi Flour (I use Mochiko)
-1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder
-1 Cup White Sugar, or 2 Cups of Brown Sugar (I used the white sugar, as it was handy, but the brown sugar is what she used, and it makes the cake more brown colored...which I kinda preferred. Brown sugar for me next time!)
-2.5 Cups of Milk
-3/4 Cup of Vegetable Oil
-4 Eggs

-1 Can (18 oz) of Sweetened Azuki Red Beans
-1 egg, beaten, to brush on top of cake
-Sesame seeds to sprinkle (I use toasted ones; next time, I'll get some of the black ones and have a mix of white and black sesame seeds on top!)

*She said that one can always reduce the sugar, so if you're avoiding too much sugar, you may want to go that route.

Directions:

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

1) Mix everything together, except for the last three ingredients. If you want a fluffier merengue-ier cake, you may want to beat the egg whites separately until stiff, and fold them in.
2) Pour half of the mixture into a 9" x 13" pan, lined with parchment paper or foil.
3) Bake for 20 minutes.
4) Take the cake out and spread all the red beans evenly on top, and then pour the rest of the mixture on top of everything.
5) Bake 15 minutes. Brush the egg wash on top, and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.
6) Bake another 5 minutes or so, and remove. Let it cool on a rack.

Though tasty, chewy, and warm from the oven, it's just as good, if not better, after you let it cool to room temperature. =) Easy to make, and easy to eat...^_~

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Creole seasoning

I've had the Tony Chachere's bottle for at least a couple years, as honestly I don't use it often.

But why not make my own?

There's this blend from Emeril. Though, I would omit the salt and pepper (add it to taste later) as well as the garlic and onion powder (put in fresh onion/garlic instead).

There's this blend.

Here, from Cooking Louisiana.


Basically I'll put together: paprika, cayenne, basil, oregano, and thyme. Maybe I'd add the garlic & onion powder if giving as a gift.

OK, I'm hungry!

cornbread muffins

From here (with a couple changes).

INGREDIENTS

* 1 cup all-purpose flour (next time I'll use whole wheat or a mix)
* 1 cup yellow cornmeal
* 1/3 cup white sugar (or brown or whatever) - or less
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 egg
* 1 cup milk (or I'll try buttermilk when I have it on hand)
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil (haven't yet tried my usual 1/2 applesauce trick)

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray or lightly grease a muffin tin (12 muffins).
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins come out clean.

****
These are great! I could probably cut the sugar even more. Sweet cornbread is for Yankees, though I'm still chasing memories of an amazing sweet cornbread I had in Ghana cooked by a Liberian.

I prefer muffins because unless I'm serving to a bunch of people who will eat a whole pan of cornbread, I have a bit leftover - which gets dry, is hard to freeze (too crumbly, can't be toasted well), etc. The muffins curb my eating (stop at two, not half a pan) and freeze well.

And they're cute.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

white beans: it's what's for dinner

Around here, we have many special days. Red beans and rice on Mondays. Seafood on Fridays. Rules that most people observe (but I still forget).

I don't remember if there's a day for white beans, but since I missed red beans (and then heard about it from Ms. Makeda) this week, I got to craving some white beans.

I didn't get the Camellia beans, which was my first choice. I was at Whole Foods so just grabbed some white navy beans. That makes me sad, but at least they're organic.

And this video is pretty much exactly what I'm doing.



I did a search and found this and it tickled me because it was exactly what I'd planned on my own. Does this make me even just a little bit Cajun, that I cook like 'em? I just will use Crystal hot sauce instead of Tabasco (a little too vinegary). I'm not using Tasso like they're not because I have some andouille frozen that I got on sale.

So, to quickly state:

Soaking about a pound of white beans overnight (after cleaning).

The next day, saute the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper) and garlic. I'll saute the andouille in there to give a rich flavor.

Add all that to the beans in the crock pot, covering with water (not too much water though - not making soup).

Add some Tony Chachere's or other Creole seasoning, some bay leaves, some black pepper, some hot sauce and/or cayenne pepper.

Cook about four hours on high, check (beans should split a bit), adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve on rice with cornbread.

Oh soul, now I'm hungry!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Eating on the go

The thing about food is that you have to think about it constantly. As soon as one meal's finished, it's time to start thinking about the next. Some days, I wouldn't mind having a food tablet I could just swallow with water to take care of my hunger and nutrition without spending time and energy thinking about it.
It's been a busy week, and I've been eating on the go. Buying lunch at work, and eating fast food in my car (parked!) because there's no time to go home before rushing to (insert extracurricular activity here). It's not satisfying.
Part of my education here on this blog is remembering to schedule time in not only to cook food, but making time to buy it, and before that, spending time thinking about what foods I'm going to buy.
Going after a good relationship with food, I think, will change my whole lifestyle--slow it down some. Which is a good thing. It's making me think about my health first--not only in terms of nutrition, but in terms of time. I think making my meals--which if done thoughtfully enough, is kind of meditative--will actually help me cut out other stressers.
No time for BS--girl's gotta eat! Well!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hubris

The second time I tried out my new sautee skills, I was put in my place. I sat too long on the mushrooms, and by the time I was ready to cook with them, they were too gone. My heat was a tad too high, so the squash and zucchini were browned in places--not as tasty as the first time, and not as good without their mushroom friends. I also got bored of eating my leftovers that week.
It all felt like the anti-climax after teaching a new course: So much preparation and thoughtful energy spent and after that first, fantastic lesson is over and done with, you realize you have to do it all over again fifty more times.
In any case, time to try a new dish, I think.
One dinnertime hurdle I'm dealing with right now is the change of seasons. The highs have been boomeranging a gamut of about 40 degrees for the past week. That makes it hard to think about what one would like to eat. A salad sounds great one day, but the next day, chilly temperatures have me craving soups and stews.
Think I'll troll the site for some ideas--maybe pasta?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bloated

I always overorder!
I want pizza. A medium will do just fine for two or three meals, but what do I do when I order? Get a large! Why??!! There's something about that moment when I'm asked what I'd like, and I just kinda panic.
I know a big part of my food issues has to do with fear of being hungry, and I've gotten portion sizing under control--I've mostly stopped over eating at meals--but I still overdo it with ordering!
Now I have a big, expensive pizza heading my way. Sheesh.

Monday, September 28, 2009

garbanzo okra tomato curry

Heat oil (1-2 T).

Saute okra (1/2 - 1#, cleaned and chopped into 1-2" pieces) until browned.

Remove okra from pan. Add some more oil as necessary and turn down heat.

Saute:
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
peppers (hot, bell, whatever you got), chopped (very finely if hot pepper)

Add in:
2 chopped tomatoes

1 T cumin
1 T coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel (though I accidentally put in cardamom instead!)
1/2 tsp amchur powder
1 tsp turmeric
Note: the spices are just about what I threw in. Choose your own mix or just a curry powder.

Add liquid if necessary.
Cook for a bit. (3-5 minutes)
Add in:
cooked garbanzos (I put in equivalent of 2 cans)

Cook for a bit longer. (another 3 minutes or so)

Add in cooked okra and let it cook another 5-10 minutes until it seems ready (tomatoes have lost shape, spices are distributed). Taste and adjust spices accordingly.

Eat on rice. Great as leftovers!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

my mouth has changed

I don't know when exactly it happened, but it became clear with tandoori chicken a couple weeks ago: my mouth has changed. My taste buds are far more demanding now, but also more appreciative. If I eat good food - I mean really good food, with fresh, local ingredients and spices that complement - it's like I'm getting high.

When I ate the chicken and curried okra, after I was finished I sat and enjoyed the buzz. The flavors lingering in my mouth, all together in perfect harmony. It's happened several time since: Central Grocery muffaletta yesterday, and just now with Thai basil beef. The sauce is too heavy with the beef - I was too heavy-handed as I eyeballed. I skotch too much oyster sauce, too much fish sauce. But honestly, they make my mouth happy. They work with the farmer's market green beans and zucchini, with the mashed garlic and jalapenos, with the many leaves of two types of Thai basil as I pruned the plants.

Tonight, I'm making okra, tomatoes, and garbanzo something ... probably a curry. Definitely a curry. Coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, turmeric, garlic, cayenne - they'll all make an appearance. They will work an alchemy with my garden-fresh okra, and there will be choirs of jubilation dancing on my taste buds.

I did not know that my tastes would refine as I aged - I thought just the opposite would happen. Not that I ever seriously abused myself with bags of Cool Ranch doritos, but I have partaken.

and maybe that's the secret - now that I'm off processed foods, my taste buds have cleared and are receptive in a way they never were before.

Or maybe it's just New Orleans. This crazy city changes everything about me. And I think I'm going on a fried chicken quest this week - Willie Mae's it is. I've heard so much.

black bean chili


from here (with modifications) - it's soooo good!

* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 onion, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 3/4# or so ground turkey, buffalo, or whatever you have
* equivalent of 3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, undrained
* 1 (29 ounce) crushed or canned tomatoes (or fresh, chopped finely)
* 1 1/2 T cumin (but I am a cumin freak)
* 1 tsp paprika
* 1 tsp cayenne pepper
* 1 tablespoon dried oregano
* 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

EASY, QUICK DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat; cook onion and garlic until onions are translucent. Add meat and cook, stirring, until brown. Stir in everything else. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 60 minutes or more, until flavors are well blended.

MY SLOW COOKER VERSION:

1. Fill a crockpot (I have 4-quart) about 1/3 full of black beans; wash them. Soak black beans overnight (or at least a few hours).
2. Cook them in the slow cooker (suggestions here). (I like to cook them overnight because then I have a great breakfast AND can use the beans to make the chili in the day.)
3. Keep the crockpot about 1/2 full of beans (take out the others and freeze in containers to use later, or eat!).
4. Saute the ground meat in a pan on the stove until brown. Can also cook the onions/garlic this way but it's not necessary.
5. Dump browned meat and everything else into the crockpot and cook on high for about 4 hours or low for about 6-8. It won't burn so is a good thing to cook when gone a long time.

Super good! And healthy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Delicious Home-Made Cooking--It's Working!

I made a short-term culinary goal to try the sautéed zucchini recipe posted earlier.
Today I bought 2 zucchinis, 2 yellow squash, and 1 onion. I also bought more mushrooms because they make me melt.
My plan was to sauté them all and add them to a salad, hopefully with a few strips of steak.
The sautéing was easy, as promised. It all turned out great--and the earlier post about different oils was very helpful, too--even though I ended up using butter.
I discovered a strategy that might work for a while until I build my chops in the kitchen: To satisfy my meat craving, I went to the deli and just bought a slice of cooked tri-tip. It only cost me 2 dollars, it will last me 2 meals, and it gave me time to concentrate on the veggie recipe. I always assumed the deli and other specialty sections of the grocery store were too expensive and therefore off-limits, but if buying smaller portions of well-made, cooked food encourages me to cook and eat vegetables, then I think it's worth it for the sake of my health and education. And it really wasn't expensive at all, especially buying for just one.
Who knows what secrets await me in other sections of the grocery store! I can tell I'll be a food shopping pro in no time!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

curried okra with chickpeas

So, I made "Hyderbadi-style" okra and it was ok. Who knew I wasn't a fan of amchur powder? It's dried green mango and adds a little acid balance (lemon juice can be substituted, I've read). I usually add it with many other things so its flavor doesn't come through. It's really the aroma that I don't like - it's prevalent in many Indian restaurants and shops. It smells ... I can't describe it. Almost like stale smoke-less incense. So this recipe really focused more on the amchur powder, and so now I know.

Anyway, my favorite part is the okra. I slice it into maybe 1-2" segments and saute it alone and can I just say again HOW MUCH I LOVE OKRA. I just can't get enough.

Next time I will try based on this recipe, adding some chickpeas. They're also a nutritional powerhouse - and cheap. I will fiddle with the spices though - not crazy of the curry mix I have now. Probably needs more cumin and coriander. I might try to get some fresh curry leaves and try that.

OK, grow, okra, grow! It'd be great if I could harvest enough to also pickle ... but that's looking doubtful at this point because I could eat it fried every day every meal until the end of the season ...

Friday, September 18, 2009

All Together Now!


I think I'm going to try the onion/zucchini sauté this weekend, and I'm thinking:

What if I slow-cooked chicken in advance to eat with it? That'd make, like, a meal, right?

I teach from 3-6 most days this term. Could I put some chicken breasts in a crock pot at 2 and have them ready by the time I get back and sauté the veggies--say around 7? Is that enough time to cook?

Now, suppose I wanted to eat something like a potato with all this? Could I pop a few of those pretty red and blue ones in with the chicken? Would they cook at about the same rate?

Goodness! Is all cooking this exhilarating?!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is 'Misgourmet' a Word?

Something happened yesterday evening around dinnertime that hardly ever happens for this disdainful kitchen-phobe.

I used bits of food I already had to make a new meal. Pause for effect.

When I was at the grocery store last, it was the usual listless, distracted experience for me. I pondered the mushroom section. I love mushrooms, but when I buy them, most--if not all-- wind up rotten in the trash a week later, either due to discouragement or forgetfulness.

I reasoned that trip that I would ONLY buy the mushrooms. No other produce. I would try to use a whole box of mushrooms before they went bad. My version of 'Julie and Julia.' I made a few omelets and forgot about my promise.

Then tonight, I was thinking how much I'd love pasta and zucchini and whether it'd be worth a drive to the market, and I remembered: The Mushrooms!

Serendipitously, I also happened to have the following leftovers in the fridge--all on death-watch: one pre-cooked chicken patty, half a jar of marinara sauce (it's probably 3 weeks old now or more--but I didn't care! I was using The Mushrooms!), parmesan and fresh basil. I dumped them all into a damn frying pan and let time and chance take care of the rest.

It wasn’t until several minutes into this food nirvana that I realized I could also boil some noodles.

I also happened to have a leftover takeout salad in the fridge that I ate as a first course--presto! It was a great meal, and exactly what I was in the mood for!

It almost never works out this perfectly. Part of my problem in synchronization: Having just the right amount of the exact ingredients that I’m craving. What’s tricky is, even if I buy all the things on the same day, different foods spoil earlier than others, so sometimes, if I don’t get right on it I lose some ingredients in the wait.

Another thing I struggle with is leftovers. Last night, everything fit perfectly, but usually, I’ll wind up with a decent cooked meal PLUS an unused half of a zucchini, most of a head of garlic (are they called heads?), half a jar of sauce, etc. I don’t always have clever ways to use these leftovers.

I can see that one of my jobs for becoming kitchen-competent will be to figure out my staple foods and develop a lot of flexibility with those foods.