December 24, 2011

Sugar Cookies with White Chocolate and Candy Canes

This is an easy, festive Christmas treat. Bake up your favorite sugar cookies. Spread with melted white chocolate and sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Pretty easy, right? For most, I would think this would be a piece of cake, but for me it's a little harder. I'll explain.

I can't make sugar cookies. I've tried several recipes, but they never turn out right (the ones pictured below are super crunchy). Also, I can't melt white chocolate chips. The chips may be the problem, so maybe melting white chocolate in a block would work better.

Anyway, if you can do sugar cookies and melt chocolate, go ahead and try this. I'm not even going to give you a recipe. Follow the instructions above. Some day when I master sugar cookies, I'll let you know.

December 22, 2011

Apple Butter

One of my favorite almost-weekly purchases at the farmer's market is local apples. The farmer I buy them from has several different varieties each week. I think he said they grow about 50 kinds. They are super flavorful - really, so complex and delicious most store bought apples are not in the same league.

The farmer recommended a certain variety for apple butter, and so I thought I'd try it. Then I found this fabulously easy recipe to make apple butter in a crockpot. What could be easier or more delicious?

I didn't have the 5-6 pounds of apples recommended in this recipe, so I had to guess on the amount of sugar and spices. But, fortunately, it turned out great.

Apple Butter
from Dawn's Recipes

5 or 6 pounds of apples, or enough to fill slow cooker
2 1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
zest and juice from 1 small orange

1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and spices.
2. Core and quarter the apples. Do not peel them.
3. Lightly grease the inside of the slow cooker.
4. Alternate layering the apples and sugar mixture in the slow cooker. Pour the orange juice and zest on top.
5. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours.
6. Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender until smooth. Or use an immersion blender directly in the slow cooker.
7. If you want the consistency of the apple butter to be a little thicker, cook an additional 30 to 60 minutes with the lid off. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally to prevent scorching.

Can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or in the freezer for 3 months.

December 21, 2011


My mom's all-time most famous and favorite Christmas recipe has got to be toffee. And so, because we are almost the same person, toffee is my favorite Christmas recipe. My mom has never used a candy thermometer; neither have I. We know exactly what the toffee looks like when it's done. Most of the time I get it just right. It's really a small miracle. But because I can do it, I know you can.

The secret seems to be to cook the toffee mixture until it is dark enough. It starts out a pale yellow and gradually turns more brown. When it is brown like a grocery sack, it's ready. You'll know it's just long enough if you see a streak of very dark brown or smoke. Even with a little smoke, it still seems to turn out. Apparently other recipes for toffee say to cook it to 300 degrees. So you can always try it that way if you don't trust me. You'll know you've cooked the toffee just right because it will be crunchy but not stick to your teeth.

Also, use a heavy-bottomed pot. I've used cast-iron, an enameled dutch oven, and even a shallow skillet. A thinner bottom pot will burn the toffee before it's finished.

If you're a scaredy-cat and want to try some fail-proof candy, look here.

from my mother

2 sticks butter
1/2 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter only)
1 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. water
milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips or bars broken into small pieces
finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)

Prepare two pie plates or one 9x13 dish. Set aside. In a heavy-bottomed large pot, add butter, salt (if using), sugar, and water. Cook on medium high heat and stir constantly. Cook until the mixture turns the color of a brown paper sack or reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer , but at the first sign of smoke or dark brown streaks, remove from heat. Immediately pour half of the mixture over each pie plate or all of the mixture in the 9x13 dish. Top with chocolate and all to sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is melted and spreadable. Spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee. Top with chopped nuts. Let cool completely. Use a butter knife to break apart into bite-size pieces of toffee.

Alternate method for double sided toffee: line a 9x13 dish with parchment paper and one other similar (or larger) sized dish (like a cookie sheet or another 9x13 pan). Follow all steps up to letting the toffee cool. As soon as you can after topping the toffee with chocolate and nuts, flip the pan over onto the second parchment lined dish. Add more chocolate, allow it to melt, spread it evenly, and top with more nuts. Let cool completely. Use a butter knife to break apart into bite-size pieces of toffee.

December 15, 2011

Lemon Fritters

I tagged these fritters back in August and kept thinking about them until a few weeks ago, when I finally gave in and made them. I only made half the recipe, and I recommend only making what you can eat while they are warm.

Lemon Fritters
adapted from Tartelette

1 -2 cups canola oil
1 cup sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
2 eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Heat oil in medium large cast iron pan (or other heavy pan) until temperature reaches 375F.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, juice and eggs until well blended. Add the flour and baking powder, along with the milk. Mix well until the mixture is smooth. Drop by large spoonfuls into the hot oil. Do not over crowd the pan or it will lower the heat too much and you will end up with soggy fritters. Let cook for 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 20 to 30 small fritters.

December 10, 2011


Popcorn has long been one of my favorite foods. It's near the top of my list along with black licorice. I love popcorn, but only home-popped in oil on the stove. Microwave popcorn, no way. It smells amazing, but the taste never lives up. Air-popped is better, but I miss the deep flavor that comes from cooking it in oil. All it needs is a little butter and salt, and I've got the snack of my dreams. Seriously, I get cravings for popcorn, and not just recently.

UPDATE 3/28/13: I have been using a foil lid for the pan instead of the pan lid, and it works much better. Prepare a piece of foil with holes pricked with a fork before heating pan of oil. Once popcorn kernels have been added to the pan, quickly secure the foil over the pan as a lid. This method yields more popped kernels for some reason.


1 Tbsp. canola oil or ghee
1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
fine sea salt, to taste

Get out a large bowl and place it near the stove. Heat canola oil in a large pot. Add one kernel and wait for it to pop. Once it does, carefully remove it from the pot. Add enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer. Quickly cover it with a lid. Using a potholder, carefully hold the lid on the pot and shake it every 10 seconds or so. Keep shaking until the popping stops or almost stops. Remove from heat and pour into large bowl. Pour on melted butter and salt, and mix to combine.

December 9, 2011

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

These cookies are addicting. Lemon flavor is always welcome, and so are cookies. What's not to love?

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
from Lauren's Latest

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non-stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

December 7, 2011

Glazed Cranberry and Ginger Loaf

Here's my second fresh cranberry recipe. This quick bread has lemon zest and chunks of crystallized ginger topped with a lemon glaze. I love ginger, so any bite with some ginger is a pleasant surprise. I am getting addicted to baked goods with fresh, tart cranberries. I'll be buying more and sticking them in the freezer to use in the next few months.

Glazed Cranberry and Ginger Loaf
adapted from Cookin Canuck

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp whole milk
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

3/4 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar
4 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
Pinch salt

For the bread, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl, using a hand mixer) set on a medium speed, beat together butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition.

Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour mixture and milk. Beat until just combined. Take care not to overbeat or the bread will be tough.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and chopped crystallized ginger.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and level with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached, 60 to 70 minutes. Let the bread sit in the pan for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the outside and turn the pan upside down to release the bread. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then glaze.

For the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest, and salt until combined. Drizzle over cooled quick bread.

December 5, 2011

Cranberry Muffins

Baked goods with fresh cranberries are such a delight (another cranberry post coming). Found these muffins and loved them - super moist and delicious. Maybe I'll add a little orange zest next time, but they are fabulous as is too.

Cranberry Muffins
adapted from Alice

2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c brown sugar or coconut sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 c sour cream or plain yogurt
1 c fresh cranberries, rinsed and dried
raw sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt by whisking. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar using a mixer. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed butter and sugar; blend well, scraping sides of bowl. Fold in sour cream. Fold in flour mixture. Fold in cranberries.

Use an ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measure to fill 14-16 paper lined muffin tins. Sprinkle tops of unbaked muffins with raw sugar and bake for 18-20 minutes.

November 27, 2011

Black Bean Tortilla Bake

When I was married, I only had a few dishes that I felt like I could make well. I expanded my repertoire by often trying out new dishes. This was before the internet had a lot of good resources (or at least none that I knew of - or wait, did I even have internet then? yes, I'm not that old), and so I relied on people sharing recipes with me and my two cookbooks: Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens.

I must have made a lot of things from those two books, but as the years have gone by, most haven't entered my permanent repertoire. This dish is one I discovered more recently, but I'm really not in the habit of even opening up these cookbooks anymore, except for some basic recipe like buttercream frosting or pie crust.

What I love about this dish is that it simplifies a multi-dish Tex-Mex meal by putting it into one sloppy dish (see photo below). I really don't make too many casseroles, but this vegetarian dish is yummy, pretty easy, and makes enough for two meals. There are optional garnishes, but please don't skip the sour cream.

Black Bean Tortilla Bake
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

splash olive oil
1 c. chopped onion (1 large)
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 c. chopped green pepper (1 large)
1 14-1/2-oz. can tomatoes, undrained and cut up
1/2 c. bottled picante sauce or green salsa
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 2 c. home-cooked beans)
6 6-inch corn tortillas
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
optional garnishes:
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 c. shredded lettuce
sliced green onions
sliced pitted black olives
sour cream

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Saute for a few minutes and add green pepper. Saute a few minutes more. Add undrained tomatoes, picante sauce, and cumin. Bring to boiling and stir in beans. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread one-third bean mixture over the bottom of an 8x8-inch square pan. Top with 3 tortillas, overlapping as necessary or tearing into pieces to more evenly cover the beans. Add half the cheese. Add another one-third of the bean mixture; top with remaining 3 tortillas. Add the remaining bean mixture and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, in a 350 oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Serve warm with some or all of the optional garnishes.

November 23, 2011

Mexican Wedding Cookies

When I receive a plate of assorted holiday cookies, if there are any Mexican Wedding Cookies, I usually eat those first. I don't remember my mom ever making them, and I don't think I've made them before now. But they are so worth it and they aren't hard to make at all. I love the shortbread flavor and the pecans. In my book they don't even need the powdered sugar coating, but others disagree.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
big pinch of salt
1 tsp. water
1 c. pecans, toasted and finely chopped
powdered sugar, for coating the cookies

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds in the oven; preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the butter, granulated sugar and vanilla on medium speed just until smooth. Stir in half of the flour and the salt, then add the water. Mix in the remaining flour and the chopped pecans.

Using your hands, form the dough into 1-inch balls and place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake, rotating the sheets midway through baking, until the cookies feel almost, but not quite, firm, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets.

Sift some powdered sugar into a bowl. Toss the cooled cookies a few at a time in the sugar until completely coated with a thick layer (there is relatively little sugar in the cookie dough, so be generous when coating them).

Storage: The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. Store the baked and sugar-coated cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips

I fell in love with this recipe for pumpkin bread years ago. I got it from a family friend, and then when I went away to college I missed it so much I had to contact her and get the recipe. I love that it's heavy on the spices, and spice and pumpkin both accompany chocolate so well.

Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
from Paige B

3 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. pumpkin
1 c. oil
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2/3 c. chocolate chips

Cream eggs and sugar and until fluffy. Add pumpkin and oil and mix. Sift together dry ingredients and mix with pumpkin mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Divide evenly between 2 loaf pans. Bake 45 minutes at 350 or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the pans, loosen and remove from pans, and allow to completely cool on a wire rack.

November 18, 2011

Stuffed Grapeleaves

Grapeleaves are one of those items I've seen at the store and wished I could buy. They seem so exotic, which might explain the high price. Deterred by the price, I always declined, since I didn't even know what to make with them anyway. Then recently I was at a grocery store in a different part of town than usual, and they had a kosher section. Intrigued (diversity is not too prevalent where I live), I strolled the aisles looking for something interesting. They had a rather large jar of grapeleaves for a decent price. So I bought them and figured I could do something with them.

This recipe for stuffed grapeleaves appears to be pretty standard. I used almost all ground lamb and a little ground beef, but if you don't like lamb, stick to beef or turkey. Also, this appears to make TONS of grapeleaves. I made a fourth of the recipe and still had too much.

I enjoyed these, but the husband said not too good. We're not that used to lamb, so that could have been part of it. Otherwise, I guess they're kind of like stuffed bell peppers, but in grapeleaves.

Stuffed Grapeleaves

from Converging Cuisine

2 lbs. ground chuck or turkey
1 lb. long grain white rice
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small green pepper, finely diced
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz tomato sauce
8 oz tomato sauce or paste
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon

Mix ground chuck, rice, onion, green pepper, garlic and tomato sauce in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour in some tomato sauce enough to moisten the meat. You want the meat mixture to be slightly moist, but not so it’s so wet that it is falling apart.

Place enough grapeleaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot. This will keep the grapeleaves from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.

Lay out a grapeleaf with the vein side up. Cut out the protruding stem, if needed. Place a small amount of the beef and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat, and begin to roll up like a cigar.

Continue rolling the grapeleaves, and laying them in rows on the bottom of the pot, which has been lined with unfilled leaves. When the first layer of grapeleaves has lined the bottom of the pot, start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves easier than it would if they were all going the same direction and packed in tightly together.

Keep rolling up all the leaves, and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves, or no more filling, or the pot is full. Leave a few inches of empty space at the top of the pot to allow room for the liquid, the plate, and for the liquid to boil and bubble up over the leaves without spilling out of the pot.

Once you’ve got your leaves all rolled, place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the leaves from floating during cooking, and coming unrolled.

In the bowl that the meat mixture was in, scoop out a 8 oz can of tomato paste and mix with enough water to cover the grapeleaves.

Pour the tomato/water mixture over the leaves until they are just covered.

Add a teaspoon or so of salt, and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot.

Cover the pot with a lid, and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and let cook for about 30 minutes or until meat is cooked thru and rice and leaves are tender. If you have a lot of leaves, this may take longer – to test, just take out a leave from the top of the pot and taste it.

Once the leaves are cooked, remove from heat. Take out the plate, and start removing the grapeleaves with a pair of tongs, arranging them on a serving platter.

If desired, reserve the rest of the sauce from the pot, and use a little bit of it to pour over leftover leaves before reheating them.

November 11, 2011

Fennel-Arugula Salad

I can't believe I haven't mentioned this before on this blog, but one of my all-time favorite flavors is anise. Black jelly beans and black licorice are sublime. I know many of you will think I'm crazy, but anise flavor pops up a lot in nature. There's aniseed, star anise, fennel, fennel seed and Thai basil, all with anise overtones.

I've been wanting to try fennel for some time now, but didn't really know how to use it. That's where this salad comes in. I found this recipe in the doctor's office. They have a special health channel playing in the waiting area, and Ellie Krieger came on and showed how to make this salad.

Raw fennel is amazing - it has the crunch of celery but the flavor of anise. I might have to start including it with raw veggie platters. This salad is simple but interesting - now I can have licorice for dinner (well, sort of).

Fennel-Arugula Salad
from Ellie Krieger

1 medium bulb fennel, thinly sliced into half-moons
5 cups arugula (5 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toss the fennel and arugula together in a large salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, vinegar, shallot, orange zest, salt, and pepper. Add to the fennel and arugula and toss to coat.

October 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

I haven't made these cookies in a while, which is why they haven't been posted before now. I used to love these, but when I made them this time, they didn't seem very peanut buttery, which was surprising and a bit disappointing. As I ate more, I remembered why I love them, but it took me a while. I think I might prefer flourless peanut butter cookies, which have a much strong peanut flavor. I'm really not trying to deter you from making these; they are excellent. I'm just surprised at my change in tastes!

Unlike these peanut butter cookies, it's best to use no-stir peanut butter as it helps hold the cookies together.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. packed brown sugar
½ c. butter
½ c. peanut butter (must be solid at room temp)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375˚. Mix sugars, butter, peanut butter, vanilla and egg in medium bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Press dough to ¼ thickness with fingers. Bake about 8 minutes or until edges are light brown (centers will be soft). Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

October 26, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

I think this is the second time in my life I've made macaroni and cheese from scratch. For some reason gooey cheese and pasta sounded so good to me, so I tried this recipe from my mom. She didn't make macaroni much while I was growing up, but she found this recipe in recent years and recommended it. I really enjoyed this dish and will be making it again the next time I dream of macaroni and cheese (which probably won't be too often).

Macaroni and Cheese
from my mother

3 c. whole milk
1 small onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh parsley
½ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
8 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked according to package instructions, drained
6 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. flour
1 lb. Cheddar cheese, 4 c. shredded
salt and Tabasco, to taste

Pour the milk into a non-reactive saucepan. Add the onion, bay leaf, parsley, oregano and peppercorns. Heat until scalded. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Strain milk, return to pan and reheat to scalding.

In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes without browning. Pour in the hot milk. Whisk until mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in 3 c. of the cheese, stirring until melted. Season the cheese sauce with salt and Tabasco. Fold in the cooked macaroni.

Pour into a greased 1 ½ quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cup of cheese. Bake in the center of a preheated 350˚ oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.

October 23, 2011

Pork Chops with Kale

A friend of mine likes to reminisce about her mother's cooking, and she has mentioned pork and kale on multiple occasions. These conversations inspired me to look for a recipe to incorporate both ingredients. Enter internet search. I gave this recipe a whirl, and it was pretty easy. My favorite ingredient is the fennel seed, so don't skip it.

Pork Chops with Kale
adapted from Dinner a Love Story

1 bunch kale
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
4 pork chops
fennel seed
1 Tbsp. tomato paste

Wash and cut kale into 2-inch pieces. Boil for 15 minutes in salted water. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a deep skillet. Add garlic clove and cook over low heat, just enough to flavor oil without burning, about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add 4-6 pork chops (butterflied, or pounded thin) that have been salted, peppered, and sprinkled with a little fennel seed and brown for 2 minutes on each side. Using a metal measuring cup, scoop out 1 cup of hot water from the kale pot and pour into a heatproof bowl. Whisk tomato paste in the hot water then add this liquid to the pork chops. Cover skillet and simmer until pork is cooked through, about 15 minutes. In final 5 minutes, add kale to skillet, and let it drink in the liquid.

October 22, 2011

Coriander Rice

I'm not one to spend a lot of time on side dishes, and I usually make plain rice, white or brown. I decided to try this lovely yellow-colored rice and was pleased. It was pretty hands-off preparation and adds vibrancy to the dinner plate.

Coriander Rice
from The Fresh Fridge

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups long grain white rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley (or cilantro)

Coriander Rice: In a medium pot, heat oil on medium heat and add chopped onions. Saute until the onions turn translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add coriander and turmeric and stir until well mixed for about one minute. Next add dry rice, mix in until fully coated. Then add chicken stock and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring. Cover and turn to low, cook for 20-30 minutes until rice is tender. Remove from heat and add in chopped parsley (or cilantro) and serve.

October 20, 2011

Chipotle Bean Burritos

These bean burritos are zesty, fresh, and light, unlike the hot, cheesy traditional burrito. The preparation was pretty easy, and I will definitely be making these again.

UPDATE:  The second time I made these I laughed when I noticed they do call for cheese.  The first time I made them, I unintentionally left out the cheese.  They taste great either way!

Chipotle Bean Burritos
from Tide and Thyme

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoons fresh salsa
6 12-inch flour tortillas, warmed in microwave for 10-15 seconds
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, pepperjack, monterey jack, or a mixture)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
6 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
6 tablespoons sour cream

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, chile powder, chipotle chile, cumin, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in salsa, and mash lightly with a slotted spoon or fork.

Spoon about 1/3 cup of the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla. Top each serving with about 2 1/2 Tablespoons shredded cheese, 1/4 cup tomatoes, 1/4 cup lettuce, 1 tablespoon green onion, and 1 tablespoon sour cream. Roll tightly and serve immediately.

October 18, 2011

Key Lime Cheesecake

I made this refreshing cheesecake for my friend's birthday. I made her mini cheesecakes in small ramekins, and then with the leftovers, I made this pie dish of cheesecake. The cheesecake came out of the ramekins pretty cleanly, thankfully. A while ago, I made another recipe for key lime cheesecake, but it was much too tart. This one was just right - a little tart, but still creamy.

Key Lime Cheesecake
adapted from Simple and Homemade

10 graham crackers
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

14 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs + 1 large egg white
2 freshly grated lime zest, preferably Key lime
1/2 c fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime

To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 325° F. Put a kettle or pot of water on to heat for the water bath. Coat a 10 or 11″ springform pan with cooking spray. Tightly wrap the bottom and outside of the pan with a double layer of foil [fold a sheet in half lengthwise].

Process graham crackers in a food processor until fine crumbs form (or put in a ziploc bag and pound them with a meat tenderizer). Transfer to a medium bowl. Add butter and toss until evenly moist. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

To prepare cheesecake: When the crust is almost cool, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth — in a large bowl with an electric mixer or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add yogurt, eggs, egg white, lime zest and juice; beat until well blended. Pour the batter over the cooled crust.

Place the cheesecake in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1″ up the outside of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the center of the oven until set around the edges but the center still jiggles, about 45 minutes. Turn oven off and let sit in the oven with the door ajar for 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour more. Place in the refrigerator with sides still in tact.

Once ready to serve, remove the sides from the springform. Top with zest and slices of Key lime, if desired.

October 12, 2011

Won Ton Soup

My husband loves his mother's wonton soup. Unlike me, lots of things she makes she just throws together without a recipe, or at least, that's my impression. Early on in our marriage, she gave me the directions for making this soup, but I didn't have the magic touch, so it just ended up so-so. With more experience, I am improving in my creativity and confidence in the kitchen, but I still prefer to have a recipe in front of me as a guide, even though I might not use strict measurements or may use ingredient substitutions or additions.

About a year and a half ago, a friend showed me how she makes scrumptious wontons. They can be fried, pan-sauteed, steamed, or boiled. Also once formed and not cooked, they can be frozen to be cooked and eaten later.

I paired those wontons with my mother-in-law's instructions for wonton soup and the recipe on the wonton wrapper package. Now I have a wonton soup I am proud of.

Side note: Oh, man, I am hungry right now and I can't do anything about it right away. Give me some wonton soup, please.

Gyoza (or Won Tons)
adapted from AB

1 package won ton wrappers
1 lb. ground pork, cooked through and drained (or try sauteed, crumbled tempeh)
4 leaves bok choy, finely chopped (or 2 heads of baby bok choy)
3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
small bowl of water
oil, for frying

In a large bowl, add cooked pork, bok choy, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.

On a clean surface, separate won ton wrappers and lay flat. Spoon a small spoonful of pork mixture into middle of a won ton wrapper. You'll get used to how much filling each wrapper can hold, and it's probably less than you think. Working in batches of 6 or so wrappers, using your finger dipped in water, wet the edges of the wrapper. Fold and seal each wrapper (the folding options are endless - start by folding in half or on the diagonal, then gather up the outer edges in a decorative fashion). Place folded won tons under a damp cloth or paper towel on a plate.

If making won ton soup, skip the rest of the directions.

Heat 1-2 T of oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Place completed won tons in hot oil and fry on both sides until nice and brown. Serve immediately with rice and a sauce made of soy, sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a little water.

Or check out this method for cooking won tons. I'm going to try this next time.

Won Ton Soup

half a recipe for won tons (above)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. grated ginger
8 cups chicken broth
2 T soy sauce
3 quarts boiling water
thinly sliced carrots
sliced spinach or shredded bok choy
thinly sliced green onions
hot cooked rice
soy sauce
sesame oil

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add a splash of oil and garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the chicken broth and raise heat to high until boiling. Add carrots and spinach or bok choy and cook 2 minutes. Meanwhile, drop filled won tons, 15 to 20 at a time, in 3 quarts of boiling water. After they rise to surface, simmer 4 minutes. Drain won tons and place a scoop of rice and several won tons in individual soup bowls. Ladle hot broth and vegetables over won tons. Garnish with green onions and season with soy sauce and sesame oil, if desired.

October 9, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken

Last post was General Tso's chicken, and now it's teriyaki chicken. I love Asian food, in all its varieties. There are probably a million recipes for teriyaki chicken, and a lot probably aren't very good, though I can't speak from experience. I was impressed with this marinade - very easy and yummy.

Hoisin sauce is a sweet, prepared sauce found in the Asian section of the grocery store. Buy some and use the leftovers in General Tso's chicken. Sriracha hot sauce is also an Asian product, but you could substitute other hot sauce in this recipe.

Teriyaki Chicken
adapted from The Fresh Fridge

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken tenders or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Prepare marinade by mixing all ingredients. Pound chicken thighs, if using, with a mallet to thin them out a little and tenderize them. Place prepared marinade and chicken into a ziploc bag and refrigerate a few hours up to overnight. Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook chicken for 5-7 minutes per side, until cooked through.

October 4, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

Why are all the best Chinese dishes fried? Everything about this recipe is very tasty.

General Tso’s Chicken
adapted from Appetite for China

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 peanut or vegetable oil for frying, plus 1 tablespoon for stir-frying
8 dried whole red chilis, or substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish
Scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish

1 tablespoons soy sauce
2 egg whites

1/4 cup chicken stock, or substitute water
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Prepare the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce and egg whites. Coat the chicken to the marinade mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, tomato paste, sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, sugar, and the 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Set the sauce aside.

3. In a large bowl or deep plate, toss the 1 1/2 cups cornstarch with the salt and pepper. Coat the marinated chicken in the cornstarch and shake off any excess before frying.

4. Heat 3 cups of peanut or vegetable oil in your wok until it registers 350°F on an instant-read oil thermometer. Working in 2 or 3 batches, add the first batch of chicken cubes and fry until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

5. Drain the oil into a heatproof container and save for discarding. Wipe the wok with a paper towel to remove any brown bits, but don’t wash.

6. Reheat the wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the dried chilis and garlic to the wok and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds. Pour in the sauce mixture and stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Return the chicken to the wok and stir well to coat with sauce. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Garnish with white sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with white rice and vegetables.

September 27, 2011

Flat Bread

My sister-in-law is quite the homemaker, actually more like frontier woman in so many ways. She makes tons of stuff from scratch and loves canning. She told me about this recipe for flat bread, and of course the bread is amazing! Like me, I guess she didn't have any potato flour or flakes available, so she recommended using a small potato, peeled, boiled, and mashed. This works great and probably adds some extra moisture to make the breads extra soft.

I recommend storing extra flat breads between pieces of wax paper in a ziploc bag in the freezer.

Flat Bread
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Makes about 8-9 breads

3 to 3 1/4 cups (12 3/4 to 13 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) boiling water
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) potato flour OR 1/2 cup (5/8 ounces) potato buds or flakes (I used potato flakes)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon instant yeast*

Place 2 cups of the flour into a bowl or the bucket of a bread machine. Pour the boiling water over the flour, and stir until smooth. Lightly cover the bowl or bucket and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the potato flour (or flakes or buds) and 1 cup of the remaining flour with the salt, oil and yeast. Add this to the slightly cooled flour/water mixture, stir, then knead for several minutes (by hand, mixer or bread machine) to form a soft dough. It may look like the flour/salt/oil/yeast mixture will never absorb into the boiling water/flour mixture. It will, I promise, but you may need to take it out of your electric mixer, if using one, and knead the flour in by hand or add it very gradually into your electric mixer.

Note: You can allow the dough to go through the entire kneading cycle(s) in the bread machine, but it’s not necessary; about a 5-minute knead in the machine, once it gets up to full kneading speed, is fine. The dough should form a ball, but will remain somewhat sticky (the dough is fairly stiff, so don’t be worried – just be careful not to overflour the dough). Add additional flour only if necessary; if kneading by hand, keep your hands and work surface lightly oiled. Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour (I let mine rise up to 2 hours).

Divide the dough into 8 pieces (each about the size of a handball, around 3 ounces), cover, and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Roll each piece into a 7- to 8-inch circle, and dry-fry them (fry without oil) on a griddle or frying pan over medium heat for about 1 minute per side (I cooked mine about 2-3 minutes per side and they didn’t dry out), until they’re puffed and flecked with brown spots. Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking either too quickly, or too slowly; cooking too quickly means they may be raw in the center, while too slowly will dry them out. Transfer the cooked breads to a wire rack, stacking them to keep them soft. Serve immediately, or cool slightly before storing in a plastic bag.

*This recipe works best with instant yeast because it dissolves during the kneading process, so you don’t have to knead liquid into the dough. If you really prefer to use active dry yeast, use only 1 cup boiling water for the initial dough, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water, and add this mixture to the dough along with the potato flour mixture. It’ll be somewhat “slippery” at first, but will knead in and eventually become smooth.

September 18, 2011

Steak with Roasted Corn Salsa

My mom made this recipe and recommended it to me. Hurry and make it before the summer corn crop is over. It's pretty easy - a corn salsa on top of steak - but super tasty!

Steak with Roasted Corn Salsa
adapted from Epicurious

3 cups fresh corn (about 3 ears)
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced separately
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
1 to 2 fresh jalapeño chiles, finely diced (including seeds)
1 (2-pound) trimmed boneless sirloin steak, about 1 1/2 inches thick
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Make corn salsa:
Heat a dry large cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat until hot, then pan-roast corn, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Cook white part of scallions in butter with garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon each cumin and chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until scallions are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in corn, tomatoes, and jalapeños.

Grill steak:
Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and sprinkle on both sides of steak. Grill, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into thickest part of meat registers 130°F, 18 to 20 minutes total for medium-rare. (Non grill method: heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Add a splash of olive oil. Cook each side of the steak for a few minutes until 130°F.) Transfer steak to a grooved cutting board and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

While steak is standing, reheat corn mixture over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in cilantro and scallion greens.

Spoon corn on top of sliced steak and pour over any accumulated juices.

September 11, 2011

Magic Shell Chocolate Sauce

Magic Shell chocolate sauce, if you didn't know, is the chocolate syrup that hardens into a shell when poured on ice cream. It really is magical. Now you can make your own! This recipe worked like magic too.

Homemade Magic Shell Chocolate Sauce
from 52 Kitchen Adventures

7 oz. chocolate, roughly chopped
2 T coconut oil

In a heat-proof bowl, place chocolate and coconut oil in microwave. Heat 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until fully melted. (Or, in a double boiler, heat chocolate and coconut oil over water on medium high heat, stirring frequently until fully melted.) Set aside to cool. Pour over ice cream.

Store in air-tight container in refrigerator. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds before use.

September 8, 2011

Mediterranean Eggplant Barley Salad

So eggplant and I don't get along that well. I need help learning to understand and appreciate this vegetable. While I really haven't that tried that hard to improve our relationship, I have hope for us because of this excellent barley salad with roasted eggplant. This salad is scrumptious. Really. The fresh herbs and tomato pair well with the roasted eggplant and zucchini and salty olives. And barley gives a satisfying, grainy support to any dish. Eggplant are still in season. If you already love eggplant or want to give it another chance, start with this salad.

Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad
from Gourmet, September 2006 but found through Smitten Kitchen

Makes 4 (main course) or 8 (side dish) servings

1 1/2 lb eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 lb zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped scallion
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/4 cups pearl barley (8 oz)
1 (14-oz) can reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (1 3/4 cups)
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion, rinsed and drained if desired
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Accompaniment: 1 (1/2-lb) piece ricotta salata, cut crosswise into thin slices

Roast eggplant and zucchini: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss eggplant and zucchini with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Combine vegetables in 1 pan and cool, reserving other pan for cooling barley.

Cook barley: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to reserved shallow baking pan and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Make dressing and assemble salad: Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add barley, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well. Serve with cheese slices.

Do ahead: Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.

September 7, 2011


Here's my third featured vegetable in my series, though you are probably already familiar with it: zucchini. Zucchini is a summer squash (winter squash have very hard skins) and is so versatile. It's a vegetable you'll find in a variety of recipes.

Take a look at the variety here:
Quinoa Summer Salad
Confetti Orzo Salad with Chicken
Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Fusilli with Zucchini and Butter
Zucchini Bread
Savory Corn and Zucchini Muffins
Zucchini Apple SpiceMuffins

And how about chocolate and zucchini? I've made these before, but haven't blogged about them:
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

One of my go-to vegetable side dishes is sauteed zucchini. It's so easy and cooks up rather quickly. I often don't have energy for side dishes, but there's no excuse not to make this one.

Sauteed Zucchini

olive oil
garlic, minced
coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper

Slice zucchini into half-inch thick slices, and if desired, in half to form semi-circles. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and spread in pan. Add zucchini in a single layer, seasoned side down. Depending on how much zucchini you have, you may need to work in batches. Sprinkle the other side with more salt and pepper. Let saute for a few minutes, until golden brown. Flip over and cook the other side until golden brown. Remove from pan and serve.

September 4, 2011

Peach Salsa

Through my peach canning days, I had a few extra peaches and decided to make a small batch of peach salsa. I've had pineapple salsa, mango salsa, and now peach salsa. Each time the thought of fruit salsa kind of weirds me out, but after taking a bite, I'm hooked.

Peach Salsa

6 peaches, peeled pitted and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium sized red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup loosley packed cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 limes, juiced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips.

September 2, 2011

Canned Peaches and Peach Butter

I've finally joined the canning club! For Christmas, I received some canning gear, including a water bath canner (a large pot with wire rack). Since we've arrived in the summer bounty season, I thought I'd start with peaches. Here's the half bushel of peaches I purchased from the peach/apple seller at the farmer's market.

Some of the peaches had black spots on the skin, but the peach flesh was not affected. Here's my end product: 4 quarts, 7 pints, and 3 8-oz. peach butters. I'm being patient and have not tried anything yet. How can peaches and sugar go wrong?

I used canning instructions and recipes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
Light Syrup
syrup yield: 6 cups (1.5 L)

2 1/4 cups (550 mL) granulated sugar
5 1/4 cups (1.3 L) water

In a stainless steel saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until needed, taking care not to boil the syrup down.

Peaches in Syrup
Makes about eight pint (500 mL) jars or four quart (1 L) jars

8-12 lbs (3.6-5.5 kg) peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, treated to prevent browning and drained
1 batch hot syrup

Raw pack method:

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.

2. Pack peaches, cavity side down and overlapping layers, into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top of jar. Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover peaches, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding hot syrup. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

3. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process pint (50 mL) jars for 25 minutes (30 minutes in my case) and quart (1 L) jars for 30 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Peach Butter
Makes about eight 8-oz (250mL) jars or four pint (500 mL) jars

4 1/2 lbs (2 kg) peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 cups (1L) granulated sugar

1. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine peaches, water and lemon zest and juice. Brint to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until peaches are soft, about 20 minutes.

2. Working in batches, transfer peach mixture to a food mill or a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree just until a uniform texture is achieved. Do not liquefy. Measure 8 cups (2 L) of peach puree.

3. In a clean large stainless steel saucepan, combine peach puree and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and holds its shape on a spoon.

4. Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

5. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot butter. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

6. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. (15 minutes in my case.) Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

August 26, 2011

Multi-Grain Milk Bread

While perusing the farmer's market, I usually am able to bypass the prepared foods. I'm at the market to prepare my own foods, so why buy pre-made (though homemade) from someone else? But often they give away free samples. I tried a slice of a local baker's bread and was hooked. I ended up buying a loaf because it was so good. So then I wanted to try and make my own. I was able to find this recipe on the internet and it turned out perfect. This is my new favorite bread.

I used 8-grain cereal from Bob's Red Mill, because I couldn't find any 10-grain. Also, as I'm typing this blog post I finally noticed that the recipe only uses about half of the tangzhong mixture. I've made this bread three times and each time used all the tangzhong. No wonder it was super moist. Oops.

Ten-Grain Milk Bread
adapted from Une Deux Senses

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup 10-grain cereal mix, plus more for topping
3 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk (can substitute regular milk)
120 g. tangzhong (about 1/2 of the mixture below)
3 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature

For the tangzhong:
1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup water

To make the tangzhong, mix the flour and water together and whisk until it is completely dissolved and there are no lumps. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Begin stirring constantly as the mixture heats up - it will begin to thicken. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 150 F, turn off the stove and remove it from the stove to let it cool.

In the bowl of a stand up mixer, combine the flours, cereal mix, salt, and yeast and mix. In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, egg, honey and tangzhong and mix very well. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients into the center. Fit the mixer with the hook attachment and begin mixing on medium speed until the dough comes together, then add the butter in and continue kneading. Knead until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic, about 18 - 20 minutes (but each mixer varies). When ready, you should be able to take a chunk of the dough and stretch it to a very thin membrane before if breaks. When it does break it should form a circle. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead into a ball. Take a large bowl, grease it with oil, then place the dough into the bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, transfer it to a clean surface. Roll out the ball with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold it to meet the middle of the oval, then take the other end and fold it to meet the middle. Flip the dough over with the folds facing down and flatten with a rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it forms a thin rectangle. Begin rolling up the dough along the wide/ long side of the rectangle so you end up with a long skinny roll rather than a short and fat one. Place it into a 9x5" bread pan lined with parchment paper. Cover in plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about another 40 minutes. Beat an egg and brush on top. Sprinkle more ten-grain cereal to cover the top of the loaf. Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

August 23, 2011

Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato Sandwich

I love a BLT sandwich. The combination is just right. But I decided to go healthy and try a bacon-less BLT. If you're going to leave out bacon, it better be replaced with something very good. And avocado is pretty awesome, so this worked.

The ALT Sandwich
adapted from Sweet Potato Chronicles

4 basil leaves, torn
1 avocado, pitted and mashed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tomato, sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 pieces of lettuce
4 pieces of multi-grain bread, toasted
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Makes two sandwiches.

Coat tomato slices with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Let stand.

Meanwhile, mash avocado in a medium bowl, and then add lemon juice, torn basil, and salt and pepper. Mix until smooth.

Toast bread and then spread about half of the avocado mix onto the bread. Finish by adding tomato slices and a piece of lettuce.

August 22, 2011

Confetti Orzo Salad with Chicken

This pasta salad is bursting with fresh summer vegetables, chicken, feta, and a lemony dressing. I loved it!!

Confetti Orzo Salad with Chicken
adapted from Anderson Farmer's Market

1 pound orzo, cooked according to package directions
corn from 5 ears of corn, cut off the cob
6 small or 2 large zucchini diced
1 sweet red pepper diced
1 jalapeno minced
1 red onion chopped
1 cup basil torn
4 ounces feta cheese
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil
juice of three lemons
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
salt and pepper

Prepare dressing by combining ingredients and whisking. Set aside.

Sprinkle zucchini with salt and let sit for 15 minutes, rinse.

Meanwhile, pound chicken breast slightly to create a thinner, even thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with olive oil. Saute the chicken for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through. Remove from pan.

In large skillet (can use the pan from the chicken), heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and corn and saute for a few minutes, only until tender. Remove from heat.

Dice cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. Mix corn and zucchini with cooked chicken, cooked orzo, red pepper, onion, basil and jalapeno. Toss with dressing and crumble feta over top.
Can be stored in airtight container for 2 days in refrigerator.

August 16, 2011

Mini Cheesecakes with Fruit Topping

A few weeks ago my Saturday morning was spent picking blueberries. It was lovely. Then came several lovely batches of blueberry ice cream. Part of the process includes steeping the blueberries in sugar and water, and then straining out the chunks of berries. I kept the leftover chunks just in case.

I'm always in a constant state of trying to clean out the freezer. I found a bag of leftover graham cracker crust, thought of my blueberries, and voila! Mini cheesecakes were born!

Using my standard cheesecake recipe (but only made one-third) but with a graham cracker crust, I baked the cakes in cupcake tins. I topped them with my leftover ice-cream blueberry mush and fresh strawberries.

Mini Cheesecakes with Fruit Topping

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 slightly beaten egg yolk
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 c. milk

Line two standard-size muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.

For crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1/3 c. sugar. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of crust into each muffin cup. Pat and pack down the crust to evenly cover the bottom of the cup. Set aside.

For filling, in a large mixer bowl beat together softened cream cheese, lemon peel, and remaining vanilla until fluffy. Stir together 1 c. sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, salt; gradually stir in cream cheese mixture. Add 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk all at once, beating at low speed until just combined. Stir in milk.

Spoon into prepared muffin cups just under full. Bake at 325˚ for 25-30 minutes more or till center appears set and knife comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove cheesecakes from pan and cool on a wire rack. Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, remove paper liners and top with fruit topping of your choice.

August 12, 2011

Custard with Raspberries

I love berries, and raspberries may be my absolute favorite (but maybe it's strawberries, or blueberries...). I couldn't pass up raspberries at the farmer's market. One of the best ways to enjoy berry jewels is with cream, plain yogurt, creme fraiche, or whipped cream.

These custards are so creamy and dreamy.  I'm excited to try them with other berries.

Custard with Raspberries
adapted from Food 52

1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup brown sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, egg, flour and cornstarch. Mix well.

Add the milk and vanilla. Stir well with a wire whisk.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook and stir for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the custard thickens. Pour into a bowl.

Add the cream cheese. Stir for two minutes, or until the cheese melts. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until the custard cools.

Preheat the broiler. Pour the custard into six custard cups set on a baking sheet. Press the berries into the custard. Broil four inches from the heat for five minutes, or until the custard is golden in color.

Sprinkle with the brown sugar. Set aside for one to two minutes, or until the sugar melts. Alternately, if you want the sugar to brulée, put them back under the broiler briefly. Be sure to watch them carefully and pull them out when the sugar is bubbly, but before it burns. Let cool slightly and serve while warm.

August 10, 2011

Sichuan Green Beans

If prepared with enough flavor, green beans aren't so bad (see this salad). This recipe is bursting with flavor with the ground meat taking backstage to the green beans.

I've tried this several times and am convinced any ground meat will work. The flavor from the sauce even makes ground turkey taste fine.

Sichuan Green Beans
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/3 - 1/2 pound ground meat (any combo of pork, beef, or turkey)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
sambal oelek (optional)

Stir together all the ingredients from the soy sauce to dry mustard. Set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over high heat until just smoking. Add the green beans and stir-fry for a few minutes until they are crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir frequently until there is some charring on the beans. Remove from pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high and add ground meat to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes or until no pink remains in the meat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about half a minute. Add beans then the sauce and stir until the latter has thickened, just a few seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl and add the scallions and sesame oil. Serve with a small dollop of sambal oelek over hot rice.

August 7, 2011

Chocolate-Croissant Bread Pudding

Occasionally I buy store-bought croissants for my favorite chicken salad sandwich. With the leftover croissants (stale works better), this bread pudding begs to be made.

I made this a few weeks ago, and I definitely recommend making it in the fall or winter. It's just not a summer dessert. But, of course, it's still delicious any time.

The bread pudding is cooked in a water bath. I have a disposable aluminum pan (like for roasting turkeys) that I use for this purpose.

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding
from Ann D

2 large croissants, cut into ½ inch cubes
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 large egg yolks
2 c. whipping cream
½ c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚. Arrange croissant cubes on a large baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚.

Sprinkle chocolate on bottom or pie or quiche dish. Top with croissant cubes.

Pour cream into heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from the vanilla bean and then add the bean. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture. Discard vanilla bean. Pour over chocolate and croissants.

Place pie dish in large baking pan. Add enough water to pan until the level is halfway up the sides of the pie dish. Bake pudding until set, about 40 minutes. Remove water; cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

August 5, 2011

Moroccan Couscous

I've been making this couscous dish for a long time, though this is the first time with whole-wheat couscous. It's actually hard to stop eating it once you start.

This time I used fresh peas from the farmer's market, but frozen peas get the job done too.

Moroccan Couscous
from The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook by Diana Schwarzbein

1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ diced small onion
½ diced red bell pepper
1 minced garlic clove
1 c. couscous (whole-wheat couscous works too)
1 tsp. curry powder
1 c. chicken stock
1 Tbsp. butter
½ c. fresh green peas or frozen and thawed
1 to 2 tsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add couscous and curry powder and sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat. In a separate medium saucepan, bring stock, butter, peas, lemon or lime juice, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to a boil. Pour hot liquid over couscous, stir once, cover and let sit undisturbed 10 to 15 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

August 3, 2011

Vegetable-Bean Fajitas

In an effort to eat even less meat, I set out to create a meatless fajita. Usually, I steal other people's recipes, but this one came purely out of my head. Of course, the more time I spend in the kitchen, the more experience I have to know how long things need to cook, what goes well together, etc. So it's not like I re-invented the wheel, but I was proud that this tasted good enough to repeat and share.

This recipe is definitely customizable. Get creative with the vegetables, type of beans, or the toppings.

Vegetable-Bean Fajitas

1 onion, thinly sliced into 1-inch slivers
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 handfuls sliced swiss chard or spinach
2 ears fresh corn, shucked and kernels removed
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch slivers
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch slivers
1 15-oz. can drained and rinsed black beans (or 2 c. cooked black beans)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
half a lime

feta, Monterey Jack, or cojita cheese, crumbled or shredded
sour cream
corn tortillas, warmed

Heat a large skillet (cast-iron works well) over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onions start to soften. Add the swiss chard or spinach and saute another minute. Add the corn and bell peppers. Saute another minute or two. Add the black beans, cumin, and chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until heated through, another minute or two. Remove from heat.

Mix the tomatoes, cilantro, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a couple squeezes of lime juice in a small bowl to create a simple salsa.

Assemble the fajitas on top of corn tortillas, add the vegetable-bean mixture, add a scoop of salsa, cheese, and sour cream.

August 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Sorry for the posting hiatus. Usually I plan ahead and have some posts ready to go even if I won't be home. That did not happen this time, but I guess I needed the break!

I have trouble with getting homemade granola bars to stick together, but I'm wondering if the secret is to mix them up with your hands. The first time I made these, they were crumbly, but I only used a spoon. The second two times I used my hands with better luck. In any case, I really loved the peanut butter used to bind these bars together. Peanut butter is one of my favorite food items, so these bars really hit the spot. However, my mother-in-law tried them, and even though she does not like peanut butter too much, really liked these granola bars.

These are so simple, hearty, and healthy. I'll be making these often for my stomach-never-full husband.

In this batch, my add-ins were chopped raisins and flaxseed. I've also used dried cranberries and chocolate chips. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
adapted from How Sweet Eats

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
3/4 cup natural peanut butter, melted in the microwave for 30 seconds
1/2 cup honey

optional add-ins:
chocolate chips
wheat germ
dried fruit, chopped
other nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine oats and peanuts. Add honey and mix to combine. Add melted peanut butter and mix until moistened (I found my hands worked best to make sure every oat was coated). Fold in optional add-ins. If dough is still too dry (this can depend on your ingredients) add more peanut butter or honey 1 tablespoon at a time until moistened.

Press dough in a greased (non-stick spray) 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Once cool, cut into squares. Store in an air-tight container.