December 30, 2008

Rosemary Focaccia

I have vague, but very fond, memories of my mom baking focaccia when I was really little. The aroma of fresh bread and herbs would invade the whole house. I don't know what happened exactly, but she stopped--maybe when someone decided margarine was healthier than olive oil. I'm so glad those days are gone!

I made this recipe recently; Sarah asked to bring bread to Christmas dinner, but being snowed in, I couldn't just grab a baguette from the store. Focaccia does take awhile--no instant gratification here--but it is worth it. It's not labor intensive, you just need a few hours for all of the rising. Before I made this, I'd never used yeast before. (It's not so bad after all.) This bread, from my Sunday's At Moosewood Restuarant cookbook, was everything I'd hoped it would be--and just like I remembered.

SIDE NOTE: If you don't currently own a rosemary plant, stop reading this and go buy one. Now. No, I'm serious. Go. There's no reason not to have your own rosemary plant. You don't need much space, they don't care if you neglect them for a little while and they will grow almost anywhere, even through droughts. (They can also live up to 30 years--definitely worth the $5 investment.)

I used fresh cut rosemary for this recipe (and I use in it many other things--especially when roasting vegetables), but you can use dried rosemary if you have to. Moosewood also suggests trying a variety of other herbs and topppings, like thinly sliced onion, black olives, sage, basil, oregano, chives, etc. Any way you go, it'll be amazing.

  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh rosemary leaves (I added some dried thyme and dried basil to my fresh rosemary)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour*
  • 1 teaspoon course salt (This was too much for my taste, a light sprinkling would be enough.)
  1. Finely chop your fresh rosemary and transfer to a large mixing bowl with the other herbs. Pour the boiling water over the herbs and let cool to a temperature comfortable on the inside of the wrist. (This took about 5 minutes. The water should be around 105-115 degrees for the yeast to activate properly.)
  2. Add the yeast and sugar.
  3. After about 5 minutes, when the yeast is bubbling, add the salt and one tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Stir in the whole wheat flour. Add only as much white flour as you need to make the dough pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is smooth and springy. As you knead the dough, add just enough flour to prevent sticking. The dough should remain rather soft.
  6. Oil a large bowl. (I just sprayed one lightly with TJ's Pam-type stuff.) Place the dough in the bowl, then flip it once to oil both sides. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth (I used a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel), and set aside in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it's doubled in size.
  7. Punch down the dough and knead it for a minute or two. Oil a large baking sheet with olive oil. Stretch and pat the dough until it is roughly 12"x12". Cover the pan and let the dough rise again for about 45 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make indentations with your fingertips about every 2 inches all over the dough. Sprinkle with coarse salt and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  9. Bake 25 minutes or until golden. Serve warm!
*A more traditional recipe would probably use all white flour, but this tasted the same and is more healthful.

For more information on bread baking, I highly recommend The Tassajara Bread Book, which I discovered when watching the interesting documentary, How to Cook Your Life. Check them out.

December 29, 2008

Leta's Pozole

Andy's mom makes the best Pozole (also spelled Posole). Ok, it's pretty much the only Pozole I've ever had, but it's delicious! Last night we made it at Andy's new house and it was enough for me and three dudes.

What's in it
1 lg yellow onion, chopped
2 lb (or so) pork shoulder/loin cut in small cubes
tall can of canned beer
cumin, ground coriander, red chili powder (sweet)
2 cans green chili, drained and chopped
1 lg can hominy, drained
1 small can corn, drained
steamed tortillas
mexican cheese, crumbled (Alexis, help me with the name here) or grated monterey jack
chopped cilantro

How it's done
In a dutch oven, clear onions in oil on stovetop. Add pork and brown. Then add beer and spices, cover and simmer 45-60 minutes. Add cans of hominy, corn, chili. Simmer until warmed.

Serve topped with cheese, cilantro and lime. Eat with steamed tortillas (use them to pinch of pieces of the stew).

*We had this for dinner again tonight (July 2010) with Ngoc and Dave, and Dave's (mexican) grandma makes traditional pozole. He recommended adding a ham hock or pig's foot to the broth for stewing, and also recommended adding shredded fresh cabbage for garnish and sliced radishes.

December 28, 2008

Oh Fudge!

This fudge recipe came from my Aunt Cindy, and she got it from the back of a condensed milk can. Good things can be found in the most bizarre places.

This is the easiest dessert I've ever made, and so incredibly delicious. I think it took me 5 minutes to prepare the fudge before sticking it in the fridge. This just might be dangerous.

What's in it
3 C (18 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
dash of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
chopped nuts (optional)

How it's made
Find a 9 inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper.
Over low heat, melt chocolate, salt and condensed milk. Stir often to avoid burning. Remove from heat, then stir in vanilla. Mix in chopped nuts. Pour into prepared pan. Refrigerate 2 hours till firm. Turn fudge upside down on cutting board and peel off paper. Cut into squares.

December 26, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

I made this pie for my Grandma DeVault on Christmas, and boy does she have a sweet spot for pies. I've never seen her move so fast. I am not a fan of pies, but I had a slice of this one, and it was literally the best I've had in a long time - very flavorful and great texture. Everyone loved it.
This is a really simple recipe, and believe it or not, it's a little difficult to find a recipe for sweet potato pie these days. Pumpkin has sort of taken the forefront. This recipe makes two pies.

What's in it
3-4 sweet potatoes or yams (I prefer yams - the orange/red ones)
1/2 C butter, soft
1 Tbl pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp chinese five spice powder (if you have it)
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 C evaporated milk (6 oz)
2 pie crusts

How it's done
Cook the potatoes (uncut and unpeeled) until tender in boiling water, until firm but tender (about a half hour). Drain, cool, peel and mash.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine mashed potatoes (yams), butter, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon. In a small, separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk, then blend into potato mixture. Pour mix into 2 pie shells and bake 60 minutes or until done.

December 24, 2008

Tom Kah Gai: Chicken Coconut Soup

I've always been a fan of Thai food, but Thai cooking somehow seemed rather mysterious. Then Amber told me about a wonderful cookbook called Quick & Easy Thai. (Now, I've seen some "easy" Indian food cookbooks that don't seem to have a quick recipe in them, so I was a little hesitant.) But, the author--previously a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand--wrote these recipes for busy people to cook on a weeknight.

As it turns out, many Thai recipes are not difficult to prepare and can be made any time, not just on fancy special occasions. The recipes I've tried are pretty amazingly simple, but still incredibly delicious. Some of the recipes call for exotic ingredients (that is, if you live in Oregon and not California), but most of the time you can substitute or skip an ingredient and your dish will be fine.

This is an impressively flavorful soup! It pairs well with other recipes in the book, like chicken satay or crab cakes.

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 6 wild lime leaves, cut into quarters (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (a light version is available at Trader Joe's)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water)
  • 10-12 slices galanga (this is a relative of ginger--I substitute fresh ginger slices)
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass (available at Whole Foods and Safeway--do not leave this out!)
  • 3/4 pound boneless chicken cut into bite-sized chunks (or tofu!)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
  1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce and green onions (plus half of the wild lime leaves--optional). Set aside. Put chopped cilantro in a separate small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add the coconut milk and the chicken broth. Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the galanga or ginger and lemongrass (plus remainder of lime leaves, if using.)
  3. Add the chicken and mushrooms. Return to a gentle boil and simmer until the chicken is cooked--about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Pour the lime juice mixture into the pot and mix well! Ladle soup into serving bowls and sprinkle chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.
*Serves 4*

I substituted the chicken for tofu only because I was also serving another chicken dish, but if you use vegetable stock, tofu and leave the fish sauce out this would be vegan. The fish sauce does add a distinct depth to the soup, though, as it does to a lot of Thai dishes. If you have vegetarian friends who eat fish, leave it in for best results.

December 21, 2008

Vegan Maple Cupcakes with Sugared Walnuts

There are a number of vegans in my life and they have happily introduced me to the art of vegan baking. Up until a few years ago, I'd been under the impression that 'vegan' automatically meant no tasty desserts. Oh, how very wrong I was.

My friend Audra lent me and Natalie a snazzy little book called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Between the two of us, we've made a nice array of delicious cupcakes--and people are definitely surprised to find out they are vegan.

I've had numerous people tell me that the little treats from this book are the best cupcakes that they've eaten--ever. But this recipe in particular really takes the cake...

For the Sugared Walnuts:
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a pan and bake for 6-8 minutes. Toss after 4 minutes and keep a close eye on them so they don't burn. Remove from oven and place in a bowl to cool. Prepare a lightly greased piece of parchment paper to use in just a minute.
  2. Pour sugar, maple syrup and salt into a large, heavy skillet. Heat on medium, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and the mixture is thick and smells caramel-ly.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and cinnamon. Stir to coat each nut. Immediately spread coated walnuts on the parchment; use a spatula to keep them from clumping. Cool completely before handling.
For the Cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 maple extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugared walnuts (from above recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your cupcake pan with liners. (Recipe only makes 12 cupcakes.)
  2. Whisk together soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl. Set aside for a few minutes.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg into a separate bowl and mix. Whisk the maple syrup, oil, brown sugar, vanilla and maple extracts into the soy mixture.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until lumps dissolve. Fold in the sugared walnuts.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/4 cup room temp. margarine (Earth Balance is the best!)
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar (sift it for silky smooth results)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  1. Beat the shortening and margarine until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add the maple extract and soy milk. Beat until fluffy--5-7 minutes.
  2. Frost cupcakes and top with the remaining sugared walnut pieces.

December 19, 2008

Thai Mango Sticky Rice

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert.  This tasty treat is good at any time of day, just like all good Thai food.  The newest iteration of Yum Sunday* happened last Sunday when I made this and Thai Iced Tea, and brunched at Lauren and Mary Ann's house.  

This treat is really easy to make, although it has a few steps, so if you have any questions, let me know!  I actually think mango sticky rice may be the avenue for world peace.

What's in it
1 1/2 C long grain sticky rice (I have a bag from Koda Farms, and it's called Premium Sweet Rice)
2 C unsweetened coconut milk (I use one can)
1 C sugar
2 tsp salt
ripe mangoes or other fruit (berries and bananas work really well)
sesame seeds

How it's done
Soak the rice in water overnight.

Drain the soaked rice, and place in a steamer basket.  You can use a traditional bamboo steamer inside a pot, or place cheesecloth over your own steamer basket to keep the rice from falling through.  Steam the rice 30-45 minutes, until the rice is plump and glistens, and pinches into chewy lumps.

While the rice is steaming, combine the coconut milk, sugar and salt in a medium pot and cook over medium heat.  Cook, stirring gently, for about five minutes until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside.

When rice is ready, place in a large bowl, and pour the coconut mixture on top, stirring gently to mix.  Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes.  I did this the night before and re-heated in the microwave.

Slice the mango and/or the other fruit.  

Serve the sticky rice on small dessert plates with sliced fruit on top, and sprinkled sesame seeds (or dried mung beans if you have any).  The rice tastes best when served warm.

*Yum Sunday was originally known as Waffle Sunday, which happened every Sunday at Alexis' house in Forest Ranch.  Alexis' mom, Patty, would make homemade Belgian waffles, and serve them up with a minimum of five of your favorite toppings.  When Alexis and I lived together in college, we had a revival of Waffle Sunday, although then it would happen at any time or day of the week.  After Andy and I dated a couple years, he finally introduce me to Thai Temple here in Berkeley, which is a temple that serves Thai food for breakfast every Sunday.  This is where I discovered Mango Sticky Rice.  After ritually going to Thai Temple months in a row, it became known as Yum Sunday (Yum!, for short).  I would have to say each of these iterations of breakfast were life changing.  Each of these iterations brought together friends and family, taking time out of the busy pace of life.  I highly encourage you to start your own Yum Sunday tradition.

Hamburger Pie

Get ready for some major white people food. This recipe came from the back of a Bisquick box back in the 80's when I was a kid, and it's one of my favorite dishes ever. I think Bisquick called it Crustless Quiche. Whenever I eat this in the break room, folks swarm. It feeds four, or two for dinner and lunch.

What's in it
1 lb ground beef
1 chopped onion
salt and pepper

1 C shredded cheese
3 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
3/4 C Bisquick or TJ's all purpose baking mix

How it's done
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Saute the onions and beef until cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the grease and add the mixture to a pie pan. Sprinkle with cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk and baking mix. Pour over cheese (it will be a bit lumpy).

Bake 30 minutes, until top is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Eat with catsup on top, and green beans on the side.

This dish probably has tons of opportunity for alterations and improvements, but I've never had the guts to try - it seems sacrilegious for me.

The image above is from a newer version I've been baking, with chopped fresh broccoli mixed in. So delicious!

Peanut Blossoms

Today we're having our annual christmas party at Andy's mom's house, and it wouldn't be complete without these babies.  They are my favorite all time holiday cookie, and I think Andy's, too.  Delicious peanut butter cookie with a huge Hershey's Kiss on top - it really can't get better than this.  Plus, they're super easy to make.

What's in it
3 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt

1 C butter
1 C peanut butter
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar

2 eggs
4 Tbls milk
1 tsp vanilla
Hershey's Kiss (unwrapped)

How it's done
Pre heat the oven to  375.

Sift together flour, soda, salt.  Set aside.

Cream together butter, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar.  Add eggs, milk and vanilla, and beat well.  Blend in dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  

Roll into balls (maybe a Tablespoon or two), then roll in sugar, and set on ungreased baking sheet.  Put in the freezer for a few minutes before baking in the oven.  Bake for 8 minutes, then remove and put a Kiss on top of each one, pressing it down into the ball.  Bake for 2-5 minutes more.

Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

December 16, 2008

Martha's Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Right after I bought Martha Stewart's Cookie Cookbook (currently my favorite cookbook--see my review of it here), Mark told me about these delicious triple ginger cookies from Trader Joe's. I thought I might be able to find something similar to bake for him in my new book. Turns out there wasn't an exact recipe match, but I decided to give these chocolate gingerbread cookies a shot. They're on the cover of the book, so I figured they were probably tasty.

They are. I baked a (vegan*) batch for a party this summer and they were a hit. There's something slightly odd about a chocolate/ginger/molasses combination, but after the initial shock it somehow works really well. These cookies have a really bold flavor profile, combining ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg with freshly grated ginger.

They are a bit more complicated than cookies I was used to making, but it's worth every extra minute.

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon (freshly grated, if you can) nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used regular)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated, peeled ginger
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water
  • 7 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, in 1/4 inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (so worth the investment)
  2. Sift the first 6 ingredients together into a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and fresh ginger together until lightened--about 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat until combined. Add molasses and beat until combined.
  4. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water.
  5. Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Beat in the baking soda mixture and then the remaining half of the flour mixture.
  6. Mix in the chocolate chunks, then turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Pat it out until it's 1 inch thick. Seal the wrap and refrigerate it until firm--2 hours or over night.
  7. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls (this will get your hands pretty gooey) and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Chill 20 minutes.
  8. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until surfaces just begin to crack--10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Eat these the same day for the best flavor. You can also store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

I think these would be especially good over the holidays! They combine all of the typical winter treat spices, but are more exciting than your average gingerbread.

(*All you have to do to make these vegan is use Earth Balance instead of butter and make sure your chocolate doesn't have any milk in it.)

December 12, 2008

café de olla

I first read this recipe while standing in my mom's little shop in San Antonio, flipping through a book she had called Mexicocina. It reminded me of how my dad would say my grandma would make coffee; just boil the water in a pot and add the ground coffee and let them seperate for a few minutes, and then pour the coffee off the top.
Café de olla is apparently traditionally made in a particular kind of pot (olla), but I have no idea what they were talking about so I just used a normal saucepan kind of deal. The recipe calls for piloncillo (a cone shaped unrefined sugar), which is probably available at a Hispanic grocery, but I used brown sugar the first time and it was still delish.
Even though this is described as a 'sweet, spiced mexican coffee', its more of an adult taste, not sweet like a mocha or something. Everyone in my house liked it except Pete...
Anyway, here's the recipe.

2 quarts water
3 ounces piloncillo, or 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 four-inch cinnamon sticks
1 cup ground coffee (probably coarsely ground)

+In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then add the ground coffee, stir, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes or so.

+Remove from heat, let sit for 2 minutes, and strain the coffee into warmed cups.

A few notes of mine:
1 This will actually make a lot of coffee. For me, at least. It says 'serves 8'.
2 When it was ready to serve, I did as I thought my grandma would have done: I ladled the liquid off the top, also because I didn't have anything to strain it with...
3 When you add the coffee and stir, it makes the most beautiful, beautiful crema I have ever seen.
4 Making this makes me feel like a real mexican grandma. :]

And, for Kate, a mini-Spanish lesson!
Olla : the cooking pot traditionally used to make this
Canela : cinnamon
Abuela, or Abuelita : Grandma, or.. little grandma! (the 'ito' means little)
Copa : cup
Azucar : sugar

Yay! I am glad to share this with you all in my first post.


Last spring, we visited Passalacqua Winery in Sonoma for a "barrel tasting" event and the kind folks over there served visitors paella. One of our friends asked for the recipe, and Dave and I were inspired to cook this at home.

First, you'll need one of these. The following is the original recipe, but the great thing about paella is that you really can't mess it up. Just make sure you cook things long enough and everything will turn out delicious. Try it a few times and you'll learn what works and what doesn't.

1 cup olive oil
2-3 heads of garlic, with cloves detached but not skinned
6 red peppers or piquillo peppers, cored, seeded and sliced
5-6 pounds of chicken, preferably legs and thighs with bone in
4 yellow onions, chopped
2 16-ounce cans diced tomatoes
6-7½ cups chicken stock, homemade or canned
20-25 threads of saffron, crushed
2-2½ teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
4-5 cups uncooked Valencian short-grain rice
2 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans
1 pound green beans, slender asparagus or baby artichoke hearts
20-24 jumbo shrimp (16/20 count)
20-24 Manila clams and/or New Zealand Green Lip mussels
4-5 lemons, cut into wedges, for garnish


Heat the paella pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and garlic and fry the peppers. (Add more peppers if you want to serve some as an appetizer.) Remove peppers and set aside.

Add chicken parts to the pan, turning to sear all sides. When chicken is golden, add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the tomatoes and the stock and reduce the sofrito base down for about a half hour. Meanwhile, crush the saffron with the smoked paprika in a mortar and pestle and add it to the stock.

After a half hour, stir in the rice and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Important: Do not stir or cover the rice. As the rice cooks, add the vegetables and the garbanzo beans.

During the final 10 minutes, poke the shrimp and shellfish into the rice mixture so that they will cook.

You will know when the dish is done when you can smell the smoky odor of the rice carmelizing on the bottom of the pan, and all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Finish with squirts of lemon and leave lemon wedges in the paella pan or perched along the rim.

December 9, 2008

Giada's Pasta with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce

Maybe the thing I love the most about going to the gym is the fact that on each elliptical trainer there is an individual TV screen that allows me to watch cable television. (I don't have a TV, so it's sort of a big deal.) The only thing that is exciting about that is, of course, The Food Network. I'm in love with a number of their shows. I also hate a few of them, including Paula Deen's ridiculously gross and fattening show (whatever it's called), and Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. (I find her "tablescapes" particularly annoying.

I do enjoy a good Iron Chef episode, a little Rachel Ray from time to time and even The Ace of Cakes. Recently, I've been paying more attention to The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) and some show with a guy named Guy. But, the show that really captures my attention is Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. Or maybe it's the cleavage that gets my attention, I don't know.

On Monday, I saw an episode of Giada at Home in which she made a shrimp pasta with an herbed cream sauce. I wanted to make it. So, I did. I liked it and so I am posting it here. I halved her recipe (which fed two people generously) and cut a few corners...

  • 1/2 pound penne pasta (I use whole wheat, because why not?)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 pound medium, peeled, and deveined shrimp (I used pre-cooked from the butcher counter at Safeway-- only $3.50 at $6.99 a pound)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I keep Trader Joe's in my fridge, because I don't have time for chopping garlic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I didn't really measure)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (Again, to taste. Why measure?)
  • 1 /2 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (In the summer I'd have fresh, but I just added a little dried basil this time)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (99 cents at Safeway)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/6 cup clam juice
  • 3/8 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  1. Boil your pasta until it's al dente, then drain and set aside. I did this concurrently with the rest of the cooking.
  2. Heat a large skillet with the olive oil on medium-high. Add the shrimp, garlic, salt and pepper. Giada says to cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes until they are pink and done, but mine were pre-cooked, so I just pan fried them for a quick second until they were coated with garlic.
  3. With a slotted spoon, fish out the shrimp and set aside.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley and red pepper flakes to your hot pan. (I put a little dried oregano, too.) Cook for 2 minutes, stiring constantly. Throw in your wine, clam juice and the heavy cream. Let the mixture boil, then turn down to a medium-low simmer. Cook 7-8 minutes, until the sauce thickens up nicely.
  5. Add your cooked pasta to the pan. Then add the grated parmesan cheese. Though she didn't do it in this recipe, Giada says that adding the pasta then the cheese allows the cheese to melt/stick to the pasta, which then helps the sauce stick to the pasta. I think that's a good idea, so I used that method in this recipe, even though she didn't.
  6. Add the shrimp to the pan and stir to coat. You may want to add more salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Sprinkle with more grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately!

December 5, 2008

Totopos: Tortilla Chips

This is one of those things that is really simple and mind-blowingly delicious, but that most people don't (or at least I didn't) think to do. About a year ago, I bought a lovely cookbook from a hip and tasty Mexican restaurant called Tacubaya on Berkeley's famous 4th Street. Part of why I compulsively bought the book were the enticing photos and sleek design, but Tacubaya's food also happens to be fantastic and authentically Mexican (not so many Mexican restaurants actually are).

One of my favorite Mexican dishes, chilaquiles, has a base of fried corn tortilla chips or totopos. I couldn't wait to make chilaquiles of my very own (I hope you've had the opportunity to try them and know why), so the totopos were the first recipe I attempted. Now, I have to tell you that I am afraid of frying anything. My family never fried foods when I was growing up and I had never personally attempted to fry anything, ever.

I found that this was actually nothing to fear. And while it's cheap and easy to buy corn tortilla chips at the store, this only takes a few minutes and is more worth it than I could have ever imagined.

  • 3 cups canola oil
  • 24 fresh corn tortillas
  • Kosher salt
  1. Put the canola oil in a large frying pan and turn the heat up to high.
  2. In the 5-10 minutes it will take the oil to heat up to 350 degrees (I don't have a thermometer, but when it's hot, it's hot), cut your tortillas into sixths to make chip-size triangles.
  3. When the oil is ready, turn the heat down to medium-high. Put half of your cut tortillas in the pan, submerging them with a slotted spoon if they float up to the top. They will turn crispy and brown in about 3-4 minutes. (Try not to let them get too dark.)
  4. Use the slotted spoon or a spatula to fish out the chips, letting as much oil as possible drain back into the pan. (You'll want to do this pretty quickly, since they'll get extra crispy if you leave them in too long.) Set the chips on a few layers of paper towels to soak up the extra oil.
  5. While they're still hot, sprinkle them with salt and have a few!
  6. Repeat with the other half of the tortillas.
These would be a fantastic appetizer as is or served with salsa and guacamole. The best chilaquiles I've ever had were made with these chips, and I've made a delicious plate of nachos with them as well.

December 1, 2008

The Joy of Apple Crisp

Tonight I made this and brownies.  Yum!  The apples came from an apple farm just north of Occidental.  We got a free bag of apples since Andy's family bought a Christmas Tree from a farm up there.

This recipe is from the Joy of Cooking.  I never really appreciated this book until recently, and plus, everyone I know has it.  Again, this dessert is SUPER easy to make, and delicious.  I always have these ingredients on hand, so it's perfect if you have extra apples around.  You can also use any quantity of apples, and adjust the flour/butter mixture accordingly.


Apples (8 medium, about 2.5 lbs)
3/4 C flour
3/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 stick (8 tblsp) cold unsalted butter, sliced

How it's done

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the apples, then core them and cut into 1 inch chunks (you can peel them or not).  Spread them in a 2 quart baking dish (I used my cast iron skillet, and cut up enough apples to fill it).

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the butter and use 2 knives to cut the butter into the batter (like scissors) until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  You can also use a pastry blender or food processor.  The food processor takes about 30 seconds, it's super easy.  Then sprinkles the mixture on top of the apples and tap the pan to make them settle.  Bake 50-55 minutes until brown and apples are soft.

Serve warm with ice cream!

Moosewood Fudge Brownies

The Moosewood Collective has become legendary in my recipe book library, and these brownies are not only chocolatey and delicious, they are SUPER easy to make!  If you don't own any Moosewood Cookbooks, I highly recommend them, especially the original (the newest editions have revised recipes to cut down butter and sugar content).

These brownies originated 30 years ago, and have been served in the Moosewood Restaurant ever since.  They take about ten minutes to prepare, and only twenty to bake.  Your friends will be impressed you didn't cook brownies from a box.


1/2 C butter
3 oz unsweetened chocolate (I use TJ's baking chocolate or Baker's Chocolate)
1 C lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 C unbleached white flour

How it's done

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter the baking pan.

In a large pot on the stove, melt butter and chocolate together on low heat, stirring to avoid scorching.  Once all is melted, remove from heat.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat by hand with a whisk.   Add the eggs and beat well.  Stir in flour and mix until smooth.

Pour batter into a buttered 8 or 9 inch baking pan.  Bake for about 20 min until they begin to just pull away from the pan, and still fudgy in the center.  Bake an additional five minutes if you prefer cake like brownies.

This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a lasagna sized pan.  I also tried using my new dutch oven for this recipe, and it worked great for melting the butter and chocolate, and then once everything was combined in the pot, I popped the dutch oven in the oven.  One pot brownies :-)

I highly recommend whipped cream or ice cream with these.  Oh, and I made a variation called 'Brownie Surprise'.  It's brownies with strawberries cut up on top and marinated for a little bit.

November 30, 2008

Best "Healthy" Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here is a GREAT cookie that will surprise anyone when you announce that they are vegan.

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup Brown Sugar (Kosher/Vegan), firmly packed
1/2 cup Organic Sugar or Evap. Cane
1 cup Earthbalance Soy Margarine, cool – not cold
1 Tb Ener-G Dry Egg Replacer
1/4 cup Warm Water
2-3 t Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 cup Wheat Bran
1 t Baking Powder
1 t Baking Soda
1/2 t Salt
1 cup Dark Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, and soy margarine. (Margaine CANNOT be melty - this will create flat lifeless cookies that will frustrate and disappoint you! It must be cool, only 5 minutes out of the frig. Work it with the mixer spokes before you turn it on. Then let the friction do the work.) Blend with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg replacer, water and vanilla and continue mixing until even more light and fluffy.

2. In a separate large bowl, whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, wheat bran, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Fold the butter and sugar mixture into the dry ingredients. Then add 1 cup of dark chocolate chips, fold them into the dough.

3. This is the key to great looking cookies (taste is already mastered if you followed the above directions). Using an ice cream scoop or some uniform scoop, portion out equal sized balls of dough, then roll them in your hands and shape like a hockey puck.

4. The formed dough should be chilled for 15-30 minutes prior to baking, otherwise you will have a cookie sheet full of crispy cookies all melted together. Once chilled, bake for 15 minutes. Each oven may vary, so check after 12 minutes, rotate pan if they still need more time and check every 2 minutes. The finished cookie will have just an hint of brown on the edges. If you like them more crispy, bake longer – but they are great chewy!

5. You can double this recipe and store the formed dough “pucks” in a well sealed container in the refrigerator for a week. The dough is great raw, and since it’s vegan, help yourself without worry and let the kids enjoy a safe spoon-full.

Super Cookies

I created these cookies a few years ago when I was asked to lead a presentation on healthy foods at a Relay For Life event. Most of the recipes I shared that day were things you don't want to live without, but if you've survived cancer you might be looking for alternative ways of making your favorites. These cookies are vegan, loaded with healthy grains, seeds, fiber and nuts. Ideally they are made with maple syrup or agave syrup and all organic ingredients. Oh yeah, they are SO good!

Preheat oven to 350

1 cup Organic Maple Syrup
1 cup Earth Balance Soy Margarine
2 Tb Ener-G Dry Egg Replacer
½ cup Filtered Water
1 cup Organic, no sugar added Applesauce
1 ½ Tb Organic Vanilla Extract
5 cups Organic Rolled Oats
2 cups Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 cups Organic Wheat or Oat Bran
½ cup Ground Organic Flax Meal
4 tea. Organic Cinnamon
2 tea. Baking Powder
2 tea. Baking Soda
1 tea. Kosher/Sea Salt
½ cup Dried Organic Fruits: raisins, cranberries, figs, etc.
½ cup Organic Nuts and Seeds: pecans, pumpkin, sunflower, etc.
1-2 Tb Organic Orange Zest

Cream the maple syrup and soy margarine in a mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in egg replacer, water, applesauce and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet in thirds until just combined. Add nuts, fruits, and orange zest and mix. Using an ice cream scoop, portion the dough and shape each like a hockey puck with hands. Place on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake 14-16 minutes. Enjoy!

November 28, 2008

Pecan Pie

For most of my life I refused to touch the stuff, though it was a staple at my family's traditional Thanksgiving dinner (store bought, I would guess--not really any pie-makers in my family). Those days I was too busy savoring a fat slice of the only pie I cared for--pumpkin. Something about pecan pie creeped me out... maybe it was that oozy, gelatinous goo below the pecans.

Well, I don't remember what finally convinced me to branch out a bit and taste pecan pie for the first time, but when I did--holy sweet angels in heaven! It was delicious. For a few years after that first foray, I tried to divide my loyalty equally between the pumpkin and the pecan after our turkey dinner. Then somehow over the years pecan pie pulled ahead and is now unequivocally my first and foremost favorite pie. I wanted to make it.

So, I scoured the Internet and found plenty of recipes. Most of them had about a cup of corn syrup in them, but one on touted itself as corn syrup free. (Plenty of sugar instead!) I liked the idea, but would it be any good? As it turns out, 366 people had reviewed the recipe and given it an average rating of 4.5/5, mostly commenting that it was even tastier than the corn syrup version. Done.

Here is my adapted version*:
No Corn Syrup Pecan Pie
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans (I used 1 cup pecan halves and 1/2 cup chopped pecans)
  • 1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust (Kate recommended the Pillsbury pre-made crusts to me. I'm now officially recommending them to you.)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Stir in the slightly cooled, melted butter. Quickly stir in the brown sugar, white sugar and flour so that the sugar begins to dissolve. Mix well. Add milk, vanilla and nuts. (That's it! So easy!)
  3. Sprinkle both sides of pre-made pie crust with flour and place in a 9" pie pan. Pour pecan mixture into prepared crust. Cover edges of crust with tin foil or a pie crust protector.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. (I know--it was preheated to 350 degrees. Turn it up; go with it.) Then reduce temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the crust protector and bake for another 25 minutes or until set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
* This pie doesn't look completely like an ordinary pecan pie; it comes out a little darker.
* When you pour in the filling, it won't fill up the crust, but it will rise when baking.
* I baked my crusts bare for the first 20 minutes and then covered with tin foil; but my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (old-school!) says to put it on first--which seems to make a lot more sense. It was kinda tough attaching the tin foil strips to a hot pie.
* This pie tasted pretty fantastic. Especially when served with homemade whipped cream. Try it!

November 26, 2008

Sweet Flaversome Baked Apples

It's a dessert we often forget about, but it is certainly the time of year to be reminded! This is a great dessert to prep before cooking dinner and just before sitting down to eat pop 'em in the oven.

6 large apples (I used jonagold)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup slivered pecans
1/2 cup chopped raisins
some butter
*recommended option to add caramel - yum!
(adjust accordingly to how many apples you need)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Core each apple to 1/2 from the bottom and about 1" wide. Get all the seeds and tough stuff out. You may use an apple corer or a pairing knife works well. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, and raisins in a bowl. Fill apples with mixture to the top of the apple. If using caramel fill half of the apple, add a layer of caramel, and top with more of the mix. Once apples are "stuffed" place a tab of butter on top of each. Bake for about 35 minutes. If sauce is in bottom of pan then baste before serving.
*Goes well with vanilla ice cream!

Super Easy Flan

When my husband and I were in France I realized he loved flan; ate it almost everyday. So, when we returned to the Land of Ports I thought I'd give it a shot. This is a bit different than their flan, in that I didn't see any dishes there that had the caramel sauce flowing so sweetly over it. Nontheless, it is a tasty and simple version.

Here is the recipe:
1 & 1/2 cup sugar
6 large eggs
(1) 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
(2) 13 oz cans evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You will need 6 ramekins or other specialty flan cook ware (I used a glass pie dish) and a large baking pan to put them in. In a mixer or with a whisk, blend the eggs together. Mix in all milks then slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar, then the vanilla. Blend smooth after each ingredient is added. Set mix aside. Now to begin your caramel sauce: Pour the remaining 1 cup sugar in warm sauce pan over medium heat. Constantly stir sugar until it browns and becomes caramel. Quickly pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of caramel in each ramekin, tilting it to swirl the caramel around the sides. Before it begins to harden pour custard into caramel lined ramekins or dish. Place ramekins in a large glass or ceramic baking dish and fill with about 1-2 inches of hot water. Bake for 45 minutes in the water bath and check with a knife just to the side of the center. If knife comes out clean, it's ready. Remove and let cool. Let each ramekin cool in refrigerator for 1 hour. Invert each ramekin onto a small plate, the caramel sauce will flow over the custard. If using larger cook ware, after slicing the flan, spoon sauce onto each piece.

Note: You may choose to prepare the caramel sauce before mixing the custard and if it hardens just reheat. Also, if using a 1 large dish to bake, the time may take a bit longer.

November 25, 2008

Mark's Chicken Merry-Nade

It's winter. It's cold. But I've decided that barbecuing shouldn't be relegated to summers in the back yard. Bundle up, make yourself a hot toddy, strap a headlamp to your skull and fire up the grill.

This marinade is very simple and open to interpretation. My brain starts to hurt when I think about numbers or measurements, so I like to use pinches, skoshes, splashes and dashes. But I made it today using conventional means so that I might translate it to others.

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Hunan Red Chili Sauce (more if you like it hot!)
4-5 splashes soy sauce
3-4 ounces beer (preferably a darker brew)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
fresh ground pepper

Put all ingredients together in a shallow baking dish, mix well, pour into a tumbler and drink it down! Kidding. Don't do that. Keep it in the baking dish, and add two organic chicken breasts. Let it marinate 5-6 hours. Throw them on the barbie and poof---it's July again.

November 24, 2008

Now you can eat beets!

It took me about a year to figure out how to cook beets.  Not to mention it took the first, oh, 25 years of my life to even taste a beet (and fall in love with them).

Here's my tried and true procedure for cooking beets.  One thing to keep in mind, if you use the dark purple varieties, don't bother using any other color, because the juice will just dye the rest of them purple.  Speaking of dying, the purple beet juice stains pretty easily, so be careful.

Buy one bunch of beets (3-4) of medium size.

Cut off the bushy greens about an inch from the beet. (You can saute and eat the greens if they look fresh).  Don't bother washing the beets, they are usually dirty.

In a large pot, using a steamer basket, bring water to a boil.  
Steam the beets whole for about 30-45 minutes.  Be sure the water doesn't boil out.  The beets are done when a fork inserts easily.  The skin will also look like it's started to separate from the beet, and looks a little dry.

Take the beets out and let them cool a few minutes.  Once cool enough to handle, cut the tops and bottoms off the beets.  Use a spoon to peel the skin off the beets.  This should be easy.  If not, they may not be cooked enough.  Cut the beets into cubes (about a half inch by half inch), and put in a bowl.

Toss the beets with about a tablespoon of vinegar and sprinkle with salt.  The vinegar will keep the beets tasting fresh and keep their color.

I like eating my beets by themselves at room temperature or slightly warm.  I will also put them in salads.  If anyone has any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Now you can eat beets!

Winter Squash and Chicken Stew

This recipe was originally from, but the below is a slightly modified version. Butternut squash is a pain to work with - if you're not lazy, throw it in the oven for a bit first to soften it up so that it's easier to cut. I always go straight at it with a heavy-duty knife on a very sturdy surface and although I always walk away with sore arms, it's always well worth it.

If you want every bite to be delicious, use sweet potatoes instead of russets. Serve directly on top of a bed of white rice. This dish keeps very well in the fridge and tastes even better the next day. It's perfect for November!

2 teaspoons olive oil
6 chicken thighs, skin removed

1 1/3 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (I didn't have curry powder the first time, so I just threw in some extra cumin, turmeric and coriander)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut or acorn squash
2 cups 1-inch pieces peeled sweet potatoes
1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
1 14 1/2- to 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven or any deep saucepan suitable for a "stew" over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pan; sauté until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, cumin, and cinnamon; stir 1 minute. Return chicken to pot. Add squash, potatoes, broth and tomatoes. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked through and liquid is slightly reduced, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro.

November 23, 2008

Whiskey-Apple Crumble Pie

I like to make this pie. It is easy. It is apple. It is whiskey. And with this much butter and sugar, a team of monkeys could put it together and it would still taste good. The most difficult part is the crust, which I suppose is true of any pie. If you're pressed for time and you're not a crazy vegan, you can use the already-made stuff from the store.

(I'm sad to admit that most of the time I go with the pre-prepared crust; sad, because I think I lose out on the rewards that come from the craft of pie-making. My advice: take the extra time and roll out your own pie crust. That way if civilization ends and there are no more grocery stores, you'll still be able to have pie after a long day traversing the blackened landscape under a scorched and sunless sky.)


Dough for a 9-inch single-crust pie
3/4 cup, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup, packed, brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2-3 pounds tart apples (e.g. Granny Smiths), peeled, cored and slice 1/4 inch thick
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon (or scotch, if that's how you roll)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough and line pan. Prick dough with fork, then line with foil. Fill bottom with pastry weights or dry beans. Bake 8 minutes, remove foil and weights and bake 8 to 10 minutes longer, until pastry looks dry and is barely starting to color. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Place flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in food processor and process briefly to blend. Dice 6 tablespoons butter and add, along with pecans; pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

3. Melt remaining butter in a large skillet. Add apple slices and saute over medium heat about 5 minutes until a bit softened around the edges, with some just starting to brown. Remove from heat. Mix remaining brown sugar and cinnamon with a pinch of salt, the cloves and nutmeg. Pour over apples and fold together. Fold in whiskey.

4. Pour contents of pan into crust and top with crumbs. Place pie on a baking sheet, bake 10 minutes, lower heat to 350 degrees and bake 35-40 minutes longer, until topping browns and juices bubble. Allow pie to cool completely before cutting.

  • I got this recipe from the New York Times' website, which is a surprisingly good place to find things to make.
  • I never remember the pecans. Whatever.
  • The part about waiting for the pie to cool completely before cutting is unreasonable. If you wait for the pie to cool, you'd probably be able to serve slices of pie to your guests that resemble slices of pie (the slices of pie would resemble slices of pie; your guests wouldn't). I've never actually done this, because it requires waiting and the pie smells so good.

November 20, 2008

Amber's Brownies

It will probably take me longer to post this than it took to prepare these brownies.  If you know me well, then you've had these brownies.  Mom used to make these to bring to my Brownie meetings, which is about all I remember about Brownies.

I recommend doubling the recipe, and baking in a 9x12, otherwise a 9" round is good for a single batch.

1C sugar
2 heaping Tbls cocoa
1/4 C melted butter

3/4C flour
1tsp vanilla
2 eggs unbeaten
1/2 C nuts

Pour into greased baking pan
Bake 350, 20-25 min (done when inserted toothpick comes out clean)

Apricot Ginger Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This recipe is also from my mom, though I think she got it from a magazine some time ago. I was skeptical at first about the flavor combinations in this dish, but it only took one taste to convert me. I like that it's easy to prepare. It's perfect for fall and more delicious than you imagine.

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (hint: Trader Joe's sells them pre-cut!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss potatoes in a single layer on 2 large baking pans. Bake 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine maple syrup, preserves, butter, ginger and salt in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until preserves melt, around 5 minutes.
  3. Mix together and serve warm. Enjoy!
I have a mini-tradition making this for Thanksgiving. (Amber, this would probably be great even without the crystallized ginger!)

Butternut Squash Soup

I've made this soup twice already since the leaves started changing colors. It's a great standby for dinner parties or to have in the frig and eat for a week (we've done both recently). Also, if you don't use chicken stock, it's vegan!

1 large butternut squash
3 medium yellow onions
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 qt veggie or chicken stock
1/3 cup olive oil
Thyme (fresh or dry)
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop yellow onions. (I usually blend this soup at the end, so the size of chopped veggies does not really matter. If you are not going to blend the soup it would be best if you chop everything small and uniform.) Place the onions in large stock pot with olive oil and saute on medium until the onions are transparent, not browned. Add garlic and 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 tablespoon of salt, and some fresh ground pepper. Cook about 2 minutes longer.

While your onions are sauteing, halve and peel the squash. (It is easier to peel when cut in half or even quarters.) Use a sharp potato peeler and remove the tough skin. Scoop out seeds and chop into desired size pieces. Add to the onions and garlic. Pour in enough stock and water to cover the squash plus about an inch, add bay leaf. Cover the soup and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Once the squash is completely cooked, you can turn off heat and season or prep for blending.

If you choose to blend the soup, make sure you chill it for a while. (Blending hot liquid in a blender creates a HUGE mess. The steam tries to escape and sprays soup everywhere.) I usually ladle the soup into two 9x13 pans and place in the frig for an hour or two.

Once you've blended the soup and put it back in the stock pot you can season the soup with more salt, pepper, thyme and nutmeg.


-Use sage or rosemary instead of thyme
-Add some curry powder instead of nutmeg
-I added two other kinds of squash last time and it was still wonderful! I had two delicato squash and 1 acorn squash. I had to halve and bake the acorn squash while the soup was cooking. When it was cooked all the way through, I scooped out the flesh and added it to the soup for the last 5 minutes.
-Put some unsweetened whipped cream on top

November 18, 2008

Crock Pot No Brainer Bean Soup

This morning I woke up two hours before I had to go to work, rode my bike to the farmer's market and TJ's, rode back, threw this together in the crock pot, and was on my way.  Fabulous! The best is getting home to a fully cooked meal.

1 package dried 17 bean mix (from TJ's)
celery chopped
carrot chopped
1 onion chopped and sauteed in butter
sausage links sliced
mushrooms chopped
1 box veggie stock
spices (salt, pepper, caraway, bay leaf, oregano...)

The way it's done
Disclaimer: depending on the size of your crock pot, you will want to adjust ingredient size.  I had to use only half a package of beans for mine, since it's so small.
You'll have to soak the beans in water overnight.  They soak up a lot of water, so be sure to have enough water covering them (2 inches). 
In the morning, put all the ingredients in the crock pot, and add water to fill enough liquid.  Put the crock pot on low, go to work, and come home to a warm and delicious meal!  I just ate mine with baguette and butter.
I'll probably make a second batch tomorrow with the rest of my ingredients, then freeze it for later.  Feel free to add or subtract variety of ingredients.

Easy Peanut Brittle

My mom and I always made this recipe during holiday baking sessions when I was a child. It's a recipe that her dad made often with her. I hadn't made this peanut brittle in years, but a friend of mine suggested a potluck of food our grandparents would have made and this was an obvious choice. I was a little worried it wouldn't turn out right, but it's as easy as I remember. You just have to move quickly! This is prepared mostly in the microwave, so it's nice to have a microwaveable pot (glass or porcelain) with a handle. Lacking anything close, I just used a glass mixing bowl, which meant I needed help pouring the molten hot brittle out to cool. It got a little messy, but the brittle turned out delicious. (My friends seemed to think so, too.)

Carl's Microwave Peanut Brittle:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Use a deep (microwaveable) mixing bowl with a handle. Mix the sugar and the light corn syrup. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.
  2. Add peanuts and mix well. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.
  3. Add butter and vanilla. Mix well. Microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Add baking soda. Mix together quickly and pour onto a buttered cookie sheet or marble slab.
  5. Break up when completely cool. (Do not put in the refrigerator.)
Different microwaves may require different times. (But these times worked fine on mine!)

Sharing is Caring

I collect recipes. For years, I've cut scraps of paper from newspapers and cooking magazines, pilfered recipe cards and old cook books from relatives and stolen ideas from the internet. Of course, most recipes are meant to be shared and enjoyed, so I never feel bad for taking them and pasting them into my own recipe book.

For all of the new recipes that I find, though, I only end up making a few of them. Sometimes I just don't know if a caramel toffee ice cream pie will be worth the trouble to prepare. Sometimes I just don't have a good excuse to make a goat cheese and blood orange crostini. Still, I never stop looking for new recipes.

This blog is about sharing recipes with friends. Ideally, interested cooks will cook or bake one recipe (a new, experimental one or a cherished favorite) each week, then post the recipe--with advice, adjustments and comments about the experience--on this blog. Hopefully, we'll all learn something along the way, and more importantly, start cooking and sharing more often. Invite your friends over to try your creations and fun and laughter will surely follow.

Welcome to Recipes for Laughter.