December 27, 2009

Jeanne's Fudge

My mom always did a lot of baking for the holidays when I was growing up. Every year it was the same--peanut brittle, Mrs. Fields' cookies, almond roca.  I loved--and still love--all of it, but I was excited when we would switch holiday treats with the Foremans.

The Foremans, family friends who are actually more like family, always had quite a holiday spread, but the treats that really stick out in my memory are peanut butter blossoms, caramel corn and fudge. Jeanne would do some plain fudge, some with nuts and often some with marshmallows. Yum. So rich and chocolaty! I love the smooth texture and the way it melts in your mouth. When I was thinking about what do make for Christmas this year, I wanted a little variety. I baked some cookies and made some toffee. I needed something to round it all out, so I dug around and found Jeanne's fudge recipe. Perfect. It's nice to know that nowadays I can make it whenever I want! Thank you, Jeanne!

Jeanne's Fudge
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup room temperature butter
  • 1 jar marshmallow creme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 18 oz. chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Butter a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish with deep sides.
  2. Combine sugar and evaporated milk in a very large saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. (Jeanne recommends reading something while you stir. I think this is a great idea, but when I tried it my pot nearly boiled over. So, make sure you also keep an eye on your mixture!)
  3. Add vanilla, butter, marshmallow creme and salt. Mix until melted.
  4. Add chocolate chips and stir until combined. Add nuts, if using, and stir to combine. 
  5. Pour into prepared baking dish and refrigerate. Keep refrigerated until about an hour before serving.  The texture of the chilled fudge is not as satisfying as that of room temperature fudge. But at the same time, fudge that has been sitting out for hours will start to get very soft. 
Note: As you can probably tell from the photo, I did have some trouble getting it out of the dish. I could have needed more butter on the dish. Anyone have other suggestions?

    December 24, 2009

    Cheating Scones

    I like scones but I rarely make them. Yesterday we were invited to a breakfast and I wanted to bring scones. Only problem was the ingredients list, I didn't have all the right stuff. Below you'll see a list of what it called for and then what I did. The result was wonderful! If you don't have just what the recipe calls for you might still get by.


    2 cups flour
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup sugar
    4 Tablespoons butter
    2 Tablespoons shortening
    3/4 cup cream
    1 egg

    2 cups flour
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon course sea salt
    1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 powdered sugar
    4 Tablespoons butter
    3 Tablespoons margarine
    1/2 cup whipping cream from a can topped with 1% milk
    1 egg
    Orange zest and chopped dried cranberries
    I drizzled the finished scones with an orange juice glaze


    Heat oven to 375 degrees.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well and add dried fruit and zest and toss. Cut in butter and shortening. In a separate bowl, combine cream with beaten egg then add to dry ingredients. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a disk. Press out to desired thickness. Cut like a pizza into triangle shapes. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown.

    December 23, 2009

    Spicy Mustard

    For the first 26 and a half years of my life, I never once thought about how mustard was made. It never, ever occurred to me that I could or should make mustard myself. In fact, for the vast majority of my life, I didn't even like mustard.

    But, now that I think about it, I wasn't really exposed to good mustard until recently. There was an abundance of French's yellow mustard at cookouts when I was young--no one brought the equivalent of Sierra Nevada's Porter mustard to those things. Well, like a lot of things I didn't like when I was a kid, I've since discovered that mustard is really quite wonderful. Especially if it is coarsely ground and usually made with beer. And a little spicy.

    The first time I realized that I actually liked mustard was at a local pizza restaurant. I ordered the stromboli which comes served with marinara and a house-made beer mustard. It blew my mind, and I've been into mustard ever since. (Mostly I've been importing a stock of Sierra Nevada mustard to Oregon every time I am near the brewery.)

    Then last summer, I came across a recipe in Gourmet that began, "mustard couldn't be any simpler to make." What?! Why didn't anyone tell me about this?! Paradigm shift. I cut out the recipe and added mustard seeds to my shopping list, where they stayed for the last 4 months. I finally found out that New Seasons carries mustard seeds (yellow and brown) in their bulk spice section. And enough seeds to make this recipe will set you back less than a dollar! I personally find this truly mind blowing and exciting. (But maybe I'm easily impressed...) And there are so many different mustard possibilities!

    Here is my version of the basic recipe. But, be warned, it is quite spicy!

    Spicy Mustard
    • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds (use yellow if you do not want it spicy)
    • 3/8 cup red wine vinegar (I mixed the vinegars to equal 3/4 cup. You could use one or the other.)
    • 3/8 cup distilled white vinegar 
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1. Soak mustard seeds in vinegar and water at room temperature for 2 days. Make sure all seeds are submerged. 
    2. Puree mixture in a food processor with sugar and salt until almost smooth. Thin, if necessary, with water to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt.

    December 22, 2009

    Sweet Braided Breads

    For Christmas everyone I know is getting bread. My little experiment with French Bread led me to a recipe for Sweet Yeasty Bread. They are easy, lovely and SO tasty!

    Braided Sweet Bread
    1 ½ Tb yeast
    1 Tb sugar
    ¼ c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
    1 ¼ c. warm milk (105-115 degrees F)
    2 c. unbleached flour

    2 large eggs
    zest from 1 orange
    2 t. salt
    1/3 c. sugar
    1/4 c. each dried fruits: apricots, raisins, cranberries. Chopped fine.
    2 ½ to 3 c. unbleached flour
    1 ½ sticks butter (3/4 c.) cut into small pieces

    Rich Egg Glaze:
    1 egg
    1 Tb. Milk

    Makes 3 loaves.

    1. Sponge: in mixer using the paddle, combine ingredients, and beat hard until smooth about 1 min. Cover and let rest for about 30 min.
    2. Add eggs, zest, salt, sugar, dried fruits and 1 cup more flour. Beat until smooth. Add butter a few pieces at a time and beat until incorporated.
    3. Change to dough hook. Add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time to form a soft dough. Dough should be very soft but just starting to come away from the side of bowl.
    4. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Kneed until smooth, shiny and soft, about 10 turns. Place in a greased bowl, let rise about 2 hours. Gently deflate, recover and let rise for 12-24 hrs in refrigerator.
    5. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide into 9 equal portions. Roll each section into a strip with your hands and lay 3 strips side by side. Braid the dough and pinch each end to hold together and tuck under. Place on a pan lined with parchment. Cover and let rise until almost doubled. About 40 minutes. It will finish rising in the oven. Preheat oven to 350.
    5. Brush with rich egg glaze. Bake until hollow sounding when tapped, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

    The images above are from my first two loaves. I've since made about 12 more and they are soo much better looking! Also, I added the dried fruit during the braiding step in these. Having them in the dough makes the whole thing much easier and results in a more uniform loaf.

    French Bread

    I decided recently that I would learn how to make French Bread. This can be a lift-long learning challenge and I knew that from the get-go. What I didn't know is that after only 4 batches I've really started to enjoy the process and the results.

    It started with a little online research and reading from a few books on bread. Since I didn't want to invest in anything here is my recipe and directions with ingredient and tools in your home.

    French Bread
    1 ½ Tb. Dry yeast
    1 Tb. Sugar
    2 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
    5-6 c. unbleached flour
    1 Tb salt or more (I like more, up to 2 Tb. but usually 1 1/2 Tb.)
    Cornmeal for sprinkling (or parchment paper, not wax paper)

    Egg Wash:
    1 egg white
    splash of water
    1 t. salt

    1. Create a sponge or pre-ferment with 1 c. water, 1 c. flour, yeast, and sugar. Combine well and let rest for 30 minutes.
    2. In a heavy duty mixer combine 4 c. flour, salt and sponge. Using a dough hook, mix and kneed for about 5 min. Adjust water and flour to create soft, silky, and resilient dough.
    3. Turn onto lightly floured surface and kneed a few more times to create a nice ball. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 2 hours.
    4. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and kneed a few more times (about 10-20 turns). Divide into portions for separate loaves. Let rest for a few minutes.
    5. Shape into loaves. And place on a pan that was dusted with corn meal.
    6. Score top, brush with Egg Wash.
    7. Bake for 20-40 minutes at 400. Place a small heat proof baking dish with at least 1 inch of water in the oven on the rack below the bread.

    Here is a helpful link: The Fresh Loaf

    Good visual and pictures here: Artisan Bread Making

    December 17, 2009

    French Onion Soup

    It started with a Dutch oven. Or at least the desire for one. I'd read countless recipes that called for a Dutch oven, but usually by the time I saw those words I'd stop reading since I was not lucky enough to own one. At first, this struck me as a minor inconvenience. But, over the years, the Dutch oven recipes starting adding up. And I know that Amber uses a Dutch oven frequently. Slowly, I came to realization that I, too, needed a Dutch oven. So I kept my eye on them. Every time I went into Sur La Table, I'd check to see if the Le Crueset were on sale. (Or course, even if they were I couldn't afford them. But, they're just so pretty!) I spied a Mario Batali version, cheaper but still a bit much.

    Then my mother gave me a bit of money for my birthday. I thought long and hard about what I wanted. I knew I wanted something to cook with. New measuring cups and spoons? A cast iron skillet? A Silpat? It wasn't enough money for a Le Crueset, but I decided if I could find a bargain on a Dutch oven, that's what I'd get. The deal was sealed when Smitten Kitchen, my favorite food blog, put out a gift list with a Dutch oven at the top. I felt I must have one.

    Randomly, I was at the store a few days later and a found Lodge Color 6 quart Dutch oven for 20% off! It turned out to be only $63! That certainly seemed like a steal, so I picked out a blue one and brought it home. (Thanks, Mom!)

    And then I realized I didn't know what to make. After all of those recipes I'd flipped past or clicked on, I couldn't think of a single thing to cook in my new Dutch oven! So I did what anyone would do these days---I searched the internet. Most of the top searches pulled up camping recipes. Fail. I searched a couple food blogs, to little avail. Where were all of those Dutch oven recipes, now?! A Cook's Illustrated search turned up a few ideas---including a Best French Onion Soup recipe...where the onions alone cook for almost 3 hours! I don't usually have time for such things. But--and this is why I love Cook's Illustrated---they also included a Quicker French Onion Soup recipe. Score! (The secret is microwaving the onions for 20 minutes before browning them.)

    With the help of my friend Libby, I got to do two new things in one day: make French onion soup for the first time and, finally, cook with a Dutch oven. I'd say it was a productive day!

    French Onion Soup
    ~Print Recipe~
    • 6 large yellow onions (around 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4 inch slices (onions sliced this way retain their shape better)
    • Table salt
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
    • 2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
    • 1/2 cup dry sherry
    • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 2 cups beef broth
    • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • Ground black pepper
    • 1 baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices
    • 8 oz. shredded Gruyere cheese
    1. Combine onions and 1 teaspoons salt in a large, microwaveable bowl. Cover completely with a microwaveable plate. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, stir, and microwave for another 10-15 minutes, until onions are soft and wilted. Drain liquid from onions.
    2. When the onions are nearly done, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add wilted onions and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the pot, 15-20 minutes-- until all liquid evaporates and onions are brown. Cook another 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until a dark crust (fond) forms on the bottom of the pan.
    3. Stir in 1/4 cup water and scrape the pot to loosen the crust, then stir and cook until the water evaporates and a dark crust begins to form--another 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat this process (deglazing) another 2 times. Onions should be very dark brown. Add the sherry and stir until it evaporates--about 5 minutes. 
    4. Stir in chicken and beef broth, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Scrape any last browned bits from the pot. Turn heat to high and bring soup to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.
    5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes---until the bread is crisp and golden. Set aside. Turn oven up to broil.
    6. Remove and discard herbs from the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
    7. Adjust oven rack to about 6 inches from broiler. Divide soup among oven safe bowls. Place bread slices on top of soup, without overlapping. Sprinkle each serving generously with grated gruyere. Place bowls on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving. 
    (Serves 4 to 6)

    December 9, 2009

    Blended Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

    This is a recipe from Lauren. The most memorable moment was when she called me from the grocery store asking what blended oats were. These cookies are a very tasty version of oatmeal. Blending the oatmeal in the blender takes away the oatie-chunkiness regular oatmeal cookies have. Plus, they have two types of chocolate, and zero raisins.

    Unfortunately tonight I made them and forgot the flour, for the millionth time this year (I left it out while transcribing the recipe), so my batch was ruined. Tomorrow will be take-two, with the ever helpful flour...

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Cream together
    1 C butter softened
    1 C sugar
    1 C brown sugar

    1 tsp vanilla
    2 eggs

    2 C flour
    2 1/2 C blended-oatmeal (blend in a blender)
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder

    Stir in
    1 chocolate bar, grated (it might be fun to use a flavored chocolate bar, like mint chocolate or chocolate orange)
    2 C chocolate chips (1 package)

    Roll into balls and bake for 10 minutes. They tend to overcook, so ten minutes is usually just right. Cool on racks.

    December 5, 2009

    Kelsey's Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

    A coworker of mine baked these scones and brought them in to work one day a couple of years ago. After tasting one, I demanded the recipe. Ok, I probably asked politely in between mouthfuls, but I was very insistent. I wanted this recipe! I want a lot of recipes, though, and most people do not deliver. But, Kelsey did.

    Kelsey is a pretty amazing person. When I worked with her, she was still in high school, though she always seemed older and more mature. She is definitely the kind of person I would have hung out with when I was in high school--down to Earth and fun. And she bakes! Lucky for me, even though  I am (a tad bit) older than her and we no longer work together, we are still friends these days.

    These scones were the hit of my recent brunch (even though there were pumpkin waffles and banana pecan pancakes). Well, maybe it just seemed like the were the superstars because Mark couldn't get enough of them. He raved about their slightly crunchy exterior and light and fluffy interior to anyone who would listen. These scones are not at all dense like some you might have come across, nor quite as dry. (In fact, in a way they are biscuit-esque.) The orange flavor really comes through and the chocolate chips add just the right amount of sweetness and crunch.
    Thank you for the recipe, Kelsey!

    Orange Chocolate Chip Scones
    ~Print Recipe~
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
    • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular, semi- or bittersweet)
    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet (with either butter or parchment paper).
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender (or two knives in scissor motion) cut in the butter until the mixture resembles course crumbs. 
    3. In a small bowl, stir together eggs, orange juice, vanilla and orange peel. (Side note: does everyone out there have a zester/microplane? They are fantastic! I have this one and I really like it.) 
    4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. The dough will be very sticky. With lightly floured hands, knead in chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.
    5. Form dough into 8 even portions. Use your hands to shape them into triangles (if you don't mind getting sticky) or just use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to drop them onto the baking sheet. Space evenly as they will rise quite a bit. 
    6. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until scones are golden brown. Remove from sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 
    (Makes 8 scones)

    December 4, 2009

    Sauteed Carrots with Fried Sage

    I don't usually cook carrots. In fact, most of the time I'm more of a raw, fresh vegetable kind of person--something I definitely get from my mom. I would be very satisfied with a big, colorful salad for dinner. Recently, though, I've been discovering the joys of steamed and roasted veggies. Until now, I've mostly stuck to my standbys--broccoli and eggplant. You know, I've just had more than my fair share of overcooked, mushy bland vegetables--especially carrots. Yuck.

    Well, I can't tell you exactly why, but I was flipping through one of the four food magazines I'd acquired well before Thanksgiving and I decided to make this carrot side dish on Turkey Day. Carrots and sage---two ingredients with which I rarely cook. Maybe it was the simplicity of the recipe. Closer to Thanksgiving, I went back to find this recipe and for the life of me could not located it. I flipped through every magazine I had and nothing. I somehow had recycled the one magazine with my side dish recipes! (And, don't get me started on trying to find sage in the days before Thanksgiving--everybody was out!)

    I was lucky enough to find the missing recipe online (though not before searching the Cooking Light website very, very diligently. What is up with their hard to navigate interface?!) and some sage after work on Thanksgiving day. Anyway, it was all smooth sailing from there. I tweaked their instructions a bit and fried the sage in the butter and oil (um, why exactly do they call it Cooking LIGHT?) first, which cooks the sage lightly and also flavors the fats with it's sage-iness. Such savory goodness! The carrots then absorb all of this wonderful flavor and develop their own satisfying sweetness. This would be an excellent side dish anytime.

    Sauteed Carrots with Fried Sage
    • 1 tablespoon butter (use Earth Balance to make this vegan)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) small fresh sage leaves (or larger leaves, torn in half or quarters)
    • 3 heaping cups diagonally sliced carrot
    • 4 tablespoons water
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
    1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan and stir to mix. Stir in sage leaves and fry for 1 minute, or until lightly crisp. Remove leaves, draining excess oil back into the pan, and set aside. 
    2. Add carrots and water to skillet. Stir to coat with oil. Partially cover and cook 10 minutes or until carrots are almost tender.
    3. Add salt and pepper to pan. Increase heat to medium-high heat. Cook 4 minutes or until carrots are tender and lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add sage back in and stir. Serve immediately.
    (Serves 4 as a side dish)

    November 25, 2009

    Golden Beet Salad

    What can I say - I LOVE beets!
    When I find a recipe for beets, I must try it. While eating this salad, I realized it is the perfect substitute for fruit salad in the winter months, and it is beautiful. It is inspired from a recipe in Mollie Katzens book 'Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without'. I made it for Thanksgiving dinner, expecting to be the only one eating it, but it was surprisingly popular. I still have some leftovers that are quite tasty.

    What's in it
    2 bunches golden beets (any color would do, as long as it's not the dark purple)
    6 mandarins, plus or minus
    3 Tbls raspberry or cider vinegar
    1 leek
    salt to taste

    How it's made
    Pre heat oven to 450 degrees. Trim the greens off the beets. Divide beets into two groups, wrapping each group in foil, with a few tablespoons water tossed in. Roast them on a cookie sheet or baking dish up to an hour, until beets are tender enough to pierce with a fork. If you are not up for roasting, you can use this recipe to cook the beets.

    Allow beets to cool, cut each end off, then take a spoon and peel off the skins. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place beets in a bowl and immediately toss with vinegar and salt to keep their color.

    While beets are cooking, peel the mandarins, and pull into their sections. Remove all the white pulp from the fruit. Cut each section in half, crosswise, with kitchen scissors, and add to bowl with beets.

    Thinly slice leek, and add to bowl with mandarins and beets. Cover and marinate for a minimum 2 hours and up to a day. You may reserve some of the leek to add before serving, since the leeks will turn orange (the color of the beets), overnight in the fridge.

    I have only made this once, but I imagine apple cubes, dried cranberries, or halved grapes would be a great addition to this salad.

    Enchanted Broccoli Forest

    This one comes from the cookbook by Mollie Katzen named for this recipe. Leann and I made it for dinner last week, and it was delicious! Of course, I love broccoli, so it is perfect in my mind. I'm always wary of casseroles, but this one has a fun twist.

    What's in it
    1 1lb bunch broccoli
    1 Tbl butter or oil
    1 C chopped onion
    salt to taste
    1 clove minced garlic
    2 Tbl lemon juice
    6 C cooked brown rice
    pepper and cayenne to taste
    2 tsp dill
    3 tsp mint
    1/4 C fresh parsley, minced
    1-2 C packed shredded cheese

    How it's made
    Time the bottoms off the broccoli, and cut stalks into spears, however you like. Cook them in a steamer until bright green and just tender. Rinse with cold water.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

    Melt the butter/oil in a skillet. Add onion and salt and saute until onion softens. Add garlic and lemon juice, and saute for about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice, seasonings, and cheese. Spread this mixture in the baking pan.

    Arrange the broccoli spears upright in the pan like a forest of broccoli. Drizzle with melted butter (mixed with lemon juice if you'd like). Cover with foil and bake until heated through (20 minutes). Serve right away.

    November 24, 2009

    Pumpkin Pie

    This pumpkin pie recipe is for the Reids in the family who are allergic to milk. It's super easy and tasty, if you like pies. A great last minute recipe for Thanksgiving.

    What's in it
    1 homemade graham cracker pie crust (or store bought)
    2 C cooked pumpkin
    2 eggs
    1/3 C real maple syrup or honey or brown sugar
    pumpkin pie spice (cinnamond, allspice, ground clove)
    1 package Silken firm tofu

    How it's made
    If using real pumpkin, bake sugar pumpkin at 400 degrees for an hour until soft, and scoop out the inside (but not the seeds). Otherwise start with canned pumpkin. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a blender combine all ingredients except for the crust, and blend till smooth. Pour into pie crust, and bake 15 minutes at 425 and 45 more minutes at 350 until firm in the middle.

    November 22, 2009

    Eggplant Casserole

    This dish was not very photogenic. Since it wasn't much to look at, I didn't take any pictures of it when it came out of the oven. After eating it, though, I wished I would have taken some anyway. It was really good (right out of the oven as well as reheated as leftovers) and I think people always like to see what the finished product looks like, even if it's not fancy food porn all the time. Some foods are not really that good looking, but we all know that has nothing to do with how they taste.

    Now, that being said, this wasn't a groundbreaking dish, it was just a simple weeknight dinner that was satisfying and healthy. (Disclosure: I am desperately in love with eggplant, so I may have liked this more than the average person.) This recipe is loosely based on one from Meals in Minutes.

    Eggplant Casserole
    ~Print Recipe~

    • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1 package sliced mushrooms
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 3 cups marinara sauce (we used low-sodium, but I think a garlicky sauce would be good)
    • Grated mozzarella cheese
    1. Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick spray. Lay the eggplant in a single layer and spray with nonstick spray. Broil until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip eggplant slices over, spray with nonstick spray and broil until the other side has browned, about 4 minutes more.
    2. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and mushrooms are browned. 
    3. Spread 1 cup sauce evenly on the bottom of an 11x14 inch baking dish. Add half of the onion and mushroom mixture evenly over sauce. Sprinkle lightly with cheese. Add eggplant rounds, overlapping slightly to cover dish entirely. Add another light layer of sauce, then the rest of the onion/mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with more cheese. Add another layer of remaining eggplant, then finish with more sauce and top with another layer of mozzarella. 
    4. Bake about 20 minutes or until sauce is heated through and the cheese has browned. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

    November 15, 2009

    Goat Cheese Crostini

    These are so simple and yet so incredibly flavorful and delicious! The creamy tang of the goat cheese and the sharp, savory bite of the garlic. The freshness of the parsley. We paired these with a mild potato soup and these were the standouts. We had a few left over and we figured they wouldn't necessarily store well, so we had the remainders for dessert.

    These crostini are not particularly ground breaking, and yet I never would have thought to combine these flavors just so. I combine a few techniques I've gleaned from various sources here, but the cheese spread is actually from Meals in Minutes, a Weight Watchers cookbook. Who knew they'd have anything to add? Well, try these and you will see that they certainly do.

    Goat Cheese Crostini

    • 1 baguette
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • Olive oil for brushing (of olive oil spray)
    • Salt, pepper, thyme, other seasonings to taste
    • 1/4 cup goat cheese
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    1. Preheat broiler. Slice baguette on a bias into pieces 1/2 inch thick. Lay slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Chop 1 clove of garlic in half. Rub the cut edge on the top side of baguette slices. Spread a thin layer of olive oil on slices with a pastry brush, or spray slices well with an olive oil spray. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste.
    2. Toast slices under broiler for 1-2 minutes until crispy and golden. (They will burn really quickly if you don't keep a close eye on them.)
    3. In a small bowl, combine goat cheese, pepper and parsley. Press in the remaining garlic clove with a garlic press (one of the best tools ever!) and add the oil. Mix until smooth. Spread on the baguette slices. Pop them back under the broiler for 1 minute to lightly melt the cheese mixture. Serve immediately.

    November 13, 2009

    Pumpkin Waffles

    Ok, I guess it's that time of year---I have pumpkin on the brain. I know that pumpkin scones are good and the pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World are amazing. So, when I saw this recipe for pumpkin waffles on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to try it. Waffles and pumpkin? Two things I love come together here in a very delicious way. These waffles are sweet and decadent---kind of like eating dessert for breakfast, which is just fine by me.

    I suggest adding chocolate chips to individual waffles by dropping the chips onto the batter just after you put in the waffle iron, then covering them lightly with more batter. I also recommend adding chocolate chips as a topping like Amber does (one chip in each square). These waffles would be fantastic with whipped cream. I had peanut butter, pumpkin butter, Greek yogurt and maple syrup, but with these you can pretty much get away with plain, too. You can also save any extra waffles by wrapping them in twos in plastic wrap and then storing them in a freezer bag in your freezer for a few weeks.  The next time you want waffles, grab two and pop them in the toaster. Way better than Eggo.

    Pumpkin Waffles
    ~Print Recipe~

    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I want to try substituting some whole wheat flour next time, a la Patty)
    • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 4 large eggs, separated
    • 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
    • 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
    • 6 tablespoons (3/4 of a stick) unsalted butter, melted
    • Cooking spray for waffle iron
    1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. 
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, pumpkin and butter. Separate egg whites into a separate small bowl and set aside. Add egg yolks to the buttermilk mixture and whisk until smooth. 
    3. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the buttermilk mixture and whisk until just combined.
    4. With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Carefully fold egg whites into the batter, until just combined. 
    5. Heat waffle iron(s) while batter rests.
    6. When the irons are hot, spray waffle iron lightly with non-stick spray (and again before each new waffle). Using a measuring cup, quickly spread an even layer of batter over the iron (adding chocolate chips, if desired) and cook until crisp and golden brown.  Serve immediately, or allow to cool and then freeze.

    November 12, 2009

    Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

    I needed something to pair with Christmas Blend coffee, so something with ginger, orange, cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. I found this Martha Stewart gingerbread cupcake recipe (Martha always comes through in a pinch) online and that took care of all of the spices in one fell swoop. Then I saw a recipe on 52 cupcakes that topped gingerbread cupcakes with a lemon cream cheese frosting. I figured orange would work just as well. And done---I've got all of my flavors present and accounted for. This recipe makes 10 "jumbo" sized cupcakes, but since I only have the regular size pan it made about 20. And that's ok with me, because I figure the more cupcakes the merrier!

    These cupcakes have 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt, which I felt made them a little too salty. I would maybe add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Then again, maybe that's just the way gingerbread is suppose to taste, so salt to your preference.

    I had forgotten how much fun cupcakes are to make and eat!

    Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or less, to taste)
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
    • 1 cup unsulphured molasses
    • 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
    1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line you cupcake tin with paper baking cups, set aside. In a saucepan or kettle, bring 1 cup water to a boil. In a small bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl, sift flour, spices, salt and baking powder together and set aside. 
    2. With an electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy, around 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses, baking soda mixture and flour mixture. Beat in the eggs. 
    3. Fill cupcake liners until 3/4 full. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for a few minutes, then transfer them to the rack to cool completely before frosting.
    4. Frost and sprinkle with crystallized ginger.
      Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
      • 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature
      • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 4 cups powdered sugar
      • zest of one orange
      • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
      1. Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until soft. Slowly add sugar, zest and juice. Beat until creamy--about 3 minutes.
      2. Chill frosting before frosting cupcakes.

      November 6, 2009

      Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad

      Reading food magazines, I have come across a ton of pumpkin recipes lately. Since pumpkins are bountiful and priced to sell these days, I decided to give this recipe from Gourmet a shot. For cooking, you want to use sugar pumpkins---they are smaller and tastier than your typical jack-o-lantern. I'd never actually eaten pumpkin outside of a pie, but I sure do love pumpkin in that form so I figured me and a pumpkin dish would get along nicely.

      Well, yes and no. The roasted pumpkin in this salad was not quite what I was expecting. The spices I ended up using (I didn't have hot smoked paprika and substituted regular paprika with a dash of cayenne) seemed a little subtle and in the end were not the flavor direction I would have chosen for this dish. I liked the textural addition of the pumpkin and lentils to this salad, but the flavor of the pumpkin itself has a hard time standing up to the salty goat cheese and the shocks of mint. I liked this salad, but if I were to do it again, I would experiment with different roasting spices and/or a different dressing.

      Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad
      ~Print Recipe~
      • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (either from a package--TJ's!--or from 3/4 cups dried and cooked)
      • 6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled, seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (from one approximately 2 pound pumpkin)
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 additional tablespoon (optional)
      • 1 teaspoon cumin
      • 1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
      • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
      • 4 cups baby arugula (or other lettuce)
      • 1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
      • 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
      • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (optional)
      • Toasted pumpkin seeds from your pumpkin (I used a great recipe from Simply Recipes)
      1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pumpkin in a large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika and sea salt. Arrange pumpkin in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn pumpkin over. Continue roasting until tender (10-20 minutes. I took mine out after an additional 15 min. but wish I would have left it in a little longer.) Cool.
      2. Combine lentils, pumpkin and oil from pan (my pan had no oil) with lettuce, half of goat cheese, mint, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of oil. (Or, if using a different dressing, leave out oil and vinegar at this point.) Season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates (add dressing, if you are using your own) and sprinkle with remaining goat cheese.

      November 5, 2009

      Roasted Radishes

      Okay Alexis here you go. . .
      This is a simple tasty side dish! I'm going to leave out any measurements, because I just guessed and it really depends on your own preference and how many radishes you have. Cook for about 30 min. at 375. (I actually cooked them at about 450 while another dish was also roasting.)

      Sesame oil
      chili pepper

      October 28, 2009

      Ruth Reichl and Gourmet Today

      Ruth Reichl is one of my favorite people. It’s funny how after reading three memoirs about her life, I feel like I know her. It kind of makes me sound weird and stalker-ish, but I’ve spent hours with Ruth, hearing about all of the phases of her life. (At the event I attended, she told an audience member that she could only write the next installment of her memoirs if she no longer worked for Conde Nast–the publisher of Gourmet magazine, where she was the editor. The weekend after the event, it came out that after sixty years Conde Nast is canceling the magazine, so it looks like I’ve got something to look forward to!) In real life, Ruth Reichl is just as personable as she is on the page.

      I headed down town to The Nines hotel alone one Wednesday night last month. Up to the  swanky sixth floor ballroom. People were drinking wine in the lounge outside waiting for the event to start. I picked up my signed copy of the huge new lime green Gourmet cookbook that Ruth had edited and was promoting.

      Tickets were $40, a lot of money to get to see Ruth, but really it’s just the price of the cookbook and the talk is included for free. Except, I was there for the talk and couldn’t really care any less about the cookbook. So, I really did pay $40 just to hear Ruth Reichl talk for an hour. It was worth every penny. I’m sure everyone else there thought so too. But, to them $40 probably didn’t break the bank. It seems that the demographic for such events is comprised almost entirely of rich, middle-aged white women. I felt slightly out-of-place, but who knows, in 30 years that may just be me.

      By the time I entered the ballroom clutching my copy of the book, the front row seats were filled. “Damn! I should have gotten here earlier,” I thought to myself as I slid into my seat on the far end of the second row. Luckily, it happened to be the side that Ruth walked down before heading to the podium. Her iridescent blue-green tunic shirt glistened as she walked by. For a foodie in her fifties, Ruth is skinny and a little more petite that I would have imagined–she has such an over-sized personality for someone of her stature. She wore her famously wild hair long, sleek and straight that night.

      She launched into her talk. She spoke about why we need this new cookbook, how Americans are cooking and eating in an exciting new way. She noted the changes in the average suburban supermarket, the range of ingredients you can find these days; about her son Nick and his friends and their vegetarian/vegan eating habits, about how people are more conscious than ever of their food and where it comes from.

      Ruth Reichl makes chicken stock every weekend. She makes risotto whenever she gets home from work and doesn’t know what else to cook. She is afraid that Nick, who is in college on the East Coast, will move to Portland after he graduates, because “it’s the place all the kinds want to go after college” these days. We are so hip right now.

      Ruth is political, which is definitely part of why I like her. She included an article in Gourmet recently about how  slavery in alive and well in Florida’s tomato growing regions. People wrote in letters to the editor that a food magazine like Gourmet should not be involved in politics, but I happen to think that eating is a political act. At the event, she noted that 80% of the cookbooks that she signs for people’s kids lately are for their sons, indicating that we have a new “generation of people who don’t think of cooking as women’s work,” like they used to. She talked about the dire state of school lunches in this country. Ruth pointed out that personal outrage was not enough, that we must complain to our politicians. We need to tell them that good food for our children is important. “It’s got to be political,” she said. “It’s been deemed frivolous, but training people to eat well is going to save us money in the long run.” Yes! It’s common sense, but still so hard to get that point across publicly.

      Ruth answered questions from the audience, mostly about boring stuff like what fat does she use in pie crusts (apparently a terribly contentious issue in the baking world, as it came up at a Wordstock baking Q&A, too), or what to call mushrooms that are farmed, but somehow are referred to as “wild” on restaurant menus, much to the despair of mushroom hunters (Ruth had no idea—and why are these people wasting my time with Ruth anyway?).

      About three-quarters of the way through, I got up enough courage to raise my hand and ask a question. At first I wasn’t sure if she was going to call on me. She picked a woman sitting right in front of me first, so I thought my chances were slim. But soon enough, she came back over to my side and I spoke to Ruth Reichl. I asked her if she read any food blogs—if so, which ones?!–and how she felt blogging fit into the new food landscape she was describing.

      She said that she used to read 20 food blogs a day, but that she just didn’t have time to follow them anymore (of course! Silly question to ask someone in Ruth’s position, damn!). But, she said it is a “new and wonderful world” where food is being cooked and discussed and celebrated. When she started cooking in Berkeley in the sixties, she said no one was talking about food, as I suppose it was considered more of a woman’s chore than a thing to celebrate. Ruth also likes that fact that it makes food professionals better, as their consumers are more informed. It keeps chefs accountable.

      But, the best thing that she said all night was about cookbooks. She described how many times Gourmet’s chefs and home cooks had tested each of the thousand recipes in the new Gourmet Today cookbook. Even the simplest dish with the fewest ingredients was made and remade in their test kitchens. The reason, she said, is that she is continually “shocked at how many failed recipes are in famous cookbooks by famous authors.” And the worst part, she pointed out, is that when you are at home and you try one of those poor, untested recipes, you inevitably think that it’s your fault when it doesn’t turn out. Which is a terrible thing, said Ruth, because how you learn to cook is with courage. You make something, people like it, so you make more.

      I couldn’t agree more.

      October 22, 2009

      Orecchiette with Sausage and Roasted Peppers

      Ok, here's another one adapted from the Great Food Fast book from Everyday Food. Apparently they really do have a lot of good recipes, although this actually asks you to roast your own peppers---not something I would consider particularly fast. (And when I say fast, I'm thinking along the lines of black bean tacos--open a can of beans, heat some tortillas, add cheese and salsa....)

      Anyway, I'd never actually roasted my own bell peppers, so this was a fun experiment. It is incredibly easy (if not exactly quick) and I would recommend it to anyone. Roasted peppers have such a wonderful flavor! I feel like they would be a good addition to just about anything. AND it just sounds fancy. I think you will impress people (or at least people who've not roasted their own peppers before).

      The onions and ricotta are my own additions. I made a pasta recipe that called for ricotta cheese recently, so I had it in the fridge. I've been adding it to all of my pasta dishes now, and it's such an easy (and low calorie) way to make any sauce creamy! And, as far as I'm concerned, creamy is almost always better than not creamy. Give it a try---be creative!

      Also, orecchiette (or-reh-key-EH-tay) is my new favorite pasta. (The shape! They way they hold the sauce!) I've been hoarding recipes that call for it. I didn't see them available at my local supermarket, but I found some (organic and really expensive) at Whole Foods.

      Orecchiette with Sausage and Roasted Peppers
      • 2 medium red bell peppers, four flat sides sliced off core, ribs and seeds discarded
      • 2 medium yellow bell peppers, prepped the same way
      • Course sat and fresh ground pepper
      • 1 pound orecchiette (as you can see in my picture, I actually ran out this time and subbed some other small pasta)
      • 3 teaspoons olive oil
      • 1 onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
      • 1 pound Italian sweet sausage, removed from casings
      • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
      • 1/2 cup low-fat (or reg.) ricotta cheese
      • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
      1. Heat the broiler. Place the peppers, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat until charred--about 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Steam for 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve the juices in the bowl. Using a paper towel, rub off skins. (I just used my fingers to pull the skins off.) Thinly slice the peppers crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Return to bowl and set aside.
      2. Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet. Saute onions, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize.
      3. At the same time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, according to the package instructions. Reserve a 1/2 cup of the pasta water then drain pasta.
      4. Add the sausage and remaining oil to the skillet with the onions. Cook over medium heat, breaking sausage up with a spoon, until browned--7 to 10 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and cook until heated through.
      5. Transfer the sausage mixture to a large bowl. Add the pasta, butter, reserved pasta water, ricotta and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Top with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

      October 15, 2009

      Molasses Cookie and Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches

      Exactly three years ago, I was in Gearhart, a small town on the Oregon coast. (Really small, of maybe a thousand people.) I happened to find a wonderful ice cream shop that served Tillamook ice cream. (Tillamook ice cream is right up there with the best. You've probably heard of Tillamook cheese---their ice cream has a more limited distribution.) I ordered a homemade ice cream sandwich. This was new to me, the idea of homemade ice cream sandwiches---I thought they were limited to the packaged kind with vanilla ice cream. But, of course not! What an easy idea, homemade cookies with ice cream in the middle! What could be better? These particular sandwiches were made with gingersnaps and pumpkin ice cream. I've dreamed about them ever since.

      Well, Mark had a coupon for a free pint of ice cream (Dreyer's, not Tillamook, sadly) and we stumbled upon their seasonally available pumpkin ice cream. I knew exactly what to do! After much deliberation, I decided to make Chewy Molasses cookies, from Martha Stewart's Cookies, for my ice cream sandwiches.

      Martha Stewart's Cookies, what can I say? I've made dozens of different cookies from this book and they are all delicious. I'm really looking forward to making the Iced Oatmeal Applesauce cookies, Cashew Caramel cookies, Honey Florentines, Lemon Madeleines, Chocolate Waffles, Rugelach...OK, I could go on and on. That's one of the nice things about this book, there are more recipes that I want to make than I have time to make! I have a lot of cookbooks that end up having more recipes that I'm not interested in than the ones I am. Not the case with Cookies.

      As you know, I am not a huge fan of the Martha Stewart empire or what she stands for. But, when you make a Martha Stewart recipe, you know it will turn out and it will taste good.

      And these Chewy Molasses cookies really did pair well with pumpkin ice cream.

      Molasses Cookies
      • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 1 cup packed light brown sugar.
      • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for rolling
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
      • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1 teaspoon baking soda
      • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
      • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
      • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
      1. Beat butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, followed by the molasses and oil.
      2. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm---1 hour or up to overnight.
      3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. Using an ice cream scoop or a spoon, form balls of dough. (Caution--the dough is extremely sticky!) Roll balls in sugar to coat and space 3 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are flat and the centers are set---about 17 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
      • Homemade cookies
      • Ice cream of your choice
      1. Take ice cream out of freezer for a few minutes, until it is soft enough to work with but not melt-y.
      2. Grab 2 cookies. Place them upside down on a plate. Scoop ice cream on to one cookie until it is thick enough for your liking. Spread the ice cream around so it is level and all the way to the edges.
      3. Place second cookie right side up on top of the ice cream and voila! Easy.

      October 14, 2009

      Persian Kidney Beans

      I first made these years ago for an Iranian themed book club meeting. I had no idea how they would turn out and I had 15 people coming over, so I really hoped it would be good. The great thing about this dish is that it is simple and inexpensive to make. And it will serve a ton of people. The flavor combination is maybe a little different, but to me onions, garlic, cumin, jalapeno and citrus is redolent of Mexican cooking. The cinnamon is really what gives it a more exotic touch.

      It all worked out fine that night, but for some reason I hadn't come back to this recipe. Then, flipping through one my new cookbooks, Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven, I found this recipe again. I compared it to the one I'd made earlier from and they are strikingly similar. Here is my own conglomeration of the two. Plus the addition of cilantro, because we had some, it goes well with the flavors and spices in the dish and it seems like fresh herbs always take a dish to the next level.

      Persian Kidney Beans
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 2 onions, chopped
      • 3-5 gloves garlic, minced or pressed
      • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
      • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
      • 1 to 1 1/2 cups orange juice (to taste)
      • Juice from 1 lime
      • 1 can tomato paste
      • 4 cans kidney beans, rinsed
      • 1 jalapeno, diced
      • 1/2 each lime and orange zest (optional. Zest before juicing!)
      • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
      • Black pepper to taste (optional)
      • Torn fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
      • Pita bread
      1. Heat the oil in a deep sauce pan or Dutch oven. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Saute for 5 more minutes.
      2. Stir in the orange and lime juice. Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
      3. Add the beans, the jalapeno, the citrus zest and red pepper flakes. Stir often and cook for 20 more minutes over low heat.
      4. Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve hot topped with more zest, red pepper flakes and fresh cilantro and pita bread to the side.
      *Despite the jalapeno and red pepper flakes, this dish is not particularly spicy.

      October 9, 2009

      Lentil-Walnut Burger with Creamy Cilantro Lemon Sauce

      Lentil burgers remind me of the Sierra Nevada Brewery pub in Chico, CA. They offer enticing dishes of all types, but whenever I am there I have to get the lentil burger. It's just too delicious to pass up.

      I saw this lentil-walnut burger recipe in my Everyday Food: Great Fast Food cookbook, from the people who do the Martha Stewart Living magazine. So far, what I've made from this book has been tasty, and what I really appreciate (just like in my Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook) are the fantastic photos. It certainly helps motivate me to make new dishes when I'm staring at a mouth-watering picture.

      I'm going through a cook-what-I-already-have-in-my-cupboards phase. I happened to have some dried lentils on hand--in fact I'd had them for quite some time. And I always keep a Costco-sized bag of walnuts (so much cheaper!) for baking and the like. So, the stars aligned and I decided to make these burgers for dinner. It was a bit of a process (maybe because I have the smallest food processor known to man), but not a complicated or terribly elaborate one. And the results were definitely worth the effort!

      Lentil-Walnut Burgers
      • 3/4 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
      • 3/4 cup walnuts
      • 1/3 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
      • 3 garlic cloves (or more to taste) coarsely chopped or pressed
      • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
      • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
      • 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      • Course salt and fresh ground pepper
      • 4 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1 large egg
      • Creamy cilantro sauce (optional)
      Creamy Cilantro Sauce

      • 3/4 cup low-fat or non-fat sour cream
      • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
      • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
      • Course salt and fresh ground pepper
      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender but still holding their shape--about 15-20 minutes. (The older the lentil, the longer the cooking time. I actually soaked my old lentils for about 2 hours before I started cooking so they wouldn't take as long to cook.) Drain well and cool.
      2. Meanwhile, spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant and darkened, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
      3. While waiting for lentils and walnuts to cook, whisk together all ingredients for creamy cilantro sauce, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
      4. In a food processor, combine the walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Process until finely ground.
        Add the lentils and 1 tablespoon of oil. Pulse until coarsely chopped. (Some lentils should remain whole).
      5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Add the lentil mixture and mix well. Divide into 4 equal-sized parts. Roll into balls and flatten with your palms into 3/4-inch-thick patties.
      6. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the burgers and cook over medium-low heat until crisp and browned, gently flip the burgers---8 to 10 minutes each side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Serve with creamy cilantro sauce and other burger fixin's.

      October 6, 2009


      Usually when I have lots of apples, I resort to making Apple Crisp or White Rabbit Salad. When Mary Ann dropped a bag of apples off on my front step this weekend I figured on making some type of baked treat. We both decided, however, on embarking on a mission to make homemade applesauce. It's amazingly quick and easy, and delicious! It's like eating a sauce version of apple pie, yum.

      What's in it
      5-6 apples
      1/4 C water or apple juice/cider
      2 Tbl brown sugar
      1 tsp cinnamon

      How it's made
      Peel and core apples, then cut them into chunks about an inch square. Place apples in a saucepan with the water/cider/juice. Heat on low until simmering, then simmer covered for 20
      minutes or until soft. Remove from heat. Mash apples down until desired texture. I used a pastry cutter, but a potato masher or fork would work as well. If you like smooth sauce, you can use a food processor. Mix in sugar and spices. Eat warm or cold. This would be a great topping for pork chops. Does anyone have a good recipe??

      September 23, 2009

      Peachy Pizza

      Pizza by far is my favorite meal to eat and to make. Andy and I have developed some pretty tasty topping choices over the years as well, mostly inspired by The Cheeseboard.

      A couple weeks ago we had Pizza Night and made three pizzas, to eat for dinner and freeze for lunches in the upcoming week.

      We're big fans of the dough Trader Joe's makes, that you can roll out yourself. They have regular, herb garlic and wheat to choose from. Before I found their dough, though, I used Acme or Semifreddi's bread (ciabatta or rustic italian style) sliced in half and open faced.

      TJ's also has a variety of options for sauces, from the fresh tub of sauce, to a jar of 'pizza sauce', to canned marinara sauce. We usually go for the jar or can for economy.

      The mozzarella usually comes from TJ's or Country Cheese in Berkeley. I also throw on whatever cheese I happen to have lying around (usually monterey jack). Pick your favorite flavors, as cheese is just as important as the other toppings.

      My new favorite topping are peaches. I had them on pizza for the first time at Cheeseboard last month, and it was life-changing.

      Toppings for a Peachy Pizza
      fresh peaches sliced thin
      caramelized onions
      leftover grilled chicken, sliced
      chopped parsley
      fresh sliced tomatoes

      Other Favorite Pizza Toppings
      lemon zest
      fresh corn kernels
      sauteed mushrooms
      sliced bell pepper
      fresh basil
      artichoke hearts
      green onions

      Once your pizza is assembled, cook according to directions, or until crust is crispy and cheese is melted. Remember, anything in your fridge is a good candidate for pizza. I like to think of pizza more as 'garbage pie', so don't be afraid to use your leftovers!

      September 12, 2009

      Spicy Black Beans with Soyrizo and Chipotle Cream

      When I was growing up, my mom always used to make black beans from scratch. She'd let the dry beans soak over night and then cook them for what seemed to me like all of the next day. Her version always included sauteed onions and garlic and lots and lots of cumin. They were extremely flavorful and I liked them a lot. But, when I went to make black beans as an adult, I thought, "Why spend two days making black beans when I can just open a can of them?" Cans of black beans are inexpensive and easy to doctor up. But, they are not the same as homemade, as canned-and-processed anything rarely is.

      I finally decided I should try to make my own from scratch, so I bought some dried black turtle beans from the bulk bin at the supermarket. They languished in my cupboard for months on end. Then I found a black bean recipe in Bon Appetit that really intrigued me. It had me at spicy, chorizo* and chipotle cream.

      And it is as good as it sounds.

      • 1 1/2 cups dried black beans
      • 2 peeled onions; 1 halved, 1 chopped
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 6-7 ounces (or more to taste) Soyrizo
      • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 2 tablespoons minced, seeded jalapeno chile
      • 1/2 (or more to taste) ground cumin
      1. Place beans in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by two inches. Let beans soak overnight.
      2. Drain beans. Return to saucepan. Add onion halves, bay leaf and oregano. Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until beans are very tender, stirring occasionally--1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on age of beans.
      3. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Discard onion halves and bay leaf.
      4. Heat oil in a heavy, large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add soyrizo, breaking it up with a soon, and cook until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer soyrizo to a small bowl.
      5. Add chopped onion to drippings in skillet (adding olive oil as necessary) and cook until soft and golden grown--about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, garlic, jalapeno and cumin. Stir 1 minute.
      6. Add beans, 3/4 cup (or more as needed) cooking liquid and soyrizo to onion mixture. Stir to distribute evenly. Simmer over medium-low heat until heated and flavors are blended--3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
      Chipotle Cream
      • 1/2 cup sour cream
      • 1 1/4 teaspoons chipotle-flavored hot pepper sauce**
      • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
      1. Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt.
      * I like the taste of Mexican chorizo, but not the fact that it's made of ground up cow salivary glands (really!) and who knows what else. Soyrizo (available at Trader Joe's) is an excellent substitute, very delicious and more healthful. (Once opened, use the package within a day or two, or it will dry out.) This recipe (without the sour cream) will also be vegan with this substitution.
      ** I bought a small can of chipotle chiles awhile ago--once I opened the can, I transferred the chiles and their sauce to a resealable container that I stash in the back of my fridge. Whenever I need chipotle flavoring (usually recipes only call for small amounts), I have it readily available.

      September 6, 2009

      Cajeta and Coconut Tres Leches Cake

      This was a birthday present to a dear friend. It may seem odd, gifting food which won't last past the day it is given---but, what is better? It may be easier to grab a book or something, but that doesn't require the investment of hours of your time. And it is definitely not as satisfying as producing something with your own hands. I like to give food because it is thoughtful and personal and won't clutter up a person's house after you are done. Besides, if all goes according to plan, the memory of your gift will probably last longer than some trinket anyway.

      This cake came together as a cross between techniques from my Dona Tomas cookbook, multiple online resources and my own tweaking.

      The Cake
      • 5 eggs
      • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
      • 1 cup white sugar
      • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
      • Dash of cinnamon
      1. Line a round cake pan with a piece of parchment, then grease the paper and sides of the pan with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
      2. Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside.
      3. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
      4. Add the eggs and both extracts. Beat well.
      5. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, mixing until well combined.
      6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
      7. Turn the cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Remove paper.
      • 3 cups whole milk
      • 3/4 granulated sugar
      • 1/4 cup corn syrup
      • 2 inch cinnamon stick
      • A rounded 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
      • 2 teaspoons cold water
      1. Put the milk, sugar, corn syrup and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Whisk occasionally to prevent boiling over.
      2. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in water. Rapidly whisk the baking soda mixture into the saucepan, removing it from the heat if it looks like it will spill over.
      3. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the mixture has cooked down and turned dark brown and thick.
      4. Remove from heat and pass through a fine-mesh strainer.
      The Sauce and Fillings
      • 1 1/2 pints strawberries, sliced (reserve a few unsliced for garnish)
      • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
      • 2/3 cup cajeta (room temperature)
      • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
      • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
      • 3/4 cup coconut milk
      • 1 quart heaving whipping cream
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or more to taste)
      • 1 teaspoon coconut extract (or more to taste)
      • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
      • Shredded coconut as needed
      1. In a bowl, toss the strawberries with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside.
      2. In a separate bowl, combine the cajeta, condensed milk, 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream and coconut milk. Mix well. Set aside.
      3. In another separate bowl, use an electric mixer on high to whip the 1 quart whipping cream to medium peaks. Add both extracts and the powdered sugar towards the end of the whipping process.
      The Assembly
      1. Slice the cake in half crosswise with a long serrated knife. Place the bottom half on the serving plate. On a separate plate, place the top half of the cake with the cut side up. Using a tablespoon, spoon half of the milk mixture over the bottom of the cake, letting it soak in evenly and completely. (This may take awhile. I used a toothpick to prick little holes throughout the cake so the sauce would soak into the cake more readily.)
      2. Using half of the remaining milk mixture, soak the top half of the cake.
      3. Spread a 1/8 inch layer of the whipping cream evenly over the bottom half of the cake. Sprinkle a good layer of shredded coconut over the whipped cream. Arrange a layer of the strawberries on top. Sprinkle with more coconut.
      4. Cover with another layer of whipped cream, coconut, strawberries and more coconut.
      5. Finish with another thin layer of whipped cream. Carefully place the top half of the cake on top of the last whipped cream layer, cut side down.
      6. Soak the very top of the cake with the remaining milk mixture. (I had some left over, which I drizzled over the slices of cake.)
      7. Cover the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream, spreading evenly over the top and sides. Sprinkle cake with shredded coconut and decorate with whole or sliced strawberries on top.
      8. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before slicing and serving. (Refrigerate any leftovers.)
      * The cake part of this recipe can be substituted with any white cake that is spongy enough to soak up the milk, but strong enough to hold up and not become too soggy. I've read online that boxed white cake mix works well and cuts down on the time involved.