December 29, 2013

GF Peanut Butter Cookies


I love the simple ingredients: no other explanation is necessary. Good thing they are easy to make, because they disappear quick!

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Coarse sea salt
Place the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until well combined. Spoon onto ungreased baking sheets (or lined with silpats) in 1 tablespoon scoops about 1 inche apart. Flatten the mounds with the tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern on the cookies. Sprinkle coarse salt on top of the cookies.

Bake until golden around the edges, about 10 minutes, switching the position of the sheets halfway through baking. Transfer to racks to cool.
Makes 18 cookies

November 20, 2013

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork is the gift that keeps on giving, especially when it is made in the crock pot and ready to eat when you get home from a long day at work. I love pulled pork. Maybe it's because it is a vehicle for BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Rays and Everett and Jones, to be exact) or because I'm really not a hamburger lover, and this is such a delicious alternative. Plus, you end up with so many leftovers to freeze or incorporate into other meals. I also love serving it at dinner parties since the prep is so easy but it makes a ton of food.

I've experimented with many recipes, and of course forgot to write them down. I've recently been using Tyler Florence's recipe for inspiration (Food Network). Brining the pork overnight really pays off.

What's in it
1 boneless pork shoulder (I think now it is called a picnic cut?) - be sure to get good quality
4 Tbl salt
1 Tbl fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 C light brown sugar
1 Tbl paprika
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbl cayenne
1 Tbl chile powder
1/4 C cider vinegar
3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil

How it's made
Place all ingredients except pork and olive oil in a food processor (or magic bullet if you're like me) and pulse until you have a paste, then add olive oil and pulse to combine. Rub paste all over the pork shoulder, marinate in fridge overnight. The next morning put it in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours. In the last hour take two forks and pull the pork apart to shred. You may need to also remove some fat at this point, depending on the cut of meat. Serve on buns with your favorite BBQ sauce and shredded cabbage with pickles. Enjoy for days on end! Or freeze some for later...

November 19, 2013

Butternut Squash Posole

I love soup! I love posole, I love butternut squash. So obviously I had to give this recipe a whirl from Food Network Magazine. Plus it was super simple, which is key for me right now. You can eat it with quesadillas for a mexican twist on grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Embrace winter, make this soup!

What's in it
1 32oz can tomato puree
1 or 2 32oz cans hominy
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed in 1/4" pieces
1 poblano chile pepper, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbl canola oil
2 Tbl chile powder
2 Tbl cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbl oregano
water
extra optional garnish: thick flour tortillas, shredded cabbage, lime, hot sauce, avocado

How it's made
In a large dutch oven (or soup pot) heat oil over medium heat. Add all spices (chile powder, cumin, cinnamon, oregano). Add poblano chile and garlic and saute for a couple minutes. Add squash and keep stirring until chile is softened. Add tomato puree and enough water to thin and cover all ingredients by at least 1 inch. Bring to boil then simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Then add hominy and simmer until squash is tender but not falling apart. Garnish with lime, hot sauce, avocado, shredded cabbage, and eat with soft flour tortillas.

This recipe seems like it would do well in a slow cooker, but I have not yet tested that. I probably will soon!

October 13, 2013

Milnot Pumpkin Pie

 What do you do if you have 5 cans of Milnot in your cupboard? First you make a Milnot cheesecake. Then, to spice things up, you should try this under-the-label recipe for "Classic Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream and Walnuts."

This is pie is not dense or too sweet, and the Milnot and eggs help the pie set up like a custard. The mixture is liquid at first, but just be patient. In my oven, it took 10-15 minutes longer than the recipe called for, but it came together nicely.

The recipe calls for a whipped cream layer on top of the pie, but we just added the whip in dallops. Next time I'll try it layered on.

My mom liked it better than any other pumpkin pie she's had!

Milnot Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream
  • 1 unbaked deep-dish pie crust shell (Trader Joe's brand was really good.)
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 16 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1 12 oz can Milnot (evaporated filled milk)
  • 1/2 pint whipped cream
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  1. Combine sugar, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. 
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly and blend in pumpkin, spice mixture and Milnot.
  3. Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 25-35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.
  4. Beat cream and syrup in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Spread cream over pie and sprinkle with nuts.

September 22, 2013

Tortas

There are rare, incomparable meals I have eaten that embody the Platonic ideal of certain foods. At the time, all you can do is revel in their glory. You are ecstatic to have the experience of tasting such delectable perfection.

But then problems begin. No matter where you go, no matter how hard you search, you cannot find anything to replicate that original experience. Everything else you taste comes up short.

I once had the best fish and chips from a hole in the wall joint in Auckland, New Zealand. I subsequently spent the better part of three weeks attempting to replicate the experience. I searched all over the North and South Island. No dice.

The same thing happened in Mexico City. Across the street from the apartment where I lived, there was a hole in the wall (the best places always seem to be of the hole in the wall variety) taco place Chip's--pronounced cheeps in Spanish--which were a better version of Tim's.) In the intervening 12 years, I have yet to encounter a torta that is even in the same ballpark as Watsy's. They. Just. Don't. Compare.
called--of all things--Watsy Taco. For months my friends and I were regulars, and we always ordered the same thing: a chicken torta with cheese. (For a perfect pairing, consume with a green bag of jalapeƱo

To make a torta, it is best to have a very special type of soft, wide bread called a telera. I randomly encountered teleras in a Wilsonville Albertson's recently, and couldn't pass them up. For my first attempt at making tortas, I did not hope to achieve the apogee of the Watsy Torta. But the nice thing about a torta is that it will be still be delicious, even if you are not in Mexico City.

 Tortas
  • Telera rolls, cut in half and toasted-1 per person
  • Refried black beans prepared, or homemade: diced onions, minced garlic, broth
  • Chicken, or meat of your choice 
  • Cheese
  • Grilled onions
  • Avocado slices
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Cilantro
  • Pickled jalapeƱos
  • Other toppings of your choice (tomato, grilled peppers, etc)
  • Spices, to taste
  1.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add cumin, chipotle, chile powder, paprika, salt and pepper, etc. to taste. Add diced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add black beans and a couple tablespoons of broth. Mash the beans together.
  2. Toast telera in a toaster oven or broiler. Cover one side with cheese, so it melts. 
  3. Spread sour cream on one side and refried beans on the other. Build the sandwich by layering the meat, onions, avocado and other ingredients. Drizzle with salsa and top with telera.

September 2, 2013

Fresh Spring Rolls/Salad Rolls and Peanut Sauce


These are a revelation. They are so light and tasty--healthy, even. Until you dip them in the savory peanut sauce that is. These rolls are fun and easy to make, yet people will be very impressed with you. You can essentially add anything you like, then just roll it up--sort of like a cross between a burrito and sushi! This recipe is based on one from the fantastic book Quick & Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott. If you don't own it, go get it! All of her recipes are very approachable and delicious.

Salad Rolls
  • 8 ounces very thin dried rice noodles
  • 12 round rice paper sheets, about 8 inches in diameter
  • 2 cups tender lettuce (I used prepackaged butter lettuce)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil or mint
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 5 green onions, cut in 3-inch strips
  • Thin cucumber spears (optional)
  • Thin carrot spears (optional)
  • 18 medium cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise
  • Cooked chicken (optional)
  1. Boil water in a medium saucepan. Drop in rice noodles and remove from heat. Gently toss and stir the noodles so they cook evenly. Let stand 8 to 10 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well and set aside. Makes about 2 cups of noodles.
  2. Arrange prepped ingredients around a cutting board. Have the serving plate ready. Fill a skillet with very warm water.
  3. Submerse one rice paper sheet into the warm water for about 15 seconds, until it is soft and pliable. Carefully remove the rice paper, letting it drain, and spread it flat on the cutting board.
  4. About a third of the way in, make a horizontal row of each ingredient, except shrimp. Lift the wrapper edge nearest you and roll it up and away from you, tucking the edge in over the pile in the middle. Tightly fold in the sides of the wrapper, to form a little package. Place 3 shrimp halves over the filling, then continue rolling the wrapper tightly. 
  5. Press the seam to close the roll, applying a little water if it has dried out. Set the roll on the platter seam side down. Continue until you run out of fillings. Serve with peanut sauce or other dipping sauce.
Makes 10-12 rolls

Peanut Sauce
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste or mussamun curry paste
  • 2 teaspoons roasted chili paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  1. Bring coconut milk to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Add the curry paste and roasted chili paste. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve. 
  2. Add the chicken broth, fish sauce, sugar, peanut butter and lime juice. Cook for 1 minute, stirring to smooth.
  3. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl and set aside to cool. 

July 30, 2013

Homemade Yogurt


I blame Natalie. She got me into brewing kombucha and now making yogurt.

I never thought about making yogurt at home. It's one of those things that seems a bit beyond the home cook's reach. I read about making yogurt once, but the article talked about sitting it on a radiator to get the ideal temperature. I didn't have a radiator. Besides, dealing with temperatures seemed too finicky for me.

BUT, I assure you, it is easier than it sounds. The "recipe" for yogurt is really basic and quantities are flexible. The recipe below is for how much I make, but it can really be whatever quantity you want, with a relative amount of yogurt/active cultures added. The only thing that is essential is the temperature, but you just need a candy thermometer clipped on the side of the pot. Then all you need is time!

Try it once or twice and you will have it down. If you don't want to worry about your yogurt at all, get an incubator. It keeps the yogurt at just the right temperature, so you don't have to think about it. I thought about getting one, but then I figured it out without one, so I didn't bother. I can make bigger batches my way, too.

I like making yogurt because it is cheap and I can make it Greek-style, like I prefer. I also like that there are no additives. Yogurt is so good for you! Natalie and I promise.

Homemade Yogurt
  •  8 cups of milk (I use nonfat, but use whatever you like)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt with live/active cultures (I don't measure, just scoop what looks like enough)
  1. Slowly heat the milk to 185 degrees, stirring often.
    Heated milk cooling in an ice-water bath.
  2. Remove from heat and cool milk to 115 degrees. (I speed this up by using an ice water bath, but you don't need to.)
  3. Stir about a cup of 115 degree milk into a small bowl with the already-made yogurt. Gently stir milk/yogurt mixture into the pot of 115 degree milk. 
  4. Maintain the pot at about 105-115 degree temperature for 5-12 hours. 
  5. Stir the yogurt. It should have a soft jell-o like consistency. 
  6. Strain the yogurt, to remove some of the whey. I have used a colander lined with two layers of cheese cloth or a very fine-mess strainer. When the yogurt has reached your desired consistency, whisk until smooth. Refrigerate. 
Yield: Approx. 4 cups, depending on how much you strain it.

NOTES:
To keep the yogurt incubating at 105-115 degrees, I wrap the pot in a towel and set in my oven, which I've heated to this approximate temperature. I usually reheat the oven about halfway through to maintain the correct temp. Other people have success leaving it on top of their refrigerator, wrapping it with a heating pad, etc. Get creative!

If the temperature is too hot, it will kill the bacteria you need to make the yogurt. If it is not warm enough, the process will go too slowly. If you remove the yogurt at 5 hours, it will not be too tart. The longer it sits, the more tart it will become.

If your yogurt is too thick, you can just whisk in some milk to thin.

I tried adding vanilla extract to one batch. It was OK, just different than store-bought. I mostly stick to plain.

June 10, 2013

French Toast Casserole

 We love French Toast - Andy makes the best French Toast, and his secret ingredient is Semifreddis Cinnamon Swirl bread (Semifreddis is a Bay Area bakery, but TJ's carries it in some locations). I never though anything could top Andy's French Toast, until my Mom found this amazing recipe for French Toast casserole. She made it for mother's day brunch, and it was sooo delicious. I have since made it myself, and it is ridiculously easy to make. I did it half asleep the night before at 10pm. It took all of 5 minutes. The casserole soaks overnight, resulting in delicious a french toast / bread pudding hybrid. Yum.

What's in it
1 loaf Semifreddis Cinnamon Swirl Bread
6 eggs
3 C milk (or almond milk)
cinnamon

How it's made
Spray a 9x11" baking pan. Cut loaf of bread into 1" cubes and put in pan. Whisk eggs, milk and cinnamon in a bowl, and pour over bread. I smushed everything down with a spatula after, to fill in the gaps. Cover and put in fridge to soak overnight. The next morning bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with warm syrup, fruit and powdered sugar.

Quick Corn

It must be corn season, seeing we've been eating corn on the cob almost every night, and Alexis' delicious post on Mexican corn. Now that we have an infant, and try to get dinner on the table in a half hour, we've learned some new tricks. Here's a great go-to for weeknight dinners. Super quick and no-mess.

What's in it
2 ears of corn on the cob

How it's made
Grab 2 ears of corn, and do not husk them. Stick them in the microwave on high for 8 minutes.* Take them out with an oven mitt and let cool a few minutes. Take a sharp chef's knife and cut the bottom of the corn off, 1 inch from the stalk. Grab the corn from the top (where the corn silk is) and shake the corn out. Husk and silk come clean off with no mess.

*If you want to just do one corn, microwave for 4 minutes.

If my written directions are not clear, you can see this video. Actually you should watch this video anyways because this man is so sweet.

May 12, 2013

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn

Usually, on the side of the street in Mexico City, there is a man or a woman grilling ears of corn over hot coals. The elote's sweet, roasty aroma wafts across plazas, tempting you to buy one even when you aren't quite hungry. Should you indulge in this cheap and tasty treat, the proprietor will offer to slather your corn with crema or mayo, roll it in salty crumbled cotija cheese, dust it with spicy chile powder, and drizzle it with lime--or whatever particular combination appeals to you.

Indulge in this treat. Trust me.

Not just once, but almost every time you have the chance. This type of corn is a Mexico City tradition, and you just are not living life to the fullest if you pass it up. This is a little difficult, because there are so many delectable food traditions like this in Mexico City--if you aren't careful you will end up neglecting the myriad other joys of one of the best cities on Earth.

If you are not going to be in Mexico City any time soon (it has sadly been 12 years since I lived there and at least 10 since my last visit), this recipe will help tide you over. Now, this is not exactly a traditional Mexican recipe--it came from Cook's Illustrated. It adds a lovely garlicky dimension,  uses Pecorino Romano and cilantro. Yet somehow it captures the essence of Mexican grilled corn while becoming something completely new and undeniably delicious.

Like a fading memory or a feeling of nostalgia, this recipe manages to make the street food of Mexico City taste better than ever.

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn
  • 1/4 cup regular or light mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt (regular or non-fat)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons like juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus more for grill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 large ears of corn, husks and silk removed
  1. Start your grill and heat until hot. Scrape grill clean. Dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil. Holding wad with tongs, oil the grate.
  2. While grill is heating, combine mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt, cilantro, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, lime juice, and cheese in a bowl. Set aside. 
  3. In another bowl, mix vegetable oil, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Add corn and toss until evenly coated OR brush oil mixture evenly onto corn.
  4. Grill corn over coals, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides--7 to 12 minutes. Removed from grill and place in a bowl with mayonnaise mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Alternatively, spread mayonnaise mixture on individual ears with a knife. Serve immediately.

May 7, 2013

Snickerdoodles

Junior High Home Ec. Classroom, circa 1996: Crisco and white flour abound. Crackly sugar cookies topped with cinnamon come fresh out of the oven. Not being familiar with this type of cooking (my mom hated Crisco and favored whole wheat flour), I am enamored with these simple and charming cookies. Maybe because I am twelve and can make them independently. Maybe precisely because they are so different from my mother's cookies and I can call them my own.

Fast forward a few years and the novelty of the snickerdoodle has worn off. Why would I want a plain ol' sugar cookie like that when I could have so much more, like chocolate chip, oatmeal and pecans? I just can't get behind such a boring cookie.

Skip to the next chapter of my life, and my husband loves--wait for it-- snickerdoodles. I recently made a batch for him, and while they're still not my favorite, I will say that they have a certain appeal. They are buttery, sweet, crunchy around the edges, and chewy in the middle. And cinnamon sugar is a combination that will always work for me. As classic as Home Ec.

Snickerdoodles
(Print Recipe)

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon and remaining sugar. Shape dough into about 20 golf ball sized spheres. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar. Space cookies 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden--12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

April 8, 2013

Taco Pie

I'm in love with casseroles right now, and all comfort food in general (see my recent Chili Mac post). I clipped this recipe from Bon Appetit, from their weeknight cooking section. My favorite casserole in the world is Hamburger Pie, my Mom has made it for me for as long as I remember, and this Taco Pie recipe is a 'Mexican' nod to Hamburger Pie. The recipe is so flexible, you can substitute ingredients to what you have on hand, or what you feel like eating. Plus it is super easy to make, and so very delicious. I was sad when I ate the last plate of leftovers today. Try it, you'll love it.

What's in it*
3 Tbl vegetable oil
10 corn tortillas, halved
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 2 Tbl taco seasoning, or cayenne and chili powder, etc
3/4 to 1 pound ground turkey or pork
14.5oz can chopped tomatoes
2 4oz cans chopped fire roasted green chile
1 C frozen or canned corn
1 2oz can sliced olives
1 - 2 C grated cheese (mozzarella, jack and cheddar)

How it's made
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet (preferably cast-iron), and cook tortillas on each side until golden (work in batches).

Meanwhile, in a separate cast iron skillet, heat oil and saute onions until soft, a few minutes. Stir in garlic and spices. Add ground meat and a pinch of salt, and cook until meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Break up meat as you go. Drain off fat. Stir in tomatoes, chile, corn and olives. Bring to a simmer and cook until water is mostly evaporated (it helps to drain the can tomatoes if very watery).

In a casserole or pie dish (I used two dishes since I had so much filling), layer - half of tortillas, meat/veggie filling, cheese - repeat once more. Bake until cheese melts, about 10 minutes.

*feel free to experiment with ingredients and seasoning. Especially if you like spicy, add a few dashes of tapatio, or add chopped bell peppers, black beans.

March 29, 2013

Slow Cooker Chili Mac

Now that I have a very small human in my life, I am once again re-discovering the joys of the slow cooker. My son is so mellow in the morning, so preparing dinner in the morning is best, so it is ready in the evening, when he may not be as mellow. I have this great book 'Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two' and it really does have some great ideas in it. Here's a recipe for Chili Mac, which I have never made in my life, nor eaten except freeze dried while backpacking. For some reason it sounded delicious to me, and it was! This is a super simple recipe, and easy ingredients to prepare.

What's in it
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb ground dark turkey
2 cans 14.5oz diced tomatoes, drained (can use fire-roasted)
1 Tbl chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb macaroni, parcooked (can use whole grain pasta)
1 can corn, drained
2oz can sliced black olives, drained
2 C grated sharp cheddar cheese

How it's made
In a skillet (cast iron if you have it) saute the onions in olive oil until soft, then add ground turkey, stirring and breaking into pieces, until cooked through. Drain and add to slow cooker. Add tomatoes and spices to slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cook on low for 4 hours.

Meanwhile, cook and drain your pasta.

After 4 hours add remaining ingredients to slow cooker except for cheese, and stir to combine. Cook on low for another hour or so.

Serve in bowls topped with cheese. Enjoy!

March 16, 2013

GF Fudge Chip Cookies

In exchange for picking me up from the airport, I offered to bake a friend some cookies. Any cookies, take your pick. Chocolate chip? Peanut butter? Really, anything you like.

"Great," he said, "Doesn't matter, as long as they're gluten free."

Me, on the outside: "Oh, cool! I've never made anything gluten free before. It will be a challenge!" (On the inside: "Oh shit. I don't have any of the crazy ingredients you need to for gluten free baking. This is going to be a much more difficult and expensive project than I anticipated.)

Next step: Message Libby, my undisputed queen of gluten free baking. What should I do?! I don't know anything about baking without gluten. Help!

Libby immediately sends me a well-researched reply with some easy alternatives. Yes! I knew Libby would come through. Super easy and quick cookies--perfect!

These cookies are wonderful because instead of having to purchase wheat flour substitutes and other ingredients that I am not likely to use often, they just omit the flour entirely. They are quick, easy, sweet, crispy-chewy, and extraordinarily chocolatey. Next time I'll mix in walnuts, too, so that the bitter nuttiness can balance the sweetness for an even more complex gluten free cookie experience.

GF Fudge Chip Cookies
~Print Recipe~

  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process preferred
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Chopped walnuts, to taste 

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment/Silpats.
  2. Stir together ingredients through the vanilla, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, until smooth. Add chocolate chips and walnuts, if using, and stir until incorporated. The mixture will look quite runny.
  3. Drop batter onto the prepared baking sheets in 1 1/2" circles--use a cookie scoop if you have one.

  4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes; they should spread, become shiny, and develop crackly tops. 
  5. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the pans set on cooling racks.

January 29, 2013

Amber's Lasagna

It amazes me we do not yet have a recipe for lasagna on RFL yet! I've been making it often recently, and I think I am moving towards perfecting a recipe. That's the trouble with lasagna, is that there is so many different ways to make it, that it is hard to put it all down in one recipe. Here is a method I have cobbled together from a few different recipes, and it seems to be consistently yummy. The real secret to delicious lasagna is the sauce, so that is what you will be spending most of your time making in this recipe.

What's in it
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
1 bunch chopped fresh basil (divided)
oregano and other preferred italian spices
1 onion, chopped
several cloves garlic, minced (divided)
1 can marinara sauce (28 oz) or a couple jars of your favorite pasta sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 pound uncooked italian sausage, removed from casing and chopped (can choose sweet, hot or cheesy herb, etc)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
lots of fresh spinach (at least one bag, if you are buying bagged, and don't forget to wash!)
2 blocks grated havarti cheese (or a mixture of havarti and mozzarella)
1 cup fresh grated parmesean cheese
optional: 1-2 cups cottage cheese

How it's made
Start by making the sauce. In a dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil and saute the onion, garlic (reserve some garlic for later) and sausage, until sausage is browned and onions are translucent, season with salt. Then add half the chopped basil and other italian seasonings you have on hand (oregano, thyme, chili flakes, etc). Saute until basil is wilted. Add sauce and tomatoes and bring to simmer. Simmer on low for at least a half hour, to blend the flavors.

Prepare the rest of the ingredients: Combine shredded cheeses in a bowl. Saute garlic in olive oil in a skillet. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until water is evaporated from them, and they are mostly cooked (do not over cook). Add spinach and saute until spinach is wilted.

Once all ingredients are prepared, set up assembly line of noodles, sauce, mushroom/spinach, cheese, chopped basil. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees, and pull out your large lasagna casserole dish. Spread small amount of sauce on bottom of pan, then layer noodles, sauce, mushroom/spinach, cheese and basil. You will be able to make three layers, but be sure to reserve sauce and cheese for very top (4th layer). It helps to apply even pressure to noodles once you lay them down, to compress all ingredients together, just try not to crack the noodles. Your top layer should just be sauce, and have some cheese set aside to sprinkle on top, later. Cover pan with foil (tight) and bake for at least a half hour, until bubbly. Remove foil, sprinkle cheese on top, and bake for another 10 minutes or so until cheese is melted and browned a bit. Remove from oven and let sand at least 20 minutes before serving.

The beauty of lasagna is you can add or subtract ingredients as you desire. You can add bell peppers or other veggies into the mushroom/spinach mixture. Or change up the cheese options. You can layer in sliced hard boiled eggs, as well. For a little more heat, use hot italian sausage and add more chili flakes to sauce. If you don't want to use sausage you can use ground beef. You can also make a huge batch of sauce and use more later for pasta or stuffed shells. Or freeze for next time.

January 26, 2013

Banana Crumb Muffins

These muffins are a delicious treat in the morning with your tea or coffee :) The crumble top is the key!

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 bananas mashed (brown bananas are the best)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup backed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp cinammon

Crumble:
2 Tbs. flour
1/8 tsp cinammon
1 Tbs. butter

Preheat oven at 375' F
Grease or use muffin cups for a dozen muffins
Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a seperate bowl, whisk together bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter.  Whisk this into the flour mixture and pour into muffin cups.

For the crumble in a seperate small bowl, use two knives or pastry cutter to cut butter into flour and cinnammon.  (The more solid the butter the easier this is).  Sprinkle on top of each muffin.  Bake in oven for 18-20 min. 

Broccoli Chicken Casserole

This is our Dad's special casserole that we grew up with.  Great way to get kids to eat their greens!

2 cans condensed mushroom or chicken condensed soup (one of each is also a good option)
1 Tbs. cumin
very generous amount of cheddar cheese, shredded (the more the better)
2 small heads of brocoli (and stem), chopped
2 chicken breasts cooked or boiled and chopped into bite size pieces
soda crackers

Preheat oven to 375' F
In a large bowl mix soup cans with cumin, cheddar cheese, and chicken.

Spray caserolle dish with cooking spray and layer brocoli with chicken mix. Add any extra cheese on top then put crushed soda crackers on top to keep cheese from burning.

Cook for 45 minutes.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is a really easy and delicious recipe! It can either be slow cooked if you want to make it in the morning or on the stove for a fast dinner and is good served with tortillas. Enjoy! :)

1 onion chopped
3 garlic, minced
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. chili powder (cayenne powder can also be used for more spice)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 can (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
10.5 oz. of condensed chicken broth (extra water can also replace this)
1 1/4 cups water
1 can of corn or 1 cup of frozen corn
1 cup white hominy
green chile peppers
1 can black beans rinsed and drained (garbanzo beans are also good to add)
chicken cooked and cut
chopped green onions
crushed tortilla chips
sliced avocado
shredded monterey jack cheese


Heat oil over medium heat in a pot and saute onion and garlic until soft.  Stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth, and water.  Bring to a boil, simmer for 5-10 min.

Stir in remaining ingredients (except leave crushed tortilla chips, sliced avocado, and cheese for serving on top of soup). 

January 3, 2013

Chicken Vindaloo

I don't spend a lot of time planning my last meal, but when I started thinking about how exactly to describe this chicken vindaloo recipe, I started thinking about Ajanta's chicken vindaloo. Ajanta has the best Indian food in the Bay Area. That's my opinion, but not just my opinion. It has been so designated by Zagat and SF Baylist for a few years, though I'm lucky enough to have known about Ajanta for at least a decade.

I once traveled to India mostly to experience a country where I could find this incredible food everywhere. I probably should have known that not every restaurant in India would be Ajanta-calibre. Disappointingly, I found nothing that could compare. So even after five weeks in India, Ajanta has the best Indian food I've ever eaten. 

Next I bought the Ajanta cookbook, hoping to get their vindaloo recipe. No dice.

I may never be able to make vindaloo like the chefs at Ajanta, but if I had to pick a recipe that could approximate the experience, I would feel comfortable leaving it to Cook's Illustrated. I expected that something as complexly flavorful as vindaloo would be really hard to make, but it is surprisingly simple. And, it's a one pot recipe which is always a bonus. (Especially if you are doing the dishes--and I am.)
This particular vindaloo recipe was inspired by Savory, a new spice shop in my neighborhood. They had a great curry selection, including a vindaloo spice blend that made this recipe super simple!

The more I thought about vindaloo, the clearer it became. Since I love food it would definitely be a very tough decision, but if it came down to it, I think my last meal would be chicken vindaloo. It's just that good.

Chicken Vindaloo
~Print Recipe~

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper*
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  •  1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves, divided
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower- middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Season meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high until shimmering. Add meat, keeping pieces close together but not touching. Cook, not moving pieces until the side in contact with the pot are well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until most sides are well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer meat to a medium bowl.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining tablespoon oil to empty Dutch oven, and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. After onions have softened, about 5 minutes, stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and spices or spice blend. Stir until onion are evenly coated and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Gradually add broth, scraping pan bottom and edges with wooden spoon to loosen remaining browned bits and dissolve flour. Add tomatoes, vinegar, mustard seeds, bay leaves, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Add browned chicken and accumulated juices, submerging meat under liquid. Return to simmer, cover and place in oven. Cook for 2 hours.
  4. Remove pot from oven. If serving immediately, spoon off any accumulated fat at surface. Remove bay leaves, stir in some cilantro. Adjust seasonings. Serve immediately with a garnish of cilantro leaves.