Month: January 2010

Have You Got 10 Min?

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Somehow I ended up at the mall the other night and was walking through Barnes and Noble where I saw all these tables with reduced priced items.  Most of it was Christmas items marked down to $2 but there was a table for 2010 tear-off-daily calendars (is there a name for that?).  There was one last Joy of Cooking calendar and I just had to get it. 

On the back of the calendar box it had a preview of some of the calendar pages and one was a recipe for Fettucini Alfredo.  I needed an easy and quick lunch the next day and it looked easy enough. 

All it took was the time for the pasta to cook.  While the pasta cooked, I made the sauce and once the pasta was done, the sauce was ready to mix in.  If you’ve got 10 min, you’ve got time to for a home-made meal. 

Fettucini Alfredo (from Joy of Cooking)

1 lb fettucini or tagliatelle pasta

1 stick of butter

1 cup (1/2 pint) whipping cream

1 cup (40z) parmasean cheese, shredded

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring water to boil with a generous amount of salt.  Once the water has boiled, add in the pasta and stir.  Cook for about 10-13 min, till el dente. 

While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet melt the butter.  Add the whipping cream and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix and cook till combine.  Turn off heat. 

Once the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander. Add pasta to the sauce in the skillet and mix.  Viola done!

This dish goes a long way so your normal serving size might need to be reduced.  You can also add grilled chicken if you’d like. 

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I realized I hadn’t had a juice box in ages and I just had to pick up a pack when I was grocery shopping.  The ingredients are pretty decent AND it’s Elmo endorsed.  I was wondering, why does Elmo always talk in third person?

Graham Crackers

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The supermarket is an amazing place once you sit back and think about it.  We merely chunk items into our carts,  rush to the check out line, and barely make it to the next destination on our list.  All these items are nicely packaged for us, hell even pancake batter is in an easy-pour bottle.  We’ve gotten so accustomed to store bought items that it doesn’t cross our minds that these very items would be made in our homes not too long ago. 

And that is why I find this weird satisfaction when I find a recipe for something that is typically now found at the grocery store and pretty much extinct from its production at home.

I was looking for something to make to give to someone who had a flight the next morning and came across a graham cracker recipe which looked easy enough to make and fun to try out. 

 

Graham Crackers (from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey

Whisk together the all-purpose & whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, white sugar, honey and butter for about a 2 min.  Add in the dry ingredients in two additions, fully incorporating the first before adding in the second. 

Once the dough forms, flatten it on to a surface, into a rectangle.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 min.  (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and frozen up to a month)

Turn on the oven to 350 F.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, 1/8 in thick.  Using a knife and ruler measure out 3″ by 3″ squares and transfer to baking sheets with parchment paper.  With a fork, pierce the squares four times in a single row.  Bake for about 15-20 min. 

Rotate the cookies halfway between.  When they are done, transfer them from the oven onto a cooling rack.  Will keep up to a week in an air-tight container…that’s if they stay that long.  

These graham crackers are almost like a shortbread cookie, a little salty and sweet at the same time.  I would reduce the salt amount though next time.  The honey is a great component of this recipe which I don’t think it could do without!  I think I’ll use this recipe next time for the crust of my cheesecake.  Also, I could freeze the dough into logs and just cut out bits from the log whenever I have a sudden craving for graham crackers.

A Small History Lesson

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Back in middle school, we would have fiestas for our Spanish class and we’d each have to bring in a spanish dish.  We use to have theses fiestas quite often because our teacher didn’t have to teach those days and we could pretty much do anything while she spent her time at the computer.  We didn’t bring food each time as often as we had them but I fell in love with a dish I had made once for one of the fiestas and I’ve been making it ever since.  

It has some significance in history, as the dish is called Los Moros y Cristianos meaning The Moors and the Christians.  The black beans in this dish represent the dark-skinned Moors and the white rice represents the light-skinned Christians.  The dish symbolizes the Reconquista which lasted over 800 years in which the Christians overtook the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.  

This dish can be used as a side dish or main course and takes minimal effort.  You can use fresh black beans if you wish but I’ve always used canned.  

Pic taken from my phone, while i was chowing down on some lunch while waiting for the bus

Los Morros y Cristianos (from here

1 cup chopped onion 

1 cup chopped green bell pepper 

2 teaspoons chopped garlic 

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 

1 bay leaf 

1 Tablespoon olive oil 

1 cup rice 

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies 

1 can (15 ounces) black beans or 1-1/2 cups cooked dry-packaged black beans rinsed, drained 

2 cups water 

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar 

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

In a 4 qt pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add in the onions and bell peppers and sauté for about 5 min.  Mix in the garlic, thyme, red pepper, cumin, and bay leaf.  Cook for about another 2 min and add in remaining ingredients, water, rice, beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and vinegar.  After it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid until the rice is cooked and tender, about 20 min.  

Wait 5 min to cool and the dish is ready to serve.  

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The other night I had a after-dinner craving for something…something that wasn’t tooo unhealthy.  I had bought a slice of brie from Whole Foods a few days ago since I wanted to try out a recipe from Antonio’s blog.  He used a whole wheel of brie but I just wanted to try the recipe out before buying so much brie.  

 

Baked Brie (from Antonio) a wheel of brie (I used a sliced)

 3-4 cloves of garlic (I used only one)

 honey

 baguette (I used WF water crackers)

 Preheat oven to 375 F.  Place brie in a ramakin.  On a cutting board, mince your garlic and smash with the side of your knife to make the garlic into a smooth paste.  Add a little salt to help.  Spread the garlic paste over the top of the brie.  Take your honey and pour it over the garlic and brie liberally.  Place in oven and bake for 15-20 min.  Let it cool for about 5 min and spread on top of a baguette slices or crackers. 

 

My brie melted & fell over

Pumpkin Goodness

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I’ve made pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, but I’ve never made pumpkin cookies before.  I’ve heard they’re super amazing so as I was doing some grocery shopping, I picked up a can of some pumpkin purée to find out what I was missing out on.  And sure enough, I was missing out BIG time.  Pumpkin and chocolate is got to be “up there” in my favorite combinations.  They pair wonderfully and it’s nice change to typical chocolate chip cookies (not that there’s anything wrong with them in the first place 🙂 )

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (from here)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola or corn oil

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup chocolate chips, or any chip you like

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  In a bowl, whip together the sugar and the eggs for about a minute.  On low speed, mix in the oil and pumpkin.  Turn the mixer off and stir in all dry ingredients, flour, baking soda & powder, salt, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon.  Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Using a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop, lay mounds of dough evenly spaced on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake them for about 15 min, until tops are firm.  Let them cool down before biting into them!

When I was looking up the recipe for this, all I could find was cake-like cookies which I’m not a fan of at all.  I couldn’t find anything different so I went ahead and tried this recipe and it turned out perfectly! 

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I had a half a gallon of whole milk that was close to expiring and I knew I wouldn’t finish it in time.  Have no fear, yogurt is here! 

Yogurt is an easy and useful way to use up whole milk that is about to go bad.  We eat and cook with a lot of yogurt at home so any extra is sure to be used up.  During the summer I would mix fresh berries into homemade yogurt for a light cool snack. 

Homemade Yogurt

half a gallon to a gallon of whole milk

pinch of salt

pinch of sugar

1.5-2 tbs of store-bought yogurt

In a pot large enough to hold the milk, heat the milk on low till the milk starts to boil.  Take off heat and let it cool down till lukewarm.  Heat up the oven to around 250F for 3-4 min and turn it off.  Put in the sugar, salt, and store yogurt.  With an immersion blender, blend all ingredients together.   Pour into a container that won’t melt and will easily keep in the fridge.  Cover with foil and leave in the oven overnight. In the morning, place it in the fridge to cool before eating.

Devil’s Food

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Layered cakes, I feel like, are a handful.  And it’s so sad when they don’t turn out right.  That’s why I usually make them on special occasions.  Two out of the three layered cakes I’ve made are from Dorie Greenspans book.  Not the biggest fan of her cake recipes but it might be due to my own baking faults. 

I made the Devil’s Food White-Out cake a week ago for my sister’s 4th wedding anniversary using Dorie’s book.  The recipe said to add boiling water to the mixture and then chocolate chips.  The choco chips made the cake stick to the bottom of the baking pan and made the cake layer crumble to pieces.  Also, instead of 4 layers, I only ended up with two because the layers didn’t rise enough to split in half.  Alilnibble thought that it was because I was using dutch processed which needs more baking soda and powder so I’ll have to watch out for that next time. 

The frosting was not your typical frosting.  It was a light and airy marshmallow type frosting.  It was a little too sweet for my taste but it was a nice balance to the rich dark chocolate cake. 

Devil’s Food White-Out Cake (from Dorie Greenspan)

For the cake

1 1/2 c AP flour

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 sticks (10 tbs) butter, room temp

1/2 c brown sugar, packed

1/2 c white sugar

3 large eggs, at room temp

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted & cooled

1/2 c buttermilk or whole milk, room temp

1/2 c boiling water

4 oz semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped or 2/3 c chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter and dust with flour two cake pans.  Line bottoms with wax or parchment paper (Ops i didnt do this…)

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda & powder, and salt.  In another bowl, beat the butter till creamy.  Add in the sugars and beat for 3 min.  Add eggs one by one, beating for 1 min after each addition.  The mixture might look curdled but its okay!  Mix in the melted chocolate.  Add the dry ingredients in alteration with the buttermilk (or whole milk), adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and milk in 2 (begin and end with dry ingredients).  Mix until incorporated. 

Add in the boiling water and stir in chocolate chips.  Divide the batter into the two cake pans evenly and bake for 25-30 min or until cake springs back at touch.  Unmold the cakes after 5 min, cooling them right side up.  After the layers have cooled, inspect the cakes to see if they’ve crowned while baking.  Even the tops off with a serrated knife.  Slice the two layers in half, resulting in four layers.  Crumble the last layer. 

For the icing

1/2 c egg whites (about 4 large eggs)

1 c sugar

3/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 c water

1 tbs vanilla extract

Place the egg whites in a clean bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, cream of tartar, and water.  Bring to boil and once the mixture (syrupe) has come to 235 F, start beating the egg whites.  If the egg whites get close to the firm peak stage before the syrup reaches 242, reduce the mixer speed.  Once the syrup is at 242, with the mixed still mixing, add in the syrup carefully.  Add in vanilla and keep beating for about 5 min, until it reaches room temperature.  At this point the frosting should be done and should be smooth and shiny. 

To assemble the cake, lay the bottom layer cut side up on a cake cardboard round or on a cake plate with strips of wax and parchment paper to keep the cake from slipping around.  Using a spatula, generously spread the frosting on the bottom layer.  Top with second layer, cut side up.  Frost it and add top layer with cut side down.  Finish frosting the cake, it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.  Cover entire cake with the crumbled cake crumbs.  Refrigerate cake 1 hr before serving.

Turkey Day Delayed

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I’ve been putting this post off for far too long.  It’s been over a month.  Being constantly in and out of town and family coming and going has taken up mucho time.  

My family never really did anything for thanksgiving and I can’t remember what we always did on Thanksgiving, as everything is closed with nowhere to go and everyone is off from school and work.  

Last year I wanted to do a dinner to save myself from boredom but I knew I couldn’t pull of such a big dinner myself.  I decided to ask two of my friends if they wanted to co-host which they agreed to.  We didn’t think we could pull it off, but it was the best dinner party I’ve had.  From the cooking to eating scrumptious food with great company.  

Which led us to do another turkey dinner this thanksgiving but with quite a lot more people.  It took us a while to figure out how to squeeze everyone into my dining area.  Here is the menu that we had: 

2 Turkeys 

Cranberry Sauce 

Butternut Squash 

Maple Yams 

Homemade Stuffing 

Gravy 

CPK Waldorf Salad with a choice of Blue Cheese Dressing and Balsamic Dressing 

Mac and Cheese 

Green Bean  Casserole 

Mashed Potatoes 

Rolls 

Dessert-we left this up to the guest this year 

We split up the dishes and helped each other with pre-prep along the way.  The recipes for the dishes that I was in charge for are below: 

Turkey 

1 turkey (mine was ~13lbs) 

1/4 cup coarse sea salt 

1 tsp fresh black pepper 

pads of butter 

mix of herbs, rosemary, thyme, sage 

olive oil 

Make sure to defrost your turkey properly before it needs to be cooked.  You can look up the times according to how much your bird weights.  The night before your dinner, open up the bag your turkey has been in.  Drain out all the water and take out the gizzards.  In a cup combine the salt and pepper.  Add some herbs if you like.  Rub the salt mixture alllll over the bird, inside and out.  Cover up the bird and put it back in the fridge.  Let the bird brine for as many hours as it weighs.  Mine was 13lbs so I brined my bird for 13 hrs.  Rinse off the salt mixture, in and out and pat dry.  

Melt some butter, mixed with herbs, and cut up some pats of butter.  Insert the pats of butter under the skin of the turkey in various places, breast, legs, etc and smush it around from the outside. Spread the melted butter on the outside of the turkey skin.  Place the turkey breast side down (since there won’t be any stuffing placed in the cavity) on a rack that can fit in a roasting pan. 

Tie up the legs together and wings together so they don’t stick out and burn during cooking.  Cover the roasting pan with foil and bake in the oven for 1.5 hrs at 350 F.  Afterwards, bake for at least another hour uncovered, basting the turkey frequently, about every 15 min, with either melted butter, olive oil, or turkey drippings.  Once the red insert pops out, the turkey is done and is taken out of the oven.  

Let the turkey rest for about 15 min before cutting up the turkey.  Save the turkey drippings to make gravy later on.  Here is a really good video to learn how to successfully Carve a Turkey.  

Cranberry Sauce 

1 cup water 

1 cup sugar 

1-12 oz package of cranberries 

juice of 1 orange 

spices such as cinnamon, all-spice, nutmeg 

In a sauce pan, mix together the sugar and water and heat till boil.  Add the cranberries and cook for additional 10 or so minutes, until the cranberries start too pop open.  You can add the various spices at this point as well as the orange juice.  The orange juice helps cut the tartness of the cranberries so add as much as desired.  

Once everything comes together, remove from heat and either you can cool it in the refrigerator or serve it warm.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  

Butternut squash (by here

2 lbs butternut squash, peeled & chopped bite sized 

juice & zest of 1/2 lemon 

3 tbs honey 

Lay out the squash on a lined baking sheet evenly.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Bake at 400 F for about 45 min.  Stir the squash occasionally so they don’t brown on one side. 

In a bowl, whisk together honey, lemon juice and zest.  Adjust taste.  Take out the squash from the oven after 45 min and drizzle evenly with this mixture.  Bake for another 20 min.  Serve with a little zest grated on top.  

Note:  If your going to make this, make sure you get the squash pre-peeled & chopped.  Takes way too long to do it at home.  Also, this was one of my least favorite dish that we had & I don’t think I’ll be making it again.  It was nice to have one tester dish on the menu though.  

Yams (from here

4 tbs butter + more to butter dish 

4 medium yams/sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped bite sized 

1/2 c brown sugar 

3 tbs maple syrup 

nutmeg, freshly grated to taste 

Preheat oven to 375 and butter a 9 by 13″ baking dish. Lay out the yams in an even layer in the dish. 

 In a sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add in the sugar, syrup and nutmeg.  Pour the sauce over the yams evenly.  Cover dish with foil and bake in oven for about 45 min or until tender.  

I ended up making two batches because we kept eating them while cooking and didn’t have enough for our guests 😛

 

Homemade Stuffing (from here)

1 loaf of day old french bread

2 cups onion, chopped

2 cups celery, chopped

6 tbsp butter

1 green apple, peeled, cored, & chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1-2 cups chicken stock

1 tsp poultry seasoning/sage

salt & pepper to taste

If you have fresh French bread, carefully cube the bread with a serrated knife into bite size pieces.  Lay them out evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 7-10 min at 350 in the oven so they are dried. 

In a large saute pan, melt 3 tbs of butter and add in bread cubes.  Stir till toasted.  In another saute pan, melt the remaining 3 tbs of butter and cook the onions and celery till translucent.  Add bread, apple, and parsley.  Stir in the stock and add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.  Cover and turn onto low.  Cook for an hour and check every ten min to add stock/water as needed. 

This stuffing turned out okay this time around but it was a lot better last year.  I might try another one out next year.

everything on the serving table

 

 

Candle lit dining area

 

 

Close-up of flower arrangements

 

Dessert Table