Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I'm still alive

I know what you're going to say.  Or rather, I know how I've been scolding myself with in my head.  I've been bad. I left you. Willingly.  Knowingly.  And then I breathed a huge sigh.

It's just that my plate has been feeling a little crowded lately and I was trying really hard to keep it all balanced.  But then it toppled.  And instead of picking things up right away to start balancing again like a good girl, I let them all exactly where they lay and I ran away for a little while.

In case you are wondering, they are all still laying exactly where they fell.  I won't lie.  It might be quite a few days before I pick them up again.  I will pick them up again but for now I'm still living happily in my hiatus for the holiday season.  Besides, do you really need another Christmas sugar cookie recipe?

I did just make some peppermint fudge.  It is indeed fantastic.

Anyways, to prove that I am alive and doing some real, actual things (and not just watching Everybody loves Raymond reruns...) here's a quick update:

I turned 25! The days leading up to it totally scared me, but now I'm realizing I'm pretty much owning 25. I mean, I look pretty good in the light of my flaming birthday pie. Which by the way was triple chocolate pumpkin pie.  And it was exactly as intense as it sounds.

I tried several of new recipes from both new and old magazines.  I did it without taking a single picture.  I almost forgot how easy it was to cook when I was rushing trying to not burn the nuts and still get a half decent picture in the fast fading light. The newest recipe I tried?  Apple stuffed strata from Cooking Light's December 2012 issue. In case you weren't sure, no, I did not take the fabulous picture below.  But yes, it was as tasty as it looks!

I did take pictures of the new stuffing recipe that I tried out for Thanksgiving.  But, in keeping with the now one year old tradition, I will post it next year at this time.  Besides, you don't want stuffing right now when there are cookies to eat.

And did I mention the peppermint fudge??  Seriously, super easy.  It goes something like this: Buy some marshmallow fluff.  Follow the instructions on the jar.  Up until it calls for vanilla extract.  Now, use peppermint extract instead. Then top it with crushed candy canes. And do you best to refrain from eating half of the pan yourself. We've got a lot more calories go this holiday season...

In conclusion. I'm still alive. I'll be back. And hey, look at that, I even included a recipe.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spicy Maple Acorn Squash

I have pretty low level of patience.  The other day I was facilitating a customer audit.  The customer representative kept pronouncing “metrics” as “matrix”.   It took a mass amount of self-willpower to not correct him.  It drove me nuts.  Unfortunately, we had to discuss several metrics through the day and by the end of it all, my will power was wearing thin.  Again, me and patience aren't really a pair.  

That’s only one example of my less than saintly patience.  Ben could tell you many, many more, including my ability to wait patiently for a surprise birthday gift.  I go nuts.  I beg.  I badger.  I may even nag.   Accordingly, Ben’s patience is continually tested and tried true.

So the night I made this acorn squash, tried it and didn't immediately love it, I therefore also immediately wrote them off.  My thinking was somewhere along the lines of something that used that much of my precious pure maple syrup had better be amazing its first time at bat.   Straight from the oven, this was not.  Tasty, fine, just not jaw dropping.  

But then came the leftovers.  I must admit that I, the queen of not wasting food, almost tossed these.  It was a lot of squash to tackle solo, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  So they came to work with me the next day.  And they were some much better!  The spiced had mellowed out a little bit and mingled much more with the maple.  It jived, it worked.  So, if you're not yet tired of squash and you're ok gambling with your pure maple syrup, give this a go.

Spicy Maple Acorn Squash

1 large acorn squash
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. Sriracha

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Coat lightly in oilive oil.

Slice acorn squash in half and using a large spoon, scrape and remove seeds from squash.  Slice into half moons about 1/2 thick.  Season with salt and pepper

Lay squash sliced side down on prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and flip slices, return to oven and continue to roast another 15 minute.  Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients and toss with squash slices until well coated.  Return to oven and roast until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes more.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Maxine's Turkey Dressing

I'm going to have to ask for your forgiveness here for two reasons. But then hopefully I can give you a recipe that should more than make up for my blogging transgressions.

The first thing I need forgiveness for is these photos.  They are not appetizing.  The reason behind this is also two-fold.  Stuffing/Dressing, very much like chocolate dough, is not an appetizing thing to photograph, at least not for an mature photographer like myself.  It either ends like it came out of the back end of a donkey or the front end of a dog.  In other words, not pretty.  Secondly, these pictures were taken with my good, old, trust Sony Cybershot, which has since given up it's life.  (It will always be loved, never forgotten).  Good little camera, but luckily I do have better now.  And this leads me to the second reason I am apologizing.

This recipe is just short of a year old.  Eek.  I'm sorry, I really am.  But really, who wants a dressing recipe after Thanksgiving?  Especially one that involves giblets...  If it makes you feel any better, it's been driving me nuts that I haven't been able to share this with you for almost a year.  But, finally, the magically, wonderful time that is known as Thanksgiving is here.  And here is the dressing that you should make.  And should you feel the need to thank me afterwards, well, I won't turn it down.

It has been a year since I've tasted this dish, but I do remember some things.  To start out with, it is delicious.  I am not a fan of Stove Top, and if you aren't either, than this is the dressing for you.  Also, this will take some time, not much, but enough to stress you if you're reading the recipe for the first time on Thanksgiving day.  Read the recipe once or twice before the grand day; it will help a lot.  Then just make sure you budget your time as needed.  Last thing, it is totally ok to be afraid of giblets.  I was and I'm pretty sure I still am.  Hopefully, you have a wonderful mother like mine to walk you through handling them and tell you not to freak out because they look funny and you have to stick you hand up a bird's yoohoo to get them.  And hopefully that wonderful mother makes you do it too, because that's a girl-turned-woman kind of moment right there.

Don't wuss out.  Stick your hand up the bird and grab the damn giblets.

(That is by far my favorite sentence ever on this blog).

This has been pasted in the BGCB since last November.  It is tried, it is true, and if you still need a dressing for your table this Thursday, well, this is it.  Enjoy!  And good luck with the giblets.


Maxine's Turkey Dressing
From BA November 2011 issue

I normally type each recipe, especially the directions, in my own words, to show you how I interrupted them, what I did, etc.  Since it's been about a year since I've made it, I don't really remember any of the specifics.  Therefore, below is Bon Appetit's recipe, word for word, from their website.  The link is below the title.  Therefore, all credit goes to them.

1 bag turkey giblets
1 turkey neck
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped, divided
1/2 cup celery leaves
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/3 cup leaves
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, plus more
1 pound breakfast sausage, casing removed
1 12-oz. bag Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine giblets (reserve liver), neck, 1 chopped celery stalk, celery leaves, parsley sprigs, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Add 6 cups of water; bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer for 30 minutes. Add liver; simmer until broth measures 4 cups, about 30 minutes longer. Strain; reserve broth. Pick meat from neck and chop giblets; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 2-qt. baking dish. Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Chop parsley leaves and remaining celery in a processor. Add neck meat, giblets, and sausage; pulse just to combine. Transfer to a large bowl; add stuffing mix. Add turkey broth by 1/2 cupfuls, mixing until moist but not wet. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to prepared baking dish.

Cover dish with foil. Bake until heated through, about 40 mintues. Uncover dot with butter and bake until browned, about 20 minutes longer.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Honey and Spice Apple Chips

There is a question that has been bothering me for awhile.  It has to do with what we are doing right now.  More importantly, it has to do with what you want from me.  In the beginning, it was easy enough to go on for awhile about the true terribleness of my photographs, regale with stories of lonesome Saturday nights and backyard barbecues and more than likely bore you in general with occasional work stories and complaints about the weather.

But now, 9 times out of 10, I have no idea what to say to you.  I sit and stare at an empty blogger page.  Do you want a witty anecdote?  My step-by-step reaction to the recipe?  Are you even out there at all, to care about what I put down here? Or am I that crazy woman, yelling at a wall?

This is deep for apple chips, I know, I'm sorry.  The truth is, I have no anecdote for apple chips, no recipe reactions.  I am a big fan of apple chips and was intrigued that I could make them and they would be prettier than store bought.  And that is the basic, boring and strange  reason I choose this recipe, because the result would be pretty.  It would end not in broken pieces in a cloud of cinnamon dust, but  in whole, gorgeous slices of applies with stars in the middle.  Because I needed some pretty stars in my life.  Who doesn't?

Lucky for me, the pretty stars lead to a yummy snack that didn't even last a whole morning.  The recipe for these beauties is a keeper, even if the rest of my words are not.

Apple Chips

3 apples (I used a honey crisp, a Jona-gold and a Pacific Rose)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (heaping, of course)
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients, except apples.  Set aside.

Thinly slice apples.  I used a mandolin, which is best for me because it gives super thin, constant slices.  Pop out seeds and hard pieces of core as necessary.  Place in very large bowl and toss with lemon/honey/spice mixture.  The larger the bowl, the easier it will be to toss apple slices.  If necessary, hand rub mixture onto slices, so everything is evenly coated.

Line coated apple slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheets.  Bake in a 225 degree oven for 2 hours, flipping slices over after the first hour of baking.  Chips should be dry and crisp as they come out of the oven.  Let cool and if you don't eat them all right away, store in an airtight container!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Roasted Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries

Work is kicking my ass.  And from what I've been told, it's not going to let up until the new year.  Part of it is my fault.  I signed up for a lot.  I could try to defend my decision to help out and stretch myself thin, but I have tried.  I just sound whiny.  I'd rather not sound whiny.  Let's just say, work is kicking my ass and I'm having trouble finding the bright spot on the horizon.

So life after work, what very little life I do have after work, has been subdivided into mini-sized goals.  Make new food, but make it fast, easy and simple.  Don't let home become a mess and laundry back up, because that's a hole I don't have a weekend to spend digging out of it.  Enjoy what is left of fall, because (and it pains me so to say this, but...) one day soon I'm going to blink and there will be snow outside.  Snow.  Do you see what we are up against here people?  It's daunting and we need solutions.

Luckily, I found at least one solution to my mid-November stress out.  Acorn squash that has been roasted with walnuts, cranberries, brown sugar and just the cutest little pat of butter.  In that one sentence, I not only described what I would consider to be a legitimate and delicious weeknight dinner, but the dinner that's going to save you from forgetting the wonders of fall.  It's quick, has five ingredients and takes minutes to throw together.  While it's roasting you will have time to start that load of laundry, empty the dishwasher and vacuum the living room.  Plus, your nose will be serenaded with the smells of fall the whole time.  Because squash and brown sugar are basically building blocks of fall.  Plus, it hits all your food groups: squash—vegetable, cranberries—fruit, walnuts—protein, butter—dairy, sugar—sugar!

Sugar is part of the food pyramid, right?  It's at the very top, so that must mean it is the most important.  Right??  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries
Adapted from Let the Baking Begin!

This is absolutely a BGCB member.  I was simply in love with how quick, easy and delicious the recipe turned out.  To be honest, the full recipe (reflected below) is just a tad bit decadent.  Don't get me wrong, I loved it as it was, but for every day use, I would scale back the walnut/cranberry/sugar mixture.

1 acorn squash
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. frozen cranberries
4 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Get out a rimmed baking sheet.  If you are afraid of spillage, line with aluminum foil.

Cut squash in half length wise.  Using a large spoon, scoop out inside "guts" and seeds, discard.  In small bowl, toss walnuts, cranberries and brown sugar.  Divide among squash halves equally.

Using 1 tablespoon of butter for each half, dot walnut/cranberry mixture with butter.  Move squash to baking sheet and tent loosely with foil.  Roast squash 1 hour and 15-20 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the flesh goes in easily.  Remove from oven and enjoy hot!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mocha Latte Biscotti

You would think that by this point in my life, the "holy crap I am almost a quarter century old" point, I would make more sense, at least to myself.  But, alas, it is not to be the case.  I am still a confusing mystery, especially to myself.  Here, let me prove it to you:

I am surprised every  month on the 11th that my cable/internet bill is due.  It just doesn't make sense in my head.  Plus, I believe internet should be free.  (But I think that's probably mostly because I am cheap...)

I like roasted potatoes with salt, lots of pepper and olive oil, but I make them very rarely.  They're easy to make and quick, I usually have potatoes on hands, but I just don't do it.  I don't know why.

I like fall and I love Thanksgiving, but am also terrified because it only leads to December.  I do not like the cold.  And I really hate the snow.

I am more excited to vote in the election this year than I was 4 years ago.  I realize that I am in a very small, very strange minority.  I only voted 4 years ago because my mom sent me an absentee ballot.

I did solve one mystery though, in my 287th month of life. I finally know well enough to not even bother taking pictures of chocolate dough in a log shape.  It's just going to look like a giant turd and no amount of plating, special-spoon-using, or lighting tricks will change that.  That's a start, right?

Mocha Latte Biscotti
Adapted from the GE website.  I know it's strange, roll with it.

So, I actually got this recipe from GE's HealthAhead website.  HealthAhead is the GE program in which they promote healthy eating, exercising, etc., in the hopes that we don't notice it's all for ulterior motives.  I'm not cynical, it's truth.  I am the oh-so-lucky HealthAhead champion for my site.  It is as terrible as it sounds.  But at least it will help explain why there may be increased blogging about HealthAhead recipes...

For a "healthy" recipe (read, super duper small portion sizes), these were good, as long as you ignored the portion sizes comment.  I love my biscotti and had high hopes for these.  It was chocolate plus espresso for crying out loud.  My hopes weren't dashed, just pretty firmly let down.  I mean, they were good, just not these.  (Truth time: Ben and I finished the whole batch in less than 3 days with no complaints.  I just doubt I would ever make them again).

2 c. flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. hot water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 325.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.  Lightly sprinkle with flour.

In large bowl combine all dry ingredients, from flour to salt.

In separate bowl, mix together water and espresso powder until the powder has dissolved completely.  Whisk in vanilla, eggs and egg white.  Slowly add wet ingredients to dry, stirring carefully until dough just comes together.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface.  With floured hands, knead a few times.  Dough will be incredibly sticky.  Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and using your hands, shape dough as best you can into a long long, about 3 inches wide and an inch tall.  Put dough in oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Dough will be hard and lightly browned.

Remove log from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack 10-15 minutes (maintain oven temp).  Using a serrated knife, slice log into 1 inch slices (portion control be damned!) and place back on cooking sheet, cut side down.  Bake at 325 for 10 minutes, then flip biscotti and bake another 8-12 minutes, until biscotti are hard.  Cool on wire rack.  Enjoy with tea!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta

I'm not going to lie.  The only thing on my little blogging mind right now is this book.  Just to be even more up front and honest, I preorder this book back in March.  MARCH.  As in 7 months ago.  And I have ever so eagerly (and patiently, I swear!) been awaiting it's arrival.

So of course, Amazon won't have it here till Friday.  And so-help-me-dear-blogosphere, if it is not here by Friday, I may snap.  I cannot wait a second longer.  People already have it and it is JUST NOT FAIR!

So, if you don't mind, I am going to excuse myself to go pout in the corner until Friday's mail comes.  I will leave you with a pretty little photo-montage of this absolutely fantastic breakfast.  It may look like eggs, dipping sauce and pita chips, well because that is what it is, but don't let that fool you.  It is very filling.  Ben and I had this on Saturday and didn't really have another meal to dinner.  It is protein-loaded, saucy, cheesy, dip-able goodness.  It should be your weekend breakfast.  That you eat while reading Deb's cookbook.  (I'm sorry, I'm obsessed, it is literally all I am thinking about).

It took roughly a few hours on Saturday before this was pasted lovingly into the big green cookbook.  I made the recipe in full (serves 4-6) all the way up till the very end.  I baked half the sauce with 4 poached eggs and the rest of the sauce is in my freezer for a rainy (or more likely, snowy) day.  When I thaw it out, I will let you know how well it froze!

Ok, I'm off to wait grumpily (oh, wait, I totally meant patiently...) for Friday.  So I can super heavy crush on Deb some more.  Enjoy!  PS - HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta
from the Dec. 2011 issue of Bon Appetit

Again, this will feed 4-6.  Because the recipe didn't really halve well (what do you do with a half can of chickpeas?), I made the whole batch of sauce then split in two.  1 morning of work, 2 amazing breakfasts!  Also, watch out as you are hand crushing those tomatoes.  As both Ben and my poor camera found out, they tend to have quite a bit of juice to squirt!

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded, finely chopped
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
2 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
Salt and pepper
1 c. feta, crumbled
8 large eggs
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Pita chips to dunk

Preheat oven to 425.

In large skillet, warm oil over medium high heat.  Add onions, garlic and jalapenos and saute until onion is soft and translucent, 5-6 minutes.  Add chickpeas and spices and continue to cook another 2 minutes.

CAREFULLY hand crush the tomatoes over the pan, doing your best to capture all their juice.  Add remaining juice in the can and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer sauce 15 minutes or so, until it has slightly thickened.  Do a taste check and adjust seasoning as necessary with salt and pepper.

Transfer sauce to an over-proof dish (if you are making into two meals, split here!).  Sprinkle feta evenly over top.  Using a spoon, dig little rounds for each egg in the sauce.  Carefully crack each egg into each hole.  Bake in 435 oven for 6-8 minutes to set the whites of each egg, but do not overcook!  You want the yummy, runny yolk!  Sprinkle cilantro over top and serve with pita chips to dip!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Pears

Can I tell you a secret?  As a warning, you may think I'm strange after I tell you.  People usually don't get it when I tell them.  What is usual is that I get weird stares and people try to convince me otherwise.  Apparently, this secret makes me quite the strange specimen.  Ok, enough build up, let's just get it off my chest.

I'm not a fan of Halloween.

I will pause for gasping, disbelieving stares and that weird laugh that some people do when they don't understand things.  It's cool, I get it a lot.

So, now that that is over, instead of you trying to convince me that I am wrong and that I do in fact like Halloween, let me tell you why I don't.  Once the great years of getting free candy were over,  so was the magic of Halloween.  I'm not the most creative person and having to come up with a new costume ever year is much more stressful then it should be.  Because heaven forbid you repeat a costume once a year!  And then we hit college, and on top of having to think of new costumes every year, now they had to be sexy.  And not just sexy, but if you consider 92% of the female college population, they apparently had to be a little slutty too.  Because, if you couldn't be slutty on Halloween, when could you?  (Um, never?  That's an ok answer, right?)  All in all, it's just too much pressure.

So instead of wondering how low cut my nurse's outfit needs to be next Wednesday, I am taking the less popular route and treating the last week of October as it should be treated: as a preparation of all things fall. The air is crisp, apple cider is every where, squash, sweet potatoes and apples are cheap and plentiful.  This is Thanksgiving season, bread baking season, cinnamon rolls for every Sunday morning breakfast season.  And these roasted sweet potatoes and pears are a good way to start the preparation.  There are only 25 days until the greatest holiday ever...

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Pears
From Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods says this will serve 6-8.  As part of a much bigger meal, it probably would.  Ben and I took down a batch between dinner one night and the resulting leftover lunches the next day.  I served them with the spiced honey glazed chicken thighs.  A good weeknight dinner with good leftovers.

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
1/4 c. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 pears, Bosc (or d'Anjou)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut sweet potatoes into equal 1 inch sized chunks and put in large bowl.  In smaller bowl, whisk together the vinegar and all spices.  Pour vinegar mixture over potatoes and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer potatoes to prepared baking sheet, reserving the remaining vinegar mixture to use with the pears.  Move baking sheet to oven and roast potatoes 30 minutes, tossing a few times.

While potatoes are roasting, core pears and cut into 1 inch chunks similar in size to the potatoes.  Toss with remaining vinegar and spice mixture.  Add to sweet potatoes and continue to roast 20-25 minutes until both are fork tender and pears have become golden.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Pearl Onions

Sometimes I dread the day that I have to be an actual grownup 100% of the time.  One day in the hazy future, I am going to have to be somewhat more responsible.  And by responsible I don't mean having only a small scope of ice cream after a dinner of cereal.  I mean responsible like cooking a balanced dinner each night, eating a range of fruits and veggies, and not impulse buying ice cream in the first place.

People, we are not getting younger.  Responsibility time is just around the corner unfortunately.  Yours truly is about to turn a quarter of a century in less than a month.  Yes, I know, I know, maybe 25 isn't that old, but to me it's a scary number, round multiple of 5.  (PS - Mom, your youngest is about to turn 25! Ah!)  My days of sitting on the couch after a long day, eating cereal and watching 80's TV reruns are numbered.  I'm going to have to finish growing up eventually.  I'm going to have to make more things like pork chops roasted with apples and onions.  Oh the hardships....

Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Pearl Onions
Cooking Light, September 2012

This wasn't a stand out dish.  It was good, but not amazing.  In other words, was eaten up completely, but not quite big green cookbook worthy.  Tuesday night dinner worthy though, you know, if you run out of cereal and ice cream.

2 1/2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 c. frozen pearl onions, thawed, pat dry
2 c. Gala apple wedges
3 tsp. butter, divided
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-oz) bone-in center-cut pork loin chops (about 1/2 in. thick)
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 tsp. flour
1 tsp. cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Heat large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil to pan and heat.  Add onions to pan and brown for 3-4 minutes, stirring only once or twice to let the onions get some pretty brown on them. Add apples to pan and put in oven. Roast at 400° until apples are fork tender, about 10 minutes.  Toss immediately with 2 tsp. butter, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Transfer mixture to plate and cover with tin foil to keep warm.

Heat remaining oil in pan over medium-high heat. Season pork chops lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook pork 3 minutes per side, flipping only once to get a nice brown.  Remove pork from pan and tent with foil to keep warm. Whisk together broth and flour until there are no more lumps.  Pour into hot pan and bring to a boil, scrapping up any lose bits into the broth.  Boil until mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup.  Add vinegar and remaining tsp. of butter, serve over pork and applies.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Southwestern Quinoa Chili

Last night, I made quinoa again.  And beyond all my reasonable assumptions, my actual enjoyment of quinoa still remains.  I really liked my quinoa chili (even if it was supposed to be a salad...).  And now I am truly stumped.  I was sure that the first time I liked quinoa, it was a fluke.  You see, my two previous attempts of liking quinoa (pre-blog) failed miserably.  I'm talking end-up-in-the-trashcan-and-don't-even-get-me-started-on-how-much-I-hate-throwing-good-food-away kinds of fail.  But I had a 27 lb CostCo bag of quinoa that prompted me to get back on the horse not only once, but twice!  And like any good magic charm #3, I liked it.  It didn't make sense, so I consequently deemed it a fluke.

But now I don't know what to think.  On one hand there are things like my tastebuds and common sense telling me that "Qunioa? Eh, it's not so bad".  And on the other hand?  That's where my inner fat girl hangs out.  The one that distrusts things that come from far away lands, things with funny names, things sworn to be superman healthy.  She's not feeling it.  She is very much "I don't even know what quinoa is".

This is the stuff that epic battles songs are written about.  Why is there never a bard around when you need one?

Angel/Demon shoulder fights aside, I suppose this is a lesson to be taken from all of this.  Don't eat quinoa alone.  Learn from my mistakes.  If you think that cooking it up in some chicken stock with a spice or two will be enough, you are setting yourself up to fail.  Throw something in there: sauteed onions, dried cranberries, fresh corn.  Top it with a dressing, or cheese, or fresh herbs.  Then eat it up, cause really, quinoa?  It's not so bad.

Southwestern Quinoa Chili
Inspried by Pixelated Crumb

This recipe was supposed to be a quinoa salad.  For starters, my patience got the better of me.  I didn't completely drain my beans and tomatoes.  I didn't wait for the quinoa to cool.  I threw it all together in about 20 minutes (plus unloaded my dishwasher!) and enjoyed it even faster.  For the spice blend, there is no need to go one a spicy spice shopping spree if you don't have the ones listed.  Sub in chili powder and cumin as needed for whatever you don't have.  Also, I used chipotle pepper flakes because I have a large jar of them that I never use.  Good old regular red pepper flakes will work just as well!

1 c. quinoa, uncooked
2 c. chicken stock
1 can black beans, drained
1 can green chiles
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed
1 can diced tomatoes

1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. chipotle pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cumin, heaping
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano

Thoroughly rinse quinoa in a strainer.  Transfer to large sauce pan over medium heat.  Toast quinoa 2-3 minutes, until a darker tan in color and toasted in smell.  Add chicken broth and bring mixture to a rapid boil.  Cover, reduce heat and let quinoa simmer for 15 minutes, until quinoa "tails" start spiraling away from the grain. If liquid remains, drain (doesn't need to be drained completely) and fluff quinoa with a fork.

In large skillet, heat grapeseed oil (or canola, grapeseed is my new workhorse though).  Sautee garlic and onion for 2 minutes, until fragrant and onions are translucent.  Add beans and green chilies.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine dressing ingredients in small bowl and whisk well.

Combine cooked bean mixture, tomatoes, peas and quinoa.  Pour dressing over top and toss to combine.  Serve in bowls topped with queso fresco (or feta) and some crusty bread if you have it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vanilla Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

Way back when, in June of this year, back when Summer still laid before us all as an open road and not as the distant memory it will soon become, Bon Appetit did an interview with Olivia Munn, the very funny, very cute actress (I hear she's soon to be a guest on New Girl... Eeee!!).  There was a line from the interview that I remember loving back in June, but then promptly forgot as summer came around in all it's glory.  If it wasn't for me idly flipping through the June 2012 issue laying on my nightstand haphazardly, it might have been lost forever.

Lucky for us I was bored last night.

When asked what food show she would host, Olivia responded with: "We'd cook through the latest food magazines and see which dishes are worth it. I get annoyed when the pictures look great but the recipes don't work, or they're really hard, or you need this one special ingredient you can only get at the Armenian grocery store 20 miles away."

GAH.  That's me!  That's what I'm doing!  Like right now, right here, right this very moment!  I know, it sent chills down my spine too.  Someone obviously needs to call Olivia up so we can get this thing going.  Ok, maybe not, but at least last night when I was stressing over when I would have the time to cook my next blog post, it was a nice reminder that I'm not completely crazy and that just because it's hard, that's not a reason to quit.

So in that spirit, let's talk about this breakfast cake.  It's beautiful, right?  And quite certainly not as gorgeous as ms. pastry affair's version.  Yet, and you know there was a yet coming, it was different.  It wasn't bad tasting, but it also wasn't knock your socks off delicious.  It was more dense and dry, then cakey.  Like a quick bread that you forgot to add zucchini to, to make it moist.  The crumb was interesting, attributed to the cornmeal I am sure, but there wasn't enough to make it cornbread-like.  Have I confused you yet?  Let me try again.  What it comes down to is the love child of dry zucchini bread and corn bread.  But not bad.

That won't convince you to make it, I know that.  I'm ok with that, I don't think it's necessary to make.  But if it intrigues you enough, go for it.  I promise it won't go uneaten.  Mine most certainly didn't.

Vanilla Cinnamon Breakfast Cake
Adapted from the Pastry Affair

1 c. dark brown sugar, packed
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 c. milk (I used 1%)
1 large egg
2 tps. pure vanilla extract
1 c.ground cornmeal
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt

Vanilla Royal Glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 tsp. milk

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a 9X9 square cake pan.

In large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, milk, egg and vanilla until completely incorporated.  Gently mix in remaining cake ingredients, mixing just until batter comes together.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 350 for 35-37 minutes, until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 or so minutes in pan.  Carefully run a knife around the edges to help release cake from the pan.  Continue to cool on wire rack another 10-15 minutes, until cake is cool.  Cut into bars (If you don't wait until the cake is cool, your bars will not be clean cut!)

To prepare glaze, mix powder sugar and vanilla together.  Starting with 1/2 tsp of milk, very gradually continue adding milk to the glaze until it is the right consistency.  If too runny, more powder sugar can be added.  Do not make glaze too far ahead of the bars being cool.  It should be made just before drizzling, otherwise it will harden up.

Drizzle glaze over bars.  Either eat immediately, or let glaze harden a little if you are going to stack them up.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chile Lime Pecans

I have a thing for nuts.  Don't go there.  I know you want to, but just don't.

Let me expound upon that.  I really have a thing for candied nuts.  For nuts that are made better than their normal wonderful selves by things like cinnamon, cayenne pepper and of course, chocolate.  Those are the kind of nuts that I am always on the look out for, even with two tried and true recipes.  Cause, really, can you ever have too many nuts?

October's Bon Appetit came prepared to help you throw a party, from one dish mains to new and improved appetizers.   Appetizers that happened to include Chili Lime Cashews.  When first going through one of my magazines, I make sure to have a packet of page-taggers near by.  If something looks good, yummy, great potential, ect., I tag it.  The problem with this system is that there are always at least 8 tags by half way through the magazine.  So how do you know which ones you want to tackle first?  Well, that gets the tallest tag, of course.  Ok, it's not a fool-proof method, but the point I want to get across here is that those Chili Lime Cashews had the highest tag.  They were the winners of the first recipe to be cooked contest from October's BA magazine.  (It's quite a honor, really...)  I just had to find Kaffir lime leaves.

You know how this story ends.  I wasn't about to go conduct a Rockford-wide search of Asian food markets for lime leaves.  I happily took the shortcut the recipe so readily offered - no leaves?  Double the lime zest.  Got it.  Check the box.  Move on.

These were quick and easy.  When the hardest part of the recipe is taking pictures before it gets to dark out (which I failed this time around, hence no finished product.  I'm sorry), you know it's a simple one.  Unfortunately, the end results was also a little simple, a little lacking in any sort of va-va-voom (Mental note to self: start using va-va-voom more in blogging).  Maybe had I committed to finding the Kaffir lime leaves, the story would be different.  Maybe if I stuck with cashews and didn't trade in pecans, the story would be different.   But I didn't.  And so I'm left with just nuts.  Not a horrible thing, because I really do like nuts, just not as exciting as one might hope.

Chile Lime Pecans
Adapted from BA's October 2012 issue

Surprisingly not that spicy.  I think I might have liked them more had they had a little more heat to back up on.  I did add the sugar completely.  It felt weird not having sugar in there.  They are barely, hardly noticeably sweet, so it's a good balance.  They are over salty.  I would definitely cut back on the salt.

2 c. pecans
8 dried chiles de arbol
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt (cut back)
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. (heaping) ancho chili powder
2 Tbsp. lime zest (3-4 limes)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with either a silicone baking mat or tin foil (this will help will clean up later!)

In large bowl, toss all ingredients, except for lime zest, making sure pecans are well coated.  Spread out evenly on prepared baking sheet.

Roast 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until pecans are browned, toasted and smell heavenly (yes, that's a technical kitchen term).  Let cool to room temperature.  Toss in bowl with lime zest, covering nuts evenly.

If not serving immediately, keep in air tight container.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Have you ever blanched an almond? It's a quizzically satisfying chore to do. And easy too.  An old ex-boyfriend actually taught me the trick. You bring whole almonds to a rolling boil for a few minutes and then drain them. After they cool for a few minutes, you pick up your first almond victim and simply pinch.

With a wet, gratifying slurp, pffft they come popping out of their skins, naked as a brand new baby. You are left with a wet, empty skin and a freshly peeled almond. Just perfect for making almondrettos with.

If that description alone doesn't send you running to the kitchen to put some almonds on to boil, maybe the deliciousness of these cookies will. They are almond through and through, soft and a little chewy when fresh out of the oven; hard, crunchy and biscotti-esque after just one day. They are beautifully, lightly scented with cinnamon that roasts atop while the cookies below bake to a golden hue. And just a little bit of lemon adds the perfect contrast to an almond screaming cookie.  Maybe I am romanticizing a little bit here, but that's just my mood tonight.  Nothing wrong with a little food love, right? And if it leads to a little bit of almond peeling/popping/blanching, in my opinion, that's just a night of good, clean fun.

Adapted from Cooking Light, Dec. 2011

I had leftover almond flour from previous cooking blog missteps.  That seemed easier than peeling almonds and then trying to get them dry enough for pulsing in a food processor.  Additionally, this was a fly-by-the-seat of my apron kind of recipe, made last minute because I almost had all the needed ingredients on hand.  Lemon zest became lemon oil, a fantastic gift from my mom the last time she was in Amish country.  Zest is probably easier to get than lemon oil, so either the oil or the zest of a small lemon.

2 - 2 1/4 c. almond flour
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. lemon oil
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
24-30 whole blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with either sil-pat mats or parchment paper.

Add 2 c. almond flour to bowl of food processor, along with sugar, lemon oil (or zest), salt and egg.  Pulse several times until dough comes together.  It should be slightly sticky, but should all come together.  Add more almond flour as necessary to get to right consistency (I ended up a little shy of 2 1/4 c.)

Turn dough out of food processor.  Using roughly 1 Tbsp. of fough, roll balls slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball.  Place on prepared baking sheet and light squish into a fat disk.  Repeat with remaining dough until all used.  Place cinnamon into a fine mesh sieve and lightly dust the dough disks.  Firmly press a blanched almond in the center of each cookie.

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 16 minutes, until cookies are a golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool at least 3-4 minutes on the pan (this will help them come up cleaner).  Remove and let finish cooling on wire racks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

End of Summer Minestrone

Don't focus on the "End of Summer" part of this blog title.  It's just going to make us both sad and it's not even worth it.  Time is time and no matter how much I pout, the cold and snow are going to come.  So, let's not talk about that.  I'm sure I'll complain more than enough once the winter storms start.

Instead, let's focus on the minestrone part.  This soup that was so thick with fresh vegetables, honestly we should be calling it a stew.  There were handfuls upon handfuls of green beans, juicy tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini and summer squash.  Plus, just to fill it out, and to put to ease any boyfriends that are concerned about the lack of meat, some canned kidney beans.

This was fantastic.  It was filling, hearty and comforting, and one of the best things to sop up with a warm, crusty hunk of bread.  Plus, there was so much chopping!!  Maybe this isn't a plus for you, but a little slow, methodical chop-chop, dice-dice?  One of the best de-stressing techniques there are.  And with the start of cold, short days, who isn't a little stressed?  So, if we can't stop the end of summer, let's make soup to soak up ever last ounce of it we have left.

End of Summer Minestrone
Adapted from The Little Red House

This froze beautifully.  I froze the leftovers in individual portions and just last night pulled it out and left it to thaw in the fridge.  It had thawed by lunch time and microwaved like a dream.

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 carrots, chopped
5-6 baby Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 small onions, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. chicken stock
2 c. vegetable stock
2 cans kidney beans
2 c. green beans, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, shredded
1 c. whole wheat ditali pasta
1 zucchini, sliced in half moons
1 summer squash, sliced in half moons
Feta, to garnish

Chop up carrots and potatoes.  Dice onion.  In a large dutch oven over medium heat olive oil.  Add carrots, potatoes and onions and saute for 4-5 minutes until onions are soft and potatoes are starting to cook through.  Add garlic and diced tomatoes and continue to saute a few more minutes.

Add stocks and beans and bring soup to a boil.  Add green beans, bay leaves, oregano and basil.  Simmer until 15 minutes before serving.  Add pasta and squashes and cook until pasta is al dente, about 10-15 minutes.   Ladle into bowls and garnish with feta.  Serve with crusty bread.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Vanilla Orange Biscotti

On Wednesdays, I have 6 am meetings.  As a frame of reference, I am normally trying to convince myself to roll out of bed only after 6 am on weekday mornings.  Needless to say, Wednesdays are not my favorite day of the week.  I am a little less friendly on Wednesdays.  I tend to drink 3 times as much tea on Wednesday.

I thought these early meetings were the worst.  Until this Wednesday.  Now this Wednesday was the worst.  You see, the 6 am meeting got cancelled and nobody told me.

That's right, I got to work at 6:05 (because I am never on time to 6 am meetings, I just can't do it), rushed to the conference room and it was black.  Dark.  Nobody.  I half considered staying in the dark and curling up under the conference table for a quick nap.  Looking back, I totally should have taken the opportunity.  The rest of the work day was a fog.

And then I got home.  I went into my kitchen, did some stuff, and came out with vanilla orange biscotti.  This is a new phenomenon for me, but there is something about zesting an orange that makes you just perk right up.  Horrible memories of 6 am meetings melted as I poured some good, locally made, incredibly alcoholic, vanilla extract into the dough and mixed.  And shaped.  Baked, Cut.  Baked again.

I thought about drizzling chocolate as a finishing touch, unsure how well the naked biscotti would hold up on its own.  But it was completely unnecessary.  Plus it required more time, more effort, and after these came out of the oven the rest of my night went something like this:  biscotti, tea, a little more biscotti while watching Everybody Loves Raymond, bed.  If only every Wednesday would end so well...

Vanilla Orange Biscotti
Adapted from the smitten kitchen, because of course Deb knows how to rock biscotti

Needless to say, BGCB.  These were fantastic and made a good sized batch.  Ben and I were able to somehow make them last 6 days.  They were just as crisp and crunchy the last day as they were the first.  Just make sure they are tucked away, hidden if you actually want them to last at all, in an air tight container and you'll be good to go.  They aren't making it longer than a week though, that's a guarantee!

1 1/2 c. sugar
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (use your good stuff!)
1 Tbsp. Triple Sec (or other orange liqueur)
1 Tbsp. orange zest
3 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c.sliced almonds
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat, lightly dusting with flour.

In large bowl, mix sugar, melted butter, eggs, triple sec and orange zest well.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into wet mixture.  Mix until well blended.  Add almonds and mix until evenly distributed.

Turn dough onto prepared baking sheet.  Using ample flour on your hands (dough is sticky!), divide dough into two even logs, about 2.5 inches wide and 1 inch tall, as far apart as possible on the sheet.  Whisk egg white until frothy and generously brush over dough logs. Bake in 350 oven until golden, about 30 minutes.

Remove logs from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes.  If you try to cut them while still warm, you will not have clean cuts.  Once cool, cut logs diagonally into 1/2 inch slices, using a serrated knife.  Discard parchment paper from baking sheet and lie slices cut side down.  Return to 340 oven and bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Flip biscotti and return to oven to brown on remaining side, another 8-10 minutes.  Remove biscotti and cool on sheet a few minutes, before transferring biscotti to a rack to cool.  Enjoy!

PS - totally just realized biscotti is both singular and plural.  Or at least I think it is, and that counts for something, right??