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.