Monday, December 18, 2006

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

I haven't made cookies in a while. Last week I had a really good, soft lemon cookie with icing on it (mmm... cookie...) and afterwards I had a hankering for cookies. I found a recipe for oatmeal cranberry cookies which fit my criteria (five star rating and I had all the ingredients in my kitchen already). These were pretty good. Not the best cookie I have ever had but pretty good.

I've come to realize that it's hard to make an excellent cookie. I mean like a knock-your-socks-off cookie. I've made some dinners and cakes that my husband and I felt were better than what we could get at a restaurant, but I've never made a cookie that made me feel that way. If anyone has a recipe like that, please share it with me!

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette

I bought an acorn squash at the same time that I bought that butternut squash I mentioned in a previous post. You know, usually when something is 79 cents a pound, that means it's pretty cheap. Not so with squash. Lesson learned. But I digress. This was the first time I ever made acorn squash and it was very tasty. I think I had acorn squash once, with brown sugar on it, and I didn't like it back then. The chile vinaigrette gives a nice contrasting flavor. I was too lazy to make a special trip to the grocery store for a red chile, so I just used Sriracha to taste, and it was fine.

Spiced Nuts

These are really good and really easy. I made them when we had company over to play Settlers of Catan (one of our favorite board games). Then I made them a second time for a party. You know you have a good thing going when someone asks for the recipe.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger

I bought a butternut squash last week, and realized a couple days ago that the side it was laying on was developing a veggie pressure ulcer of sorts, so I had to cook it that day. I chopped off the bad part of course. I made this soup with the squash. After reading the reviews I doubled the ginger and roasted the garlic with the squash. The soup itself was pretty good, except I thought the ginger overpowered the subtle flavor of the squash. If I make it again I'll use the amount of ginger that the recipe calls for. I liked this soup, but not any better than this recipe for Southwestern Pumpkin Soup, which is way easier.

I also learned the hard way that you really should follow the directions for the Cuisinart, and not fill the bowl too much, unless you like to have squash puree all over your kitchen counters, which I prefer not to.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Panfried Tofu on Sesame Watercress with Soy-Orange Dressing

I made this tonight for dinner. I subbed spinach for the watercress, and doubled the sauce except for the soy sauce. I also marinated the tofu for about 15-20 minutes in soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Then I dipped the tofu slices in cornstarch to give them a crispy coating. This was pretty good - my husband really liked it. I think he likes his flavors a little stronger than I do though. Next time I would not marinate the tofu or try less soy sauce in the marinade. The cornstarch gave the tofu a crispy outer layer, but the inside was still pretty soft, so I don't know if I would try that again. I should have taken a picture since it makes a lovely presentation - maybe next time! The nice thing about this recipe is that I had all the ingredients in my kitchen and didn't have to make a special trip to the grocery.

Oatmeal Bread

Before we were married, my husband lived with a couple who would make homemade oatmeal bread all the time. They passed down the recipe to me, and I have tried to reproduce it a few times with varying success. I've never watched anyone make bread, so all the subtleties of breadmaking were lost on me. Gluten window? Proofing yeast? Huh? I've been trying to read up on breadmaking, and this weekend I tried the recipe again. I think my main problem the last couple times was lack of patience and a desire to have control over the whole process. If it is supposed to take an hour for the dough to rise, then by golly, I will give it an hour. But no more than an hour! Alas, bread making doesn't work that way. Well this time I exercised patience, and came closer to a nice fluffy loaf of oatmeal bread than I have with past attempts.

Oatmeal bread

1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp margarine

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to combine.

Dissolve one package of dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. When oat batter is cooled to lukewarm, add yeast/water mixture. Gradually stir in about 5 cups white flour until dough stops sticking to your hands as you mix in the flour.

When dough is not sticky, knead for 5-10 minutes. Spray the bowl with non-stick cooking spray (or grease it), and put the dough inside. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled (about one hour). Punch down dough, then flatten it and roll it into two loaves. Place loaves in greased bread pans. Cover with towel and let rise about 45 minutes. Uncover.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Made this soup last night, but substituted spinach for the swiss chard and used dried dill instead of fresh. Eh. I had company over and all of us were adding salt to it at the table. Even with that, this soup just didn't have the "wow" that I was looking for. I had forewarned my guests that this was a new recipe that I was trying, but I still felt kind of bad for serving guests an okay-tasting soup.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Earlier this week I made this black bean chili. It was delicious! I used half as much chili powder than the recipe called for, since we don't like food that spicy. I also used one green bell pepper in place of the red pepper to save money. We're trying to eat less meat, for health and environmental reasons. Beans are a lot cheaper too. :) It's fun to find healthy, flavorful vegetarian dishes.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Pumpkin Pancakes

I love lazy Saturday mornings. While my husband was on a run, I made these Pumpkin Pancakes. Pancakes always take longer to make than you think they will. I was so hungry by the time they were ready! I thought these were pretty good. My husband loved them and said they were like pumpkin pie in pancake form. I made my own pumpkin pie spice using 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. The recipe makes more like 18 pancakes if you are using a 1/3 cup to measure the batter. I personally like apple pancakes better, but I will make these for the hubby.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Thanksgiving Dinner

I'm backtracking here, since I just started this blog. Since this was the very first Thanksgiving dinner I have ever made, I wanted to document it for posterity. :)

The bird
I bought a 15 pound turkey for the five of us, so that we could feast on leftovers for days to come. I should have taken it out of the freezer on Sunday. Alas, I took it out on Monday evening, and by Thursday morning it was still very frozen. I woke up at 5 am to defrost it in a big bucket of water. I used Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe and brined the turkey before roasting it. I fortuitously discovered the giblet bag a few minutes before I put the turkey in the oven (like I was supposed to read the directions and know that there were two bags of icky parts inside the turkey and not just one?). The turkey took about an hour longer to cook than I thought it would, but the final product was fantastic. It was amazingly moist and got rave reviews from everyone at the table. It's sort of anticlimactic to make a great turkey the first time around - it can only be downhill from here!

The rest
Wild Rice, Apple, and Dried Cranberry Stuffing
This was good, but became excellent the next day. The cranberries softened, and the flavors melded together more.
Green Beans with Crushed Almonds
Okay. I tasted the garlic more than the almonds. I guess it's hard to make green beans very exciting.
Roasted Carrots
These are awesome and really easy. Who knew roasting carrots would make them so delicious?
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Always a treat. I use the recipe from the new Joy of Cooking. I add a little bit of fresh lemon juice. I used to not like sweet potatoes until I rediscovered them this year. My only previous experience with them were with candied yams, which were too sweet and sticky. When I want vegetables, give me vegetables. Not this candied stuff.
Cranberry Sauce
I will never use cranberry sauce out of a can again.
Quick Gravy
Also from the Joy of Cooking. I thought it was going to make way too much gravy but it turned out about right.
Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Whipped Cream
Yummy. The whipped cream was good, but not a whole lot better than plain ol' whipped cream.
Crunch Top Apple Pie
Too gooey and didn't keep its shape.

I didn't think I would, but I enjoyed being in the kitchen all day. My sister was helping me, and I had all the time in the world to prepare things. It was so relaxing. Cooking as therapy - who knew?