Sunday, December 16, 2007

Molasses Crinkles

When my husband is home and there's nothing to do, he usually watches football or an episode of 24. When I am home and there's nothing to do, I bake. Basically it is a win-win situation for my husband when there is nothing to do at home. I made these cookies this weekend. I gave my husband a choice between these and chocolate chunk oatmeal coconut cookies, and he wanted these. These were good cookies, but not great. They are like gingersnaps but chewy. I baked them for 12 minutes and that was too long, should have baked them for 10 instead. I have one good cookie sheet (Calphalon, it is my favoritest cookie sheet in the whole world) and two cheap ones - they came out nice and chewy on the Calphalon sheet but too dark and crispy on the cheapie sheets. If we weren't moving overseas soon I would buy another Calphalon cookie sheet... oh heck, maybe I should just buy one anyway! I'll bring them both overseas with me, so that I can make nice, chewy cookies abroad.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chicken Adobo

You probably cannot tell from my blog that I am Filipino, because I never make Filipino food. My excuse through the years has always been that Filipino food takes too long to cook - which is true. But then I realized, well, there are a lot of things that I make that take a long time to prepare, but I make them anyway - so that excuse doesn't really hold water anymore. I've also been inspired by Marvin at Burnt Lumpia to start reconnecting with my Filipino culinary roots. By the time I have children, I want them to appreciate at least some parts of our Filipino heritage. And what better dish to start with than chicken adobo?

Every Filipino family has their own recipe for adobo, depending on what part of the Philippines they are from. It's one of those Filipino dishes that you can count on being on the table at a Filipino party (along with pancit and lumpia). I copied down a recipe from my dad years ago for adobo (my dad is an awesome cook), but had never attempted to make it. It was kind of unnerving trying to learn how to make adobo from my dad, because he doesn't measure anything. Our conversation over a pot of pork adobo went something like this:

Dad: Ok, now you add some salt.
Me: Ok. How much salt?
Dad: (holds out his hand, cups his palm and pours some salt into it) This much.
Me: What is that, a teaspoon? Two teaspoons?
Dad: (incredulous) I don't know. (holds out his palm again) This much!

This week I finally pulled the recipe out of my recipe box and made it. In honor of my dad, I did not pull out the measuring spoons and just poured the salt into my palm. And oh, was it delicious. I felt like I was home. My house even smelled like my parents house for that hour or two (oh, the sweet smell of vinegar and garlic!).

Here is my dad's recipe for adobo. You can substitute 2 pounds of cubed pork (~1 inch cubes) for the chicken if you prefer.

Dad's Chicken Adobo

4 chicken thighs, skins removed
1 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1 cup water
6 cloves garlic, crushed
12 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp soy sauce

Add everything except the soy sauce into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil for 15 minutes, covered. Lower the heat and simmer for an additional 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until desired doneness and the sauce is reduced to your liking. Add the soy sauce and stir until mixed in. Remove the bay leaves and serve over white rice.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I went to a Christmas party for my women's Bible study group this week. I found this recipe a few years ago, and always wanted to try it, but never did because it looked like so much work. It just sounded so delicious though, so I felt a little bold and decided that I was finally going to make it. People thought they were great (my husband loved them). But they are just so darn labor intensive. I have never made anything with phyllo dough, and it is very difficult to work with. The buttering of each layer, and then cutting them into strips (I used a pizza cutter) was the most time consuming part. Each individual pastry probably took me two minutes to make. So - would I make these again? My husband wants me to make them for New Year's, and has offered to help assemble them, so maybe. I definitely would not make them again if I had to do it all by myself. I read on the reviews that one person made it into a pie, which sounds easier. I'll have to look into that one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Icing

I was in a baking mood this weekend. I am not much of a baker - I lack the patience for cookies and I have an aversion to rolling pins - but it is one aspect of cooking that I would like to get better at. We still had several pounds of carrots left in the crisper, and I found this recipe for carrot cupcakes on Epicurious (I love Epicurious - the majority of the recipes I use from their site have been excellent). My husband really likes carrot cake, so I thought this would be a winner. It's a little different because instead of cream cheese frosting, you use orange icing; I've never combined oranges and carrots before, but I figure these recipe writers know what they're doing, after all it is their job.

These were tasty, and very moist. They even stayed moist for several days after baking, much like carrot cake. The orange flavor is subtle, but blends well with the carrots. My husband still prefers cream cheese frosting, but this is a nice, slightly lighter alternative. The only downside to these cupcakes was that they are a little bit oily - I would use a little less oil the next time around.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Fettucine with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts

I have only eaten Brussels sprouts a few times, but enough times to know that I did not like them. Naturally, my husband was a little surprised that I picked this one for dinner tonight. Well, I had just happened upon it on Epicurious, and it had gotten so many positive reviews... so I thought I'd give the old sprouts another shot. It had been a while since I had tried them, maybe I would love them now that I'm an adult.

Well, before tonight I hated Brussels sprouts, now I am more neutral. My husband and I thought this was good, but not enough to make us Brussels sprouts lovers. I am just not a fan of bitter greens. I guess they get bitter if you overcook them, so maybe I overcooked them... I sauteed them for 5 or 6 minutes when the recipe said 4 minutes, but the recipe said to saute them until they were lightly browned and they weren't lightly browned yet - so who knows if I overcooked them or not. I don't know if I would make this again, but I would eat Brussels sprouts again if offered.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon

It was 6:45 pm tonight, I had just woken up from a nap and felt too cold to get out from under my blanket, my husband was watching the Bears game, and I needed to cook dinner even though I didn't really feel like it. We had spaghetti with Walmart sauce last night, so we couldn't have that again... and part of me felt bad about letting my husband eat oatmeal for dinner on a weekend, even though he probably would have been fine with that. So I got our from under my blanket and looked in the fridge to see what we had. Not much. We did have chicken in the freezer, but we already had chicken this week and I didn't really feel like meat tonight.

Then I remembered that we had a five pound bag of carrots in the crisper. I went on Epicurious to find a carrot soup recipe, and I had most of the ingredients for this one. This was delicious! I skipped the tomatoes because I didn't have any, used water instead of chicken stock, and skipped the grated carrot at the end. I also just zested one lemon into the pot rather than measuring the zest out, because I was lazy. We both thought this soup was excellent and will have it again. I would try it with tomatoes if I have them, and I would use less ginger next time (maybe 3/4 of a tablespoon instead of a full one). I liked a dollop of sour cream in my bowl but my husband did without it and still thought it was great. It made just enough for two good-sized helpings, which was plenty for the two of us. A nice, relatively healthy dinner on the fly tonight.

Update 01/11/08: I made this again tonight, this time adding a can of whole tomatoes and a couple teaspoons of chicken Better than Bouillon. I liked it better without these additions. I think I added too much lemon zest this time - next time I will measure it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Thai Chicken Curry

I'm getting back to my Asian roots and learning how to make some Asian cuisine now. I will confess that I am not Thai, but I really like the flavors of Thai cuisine. I found this recipe and made this for dinner this week. It was SO GOOD. It reminded me of the chicken curry at my favorite Thai restaurant, Mama Thai in Oak Park, Illinois. I doubled the green curry paste (bought the Thai Kitchen brand) - I started out with what the recipe called for and just added more to taste. The Thai Kitchen brand is not spicy at all, which is good because we are not spicy food people. I used green pepper instead of red, and threw in a few stalks of lemongrass when I added the chicken. I omitted the tomatoes, since that flavor combination just didn't seem right to me. I also just used chicken breasts instead of tenders and cut them into strips. This was excellent and I will definitely make this one again.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

Here's my Thanksgiving recap. There were eight of us this year - me and my husband, my parents (who drove down from Chicago), and four international students from the local university whom we have become friends with. So naturally, I felt compelled to make more food this year. I mean, last year there were only five of us, so I had to make more so that we didn't, uh, run out. Truth be told, we were never in danger of running out of food. We probably had two-thirds of the food leftover even after all of us had stuffed ourselves to the point of discomfort. My main goal actually was to not cook for the rest of the long weekend for the four of us, and so far so good. Well without further ado, here's the recap on what I made this year:

The bird

I made the same turkey as I did last year - Alton Brown's brined turkey. I bought an 18 pounder, since we had a 15 pounder last year for the five of us. This year I knew better and started defrosting it on Sunday rather than Monday, and I did not forget to take out the neck bag from the inside of the turkey like I did last year. I was a little disappointed with the turkey this year. I overcooked it probably by half an hour. The recipe says cook until the breast was 161 degrees, and it kept staying in the 150s even though I was well past the estimated cooking time. I don't know if I just bought a bad meat thermometer or what. It took about 4 hours total to cook the turkey. I just remember it being so moist last year... although I think that I have romanticized my Thanksgiving dinner experience from last year since it was my first Thanksgiving dinner that I have ever made. Everything turned out so much better than I had expected last year, since my expectations were fairly low. So in my head, I think, the turkey I made had reached mythic proportions... it was so moist, so delicious, so flavorful! I think I just had such high expectations this year, since I have had a whole year to become better at cooking so I just assumed that this year's would be even better. Oh well. I think next time I will make a different turkey, just for variety's sake.

Wild Rice, Apple, and Dried Cranberry Stuffing

I made this one last year too. It was very good (a stick of butter certainly helps). I used Gala apples. I made two pans of it - we only ate 2/3rds of one pan on Thanksgiving, but then we had plenty of stuffing for four more meals over the weekend.

Roasted Carrots
Made this one last year, too, but this year I added the dill that the recipe calls for. I didn't read the recipe fully though, and added the dill before I roasted them rather than adding it at the end, which changed the flavor. My hubby and parents liked them this way though. I like carrots so much better roasted than raw or cooked on the stove - they become sweet, and I have read that they are better for you when they are roasted rather than raw. (I can't remember where I read this, but it was somewhere reputable. Trust me - I'm a doctor!).

Roasted Asparagus
This was a new one. Simple and good. I had to cook these probably about four minutes longer than the recipe called for. I made two bunches of asparagus but should have made three.

Basil Mashed Potatoes
This was loosely based on a Joy of Cooking recipe. I chopped up some fresh basil and threw it in there - makes it a little different. We used Yukon Gold potatoes.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Another JOC recipe. Same as last year, I used a little bit of fresh lemon juice and just a couple tablespoons of butter.

Pan Gravy
Same recipe as last year. It calls for three tablespoons of cornstarch - I needed four. It also calls for four cups of stock but I only used three - should have used four.

Cranberry Chutney
and Cranberry Sauce
I made the cranberry sauce last year, but the cranberry chutney was new. I thought I'd try a non-sweet one so people could have a choice. I thought the vinegar was too strong of a flavor, but otherwise this was pretty good. My parents actually preferred this one over the sweet sauce, probably because Filipino food tends to be more savory than sweet. Maybe I would used one less shallot also.

Apple Pie
Apple pies are harder to make than you would think. I was disappointed with my apple pie last year, so I tried a different recipe this year for a more traditional apple pie. I used Pillsbury refrigerated crusts, and used Granny Smiths instead of McIntosh. I guess Granny Smiths release a lot of water when they cook, because a few hours later when I cut into the pie, I had apple soup at the bottom of it! But the taste and the texture was very good. I think if I make this one again, I will either use McIntosh apples, use more flour, or fewer apples. Sigh. I will keep trying.

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

I also tried a new pumpkin pie recipe, just to toss it up a little. My husband really liked this pie, but I thought the molasses flavor was too strong. I could not find light molasses, so I used about 3/4 tablespoon of full molasses instead. I think I would prefer it without molasses entirely. I doubled the spices, which was just right.

Vermont Maple Bread Pudding with Walnut Praline
This was really, really good. The bread pudding is pretty rich though - eight eggs, one quart of cream, one cup of sugar, one cup of maple syrup... My Dad asked if I could give them the recipe, and I told him no, because I love my father and I want him to live for a long time. Once a year eating this is probably plenty. I thought the praline was good, but not really necessary. I cooked the sugar a little too long, so it had a faint burnt flavor (I think I toasted the walnuts one minute too long too). Next time I would only cook the sugar just long enough for it to turn brown. I had decreased the temperature on the stove when the sugar started boiling, but I needed to keep it at high until it melted. The praline was really tasty mixed in with vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla Ice Cream, Philadelphia-Style
This was my first egg-less ice cream that I have made at home. I, of course, used David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop for this one. This was good - tasty, but not too rich since there were no eggs in it. I used 2 cups cream and 1 cup milk. I think it would be better if I had a really good vanilla extract - I used McCormick's which I think is just so-so. We used to have a big bottle of vanilla from Mexico that smelled and tasted awesome, but then I found out that most cheap Mexican vanilla is fake and contains rat poison, I poured it down the drain. I would like to get a bottle of Penzey's vanilla but it's so darn expensive.

Overall, the meal was a success. Everything was good, and everyone left with an overstuffed belly.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Orzo with Shrimp, Feta Cheese, and White Wine

I made this one for dinner this week. We had chicken and tofu other nights this week, and I was just feeling like shrimp. I had all the ingredients for this one on hand except white wine. We don't drink wine, so I had to go to my friendly neighborhood liquor store and pick up some. It was actually a fairly classy liquor store, right next to Kroger; lots of frou-frou wines with names that I had never heard of. I picked up a four pack of little single serving wine bottles (Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc) - got that tip from the Chowhound forums. Apparently, opened wine goes bad, some say after three days. Now, I don't even like the taste of wine, so I probably wouldn't be able to tell a good wine from a rancid one. But the little four pack cost six dollars, and that way I don't waste a whole bottle of wine for one dish, when all I need is half a cup. Now I have three more little bottles for the next time I need white wine to cook with. So that's my tip for the day.

This dish tasted good, but was a little disappointing. One, because you could not really taste the feta. There were too many strong flavors in this recipe and they competed with one another. If I made it again, I would cut the amount of oregano and crushed red pepper in half, and cut down on the basil a little bit. Two, my husband took one bite and declared that it needed more tomato sauce. So he goes to the fridge and pulls out some Walmart spaghetti sauce and pours some onto his dinner! After I slaved over a hot stove to make a fresh, home-cooked meal - he puts Walmart sauce on top of it! He kind of sensed that I was not happy with his desecration of the dinner I cooked for us, and asked me if this was comparable to the time we had an acquaintance over for dinner (for Greek chicken kabobs over white rice) and she asked for salsa to put on the white rice. Now, if you want to insult an Asian person, an easy way to do this is put bottled salsa on top of white rice. My jaw may have dropped when she asked for salsa, I can't really remember.

Anyway, I will probably not make this again just because my husband didn't like it, even though overall I did. It's no fun cook things for dinner that are only enjoyed by half the people eating it. This did taste better the next day, though, after the flavors melded a little bit. Though I still really couldn't taste the feta.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mediterranean Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Tried this one recently because I had some couscous that I needed to use. I skipped the eggplant, only had one zucchini, subbed onions for leeks, and used more bell peppers to make up for the lack of other veggies. I also did not use olives or capers. I do recognize that my omissions and substitutions basically change the whole recipe, so I cannot comment on the actual recipe. This was okay; I guess I am just not a huge fan of couscous. I like the quinoa salads I have made so much more. If I made this again I would definitely use more zucchini and perhaps an eggplant, although my husband is not a big fan of them. I would also use the capers, but my husband does not like olives so I would continue to omit those. Yes, my husband is somewhat picky.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Penne with Garlicky Butternut Squash

I usually make soup or lasagna with butternut squash, but I didn't feel like dirtying up the food processor tonight. I tried this penne recipe - skipped the parsley, used ground sage, and only used half the amount of penne that it called for as that was all I had. I probably used 3/4 cups of water too. This was good - not great like some of other ways I have tried butternut, but good. If I made this with a whole pound of penne, I would double the amount of squash to eight cups for sure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup with Sesame and Green Onions

This was the last week that we got a CSA basket. This week there was a Chinese cabbage in it, which I have never cooked with before. Generally now when I get a new vegetable in the CSA basket, I look it up in The Joy of Cooking first to figure out what it taste like and how to use it. Sometimes I look on the Cook's Thesaurus website to get more background info too. Then I look for a recipe. I found this one for Chinese chicken noodle soup, and had most of the ingredients on hand. I had to substitute white wine for Sherry, and substituted Thai rice noodles for the yakisoba noodles. I was almost out of tahini so I probably used less than half of what the recipe called for.

This soup was pretty good. It was a good mix of flavors, with just a little bit of kick from the chili-garlic sauce. My husband gave it three out of four stars a la Epicurous's rating system. I've come to the conclusion that it is just hard to make Chinese food that knocks your socks off. Foods that knock my socks off tend to have a lot of butter, sugar, or cream, and unfortunately Chinese food doesn't use much of those ingredients. (That's probably why most Chinese people are skinny, and most Americans are fat.) I would try to get the actual yakisoba noodles if I make this again, because the long rice noodles were difficult to eat in a soup.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pesto and Shrimp Pizza

Made this one up last night. I made the crust using frozen bread dough like I described in this post. I made the pesto recipe in the Joy of Cooking, which is delicious. I've never made pesto before but it's really easy - just put fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor and blend the heck out of it. I spread that onto my pizza crust, then topped it with cooked shrimp, red onion, a sprinkling of dried red pepper flakes, and mozzarella cheese. It was pretty good for something that I made up.

Cranberry-Orange Scones

I still have a bunch of fresh cranberries in my fridge, so I decided to make these scones again today. I forgot to buy sour cream so I substituted whole milk yogurt instead - a previous reviewer on Epicurious said that they made them with yogurt and they couldn't tell a difference. I definitely disagree - the yogurt changes the texture quite a bit. That melt-in-your-mouth quality of these scones is from the sour cream. Lesson learned. Since this recipe calls for dried cranberries, I just used 3/4 cup fresh instead and chopped them up in my food processor. I did add about 1/4 cup more sugar to compensate.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Potato, Carrot, and Parsnip Soup

I've never cooked with parsnips before, but we got some in our CSA basket this past week, and I am almost always willing to try something once. I was a little wary, because I have never even eaten a parsnip, and "parsnip" just sounds too similar to "turnip", which I have already discovered to be a really, really nasty vegetable.

Good thing I'm a food risk-taker. I found this soup recipe and had most of the ingredients on hand, so I made this last night. I skipped the parsley, subbed a pinch of dried thyme for fresh, yellow potatoes for red, and white wine for sherry. This is a great fall soup - hearty from all the chunks of vegetables, yet with a smooth rich flavor. I was pleasantly surprised by the parsnips. If I ever get parsnips again I know what I'm going to make.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cranberry-Orange Sorbet

It's fresh cranberry season. What better way to celebrate than to make cranberry sorbet? This is another Perfect Scoop recipe. I didn't have quite enough orange juice, so I added a little water in place of it. This was delicious - tangy and refreshing. I would have liked it a little sweeter (using the full amount of orange juice) but everyone else said it was perfect and they wouldn't want it any sweeter. I still have more cranberries in the fridge, and will probably make this again this week.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gianduja Gelato with Stracciatella

I remember every so often when I was younger, my parents would buy a jar of Nutella. What a special treat! I would spread it on bread and enjoy a Nutella sandwich. So delicious. This ice cream, another one from The Perfect Scoop, is kind of Nutella-esque. I used pre-chopped hazelnuts because that's all I could find. I discovered that my local Walmart carries Green & Black chocolate bars, so I used their milk chocolate which is 34% cocoa. This was delicious - just the right mix of hazelnut and chocolate. I made stracciatella out of Baker's bittersweet chocolate because that's all I had. I usually use Baker's for cakes and brownies and it has been fine, but for melted chocolate it wasn't that good. I think I'll use Ghirardelli bittersweet from now on. I just layered the stracciatella into the ice cream as I put it into it's container, but I think next time I'll try to mix it into the ice cream maker towards the end of churning. This one is more labor intensive that the other ice creams I've made, but it is a nice treat for every now and then.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pad Thai

There are no good, cheap Thai restaurants in the Tri-Cities, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn how to make pad thai. I've tried making it before but it just turned out bad. Then I found this recipe on how to make authentic, beginner level pad thai. I used white sugar instead of palm sugar, green onions instead of chives, and skipped the optional stuff because I knew my husband would not eat pickled turnips and dried shrimps. I used the fish sauce with the three crabs on it, which is a lot better than the other fish sauce I have tried. I bought a cheap wok from Walmart (it'll do) and cooked this up after seasoning the wok.

I was very happy with how this turned out. Since this was the first time I had cooked with a wok I didn't quite fry the tofu long enough - they started to look brown but they did not get crispy. But overall the flavor was very good, it was quick, and a lot less oily than I have had it at some Thai restaurants. Great pad thai and I will look no further for a recipe.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp

We got rhubarb in our CSA basket last week - I've never cooked with it, so this was an adventure. I've only had rhubarb once and I didn't like it - it was a strawberry rhubarb pie and it was way too tart. But I needed to use it, so I found this recipe and made this crisp tonight. I used orange juice instead of orange liqueur but otherwise stuck to the recipe. It was delicious - just the right balance of sweet and tart. Call me a rhubarb convert! My culinary world has just expanded.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Homemade Pizza and Roasted Banana Ice Cream

We had friends over last night to watch football. My team played miserably (Oh, Bears... when will we ever get a good QB?) but at least we had good food.

My husband's mom used to make homemade pizza when he was growing up, and his sister gave us the recipe. It's pretty easy since you just used frozen bread dough for the crust. I have heard about this famed pizza for many years, so I was a little nervous about measuring up... but my hubby thought it was great. Here's the recipe:

Linda's Homemade Pizza

2 frozen bread dough balls (I just used the Kroger brand)
Canned pizza sauce (I used the Walmart brand)
Toppings of your choice (I used red onions, red and green peppers, fresh sliced mushrooms, mozzarella, and oregano)

Place the frozen dough into a waterproof plastic bag and immerse in hot water until thawed. Lightly coat a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Shape the dough to fit the pan, then let rise until the crust is about 1.5 inches high or so. Preheat the oven to whatever temperature the bread directions recommend. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes until the dough looks reasonably cooked. Remove the pan from the oven and increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Top the crust with pizza sauce and your chosen toppings and place back in the oven until it looks cooked, about 15-20 minutes. Voila! Homemade pizza.

I was just in a homemade mood yesterday. I also made fresh tomato salsa, and I had made roasted banana ice cream (again from The Perfect Scoop). I think if you like banana pudding, you would like this ice cream. We topped it with homemade fudge sauce - also a recipe handed down from his side of the family. In celebration of his gastronomic heritage, I will share that one too:

Auntie Frannie's Hot Fudge Sauce
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 stick butter
2 cups powdered sugar
5 oz evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Mix all but vanilla together and heat until well blended. Add vanilla.

Oh so good. All good things start with a stick of butter.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Goat Cheese Ice Cream

I know that to most people, goat cheese ice cream just doesn't sound that appealing. Well, it didn't sound that appealing to me either when I first saw the recipe in The Perfect Scoop - but when we got a little baggy of goat cheese in our CSA basket, into the ice cream maker it went! David Lebovitz describes it as tasting like cheesecake. I disagree. The taste was... interesting. Now, if you like the taste of goat cheese, you will probably like this ice cream. But I am not a big fan of goat cheese; I was just hoping that adding milk, sugar, and eggs to it would make it taste good. Alas, it still tasted goat-y to me. A little honey and toasted pecans did dress it up a little, but I don't think I'll be making this one again. Maybe I would try a different recipe that uses less goat cheese, like this one, instead.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt and Mocha Sherbet

I love having an ice cream maker. It's so fun to make this stuff at home. This week I made two recipes from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, which I now have renewed twice at my library - I should probably just buy the book already. I made the strawberry frozen yogurt today - I used Dannon plain yogurt. I liked it as much as I liked his strawberry sorbet which I made before; my hubby likes the creaminess of the frozen yogurt better. Maybe next time I will try straining the yogurt to make it a little richer.

Earlier this week I made his mocha sherbet. This is the first one of his recipes that I wasn't that crazy about. Part of it was my fault since I used stale coffee. We aren't coffee drinkers, so the ground coffee I bought last fall for my in-laws when they visited us has been sitting in our cupboard since then. So I kind of knew that the taste might not be so good... but I was kind of hoping that my coffee naive palate wouldn't notice. Anyway, I didn't really like the texture, regardless of the flavor. It was a little too icy - which I should have expecting since it is just coffee, sugar, milk and cocoa powder. Well, four out of five winners from one cookbook ain't bad!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

It's just starting to feel like fall down here in Tennessee, so I thought that chili would be a nice dinner for a cool, rainy night. This is one of our favorite recipes - nothing fancy, just a good, healthy chili. I'm made this one before, but I made a few alterations to the recipe this time. I used dried beans because they were cheaper and I don't like filling landfills with tin cans (our city doesn't recycle them - what gives?). I simmered two cups of dried beans in water for about an hour. One cup of dried beans equals about two cups of cooked, and a 15-16 ounce can of beans yields about 1 1/2 cups of beans when drained. While those were simmering I sauteed a few yellow and red onions, one red banana pepper, one green bell pepper, and the garlic. The only change I made to the spices was using one tablespoon of chili powder instead of two. Once the beans were soft enough I combined them all together in a large pot, and added one can of whole tomatoes (cut up with a pair of kitchen scissors in the can) and most of a 16 ounce can of tomato sauce. We topped it with shredded cheddar cheese. Delish! And so healthy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spaghetti with Tomato and Roasted Pepper Sauce

Made this one up as I went along tonight. We got a boatload of tomatoes and bell peppers in our CSA basket this week, so I used a bunch of those. I sauteed a diced yellow onion and some minced garlic in olive oil, then threw in some fresh diced tomatoes (they looked like big red and yellow striped Romas... no idea what kind they were). I added some red wine vinegar, dried oregano, basil, marjoram, salt, and pepper and then let that simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes. In the meantime I cut up a few green and red peppers, tossed them in some olive oil, and then broiled them in the oven for a few minutes and then threw them in the sauce. I added a little bit of sugar just to see if it made any difference (I couldn't tell). This was pretty good, not outstanding but a quick weeknight meal - and it definitely beats using Walmart brand spaghetti sauce any day.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

Made this for dinner tonight. I really like quinoa. It has a great texture and flavor; some people substitute couscous for it in recipes but I think quinoa's flavor is way more interesting. I used yellow tomatoes and skipped the cilantro because we didn't have any. I also used olive oil instead of vegetable oil. I used dried black beans instead of canned but, surprisingly, I actually like canned better. This was a great, healthy meal. It makes enough for two for dinner plus enough leftovers for a lunch.

Malted Milk Ice Cream

After reading about David Lebovitz's Malted Milk Ice Cream on the Amateur Gourmet's blog, I was intrigued. I had to make it. I had never bought malt powder so I had to do a little searching for that - finally found it at Walmart in the coffee aisle. This was very, very tasty. Also very, very rich. I think maybe I would try it with whole milk instead of half-and-half to make it a little less rich. This definitely benefited from a day in the freezer - the malted milk balls were a little less crunchy and the flavors melded a little more.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mango Sorbet

Ooh. Mango sorbet. I have always had a weakness for mango sorbet. I used to buy pints of Haagen Daz mango sorbet during college and I would eat about a quarter of a cup at a time so that I could enjoy it as long as possible. Once, I came home from a long day of classes and went to the freezer to enjoy a little bit of frozen mango goodness. I took the pint out of the freezer and the realization came upon me that it felt much lighter than it should have. My roommate, who apparently subscribed to the "if it's in our apartment, it must be meant for sharing" philosophy of roommating, had eaten some of my precious sorbet. Needless to say I was not that happy with her. Now that I look back at it, it was rather ridiculous of me to be mad at her for eating a dollar's worth of sorbet, but it seemed totally rational at the time.

I made yet another David Lebovitz recipe this week, this time his mango sorbet. His recipe calls for rum, but I skipped that because we don't have any. It was still out of this world delicious. Such an intense mango flavor, and much more texture than store-bought sorbet. And it makes enough that if someone ate a serving without my permission, I would still be friends with them.

Mango Sorbet
2 large, ripe mangoes
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
4 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste
Pinch of salt

Peel the mangoes and cut into chunks. Put mango chunks, sugar, water, lime juice, and salt in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste, then add more lime juice if desired. Chill the mizture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Grouper with Tomato and Basil

Kroger had a sale on flash-frozen fish, so I bought some grouper. I've only had grouper when I've vacationed in Florida and it was in the form of a sandwich, so I didn't know a good way to cook these. I had to make dinner in a hurry a few nights ago so I made this recipe. It was pretty good, not fabulous but a quick weeknight meal. I don't cook fish very often, so I think I cooked it a little longer than I should have. I used local organic tomatoes, basil, and garlic.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Strawberry Sorbet

I made another David Lebovitz recipe, this time from his sorbet section of his book The Perfect Scoop. I picked up a pound of fresh strawberries from the grocery store since they were on sale. I prepped everything the day before so that I could have the pureed strawberry mixture chilled overnight. I think the old adage "patience is a virtue" was spoken in the context of making homemade ice cream. When the instructions say that the mixture needs to be chilled overnight, it needs to be chilled overnight. Not for two hours like I have before because I was impatient and wanted ice cream already.

This sorbet has a fresh, intense strawberry flavor - this one will get repeated in our house! It was still good the next day too. I don't know how it is two days later, since it was all gone by then!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I just love butternut squash. I discovered it last year, and it is such a wonderful flavor. I usually make a lasagna out of it but wanted to try some quicker (but equally delicious!) ways of making it. I made this soup for dinner tonight and it fit the bill. It was very easy to make - just pop the squash in the oven for 40 minutes, puree it in the food processor, and then mix it with a few other ingredients. I also roasted a leek and a couple cloves of garlic with the squash and pureed them all together. I used a big pinch of nutmeg, and used half-and-half instead of milk (whole milk would have been good too). With the leek and garlic, the soup has a lot of depth to it. We loved it and I'll definitely make it again.

Chocolate Ice Cream

I borrowed David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop from the library this week. I made his Philadelphia-style chocolate ice cream this weekend. It was very rich and creamy - just out of the ice cream maker it tasted like a chocolate mousse. I think the chocolate taste was a little too strong - and this is coming from someone who loves bittersweet chocolate! I liked the texture, but I may look for a different recipe or use semisweet instead of unsweetened chocolate.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I like bruschetta. I first tried bruschetta in college, at those afternoon special lectures that different groups would host that would get catered. I probably went to half of them just to eat bruschetta, shrimp cocktail, and fruit kabobs. Mmmm.....

For an appetizer last night we bought some baguettes that were already cut up into 1/2 inch slices. I broiled them for 2 minutes on each side - they got a little burnt so next time I would lower the rack a notch. I loosely followed the recipe from the Joy of Cooking. I rubbed garlic onto one side of the toasted baguettes, and then topped half of them with grated mozzarella and put them under the broiler again to melt the cheese. Then I topped all of them with fresh diced tomatoes mixed with chopped fresh basil and a little salt. Yum! These were great. I liked the mozzarella topped ones a little better. I will definitely make these again for company.

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte with Parmesan

We had company over last night, and I wanted to try to use up our summer squash. I found this recipe and tweaked it a little bit. Instead of green onions, I caramelized some Vidalia onions. I didn't have fresh Parmesan so used sharp cheddar instead. I also threw in a couple of sliced leeks since I'm not really sure what else to do with those. I also used russet potatoes instead of Yukon golds, and yellow zucchini instead of crooknecks. I didn't really measure the amounts of potatoes or zucchini - I just cut up enough to fill two 9x13 inch pans. I also used a little more olive oil because it just didn't look like enough - although the cheese does have some oil to it and I hadn't accounted for that. I guess I basically made a whole different recipe. But hey, isn't that what real cooking is all about? Tweaking?

This was pretty good except it was way too salty, so salty that it made it much less enjoyable. I didn't realize that there was so much salt in cheddar cheese. If I made this again I would omit the salt altogether. It was a little too much work for something that was good but not amazing, so I don't know if I'd make it again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Orzo with Roasted Red Peppers, Feta, and Basil

Came home this afternoon and needed to make a quick lunch. We have a lot of vegetables in our house now since we joined a CSA, so I wanted to use some of them up. My husband decided that he wanted microwaved potatoes with barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese, which he has decided to name "Barbechetatoes." I on the other hand, decided I wanted some orzo. So I made this up as I went along. Now that I've been cooking more seriously for the last year, I have gotten a little better at making up recipes and knowing what flavors go well together. It was quite good and I would happily make it again for a quick weekend lunch. Here's the recipe for one serving:

1/2 cup orzo
1 red sweet pepper, 1/2 inch diced (I had a banana pepper, but half a bell pepper would be fine too)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 ounce feta cheese, 1/4 inch diced
A few fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn oven on to broil.

Cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7-9 minutes and drain. Meanwhile, toss the red pepper with the olive oil, place on a baking sheet and broil until they look like they are done, oh, about 5 minutes or so. Mix the orzo, peppers, feta, and basil in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to your heart's desire.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

I bought an ice cream maker. I have wanted one since I got married, but didn't think I would use it enough to justify buying one - reasoning which has kept me from buying a tart pan, a waffle maker, and various other cooking implements that collect dust quite nicely in most people's kitchens. But I've been hankering for an ice cream maker, and I got a $30 Target gift certificate for my birthday, and wouldn't you know a Hamilton Beach 1.5 quart ice cream maker is $30 at Target?

I never pick easy recipes, even when I should. I picked this cinnamon ice cream recipe because I love that flavor and you don't see it very often. It is a custard based recipe, which is much more labor intensive - but worth it! I used vanilla extract because vanilla beans are so expensive. The recipe doesn't state when to add the cream, so I added it in after mixing the milk and egg mixtures together. Looking online afterwards, I think you are supposed to add it after heating the mixture and before cooling it to room temperature.

The recipe states that you can just let the mixture cool to room temperature, but next time I would chill it in the fridge for a few hours. My ice cream did not freeze a whole lot even after an hour in the machine. I had to put it in the freezer to harden it up. After an hour it was still slushy, but we each took a spoonful and oh my word was it good. The next day it was harder and a little icy, but still very tasty. I can never look at store-bought ice cream quite the same again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts.

Our friends who came over last night also got to enjoy these brownies. These are incredible, if you like fudge and peanut butter (I'm so glad I don't have a peanut allergy!). I was making the peanut butter frosting, and had a taste of it when I was done with it... I almost had to sit down. It's amazing how good peanut butter mixed with butter and powdered sugar can taste. Mmm.

I used bittersweet chocolate for the brownies as that's what I had. For the ganache I used 1 cup of semisweet morsels and 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate. Maybe next time I will try using all semisweet chocolate - I love the taste of bittersweet but I think it overpowers the oh-so-delicious peanut butter frosting. I also used creamy peanut butter instead of chunky. This is definitely a brownie you make for parties and company - your friends will love you and will think you are the best baker ever.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Butternut Squash Lasagna

We went to the Abingdon, Virginia Farmers Market yesterday and one of the vendors was selling butternut squash - the first local ones I have seen this season. I made this lasagna twice last fall, and it is one of my favorite dishes. It is very labor intensive so I don't make it that often, but it is so much better than the other ways I have made butternut squash. For the first ones of the season I decided to indulge. I used some organic basil from our weekly CSA basket, and also a few leaves from my own basil plants. I always skip the amaretti cookies and the lasagna is still outstanding. I also use low-fat mozzarella and it taste just fine. I think that about 3-4 pounds of squash is perfect - I think I used about 5 pounds this time and the squash overwhelmed the basil sauce. This is definitely a great dish for company, but only if you have a few hours to prepare it. And the best thing is, I still have half the lasagna in my fridge for leftovers!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Couscous with Spiced Zucchini and Tofu

I was given a large, green, round summer squash a week ago, and I decided to make this recipe with it. It kind of looked zucchini-like so I thought I could just substitute it. This was just okay. The squash didn't taste at all like zucchini - it was more, I don't know, squashy - and the skin was a lot tougher. I threw in some pan-fried tofu to make it more of a substantial meal - I used a different brand than I usually do, and it was just okay. I can tell when a meal bombs when my husband goes to the fridge and gets out the barbecue sauce. Oh well. At least it wasn't turnip soup bad. It was okay, it just wasn't that flavorful.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Super Sloppy Joes

I have never made Sloppy Joes before, but I had volunteered to make the main course for a lunch meeting at work and needed something easy that could be kept in a crock pot. Though I generally follow a self-imposed ban on all things Rachael Ray because I find her annoying (and any chef whose cupcake recipe starts off with cake mix is NOT a real chef), I chose her recipe for these because it got a lot of good reviews.

I tripled the recipe to feed about ten people, and that made plenty with leftovers for a few sandwiches the next day. I used about half a cup of brown sugar down from 3/4 cup, and skipped the bell pepper because of food allergies in the crowd. I also only used 4 cups of tomato sauce and that was plenty. These were pretty good, didn't knock my socks off but what Sloppy Joe has? I think this would be a good recipe for a family with kids, but I will happily stick to my usual foodie-type recipes for the two of us.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

I have made this one a few times and it is one of our favorites. It's not a quick meal, but not horribly labor intensive either. I usually use zucchini and/or summer squash instead of eggplant, and sometimes I just use green bell peppers instead of red and yellow to save money. I also skip the green onions and don't even notice a difference. The feta really makes the dish, so don't skimp on it!

I have been trying different olive oils in the past month to find a cheap one that tastes good. I bought some Colavita olive oil from the grocery store and it has a nice flavor - not too strong. I've tried the Walmart brand and it is a little off smelling. The Carapelli brand is okay. I have to start tasting the oil from now on and compare the flavors. We use olive oil all the time and I want to use a good one without breaking the bank.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mellowed Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta

I subscribe to Weeknight Kitchen, a weekly e-newsletter from The Splendid Table. I was planning on just making spaghetti tonight - and today's recipe was for pasta and fresh tomatoes, which was perfect! I had a few homegrown tomatoes that I needed to use today, which were great. Local tomatoes are so much better than store bought. I also have a basil plant at home and just plucked off a few leaves for the dish. This was easy and delicious. It was a nice departure from the usual spaghetti and Walmart pasta sauce combo. It actually made spaghetti feel fancy!

I picked up a couple of boxes of Barilla Plus spaghetti for this - it is a new multigrain pasta which was actually pretty good. I've tried whole wheat spaghetti and didn't like the texture, so this was a nice alternative that is a little more healthy than plain old spaghetti.

Mellowed Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta
Copyright 2007 Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Serves 6 to 8 as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main dish

* 1 clove garlic, split
* 3 pounds richly flavored tomatoes (if possible, one-third cherry type, one-third mellow-tasting, and one-third low-acid), unpeeled, unseeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 2 generous pinches hot red pepper flakes
* 1/3 cup good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
* 1 pound spaghetti, or linguine
* 6 quarts boiling salted water
* 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste
* 3 tight-packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn
* 1 cup fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

1. Vigorously rub a pasta serving bowl with the garlic and discard the clove. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, oil, and the salt. Gently combine. Let stand at room temperature from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

2. When ready to eat, cook the pasta in fiercely boiling salted water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Drain in a colander and turn it into the pasta bowl. Quickly add the black pepper and basil, and toss everything together. Taste the pasta for seasoning and serve. If you like, pass cheese at the table

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pepper Chicken with Hummus

Since I already had some fresh hummus at home, I decided to try this recipe for dinner tonight. I didn't have any red bell peppers or Cubanelles, so I just used one large green bell pepper instead. This was great and pretty quick. The chopping is minimal, and I only broiled it for about 8-9 minutes and it was done. This tastes like you worked hard on it, but it's very easy and doable for a weeknight dinner. I would even serve this to company. We'll eat this one again.


We love hummus, but it gets so expensive to buy it at the store. I decided to try my hand at making it from scratch, and it was awesome! And very easy. The recipe I used calls for canned chickpeas, but I had dried ones at home so I just used those. I soaked a cup of them for a couple hours (boil water, then pour it over the chickpeas and cover it for a few hours until twice their original size). Then I simmered them for an hour and a half. When they were soft, I threw everything into my food processor, and voila! Homemade hummus - so easy. I halved the recipe and it was plenty. I used a little more lemon juice, used Joyva tahini, and skipped the parsley oil and the pine nuts. This was great and I will make my own hummus from now on.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Creamy Turnip Soup

One of my coworkers got a bunch of homegrown vegetables as a gift and was giving them away this week. There were a lot of turnips, and I figured I would give them a try. I have never eaten a turnip before, but since they were free I thought I would experiment with them.

Well, now I know why I have never eaten them. It's because they are bad. I found this recipe for turnip soup, and made it last night. I confess that I did have to make some substitutions (sweet onions instead of storage onions, soymilk for milk, evaporated milk for cream), but even if I didn't do that, I think it still would have been awful. These turnips just had the most bitter aftertaste - I couldn't eat it. I think I forced three spoonfuls down and then I gave up. My husband tried to eat a bowlful to be nice, but I told him he didn't have to eat it if he didn't like it, to which he breathed a sigh of relief. I don't like to waste food but this pot of soup went directly down the drain. It was the worst meal I have ever made. Thankfully, we had also made corn on the cob and biscuits (and had a container of Rocky Road ice cream in the freezer), so we did not go hungry last night.

Now, I have read online since that smaller turnips tend to be sweeter, and summer turnips when it's really hot out tend to be more bitter. So, perhaps someone somewhere makes turnips and they actually taste good. I am willing to eat them again if someone else makes them who can tell a good turnip from a bad one. I, however, will never make them again. There are plenty of other good vegetables out there to eat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Grilled Chicken, Basil Mashed Potatoes, and Greasy Beans

I have been on a self-imposed cooking hiatus, and it's about time to resume cooking again. I decided to get a little more creative in the kitchen today. Usually I follow recipes, but today I just looked at what I had and made things up as I went along, with a little help from the Joy of Cooking.

For the grilled chicken, I took two boneless skinless chicken breasts and sprinkled Penzey's Singapore Seasoning on it. I grilled them outside, and basted them with some Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce as they were cooking. The seasoning adds a little more depth to the flavor than just using barbecue sauce alone.

For the potatoes, I boiled six or seven russet potatoes until they were soft, coarsely mashed them, then added soy milk, a couple tablespoons of butter, a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves, salt, and pepper. They were tasty, and the basil was a nice addition to your standard mashed potatoes. I used soy milk because that's what we had (I was planning to use buttermilk, but realized we were out at the last minute).

I went to the Johnson City farmer's market this past weekend and picked up some fresh green beans. They had a few different varieties there, and I had no idea what the differences were between them. I had seen the greasy variety before (an heirloom variety), and decided to try those this time (they were fifty cents more a pound than the other ones, so they must be better, I thought). They take a little more work than regular green beans because you have to string them, but they are way better than your average grocery store bean. I boiled them in salted water for about 6-8 minutes. My husband said they taste like a cross between a green bean and edamame. Yum.

So, my home cooked meal tonight was nothing fancy, but I've come to realize that it doesn't have to be. It was yummy and we were happy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Honey Of An Oatmeal Bread

I decided to try a new bread recipe this week. This bread was easy because I had all the ingredients on hand. The loaf is very light and sweet. I think it's a good breakfast bread, but I probably wouldn't want it for sandwiches. It is very fluffy and was a little difficult to cut, but the taste is good. I would make this one again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Stir Fry Sauce

We ran out of stir fry sauce this week and I forgot to buy more, so I decided to try to make my own. I usually go to Epicurious or Food Network's websites to look for recipes, but searches on those sites can sometimes take a while to find a good recipe, and I didn't have much time. I found this recipe when I searched on Google, and I had all the ingredients on hand. It was just okay - I don't think I will make it again. The fish sauce taste was a little too strong, and I think my husband prefers more of an American-Chinese stir fry taste (this was Thai). I'll keep looking...

Dal Bhat

When we went to Nepal last year we had a Nepali househelper who would cook lunch for us, and we would have dal bhat almost every day. Dal means lentils, and bhat means rice. It is a staple meal for Nepalis and also most Indians. An Indian friend of mine told me that she can only go two or three days without dal bhat, and she has to eat it because her cravings for it are so strong! It is a comfort food for many South Asians. I have made it a few times since we left Nepal and it certainly reminds us of good times in Nepal. I tried a new recipe for dal bhat this week. It is more Indian than Nepali in the spices it calls for, but when I have tried to make Nepali dal bhat it never tastes quite right. This was great, very flavorful and a hearty meal. The recipe as written makes a lot, so I would probably half it if I make it again. It was tasty, but my stomach is not used to spicy food and was not happy with me for the next day or so. This is a good recipe though if you like Indian food and you are looking for a vegetarian dish.

Tofu Stir Fry

I've made a few things this week and have to catch up on blogging. I made a quick tofu stir fry this week which was actually pretty good. Walmart sells bags of frozen veggies that you can use for stir frying. Of course they aren't as good as fresh, but in a pinch on a weekday they will do. We almost always have a carton of extra firm tofu in the fridge, so I cut them into strips and panfried them. All I used was a heavy spray of cooking spray on the pan, then fried the tofu strips until they were brown and crispy. I then stir fried the vegetables, and then added the tofu and a bottled stir fry sauce to them. It was a good, easy, healthy meal and it's nice to have on days that I don't feel like making a big production but am tired of spaghetti!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

I made this salad for lunch today for me and a friend. I have never eaten quinoa before but have heard how good it is for you, so I wanted to try it. I bought some from a local health food store and cooked it today. This was a great salad and pretty easy to make. I just boiled the quinoa for 20 minutes rather than steam it, because I don't have a sieve. I used most of one fresh jalapeno, and bottled lime juice rather than fresh. I would make this again for a light supper or for a summer picnic. It was light but still filling, and the quinoa has a nice texture.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


We had some friends over for dinner tonight and I made a nice meal for the four of us. They are retired missionaries from Congo who we met at a conference a few months ago. The wife told us how much she appreciated our invitation, and commented that people just don't have others into their homes like they used to - most people will take you out to a restaurant but not entertain you in their own homes. I thought that was interesting and it made me want to have people over more! I guess it's becoming a lost art. I made a few recipes that I've tried before and a couple new ones.

Grilled Salmon Fillets with Balsamic Glaze
One of my favorite ways to cook salmon. It's pretty easy and quick, but very tasty. If you like balsamic vinegar you would like this one.
Roasted Asparagus with Anise Seeds
I bought anise seeds a couple years back for one recipe that my husband didn't care much for, so the anise has been sitting in my cupboard since then. I found this one today and got to finally put some of it to use! I used a mortar and pestle to crush the seeds. I didn't cut the asparagus up because I like how the whole spears look on a plate. The anise gives a pleasant flavor, and roasted asparagus has a nice crisp-tender texture.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
I made the mistake of letting my husband do this one. He likes things "healthy", so he used 1% milk instead of cream, and only two tablespoons of butter (I had used more like 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes, so it should have been more like 6 tablespoons of butter in it). I thought they were okay, but I would have liked them richer. Mmm. Butter.
Strawberry Shortcake
I've made this one before. The biscuits didn't rise much this time, not sure why. I really like this recipe. In terms of dessert, this is an oldie but goodie.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mango Salsa

We were invited to a salsa themed party yesterday, so I made mango salsa. I've made this a couple times before and it is always a hit. Not only is it delicious, but it's also very colorful and presents well. The original recipe doesn't call for jalapeno, but I find it essential to bring a little depth to the flavor. You taste the sweetness of the mango first, and then get hit with a little heat a few seconds later. I chop up one jalapeno with the seeds and throw it in there. I used four mangoes and a whole red bell pepper for mine.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Buttermilk Honey Wheat Bread

My husband's grandma is downsizing. Last time she did that, we got her TV. This time, we have been blessed with her bread machine. I've tried using a bread machine in the past and was disappointed with the results - but I think you just have to find the right recipe, and accept the fact that your bread will look more like a block than a loaf. I've made this bread once so far, and am making it a second time in the bread machine as I write. It has a nice flavor, is moist, has good structure and a nice slightly crunchy crust. Or as my husband said to me after he ate a slice - "... you've done a very good thing."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

I have made this bread five or six times now, and it is one of my favorites. It's an easy bread to make for get togethers, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. I've played around with the sugar content a few times - 3 cups of sugar is way too much. I usually use 2 1/4 cups of white sugar. This last time I used 1 1/4 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar. I can't tell a big difference using brown sugar, but, hey, variety is the spice of life, I say. The last few times I have added a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, which made a great bread into a rock-my-world bread. :) Which just goes to show you the truth of the old adage that you can't go wrong with chocolate chips. It's kind of like a stick of butter. Any recipe that starts with a stick of butter is going to be tasty. Artery clogging as well, but I digress. Anyway, I've tried to use mini-chocolate chips but it wasn't nearly as good as the regular sized ones. I always get compliments when I make this one.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Spicy Garbanzo Bean and Turkey Sausage Soup

My hubby wanted me to try this one. We thought it was very tasty but needed more fluid - otherwise it is more like a stew. Instead of turkey sausage in casings, I bought one of those tubes of turkey sausage which was much cheaper.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Oatmeal Coconut Raspberry Bars

I am not a big fan of bars - I prefer the taste of cookies, but cookies are so much more labor intensive. I found this bar recipe, though, and decided to give it a whirl. They are really good. I burned the coconut the first time that I tried toasting it - I only had them in the oven for four minutes and they were already way too brown, so I had to start over with new coconut. Lesson learned. Now I know how to toast coconut. I also forgot the salt, but they are fine without it. I used Polaner's All Fruit which looked a little better for you than the regular jams on the shelf. I'll make these again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Chocolate Babka

I made this a week or so ago - I had never heard of babkas, but the picture looked really good so I figured I'd try it out. It was very tasty, but it took a lot of work. Well, it took more time I should say. You have to let it rise a couple times. And then it requires a rolling pin. Any recipe that requires me to break out the rolling pin is immediately labeled labor intensive. All in all it was very tasty but I'm not sure if I would make it again - maybe for a special occasion.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Yucatan-Style Chicken, Lime, and Orzo Soup

I've made this soup a couple times before and it's one that we enjoy, but I couldn't remember if I used two jalapenos or just one in the past. Note to future self: just use one jalapeno. Woo! Spicy. It's a great soup, but two jalapenos dominate the flavor of the soup. I used canned diced tomatoes this time - I think I do like fresh tomatoes better with this one. A good soup but better when it's turned down a notch.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rosemary Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Broiled Zucchini with Parmesan Crust

I have decided that I don't like "themed" potlucks. They are way too stressful. We went to an Italian-themed potluck yesterday and I spent so much time online trying to find a good recipe that I didn't have to buy too many ingredients for. I figured everyone would be bringing some sort of pasta dish so I wanted to bring something different. We had a bunch of potatoes so I made this potato dish. It was pretty good - nothing fancy, but hey, they're potatoes.

I also had some zucchini in the fridge so I made this broiled zucchini dish. I thought it was good, but my husband wasn't crazy about it, probably because it was lukewarm when he ate it. Lukewarm zucchini is just not that great. I kind of burned them under the broiler, and I had only had them under there for about 2 1/2 minutes (the recipe says broil it for four minutes). I scraped some of the burnt part off because I didn't want to bring a burnt dish to a potluck! That is too embarrassing. I used bottled grated Parmesan which I wouldn't recommend. Oh well. Live and learn.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Penne with Basil-Seafood Sauce

Bay scallops were on sale at Kroger, so I did a search on and found this recipe. I made it with a little more scallops (almost 3/4 pound). I also used canned tomatoes, which taste much better than fresh this time of year. I got this tip from the book How To Break An Egg: when using canned tomatoes, buy whole tomatoes instead of diced or sliced - I guess they're supposed to taste better - and just take a pair of kitchen shears and cut them up in the can. Voila! I listen to APM's Splendid Table and she recommends either Hunt's, Contadina, or Muir Glen canned tomatoes, so I bought Hunt's since that's what they have at Walmart (yes, I admit, I buy most of my groceries there. When the farmer's markets are in season, I'm all about those, but otherwise you just can't beat Walmart's prices!).

This is an easy, delicious dinner that looks fancy and like it took a lot of work to make. I love seafood and so I was very happy with this one. I actually liked the shrimp more than the scallops but they were both great. I'll definitely make this one again - I'll have to head to Kroger and buy some more scallops while they're still on sale. Best thing about it was that it's not that expensive to make - the ingredients cost about $11-12 to feed four people, and I still have about two servings worth of leftovers.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cranberry-Tangerine Scones

Even though my last few attempts at scone-making have been a little disappointing, I still love eating them so I am going to keep trying. :) I made these cranberry-tangerine scones today. Yummy! They turned out exactly like scones should - slightly crunchy top, flaky inside. The only thing I did differently was use a different brand of butter - could that make any difference? Maybe my butter was a little colder than usual, and I didn't mix the batter too much - enough to still leave big flakes of butter in it, and just enough to mix the wet and dry ingredients but still be clumpy. The dough was not wet at all, which made it easier to work with, but the scones are not really dry. I baked them for 12 minutes but should have taken them out at 11 minutes - they are a little browner on the tops than I would like, but still very good. They are kind of small, so maybe next time I'd make a double batch.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lebanese Lentil-and-Rice Pilaf with Blackened Onions

I'm trying to add to my lentil repertoire, since we plan to move overseas where there will not be much meat available for protein. We are not big meat eaters anyway - maybe I'll cook something with meat in it once every two weeks or so. I made this lentil and rice pilaf the other day. I overcooked it and it came out a little mushy. It was bland when I tasted a little from the pot so I was a little dismayed about serving it to my husband. Once we added salt to the dish, though, the whole thing was transformed. Now, some dishes benefit from salt to make up for the lack of flavor of the other ingredients, but with this once, the salt totally enhances the flavors that are already in the dish. It turned a 2 star meal into a 4 star one! I'll make this again, definitely.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Margherita Pizza

I made this pizza tonight and based it off the Margherita Pizza recipe from the All New Joy of Cooking. I have not yet learned how to make homemade pizza dough, so we bought store-brand premade pizza crusts and used those instead. This was pretty easy and was great! I used store-brand pizza sauce, four diced Roma tomatoes, about 1/3 cup basil, some grated Parmesan, and shredded mozzarella, then baked it at 450 degrees for about 11 minutes. It was a good, quick, tasty meal.

I borrowed a book on cooking a few months ago from the library, and the most useful tip I got from it was how to freeze basil. I tried growing basil in a little flowerpot this summer and fall, but it didn't work out too well (note to self: frost kills basil pretty quickly, bring the plant in sooner next year). My local grocery store sells basil in these big clamshell containers, but they cost $3-4 dollars and a lot of it would go bad before I could use it. Then I learned that you could freeze basil, and, well, basically my life changed forever. All you do is rinse it, pick the leaves off the stems, and dry the leaves. Then you take a long sheet of wax paper, lay the leaves on it in a single layer, roll up the wax paper, stick it in a freezer bag, throw it in your freezer, and voila! You have basil whenever you want. It won't look fresh in your dishes, but the taste is preserved. So I used some of my frozen basil on our pizza and saved myself $3-4 and a trip to the store.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Ginger Scones and Chocolate Chip Scones

After this past weekend I guess I got used to being in the kitchen, so for the past few nights I have just kept baking. I've started making scones more often, which are great for breakfast (and dessert too sometimes). I've made these ginger scones before, which are great if you are a ginger fan. The first time I made them I followed the recipe and made them into 3 inch rounds. They were a little too shortbread-y for me though, although they had great flavor. This week I made them again and cut them into wedges instead. I'm not sure what happened, but this time they spread like crazy, but they were moist and not shortbread-y at all. What gives? I didn't think the shape of the scone would have much effect on it. I did mix the dough a lot longer than I did the last time after adding the butter. It says to mix it until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal. I know this dates me, but I don't know what the consistency of fine meal is. Like corn meal? There were still pea-sized chunks of butter in my mixture so I just kept mixing it in my electric mixer. Maybe I overdid it and the butter got too warm. Next time I'll try freezing the dough for a little while before I shape the scones.

Yesterday I tried making these chocolate chip scones for the first time. They are good, but the dough was extremely wet and I had to add another 1/4 cup of flour to it, and it was still very sticky. I tried forming them into wedges but there was no way I was going to get them to stay that way, so I ended up just dropping gobs of dough onto the baking sheet. So they ended up looking more like half cookie, half biscuit type things. I would make these again, but I think I'll add more flour to them so that they'll hold shape a little better. I used regular sized chips instead of the minis.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday

My team lost :( But at least we had good food. I was in the kitchen all Saturday and Sunday afternoon - it was kind of like Thanksgiving, but instead preparing a turkey with all the trimmings, it was a bunch of food that you could eat in front of the TV. There was a total of twelve of us at the party. Here was the lineup:

Buffalo Wings

These were awesome - they tasted just like the wings I used to buy in Chicago at Buffalo Joe's. All they call for is hot sauce and butter - who knew? I guess you can't go wrong with fried chicken and butter. Mmmm. This was the first time I have ever fried chicken - I usually prefer healthier things, but hey, it's the Super Bowl. I put these in our crockpot to keep them warm during the game, and served them with blue cheese dressing.
Sweet Chili-Glazed Chicken Wings
I've made these a few times before - good flavor (and better for you since they are not fried) but they aren't crispy, and I just don't dig soggy chicken skin. I tried broiling them for a few minutes but that didn't crisp them up much. Some of the liquid from the marinade pools in the bottom of the baking pan while cooking - I poured some of it off after 20 minutes but maybe I should have done that sooner. If I make these again, either I'll grill them or try using a roasting pan with a rack instead.
My husband couldn't stop eating this guacamole - it was delicious! I used 4 avocados instead of three and adjusted the spices accordingly (though kept the vegetables and the lime the same). I did decrease the cayenne a little bit, but next time I'll use the recommended amount. This will be my go-to guacamole recipe from now on.
Fresh Salsa
This is my aunt's recipe, though I liked it a lot better when she made it. I think it was probably because my tomatoes were mealy. Maybe I would try this again with Roma tomatoes - or wait until tomatoes are back in season.
Veggie Tray
Rather than buying an overpriced ready-made tray, I just bought a pint of cherry tomatoes, some baby carrots, and a bag of celery which I cut up. Same effect, but half the price! I made Hidden Valley Ranch dressing out of the packet as a dip.
Deviled Eggs
These are good, classic hors d'oeuvres. Nothing fancy, but tasty.
Caramel Popcorn
You cannot go wrong with this recipe. Make it, and your friends will love you and think you are the best cook ever. I have made this popcorn for several get togethers over the years and I always get comments on it. It is labor intensive but worth it! I used two bags of microwave popcorn, but could have used three (there was plenty of caramel left).
Cocunut Cupcakes
These were amazing cupcakes. I guess it's hard to mess up butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, but man were these good. They are very rich, though, so I would save this for after a light meal (i.e., not for Super Bowl Sunday when you are stuffed like a turkey). I colored the coconut with a little blue and orange food coloring to be festive. These are a good special occasion dessert.
This was my husband's contribution to the buffet line. We had a box of Duncan Hines brownie mix at home, and then he shaved chocolate truffles onto the top (his idea. I think I'm rubbing off on him!). The truffles made these brownies delicious.
Spiced Nuts
I've blogged on these previously. They didn't get eaten quite as much because there were so many other good things to eat. But now we have a ton to snack on for the next week!
Hummus and Triscuits
Store bought. I like the Athenos hummus, and figured it's not expensive and it's not worth it to me to buy all the ingredients to make it.
Fresh Fruit
I had an assortment of red grapes, apples, bananas and clementines. When I felt stuffed I would get a small bunch of grapes to munch on. There's something about the Super Bowl that just makes you want to have food in your mouth at all times.

Special thanks to my husband for cleaning up most of my dishes and cleaning the house while I cooked!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

I made this soup a few nights ago for dinner. It's the national soup of Morocco. Every night during Ramadan every house makes this soup (called harira) to break their fast. There's my random bit of knowledge for the day. :) It was great - a nice hearty soup for a cold winter night. I used spaghetti instead of capellini and it was fine. I'd never cooked with dried chickpeas before - they were good, but take a while to cook. Next time I'll boil the chickpeas the night before.

Garden Vegetable Enchiladas

I made these enchiladas for dinner tonight. Delicious! I've never made enchiladas before so this was a fun experiment. They were very hearty even without any meat or beans in them (whole milk and butter help!). My husband said they would make good company food.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

French Lentil Soup

I'm trying to learn how to cook with lentils more often, since I know we'll have lentils available when we move overseas. I made French Lentil Soup today, which was awesome. There's not a whole lot to it in terms of spices, but the flavors meld so well and the balsalmic vinegar adds some depth to it. My hubby said it was the best lentil soup he's ever had! I made Buttermilk Biscuits from the new Joy of Cooking with it - those were pretty good, but my husband says he likes them as much as the ones made of Walmart biscuit mix, so I'm not going to bother with them until we move somewhere that doesn't have a Walmart (Mars, perhaps).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Homemade Peanut Butter

We love peanut butter. We started buying natural peanut butter, which is so much better than then ultra-processed kind. We had some peanuts at home so I made homemade peanut butter with them. All you need is 2 cups of peanut butter, 1 tbsp peanut or canola oil, and salt (optional). Throw it all into your food processor for a few minutes, and voila! It turned out well but I don't know if it is any cheaper than buying the natural peanut butter from the store. It's more environmentally friendly though - you're not buying a glass jar every few weeks that's going to end up in a landfill - so maybe I'll keep making peanut butter just for that.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Pizza with Roasted Garlic, Bell Peppers and Two Cheeses

Made this for dinner tonight. I liked it, my husband did not. I thought it was a little too garlicky though. I used Jiffy Pizza Crust for possibly the last time. We bought a couple of boxes of it because it's so much cheaper than the premade crusts, but it takes too much work and is hard to shape. Either I'll go back to premade crusts or try my hand at making my own next time.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Oatmeal Bread

I made oatmeal bread again last night. This time I added a little less flour when I was mixing (last time I ended up using more like 6 cups of flour - this time I used about 5 1/3 cups). I also used the dough hook on my stand mixer instead of hand-kneading the dough. I ended up using a lot less additional flour during the kneading process, and it was a heck of a lot easier. Plus I finally learned what a "gluten window" is supposed to look like, so this time I knew when my dough was kneaded enough. This time the bread was a little more moist, and maybe a little more chewy. The loaves were still not big and fluffy, but I think that's due to my impatience with the whole rising process.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Tofu Fajitas

One of our friends in Wisconsin works for the publisher of Taste of Home, and gave us a couple cookbooks. Their Chicken Fajita recipe in one of them is one of my husband's favorites. I don't often make recipes out of cookbooks - I like to get them online, where I can read people's reviews of the recipe and see how many stars/forks it gets - but this is one I keep coming back to. We try to eat more healthy (especially after this season's holiday butter/sugar/egg gorge), so I usually substitute tofu for half of the chicken. Last night I made them with only tofu and they were great. I felt my body detoxing as I ate them. :) I used green peppers, onions, and green onions for the vegetables. I like red peppers in it too, but those are so much more expensive than green, and I'm cheap.