Friday, February 29, 2008

One Crazy Day of Bread and Tears

When the Daring Baker's challenge for this month was revealed to be Julia Child's 18 page French Bread recipe, picked by Mary the Breadchick and Sara of I like to cook, I have to admit I was scared. Scared like I was the first time I went on a date with the Brain. Scared in the I want to do this, but it's going to change my life. And what do I do if I put all this work into it and it turns out to be nothing? (call me kooky, but I was really nervous and excited about the first date with the Brain.) This whole Julia Child and french bread thing was the same way.

I had to make sure I had a lot of time set aside for this bread. Julia herself says that the whole making of the bread takes at least 6 1/2 to 7 hours before baking it. And I almost made it while I was at my mom's, but she's got a convection oven and frankly that scares me. So finally I decided on last Sunday. It was going to be the day for bread baking. We were house and dog sitting, so I almost did it in my mother-in-law's oven, because mine is a throwback to the era of non-digital clocks and rough estimates on dials. But in the spirit of Julia, who never seemed to mind making a mistake and fixing it, I decided to bake at home so I could reproduce the bread again if I wanted. (Without waiting for the Brain's parents to go on a trip.)

The problems actually started on Saturday when I asked the Brain if he wouldn't mind sometime when his shoulder felt better, fixing the leaky kitchen faucet. So on Sunday, after I'd started making my bread and it was snug in it's first 4 1/2 hour rise (it's cold here so the rises took longer) we went to Home Depot to get a new faucet. We picked out this gorgeous one that goes straight up and curves back down so that I could fit bigger pots under it. Incidentally it's great for filling up my circulating ice cooler, but I'm jumping ahead of myself here. I also checked with the Home Depot people about those unglazed terra cotta tiles and completely confused them. Well, until one finally figured it out and said I should just get a pampered chef baking stone 'cause that's what he had.

Back home again, we set about to changing the faucet. I was underneath just a screwing and unscrewing away. Of course I learned that it is important to shut off the water to the faucet before unscrewing the pipe, but no problemo, this was kind of fun. But then we realized we didn't have the part that went from the faucet handle parts to the water pipes. So Brain went and got some parts while I did the deflating and prepped the dough for the second 3 hour rise. The Brain came back and the part was about an inch to short, so out he went again.

When he came back he quickly went to work screwing these last two pipes in. I sat there kneeling with my feet on my but watching. (This is important you understand. I was just sitting there on my heels watching him finish.) When he finished we applauded and I stood up careful not to knock over the drip bucket. All of the sudden, HOLY JESUS! There was shooting pain going down from my knee into my calf. White hot pain that had me doing my fake Lamaze breathing (really what would I know about Lamaze breathing besides what I've seen on TV, but that's what I imagine in my head.) So there I was forcibly exhaling and the Brain asking "what the hell did you do?" What did I do? I started to cry. I hopped in our 120 year old house over to the couch (with visions of breaking through the floorboard into the dug out basement. Pleasantly plump girls do not hop in 120 year old houses unless they have to.)

According to the doctor who is an Ohio State fan (will the horribleness never end?) I have an angry medial compartment. Well the compartment matches the rest of me. How ridiculous to hurt myself standing up. I mean really I've exerted myself much more in the past and this is something I've done literally thousands of times before. Sooooo now I get to go through an MRI, if they can't do an open one, he's assured me I will be nicely drugged up. I'm a touch claustrophobic. And then probably surgery. All because I stood up.

But back to the bread. By the time I was back to breathing normally I was wondering what to do with this bread and my inability to walk really. The Brain told me I could throw it out, but I had several hours invested in it and really at that point I needed to bake. Baking is soothing for me. So I scooted the spare computer chair into the kitchen. At this point the Brain went to let the doggies out who were probably crossing their legs and dancing it had been so long. Standing on one leg, I managed to shape them into fairly decent looking boules. I slashed two of them straight down the center and I tried to get fancy on one and cut it in a crescent.

Then I somehow managed to get a pan of water into the oven without spilling any. And in the bread went. I couldn't find my squirt bottle to mist the bread, but to be honest I wasn't really in the mood to tear the house apart looking. I went with the whole basting the bread with water bit. I set the timer and went back to the couch. After a bit, I became aware of a burning smell. It turns out that one side of my oven is hotter than the other and the crescent cut boule was far more toasty shall we say than the others. The Brain tasted the bread the next morning and came up with the oh so explicit critique of "It tastes like bread."

I am a little more verbose than my handsome other half. I thought it was tasty. It was really really really tasty. It had a real nice crust. The crumb was chewy and there were some nice air pockets to it. It was exactly the kind of bread that I wish I could buy here in North Central Ohio, but I haven't found. It's all gone and I want more. I'll definitely be making it again. Whether I need surgery or not.

For the recipe go here. It's a big long one, but Julia made it really easy, I thought. If you're lucky like me and actually have Volume Two of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" it starts on page 57. And for more fabulous breads, go here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Unstuffed Cabbage

Remember that I had half a head of green cabbage to use up? Well I made this pretty easy and delicious Unstuffed Cabbage from my Healthy Cooking For Two (or Just You!) cookbook. There was no parboiling of the cabbage. No fiddling with rolling it up. It's nowhere near as pretty as regular stuffed cabbage, but it really captures the taste. Of course my Hungarian aunt makes them a thousand times better. The best part was that I had it in the oven in about 15 or 20 minutes. Then I could go do what I wanted for an hour.

So far I'm really liking this cookbook. I can tell you though that the portions are definitely generous.

Unstuffed Cabbage
serves 4

1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1/4 cup long grain white rice
1 whole egg
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 medium head shredded cabbage
1 Tbsp brown sugar
16 oz canned tomatoes (with juice)
1 1/2 beef broth or water

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium mixing bowl, lightly but thoroughly mix the beef, rice, egg, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and half the onions. Shape mixture into 8 meatballs.

Spread half the cabbage in a heavy, 3 quart dutch oven. Top with the remaining onions, then the meatballs. Finish with the remaining cabbage.

Sprinkle with the brown sugar and pour in the tomatoes (with juice) and broth or water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.

Cover the casserole, move it to the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Per serving: 420 calories, 21.5g total fat, 8.3g saturated fat, 130mg cholesterol, 568mg sodium, 27.7g protein, 30.1g carbohydrates, 5.1g dietary fiber

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mutter Kheema

Also known as Ground Lamb with Peas.

I really like Indian food. Indian food seems to have just the right amount of spice and complexity and heat to make being stuck inside (for various reasons) on a day that the snow is piling up outside. And Indian food is a lot like American food in that each region is vastly different in the spices and flavorings used.

One of my favorite Indian cookbooks, is interestingly enough the Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking cookbook with recipes by Raghavan Iyer. Although Betty Crocker seems an odd choice for an Indian cookbook, but there's all sorts of interesting comments in it, as well as a discussion of the spices and regions of India.

For example, about this recipe, Mr. Iyer says "Mutton, which can be either mature lamb or goat in India, is a delicacy, not only in the North, but also in the south-central city of Hyderbad where many Muslims dwell alongside their Hindu neighbors. The have retained their Moghul influences, as is evidenced by the city's architectural wonders and their spices of choice: cinnamon, cloves and garlic. Along with these seasonings, they have incorporated such quintessential South Indian elements as popping mustard seed and using fresh karhi leaves to create an altogether unique culinary style."

One thing that comes to mind is that you should avoid inhaling a great amount of the vapors from popping the mustard seeds and then when adding the onions, Serrano peppers, and garlic. I still can't smell anything but a scorching burning smell inside my nose. And I think there may be a cloud of mustard gas in my kitchen. Well maybe not mustard gas, but my nose is a running. Other than that this is one tasty dish. I followed Mr. Iyer's subsititutions and used bay leaves instead of the karhi leaves.

And where did I find ground lamb? At that lovely grocery store by my mom's house. There's loads of ground lamb up there.

Ground Lamb with Peas (Mutter Kheema)
from Better Crocker's Indian Home Cooking
6 servings

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
1 cup finely chopped onion
5 medium cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 Serrano peppers finely chopped
3 dried bay leaves (or 10 to 12 fresh kahri leaves)
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup frozen peas
1 medium tomato finely chopped (3/4 cup)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Garam Masaala
1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or fat free)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat oil and mustard seed in wok or deep 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Once seed begins to pop, cover and wait until popping stops.

2. Add cinnamon sticks, onion, garlic, chilies and bay leaves; stir-fry 2 to 4 minutes or until onion is brown.

3. Stir in lamb and peas. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lamb is brown.

4. Stir in remaining ingredients except cilantro. Cook 1 to 2 minutes stirring occasionally, just until tomato and yogurt are warm. Remove bay leaves and discard. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with cinnamon sticks left in, but do not eat them.

1 Serving: Calories 205 (Calories from Fat 115); Fat 13g (Saturated 5g); Cholesterol 50mg; Sodium 460mg; Carbohydrate 9g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein15g

Monday, February 25, 2008

Look What I Made This Week!

Yet again I've been lurking around the food blog world. And yet again I've found some delicious delicious posts on other blogs that I gave a try...

This week I decided to give the Egg Muffins found originally on Kalyn's Kitchen, and then found here and here and numerous other places on the Internet. These little babies are a tasty way to start your morning on the go. I usually eat mine cold right out of the refrigerator, but the Brain likes to heat his up. They are super versatile too. I've made them with goat cheese, Swiss, Parmesan, dill and asparagus. I've also made them with red pepper, carrots, fennel, cracked black pepper, and mushrooms. Either way they're great, easy and a healthy way to start the day.

I also made, because I couldn't resist, these unbelievably cinnamony brownies from Quirky Cupcake. They were delicious even though I think I made the glaze wrong. If you'll notice the difference between my week glaze to her luscious glaze in the photos. All I can think is that if mine were made wrong and still tasted so decadent and so lovely that even the Brain, who notoriously doesn't like brownies, ate far more than his share of them. Although it should be noted, because he's been insisting, that I did indeed eat over half of the pan. But I'm not the one who took a fork to the pan the next morning.

Finally I made this delicious Greek noodle dish found on Kalofagas. I bet you were wondering what I was going to do with Halloumi and Ricata Salata. Well okay maybe you weren't wondering. But I have been poking around a lot and when I saw this dish, I knew I had to make it. I just had to wait until I could find some Halloumi cheese and it took a trip to Michigan to find it! And Peter M. is right! Halloumi does squeak when you eat it. I also had to substitute chardonney for port and these fun little radiatore shaped pasta for egg noodles. It's amazing what you run out of when you're not looking. Anyway, it was delicious and light and just perfect. Although I did have some trouble that I kept eating the hot fried Halloumi before I finished making the dish.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

If Only the BBQ wasn't buried in snow...

After yesterday's oh so decadent chocolate sandwiches that left me sitting around bloated and overstuffed with a happy smile on my face, today is the triumphant return of vegetables! I return to vegetables with perhaps one of the healthiest. Cabbage. Both red and white cabbage too. Double whammy!

Cabbage is a great source of Vitamin C. It's also high in manganese, dietary fiber, folate and vitamin B6. Cabbage is one of those worldwide vegetables. It can be found all over Europe, it's used in cuisines from India and the Orient. It can be eaten boiled, fermented, sauteed, or even raw. Like I did.

I wanted to make a red and green cabbage coleslaw. I guess I just thought it would be pretty. That and Val over at More Than Burnt Toast keeps posting recipes to BBQ. Our BBQ keeps getting snowed in. How weird is it that we have more snow in February than in January? Very odd if you ask me. All this BBQ posting has me in a picnic sort of mood. So I hunted around and found this recipe on Epicurious that I sort of used as my inspiration.

Although I kept having to switch bowls to get one big enough to accommodate the entire salad, it was a fairly easy recipe to make. I personally found it easier to just cut up the cabbage by hand than to use the food processor and spend so much time cleaning it. But I'm sure the food processor would work for this too. The result was this lavish and colorful salad that is super super tasty. It would go great with a burger. Or if you're a vegetable nut like me, a heaping helping is a satisfying lunch!

And since it only used half a head of red cabbage and half a head of green cabbage, expect more cabbage recipes in the very near future. Cabbage starts to lose its vitamin C quickly after being cut.

Multicolored Cabbage Slaw
inspired by Bon Appetit

3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1/2 medium head of red cabbage thinly sliced
1/2 small head of green cabbage thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper cut into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper cut into thin strips
1 cup precut matchstick carrots strips
4 green onions thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

In a small bowl mix together vinegar, oils, peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic until combined.

Combine cabbages, peppers, carrots, onions, cilantro and sesame seeds in a very large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chocolate Sandwiches

I came home tonight alone. The Brain is working late and has already eaten. It's a Friday in Lent and being a Catholic, there was to be no meat eating for me. Not that I really think it brings me closer to God because we eat beef so rarely. But we're Catholic, so it's what we do.

To top it off, I didn't really feel like cooking tonight, maybe I'm coming down with something. So I made a tuna sandwich and munched on some potato chips. Oh the glamour that is my life. I was sitting there, quite contented really, watching 2 1/2 Men which has to be my favorite show with the possible exception of Iron Chef America, when my sweet tooth hit in a big way. There I was, wanting, no needing dessert. And we don't seem to have any regular flour in the house.

Thus baking was out of the question. Because I just didn't feel like going to the grocery store. I mean I have to go tomorrow anyway and if I go tonight I might just buy some really bad, but delicious food that I like to stay away from. Processed food. BAD food. Like pizza rolls. So I raided the cupboards. I don't have any stale "hearth style" bread so Butterscotch Bread Pudding from Small Batch Baking was out. Regular, non-bread Pudding takes 2 hours to chill and I don't have that kind of time before I have to go back to the other house to play with the doggies. I mean house sit.

What I did find when I went through the cupboards and the pantry was part of my loaf of cocktail bread that I made these delicious sandwiches out of, about half a bag of chocolate chips, half a bag of white chocolate chips, Nutella, some walnuts, and peanut butter. I decided to make some sweet sweet sandwiches. Mmmmmmm sandwiches. Through some delicious trial and error I came up with 3 separate sandwiches that I suggest with a cold glass of milk. White chocolate walnut, chocolate peanut butter, and Nutella. There is no real recipe, it's more like playing when you were a kid in the kitchen.

White Chocolate Walnut
Basically butter one side of two pieces of bread, place one slice of bread butter side down in a hot little skillet, then put some white chocolate chips on top of the bread. Sprinkle the bread with chopped walnuts and place another piece of bread on top buttered side up. Cook over medium heat until the chips are a little melty and the bread is a little browned on the bottom. Flip over and cook until the other piece of bread is browned and the chips are melted.

Again, butter one side of two pieces of bread and place one slice of bread butter side down in the pan. Spread the bread carefully with Nutella. Place the second piece of bread butter side up and cook until both sides of the sandwich are browned (flipping halfway through cooking) and the Nutella is all melty.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
And again butter one side of two pieces of bread and place one slice of bread butter side down in the pan. Spread the bread carefully with peanut butter and then place as many chocolate chips on the peanut butter as you can. Place the second piece of bread butter side up and cook the same as the white chocolate walnut sandwich.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Channeling Julia

Sometimes when it's cold and raining or snowing I just want soup. Maybe a sandwich, but for this post let's just say I want soup. Unfortunately, when I'm at my mom's and I'm elected to make dinner and it's cold and raining, I not only want soup, but I don't want to go to the grocey store.

Although let me interject here that I LOVE going to my mom's grocery store. I often will go there and get all sorts of things that are, shall we say, hard to find in Nowhere, Ohio. This trip I picked up ground lamb, Halloumi, ricotta salata, garbanzo bean flour, quinoa, almond meal, and 2 tubes of tomato paste (so much more convenient than opening a can for 2 teaspoons of tomato paste). My mom's grocery store is one of those upscale suburban grocery stores in an upscale suburb. They have all sorts of fancy and wonderfull ingredients.

But sometimes, I just don't feel like going out in the cold. In fact, Mom and her husband are off in the wilds of Arizona right now just because they don't feel like being cold anymore. And my stepdad for all his very odd little quirks (He prefers canned vegetables. Strange.) has been trying for years to convince my mom that they should relocate to the Southwest. He loves, with a burning passion, New Mexico. He says the dryness of the heat makes the difference. Ok.

This is my stepdad's favorite soup. There is a different Julia Child recipe on my to do list, but I thought I'd start out with something more straightforward and less complicated. This is Julia Child's French Onion Soup recipe courtesy of the Food Network. And although Mom had onions, I did end up having to go out to the store for beef broth, french bread, and Gruyere. But it wasn't hard to twist my arm to go to the grocery store. I just had to add some extra layers. And the smell of this soup cooking was really warming and made everything better.

French Onion Soup
from the Food Network

1/2 stick butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp flour
8 cups beef stock
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
1 cup dry white wine
8 1/2 inch thick slices of French bread, toasted
3/4 pound coarsley grated Gruyere

Heat in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, increase the heat to medium high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, Cognac, and wine. Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning.

Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Potato Pancakes

As a young girl, my mother used to make us eat potato pancakes. She would put the potatoes in the blender and mix the potato puree with flour and salt and fry it up. I would moan and groan and call up my best friend Beth and see if I could have dinner over at her house. My mom's potato pancakes weren't exactly my favorite thing for dinner.

In college, in Ann Arbor, I worked at a mostly authentic German Restaurant. The potato pancakes there were crispy and bore an interesting similarity to McDonald's hashbrowns. The chef tried to teach me how to make them, but my newly minted legal drinking status usually overuled and the chef, the other waitstaff and I would usually end up having a couple rounds of Jagermeister instead. Once thoroughly drunk we'd snack after hours on Lungajager (I really have no idea how to spell it, but it's a tasty German sausage) and potato pancakes.

I remember telling my mom about how delicious these pancakes were and how they were totally unlike hers. See my mom's didn't even look like they had potatoes in them. My mom then shared with me the secret reason why she made her potato pancakes the way she did. It's because when she was a girl there was always blood in the potato pancakes from someone grating some finger with the potatoes and onions. Although the reasoning is sound, I sort of shrugged it off as silly.

So today I made my own potato pancakes for the first time. I found a delicious recipe in the book Healthy Cooking for Two (or Just You). I really enjoyed them with some applesauce. They didn't taste like my mom's and they didn't taste like a McDonald's hashbrown. They were just right and I'll definitely be making them again.

And although I didn't grate my fingers until I was doing the dishes, I understand why Mom put the potatoes in the blender.

Potato Pancakes
2 servings

2 medium baking potatoes
2 large egg whites
2 Tbsp coarsley grated onion
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp Canola oil

Peel the potatoes and coarsley shred them with a grater onto 2 paper towels. Gently twist the towels and the potatoes over the sink to wring out excess liquid, thenplace the potatoes in a mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until foamy and add to the potatoes along with the onions, salt, and pepper. Toss gently to blend, sprinkle with the flour and toss again.

Brush a heavy 10" nonstick skillet with 1 teaspoon of the oil and preheat for 1 to 2 minutes on medium heat. Drop in the potato mixture by 1/2 cup measuring cup to make 2 pancakes. Flatten them out with the back of a pancake turner (spatula) and cook for about 7 minutes flipping to the other side halfway through the cooking time. Pancakes should be crisp and browned. Repeat with remaining batter to make 2 more pancakes. Serve with applesauce.
Per serving: 162 calories, 5g total fat, 0.4g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 589mg sodium, 4.6g protein, 26.2g carbohydrates, 2.8g dietary fiber

Monday, February 18, 2008

Creamy Peanut Dressing

Sometimes, when I have a bad morning, like this morning where I discover that the soup I had planned for lunch got mysteriously fizzy over the weekend. This morning, I also discovered that last night I had stepped in doggy doodoo in my favorite running shoes. I also managed to slip on some ice on the way to work, went flying and landed in a mud puddle. So by 9am I was muddy, had no lunch, had smelly shoes, and a big blue bruise on my big behind. I did what any other red blooded American woman would do. I came home and ate a bunch of Girl Scout Cookies.

The day managed to get better, but bearing in mind my one thousand calorie breakfast I needed something light for dinner. I also had to work mostly in the constraints of what's in the fridge and pantry because remember I was away all weekend? I haven't done my grocery shopping for the week yet. SO I consulted the Healthy Cooking for Two cookbook and found a Creamy Peanut Dressing for salad. I chopped up some romaine lettuce, a little red pepper, a little yellow pepper, a couple radishes, about half a can of water chestnuts, a slice of onion and added some sliced mushrooms. Behold! I made an Asian chopped salad of sorts. I didn't measure any of the salad ingredients, but you get the idea. It was very very tasty and I'm starting to feel super healthy.

Now I can have some of my chocolate for dessert....

Creamy Peanut Dressing
from Healthy Cooking for Two (or Just You)
2 servings

1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
4 tsp creamy peanut butter
2 tsp lemon juice
Thai garlic chili sauce
soy sauce

In a small bowl using a small whisk, blend the yogurt with the peanut butter and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in Thai garlic chili sauce and soy sauce to taste.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 79 calories, 5.3g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 74 mg sodium, 4.3g protein, 4.9g carbohydrates, .7g dietary fiber.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Look What I Made!

This week I decided to take pictures and let you know what I've made from other blogs out there. There are tons of great blogs and tons of great recipes and it's a cool idea I got from Deb and Pixie to highlight things I've made from other blogs...

First, remember those mushrooms that I over-bought? Well I took my massive amounts of mushrooms and turned them into Cream of Mushroom Soup as featured on Smitten Kitchen. It was very very good. I followed Deb's suggestion of adding less cream and I also added about a half cup of Chardonnay (because I happened to have it around).

Then, and the Brain will be upset with me if I don't make this one again, I made Skillet Lasagna from More than Burnt Toast. This was super easy and came together in a flash. And to top it off it was hearty and was just right for a rainy weekend night where the Brain and I both came home tired and hungry. Really really tasty.

Finally, I made the Nut Balls that Lisa Rene of Little Bits entered as her aphrodesiac in the Kitchen of Love event at Mele Cotte. I had to substitute an egg for the tofu because I can't eat soy. These were so darn tasty that my mom and I sat there and just kept eating them. I would say they'd be perfect to bring to a party, but make sure it's a party where you know no one has nut allergies. These little tasty bites were delicious and I totally forgot to make the dipping sauce. These lovely beauties seem to me to be very low carb for those of you who watch that kind of thing and are very high in protein and good fats. It's an appetizer you can feel good about eating.

So those are the recipes I made off other blogs this week. I'll try to post on a regular basis other recipes I find from other blogs. Don't worry I have a whole lot of them I'm eager to try!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tomorrow is another Chardonnay

So this month the lovely Laurie at Quirky Cupcake and her lovely cohost Tempered Woman are hosting Cupcake Hero Liquor. I believe I've mentioned this already. Yes, yes, I've already entered the oh so delicious Blackberry Cabernet Cupcakes. And although massive butt-kissing can't possibly hurt my chances of being declared the next cupcake hero, I really have more humanitarian motives. Although Quirky Cupcake and Tempered Woman are really great blogs and you, yes I'm talking to YOU there, should go check them out.

It occured to me last weekend at a family gathering where my one sister in law sat there drinking her white wine while the rest of the women drank red. Some women do not like red wine. Some women actually prefer a WHITE wine. This got me to thinking. It became clear that I would just have to buckle down and make a Chardonnay cupcake. I had a 4 pack of Chardonnay at home. But what goes with Chardonnay. Besides fish. and chicken.

It took me a long time to think of it, but finally I persevered. I decided I would have to do a fruit and most of the fruits that I thought of would fall under the "yucky fruit" list: mangoes, kiwi, strawberries. Finally I decided on pear. pear falls decidedly below apples and blackberries, just above oranges, and is way way better than kiwi. I would make Pear Chardonnay Cupcakes!

They turned out delicious! The wine taste mingled with the pear taste and the resulting cupcakes turned out lightly fruity. In a good way. When I gave them to testers, they spent some time trying to figure out what the flavor was exactly. They were also impressed that I could make a tasty cupcake out of a fruit I don't really like, and a wine I don't drink often. Interesting enough I have a mostly full jar of pear juice that the Brain isn't terribly fond of either if anyone wants it, or can suggest a good use for it.

Today is also my mom's birthday. She's 65 and a lot of fun. She has 7 kids and 5 grandkids. She's working on 3 different quilts right now. In fact, she's in the other room quilting away. She's a really intelligent great lady, so this batch of cupcakes went to her instead of birthday cake. She really likes them. OH yeah and check out her blog over here. It's pretty funny and very short. Happy Birthday Mom!

Pear Chardonnay Cupcakes

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Chardonnay
1/2 bosc pear, peeled and chopped small

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, mix butter sugar and eggs until smooth and creamy; add the vanilla and mix well.
In a small bowl, mix baking powder and flour; add to creamed mixture.
Add white wine and mix well, but be carefull not to overmix. Add chopped pears.
Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool completely on wire racks

1/2 cup pear juice
1/4 cup Chardonnay
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 oz. cream cheese
4 c. powdered sugar

Mix the pear juice, Chardonnay, and dark brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer uncovered until mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup and is thick and syruppy. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl cream together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar carefully and beat well. Pour thickened pear Chardonnay syrup into mixing bowl and beat until well combined. Frost cupcakes and enjoy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pretty Radish Sandwiches

Tonight, I had to do a late run through Meijers for butter because I have some cupcakes that need frosting. How did I run out of butter? I was up there anyway because I had killed my cell phone earlier this week and I had a library book that was due today that I didn't finish, but that's ok because I didn't really enjoy it. But I had to drive up to return it. But I digress....

Anyhow, so I'm wandering hungrily through Meijers and this happy little radish bunch lept off the shelf and into my cart. Ok I'm lying. I picked them up and put them in my cart. They were just so pretty and fresh looking and promised that spring was right around the corner. Well that and I remembered seeing a picture of an open faced radish sandwich in the latest issue of Bon Appetit. Sheesh I love that magazine!

These little radish sandwiches were so easy and quick to put together. I'm now in full anticipation for spring and the first peppery radishes to come out of my backyard garden. Because although my little radishes were downright cute, they weren't as peppery as the ones I grew last year. Now those were good.

Radishes, by the way are really good for you. They are relatives of the turnip. They are high in ascorbic acid, folic acid and potassium. They're also good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium. They also have a low calorie density. They also can be used for a variety of homeopathic medical remedies.

For all of that, there really is no recipe for these sandwiches. Well Bon Appetit came up with one and if you want to see it you can read it here. But what I did was use unsalted butter to butter as many cocktail slices of bread as I was going to eat. I then sprinkled the butter with kosher salt. Then I carefully thinly sliced as many radishes as it took to cover the bread. Then I ate it. Deeeeeelicious!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Please Sir, I'd Like Some More

I am a lucky girl. I have a great mother in law. I know I've let this be known several times, but really, I mean it. Back in early January, she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told her I wanted a bread baking book or some athletic socks. She tried to get me an artisan bread book a friend of hers had, but she could only find it used. Instead, she gave me the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook. I Love it. Really. Madly, deeply, love it.

See, I'm a fairly big dork. And I love to read cookbooks. I look at the recipes and the descriptions and I imagine how it would taste and whether the Brain would eat the recipe and whether I could get the ingredients here. Sometimes I try to imagine how fattening things are and whether my butt could really take any more expanding. But being that this is really a crazy fantastic cookbook, it has the nutrition information for almost all of the recipes.

As of right now, I've managed to get through the breakfast section. While things like quinoa pancakes look unbelievable, I'm not sure where I'd manage to get some quinoa flour out here in Nowhere, Ohio. Especially with this snow/ freezing rain blend we've gotten today. I did pick up some quinoa in Michigan this weekend, but I don't know if I can make my own flour. But I digress. In the midst of this baking book, there was a recipe for porridge.

Porridge? Porridge brings to mind cold and rainy weather and orphans and tasteless gruel and musicals about poor people. Or at least it used to for me. This was the most amazing breakfast EVER. I haven't wanted a second helping of breakfast since I was a kid and my mom once in a while bought a sugar cereal, like Graham Crackers, or Honey Nut Cheerios. Not only was it delicious, but it was packed with fiber and whole grains. The porridge, not Honey Nut Cheerios. I happened to have almost all of the ingredients on hand too. I didn't have the exact fruits the recipe called for, and I only had about 1/4 cup of heavy cream for the Maple Cream. But really I don't think the Maple Cream is necessary. Don't get me wrong, it was soooooo good. It was rich and tasty and made my eyes roll back in my head. But the porridge with the fruit would be a very good breakfast with just a sprinkle of brown sugar. Way more healthy too.

And the porridge was a great way to start a day with such miserable weather. It even kept me full through shoveling. Too bad I forgot to pack my own lunch. Such a healthy breakfast did make me feel better about going next door to the local coffeeshop for a brownie for lunch though. And oh yay! I get to have leftovers for breakfast tomorrow! The Brain didn't want any. Silly man.

Irish Oatmeal with Dried Fruit and Maple Cream
from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking
2 servings

1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp dried prunes, chopped (about 3)
1 Tbsp currants
1 Tbsp golden raisins
2 Tbsp craisins

The night before you want to serve the porridge, soak the oats in enough water to cover them plus an inch. The next morning, drain the oats and place them in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water and the salt. Bring the oats to a simmer over medium heat and simmer, stirring, until they're tender, about 10 to 12 minutes total cooking time. Stir in the dried fruits and let the porridge sit for 5 minutes. To serve the porridge, divide the oatmeal between 2 bowls and serve with a sprinkle of brown sugar and the maple cream (recipe follows).

Nutrition Information per serving (3/4 cup porridge): 39g whole grains, 190 cal, 3g fat, 6g protein, 37g complex carbohydrates, 5g dietary fiber, 271mg sodium, 269mg potassium, 64RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 31mg calcium, 184mg phosphorus

Maple Cream
Yield: 1 cup, 8 servings

1 cup heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
1 small strip orange peel
1 star anise
1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine the cream with the cinnamon stick, orange peel, and anise in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, orange peel and star anise, and whisk in the maple syrup. Increase the heat and simmer, stirring, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes more. Serve with porridge.

According to the cookbook this cream "keeps well in the refrigerator, and a quick zap in the microwave warms it just enough to serve."

They didn't give the nutrition information for the Maple Cream.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mushroom Casserole

Last time I went to Meijers, the Brain came with me. It was sort of an outing for us. I tried to follow my usual and horribly OCD path through the grocery store sticking to my shopping list as best I can. Straying only in the produce section, but more on that in a minute. The Brain happily went off and grabbed things like hot dogs and buns and tossed them in the cart. He grabbed all kinds of things and we went down aisles that I tend not to go down like the soda and chip aisle and we skipped aisles that I always go down (ahem, baking aisle). I was downright twitchy when we got done.

As painfull as this trip was for me, it turned out to be a good thing the Brain was along. It turns out that we needed the shredded cheese because I got overzealous with the seasoning on some chicken chili. And as it turns out he makes himself a hot dog for a snack and then he's a happy man. The best thing thing the Brain did was throw some pizza crust and the fixings in the cart. Why was that so great? Well I went a little exuberant on the crimini mushrooms. See they were 10 for $10 and the 11th was free. On the 8oz. packages. I had enough sense to not pick up 11 of them. I picked up 6. We ate heavily mushroomed pizzas.

So they are holding up well in the fridge, but I still had 4 packs when we got home tonight and I need to use these babies up. So when I was sitting at work today and the mailman brought my latest order from Amazon, which included the cookbook Healthy Cooking For Two (Or Just You) by Frances Price R.D. I scoured it for mushroom recipes and I came across this Skillet Casserole of Bulgur & Crimini Mushrooms. I thought it was really good. I sprinkled a little parsley on mine. The Brain thought it was ok, and his was plain. We both were surprised at how generous the portion size was too.

Skillet Casserole of Bulgur & Crimini Mushrooms

1 Tbsp butter
2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
2 Tbsp finely chopped onions
2 cups Chicken broth
1/2 cup bulgur
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Place a heavy medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the mushrooms and onions; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until mushrooms release their juices.

Stir in the broth, raise the heat and bring the mixture quickly to a boil. Then stir in the bulgur, thyme, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender.

2 servings
Per Serving: 128 calories, 6.8 g. total fat, 3.8 g. saturated fat, 18 mg. cholesterol, 631 mg. sodium, 3.9 g. protein, 14.8 g. carbohydrates, 2.6 g. dietary fiber

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cacao Nib Vinaigrette and Bell Pepper Salad

Chocolate has long been seen to have a calming effect on women everywhere. When my mom went back to work all the younger men knew to bring her a piece of chocolate. Every day. They also called her "Your Highness", but don't ask me how that got started. They're engineers. What can I say?

When the Brain hurt himself, (he's hanging in there and appreciates all the good wishes), I went to the grocery store and stocked up on chips and Chef Boyardee and the various "boy" foods that he likes. I also stocked up on 2 bars of Ghirardelli chocolate, a bar of Hershey Cacao Reserve dark chocolate with nibs, and a Dagoba Xocolatl bar. I knew that at some point in the 3-6 weeks it will take for him to be more comfortable and 8-12 weeks for the pain to go away that I will need some chocolate.

Chocolate has also long been considered an aphrodisiac. The Aztecs thought it invigorated men and made women less inhibited. Chocolate contains Phenylethylamine and Seratonin which both make you feel happy. They cause rapid mood change, a rise in blood pressure, increased heart rate and an energy boost. Wheeee. Perfect for some hanky panky.

Chris at Mele Cotte is hosting a blog event about aphrodisiacs used in appetizers, side items or dinner dish to celebrate Valentine's Day. And I'm coming in right under the wire with only 2 hours left until the deadline. I've heavily borrowed from a couple recipes in The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg (which is an unbelievably cool book that explains all about chocolate making and the cacao plant and has some gorgeous photos), to come up with a Cacao Nib Vinaigrette. Then because I figured salad dressing isn't really a side item, appetizer, or dinner dish, I made a yellow bell pepper salad. A really easy yellow bell pepper salad. And although this salad and vinaigrette won't necessarily make you rip your clothes off, it's pretty tasty.

And where did I get Cacao Nibs? Why I got them on a trip up to Ann Arbor at Morgan and York, one of my favorite places to shop while I'm there. I've heard they are also available at gourmet shops from Scharffen Berger. But we don't have any gourmet shops in this county.

Cacao Nib Vinaigrette

5 scallions sliced thin
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp cacao nibs, coarsley chopped
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix the scallions and balsamic vinegar and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir in cacao nibs and then slowly whisk in olive oil. Makes 3/4 cup.

Yellow Bell Pepper Salad

1 yellow bell pepper
2 Tbsp Cacao Nib Vinaigrette
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Slice the yellow bell pepper into thin stips. Toss with vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I told you it was easy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies

Do you remember that stupid sappy movie from the '70s "Love Story" where Ali McGraw tells Ryan O'Neal that "Love means never having to say you're sorry"? Well she was wrong. Duh. But love means constantly saying your sorry.
For example you may find yourself one evening reading a book, like We Need to Talk About Kevin, and then you suddenly find yourself saying things like "I'm so sorry my darling husband who never used up a box of bandaids before meeting me, that my streak of athletic ineptness and general accident prone-ness has rubbed off on you. I'm sorry that I pushed you to find outlets for your frustration with starting your own business, and that I encouraged you to go and play raquetball." This sort of thing will then continue as you say, "I'm sorry I can't avoid all the potholes on the 2 mile journey to the ER and I really don't mean to make this such a bumpy drive." And on into the night as you helplessly say, "I'm sorry I don't know how to make you more comfortable, I have experience with all kinds of injuries, but when it comes to shoulders I know squat."

So yes, love means having to say you're sorry. A lot. After a mostly sleepless night, the only good thing was I finished my book. I recommend it. And the Brain is finally just now starting to dose on and off. It was necessary for me to throw my lenten resolution of not eating sweets right out the window. Whoo. I made it almost one whole day. Usually I'm way better at this giving things up for lent thing.

I made these luciously rich and tasty Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies. They're a decadent dark chocolate cookie with just a hint of peanut butter that are studded with semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. The inspiration came after reading Peabody's blog about Peanut Butter World Peace Cookies, but I wanted something chewier. The first time I made them, the next morning I had 7 for breakfast and promptly packed them up and took them over to my friends at Catholic Charities. The lovely ladies at Catholic Charities have become my dumping ground for baked goods. They don't seem to mind. Although rumor has it there was a skirmish when it came to the last cookie in the bag. Fortunately about half of these cookies will go to another friend of the Brain and I who just had his knee replaced. So we'll only have to contend with half of these oh so delicious little addictive morsels. Perhaps they should be called crack cookies...

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies
an original recipe

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups Hershey Special Dark Cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 bag peanut butter chips
1/2 bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together flour, cocoa, soda and salt in medium mixing bowl. Beat butter, peanut butter, and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfull (or small cookie scoop) onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8 to 9 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies will be sort. They puff while baking and flatten upon cooling. Cool slightly then remove from cookie sheet to cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Carrot Soup

It has been raining. All last night. Most of yesterday. Part of the night before. All day today. The constant rain has not only started to dampen my mood (except for the ocaisional pun hee hee) but it has created a soup out of our backyard. Our basement hasn't flooded so far. It's only a little damp around the edges. Our garage however is leaking.

When the Brain and I got married, I moved from a 1200 square foot apartment and he moved from a 1100 square foot house to lovely Nowhere, Ohio. Right into a 700 square foot house. So pretty much over the course of the last year we have been in the process of removing 1600 extra square foot of crap out of the garage. We've been doing pretty good at it. We've donated some stuff. We threw some stuff out. We've "oops" broken stuff. We've put up shelves to stash some of our stuff. We still can't get a car in our garage. But we can make a path to the beer fridge so it'll be okay in the end.

So there's a vent in the top of the garage. I guess that's so if we ever could get a car in the garage, we couldn't leave it running and kill ourselves with carbon monoxide poisoning. Anyway, I checked to see if the lake taking over the backyard was invading the garage only to find dripping from the vent through my sleeping bag, through the Brain's sleeping bag, on some of the boat cushions, down to the Brain's weight bench. I pulled over an empty garbage can to catch the drips and called the Brain to come fix it.

Then I made some soup. This soup recipe came from my brand spanking new vegetable cookbook. Who would have thought there would be more than one cookbook dedicated to vegetables that wasn't necessarily a "vegetarian cookbook". Now I have nothing against vegetarians, it's just that I can't digest soy and it gets a little ugly when I eat some. So this new book is Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka. It's not quite as easy to find vegetables as my beloved Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop, but it does have them grouped by regions and by family so I'm learning some stuff there. With such a miserable day, I decided to go with good old familiar carrots and a lovely creamy carrot soup. It was warming and delicious and went great with some shavings of Grana Padano cheese and fresh cracked pepper ontop.

Creamy Carrot Soup
adapted from Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka

2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 pound carrots (2 very large), peeled, trimmed and cut across into 1 inch rounds
2 3/4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup fat free ricotta cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Grana Padano
Black pepper

Cook the oil and cumin in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute to release the flavor of the cumin. Add the carrots and vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a boil until the carrots are very soft (about 30-40 minutes). Remove from heat. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in ricotta. Season with salt and lemon juice.
Garnish with Grana Padano and black pepper.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Red Red Wine.....

It's Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, and Pancake Day! Yay! So that means we get to eat like pigs and stuff ourselves silly so we have enough fat storage to last through the next 40 days until Easter. OK, so maybe that's not quite how it's supposed to be and certainly misses the point of Lent. Lent is supposed to be a season of abstinence to bring ourselves closer to God by understanding that Jesus suffered in his 40 days in the desert. Or something like that.

Anyhow, Laurie over at Quirky Cupcake, lovely lady, lovely blog, this month chose liquor as the theme for this month's Cupcake Hero. She's being helped out this month by the also lovely Tempered Woman. Because February has the oh so fantastic made up holiday that pressures couples to prove how much they love each other and makes single women feel inept. Yes, I'm talking about Valentine's Day. It's kind of fitting it falls right smack dab in lent.

For my liquor cupcake contribution, I went with the drink I go to most. The drink that Renee Zellweger chugged while lip-syncing "All By Myself" at the begining of Bridget Jones' Diary. The drink that my friend T used to sip while sitting in her Jacuzzi bathtub while avoiding her husband. I'm beginning to think it's the drink of women everywhere. It's red red wine. Just like the song.

I based this cupcake on my favorite flavor of ice cream. Well sorbet really. Ciao Bella's Blackberry Cabernet sorbet. Super yummy. I found a recipe, that I seriously tweaked for a German Rotweinkuchen (red wine cake). I also had on hand a 4 pack, ok 2 left from a 4 pack of Funky Llama cabernet little bottles. I happened to run across some beautiful (and cheap) blackberries at Trader Joes when my friend S was in town. It was like these beautiful little cupcakes were meant to be. The cupcakes really turned out delicious. Plus by the second day, the red wine flavor came through better.

Blackberry Cabernet Cupcakes

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp Hershey Special Dark cocoa powder
125 mL (1/2 cup) cabernet sauvignon + 2 Tbsp

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, mix butter sugar and eggs until smooth and creamy; add the vanilla and mix well.
In a small bowl, mix baking powder and flour; add to creamed mixture.
Add red wine and mix well, but be carefull not to overmix. Add cocoa powder.
Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool completely on wire racks.

Brush all of the cupcakes with cabernet. (Uses about 2 Tbsp total)

1 cup blackberries
about 1/2 cup Cabernet
1/2 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar

Place blackberries and cabernet in small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce until blackberries mash easily and wine is syrupy. Strain, pressing on seeds to extract all the liquid. Blackberry Cabernet sauce should equal a little less than a quarter cup.

Beat butter in mixer until creamy. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk until a semi thick spreading consistency is reached. Add Blackberry Cabernet sauce. The frosting should be a little on the soft side.

Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with the Blackberry Cabernet frosting. Place one firm blackberry in the center of each cupcake. Sift some Hershey Special Dark cocoa onto the cupcakes.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Mushy Peas

I really like peas, but I'm stretching my comfort zone tonight. Peas, in my opinion, should never be mushy. They are great cold and firm on a salad. They are great steamed in the microwave. As a single person, I could make a meal out of a bag of frozen peas. But in my household canned peas are forbidden. They are salty and mushy and downright gross.

When we had to eat peas as kids and my sister G, who hates peas, would chew and chew and chew. G could make a spoonfull of peas last for what seemed a lifetime. Like most kids growing up when I did, we couldn't get up from the table until we finished our dinner. Unfortunately, no one could get up from the table until we all finished our dinners. That meant that we all sat there and watched G take forever to finish her peas. Chewing away and crying that she hates peas. We all tried to tell her that if you didn't like something to chew maybe twice and then swallow as fast as you can and rinse it down with milk. She never tried, she just kept chewing. She still won't eat peas.

So, what was I thinking making Mushy Peas? Well because they're pretty. And tasty. And for me, they're like comfort food without the calories of mashed potatoes. I have to admit that I was skeptical about pureeing peas. I mean it just sounds icky. But it wasn't. In fact we have none left. I don't think the Brain showed my enthusiasm for them though. I was thinking to myself, while eating my second helping, that if I had never had peas before, that I would instantly fall in love with them while eating this dish. But after spending a lifetime eating my peas that I could skewer on each tine of a fork, it took a little getting used to the idea of pureed peas. But they are definitely tasty.

Minty Mushy Peas
recipe courtesy of Jamie Oliver and The Food Network

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 handfull fresh mint, leaves picked off
1 pound frozen peas
2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions, mint leaves, and peas. Cover and simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occaisionally so all the peas are hot and bright green. Pour the peas into the food processor and puree unti smooth. When it's done add the butter and season very carefully, to taste.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Jicama and Carrot Salad

My friend S came down to visit this weekend. When I first met S she had no interest in cooking. We'd go to the gym and work out for hours, remember I was a gym rat, and I'd tell her about whatever new recipe I was eager to try and she would tell me about the new frozen dinners on the market and which ones tasted best. So fast forward several years and S married P. P is a very particular cook. It's not a bad thing. He likes things to be just so. P is rubbing off on S.

S is now interested in cooking. Yay! She's getting pretty good at it too. So while S was visiting, after we did things like eat at the Mexican restaurant in town and drive the 50 miles to the fancy shopping center and Trader Joes, we ended up at Meijers buying things to make dinner with. S turned to me and let me know that she had discovered Jicama.
Jicama is the tuberous root of a vine native to Central America and Mexico. It's kind of an ugly root, but once you peel the skin and make sure to get the top 1/8 of an inch too, the inside is a lovely off white. Jicama is very crunchy and has a taste sort of like a cross between an apple and a turnip. Jicama stores its carbohydrates as dietary fiber in the form of inulin. Yes that's the same stuff as in Jerusalem artichokes. But not to worry, jicama doesn't have those malodorous side effects! Jicama is actually mostly water and is pretty porous so it soaks up whatever dressing you put on it. It is pretty much always eaten raw. Oh and for as tasty as the jicama root is, don't eat the vine attached to the root. It's poisonous.

S and I picked a jicama at Meijers, but we got so involved making a pasta sauce and stuffing ourselves with Zingermann's bread and baking cupcakes, that we didn't get around to making a salad. So today's salad is for S. It's again from my Vegetables Every Day book. I know. I know. I keep picking recipes out of this book. But seriously, I've barely scratched the surface. And if I'm making all these tasty recipes shouldn't you go get it and try some tasty recipes of your own? I'm not going to post them all you know. And as expected, the book did not disappoint. This salad is light and tasty and delicious. I really like the sesame-ginger vinaigrette and the crunch of the jicama.

Jicama and Carrot Salad with Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette
from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop

2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp grated fresh gingerroot
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp dark sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large jicama, peeled and julienned
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater
2 medium scallions sliced thin

Whisk the vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and oils together in a small bowl. Season with black pepper to taste.

Place the jicama, carrot and scallions in a bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables and toss. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.