Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone!  I'll see you again after January 1st :-)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cranberry-Chocolate Cookies

Using my recipe for Lemon-Macadamia Nut Cookies as a start, I worked up a way to make our Cranberry-White Chocolate Cookies a bit softer and chewier.  I love what the cream cheese does to the base of these cookies.  Both recipes are good, but personally I like this one a bit more than our old standby.

I used dark chocolate chips for this batch, but you could use white or milk if you'd prefer.  White chocolate with cranberries is a really good mix.

Cranberry-Chocolate Cookies
(makes about 3 dozen)

2 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt 
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter, soft
4 oz cream cheese, soft
1 egg
1 1/2 t almond extract
1 c chocolate chips, white, dark, or milk

1/2 c dried cranberries

Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 300.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour through the salt.  In a large bowl, mix together the sugars, and then beat in the butter and cream cheese until thoroughly combined.  Add the egg and extract, and beat until all ingredients are smoothly combined.  Add the flour mixture, chips, and cranberries.  Blend together with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Using a 1-1/2 inch scoop, dip out portions that are not completely rounded.  Drop onto cookie sheets, about 12 per sheet.  Flatten the balls and bake for about 20 minutes, turning the sheets half way through.  Remove immediately to a cooling rack.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Butternut-cider squash soup

I love adding butternut squash to many different stews and soups that I routinely make during the late fall and winter, and several of our favorite recipes feature it very prominently, so why would we need yet another?  Because this one is like no other!  The recipe for Cider-Infused Butternut Squash Soup comes from Hannaford's Fresh magazine, and the only change I made was to use some of my own vegetable stock rather than water plus boullion.

Our other two favorite squash /soup stew recipes are these:
Simple Butternut Squash Soup
Beef and Squash Stew

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pumpkin blondies

These autumn-inspired blondies were a bit too gooey for me, even though I baked them longer than the recipe called for.  Everyone else loved them, though, so what do I know?  I guess I'm just one of those people who prefers blondies and brownies that are a little cakier  :-)  See Pumpkin Brownies with Pecans at Baking Bites.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cauliflower soup

Back when I very first started cooking for myself, I was a vegetarian and was totally in love with creamy vegetable soups.  Most of the time all I did was steam the vegetables soft and then process them with some water or veggie broth and add milk.  It was bland, but I didn't know any different.

Then I learned about browning things in just a bit of fat.  What a revelation!  Even though most of my other vegetable soups got markedly better, I could never quite get the hang of making a really good Cauliflower Soup.  I didn't like browning the veggies...the soup would end up nut brown and too sulfurous.  So I finally just set my dream aside.

Until the September issue of Cook's Illustrated.  It seems that the trick with cauliflower is to cook it in two batches, one for 30 minutes and the other for 15.  The 15 minute batch has the cabbagey sulfurous taste, and the 30 minute batch is mellow, nutty, and sweet.  Too much longer and all taste is lost.  Who knew?  And don't bother to brown it either...just add it to (also unbrowned) leeks and onions along with the water.  Give it a whirl with an immersion blender at the end and skip the milk.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Roasted green beans with pine nuts

For Thanksgiving this year, I fixed a variation of our favorite Roasted Green Beans with Herbs, using a thinly sliced onion and smoked paprika instead of the garlic and herbs.  I toasted some pine nuts and set them aside to add to the beans during the last 10 minutes or so of roasting.  Very tasty!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rose hips

Ok, the thing about rose hips is that you can buy a huge bag of them, already prepared and cleaned, for around $10 to $12.  So why go to all the trouble to harvest your own?  Because it's fun!  Plus, I didn't really know if I even wanted a huge bag of them since I'd couldn't remember what they tasted like.

Well, harvesting them is kind of fun.  Turns out that I'm not so crazy about them that I'd plant more roses just for the crop, but I just might buy that huge bag...

Clean the rose hips and slice off the tufts

Let them dry naturally, or help them along in a warm oven

Break them open with a mortar and pestle and let the seeds and silver hairs filter out

Friday, December 6, 2013

Eat bacon

Says the woman who actually eats mostly plants!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cornbread dressing with dried fruit

We do not stuff our turkey, so instead of calling it stuffing, I usually end up calling it dressing.  But then it's harder to find in an index, because it gets lumped in with salad dressings.  Oh well.  Here it is anyway.  You can start with homemade cornbread, but this is an extra step that I usually just don't have time for.  I love to make (and eat) cornbread, and it just seems like a crime to crumble it all up!

Cornbread Dressing with Dried Fruit

Onion, chopped
Stalk of celery, chopped
Olive oil
A package of cornbread stuffing
Dried apricots, apples, and cranberries, chopped
Fresh sage leaves, chopped
Turkey stock, enough to moisten

Saute the onions and celery in oil.  Mix all ingredients together and moisten with hot stock just before serving.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cranberry and pomegranate sauce

I came across a recipe for Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce in the November issue of Hannaford's Fresh magazine, and decided to swap out our usual this year.  Well, one of the usuals, since we alternate between a very good traditional Cranberry sauce, a slightly sweeter Cranberry apple sauce, and a piquant Cranberry chutney.  Well, now we've got another to throw into the mix!  I did vary the recipe somewhat, and if you'd like to check out the original, it can be found at the top link.

Cranberry and  Pomegranate Sauce

12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 c 100% pure pomegranate juice
1/3 c orange juice
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 c pomegranate seeds

In a large saucepan, combine the cranberries through the zest and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer low until most of the cranberries have popped, stirring from time to time.  Remove from heat and mash some of the berries if desired.  Let cool completely, and then stir in the pomegranate seeds.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rice salad

I don't get very excited about Rice Salad, but this one has a bit of a tangy kick and is better than the average.  If you are requested to bring a rice salad to a summer picnic, this one ain't too bad!  High praise, huh?

Rice Salad

Brown rice (I used basmati)
Lemon, juiced and zested
Asparagus, snapped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Shallot, minced
Feta cheese, chopped
Parsley (optional)

Boil or steam the rice until tender.  Mix in some lemon juice and set aside.  Cook and brown the asparagus in olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat until bright green and still crisp.  Set aside to cool and then cut into pieces.

In a glass cup, whisk together some olive oil, lemon juice and zest, the shallot, salt and pepper.  Place the rice in a serving bowl; add the dressing, asparagus, and some feta and almonds, reserving a few for the top.  Toss and top with parsley if desired.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sliced tomato salad platter

This is just a variation on a Caprese salad with tomato slices and fresh basil leaves, but using a different type of cheese - grated Asiago - and adding some artichoke hearts and kalamata olives. Drizzle with olive oil and add black pepper and salt.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Baked apple cider donuts

I've been working on this recipe for quite awhile now.  The first was a great consistency but not enough apple cider flavor, the second had great flavor but was too puffy and light.  The third...?  Just right!  The trick was to combine the best qualities of hot oil fried donuts with the healthier elements of the baked donut.  Yeah, I know...neither one is really healthy, but you've got to admit that baked is a bit better!

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

1 c apple cider, reduced to 1/3 c
3 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 t cinnamon
4 T butter
2/3 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 c apple butter
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 c honey
1/3 c plain yogurt

3/4 c confectioner's sugar
2 T plain yogurt
1 t cinnamon
Dash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and spray two donut pans.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the rest of the wet ingredients, including the apple cider, one at a time. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir until just combined.

Use a pastry bag or spoon the batter into the donut pans until each mold is about 3/4 full. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, turning and rotating the pans halfway, and cool on a wire rack.

Mix all the icing ingredients together and spoon onto cooled donuts.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Apple cider donuts

I have been working my way through all the great apple cider donut recipes that are designed for cooking in deep fat, and trying to adapt them for cake-style donuts.  I know that I'll never been able to replicate the fabulous crispy crust that surrounds the cakey inside without the deep fat, but each try is getting me closer and closer to my ideal.

My first try left me with donuts that were a really great consistency, but disappointing on the flavor front.  My second try (shown above) had a much better flavor, but were too puffy and light for me.  My next step is to attempt to combine them.  When (not if!) it works out, I will share the recipe with all of you.

Back to the drawing board!  Maybe tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Middle Eastern burgers

Köfte is a Persian word which means "mashed".  Kofte are meatballs or kebabs, served commonly in Turkey, Greece, and throughout the Middle East, and they are a delicious change from regular grilled burgers.  I think they taste best if you mix them up the day before grilling.  Soak some wooden skewers in water for at least 15 minutes, and form the kebabs around them.  Cover with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge overnight.  Traditionally, the kebabs are formed as long ovals so you can wrap them in pita along with a garlicky yogurt sauce.  You can also make them into meatballs, or even into burgers as I did above.

Here's my favorite spice mix, no matter which way I'm going to fix them:


For each pound of meat (ground lamb or beef):
1/3 c pine nuts
3 garlic cloves
1 t hot smoked paprika
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t cloves
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cinnamon
1/3 c grated onion
1/4 c minced fresh parsley
1/4 c minced fresh mint
1 t unflavored gelatin

Process the pine nuts and garlic with all the spices until it forms a coarse paste.  Scrape into a large bowl along with the rest of the ingredients and knead well.  Form into burgers, meatballs, or cylinders around soaked wooden skewers.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Serve kebabs wrapped in pita bread.

Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

6 oz plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 12 T tahini
1 garlic clove, minced fine
Dash of salt

Monday, November 18, 2013

Prosciutto and mushroom panini

Another delicious panini for the Autumn!

Prosciutto (2 slices per panini)
Sauted mushrooms and spinach
Cranberry mustard

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jerk chicken for a crowd

I needed to make a decent amount of Jamaican-style Jerk Chicken for a gathering recently, and using my grill was just out the question.  I suppose that I could have grilled it and then reheated on site, but it seemed like a better idea to just figure out how to cheat that wonderful herbal smoke flavor.

I'm sure you know that there are as many recipes for Jerk Chicken Marinade as there are cooks, and I certainly have my favorite, but I'm usually happy just as long as there is enough heat.  For most of my friends, one habenaro pepper per pound of chicken is just about right.  Maybe throw in one or two extra if you're making a lot.  Let the chicken soak up the marinade for at least 30 minutes, but preferably 6 hours or so.  Then the fun starts!

I made a flavor smoke packet and plopped it in the middle of my 6 quart electric skillet (All-Clad...I love it!). Two layers of foil filled with 1 cup of water-soaked hickory wood chips, a couple tablespoons each of allspice berries, dried thyme, and dried rosemary, also soaked in water ahead of time. Get the skillet hot and plop the flavor smoke packet in the middle, poking with a knife to make a few holes. As soon as it begins to smoke, turn down the heat, add the chicken, cover it, and cook on low until the chicken is completely cooked through. Near the end, you can up the heat to get the chicken more crusty. The time will vary depending upon what parts you use.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Really fast Pennsylvania Dutch corn and chicken soup

This soup cooks very quickly, which doesn't give a lot of time for flavors to develop.  However, when you're in a hurry, this is about as good as it gets, and at least the chicken stays very tender.  If you use homemade chicken stock, some of the great flavors will be there after all!

Pennsylvania Dutch Corn and Chicken Soup

3 c corn, fresh, canned, or frozen
6 to 8 c chicken stock
Onion, chopped
Celery stalk, chopped
2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, chopped to 1/2 inch
3 c wide egg noodles
Salt and pepper

Puree 2 c of the corn with 2 c of the stock; set aside.  Cook the onion, celery, and 1 c corn in butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat until onion is softened.  Stir in the rest of the stock, the corn puree, chicken, and noodles.  Bring to a boil; reduce and simmer until chicken and noodles are cooked, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

I was hoping for a bit more pumpkin flavor, so I was a little disappointed, but then I re-read the intro to this recipe where it states that it's designed to just use up a bit of leftover pumpkin.  Well, it's my own fault for expecting a recipe to be something that it isn't!  They are very good cookies; nonetheless, if I make them again, I plan to up the pumpkin content or just switch to applesauce.  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies are at Baking Bites.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pork-lentil stew

There's a reason why pork and legumes are paired so often.  Now, here's a twist on pork and beans, just perfect for fall!  Pork-Lentil Stew has a smoky, rich flavor with very little fat and loads of good carbs.  I made ours juicier than the recipe called for.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Grilling a whole naked chicken

There have been a plethora of wonderful chicken ideas coming from Cook's Illustrated, and even though this recipe came from the May/June 2013 issue, I only got around to trying it recently.  I used one of the same tricks as the Barbecued Chicken techniques that I shared with you earlier, namely aluminum pie pans full of water under the grate on the cool side of the grill.  But the biggest aha came from the directions to cut out the chicken's backbone and flatten it for grilling.  In order to stabilize it, you run skewers through the legs and body in a few spots.  Easy peasy to flip and move now!

See how the meat is slashed?  That's to allow a marinade of lemon, rosemary, Dijon mustard, and butter to penetrate deeply into the meat.  Yum.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three great panini for Autumn

We usually scale back on the weekly panini during the summer, but once Autumn hits, I'm back to looking for tasty new combinations.  At least new to me ;-)

Ham, sliced Granny Smith apples, brie cheese, mustard (shown above)

Tomato slices, chopped fresh basil leaves, pepper jack cheese

Prosciutto, sauted mushrooms, greens, cranberry mustard (shown below)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Apple chai muffins

When you end up with an apple harvest like we had this year, you've got to figure out what to do with all the Applesauce you make besides just slurp it down!  I always end up making several types of apple cake, apple dumplings, and apple pie, but this year I experimented with the spices a bit and made my Apple Muffins into chai spiced apple muffins.

Apple Muffins

3 c flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c butter, melted
1/2 c sour cream
2 large eggs

Heat oven to 350.  Combine flour through sugars in a medium bowl.  Beat the applesauce through the eggs together in another bowl and add to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Divide the batter into 24 muffin cups.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Add a nut-based icing to make them into cupcakes.

For the Chai variation, reduce the brown sugar to 1/2 c and replace the allspice through salt with the following mixture:
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cardamom
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bumper crop of apples this year

Maybe it was worth putting up with the rainy spring and scorching summer.  This is just a small sampling of our apples this year.  Our applesauce and apple butter stock is going to be refilled!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin much easier than you'd think!

Thanks to my friend Cherie Burbach, a woman of many many talents, I found out that Real Simple magazine has a recipe online for baked Pumpkin Donuts!  I've been wanting to make donuts again ever since I was a kid and Mom and I spent an enjoyable afternoon deep frying a ton-load of plain sugar donuts.  The biggest problem (besides the mess and the extra calories) was that they tasted soooo much better when they were still warm.  Thus, one on the plate, one down the hatch.  Repeat all afternoon!


Baked donuts are (usually? always?) of the cakey variety, which are my favorite anyway.  I'm not a big fan of Crispy Cremes...please don't yell at me, they're just not my thing.  But this recipe looked promising, and indeed, it was awesome.  I plan to use the base of this recipe to try some Apple Cider Donuts and maybe some other cake types.

Wilton Donut Pans, 2 of them stacked

They don't turn out perfect like deep fried donuts...
the batter is more like muffins

Plop them on a pretty plate...

...and add the glaze

You can eat them before the glaze hardens if you want,
and actually, it's pretty hard not to!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grilled tuna with watermelon-feta salad

As watermelon season ends, grab the chance to include one last ripe slice or two into your meal.  The tuna was grilled to medium rare, and then I proceeded to butcher it while slicing.  It tasted great, but I'd like to do a better cutting job next time...

The recipe for both can be found in Hannaford's Fresh magazine.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

On the trail of great food in Portland Oregon - part six

What we brought home...

Rose petal black tea, Portland rose soap, huckleberry jam and marmalade
lavender jelly,  lavender tea

Kokeicha green tea and Glendale OP black tea
from The Olive and Vine

Ghost pepper salt (oh yes she did!) and pink peppercorns

Rosebuds and juniper berries from Pat's Pantry in Astoria...
soon to be opening a second location in Portland!

Monday, October 7, 2013

On the trail of great food in Portland Oregon - part five

Our last day, we went in search of multi-cultural fun...Cuban and Indian!

Fabulous Cuban breakfast at Pambiche

Picadillo Cua-Cua with eggs, avocado, fruit, rice, and fried plantains

Cuban French toast with almonds and fruit

Bistek - steak and eggs

And an equally fabulous Indian dinner at Swagat!

Braised goat, on the bone