Thursday, December 31, 2009

A December Photo Summary

It's been a while... I'm summing up the rest of 2009 in this post and getting ready to take this blog (and my cooking life) in a new direction for 2010.

Autumn Millet Bake
A Mark Bittman recipe featured on 101 Cookbooks. I thought it was pretty good, a little strange, would have been great as a side for Thanksgiving. Definitely not a main dish though.

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
A 101 Cookbooks recipe made for a cookie exchange party. I made a batch according to the original recipe, but I used unsweetened shredded coconut instead of the walnuts. This is a delicious little indulgence that I will definitely make again.

Pasta with Red Pepper-Feta Sauce
An Ellie Krieger recipe. The sauce was in the fridge all week (it made quite a bit) but I got sick of it pretty quickly. It was a slightly chunky sauce, more so than I would like, but it tasted good.

Casbah Chicken & Couscous
A Pampered Chef recipe using the delicious Moroccan Rub. It took a little getting used to, but this was pretty delicious. Couscous, mango, cilantro, chicken, almonds and some more I can't remember right now. This may be available somewhere on the Pampered Chef website.

Moroccan Chicken with Yogurt Sauce, Parsley Rice, and Red Cabbage Slaw
This is a sort-of original based on a restaurant I really like in New Brunswick. I just cooked some pieces of chicken with the Moroccan Rub; made a yogurt sauce with yogurt, garlic, and cucumber; cooked some rice and mixed in parsley; and used shredded red cabbage with some oil and vinegar. Delicious.

Pasta with Sauteed Zucchini
I had some leftover zucchini that I wanted to use up but didn't know what to do with it, so I sauteed it with garlic and olive oil. Next time I'll mix in some bread crumbs as well. It was okay, but could have used another vegetable with it.

I made these last year for Christmas and they were a big hit with my boyfriend's family. And who doesn't like compliments? So I made them again this year. This is exactly the type of thing I try to stay away from, but of course you have to indulge every now and then :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lemon-Scented Quinoa Salad

I have been looking for quinoa recipes and the Lemon-Scented Quinoa sounded really appealing to me. I made my own chickpeas (and way too many of them... ugh my freezer is crying) and I thought it was going to be great.

OK - disaster. Seriously, actually inedible (by my standards - Ken ate it though, not sure how...) and I can't really pinpoint it. It had this horrible bitter taste which unfortunately could have been so many things - the natural coating of the quinoa (though I did rinse it) or the red onion or what. No idea. Sadly, I don't even want to try it again.

It did look nice, though.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pan-fried Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms and Garlicky Spinach

I have been wanting to try to make polenta for a while but I was hesitant because I didn't really know what to serve it with. I consulted The Book (we all know which this is by now) and found that sauteed mushrooms were suggested with polenta. How convenient that I had some mushrooms that weren't used for Thanksgiving. I wanted some green on the plate so I decided on spinach, and I used the Garlicky Greens recipe on 101 Cookbooks as a rough guide.

The polenta was easy to make, but a little difficult to work with when cutting it and frying it. First you cook it in a pot, then pour it into a pan (I used a loaf pan) to cool. You can let it sit there all day if you want. Then you just slice it and do whatever you are going to do with it. I wanted to pan-fry it. I tried my stainless skillet at first but this is not a good idea. You need nonstick for this. The stainless saute pan worked great for the mushrooms though, since you deglaze with a little wine (yum).

This turned out to be a nice, delicious meal. I think it was pretty balanced too - protein from the spinach and carbs from the polenta. I would like to try some lemon with the greens too - maybe zest instead of juice to give it a little something refreshing.

I thought I had pictures of this, but I can't find them. Sorry!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I had fun cooking for Thanksgiving with my mom. It took days (literally) and was gobbled up in about 30 minutes (literally) but everything came out pretty great. Here is a little photo tour through our menu... unfortunately I didn't get pictures of everything, but I'll try to describe it all.


Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts: I thought these would be gross - I hate water chestnuts. But between the bacon fat and the globs of honey, they softened up a lot and were really flavorful. There is no real recipe for this - just wrap water chestnuts with bacon, pop in a toothpick, and pile on the honey.

In addition to this, we also had brie with dried cranberries, walnuts, and thyme. I think some more stuff was out, but nothing too fancy.


Winter Green Salad with Sugared Walnuts, Crispy Pears and Pomegranate Vinaigrette: This is from Clean Food. The dressing was a huge success... it was made from pomegranate juice, a little balsamic vinegar, zesty honey mustard... delicious. I didn't use the sugared walnuts recipe from Clean Food because I had to make them for the stuffing anyway (see below), and that recipe was much easier. The tough part here was getting the pomegranate arils out of the fruit. Also check out my sweet Vera Bradley apron!

Main Course

Ham and Turkey: No pictures of the turkey, but here is the ham being slathered in brown sugar. There was some other stuff involved, but I don't know what. All I have to say is... yummm!

Sage, Walnut, and Dried Fig Stuffing: This is a 101 Cookbooks recipe, which I was so excited to make. As I mentioned earlier, I made the sugared walnuts (egg whites, sugar and salt) and used them also in the salad. I was so excited to have vegetarian stuffing with no meat in it! And although it was pretty dry (Mom even added extra liquid) it still tasted good. I would add more liquid next time though.

Wild Rice with Apples: This recipe is from Cooking Light - if not October 2009, another fall issue for this year. I was so excited to make this. It takes a long time though, and so I had to get dressed while I was waiting to bring it to a boil. I asked my mom to turn it down to a simmer after it boiled. A looong time later, I realized that she had turned it all the way up instead. Oops! There was no liquid left but it was completely uncooked. I managed to salvage it by adding a ton of extra liquid and cooking it much longer. Fortunately it turned out really good. It was a really interesting side dish and fit well with the holiday - the sauteed Pink Lady apples were so good.

We also had the typical sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.


Best-Ever Apple Pie: This is from a cookbook of my mom's - I forget the title, but it is actually quite interesting. I read it while I was supposed to be helping with the cooking. This woman traveled to farms all over the country to collect recipes. A lot of them are kind of disgusting (using ingredients like lard, etc.) but some are really cool. There are also sidebars about stuff like avocado farming, for example. Haley did most of this by herself - I helped a little though.

Tofu Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust: Another Clean Food recipe, but not as much of a hit. There was some flavor here that just wasn't really great, but it was OK. The gingersnap crust was very good though.

Mini Sweet Potato Tarts: Mom made these after she overcooked the sweet potato. I ended up taking over and scooping the stuff into all of the cups and putting on the sweet pecan mixture. I didn't try one of these (I don't like sweet potatoes, I will have to try them again someday) but they looked pretty good.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Orange and Oat Scones

I don't typically make the currently featured recipe on 101 Cookbooks because I rarely have time to do it, but I couldn't pass up these Orange and Oat Scones. And I am so glad I took the time to make them, because they are SO good!!!

I hate the pastries at Starbucks because they are so full of sugar. These scones are so lightly sweetened, and the oats and whole wheat fill your stomach. The orange zest was the perfect addition to this - the slight flavor from the zest was amazing.

These were so simple and easy to make. I actually found afterwards that I accidentally used only half the amount of butter - but they still came out delicious! This also made them substantially healthier. I also skipped the currants - just not something I had on hand and I wasn't too sure if I really wanted them in there. Dried cranberries might be a really nice substitute for the currants. The walnuts lent a little extra texture in there too.

This recipe inspired me a little and I tried a little twist by using frozen blueberries and no orange zest or nuts. Aside from turning a little green on the outside, these came out great too, although the moisture from the blueberries (and their frozen-ness) changed the texture, so they were more cake-like rather than crumbly like a good scone should be. However, they reminded me a lot of the Blueberry Oat Cakes from Jamba Juice which I have been trying to find a recipe for forever - so if you like those, I would recommend this variation.

I would like to make these again... they might make a good Christmas gift, actually. I think it would work well to make and freeze the dough, then bake off a few as needed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

I stopped at the farmers' market around the corner the other day and ran straight into a big stack of cartons full of small, brightly colored tomatoes. Each carton held a mix of several different colors and I picked up two right away, almost forgetting what I had stopped for in the first place. I didn't have a plan for them, but I knew I could find one.

Ken mentioned (again) that he doesn't like sun-dried tomatoes. He did tack on the end of that statement this time that he does like roasted tomatoes. That got me thinking of the roasted cherry tomatoes I made for the Red Pesto Ravioli over the summer.

I consulted my handbook (HTCEV) for roasting instructions, then added extra olive oil and thinly sliced garlic (thank you Pampered Chef Garlic Slicer!). This went on my stoneware into the oven for a while. We tossed it with a long thin pasta. The garlicky olive oil and tomatoes made a lovely sauce.

Next time I will try to remove some of the seeds since they were a little out of hand. Maybe I will try again with my second carton of tomatoes... or maybe I will think of something new.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Garlic Soup

I don't like soup. It might sound weird, but me craving soup usually means I am deathly ill. After much contemplation I have decided that I do not like chicken broth. I always eat the wontons but not the broth, and I prefer Campbell's Double Noodle over anything because it is basically entirely noodles.

For some reason, although I was not sick, I wanted to make soup. Not any soup in particular, but just soup. My big came over for a soup/study date and I wanted to max our working time and minimize our soup making time, so I picked a yummy sounding Garlic Soup from 101 Cookbooks.

Apparently everyone else was thinking, "Garlic soup? Just garlic? Could that actually be any good?" Um, yes. It can. And to have seen the bottom of a soup bowl for probably the first time in my life, I can tell you that this soup is worth the small amount of effort required to make it.

Probably the reason I like it so much is that it contains some things I like very much. Fresh herbs, a ridiculous amount of garlic, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. You make the broth using chopped garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and sage, then add a "binding pomade" of egg and cheese to thicken it up. It was a little complicated to physically do, so I'm glad I had an extra pair of hands, but I think I could do it myself if I had to (or just wanted to!) and I certainly plan to make this again. We are having an Indian Summer but the snow will come eventually and when it does I will be armed with this deliciousness.

There is not a thing to change about this recipe. I will make it again just as it is. The crusty bread is a must (though I prefer to dip rather than pour the soup over). It reheats just fine in the microwave. Due to my love for shortcuts and freezing things I am considering making the broth with the herbs and garlic and freezing it for a quicker soup. Hopefully it will work just as well.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Barley and Roasted Pepper Salad

My mom's neighbor gave us 5 peppers (red, orange, yellow) and I decided I wanted to roast them, but had no idea what to do after that. Later that day I opened How To Cook Everything Vegetarian (surprise) to look up something totally unrelated, and when I opened the book it happened to land on page 87. I happened to notice a recipe on this page called "Wheat Berry or Other Whole Grain Salad with Roasted Peppers." The first sentence of the recipe says "This mild, rich salad is not only delicious but also gorgeous, especially if you use red and yellow peppers you've roasted yourself." Not surprisingly, I made it the next day.

This recipe takes a bit of advance preparation. I roasted the peppers and cut them into long thin strips the day before. I also should have cooked the barley at this time. I wanted to use wheat berries as the recipe mentions, but I couldn't find them in my freezer or refrigerator. I know they are buried somewhere in there. One of these days I will come up with some kind of organizational system.

I didn't have fresh basil, so I added some dried basil to the dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar. I mixed it up before pouring it over and mixing it in. I got a little too crazy with the dressing so I will have to have some self control next time so I'm not eating spoonfuls of oil with each bite.

This kept for several days in the refrigerator, although I made sure to eat it at room temperature. I like grain salads best at that temperature. It was definitely easy to make with all the prep work done.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Almost Cheeseless Pasta Casserole

I have been meaning to make this Almost Cheeseless Pasta Casserole for a while. I had to wait for butternut squash season to make it, but I had one in my cabinet (they last a looong time!) so I decided to use it. I adjusted it slightly to match the tastes of my household (aka boyfriend) but it came out pretty yummy.

I skipped the mint and kalamata olives and used probably much more feta than intended (I guess I should knock off the "almost cheeseless" part then...). The yogurt mixture had me worried, but I made sure the pasta/squash/spinach was cool before mixing it in so it didn't curdle. I also left the almonds out of the mix because I had read in some of the comments that they got soggy in there, which is understandable given the large quantity of yogurt. I sprinkled some on top near the end of baking so that they wouldn't burn. They definitely added a nice crunch to the dish and it was good to have that different texture.

One thing I would definitely do differently is cut the spinach smaller. More like in the baked pasta casserole dish that I made a while back (on here... but I just made it the other day also) so that it wasn't so big and weird. I might cut the squash into smaller cubes instead of slices also.

Baby Bran Muffins

I love baking. I have had my eye on the Baby Bran Muffins from 101 Cookbooks for months now. YUM. I bought yogurt today, the only ingredient in the recipe that I didn't already have, and went straight to it.

I used light brown Muscovado sugar instead of the natural cane sugar. I intended to use the full 1/2 cup of honey called for in the recipe, but I only had about 1/4 cup (oops). I topped it off with just under 1/4 cup of agave nectar. I had read in the comments that the muffins were under-sweetened, so I figured it would work out fine (and it did).

The batter was light and fluffy - it was really very interesting. I used my small scoop (Pampered Chef - get one) to put the batter into the mini-muffin tins, which resulted in mostly the perfect size baby muffins. The recipe says it will yield 2 dozen mini muffins, but I ended up with 4 dozen, and batter left over (I ran out of mini muffin tins).

The one, sad problem was that I believe I slightly over-baked them. They were still beautifully crusty on top and moist on the inside, but they stick right to the paper so you almost end up with a mini muffin top instead of a whole muffin. I baked them for 11 minutes. I left them in one minute longer after the toothpick test and I should have followed my instincts and taken them out instead. Next time I might also try them without the muffin papers. I like muffin papers, but not when they stick. I might also try making full-size muffins. The baby muffins were super cute and adorable, but I also ate about 7 straight out of the oven. A full-size one (as long as it doesn't stick to the paper) would be a little more satisfying, I hope.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Apple Walnut Muffins

All day today, I had this terrible urge to bake. I think it had something to do with the fact that my stockpile of frozen muffins is long gone. I had a few things in mind that I wanted to make. Some took too long, others I was missing just one or two ingredients for. Still others were just not what I was looking for (even though I didn't know what I was looking for). I got more and more antsy when I had a sudden breakthrough.

I wanted something that wasn't already spelled out for me on paper. I wanted to make a muffin, and I wanted some ideas of what should go in it. I turned to How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and I found exactly what I needed - an adaptable muffin recipe. Mark Bittman is my hero, for real. I am no scientist, so I can't just go throwing things together in the kitchen and expect them to turn into a muffin. I used his basic muffin recipe and changed it around to satisfy my desires.

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
3 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp melted butter
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Directions: Bake in muffin cups at 400* until you stick in a toothpick and it comes out clean.

The resulting muffin was like a light, delicate cake. If you are looking for a cupcake, look elsewhere. It was almost like a biscuit or a slightly sweet bread. The apple strands were visible, but underrepresented flavor-wise. What a fascinating recipe this was... I can't stop thinking of variations. Different types of flour, different spices, different nuts and maybe fruits. Here, I will stick to some of the variations I would like to make using the apple/walnut flavor profile.
- Mini-muffins = tea cakes!
- Add spices (Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus spice blend?)
- More/different types of apple
- Grating with the skins on (particularly some deep red ones)
- Brown sugar... muscovado in particular
- Natural sweeteners (honey, agave nectar)
- Rolled oats

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Orzo with Tomato Artichoke Sauce

Tonight I came home wanting a gourmet meal. I didn't want to go to the store, and I shouldn't have to since I constantly have my pantry stocked with deliciousness. I had a Greek salad on my mind which I had no recipe for, so I started googling some ingredients to find recipe inspirations. (Here is one.) I ended up with a very interesting pasta dish instead.

1 small jar grilled marinated artichoke hearts
about 10 kalamata olives, pitted
2 tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup liquid from the artichoke hearts (or a little less of olive oil)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 box orzo

1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
2. Put artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, tomatoes and garlic in food processor with lemon juice and liquid from artichoke hearts. Process (but not too much) to chop everything up. (Keep it chunky!)
3. Toast sunflower seeds (350* for about 5 minutes).
4. Mix the contents of the food processor with cooked and drained orzo over a tiny bit of heat (just to warm) and mix together.
5. Spoon orzo mixture into bowls and top with sunflower seeds and feta.

Now - I will say a few things. I processed too much (I always do), and it is not too pretty... next time I might use the food chopper instead, or a good knife. This was really intended to be chunky. Also, you may not need all the dressing, or you may need less lemon juice depending on your personal preferences (it was pretty lemony). The tomato was kind of overpowering as well. I did eat a bowl of this, but it wasn't very good in the end. I am posting it anyway because I think it had some potential.

I made this entirely with things I had lying around, so adjust to what you have on hand and your personal preferences. This may actually be better (or at least less tangy) with black olives instead of kalamata olives, or canned artichoke hearts instead of grilled/marinated. I also intended to add red onion to this, but I guess I forgot! There is plenty of room for adjustment here. It made about 4 servings.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Andrea came over and we made the Loaded Baked Potato Soup from the Pampered Chef Season's Best book. I had intended to make this for my next show, but good thing I tried it at home first - it's not a recipe well suited to a presentation. In fact, one of my customers who tried to make it actually threw it away before it was finished because it looked so gross! But it is a fun recipe to make using the Deep Covered Baker - and it is done entirely in the microwave. (If you don't have a Deep Covered Baker, order one from me, right now. You might not think you need it, but you do. If you don't believe me now, within a few months you will, when I am making fancy stuff in my microwave, and you are sitting at your computer with your mouth watering over it, about to go make it, when suddenly you remember that you didn't order one when I told you to. Just wait and see.)

Luckily, it tasted good. Ken even said it was better than Panera's soup. Salt and pepper make all the difference, though. I also used mild cheddar because I wanted it to taste like potato, not cheddar. Typically I like extra sharp, but I thought it might overwhelm the soup. I barely tasted it, so this worked. Optional add-ins listed are steamed broccoli florets and bacon. I steamed the broccoli by just wetting it and microwaving it for about 20 seconds. I like my broccoli to be much more crisp than tender, and it was a nice contrast to soup. We didn't use bacon, but that is what is in the Panera baked potato soup, so I would like to try it next time. I am not a big soup person, but I like chunky soups. This would be interesting pureed if that is something that you are interested in.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash with Farro

I bought some butternut squash at the farmers' market because I have never tried it before and I wanted to try something new. I finally got to making this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. I picked this one because it was simple enough to make, and simple enough for me to be able to appreciate the taste of the squash, without it actually being plain.

Although it was pretty good, I would recommend feta instead of goat cheese. The goat cheese was a little too sweet on top of the already sweet butternut squash and red onions. I might also try to make some kind of sauce to go with this as the farro was kind of plain. However, I have never had farro before either, and I really liked it, so I want to try to use it more often. It is somewhat like barley, and Ken thought it tasted kind of like oatmeal.

This recipe made way more than I really needed for 2 people. Too many vegetables can't hurt though, so I would just halve the farro instead, unless you have a need for cooked farro in something else. I liked the squash, so I will definitely be trying some more butternut squash recipes in the next few weeks.

I still can't find my camera charger, but I am in the process of cleaning my house so it should find its way to me soon and I will start posting pictures again. For now I am just catching up on my posts since I am very behind...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mini Carrot Cake Bites

Edited: 10/28/2009. Photo added! :)

This is another one of my Pampered Chef recipes from the Season's Best Fall/Winter 2009. This is one I plan to make for at least one of my upcoming shows. I made these for my birthday the other day to bring in to work, and they were a huge hit - it has been requested that I make them again. (Not requested that I share the recipe... just that I actually make more of them myself and bring them for everyone to eat!)

An important caution: regular cake mix is 18 oz. This recipe calls for 9 oz. That means if you use an entire 18oz box ( your cakes will come out dry and tasting like yellow cake instead of carrot cake. Also, adding extra carrots might sound fun, but it is hard enough to mix so I would stick close to the required amount.

This is another recipe that I would just love to make-over to be more healthy but it's not too easy. Although the Cool Whip in the filling makes me cringe, the recipe has no butter, unlike literally EVERY other cream cheese frosting recipe I found online. Plus, it has carrots in it. So it could be worse!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Peach and Fig Crisp

For my birthday, my mom got me a book called Clean Food. I love reading cookbooks, which is kind of weird. It makes sense to me because I like TV shows but not movies, and I like magazines more than books. I like cookbooks because I can read one recipe at a time if I want. I don't have to remember a plot next time I pick up the book, and I'm not obligated to go back to it later. I also use my cookbooks as a reference when I have something that I have to use (or just really want to use) without any idea what I'm going to do with it.

I had fresh figs from my Nonna and I wanted to make something with them. My mom and sister are perfectly satisfied just eating them right out of the tupperware, but I wanted to MAKE something with them. We were going over Ken's for his birthday and I thought I should bring a dessert. Looking through all my books, I found nothing for fresh figs and I was getting frustrated. I don't like to use the internet for recipes too often, because I can't connect with and develop a trusting relationship with the internet the way I can with a cookbook (and sort of the author). So I finally came across ONE fresh fig recipe in Clean Food. Finally. I was relieved. And lucky for me, it sounded REALLY good - Peach, Fig and Bourbon Crisp.

It turned out not to be too "crisp," but it was tasty. I had a fun time explaining agave nectar to the victims of this experiment (I wouldn't allow it to be counted as a dessert option until I tasted it to make sure it wasn't horrendous) and it turned out to be a pretty big hit. Next time I will try harder to find better peaches (although it is the middle of October, so I shouldn't be looking for peaches at all) but I can't wait to make this again - next year, maybe.

Unfortunately, my camera battery is dead and I cannot find the charger for the life of me, so there is no picture of this little masterpiece. Maybe next year :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bucatini with Mushrooms

I get Cooking Light every month and a lot of the recipes have meat in them. I just don't care much for meat anymore (but I do love seafood...), and while I am not a vegetarian exactly I don't care for cooking meat either, so I am always on the lookout for vegetarian recipes in there as well as stuff from other cultures. The current issue (probably November 2009) has a whole beautifully photographed section on how to create the perfect noodle bowl from a variety of cultures. I chose a little trip to Italy with Bucatini with Mushrooms.

By now my very few readers are probably familiar with my addiction to the Rutgers Gardens farm market, and I may have mentioned the guy who sells mushrooms. A whole stand dedicated to mushrooms - cremini, portobello, oyster, shiitake... and you can buy a mix of them as well. I immediately thought of this when I read this recipe and I made the plan to make it on a Friday so I would have wonderful fresh mushrooms to use. Of course I picked up the mix and got straight to work.

This recipe was a lot of work so of course I had a little assistance from my sous chef (Ken). In addition to the mushroom mix, the recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms. According to many (including one of my favorites, Mark Bittman) the dried mushrooms add an extra dimension to the flavor profile of the dish. The 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream was an interesting addition also, but it gave the sauce a creamy texture which happens to go well with mushrooms.

I might make this again, but it was a lot of work. A special occasion might warrant it, but it would be necessary to have access to a mushroom blend like this one. The market is unfortunately only open until the end of October.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ham and Cheese Calzone

I am not a big meat-eater (as you can probably tell if you are reading this) but now that I am selling Pampered Chef (ask me about that!) I have obviously been making some Pampered Chef recipes. This is the one I did for my Grand Opening show. It is from the Season's Best Fall/Winter 2009 cookbook (which you can purchase through me for $1!).

It is a super easy recipe, so there is not much to say. I think the thin crust Pillsbury pizza dough is better to use for the large bar pan. At home, I used provolone and mozzarella instead of swiss because Ken hates swiss. Don't be silly and forget the second half of the cheese INSIDE the calzone. And other than that, it is pretty straightforward.

I want to try some variations on this, including some kind of vegetarian version. A broccoli calzone would be interesting but I would also like to find a way to reduce the excessive amounts of cheese that are present here. This is not a recipe that lends itself well to health-itizing it, so we'll have to see what inspires me, but it's always nice to have suggestions for guests at parties. My cheese swap was one of my suggestions last time. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'll really be making this much at home as it just isn't really something I loved.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I am constantly reading my cookbooks, so when I found the hummus recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I was basically ready to try it immediately. Lucky for me, it couldn't be easier. With minimal ingredients and a ton of possible variations, this is something everyone should be making at home. I have been carefully checking ingredients lists lately, and preservatives and chemicals are NOT things that I want to eat. Unfortunately, my (former) favorite hummus brand (Sabra) is not present at Whole Foods*, which is a kind of lazy trick I use to decide whether I want to eat something. The reason it is my favorite is because of the big pile of seasonings and whole chickpeas and other random good tasting stuff in the middle. But if I make my own... I can just add that in myself.

For this particular batch of hummus I used organic canned chickpeas, and chose paprika as my spice (Mark Bittman offers cumin as the other option in the basic recipe). I also used extra garlic and extra lemon. One caution is that it comes out very very thick - that is why he has you add water, to thin it out. However, keep in mind that it will thicken up in the fridge, so you should make it thinner than you want to initially.

This hummus is something that I will definitely be making again and would be a great option to bring to a party or picnic. The picture may not be that easy to identify, but it is me holding a pita chip with some hummus on it.

*I don't buy everything at Whole Foods... I don't even make it there very often. But when I do go, I spend a LOT of time there and I really pay attention to what is around me. I can trust them to have "foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats"(according to their website). So I pay attention to things I see there and if I see them at a conventional grocery store, I feel much better about picking them up without thoroughly examining the ingredient list.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ricotta Cookies

One of my favorite cookie recipes to make are the ricotta cheese cookies that we made in middle school home ec. Looking at the recipe this time, I decided to change things around a little. This didn't exactly work as I planned. The first batch pretty much melted in the oven. Ken had the idea to refrigerate the dough before baking the next batch, so we put it in the fridge and forgot about it until the next day. Conveniently, this batch came out pretty good. The cookies were a little more spread out at the edges than usual.
Original Recipe (with my variations in italics)
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine [1/2 cup butter]
8 oz (1 cup) ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour [2 cups whole wheat pastry flour]
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

1. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
2. With an electric mixer, beat margarine, ricotta, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth.
3. Add sifted dry ingredients to ricotta mixture.
4. Beat by hand with a wooden spoon.
5. Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 325* for 15 minutes.

Next time I want to try a mix of whole wheat flours and all-purpose flours. Not sure exactly what yet though. I would also like to try to sub out the sugar once I get the flour done. I also use part skim ricotta.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fried Pineapple Rice

This is my fried rice version of last night's dinner, Pineapple Rice. The leftovers were already all mixed together so I kind of just dumped them in the pan with some of the toasted sesame oil (canola blend). I also made one quick scrambled egg and some pan-fried tofu (in the same toasted sesame oil blend).

The tofu was an interesting addition. It was good in little pieces, but I would like to make it again with thin slices so they crisp up like bacon. Yum!

I thought the rice was good. The sweetness of the pineapple dressing was really emphasized (and Ken didn't like it). It had the consistency of fried rice. I liked it a lot. I wouldn't make it just to make it, but I would make it with the leftovers again.

Egg Wrap

This recipe was inspired by the Skinny Omelette from 101 Cookbooks. I was browsing over there for a quick and yummy breakfast recipe and came across the Skinny Omelette. Obviously, you can adjust fillings easily, so ideas started popping all over my head. While there were a number of things I wanted to try, I opted for leftovers from my Pineapple Rice recipe. I used arugula and the pineapple dressing, and added some feta.

This was pretty yummy. The pineapple dressing is a little spicy, so I think I used a little too much, but it was still good. The egg was nice and fluffy and spongy on the outside and made a good wrap. I am glad I could use a little of what I had left in the fridge. Next time I try this recipe, I might try to use a little less egg to make the wrap thinner. I would also try using whatever I have on hand and not sticking to a recipe!

2 eggs
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp pineapple dressing (see Pineapple Rice recipe)
1 handful baby arugula
1 Tbsp feta

1. Whisk the eggs together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in a large pan (heated) and quickly swirl to help it reach the edges. Let it cook.
2. Meanwhile, toss the baby arugula with the pineapple dressing.
3. When the egg is cooked, use a spatula to help you slide onto a dinner plate.
4. Put the arugula onto the egg, trying to keep it in the lower half of the circle. Sprinkle some feta on top and roll, starting at the edge nearest you. Try to fold in one of the sides as you go so nothing falls out the bottom.
5. Eat.

Pineapple Rice

I check 101 Cookbooks every day for a new recipe, even though I figured out the pattern of how often they are posted. Sometimes there are recipes that I am just not interested in, or there are sometimes posts that aren't recipes at all. I find myself constantly waiting for something new and exciting to be posted - unless the most recent recipe is the perfect recipe for me. The current Pineapple Rice recipe had me from the picture. It is an amazing sounding taste of Hawaii.

After collecting the ingredients, I finally had time to make this last night for dinner. I have to admit that this recipe took me a very long time. I usually don't remember to keep track of time, but this took me about an hour. I used brown Basmati rice, which was delicious and smelled so wonderful. The dressing was pretty easy to make, although there were a lot of components. (Luckily, it was worth it.) There was also chopping and toasting cashews, chopping scallions and shallots and pineapple, and the tofu, which I never got around to. The recipe uses seitan, but I am not familiar with that, nor did I have it on hand, so I intended to use tofu. Unfortunately I did not think of it soon enough and it was still defrosting when everything else was done, and I just couldn't wait!

One addition I made to this recipe was chopped pineapple. Two reasons for this: one, it is Pineapple Rice and the only pineapple is in the dressing, which felt just so wrong to me, and two, I used a 20-oz can of pineapple and needed only 1 cup for the dressing. I chopped it up pretty small, so it melded in nicely with the rest of the ingredients.

I would recommend serving this dish hot. For one thing, my rice was already pretty hot since I had just cooked it, and it also makes it feel a little more substantial. I kept the rice in the pot after it had finished, just mixing it around a bit, and added the dressing and the rest of the ingredients in with the burner on low just to heat it up.

The final result was absolutely delicious and I am already dying to make it again. The recipe suggests trying a fried rice version with the leftovers, so I forced myself to save a little so that I could try it. (That may be another post.) I make a lot of things, but this is something I am going to include in my regular rotation for sure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Leftovers Fried Rice

Today, after having a reasonably bad day, I came home ready to make something yummy for dinner. I somehow ended up talking to my mom on the phone for over an hour and when we finally hung up it was well after 8pm already and I was ready to eat right then. It was time to come up with something quick and easy (and of course, tasty).

Last night I had takeout from my favorite Thai restaurant, and I had some white rice left over. I poked around the fridge and found some red onions already sliced. I grabbed an egg and some soy sauce. I found my tiniest pan which happened to be the only clean thing in the kitchen, and I made a quick omelette with the egg, adding just a little salt and pepper. I took it out of the pan and cut it up on a plate. Meanwhile, I put the onions in the pan with toasted sesame oil (I didn't mind using it for this since I discovered that "blend" means blended with canola oil, not different sesame oils) and let them cook on their own for a minute or two. Then I dumped in the rice and mixed it all around and let it fry up a bit. After a few minutes when it had very slightly changed color, I added two glugs of soy sauce, mixing in between, then added some salt and pepper (note for next time: the pepper was a good idea, the salt was not. soy sauce - duh!). At the very end, I turned the heat way down and put the cut up omelette back in just to heat up a bit.

And wow! Normally I wouldn't post some crap that I just tossed together to quiet my stomach, but this was surprisingly delicious. I'm not sure exactly what made it good - I suspect the oil had something to do with it, and that I actually let the rice fry up before sprinkling it with soy sauce instead of drenching it like I have in the past. The red onions were interesting, I would probably use white or yellow next time, and chopped smaller, but not bad for such an impromptu mix of ingredients.

The point of this is not to actually make it again - but as a reminder of what you can do to clean out your fridge. There is quite a bit of stuff I would have added had I wanted to spend more than ten minutes on this endeavor. If I had a little more time I probably would have found some vegetables in the freezer to add as well, and if I hadn't had the leftover white rice I would have used brown rice. And if I had more time I would have defrosted tofu and used that instead of egg. But these were the things I had easily accessible and all ready to go, so that's what I used - and it worked. Sometimes when I make some of the more complicated recipes, like on 101 Cookbooks, I end up with weird little bits of already chopped things that I throw away in tiny amounts. Something like this might be a fun and interesting way to use up those little chopped up bits instead of tossing them in the trash.

Final notes: the key was just letting the rice fry up and leaving it alone, just giving it a few splashes of soy sauce instead of cups and cups of the stuff, and possibly the toasted sesame oil. I might try a million variations, but I will definitely be having fried rice again soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan

Since school started I have been very busy and haven't really made anything new. But since it's a long weekend, I decided to try out a new recipe that I have been wanting to try for a while - Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan from Food Matters. I bought eggplant at the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market on Friday (as well as some yummy white peaches and a pint of yummy homemade sour pickles) specifically for the purpose of trying this recipe. I like eggplant and I want to look for more ways to cook with it, but eggplant parm seems to be common so I think it was a good recipe to start with.

We started out trying to broil the eggplant, but we really don't have the proper cookware for that, so we quickly switched to our electric grill. Rather than making the All-Purpose Tomato Sauce, we used my Nonna's homemade sauce. The result was OK, but I didn't love it. Ken didn't like it. The parmesan was really good, since I used real parmesan, and the mozzarella was good too. I think one cup of bread crumbs was way too much, though. I would probably use half of that next time. I also totally forgot to mix in the olive oil, salt and pepper to the bread crumbs. Oops! I might make this again, but maybe not. I am trying to eat less meat, so this is probably the only chicken I will be having for a while, and I will definitely be eating veggie meals for the rest of the week.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Spinach Rice Gratin

Ken requested something hot for dinner last night, and I had just seen a recipe for Spinach Rice Gratin while browsing 101 Cookbooks. It looked delicious and I wanted to try it.

I used Lundberg Countrywild rice blend instead of plain brown rice. It has three types of rice in it so it gave it a little extra flavor and texture. Cooking the rice took the longest - other than that, the recipe was pretty quick and easy. It calls for pre-cooked rice, so I had to make it myself, but I think next time I make rice for something I will probably make extra so that I can make this again.

This is basically a rice casserole, and it was delicious. It held together really well, which is probably due to the 3 eggs in it. It also contained tofu, but since it is crumbled and mixed it with everything else, you can't even really tell unless you know what you are looking for. This is a great way to sneak tofu into someone who refuses to eat it.

This was a delicious, warm comfort food kind of meal. I think it would be great for fall or winter, and maybe even Thanksgiving. I will definitely be making this again. I would love to try baking it in a muffin tin instead of a casserole dish to make individual and freezer-ready servings. It held up really well in the freezer so I think it would be a perfect go-to lunch.