Friday, October 29, 2010

The little black dress for your salad.

I don't know about you, but for me, a good salad dressing can actually make you crave salads. Trader Joe's Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette does that for me. It's the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, and I could eat it pretty much every day. But it's not for everyone. I get that.

But the dressing I made last night I think could be. It's listed on allrecipes.com as "Absolutely Fabulous Greek/House Dressing" and I have to agree that it is pretty fabulous. Not only is it tasty, but it uses simple ingredients and was ready in under five minutes. I followed the advice of other reviewers and used equal amounts of oil and vinegar, which was a good adjustment as I think the vinegar would have really overpowered it. I also emulsified the oil, vinegar, and mustard using my immersion blender and it did so well that there is still no separation, even after hanging out on the counter all night.

We fixed just your basic green salad last night, but I think this would be amazing on a Greek salad, or even on a pasta salad. I also scaled it down to five servings as just three people were going to eat it. The recipe (with my adjustments and scaled to 10 servings because five just wasn't enough) is below. Enjoy!! It's lunch time and I think I just might have another salad.

 Absolutely Fabulous Greek/House Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, basil, pepper, salt, onion powder, and Dijon-style mustard. Pour in the vinegar, and mix vigorously until well blended. Store tightly covered at room temperature.


OR: Mix with blender or immersion blender only the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and mustard to create an emulsion. Add it the remaining ingredients and pulse 2-3 times, just to incorporate. Store tightly covered at room temperature.


Source: allrecipes.com

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's a lot of things, but pretty ain't one of them Curried Red Lentil Soup

My husband loves curry. I mean l-o-v-e-s it. Just about any dish that has the word "curry" in the title or is included as a major ingredient immediately elicits an "ohhh, that sounds good" from his mouth. We've also discovered in the last year or so that we both really enjoy a Spicy Chicken Lentils and Rice dish from a most delicious local restaurant, Nazareth Restaurant and Deli.  While we love the lentils there, the idea of actually making lentils at home was intimidating until I happened upon a recipe in Eating Well for Curried Red Lentil Soup. For whatever reason, a soup didn't seem so scary. And in Nate's mind: Curry = Good; Lentils = Good; Soup = Good; Curried Lentil Soup = Really Good; so it was earmarked to try. And let me tell you, it's a good thing he likes curry so much because our house just might smell like it for the rest of the week. ;)

Here's how I did it: (Full recipe is below. Sorry about the dark pics. Indoor lighting is the bane of my blogging existence for the record.)

Chop up one onion and saute in 1 Tbsp. of canola oil till it's softened.

Grate ginger, chop jalapeno, avoid rubbing eyes, get out cumin, curry, cinnamon, bay leaves, garlic and broth.

Saute prepared spices and aromatics. Turn on the fan. I didn't and that was a mistake. :)

Rinse and pick over the lentils.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for what feels like forever, but is actually closer to one hour.


Prepare a lemon for juicing and chop up a handful of cilantro leaves (or parsley, but who would do such a thing when cilantro is so delicious??)


Add cilantro and lemon juice to the soup.


Stir, top with chutney (I picked up a spicy tomato chutney at the farm market today that worked out fabulously), yogurt (optional) and enjoy. And say a prayer that the intense curry smell dissipates in the very near future.



Curried Red Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion,chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic,minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over (see Note)
  • 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, curry powder, cinnamon, cumin and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes longer.
  2. Stir in lentils and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, about an hour minutes.
  3. Discard bay leaves. Stir in cilantro (or parsley), lemon juice and chutney. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with yogurt.

Tips and Notes


  • Note: Red lentils are a useful addition to your pantry because they cook in just 10 to 15 minutes. They are excellent in soups, salads and vegetarian stews. You can find them in the natural-foods section of your supermarket or through online sources.

Nutrition

Per serving: 268 calories; 4 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 7 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrates; 19 g protein; 16 g fiber; 332 mg sodium; 549 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Folate (60% daily value), Iron (25% dv), Magnesium (17% dv), Potassium & Zinc (16% dv), Vitamin C (15% dv).

Source: Eating Well, Sept./Oct. 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vampires Be Warned... Lasagna, Garlic Bread, and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Oh My.

It's a week into my challenge and I'm cheating a bit tonight... only one recipe is new and it was helped along substantially be starting out as a box mix.  Oh well, at least it was a tasty cheat and the recipes are yours to try if you so desire. AND, it's a great precursor to Halloween as the amount of garlic we consumed tonight would ward off most anything, especially your spouse if they didn't eat it as well. (Sorry Jeff!)

Four Layer No Boil Lasagna

1 box (9 oz.) Barilla Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles, uncooked
2 eggs
1 (15 oz.) container of Ricotta cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
4 c. (16 oz.) shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
1 lb. ground beef (cook, crumble, drain)
2 jars (26 oz. each) marinara sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can of tomato sauce (optional, but makes a slightly saucier lasagna)

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a 9"x13"x3" deep pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Stir in ricotta, 2 c. of mozzarella, and the Parmesan cheese. Layer lasagna by slightly overlapping lasagna noodles towards the center of the pan. Lasagna will expand to the edges during cooking. Spread fillings to edges to seal in and cook the lasagna while baking. Layer in the following order:
  1. Spread 1½ cups of meat sauce on the bottom of the baking pan.
  2. Layer 4 uncooked noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1½ c. of meat sauce, and 1 c. mozzarella.
  3. Layer 4 uncooked noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, and 1½ c. of meat sauce.
  4. Layer 4 uncooked noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, and 1½ c. of meat sauce.
  5. Layer 4 uncooked noodles and remaining meat sauce.
Bake, covered with foil until bubbly, 50-60 minutes. Uncover. Add remaining 1 c. of mozzarella and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. (Otherwise, it will come out super messy.)

Source: Adapted slightly from a Barilla's recipe

Ina's Garlic Bread
This makes a very garlicy garlic bread. You've been warned. Below is the recipe we made tonight, but if you would like to see the original from Ina Garten's Back to Basics Cookbook (which I ♥), you can check it out here: Ina Garten's Garlic Bread Recipe. Here was tonight's interpretation: 

Ingredients

  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1 loaf Italian bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until minced. Add the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and pulse twice.

Heat the olive oil over low heat in a medium saute pan and add the garlic mixture. Remove the pan from the heat.

Slice the Italian bread in half horizontally, and spread the butter on 1 half. Spread the garlic mixture on the other half of the bread, and put the halves together. Wrap the bread in aluminum foil.

Place the bread in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Open the foil, and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.

King Arthur Flour's Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Tonight's new item, but alas, with no recipe to provide. But I can provide you with the site to purchase the kit to make these yummy cookies in your home. Check out King Arthur's Flour site for this or other mixes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"...and in the morning, I'm making waffles!" Yeasty waffles, at that.

Ahhh Shrek... a movie franchise that has lived long past it's prime (in my honest and humble opinion). But the first one is a classic. I'm pretty sure I'll be pulling out the "not the gumdrop buttons" line out closer to Christmas.



Yeast waffles. I had never had them, nor do I think I knew anything about them up until a couple months ago. I read a blurb somewhere that Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at the North Market would no longer be making their yeast waffles by the end of August, but they were posting the beloved recipe online. Now, if you've never had any of Jeni's Ice Cream concoctions, they are amazingly and sinfully divine, so I figured that these yeast waffles must therefore also be amazing since it is something they made and sold. Have I mentioned that I got an "A" in my college Logic class? While true, I should probably disclose that our teacher gave us the exam questions before the exam. ; ) But I digress.

I've had this recipe set aside to make since I read the post, but because they require making the batter the night before, it's just not happened. Until last night. And if you're a planner, these waffles are so up your alley. Who doesn't like breakfast being a warm waffle iron away first thing in the morning? Here's how to do it... (recipe can be found below)

Melt a stick of butter over med. low heat with 1 3/4 c. milk.

Whisk together dry ingredients. Take a drink of Carmel Machiatto. Pray that the barista made it with decaf espresso (which sadly, mine did not or I don't think I would've still been up at 3:30 a.m. this morning.)

After the butter has melted into the warm milk, turn off the heat and let cool to just warm. If the milk is too warm, the yeast will die. If it's too cold, it won't activate. I used a thermometer to ensure my milk was about 114 degrees. I'm anal like that.

Whisk together eggs and vanilla. (Thanks for the yummy vanilla from Mexico, Dad!)

Slowly add the warm milk mixture into the flour mixture until smooth. Then add the egg/vanilla mixture.

I then realized that my 4 c. batter bowl would not allow for any sort of yeast-induced rising (again with that logic class), so I upgraded to the 8 c. batter bowl. When I stuck it in the fridge, it was just under 4 c. of batter.

Here it is after an overnight in the fridge.

It deflated quite a bit after a quick stir.

About 1/2 c. of batter in our waffle maker was perfect.

Why doesn't the first one ever look as good as the rest?

They were a hit with the girls. Nate could have taken or left them... He likes a waffle with a little more sweetness than these offered. I thought they were crispy and a nice change of pace from the traditional waffle fare. (As a side note, after baths last night, the girls wanted to wear their daddy's t-shirts to bed. I know I'm biased, but I think they look adorable.)

My big girl got a little whipped cream on her plate cause it was Sunday and she's cute. N could have, but chose not to. Crazy girl. ;) 

Jeni's Saturday Morning Waffles
Made 8 Waffles
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup milk
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions:
  • Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter is melted, 3 to 5 minutes
  • Cool milk/butter mixture until warm to touch (80-105 degrees F, or thereabouts); if it's hot on a finger, it's too hot)
  • Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl to combine; always refer to the yeast package for the specific temperature info, etc.; instant yeast does not need to be proofed in hot liquid; still, if the milk is too hot when mixed in the yeast will die; letting the batter raise overnight in the fridge controls the rate of rise while allowing flavor to build.
  • Gradually whisk warm milk/butter mixture into flour mixture; continue to whisk until batter is smooth.
  • In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla until combined, then add egg mixture to batter and whisk until incorporated; crape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 24 hours.
  • Following manufacturer's instructions, heat waffle iron
  • Remove waffle batter from refrigerator when waffle iron is hot (batter will be foamy and double in size)
  • Whisk batter to recombine (batter will deflate)
  • Bake waffles according to manufacturer's instructions (use about 1/2 cup for a 7" round iron or about 1 cup for a 9" square iron), for 4 minutes
  • Serve immediately, or keep warm on a single-layer baking rack in a 200-degree oven

Friday, October 22, 2010

Masala Chai

I've been on a bit of a Chai kick as of late. I blame Mindy, a friend whose family we stayed with at the beach this past summer. She shared a very yummy Chai that started a bit of an obsession. I really enjoy her recipe, but wondered what else was out there...

I scoured the internet finding recipes that I could try to see which was the best. The first couple recipes have yielded mediocre (at best) teas. One even tasted a bit like what I would guess dish water would taste like. I was about to give up, but decided this morning I would try one last recipe that sounded promising.

It starts off with creating a bouquet garni, which is just your own spice blend tied up in a cheese cloth. The recipe called for grated fresh ginger, hence the porcelain grater in the background. I hear microplanes or even the small holes on a box grater both do a good job of grating fresh ginger if you don't have this crazy tool.

All tied up and ready to drop into 5 c. of water:

While bringing my spice blend and water to a boil, I got the 1/4 c. of tea ready. I don't have any loose leaf tea, so I opened a lot of tea bags. Nine, to be exact. It about got me to about a 1/4 cup.

I added the tea to the pot, and steeped it for 15 minutes. This seemed quite a long time to steep it, but I went with it. I mean, the name of the recipe is "The Perfect Chai Tea", right?

While it was steeping, I got my mesh strainer ready.

And my honey ready. Mmmm... honey.

I strained out all the tea leaves, rinsed out my pot, then re-strained it as I poured it back into the pot.

I added 3 c. of milk, the vanilla and the honey and voila. Masala Chai!

Time to taste...

And the verdict: While I am by no means a Chai expert, I find that it still isn't even in the same arena as Mindy's Chai. The 1 tsp. of vanilla adds a little too much vanilla flavor for my taste and the flavors of the spice blend are kind of lost.  I also miss the cardamom flavor that I get in Mindy's tea. And it's a lot of work. Put a fork in me, I'm done and Mindy's tea wins.

Masala Chai
  • 2 t. grated ginger root
  • 1 t. grated orange peel
  • 1 whole star anise (broken up)
  • 4 pieces cinnamon bark (about 1.5 inches)
  • 1 t. cardamom seeds
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 5 c. water
  • 1/4 c. black tea leaves (Darjeeling and Assam work well)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 3 c. milk
You’ll also need:
  • Medium pot
  • Cheesecloth and string (or empty teabags)
  • Strainer
Directions:
  1. Using your cheesecloth, put together a bouquet garni. Include everything except the liquid ingredients and the tea in your bouqet garni. 
  2. Place the bouquet garni into a pot with 5 c. water. Bring to a low boil, lower the heat and keep it at a simmer.
  3. Add tea leaves and continue simmering for 15 minutes.
  4. Pluck out the spices using a spoon or tongs. 
  5. Strain out tea leaves.
  6. Add the milk, honey and vanilla and serve. If serving cold, pour over ice. 
This recipe makes about eight one-cup servings.
Source: The Perfect Chai Tea 


Thursday, October 21, 2010

What matters.

It was kind of a crappy day from the outside... We were almost late to school this morning (the result of having one hard-to-wake 6 yr. old and a demanding 3 yr. old); the cable guy showed up 30 minutes early and I had just barely gotten out of the shower; my nephew accidentally ran into the door of our entertainment center, re-cracking the wood frame; I had to have my hubby come home from work on short notice so I could go to see the doctor (meh); kids had a hard time napping; and if you've made it this far, I still had no idea what I was going to throw together for dinner. I had planned to make a Roasted Tomatillo Salsa today and sadly that is not enough to eat as a main course. I mean, I could, but it would probably not be wise.

So I did my fair share of complaining today. But then I get to tonight and look back and have realized all the blessings that happened in the midst of the chaos and seemingly bad stuff.
  • My daughter wasn't late for school.
  • At least the cable guy wasn't late. And I wasn't actually in the shower when he arrived.
  • The cabinet door can be wood glued (we hope).
  • I got to see my hubby at lunch, which is a rarity and always nice.
  • Doctors appt. went well.
  • Both kids ended up napping.
  • I was able to throw together a delicious salad for dinner with ingredients on hand. And it was tasty. (Recipe below)
And while all of these things are awesome, the most incredible blessing was hearing last night that an amazing little boy named Ben who has been battling an awful childhood cancer on and off for most of his young life received the news we (and a lot of other people) have been praying for - his last scans came back cancer-free. 
So I sit here, my belly full, thanking God for giving me a different perspective and for healing the Bean. Turns out it was a pretty good day after all. 

Pear and Pecan Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Adapted with ingredients on hand from allrecipes.com. The original used Roquefort instead of the Parm, which I would have totally used if I would have had it on hand. But I didn't, so Parm it was. Here's the original: Roquefort Pear Salad Recipe

Serves 2, with a little leftover pecans and dressing. And the pecans rock. You'll want leftovers of those. Trust me on this.


Ingredients

  • 3 c. leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large pear or 2 small pears - cored and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. Craisins

Directions

  1. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, stir 1/4 cup of sugar together with the pecans. Continue stirring gently until sugar has melted and caramelized the pecans. Carefully transfer nuts onto waxed paper. Allow to cool, and break into pieces.
  2. For the dressing, blend oil, vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, mustard, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper.(I used an emulsion blender for this.)
  3. In a large serving bowl (or two good sized bowls), layer lettuce, pears, Parmesan cheese, and green onions. Pour dressing over salad, sprinkle with pecans, and serve. 

 

End of Summer Pesto

I understand we are a little outside of summer, so maybe this should be more of a fall pesto. But pesto just feels so summery, doesn't it? Green, garlicy, fresh and flavorful. Maybe I'm just already mourning summer.

The pesto recipe I tried today is from David Lebovitz, whom I have only recently discovered. I have a bit of a foodie crush on him (though I realize he bats for the other team, is probably closer to my dad's age than mine, and isn't near as handsome as my husband). It's his use of simple, pure ingredients to make delicious food that lures me in. And the pictures on his blog... beautiful. But as pretty as this pesto looked on the blog, it was not the best pesto I have made.

Maybe it was because I used the food processor and didn't crush it to a pulp with a mortar and pestle like David did. Maybe the basil was impacted by the frost and not as delicious as it was in the spring or summer. Or could it be the tablespoon of lemon juice I added to help keep that vibrant green color? Whatever it was, while good, it still wasn't great. But if you want to try it for yourself (or at least salivate over his yummy blog), check out the recipe here: David Lebovitz Pesto Recipe

But if you want to make the pesto we found to be quite good (and it even sneaks in a good amount of fresh spinach), check out this recipe: Spinach Basil Pesto. But be forewarned, it has a fair amount of garlic spiciness to it, so it might be good to cut back on the garlic and add it in to taste. I also used walnuts instead of pine nuts (call me crazy) but I'm sure the pine nuts would've been great too. It's pictured below. I think our "vintage" counter top sets off the green nicely. :)

Or, if you want to just enjoy some delicious store bought pesto, I would highly recommend the one Whole Foods makes in their stores. That is some good stuff and much easier than making it from scratch, but where's the fun in that?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time to try something new

I have a confession: I have an obsession with reading, tearing out, copying down, and bookmarking new recipes. And therefore, I have a ridiculous number of random papers that are stored on my cookbook bookshelf, magazine basket, mail bin, even my room, that are just waiting to be made. But the problem is, I don't. I mean, don't get me wrong, I do try new recipes. Our good friends, the D's are regular guinea pigs. But that puts me at trying a new recipe or two every week or so - which is not conducive to making a dent in my ever-growing recipe stash.

SO, I've decided to take action! An almost recipe a day. I've set a goal of completing 5 new recipes a week. It might be an ambitious start, but I started yesterday and I've already completed two. Score! And I'll try to do better about taking some pics of the works to share with you. If you are reading this and you know me, chances are good that you'll be trying some of it as I ♥ to share finished products with my friends.

A number of recipes I share will be linked to their source (gotta give credit where credit is due), but for those that are not currently available on the web, I'll be sure to post them. I'm a good sharer. Thanks for joining me on this adventure!

Without further ado, I present you with the inaugural recipe: Mini Banana Beignets.

Think Timbits, but so very much better.

This was my first deep frying experience that was a complete success. I credit that to the use of a thermometer in the oil to ensure it stayed at about the correct temperature. Super hot smoking oil doesn't do anyone any good. Trust me on this. I also had to cook them about 15-20 more seconds than the recipe had called for to make sure they were cooked all the way through.

The beignets were soft, tender, with a lovely banana flavor. And something that my two girls said I had to make again. Which I probably will since we always have ripe bananas, and I'll have to reuse that frying oil, right?!

Next up: End of season pesto