Thursday, December 31, 2009
New Year's Eve also holds a special meaning for my husband and I....we met on December 31st, 2004, shortly before midnight and began dating less than a week later. This NYE marked 5 years since we met each other, so I wanted to prepare an extra special dinner for the two of us.
Make sure you buy a decent bottle of champagne for this dish as it adds a ton of flavor to the sauce. Don't go bottom shelf, but you don't need to splurge on the Moet or Cristal here; I used a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly Brut. Also, since this is a savory dish, leave the Asti and Rose for drinking--you want a Brut or a similar dry champagne for this dish. Lastly, this dish makes a ton of rich, creamy sauce; serve everyone a chunk of bread to soak it all up. I served mine with homemade foccicia.
Source: The Rookie Chef
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 5 small boneless, skinless thighs)
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups champagne
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon ground dried rosemary (I used about 2-3 teaspoons whole dried rosemary)
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Mix the flour, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.
Saute the chicken for 5 minutes. Turn over and add the champagne. Cook for another 12-15 minutes (if you're using thighs instead of breasts, they'll cook in less time...8-10 minutes).
Add the cream and rosemary and gently stir the sauce to combine. Cook until the sauce is thickened (if the chicken is done before this point, remove and set on a serving platter, while the sauce finishes).
Plate the chicken and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve with a hunk of bread to sop up the extra sauce and enjoy!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The husband loves steak, but I rarely buy it. I must have been feeling generous the last time I went grocery shopping; I picked up two organic, free-range, grass fed steaks. Yeah seriously, that is some expensive beef. At least I can feel good about the hippy-ness of its life though and know that the cow did not eat other cows for dinner.
As I was prepping the steaks, I decided I wanted them to be kind of fancy, so I grabbed a bunch of shallots, garlic and mushrooms to caramelize for a topping. Ohhhhhh, the smell was intoxicating! I wanted to spoon the mushroom mix straight from the pan to my mouth. Instead, I waited until the husband got home and topped my steak, as well as my potato with the goodness.
Make this...soon. You won't be sorry. Well, unless you are trying to stick to a diet.
Mushroom-topped Steak with Baked Potatos
2 small steaks (whatever cut you like.)
2 baking potatos
8 ounces crimini mushrooms
4 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
chili powder (optional)
baked potato toppings (we had butter, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and sour cream)
Prepare your charcoal grill with coals on only one side of the grill.
Salt and pepper the steaks. Add a dash of chili powder as well, if you like a bit of heat.
Heat the oil and butter in a large pan over medium heat.
Roughly chop the mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Add them to the butter and oil, and cook on medium-low for 20 minutes, until caramelized.
Scrub the potatos clean and pierce with a fork in several places. Cook in the microwave for 10 minutes.
Once the grill is hot, cook the steaks over indirect heat (the side without the charcoal). Cook for 6-10 minutes (depending on how done you like your steaks), and then move to direct heat for one minute to get the nice char on the outside.
Let the steaks sit for 5-10 minutes to rest and reabsorb the juices.
While the steaks are resting, place the potatos over the hot coals for 2-3 minutes to char the skin a bit.
Plate the steaks, spoon the mushroom mixture on the top, and serve with the baked potatos.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
This is a quick, easy, and healthy dinner that can easily be made on a hectic weeknight. The chili powder adds a hint of heat without being overwhelming, while the lime juice adds a nice citrusy twist. I normally douse my salmon in salsa to cover up the taste of the fish, but this time I left the salsa in the fridge and enjoyed the slight heat of the seasonings. I served the salmon with some cous cous cooked in turkey stock.
Chili Lime Salmon
1 salmon fillet
Place the salmon skin-side down on a plate and pat the salmon dry.
Generously coat with pepper and chili pepper. Gently rub the seasoning into the flesh. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the fish.
Grill skin-side down for 4 minutes, with the BBQ lid on. Flip the fish over and grill for an additional 3-4 minutes.
Squeeze the juice of the remaining lime half over the flesh side of the fish and serve immediately.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Google Books is my new favorite internet resource. Just type in the name of a book and an online edition pops up. Now, I don't believe entire editions are available online, but in the case of cookbooks, that's ok. It's a great way to sample recipes from a new cookbook without having to buy it or hope that the local library has a copy in stock.
I've been hearing great things about David Lebovitz's ice cream book The Perfect Scoop. After seeing several bloggers rely on his recipes I looked his book up on Google Books, and found a plethora of recipes available to sample for free. There are way too many appetizing options to choose from in the 45 pages available online, but I quickly decided to try the Guinness Milk Chocolate ice cream. The husband loves Guinness draught beers, and enjoys a bottle or two during Sunday afternoon football, so this was an easy choice for me.
This is made in the French style with an egg custard base. Be sure to give yourself two days to make this ice cream. The custard base needs to be cooked in advance and then chilled for a minimum of 8 hours, but overnight works best, especially since this recipe contains alcohol. The finished product will be very soft and melty; the alcohol content prevents it from freezing hard.
I can't wait to try more of David Lebovitz's ice cream recipes and I will be buying this book in the near future!
The finished result is very chocolate-y, with a rich, full-bodied taste from the beer. Not as pronounced a beer flavor as I expected, but I think using the extra stout will change that.
Guinness Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
Source: The Perfect Scoop
7 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup Guinness Stout (I used the draught, but you can also use the extra stout.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.
Warm the milk, sugar, and chocolate in a large saucepan on the stove top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Once the milk is warmed through (do not let it come to a boil), slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. (I find it is best to dribble a small amount of the milk into the egg yolks and whisk to temper the eggs before adding the entire amount.)
Pour the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened. Again, don't let it come to a boil.
Pour the custard into the strainer set over the chocolate. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted. Pour in the heavy cream and whisk until completely smooth. Pour in the Guinness and vanilla and stir to combine.
Stir until cool over and ice bath until completely cool. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge overnight. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of your beer!
The next day, freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacture directions. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer fitter with an ice cream attachment. It is important to turn the machine on before pouring the cream into the bowl, otherwise the mixture may freeze to the sides, preventing the dasher from churning.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
No doubt, at this time of year, the palate is in chocolate, eggnog, peppermint overdrive. Every dessert is some rich, creamy, decadent delight, or a frosted Christmas cookie. I myself am guilty of this, having made 4 batches of peppermint bark in less than 2 weeks. My husband is dying for a non-pepperminty treat.
That's where these sunshiney treats step in. Their bright citrusy flavor is a refreshing palate cleanser from those rich Christmas treats. The lemon flavor shines through without becoming too tart or cloying, while the cloves add depthness of flavor to round out the crunchy cookie. It's like taking a bite of summer.
Too bad I forgot the husband isn't a fan of lemon. Oh well, more for me.
Oh, just as a side note. If you need to buy cloves just for this recipe, don't buy the jarred cloves in the spice aisle. Walk yourself over to the Hispanic aisle, find the spices in little bags, and pick up a small bag of ground cloves for less than a buck. The jarred stuff will set you back about $8 or more.
Oh, one last note. If it weren't for my friend Michelle zesting half a lemon, licking the batter, and expertly drizzling the icing, these cookies may never have come to existence. ;)
Lemon Clove Cookies
Source: Adapted from McCormicks, and my friend Tiffany
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 and a half sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
zest of one lemon
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
zest of one lemon
Mix flour, cloves and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
Beat butter and granulated sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest and lemon extract; beat until well blended. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well mixed.
Divide dough in half. Form each half into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 9 inches long. Wrap in wax paper. (I totally ignored these directions and made one large rectangle, so my cookies came out more oblong than round.)
Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut dough into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.
For the Lemon Glaze, mix powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon extract in small bowl until well blended. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Let stand until glaze is set.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
One benefit of being a teacher is the much-needed vacation time. I love teaching my students every day, but I find myself needing a break from them right around the time our school vacations are set to begin. This year was no different; in the week or so before December 20, I found myself counting down the days until we were on Christmas Break. The minutes slowly ticked by on December 18, the last day of school before a two week break. Now I am on my second official day of Winter Break and enjoying the relaxation time.
Since I am home, I've decided to cook a real lunch for my husband and I everyday and branch out and try some new foods. While I was flipping through my huge hardback Cooking Light compilation cookbook, I found this recipe for soba noodles with tofu. The husband is a huge fan of tofu and I am always looking for new ways to use it, so I decided to give this a try.
Even though I used low-sodium soy sauce, I did find this to be a tad salty, so I might reduce the amount of soy sauce next time. Also, I plan to half the amount of cucumbers and double the tofu. Some grilled ginger chicken might also be a nice addition. However, I have printed the original recipe from Cooking Light below. Let me know what you think and if you make any substitutions. :)
Cold Soba Noodle Salad
Source: Cooking Light
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili oil or vegetable oil (I used vegetable oil, but I just found chili oil at Fresh and Easy recently)
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds
4 cups cooked soba noodles (8 ounces uncooked noodles)
2 cups sliced peeled cucumber (1 whole cucumber)
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 cups cubed firm tofu, about 12 ounces (I used medium firm...be sure to squeeze out all of the water before adding to the salad)
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, whisk together, and set aside.
Cook the sesame seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat until toasted, about one minute.
Combine sesame seeds, noodles, cucumber slices, noodles, and onions in a large bowl. Toss gently.
Pour the dressing over the top of the salad and toss once again.
Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.
I absolutely love Christmas parties. Work parties, friend parties, family parties; the more Christmas parties the better, in my opinion.
My husband's company Christmas party was a pot luck celebration at his new boss's house this year. My husband signed us up to bring dessert and I immediately thought of this trifle. It's so incredibly easy to make, yet it's always an impressive treat.
Unfortunately, the husband contracted pink eye a few days before his Christmas party, so we had to stay home. I was bummed because I really wanted to whip up a trifle. However, my disappointment did not last long, as only a week or 2 later it was time for my work Christmas party, which was also a potluck affair at my boss's house. We have a few pregnant teachers this year, so I warned them to steer clear of this sweet treat (though I did bring two additional, non-alcoholic desserts with me), but the rest of the staff swiftly spooned this up.
This recipe calls for canned peaches, but it would be wonderful with fresh peaches in the summer.
Boozy Peach Melba Trifle
Source: my mom
One can sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups cold water
1 (4 serving size) instant pudding – vanilla or cheesecake.
2 cups whipping cream, whipped, OR one large container Cool Whip
¼ cup plus one Tablespoon Kahlua
1 prepared angel food or pound cake, cut or torn into small pieces
1 (29 oz can sliced peaches, drained
½ cup raspberry preserves
In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and water. Add pudding mix and beat well. Chill five minutes. Fold in the whipped cream/Cool Whip and one Tablespoon Kahlua.
Place half the cake cubes in a 3 to 4 qt. serving dish. Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons Kahlua, and layer with half the peach slices, ½ cup preserves, and half the pudding mixture.
Repeat layers with the remaining cake, sherry, peach slices and pudding. Garnish with additional preserves and sliced almonds, if desired. Chill for at least an hour before serving. This can also be the night before, which allows the flavors to really meld and intensify.
Do not serve to pregnant people.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I used to menu plan every Sunday for the upcoming week. I liked having all our dinners planned out in advance, as it saved me from unnecessary grocery store trips mid-week, as well as standing in front of the refrigerator for half an hour after I got home from work, wondering what the heck to make for dinner. Sometime over the summer I stopped menu planning, figuring I was home all day anyway, I could just plan on a daily basis.
Of course, that didn't work well, and I soon found myself repeating the old habit of wondering what to make for dinner 20 minutes before my husband would be walking in the door. I'm the kind of wife that likes to set dinner down on the table as the husband is walking in the door, after a long day at work. This doesn't happen all the time, but planning out our dinners in advance sure goes a long way in helping get dinner on the table right as I here the garage door open and the car door slam shut.
Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go grocery shopping, I decided it was time to go back to meal planning. I had somewhat of a grocery list written out, but wasn't really sure what else I needed to buy. Now that we are making an effort to eat more organic foods, I have to be careful not to over spend at the grocery store. Not having a set list would definitely equal spending too much money. So I sat down with my laptop, two favorite cookbooks, and a piece of paper and began planning out our meals for the week.
The result? Efficient, money-wise grocery shopping and some new meals added to this week's menu. The husband blessed this meal by requesting that it be added to "the rotation", though he did ask that I add some grilled chicken or shrimp next time.
Source: Adapted from Rachel Ray's Big Orange Cookbook
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 large shallots
1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
dash chili pepper flakes (optional)
Peel the shallots and then cut them in half. Thinly slice each half and set aside.
Heat the olive oil with the butter over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic ans shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until gently caramelized (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of eater to boil for the pasta. Salt the water liberally, then add the spaghetti and cook to al dente. When the pasta is almost done, add about 1 cup of the cooking water to the shallots and stir. Drain the pasta and add to the shallots and garlic. Ass the parsley, cheese, and more pepper to taste. Toss for a minute or two to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Sprinkle a dash of chili pepper flakes on top and serve.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
So many blogs have such great intros to their recipes. Tales of life related to food, the great inspiration for a recipe, success and failures in the kitchen. I have none of those things for you today. Heck, who am I kidding. My blog intros leave a lot to be desired...especially when you consider I have a degree in writing and teach English. But I've never been much of a story-teller; I'm much more of a facts-based wordsmith. Even if I could weave an interesting tale, what can I say about peppermint bark? I made this because it's December and I like chocolate. It's incredibly easy and doesn't qualify as cooking or baking in my book, but it's no less of a treat!
Source: Various internet recipes
Note: Use a high quality chocolate; I used Guittard.
16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
16 ounces white chocolate
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
6 ounces candy canes
Unwrap the candy canes, and put them in a ziplock bag (best to double bag it here). Use something heavy to smash the candy canes into a million pieces. I used a glass candle jar...I probably could have used my rolling pin though.
Pour the semi-sweet chocolate and peppermint extract into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate is smooth.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread the melted chocolate on the paper. Let cool on the counter. If you chill it in the fridge, don't let it completely harden, or the next layer won't stick well enough.
Melt the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 30 second intervals. Stir after each interval until it is smooth. Once the white chocolate is completely melted spread it on top of the semisweet chocolate in an even layer. While the chocolate is still soft and melty, pour the crushed candy canes on top of it in an even layer. Gently press into the chocolate.
Chill in the refrigerator until hardened. Break into pieces and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
December in southern California. What can I say? Pull out your long-sleeved t-shirts and warm sweaters, but leave room for tank tops and warm weather wear. We go from 80 degrees and sunny one day, to freezing winds, grey skies, and threats of rain the next.
As the weather began to turn colder and rainy this week, I found myself craving potato soup. I wanted something thick, creamy, and satifyingly warm on a winter night. This recipe does just that.
One word of caution though; I mashed the potatos with a fork before adding them to the soup, which caused it to *really* thicken up. Either, just cut up into small chunks, or if you mash them like I did, add more milk to the soup. I didn't add any additional milk to account for the extra starch and we wound up with a huge bowl of soup that was almost the consistency of mashed potatos. I loved it, but the husband was hoping for a more liquid-y texture. The original recipe, from Annie's Eats, calls for the potatos to briefly run through the food processor before being added to the soup.
This dish is incredibly filling, so don't worry about planning any side dishes....you won't need them!
Mashed Potato Soup
Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats
5 baking potatos, scrubbed clean
4 tbsp. unsalted butter (I used salted as that's all I had on hand)
½ cup all-purpose flour, divided
6 cups 2% milk
2 tsp. salt (I started with 1 tsp. to account for the salted butter, and added more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup green onions, chopped
½ cup light sour cream
Additional green onions
Poke several holes in each potato to allow steam to escape. Microwave the potatos for about 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Once microwaved, chop into small chunks or mash with a fork. I kept the skins on most of the potatos, but you can discard them if you like.
Melt the butter in a large pot. Add ¼ cup of flour to the pot and whisk into the butter. Cook, whisking constantly, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the 6 cups milk and the remaining flour. Cook until thick and bubbling, about 6-8 minutes. Be sure to whisk thoroughly to ensure the soup does not burn on the bottom.
Mix in the potato, stirring to fully incorporate them into the soup. Whisk in the salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. Remove from the heat, stir in the green onions and sour cream.
Ladle into bowls and serve with your favorite toppings and a hunk of crusty bread.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
My husband and I are increasing our effort to eat at home more often. In the past few years we've gone from eating out 4-6 nights a week and 2-4 breakfasts/lunches a weekend, to maybe 2 nights a week and maybe 1-2 breakfasts/lunches a weekend. But even that can be cut down, not only to save our pocket books, but of course, our waistlines.
This is sometimes incredibly difficult considering we live right next to an In-N-Out, Taco Bell, Arbys, Weinerschnitzel, McDonalds, and a Chik-Fil-A, as well as a nearby handful of terrific Mexican places, inexpensive yet delicious sushi, and numerous other restaurants.
We recently made homemade Big Macs using ground turkey and sandwich thins. Alas, there was no "special sauce", lettuce, tomatos, onions, or sesame buns. Guess, they weren't really Big Macs then.
Just like these aren't really french fries.
2 large baking potatos
Cajon Seasoning or Season Salt
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the potatos into long wedges or strips, whatever size and shape suits your. Place them in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil (I use an oil mister), and season liberally with seasonings. Toss to ensure all potato slices are seasoned.
Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the outside is crisp.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I love soup, but I have noticed that the canned stuff never tastes good enough. The carrots are mushy, the broth is missing flavor, there's not enough meat. I could go on. So after a quick Google search I found several recipes for homemade turkey broth.
Pull out your largest stock pot, break up those bones, and plan to spend a chilly afternoon at home. Next time you want soup, or need to use some broth, you'll be glad you did.
Source: various internet recipes
2-3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried sage
several springs of whatever fresh herbs you have (I think I used tyme)
2 tablespoons pepper
1-2 teaspoons salt
Place all ingredients in a large pot (at least 8 quarts, but the bigger the better). Fill the pot with water, covering the solids as much as possible.
Simmer for 4 hours, replacing any water as needed. (I simmered mine with the lid off to keep if from reaching a boil.)
Strain out the solids and chill the remaining broth. Freeze any broth you are not going to use immediately.
Now you have the base for homemade soup. Super easy!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
4 gallons water
1 20-pound turkey, rinsed, patted dry; neck, heart, and gizzard removed
3/4 cup fresh refrigerated apple cider or fresh refrigerated apple juice
2 cups (or more) Turkey Stock or low-salt chicken broth
3/4 cup fresh refrigerated apple cider or fresh refrigerated apple juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 to 3 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy) or applejack brandy (I omitted this)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Place the turkey in a large brine bag and fill with 4 gallons of water (16 cups = 1 gallon). Stir in the salt and sage. Brine in the refrigerator overnight.
Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 375°F. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse throughouly and pat dry. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together loosely. Set in a roasting pan. (Bon Appetite, and most other recipes really, call for the turkey to be cooked breast side up. I inadvertenly cooked mine breast side down, but loved the results. You do what you want.)
Roast turkey 1 hour; baste with any pan juices. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Pour 3/4 cup apple cider over; turn pan around. Continue to roast turkey until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F, basting and turning pan occasionally for even cooking, about 1 1/4 hours longer. (I cooked my turkey until it reached 185 degrees. Since I cooked it upside down, it was still underdone at 165. The brining process and the juices running into the upside down breast kept the meat incredibly moist.)
Pour all pan juices into large measuring cup. Spoon off fat that rises to surface.
Place saucepan with turkey fat over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk 2 minutes. Whisk in stock mixture. Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat spoon thinly, about 6 minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons Calvados, or more to taste, and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.