Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Stevesie!

Today is my father-in-law's birthday. Besides being an incredibly kind and loving person, Steve is also one of my biggest culinary supporters. For his birthday, I wanted to make him a special cake. I offered carrot cake-- his favorite-- but he opted for a surprise experimental cake. He told me to make any cake I've been wanting to try.

And I did.

I made Joy the Baker's Almost Fudge Gateau yesterday. I've been eyeing the recipe, and while I knew my finished product would never compare with Joy's, I wanted to try.

I rigged a double boiler with my stainless steel mixing bowl and melted down the bittersweet chocolate, sugar, butter, and coffee. Then I mixed in the small amount of flour and egg yolks. Into that went the stiffly beaten whites.

I poured the batter into a 9-inch square springform pan, since my round one is 8 inches and we know what happened with that last time. (This recipe calls for a 9er, too)
I baked my gateau for 35 minutes. I was immediately concerned that I overbaked, and my fears deepened when I removed it from the pan and saw how crumbly the edges were.
I let it cool and then made the rich glaze, which I poured onto the cake. I wanted to use berries but didn't want to gank Joy's presentation, so I did my own thing.
My thing is not as arty or attractive as Joy's, but I think it has a touch of fancy somewhere in there.I considered making some whipped (whupped) cream to go with the cake, because I was concerned about it being too dry, but I decided against it. I just figured if it turned out bad, I'd make Steve a replacement carrot cake next week.

I needn't have worried. The edges of the cake were indeed crumbly, but the inside was every bit as moist and dense as Joy promised. It really was almost fudge, too, and super rich and chocolatey. This is not a cake for people who don't really like chocolate, and I'm not sure I'd recommend it to milk-chocolate-only fans. It's definitely got a dark chocolate vibe going on. We loved it.
This is an accessibly fancy recipe, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to impress new friends or show someone your love. The gateau is special.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

repeaters

Even though 2010's resolution doesn't include trying a new recipe each week (that was so 2009), I don't do a lot of repeating recipes for dinner. I read too many blogs and pull out my cookbooks weekly, and I always have a list going of things I'm dying to try. Meals I do make semi-regularly include chicken pot pie, chili (I like this for beef and I'll be making this for vegetarian from now on), spicy garbanzo bean burritos, and breakfast sandwiches.

Here are two more that I have made, and will continue to make, again and again.

The first is a roasted cherry tomato and ricotta pasta salad from Real Simple. We had our new friends Sally Ann and David over for dinner last Friday, and I made it. I always serve it hot the first time round, and then just eat it as a cold pasta salad for leftovers. It's quick, easy, and delicious. (Obvi I use whole wheat pasta.) I was so excited to have friends over that I forgot to take a phote of my plate, but it included this pasta and an arugula salad with craisins, golden raisins, red onion, a mutsu apple, smoked gouda, and a homemade salad dressing (olive oil+dijon mustard+lemon juice+sugar+salt+pepper). Here's the bottom of the serving bowl, after we'd finished:
I make lentil soup a lot during the cold months. There are a billion recipes for lentil soup out there-- what I like about this one is I always have all the ingredients, it's quick, and it's simple. We had it last night for dinner. I make the croutons if I have bread in the house (any bread will do), and I leave them out if all I have in the bread family are whole wheat wraps and pumpkin muffins.

There's barely any prep required, and it only takes about 20 minutes to simmer down. Don't be put off by the lack of spices. The cayenne and bay leaf really give it plenty of flavor.

Martha says it serves 4 but I can get 6 full bowls out of it.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

(wild) rice vegetable bake

More brown rice! I made a wild rice vegetable bake* for dinner Sunday night. It calls for wild rice, but I used the brown rice I already had in the pantry. It was pretty easy to put together, but I had a lot of chopping to do: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, onions, mushrooms and carrots (I was supposed to use parsnips but I didn't feel like buying them when carrots would do the trick).

I boiled my brown rice for 10 minutes, then mixed it with sauteed onion and barley. I also threw in some spinach.
On top of that went the chopped vegetables, sprinkled with salt and pepper.
I poured on apple cider and vegetable broth, covered it with tin foil, and baked for an hour.
This smelled so delicious-- and it tasted just as good. The vegetables took on an almost roasted quality, and I loved the rice and barley mixture. It was wonderful hot out of the oven, and I just had it cold for lunch over more fresh spinach. It's great both ways.
I hope you like it. I made it.

*Lind, Mary Beth and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season. "Wild Rice Vegetable Bake." p. 261.

Friday, October 22, 2010

turkey lentil pilaf

I love brown rice. I didn't realize how much I loved brown rice until recently, but wow. I love it. The idea of combining it with my favorite bean (the lentil) was incredibly appealing, so Wednesday night I made Turkey Lentil Pilaf.*

I browned my turkey, then added in onion, garlic, cinnamon, mint, and pepper.
Next came vegetable broth, a chopped tomato, brown rice, and lentils.
Let that simmer together until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is done. Each serving got topped with a mixture of tomatoes, feta, and mint.
EDW and I liked this a lot. Initially, I was unimpressed because it seemed a little bland, but once I mixed in my feta garnish the dish took on new depths. It was filling and very satiating. Served with steamed broccoli, this made a delightful weeknight supper.
I hope you like it. I made it.

*Lind, Mary Beth and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season. "Turkey Lentil Pilaf." p. 307.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

chicken pot pie topper

Because of my aversion to recipes using canned cream-of soups, there aren't a lot of options for me in the pot pie variety. I always make Real Simple's chicken and vegetable pot pie, because it uses milk and flour to get that creamy texture.

This week, I wanted to try it with a different crust, so I turned to Food and Whine's topper for lazy chicken pot pie. I liked that it used all whole wheat flour, and I already had what I needed in the pantry.

My pot pie filling wasn't as good as it normally is-- it just wasn't as thick. I think it's because I didn't let the milk simmer long enough, but I was hungry and ready to get the bad boy in the oven.

The dough? Well. Dough is tricky to me. I had a really hard time rolling it out, probably because I don't really have any experience with rolling dough and I never practice. (Maybe we need a dough saga here to get me good? Every week I roll something new?)
So the dough looked wonky, but after 25 minutes, it was golden brown and a little crispy.
And we loved it! I'm not going to lie and say it's better than the frozen pillsbury pie crust, because hello those are amazing, but it was good and absolutely did the trick. I'll do it this way from now on, I think.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

black bean and sweet potato chili

Black beans and sweet potatoes, again?

Again!

I love the combo. I was actually planning on giving it a rest this week, but then someone on Facebook mentioned making black bean and sweet potato chili. I don't really talk to her anymore, so I didn't comment on the status and ask for the recipe. Instead I googled and found this gem, which is supposedly (say it supposably to make people love you) from Sara Foster: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili.

Since Sara Foster can do no wrong, I figured this would be a winner. And oh, was it ever.

Sauteed peppers (bell and spicy), sweet potatoes, onions, and chili spices. In the recipe, when there was a choice of 2-3 T, I went with the larger amount each time.
Tomatoes and chicken broth.
Black beans, simmered down. Heaven.
Edwin and I loved this chili. I really think it might be my favorite chili ever. It's just so good-- you get the traditional chili flavors from the peppers and spices, but it's such a wonderful twist to have sweet potatoes involved. It's colorful and flavorful and magical.

I am obsessed with this chili, and I can't wait to make it again and again. This is impress-your-friends-food at its finest. Make it.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

pumpkin breakfast

I go through breakfast phases, when I eat the same thing for breakfast every day for months and months. This summer it was greek yogurt with fresh fruit and a muffin from the muffin chronicles. This fall it's oatmeal. All oatmeal, all the time. I've been going strong with regular oats, made with almond milk, cinnamon and raisins for about 2 months now. This weekend I tried a variation: pumpkin oatmeal!

Here's the fancy recipe:

1/2 cup rolled oats
lots of cinnamon
dash each of nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice, and salt
1 heaping spoon pureed pumpkin
a little less than 1 cup almond milk
dried cranberries

Combine oats and spices. Add pumpkin and milk; stir well to combine. Microwave 2 minutes 45 seconds. Stir in dried cranberries. Enjoy!
I loved this. It was like pumpkin granola in oatmeal form, and super thick with the pumpkin. I made it this way Saturday and Sunday, and this morning I used raisins instead of cranberries. Both ways are delicious.
I definitely recommend making your oats with almond milk instead of water or regular milk. It gives the whole thing a lovely nutty flavor.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

cousin cookies

I've mentioned my cousins Laura and val before-- and their fantastic little cookbook of favorite recipes-- but I haven't shared their sweet nightly ritual. Laura and val have been together for years and years, and nearly every night they have cookies and milk. Laura usually makes these chocolate chip cookies, and after their kids are in bed, they take some time for themselves. They talk and share a cookie, which to me is the sweetest thing ever.

I made Laura's chocolate chip cookies this weekend, in honor of my college roommate's visit (hey poodle!). Here's the recipe:

Laura's Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. butter (softened)
3/4- 1 c. light brown sugar (sugar can be adjusted to create a chewier cookie)
1 large egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. + 2 T all purpose flour
1 c. semisweet chocolate chunks
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar together at high speed. Mix in egg. Add vanilla, soda and salt; mix thoroughly. On low speed, add flour and mix until combined. Stir in chips and nuts.

Drop a tablespoon of dough 1-2 inches apart on buttered baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, 12-14 minutes. Cool on sheets 10 minutes; with a thin metal spatula, transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
What do I not love about these cookies? They are buttery and chewy and so so good. I've made them before and they never cease to amaze me. I always use 3/4 cup sugar. Would upping the sugar make a chewier or crunchier cookie? Anyone know?

This time I used 1/2 cup dark brown sugar before I realized I was supposed to be using light brown. My cookies weren't burnt-- they're just darker than normal because of my sugar.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

(girly) tagine

I made this lentil and vegetable tagine for dinner on Wednesday. I love Food and Whine, and not just because Megan uses a u in the word flavor. Megan's recipes are usually easy to make and almost always delicious, and this Moroccan stew looked like something we'd really enjoy.

I was right.

I like all the vegetables in the dish, and I especially like that they turn this funky red from the paprika. I didn't have a small orange or yellow pepper, so I just used one large green pepper. I also used regular spinach, not baby, because it's way cheaper at the grocery store, and chopped it a bit before throwing it in. I was worried about the raisins and I almost left them out, but they turned out to be a lovely addition.
I served the tagine over brown rice, and EDW and I gobbled it up. I wasn't worried when Megan said this recipe appeals more to women than men, because Edwin generally likes girly food. (Poor EDW. In the last week I've called him a wimp for not liking spicy food and now I'm insulting his manhood. It's just that he really likes cosmos, quiches, and berry desserts. He likes meat and potatoes too, I promise, and he's very tall and strapping.)
Can I just say how much I love lentils? They are definitely my favorite kind of bean, with chickpeas coming in at a close second. I'll make this dish again, no doubt.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

pumpkin granola

Have you heard about the pumpkin shortage this year? I've heard rumors of a bad pumpkin crop last year, which resulted in fewer cans of Libby's in grocery stores this year. At first I thought it was a myth. I was in Earthfare and I heard a stockboy saying to his coworker, "Did you know there's a pumpkin shortage? We're the only store in town who has pumpkin right now." To which I smugly replied, "Actually, Wal-Mart has it," because I had just bought a can the day before.

But then the next time I was at Wal-Mart they were out. All out!

So now I'm adding to the hysteria by buying at least a can or two every time I'm at the Wal-Mart-- I'm just so afraid I'll run out and not be able to make all the pumpkiny things I want to this fall! The Libby's can says it'll stay good until 2013, so I figure stocking up won't hurt me.

I made pumpkin granola yesterday morning, which means I now have four 15 oz cans of pumpkin in my pantry and 2 cups leftover in my fridge. And a house that smells like a pumpkin spice candle. And over five cups of delicious pumpkin granola.

I don't have pumpkin pie spice. I just use 2 parts cinnamon to 1 part cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. And my math is never accurate. So for this recipe, which calls for 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, I used 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, giving me 1 1/4 teaspoons of spice. Then I added the additional teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. It worked. I also used dark brown sugar, because I never use dark brown and I didn't want to discriminate. It made my wet ingredients look extra rich and delicious, if you ask me.
I baked my granola about 20 minutes longer than Maria said to, because it wasn't crisping, and then I added my dried cranberries. I don't have pepitas, so I left them out.
This granola is so, so good. It's like delicious pumpkin pie and wholesome oats are having a party in your mouth, and every once in a while a dried cranberry will make some sassy remark and have all the flavors laughing hysterically.

Make the granola. And don't buy all the pumpkin from the Arden Wal-Mart. I need it.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

sweet potato quesadillas

I liked the burritos so much from last week that I decided to make sweet potato quesadillas-- the recipe is right next to the one for burritos in my cookbook. I had a choice of cooking and mashing my potatoes or shredding them and cooking them with the garlic and onion. I shredded.
I added black beans to my filling for added protein, and let them warm up with the spices. This spice mixture included oregano, basil, marjoram, cumin, and chili pepper. I spread my quesadillas with pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a kick (I left EDW's plain).
Filled with sweet potatoes and cheese, in they went to a 400 degree oven. Out came 4 delicious quesadillas.

I garnished with sour cream, salsa, and cilantro, and we dug in. Edwin and I traded triangles with each other so he could try my spicy version, but we traded back after he took a couple bites. Wimp :)
I think I like the flavoring of the burritos better than the quesadillas, but EDW and I both preferred the shredded sweet potato to the chopped. These were quick and satisfying, and I really really really love spicy sweet potatoes.

I hope you like it. I made it.


*Lind, Mary Beth and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season. "Sweet Potato Quesadillas." p. 258

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

moussaka

I made moussaka* for dinner last night. I wanted to make something with eggplant, and I scoured my cookbooks for something really special. I didn't actually know I liked eggplant until a few weeks ago, so I was excited to try my hand at cooking it. After searching online and in all my cookbooks, I finally settled on Martha's version of the "Mediterranean classic." It's in my cookbook but available to you online.

(Side note: if you think you don't like eggplant but haven't tried it lately: try it! It's so, so yummy. It's a little like a mushroom, with that meaty texture, and a little like a squash, with such a delicious earthy flavor. Seriously people. I love eggplant!)

This is a Martha recipe, so that translates to lots of pots and lots of time. I had both.

You're supposed to use regular yogurt and let it strain through a cheesecloth, but I had greek yogurt in my fridge and figured it'd be thick enough. I was right. The thickened yogurt (or my greek) gets mixed with parmesan and an egg. It will be topping sauce. It will be wonderful.

The middle sauce is ground turkey, which you brown and set aside, and then a mixture of onion and garlic sauteed with cinnamon and nutmeg, and then tomatoes and oregano. Simmer all that for about an hour until it thickens and add in 1/2 cup fresh parsley. By the way, this smells incredible.
While the sauce cooks, you have to prepare your eggplant, which involves slicing it and sprinkling each side with salt. Let the eggplant drain off all the bitter flavor it would have otherwise, then rinse and dry. Roast it under the broiler and you're ready to go.

The moussaka is layered together (Martha said use an 8X8 but I used a larger pyrex), with eggplant on top and bottom and red sauce in the middle. Cover it all with the yogurt sauce, and either bake immediately or stick it in the fridge up to a day in advance. I made mine Monday afternoon, and baked it for dinner the same day.
This smells unbelievable as it bakes. You get that delicious tomato sauce aroma with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house, and it was all I could do to stop myself from diving head first in the moussaka while it rested for 10 minutes once it was out of the oven.
The yogurt firms up and it slices like lasagna, but y'all. This is way better than lasagna. Edwin and I couldn't believe how delicious this was. It's a little sweet and very savory and perfectly satiating. This would be great company food, if your company likes eggplant, because it's tasty and a little different. I can't wait to eat leftovers for lunch.
I hope you like it. I made it.


*Stewart, Martha. The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics. "Moussaka." p. 295