Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Flavor Bible

This is the newest addition to my cookbooks! I won this book from a give away that Julie from A Mingling of Tastes, has been hosting this month. Thanks Julie!!! She's been giving away books for her birthday! That's right, for her birthday! Anyway, to win a book all you have to do is check out her blog and leave a comment when she announces she is giving away another book. She choses her winners by using a random number generator, and matching the number selected up with the comment number. Pretty clever.

This book has a large list of ingredients, with a list of other ingredients that go well with the main ingredient you looked up. This is perfect for me, since I often stray away from recipes, or make something based on what I have in my cabinets. There are also paragraphs by chefs with tips about how to bring out the flavors in your food. Also, there is a section that talks about how we taste and perceive food, and the importance of balancing flavors, textures, & temperatures.

I've spent the morning going through and making lists of combinations to cook. For example:
Acorn squash + mascarpone cheese + ginger + veggies. It's making my mouth water just thinking about it!

Well, I haven't cook anything new lately. Greg hasn't been feeling well, so we've had lots of familiar comfort food: grilled cheese, mac & cheese with tomato soup, pumpkin pasta, ice cream. Hopefully he'll feel better soon and get his taste buds back. Then I can make something new! There are a few new recipes and combinations I'm anxious to try.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roasted Squash & Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

This plate looks like a hodgepodge, and it is. This plate may look bland, but let me assure you that it is not! The acorn squash has been roasted with garam masala, turmeric & cumin, and the chicken was coated with a spice oil with cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic and paprika. Yum.

The chicken was actually from a dish I made earlier this week. It was originally roasted with chickpeas and cherry tomatoes. The chickpeas dried out and were not that great, and the cherry tomatoes just didn't seem to go with the rest of the flavors. Well, I was roasting my squash and trying to think of what else I could eat for dinner. I remembered that I still had chicken left. Really not wanting the same left overs again, I decided to make chicken salad and eat that on a whole wheat baguette! The bread is what really makes this unlike my left overs from yesterday, but it was just enough of a change!

I really like the yogurt sauce that goes along with the chicken. This was my first time having greek yogurt, and I loved it! I'm not sure how it would be to eat daily, since it was so tangy. But, in this savory spicy dish, it was really wonderful. Greg loved the chicken, too, so we'll make this again. The only thing I will change (other than leaving out the chickpeas and tomatoes) is that I would remove the skin from the chicken thighs & marinate them for a few hours.


Chicken: Serves 5

2.5 lbs chicken thighs, skinned
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 tbs. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/2 C. plain yogurt or Greek yogurt

-Mix oil, garlic, paprika & cumin together. Add 1 tbs of oil to the yogurt, stir and chill.

-Coat chicken with oil and roast for 20-30 minutes at 450 degrees. Serve with the cool yogurt.

Acorn Squash: Serves 5 as a side.

1 large acorn squash
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
olive oil

-Cut squash in half crosswise. Scoop out seeds and fiber. Slice each half in half lengthwise. Set each quarter down on a flat/cut side. Now make 1 inch thick slices. Using a pairing knife, remove the skins. Cut each slice into cubes. In a large bowl, combine with all ingredients. Stir to coat. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, stir the squash.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

I've had a few versions of Roasted Red Pepper Soup. This is not my favorite. I prefer my soups to be a bit hearty. As a starter or early course, this would be a wonderful soup. When Greg and I were picking food for our wedding reception, one of the catering suggestions was a Roasted Red Pepper Soup with a Bri soup added in. I think that would make this a bit heavier, and add just enough extra "something" to make this really pop.

When I first ate this, I had a bit of White Bean dip left over. I spread mine over an unbaked whole wheat pita half. It was delicious! I added more cumin and red pepper flakes to this batch of dip, and it was the best yet.

I'm not sure if I'll make this particular soup again, but I will make some version of it.

Recipe: Serves 6

3 red bell peppers, seeded, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 inch fresh garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 1/2 onion, chopped
4 C. water or broth of choice (I used chicken)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

-Coat bell pepper slices with extra virgin olive oil & salt and pepper. Broil for about 5 minutes.

-Heat extra virgin olive oil in a stock pot. Add onion, carrot, garlic, & ginger. Cook until onions are tender. 5-10 minutes.

-Add the bell pepper slices. Add the liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

-Once cooked, puree in batches if you are using a traditional blender. I prefer my stick blender!

-Drain through mesh if you want this to be very smooth

-Serve warm & with a bit of shredded/grated cheese


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple Tart

Yes I know, second dessert in a row. But, in my defence, the last post was for Rebecca who did make her delicous dessert!

This is a compilation of different recipes, and I think it might be more appropriately named: Brown Butter Dutch Apple Tart. The pie crust recipe is from my Better Crocker cookbook. The apple filling is from Fine Cooking's Apple Brown-Butter Jalouise. The dutch apple topping is from I thought I had my Mother-in-Law's recipe, but it now appears I don't! Her's is much better than the one I used.

I chose to make a tart instead of a pie for two reasons: First, I think tarts look better, second, they are not as tall, so it is easier to get a small slice. I really like the rippled edge of my tart pan, and all tart pans in general. Greg gave this one to me a few years ago from Christmas. Talk about a gift that gives back! =). Well, here is a picture of the tart edge. You can see the apple filling bubbled over a bit. I would recommend baking this one top of a jelly roll pan. I did that, and there were some spills and splatters on it.

I doubled the pie crust and pie filling recipe, but left the crumb topping a single. My Mother-in-Law's recipe makes a tall crumb top, and I assumed this recipe would do the same. But, I really like that on this tart the topping is spread out and you can see the apples. It gives it kind of a elegant rustic feel. Greg really enjoyed this, too. The only complaint I have is that the butter flavor in the filling is really strong. I'll probably at least half, if not quarter it for next time. A nice hint of the butter would be nice, and add a little something extra to traditional apple pie filling. I will be curious to see how reducing the butter changes how the apples cook, though.

Recipe: Doubled version of filling & crust. Makes 1 11 inch pie tart, serves 12.

6 apples, peeled, halved, cored and sliced. (I took a metal 1/4 tsp spoon and scooped out the core)
1/2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

2 C. flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 C + 2 tbs shortening
4-6 tbs cold water

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 stick butter

-Make the pie crust first. Sift flour and salt together. Cut in the cold butter until it forms pea sized balls. Slowly add in water (1 tbs at a time) until you can gather it and form a ball. Mix with your hands (it will work much better). Make one flattned ball, chill for atleast 45 minutes.

-Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface. Should be about 3 inches larger on each side than the tart pan. I prefer to gently fold my pie crusts into quarters and pick it up, opposed to lifting it with the rolling pin. Press dough into the tart pan. Fold edges over and into the pan, pressing down on the sides. Bake at 375 degress for 5 minutes. Press down bubbles and let cool to room temp.

-Peel, core and slice apples. If they are going to sit for a while, toss them with lemon juice to keep from browning. Once they are peeled, toss with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

-In a large stock pot, melt and brown the butter. Once browned, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Because the alcohol will evaporate, expect an unusually strong scent from the vanilla. You can inhale alcohol through evaporation, so if you are weary of that, please don't add in the vanilla at this point.

-Make the dutch apple topping: Mix flour and sugar together. Add butter, cut in until pea sized balls form.

-Add in the apples. Stir to coat with the butter/vanilla mixture. Stir occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Longer if your apple slices are thick. Remove from heat. At this point, you may also stir in the vanilla.

-Pour into the pie crust, juices and all. Top with dutch apple topping. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until topping has started to turn golden and the crust has pulled away from the tart pan a bit.

-Let sit for at least 30 minutes.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

My sister in law Rebecca made this cake yesterday. I brought over spinach lasagna for dinner, and then we had this scrumptious cake for desert! She found the recipe from the The Cake Mix Doctor, and then made her own tasty adjustments. As you can see, the cake has a wonderful texture. It's rather dense & moist from the sweet potato, but in no way is it undercooked. Perfect! The recipe calls for caned sweet potatoes, but she used the fresh ones, mashed with buttermilk. And, to add a bit more flavor, she added vanilla. I can't believe the original recipe didn't call for any. For even more changes, the frosting recipe called for coconut and pecans. Since cream cheese frosting and spice cake are both really rich, she opted to leave out the add-ins. I think that was a great idea, since the focus was really on the cake; not on everything else. For a future suggestion, Rebecca mentioned using a plain butter cream frosting next time, since this particular cream cheese frosting is extremely rich. Either way would be great, since the cake is really the star.

After dinner, I took a piece home for Greg. It was a great just home from work treat for him. Like the rest of us at dinner, he just loved it. Thankfully, Rebecca gave me this cook book as a wedding gift, he can make this for himself whenever he wants! But since it's just us, maybe cupcakes, and freezing the rest might be a better idea. For those of you who don't know, Greg can also make a wonderful cake.


1 C. cooked sweet potato (1-2 potatoes)
2/3 C. buttermilk
1 package (18.25 oz) plain spice cake mix
3 large eggs
1/3 C. vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8oz cream cheese, room temp
8 tbs butter, room temp
2 1/2 C. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 9 inch round cake pans.

-Mash the cooked sweet potato with the butter milk

-Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, cinnamon, vanilla and sweet potato mash. Mix until combined.

-Divide the batter into the two cake pans. Bake side by side, 28-31 minutes.

-After cooling for 10 minutes, remove the cake from the pans and allow to cool to room temp.

-Once the cake has cooled, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time. Blend until fluffy.

-Frost the cake.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Moroccan Chicken

Yum, yyyyuuummmmmm, YUM! Well if you couldn't tell, we really enjoyed this dish. I found the recipe on epicurious while searching for recipes that have chickpeas. Ironically, I forgot to add the chickpeas. The name lead me to do a bit of research on Moroccan food. It appears that this is actually based on traditional Moroccan cooking! I was so impressed. All of the spices, and cooking method for this particular cut of meat checked out to be fairly authentic. I used chicken thighs, and the less ideal cuts of meat are cooked in a Tajine (large pot) in a sauce, creating a "stew". Very cool.

All of the flavors in this are very familiar to American tastes, so if you are even a bit adventurous, this would be worth trying. One word of warning, it is very aromatic, so crack open a window while cooking!

I made this while Greg was at work, and he had a re-heated serving once he got home (10pm..better than midnight!). It was even great re-heated. I was a bit nervous to see if he would like it or not, but after one bite he started getting his tell tale "let's make this one again" smile.

Recipe: (doubled version from epicurious, serves 4-5)

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 pkg chicken thighs or meat with bone and skin (~2.5lbs)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp lemon zest, fine
3 tsp flour
3 C. chicken broth
2 TBS honey
1 C. chickpeas
2 C. rice, cooked
1/2 onion, chopped

-Cook rice as directed by package. If you are using dry grains, when there is about 20 minutes left on the rice, start cooking the chicken. If you are using instant rice, start cooking when you return the chicken to the pan after searing (step 5).

-Heat oil in a very large skillet (large enough so that the pieces of meat do not touch) around medium high to high. I actually had to use two skillets, splitting the ingredients in half into each.

-Season chicken with sea salt and ground black pepper. Sear skin side down.

-Remove chicken, set aside.

-Reduce heat to medium, add chopped onion, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, lemon zest & flour. Stir to create a paste. About 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and honey. Stir to combine. The sauce will be very thin and water like at this point.

-Add the chicken, skin side up. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through. Leave uncovered so the sauce can reduce.

-Once the chicken is cooked, remove from pan. Add chickpeas and continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes.

-Serve chicken over rice. Pour sauce with chickpeas on top of chicken.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Red Beans and Rice

I know that the beans are traditionally served on top of the rice, but I really prefer to mix mine in as I am cooking the dish. It helps to blend the flavors. I have made this dish several times. Once, following the recipe exactly, the others with a bit of improv. The recipe is actually from The Great American Detox Diet, by Alex Jamieson. Her book is very fascinating, and I think it would be a good read even if you don't plan on following it. We are partial "detoxers". I've made several of her recipes and health issues aside, they have each tasted wonderful. She has a great cold and flu tea that I swear got me through last years flu season unscathed.

Ok, back to this dish. Each component of the dish is cooked seperatly with different herbs and spices. When they are all combined at the end it results in a very nice layering of flavors. The intensity of these flavors seems so surprising, since the dish itself is very simple. Another aspect that I really like about the meal is that it is very versitile; it can be vegan, vegetarian (if you add a bit of cheese at the end), or an omnivor's dish by adding meat or cooking your rice in chicken broth. I think that chopped chicken would be a nice addition if you want to add some meat in. I really love flexible dishes like this. I am always drawn to them.

Next time I may use this as a stuffing for squash, or make a clear broth and have soup.


15 oz can red kidney beans (1 1/3 C. cooked dry beans) drained & rinsed
4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 C chopped onion (red and vadalia both work)
3 gloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leafs
2 C. chicken or vegetable stock (I use water and then add buillion paste)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground mustard
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1-2 C. any other vegetable you want to add (zucchini tends to be my preference, though I didn't add any this time. Roasted squash might be nice, too.)

-Cook rice as package directs, using broth instead of water for extra flavor

-When the rice has about 10 minutes left:

-Cook beans in 1 C. water with red pepper flakes, oregano & a dash of cayanne (if you want to spice it up a bit more) by boiling water, adding the beans and spices, and then turning down to a simmer.

- Heat extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Add onion & garlic with thyme & ground mustard. Add the remaining chopped vegetables. Cook until tender. About 10 minutes over medium heat.

-Drain the beans after 10 minutes.

-Combine, rice, vegetables & beans. Serve warm.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Chocoate Chip Cookies + New Oven!

That's right, I have a new oven!!! After a year of baking frustrations, my life has gotten much, much better! We have had an oven thermometer for a while, and noticed that our oven at it's best tends to be about 50 degree's cooler than what we set it for. At it's worst, the oven's temperature will fluctuate from 75 degree's too cool, to 20 degree's too hot; all in one baking cycle.

After complaining to our apartment manager (yes our apartment, we are young newly weds after all!) and a visit from our very friendly maintenance technician, we found out that some internal sensor was broken. We were also told that the oven was too old to find replacement parts for, and that we should get a new oven.

We tried to talk to the manager several times with no luck, that is, until yesterday! While at work, Greg received a call from them with the best news, "We have an oven in stock for you, can they come over right now to install it"? Luckily, I have Thursdays off. With in 5 minutes the old piece of junk was gone and the brand new, clean, digital oven, with a window was installed! It was time to celebrate/test out this new toy.

First, I thought about making something fussy and fancy. Then I thought, why not go for something classic that will let me know right away if this oven is any good? The obvious answer: Chocolate Chip Cookies! I must say, I forgot how wonderful it is to bake each batch of cookies for the same amount of time, and have them all turn out the same! Standardization, what a concept! With my old oven we had to check each batch every 3 minutes...what a pain.

And so, without further ado, the classic chocolate chip cookie. No real modifications here, just a bit more flour and vanilla. This is essentially the Nestle recipe, but almost all of these recipes are the same.


3 C. Flour
3/4 C. brown sugar, packed
3/4 C. white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 C. butter, softened
12oz bag chocolate chips (I love mine very chocolaty)

-Cream butter and sugar together, add eggs and vanilla.

-Add flour, sat & baking soda, mix to combine

-Add chocolate chips

-Chill dough for at least 30 mintues

-Spoon out dough in 1 tbs balls, about an inch and a half apart on a baking sheet

-Bake for 8 minutes 30 seconds at 375 degrees. (yes that is specific, but I found that 8 minutes left them too soft, even after cooling on the baking sheet, and 9 minutes left them a bit too dark).


p.s. I promise next time to post a non-dessert!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rich Fudgy Brownies

Well, a Fine Cooking recipe has come through yet again! These are my new favorite brownies, without a doubt. If you like a more cakey brownie, these are not for you. These are even more addicting than the Brownies with m&m's and Peanut Butter! The two recipes are strikingly similar, and so it was very fun to see how the slight differences really changed the outcome.

One of the components of Fine Cooking that I love is all of the pictures. I was able to compare my brownies to the published great looking magazine shot. After following the recipe perfecting (yes I know...), my brownies rose about double what the picture shows. I'm really not sure why that would be, but the flavor was still great. Greg and I decided that we could make wonderful ice cream sandwiches using these if we were to press these down while in the pan, pour soft ice cream on top, and then put another layer of pressed brownies on the ice cream and freeze. Hm...yum.

1 C. butter
2/3 C. flour
2 C. sugar
4 eggs, room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

-Mix all dry ingredients together, set aside.

-Melt butter. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients (takes a while for it to get incorporated).

-Pour batter into a greased 9x9 baking pan

-Bake for 40 mintues at 350 degrees.