November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Roundup 2011


So... Thanksgiving.  Yeah.  I started out awesome and took pictures of my cute appetizers (I particularly like the turkey-shaped veggie platter!), but after that my poor camera sat neglected on a side-table while I got distracted with cooking, serving and eating!  On one hand I'm sad because the food was beautiful and delicious.  On the other hand though, we're TDY en-route here which is secret code for "All of my nice stuff is in South Carolina and we're eating off of paper plates," so the plating wouldn't have looked so good.  I mean, I roasted the turkey in one of those tin-foil pans from the commissary which also doubled as our cutting board (bad idea, by the way, never ever do that).

Anyway, here's the breakdown of our Thanksgiving dinner:

Like last year, I used Alton Brown's brine for my turkey.  I don't have my smoker here though, so oven roasted it was!  I rubbed it with Memphis BBQ's Magic Dust and it was the juiciest bird ever!  Next year it will be a hard choice between smoking and oven roasting - we might need two birds!

Making repeat appearances at our table this year were the Olive Bread, Rosemary Epi, Mashed Potatoes, and Magic Pumpkin Pie.

New guests to the menu were Apple-Sausage Stuffing, Corn Casserole, and Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread Pudding (add some dried cranberries to the pumpkin bread).  I also made my own pie crust thanks to Cooks Illustrated and my good friend Stacey!  Smitten Kitchen has already blogged about it, so I will leave you in their capable hands.

Onto the stuffing!

I have a confession to make.  I kinda like stovetop stuffing.  There, I said it.  But Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving and one simply cannot have stovetop stuffing, even if it is really really good.  So I ended up heavily modifying Double Musky's Sausage-Apple Dressing.  As always, the key to a good stuffing is a really good stock.  It MUST be homemade!  If you want to know why, Stacey has the answer.  It's worth it to buy some turkey necks and make up a large batch of stock prior to Thanksgiving - you need it for gravy too!  Also, for bread crumbs, just get (or make) some good bread and leave it out for a day before shredding it.  I used 1/2 sourdough bread and 1/2 wheat.

Ingredients

1 T oil
1 head garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tube ground sausage
Poultry seasoning
3-4 stalks celery, diced
1/4 c mixed bell peppers, diced
1 ancho chili, diced (optional)
1 granny smith apple, diced
dash nutmeg
1/2-1 c turkey stock
3-4 c bread crumbs

In a skillet, saute the garlic and onion in the oil until onion is translucent.  Add the sausage and brown, using poultry seasoning to taste.  Transfer to a pot and stir in the celery, peppers, apple and nutmeg.  Cook for two minutes, then add the stock (start with 1/2 cup, use more if needed).  Simmer for another 2-3 minutes and stir in the bread crumbs.  Adjust bread and stock until you reach the desired consistency.  Remove from heat.  Transfer to oven-safe pan and cook until the top is toasted.

PS.  We're starting the second half of our PCS shortly, so updates will be unreliable until we've moved into our new place sometime after Christmas.  Have a happy and safe holiday!!

November 21, 2011

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce


November's a pretty crazy month to do a food challenge, I think!  I managed it though, even while prepping for Thanksgiving (yes I will have more posts about that)!  November's theme for HH6 is "Coming from your part of the world, create/share your favorite comfort food."

I thought for a while about what to do for this challenge.  I considered biscuits and gravy, as we're moving to the south.  Or maybe apple fritters or fastnachts from my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.  Or maybe something Mexican since we're currently in the southwest!  When you move around so much, "your part of the world" could mean anything!  As a result, I decided to focus more on the comfort side of the challenge and a few memories were quick to pop to mind.  This summer, when I was at our family's cabin in Pennsylvania, a smell suddenly caught my attention.  It was just spaghetti sauce, but it smelled like the most amazing thing ever and I bugged my aunt and uncle to let me have some of their spaghetti.  Then, when we backpacked the Grand Canyon, day three was our hardest day - from the bottom to the North rim and back down all in one day, nearly 14 miles.  What did we choose to pack for dinner that night?  Spaghetti!  And boy did we eat tons of it!

Spaghetti it was, then.  But how to create the most comforting sauce?  I have several sauces I use, from the fancy roasted garlic to my uncle's decadent baby back rib sauce.  None of them were quite right though.  So I warned my husband that we'd be eating a lot of spaghetti over the next few weeks and set to work.

My first attempt used sausage and roasted garlic.  It was good, but didn't have the flavor profile I was looking for.  My second attempt used beef instead of sausage.  Much closer, but it needed to be simpler.  The best comfort foods are simple, and here the third time  was the charm - a nice, thick, beefy sauce!  Yum!

Ingredients

1 T oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 head garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
oregano
pepper
crushed red pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is translucent.  Add the beef and cook until browned.  Pour in sauce and tomatoes.  Season liberally with oregano and cautiously with pepper and red pepper.  Simmer until thickened, 40 minutes or so.  Top with grated parmesan or aged gouda.

November 16, 2011

Trail Bread


Sorry for the slow posting lately!  Things are starting to get a bit hectic around here - I just spent a week backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and am rushing to finish this months HH6 challenge while also prepping for Thanksgiving and then the movers will be here in less than three weeks and we're off across the country once more!

I've been meaning to post this particular recipe for months now.  The picture isn't all that good, and I didn't think to get a shot of us actually eating this bread in the canyon!  Anyway, this is a variation on a recipe from Alaska Roadhouse Recipes.  It's definitely not an every-day bread - each piece packs about 400 calories (I haven't done the exact math)!  But when you're doing long hikes and backpacking, you really need the extra fuel.  In addition to being calorie dense, durable and lightweight, this trail bread is also delicious, sweetened with molasses and honey.  This is a bonus for me, because sometimes when I'm burning that many calories I start not wanting to eat, but I'd never turn down a piece of this bread!

Ingredients

4 c whole wheat flour
1 c water
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c honey
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c molasses
3 T powdered milk
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/3 c chopped nuts
1/3 c dried fruit
1/8 c chocolate chips

Mix everything together.  Pour into greased pan.  Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cut into 12-16 pieces.

October 19, 2011

Stuffed Acorn Squash


"Orange, brown and rust are the colors of Fall. Create a dish using these colors. You can only use one of the colors as a non food, ie a rust colored plate to hold the dish. You can incorporate other colors but these 3 colors have to be the dominant colors that you feature. "




Time for this month's HH6 challenge post!  Pretty much as soon as I read the challenge I was sure I wanted to do a stuffed squash, and here it is!  Orange peppers, toasted almonds, and wheat stuffing make up the three colors, with the yellow from more peppers and the acorn squash just make everything prettier.  And delicious.  The toasted nuts and the squash complement each other VERY well!


Ingredients


1 acorn squash
2 c wheat stuffing
1/4 c sliced almonds
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper


Preheat oven to 400.  Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the strings and seeds (you can toast the seeds if you'd like!).  If you have trouble cutting the squash, microwave it for a minute to soften the skin.

Place the two halves in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the peppers into bite-size pieces.  Lightly toast the almonds in a skillet, then stir both nuts and peppers into the prepared stuffing.

Carefully mound the stuffing mix into the cup of each squash half.  Bake for another 15 minutes or until tender.

October 13, 2011

Pumpkin Apple Cake


Dear blog, I have been neglecting you!  I am very sorry and will try to remedy this.  I have, in fact, been cooking, but just haven't gotten around to posting everything I've cooked!

It's fall (I think - it's hard to tell by looking out the window here!), and that means some of my favorite foods.  Pumpkins and apples just scream autumn to me and they work so well together that I just HAD to mix them up in a cake!

Ingredients


  • 2 c flour
  • 1 t ginger
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground allspice
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1/3 c molasses
  • 1/2 c apple cider
  • 1/2 large apple, diced
  • 1/2 large apple, sliced thinly
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • dash cinnamon

 Preheat oven to 350.  Mix everything but the last four ingredients in a bowl until the batter is smooth.  Stir in diced apples.  In a small bowl, toss sliced apples with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Grease a 9x9 pan and pour in half of the batter.  Spread the sliced apples over top, then cover with the remaining batter.  Bake 40-50 minutes.

September 12, 2011

Lentil Chili


Healthy, hot, filling, and delicious!  This is an amazing vegetarian recipe from Wegmans.  And to prove how delicious it is, I made it for my husband.  He told me it looked funny.  I told him to take a bite.  Next thing I know I was having to keep him away with one hand while I snapped this picture with the other.  He devoured every bit set in front of him!  It's that good.  So, what are you waiting for??

To make this even better, make the veggie stock yourself - just simmer some onions, carrots and celery for a few hours!

Ingredients

1 c red lentils
2 c water
2 T olive oil
1/2 c diced onion
1/4 c diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, diced
2 c veggie stock
2 c water
1 1/2 T tabasco
1/8 t tumeric
1/8 t cumin
1/8 c cayenne
1/8 c chili powder
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 green pepper, finely diced

Combine lentils and 2 c water in a pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat.  Puree half the lentils and liquid.

In another pot, heat olive oil.  At medium low heat, add onions, celery and garlic.  Stir, cooking for five minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook another five minutes.  Add stock, water, tabasco, and all other spices.  Bring to a simmer.  Add all of the lentils (whole and pureed) and stir well.  Cook 10 minutes.  Add green pepper and cook another five minutes or until lentils are tender.

September 6, 2011

Berrymisu


Who doesn't love tiramisu?  Well, my mom for one.  And many people who do not like the taste of espresso.  Now, I'm actually one of those espresso-haters, so I was a tiramisu-hater for the longest time.  Until my friend made tiramisu using the Best Recipe Ever.  Seriously, if you make tiramisu any other way... well, you shouldn't.

However, sometimes I'm in the mood for some mascarpone-cream goodness, but not for the traditional espresso and chocolate.  So I took tiramisu and gave it a fruity twist.  This is a great change for a hot summer and the sweet cream and tart raspberries complement each other perfectly.

Ingredients


1 c peach nectar or other sweet fruit juice
6 T brandy
6 large egg yolks
3/4 c granulated sugar
Pinch of table salt
1/2 c heavy cream
16 oz mascarpone cheese
6 oz raspberries
2 sleeves ladyfingers (more if you get the smaller kind)

Combine 2 T brandy with the fruit nectar in a shallow bowl.  Set aside.  Put egg yolks, sugar and salt in the mixer.  Beat at medium-high for four minutes.  Egg mixture should be pale yellow and frothy.  Add the cream, stirring well.  Hold bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly for five minutes or until the mixture reaches 160.  Pour into another bowl and cool to room temperature.  Back in the mixer, add the mascarpone and 1/4 c brandy to the egg and cream mixture.  Beat at medium or medium high for about 3-4 minutes, until smooth and thick.  Puree 4 oz of the raspberries and stir them into the mascarpone mixture gently.

Dip the ladyfingers one at a time into the fruit juice, rolling quickly (2 second total!).  Line the bottom of the pan with dipped cookies.  Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over top.  Sprinkle on the rest of the raspberries, pushing them gently down into the cream.  Repeat with another layer of ladyfingers and another layer of cream.

Cover and refrigerate.



September 1, 2011

Herbed Hen Pasta

The upcoming challenge involves using only what is currently in our pantries, so here's my proof of what I have at the moment.

More later!

Update:


September's Challenge: We all need to be prepared in the event of a disaster.  You have stuff in your pantry and fridge/freezer.  If a disaster should strike today and you have no access to going to a grocery store but your stove/grill is still working, what would you make with what you have on hand?


For this one, I went with a one-pot meal, easy to do even if we can only use our little camp stove.  I feel a bit uncreative using pasta, but hey, it works and it's easy.  This is a nice simple dish that's pretty as well as flavorful, and different every time depending on what spices you use.


Ingredients

1 game hen (or chicken)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 onion, diced
Your favorite herbs and spices
water
1 T olive oil
1 box pasta
1 can diced tomatoes
4 T pesto
grated parmesean

Take the olive oil and gently brown the onions and garlic in a saucepan.  Add in the herbs and spices, the hen, and about 1/2 c water.  Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until bird is cooked through, adding more water as needed.  Remove hen and set aside to cool.  Once it has cooled sufficiently, shred the meat.

Meanwhile, cook and drain the pasta.  Stir in the shredded hen, tomatoes, and pesto.  Top with grated cheese.

August 31, 2011

Coconut Curry Rice and Beans


It's time for another HH6 post again!  This month's challenge:

With the mercury continuing to rise this month, let's once again give ourselves a break from the stove. Create an original 5 ingredient slow cooker recipe. Salt and/or pepper do not count as one of the 5 ingredients.

I made it just in time.  I was planning on doing this challenge while I was on the east coast vacationing with my family, but thanks to Hurricane Irene that didn't happen.  Now this particular challenge was a bit difficult, simply because I never ever limit my ingredients.  I'm very much a throw this and that into a pot sort of cook, especially when it comes to spices.  So I decided that instead of making a meal for me, I'd aim this one at my brother, who is just moving into his first apartment.  Like all young adults, money and time are a bit tight, so having easy, cheap meals is a plus.  I was going to make this with chicken, but he's vegetarian, so I switched that out for beans.

Ingredients

1 c brown rice
1 can pinto beans
1 can coconut milk
1 c water
2 t curry powder
1/2 c peas
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients except for peas into the crockpot.  Cook on low for 4 hours, adding the peas in the last 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

August 10, 2011

Roasted Tomato, Garlic, and Ancho Chili Bread


Today, I was bored.  And when I'm bored, I bake things.  Now, I really need to get a sourdough starter going so that I can finish off the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, and I intend to start that tomorrow, but today I needed instant gratification.  At first I considered a variation on BBA's Potato Rosemary bread, being as it is fantastic, but I didn't have the time to do the pre-ferment, nor did I have potatoes or rosemary.  What to do??

Then I came up with this idea, after looking through my refrigerator.  It would be amazing, using some ingredients that needed to be used or they would go bad.  The spiciness of the chili would compensate for the lack of a pre-ferement.  All I needed to do was come up with the formula.

I was not certain this would work.  I've never dared to come up with a formula all on my own.  But I was hungry.  So I went for it, and the results were all I could wish for!

From the beginning, I intended for this to be a wet dough, cooked in a pot like the famous No-Knead Bread.  As it happens, I seem to be lacking in oven-safe pots.  So I ended up treating this more like a ciabatta, and it worked out!

Ingredients

1/2 head garlic
olive oil
12 grape tomatoes
1 ancho chili, diced
3 c flour
3/4 t salt
1/2 t yeast
1/4 c hot water
1 c water

Preheat oven to 350.  Wrap garlic in tinfoil with a spash of olive oil and roast for 40 minutes.  Add the tomatoes when there is 20 minutes left.

Let garlic and tomatoes cool.  Peel garlic and dice.  Skin tomatoes and dice.

Combine flour, salt, garlic, tomatoes, and chili in a stand mixer.  Separately, mix yeast and 1/4 c water.  Wait 10 minutes or until yeast is frothy.  Add to flour mix along with 1 c water.

With paddle, blend for 1 minute.  Switch to dough hook and mix for 5-8 minutes or until dough is well blended.  Dough should be quite sticky, clinging to bottom and sides.

Transfer into greased bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour.

Stir down.  Place bed of flour on counter and transfer dough.  Fold loosely and spray with oil and cover.  Rise again, 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 515.  When oven is hot, carefully transfer dough to baking sheet.

Bake 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 425.  Bake 10 minutes, then turn 180 degrees, continue baking 10-15 minutes or until loaf registers 205.

July 28, 2011

Vegetable Stew with Turkey

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Vegan Family Meals from Saraplicious! Kitchen.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am the FARTHEST thing from a vegan that there is, but I was really excited about this book as a chance to learn how to make veggies tasty.  Both The Husband and I are focusing a lot more on our diet and getting the proper amount of veggies is usually a struggle.  If this recipe is anything to go by, I think our struggles might be over!


As soon as the book showed up in the mail, I was off to the grocery store.  I decided to try a variation (meat good!) on the book's South American Veggie Stew.  One of the best things about this recipe is how simple it was to make.  I didn't have to spend hours chopping and dicing, or prowl through six stores to find some weird ingredient.  Easy-peasy, and amazingly delicious!  The dried fruit gives the whole thing a sweetness that I never would have expected.  So, here is my decidedly non-vegan variation on Ms. Gentry's theme.

Ingredients

6 dried apricots, chopped
6 dried plums, chopped
2 c warm water
2 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can plain diced tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
a handful of baby red potatoes, chopped
1 green pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 c corn
1 can kidney beans
Roasted turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
pepper to taste

Soak the dried fruit in the water for 3-24 hours.  Strain, reserving both fruit and liquid.  Heat the olive oil in a pot and sautee garlic and onion until translucent.  Add tomatoes and sauce, stirring well.  Cook for three minutes, then add the potatoes and the liquid from the fruit.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 12 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until the bell pepper is tender.

July 27, 2011

Gazpacho My Way

Here's the HH6 challenge for July: Since it's getting hotter and hotter as we head into full summer, the challenge is to cook a meal without using heat - oven, stove, microwave, anything.  Bonus points if your meal isn't a salad!


The first thing I thought of making was ceviche.  Unfortunately, we're in the desert now, and the only fish I could find was, well, trash.  I knew this would happen, but really, when I saw the local commissary marketing snow crab legs as king crab, I was still shocked!  So, ceviche was out.  Then my husband suggested gazpacho.


Now, mind you, I have never tasted gazpacho.  The Husband, on the other hand, spent a significant amount of time in the sandbox with the Spanish.  He sang so many praises of this dish that I decided to give it a try!


Upon tasting it, though, he declared that this was "not really gazpacho" but that it was still "very good," which he proved by downing copious amounts of it, so I guess I'll chalk this one up in the win category.


Hint: it's also delicious on toasted bread!


Ingredients


3 tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/4 onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
dash cumin
a bit of cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 can jalapeno diced tomatoes


Place all ingredients except diced tomatoes in food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Still in tomatoes and chill for at least four hours.

July 25, 2011

Carnitas with Cilantro-Lime Crema


I. Love. Mexican. Food.  Soooo much.  After a fair amount of time spent in a location which does not have any real Mexican food (if it doesn't involve corn tortillas and cilantro, how can you call it a taco?), I'm binging a bit.  Unfortunately, my wallet does not love me going out to this taco wagon or that hole-in-the-wall every day.  The answer?  Make my own!  This recipe from David Lebovitz took half a day to make, but boy was it worth it!  As an added bonus, the crema is fat-free and I was shocked to find out how much less fat is in a corn tortilla compared to flour!

Ingredients

1 pork butt or shoulder
2 T olive oil
water
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t chili powder
1 t ancho powder
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t garlic
2 T fresh cilantro

1 c fat-free Dannon yogurt
Coffee filter
juice from 1/2 lime
1 T fresh cilantro
1/2 minced ancho chili

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the pork into large pieces and brown in the oil.  Drain in paper towels, then place the pieces into a roasting pan.  Cover with drippings and herbs, then add water to about halfway up the pork.  Roast uncovered for 3 hours, turning pieces several times.

Meanwhile, fold the coffee filter over the mouth of a large cup.  Put yogurt into the filter and let drain for 3 hours.

Remove pieces and shred coarsely with a fork.  Return to pan and oven, roasting again until pork is crispy.

Back to the yogurt!  Put in small bowl, discarding whey, and stir in the cilantro, lime, and ancho.

Serve carnitas in corn tortillas, topped with crema.  Enjoy!

July 10, 2011

No Guilt Peach "Cheese"cake


If you're anything like me, you love to eat.  Delicious, delicious things.  And, if you're anything like me, you also wouldn't mind losing a few pounds.  But the real question is can you do both?  Well, this dessert can help!  It doesn't taste quite like "real" cheesecake, but it's certainly close enough to satisfy the craving.  At about 1/3 the calories and practically no fat, it's a great trade off!

Ingredients

32 oz fat-free Dannon yogurt (don't use Yoplait!)
Coffee filters or cheesecloth
Grahm cracker crumbs
1 can peaches
2 T quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 c honey
1 t vanilla
2 T arrowroot powder
1 1/2 t cinnamon
6 T egg white beaters (or two eggs)

The day before, strain the yogurt using either coffee filters or cheesecloth.  Put in the refrigerator for 24 hours to completely strain.  Discard liquid.

Mix the grahm cracker crumbs with a bit of water and press them into the bottom and sides of your cheesecake pan.  Chill the pan.

Preheat oven to 325.

Drain the peaches, reserving juice.  Mix juice and tapioca in a saucepan, cooking over low until just thickened (3-5 minutes).

In a large bowl, begin mixing together the strained yogurt, honey, vanilla, arrowroot and cinnamon.  Carefully stir in the tapioca mixture and finally the egg mixture.

Pour half the batter into the pan.  Layer half the peaches, sliced thinly, on the batter, then top with the remaining batter and peaches.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake for 60 minutes, then chill for several hours.

July 5, 2011

Burrito Skins


I dearly love Mexican food.  One thing that is not bad about living in Mos Eisely is that there is actual, authentic Mexican here.  Yum!  Of course, we've been eating out a lot, so I'm trying to do more at home with Mexican flavors.  Cilantro in particular - I've only really had it dried before and fresh is soooo much better!

This here is a play on potato skins.  Use any pepper or chili you'd like for the base.  The Husband is a bit of a wimp so I used pasillas.  The meat can also be swapped out for anything.  In fact, the whole thing is pretty customizable!

Ingredients

2-4 pasilla peppers, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1 can pinto beans, drained
2 c brown rice, cooked
1 c carnitas, pulled pork, etc
1/4 c salsa (home made is best, of course)
fresh cilantro
shredded cheese

Roast the peppers at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the other ingredients (except cheese) in a skillet, stirring together until well blended and warmed.  Stuff each pepper half with as much filling as it will hold.  Top with shredded cheese and more cilantro.  Bake an additional 30 minutes.

June 30, 2011

Solar-Powered Tea

Okay, so this is a little lame, but I've also been on the road for a month straight and only just got a kitchen back. Anyway, the HH6 challenge this month was to prepare a dish using a technique you've never used before.  Needless to say, my kitchen isn't yet functioning, so I needed something easy.  As it happened, this PCS took us to somewhere quite warm, so the idea popped into my head "How about using the sun to cook?"

I thought about trying to fry an egg on my balcony, but we're east-facing, not west, and I still haven't been to the commissary yet.  What I do have a lot of, though, is tea.  So, why not iced tea?  Perfect, especially given that I got very dehydrated my first day here and have been forcing myself to chug lots of water (I really don't like drinking water).

At my visit to Stash tea a few weeks ago, I picked up a box of raspberry orange iced tea mix (Of course, you don't need to use a tea made specifically for iced tea - any tea will do!  You do want to use about three times as much tea as you would for plain water though.).  I tossed my teabag into my brand new .99c pitcher, filled it up with water, set it on the balcony, and continued cleaning the new apartment.

A few hours later I came back and pulled the tea back inside.  I then added some ice and pureed peach, and started drinking!  Delicious!

June 26, 2011

Still truckin' along...


Dear readers, I do apologize for the hiatus!  We're currently moving across country, which has left me sadly devoid of a kitchen.  I have acquired a new cookbook though, so hopefully we'll be back in business in the next week or two!  Until then, enjoy this pretty picture from my adventures.  More pictures can be found at my photography blog, Focus.

May 29, 2011

Summer Trifle

This is a fantastic, healthier dessert for as the weather starts warming up.  As an added benefit, it's incredibly simple as well.  I think my mom and I first found this recipe when I was in high school - it's been a favorite ever since!  I make it a little differently every time, by using fruits that are in season, or just whatever fruits I want!  Using different amounts of fruit also changes the dish in enjoyable ways.  I prefer to err on the side of more, but if you like a little less that works too!

Ingredients

2 angel food cakes
4-8 c mixed fruit
1/4 c fruit juice or fruit flavored liquor

Simmer the fruit and the juice until the fruit is quite soft and has released its juices.  Mash the fruit coarsely and set aside.

Tear the angel food cakes into bite sized pieces.  Places one layer over the bottom of a medium bowl or trifle bowl.  Ladle some of the fruit over top.  Add another layer of cake, then another layer of fruit.  Continue until you run out of cake and fruit, but make sure to end with cake on the top.

Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Using another bowl (or pretty much anything else), place weights on top of the cake.  The plastic wrap should be loose enough to allow the weight to compress the cake.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Remove weight and serve with fat-free whipped cream.

May 18, 2011

Crab Cake Pizza

A few weeks ago, The Husband and I were down on the Kenai looking for bears.  Long story short, we were unsuccessful, but we did find ourselves spending a night in Seward, one of our favorite towns.  I really wanted to spend some time there before we PCSed, so I was pretty excited.  After heading down to Lowell Point to look for sea otters (they obliged!) we wandered through town debating where to eat for dinner.  We finally settled on a particular place based on the fact that they had halibut cheeks on their menu.  If you've never had halibut cheeks, you are Missing Out.  It is, without a doubt, the best part of the fish, deliciously tender.  Of course, each fish only has two, and we'd eaten our last for Christmas.  Since it's nearly impossible to get cheeks outside of the state, I wanted some!

Anyway, we choose poorly.  I hadn't realized it was POSSIBLE to ruin halibut cheeks, but they did, and it made me very sad!  They also ruined the seafood salad we had.

Fortunately, I'd splurged and ordered an appetizer of king crab cakes.  Unlike the rest of our meal, they were fantastic!  So good that I fantasized about them all the way home.

Then, it occurred to me.  This month's HH6 challenge was to make a pizza without tomato sauce.

Crab cake.  Pizza.  The two terms sounded strange together, but I KNEW they would be delicious.

I was right.

Ingredients

Pizza Dough (Peter Reinhart's version, or use your own)

4 1/2 c flour
1 3/4 t salt
1 t yeast
1/4 c olive oil
1 3/4 c ice cold water

Blend ingredients into a smooth dough (5-7 minutes with dough hook).  Divide into 6 pieces and refrigerate overnight.  You can also freeze the dough at this point.  On the day you make the pizza, pull out the dough at least two hours before.  Pat it into a rough oval, cover, and rest for two hours.


Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

1 red pepper
1/4 c mayo
1 clove garlic
dash onion powder
dash cayenne
1 T lemon juice

Roast the pepper, either in the oven or on the grill.  Peel off skin and discard seeds.  Place pepper in food processor with other ingredients until sauce forms.


Topping

1 leg king crab (or equivelant of other crab, but red king is best! ...I love Alaska!)
1/4 c diced celery
1/4 c mayo
1 T Dijon mustard
dash onion powder
dash hot sauce
1/4-1/2 c panko crumbs
1/8 c shredded Parmesan or asiago cheese

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat to 550 or as high as it will go.

Gently stir first six ingredients together.  Fold in about half of the bread crumbs.

Roll pizza dough out to the desired size.  Spread a thin layer of aioli across.  Top with crab mixture and sprinkle with the remaining panko and cheese.  Transfer to pizza stone and bake 5-8 minutes or until golden brown.

May 17, 2011

Better Beer Batter

I have but recently made a fantastic discovery: Panko bread crumbs.  They are magic!  Today, I used them with beer batter to fry up some leftover salmon.  To die for!

Ingredients

1 T cornstarch
1 c flour
1 1/2 c ice cold beer
2 c panko bread crumbs
oil for frying
fish, cut into bite-sized pieces

Blend the cornstarch, flour and beer together to make a batter.  Heat oil to between 325 and 350.  Dip fish into batter, gently roll in bread crumbs, then fry for about 60 seconds per side, depending on the size of your pieces. Drain and enjoy!

May 13, 2011

Easy Greek Chicken

Last week was Appreciation Week at work.  We were quite well appreciated, particularly in the culinary department.  This was Tuesday's lunch and it was so good I just had to try my hand at it!  The chicken comes out deliciously juicy, and it's a great way to eat a lot of veggies!  Unfortunately, The Husband tossed out my recipe card, so I don't have all the exact measurements.  I'll have to see if I can get another copy!

Ingredients

1/4 c olive oil
3 T lemon juice
salt
pepper
oregano
garlic powder
onion powder
2 chicken breasts
2 peppers, cut into squares
1 onion, cut into slices
1/2 c yogurt
1/4 c sour cream
1/2 c chopped cucumber
1 T lemon juice
garlic powder
salt
pepper

Mix the first 7 ingredients together.  Add the chicken and marinade overnight.  Mix the yogurt, sour cream, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together and refrigerate.

Soak skewers in water.  Cut chicken into pieces and alternate on skewer with peppers and onions.  Grill until done.  I cooked them on my traeger at medium for about 30-40 minutes.  Serve with sauce for dipping.

April 22, 2011

Sausage Rolls

 One summer during college, we took a family vacation to Ireland.  Actually, now that I think about it, that was our last real family vacation, since shortly after graduation I moved out, got married, and moved across the country.  Anyway, one morning we were wandering around Dublin and stopped in a bakery for breakfast.  Everyone else got some sort of sweet pastry, but I prefer savory food and opted for the sausage roll.

This sausage roll was a piece of heaven in hand-held form.

The bread was flaky and sweet, the sausage perfectly spicy, with a little bit of cheese.  Since bread, meat and cheese are my favorite food groups, this was perfect!

In 2009, I was working my way through the Bread Bakers Apprentice challenge (I've stalled out on the sourdoughs but I really do intend to finish!) and came across Peter Reinhart's Casiatello.  As soon as I took a bite, it called to mind that Irish sausage roll - but it wasn't quite right.  I was onto something, though!  I planned to go back and make some changes to the recipe to make it more like that tasty little roll, but never got around to it.

This months HH6 challenge, however, is to recreate a dish from another country, and it got me up off my butt and working on my sausage roll.

I used Peter Reinhart's recipe as a base, but I have made some definite changes to make it more like my memory of Ireland.  This bread is fairly simple to make, and quite quick as far as bread is concerned.  It takes about 5 hours from start to finish, with several nicely placed breaks to allow for running errands.


Regarding cheese and salami:  These will make or break your bread - I made a special trip to the artisan cheese and salami shop just for this bread (twist my arm, why don't you?).  You want a cheese that will melt nicely, but has a good flavor as well.  Good flavor, but not necessarily strong.  The salami will do that.  I blended about 20% emmenthaler with 80% Wagon Wheel from Cowgirl Creamery.  The Wagon Wheel worked wonders, and if you have access to it, use it!  For the salami, I used half Da Vino, which is a red-wine salami, and half Finocchiona, which is - get this - curry salami.  Don't be shy with the salami either.  4oz will seem like a lot, but you need it all!

Ingredients

1/2 hot water
1 T yeast
1/2 c flour
3/4 c milk

3 1/2 c flour
1 t salt
1 T sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c butter

4 oz salami, chopped and lightly sauteed
1 c cheese, coarsely chopped or shredded

1 package Lil' Smokies

 (The Husband got me a kitchen aid for my birthday!  Isn't he the best?)

Sponge
Mix the hot water and yeast together.  Set aside for five minutes or until frothy.  In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 c flour, milk, and yeast mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and rest for one hour.

Dough
In your kitchenaid (or a medium bowl), combine the 3 1/2 c flour, salt and sugar.  Stir in the eggs and the sponge until the dough forms a coarse ball.  Rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the butter into four pieces.  Begin to work them into the dough one at a time, either stirring or mixing with the paddle attachment at medium speed (this is where a kitchenaid ROCKS!).  The butter MUST be completely blended.  This is important!

Once all of the butter is completely blended, begin kneading the bread.  If using a mixer, use the paddle for four minutes, then switch to the dough hook for another 5-8.

Once the dough has smoothed out and isn't quite so sticky, stir or mix in the chopped salami and cheese until evenly distributed.

Oil a large bowl and transfer the dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and rest 90 minutes.

Now, to shape the dough.  Use any of the following: muffin pan, mini-cheesecake pan, or a round pie pan.  Whichever you use, grease the pan!

Divide the dough into SMALL pieces and carefully wrap around one lil' smokie.  If using muffin or mini cheesecake pans, place one bundle in each well.  If using a pie pan, cluster the rolls so they are not quite touching.

Mist the tops of the dough with oil and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rest 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Turn pans and continue baking another 10-20 minutes, or until rolls are nicely browned and cheese is bubbling out the top.  Cool before eating...if you can resist!

March 28, 2011

Mascarpone-Berry Turnovers

We're looking at a PCS in the near future and part of getting ready to move means eating your way through your freezer.  I had a sheet of puff pastry there and almost two gallons of frozen berries, so turnovers it was!  The berries were mostly blueberries, but with a fair amount of crowberries mixed in.  Yum!  Make sure to taste the filling and adjust the sugar based on the tartness of your berries.

We enjoyed our dessert with a white port.  White ports are made from a different grape than tawnies and rubies.  Most of them are not worth the glass they are bottled in, but this particular one is absolutely fantastic.  To my mind, it has the flavor of a tawny, but is much lighter, less syrupy.  Open it early, perhaps even a full day, to let it breathe.

Ingredients

1/4 c berries
2 T sugar
1 T flour

1 t vanilla
1/2 c berries
2 T mascarpone cheese
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

Bring the berries, sugar, flour and vanilla to a boil.  Mash the berries to release their juices.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining berries and mascarpone.  Set aside to cool.

Roll the puff pastry until it is about 12x12.  Slice in half (or in quarters for smaller turnovers).  Place a 3T (3t for smaller turnovers) filling on each piece of pastry.  Fold in a triangle, like a flag, and seal the edges.

Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve hot, with ice cream!

March 27, 2011

Salmon Salad

A few months ago, we were wandering through New Sagaya and were offered samples of their crab salad.  It was, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.  Since then, I've had a hole in my heart and tried to fill it with this.  Now, this isn't QUITE as good as the crab salad (but really, when does salmon compare to king crab?), but it's still a great little snack, hors d'oevre, or even sandwich!

Be sure to make this the day before serving - it benefits immensely from having a day for the flavors to meld.  Additionally, do not neglect the tomato!  This is one of those magical combinations where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!  The proportions are easily adjustable.  The amount below made two meals for me.

Ingredients

1/4 salmon fillet
Season salt, ground pepper, garlic, cayenne
1/4 granny smith apple, diced
1/2 stick celery, diced
1/8 c grated asiago (substitute fresh Parmesan if you'd like)
2-4 T mayo
pepper, cayenne, cajun seasoning
1 tomato, sliced

Rub the salmon fillet with the salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne.  Grill until flaky.

Shred the salmon with a fork and mix with apple, celery and cheese.  Stir in the mayo a little at a time until the salad reaches the right consistency.  Blend in further seasonings to taste.  Serve on sliced tomato.

March 20, 2011

Pork Chops with Tequila Sauce

Yeah, so, about that picture.  As I plated, I took a bunch of shots.  With no memory card in my camera.  So you get stuck with the picture of the leftovers.  Doesn't look as pretty but still tastes delicious!

This recipe is all about the sauce.  I absolutely loooove this sauce.  I first discovered it as part of an ahi recipe (which, of course, I can no longer find).  It was nice on the ahi, but I thought it would go better with pork and boy was I right!

I roasted this baby on the Traeger.  If you happen to be unfortunately Traeger-deprived, I'd recommend searing your chops and finishing them in the oven with the beer.


Ingredients

4 pork chops
pepper, garlic seasoning
1/2 bottle of beer

2 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
dash of hot sauce
dash of garlic seasoning
dash of lime juice
2/3 c tequila

Rub the chops with pepper and garlic.  Make a little boat out of tinfoil and put the chops inside.  Add the beer.  Smoke around 220 degrees until done.

Meanwhile, heat the soy sauce and sesame oil in a skillet.  Add the hot sauce, garlic, and lime juice.  Carefully pour in the tequila and simmer until reduced by half.  Spoon over the chops and enjoy!

March 8, 2011

Pecan Pie Cookies and Bananas Foster Pastry


As I mentioned in an earlier post, each month the HH6 club puts out a cooking challenge.  The challenge for March was to come up with a concept dish for an MRE.  For those of you who do not hail from the military world, an MRE (meal ready to eat) is a box of portable, lightweight rations designed to support military members in locations where chow halls aren't readily available. 

MREs are not (despite some misconceptions) dehydrated or freeze dried.  They are actually preserved using a variation on the canning technique.  The pouch containing the food is not plastic, but more thin layers of aluminum which can be sealed airtight and processed the same way you would process canned fruits or veggies.  While this yields a significantly heavier ration (due to water content) than dehydrated or freeze-dried food, it is quicker to prepare and can even be eaten with no preparation at all if time is an issue (and in combat, it certainly could be!).

Since MREs are more canned food than backpacking food, there are actually a lot fewer restrictions in the food composition than you might otherwise have.  For example, you can have larger pieces of meat than if you were dehydrating the food first.  Still, canning tends to work best with "saucy" type things.  Rice is notoriously difficult, though apparently the military has figured that one out already!

MREs used to be, to put it plainly, awful.  In recent years as the preservative technology has advanced, they've become quite edible - though the menu choices are still fairly boring.  Click here to see the 2011 entree list.

See why we want to spice it up?

Here's a picture of the contents of a Beef Ravioli MRE.

Included:

Beef Ravioli
Beef Snack Stick
Vegetable Crackers
Jalapeno Cheese Spread
Toffee Cookies
Chocolate Chip Toaster Pastry
Orange Flavored Electrolyte drink mix
Acessory Pack
          o Xylitol chewing gum
          o Water-resistant matchbook
          o Napkin / toilet paper
          o Moist towelette
          o Seasonings, including salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and/or Tabasco sauce


A common complaint about MREs stems from a very significant lack of fiber.  Most MREs are lucky to contain less than half the fiber that they ought to.  I plan to address this with my concept MRE.

Concept MRE: Mardi Gras Edition!

Chicken Etouffe
Whole-grain Cajun Rice
Wheat Crackers with Maple Pepper
Hard Aged Cheddar slices
Pecan Pie Cookies
Bananas Foster Pastry
Hurricane Flavored Electrolyte drink mix

Yes, we're going with the Mardi Gras theme here!  Let's break it down a bit.

Chicken Etouffe

I already blogged this recipe here.  It's fantastic and flavorful (unlike most MREs!), but not overly spicy.  I don't know anyone who doesn't like etouffe!  Traditionally you would see shrimp etouffe.  Apart from my undying hatred of shrimp, I went with chicken because eating canned meat is moderately less pleasant than eating fresh meat, but eating canned seafood is just plain nasty.


Whole-grain Cajun Rice


It's not etouffe if you aren't eating it over rice.  Plus, it's a great way to sneak a few veggies in, not to mention the fiber from whole grains.  I mentioned earlier that canning rice is very difficult, but since the MRE gods have already figured this one out, I'll leave the logistics to them.


Wheat Crackers with Maple Peppe
r

MREs already feature crackers quite regularly.  Seems like it would be pretty easy to just use wheat instead of white (with more fiber to boot!), and maple pepper sounds odd but is to die for on crackers.  See a fancier version here.


Hard Aged Cheddar Slices

Away with that nasty faux-cheese spread!  Dairy products are not recommended for canning by the FDA, but a good hard cheddar can (and is!) aged for years in parafin.  It'll last as long as the MRE will, and will just get better as time goes by.


Pecan Pie Cookies:

These tasty little treats are hand-held, durable versions of the traditional southern dessert.  A little chocolate brings out the flavor and you'll never notice the wheat flour - but you'll get the fiber!  Hat-tip to allrecipes for the base.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 cookies)

Cookie

3/4 c flour
1/4 c wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 c brown sugar
6 T butter
1/2 egg
1 t vanilla

Filling

2 T butter
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 T honey
1/2 t vanilla
1 t dark rum
1 t cocoa powder
1/4 c chopped pecans

Melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar, honey, vanilla, rum, and cocoa.  Once all the ingredients are blended, mix in the pecans.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Whip the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla, then slowly beat in the flours and baking powder until dough forms.

Spoon dough into cupcake tins.  Use your fingers to form the dough into a "cup" running about 1/4 to 1/2 inch up the walls of the tin.  Fill each cup with 1 t filling.  Bake 13 minutes.


Bananas Foster Pastry
This recipe is the only one that would need to be significantly altered before being incorporated into an MRE.  However, since they already include various flavors of toaster pastry, it should be easy for them to make a bananas foster version.

Ingredients (makes 3)


1 sheet puff pastry
2 bananas
1/4 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 c tuaca or other fruit-flavored liquor
1/4 c dark rum

Cut the pastry sheet into nine squares.  Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon, stirring until well dissolved.  Add the liquor and carefully flambee until the alcohol is burned off.  Add in the bananas and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Remove bananas and slice thinly.

Grease a sheet pan.  Lay out three squares of puff pastry.  Place 3-5 (depending on thickness) slices on each sheet of puff pastry.  Spoon over some sauce, then cover each with another sheet of pastry.  Add bananas and sauce again, then cover with the final slices of puff pastry.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.  You may have to turn the tray to ensure even browning.

Serve with icecream, drizzle with any remaining sauce.

Hurricane Flavored Electrolyte drink mix

Come on, if they can make orange and lime flavors, they can make hurricane flavors!  Heck, I'm pretty sure Jello had a hurricane flavored mix a few years back.

Salmon BLT

When The Husband was on his way home from Afghanistan, he flew commercial the last leg into Anchorage.  A discussion came about on that flight when a tourist asked what the best thing to eat in Anchorage was.  All of the locals on the plane joined into the debate.  Eventually, they settled on the Glacier Brewhouse's Salmon BLT.  This sandwich is, quite simply, amazing.  In a city rife with salmon dishes, it certainly says something that this rises above all of the competition.  The crunchy, salty bacon perfectly complements the tender salmon, and a basil aioli freshens everything up.

Unfortunately, from time to time it vanishes from the menu!  There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to it.  Thanks to the random vanishing, though, I decided it was time to make my own.  The focaccia comes from the Bread Baker's Apprentice.  It's time consuming, but totally worth it!  Plan ahead: You'll need two days.

Focaccia

Ingredients

2 1/2 c bread flour
1 t salt
1 t yeast
1/4 c hot water
3 T herb oil
1/2 c milk
1/4 c water
1/4 to 1/2 c herb oil

Day One

First, make the herb oil.  Gently warm olive oil to 100 degrees.  1/4 c herbs of your choice - I like italian herbs, but go crazy!  Allow oil to cool to room temperature.

Mix the yeast with the 1/4 c hot water and let sit for five minutes to waken.  While the yeast waits, combine bread flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the yeast-in-water mix, which ought to be frothy, the herb oil, and the milk.  Stir to blend.  The dough should be quite wet, clearing the sides when you stir but sticking to the bottom.  If it is not wet enough, add the additional 1/4 c water.

Stir vigorously for 3-5, changing directions every so often.  All ingredients should be well blended.  Don't be afraid of sticky dough!  It should be soft and sticky.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, about six inches square.  Carefully scrape the dough onto the bed of flour.  Dust the top with more flour and pat it into a rectangle.  Rest five minutes.  Carefully stretch the dough from first one side, then the other.  Fold the sides over each other like a letter.  Dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap and rest 30 minutes.

Repeat the stretching, folding, and resting twice more.  After the last fold, rest 1 hour.

Prepare a 17x12 inch pan by spreading 1/4 c herb oil over it.  Carefully transfer the dough to the pan.  Using your fingers, dimple the dough, gently stretching it.  It won't fill the whole pan, but make sure it's been stretched out well - again, just use your fingertips!

Cover pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (will keep up to three days at this point).

Day Two

Take the focaccia out 3 hours before you plan on baking it.  Drizzle with a bit more oil and dimple again.  Set aside to rise until it's nearly 1 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 500.  Place focaccia in oven and immediately reduce to 450.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate pan.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown all over.

Immediately transfer to cooling rack.  Cool 20 minutes before slicing.

Salmon BLT


Ingredients

1 salmon fillet, pins removed, cut into sandwich-sized pieces
salt, pepper, garlic
1 tomato, sliced
2 pieces bacon per sandwich
2 squares focaccia per sandwich
Lettuce or baby spinach
Pesto

Fry up the bacon.  Remove bacon to cool; reserve a little bacon grease.  Rub the salmon with salt, pepper, and garlic.  Sear in the bacon grease, flipping once, until cooked through.

Assemble the sandwich: spread one piece of focaccia with pesto.  Add salmon, one slice tomato, two slices bacon, lettuce, and top with the other piece of focaccia.  Enjoy!

March 6, 2011

Jambalaya a la Double Musky

I have, in the past, raved about the Double Musky, the fantabulous Cajun restaurant about five miles from nowhere (or Girdwood, Alaska).  This is another from their cookbook.  Beware if you order it at the Double Musky - one order usually gives me four meals worth or more!  This version below should easily feed four people.  Another warning: this is not for wimps!  As the Double Musky says "It comes in two versions, hot and hotter!"

As usual, I tossed out the shrimp in favor of chicken.  Your mileage may vary.

Ingredients

1/4 c butter
2 t garlic
1/4 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 c chicken stock
1 tomato, diced with juice
1 bay leaf
1/8-1/4 c Cajun seasoning (below)
2 hot link sausages
1 breast chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Cooked rice, seasoned with garlic

Cajun Seasoning
2 t basil
3 t oregan
1 t salt
2 t thyme
3 t back pepper
2 t cayenne pepper
1 t white pepper
2 t garlic

First, brown the sausages, cut into slices, and set aside.

Melt the garlic and butter together.  Once it's nice and bubbly, add in the celery, pepper, and onion.  Stir until vegetables are cooked through.

 Add in the stock, tomato, Cajun seasoning, and bay leaf.

Simmer for several minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.  Add in the meat.

Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and sauce thickened.  Serve over rice.

March 3, 2011

Strawberry-Balsamic Reduction

Well, it's been a hectic few weeks.  Between crazy work schedules, getting sick, Fur Rondy and what have you, it's been hard to motivate myself to blog!  Next week is Spring Break though, and I've already got a few recipes planned for the few days before I go on my SuperAwesomeTrip.  Now, on to the food!

This sauce is, to put it simply, amazing.  It's simple, easy to make, and delicious on just about anything.  Serve drizzled over roasted veggies, or top your ice-cream with it - you can't go wrong!  The only thing to be careful of is your vinegar.  This will make or break your sauce, so don't use the generic stuff.  Shell out a few extra bucks for something good.

Ingredients

1/3 c water
1/4 c honey
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1 c chopped strawberries
2 T ruby port

Bring the water and vinegar to a boil.  Add honey, strawberries, and port.  Simmer until reduced by half.  Transfer to food processor and puree until smooth.

February 19, 2011

Foodie Fun


Yes, that is a half bottle of 1964 port that I bought for The Husband's birthday.  1964!  Barrel aged for 40 years, bottle aged for almost 10!  Further, the year 1964 has a certain significance to any Alaskan.  Commence drooling. 

Additionally, that is a half round of O'banon goat cheese wrapped in grape leaves that have been soaked in bourbon.  I finally made it to Fromagio's, the relatively new cheese store in south Anchorage.  It's super awesome!  The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, happy to help you out and answer questions.  I didn't know what I wanted and the selection was overwhelming, but all I had to do was mention a few other cheeses I enjoy and they whipped out a selection of samples for me.  I came home with some nice cheddar too, but the goat cheese was the clear winner.

More drooling.

Anyway, the point of this post (that's a lie, I just wanted to brag about the port and cheese) is a bit of an update.  You may have noticed that the blog got a little face lift.  The most important part of this face lift is just below the title.  Yes, I have tabs now!  My kick in the butt for finally getting tabs was joining the HH6 cooking club.  Basically, once a month I will be doing a cooking challenge along with the other fine ladies of the HH6.  If you want to know more, click the tab!  We get our first challenge Monday.

ps. The moose is just there for cuteness.  My mom made it!

February 15, 2011

Strawberry Tartlets

Yesterday was, of course, Valentine's Day.  It was also the Husband's birthday, so I went all-out cooking.  Last fall, Husband had requested that I learn how to make pie crusts.  With that request in mind, I decided that these strawberry tartlets (based off of this recipe at Epicurious) would be the perfect dessert.

This was my first venture into crust-making, and it was a good thing I started the crusts a day early because my first attempt was a complete and utter failure!  I made some adjustments, and the second time worked like a charm.

We paired the tart with a vintage character port - fantabulous!

Recipe makes four tartlets or one full-size tart.

Ingredients

4 mini tart pans or one large tart pan with removeable bottom

Crust

1 1/4 c flour
3 T sugar
1/4 t salt
7 T butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t lemon juice
3 T ice-cold water

Slice the butter into small pieces.  Put flour, sugar, salt and butter into the bowl of a food processor.  Process until well blended, with butter being no larger than pea sized.  Mix together the yolk, vanilla, lemon and water, then slowly add to the flour mixture, processing just enough to form a dough.

Gently knead for a minute or two.  Press to fill greased tart pans, then place in the freezer for an hour or until completely frozen.

Preheat to 375.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Add greased pie weights and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Cool for at least 20 minutes.


Filling

8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/4 c powdered sugar (or a little less)
1 t vanilla
3 T ruby port
1 T milk (or more)

Using a hand-held mixer, whip the first three ingredients until smooth.  Add the port until a light purple color is achieved.  Add milk as needed to smooth and thin out the filling.


Strawberries and glaze

1 pint strawberries
2 T sugar
3/4 c ruby port

Thinly slice the strawberries and toss with the sugar.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving the liquid.  Mix the strawberry juice with the port in a small saucepan and simmer until reduced by half.'

Spread the mascarpone filling in the tart shells.  Layer the sliced strawberries on top, pressing gently.  Spoon glaze over top and refrigerate 20 minutes before serving.