Christmas Cooking Capers

I went home to DC this Christmas (like always), I enjoyed spending time with family and Nessie poo, and I very much enjoyed having a nice big kitchen full of gadgets and farm market fresh fruits and vegetables (I miss this a lot), and spare time, to cook.  Some tasty treats that were enjoyed this Christmas.

Eggnog Vernor’s Float:

Talenti Eggnog Gelato (I got a little excited about seasonal flavors and bought this, turns out I don’t like eggnog, go figure as I do not like milk at all, and am not super fond of egg).

Vernor’s ginger ale (the best)

Scoop some gelato into a tall cup, pour some Vernor’s over it.

Sit back, relax, and celebrate Jesus’ birthday right.

Eggnog Talenti on its own YUCK! Eggnog with Vernor’s… who knew this would be so good.  Spicy creamy gingerale with creamy slightly boozy iceream= winner.

Scallop Stuffed Flounder:

I made this for my parent’s traditional Christmas eve feast, that my sister’s and I throw together every year.  First time I ever cooked flounder and it was goo-ood.

1 large Flounder Filet

2 tbsp butter (plus more melted for brushing the fish and the pan)

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup onion, chopped small

1 stalk celery diced

Dash of dried thyme, marjoram, sage, and parsley

10 medium sized scallops, cut into small pieces.

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp white wine

1 1/2 pieces of bread (rye and sourdough), broken into pieces

salt and pepper, to taste

Old Bay

Preheat oven to 300F.

Butter a casserole pan.  Place flounder on pan and set aside.

Melt the 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet.

Add onion and garlic and saute for ~3 min.  Add celery and herbs, saute until soft.

Add in scallops and cook just until opaque.  Remove from heat.

Add the rest of ingredients and mix until combined, let sit for ~10 min so the flavors can meld.

Scoop a generous amount of stuffing onto half of the filet,

fold the filet (widthwise not lengthwise) over the stuffing.

Brush with melted butter, sprinkle generously with Old Bay, and rub the Old Bay into the fish a little.

Bake for 25-30 min, just until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with the rest of the stuffing around the sides.

Shredded Brussel Sprouts:

I found this recipe quite some time ago at wholeliving.com, and figured it was about time to try it.  My sister cooked it up to serve alongside the flounder.  YUMMY!

1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

4 cups Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed

1/2 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tsp ground mustard

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Coarse salt and ground pepper

Shred the Brussels sprouts with a shredding blade of a food processor.  Heat butter and oil over medium-high heat, in a large skillet.  Add Brussels sprouts and cook, tossing occasionally until tender and beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes. With about 3 min left add the ground mustard and pecans.  Remove from heat, stir in dijon mustard, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

I liked it served with additional dijon mustard.

Chocolate Torte:

A feast is not complete without a decadent dessert, and boy was this flourless chocolate cake, decadent.

This recipe was largely adapted from:

http://jenncuisine.com/2010/04/flourless-chocolate-torte/

4 Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bar

5 eggs, room temp, separated

10 tbsp room temp butter

2 drops lemon juice

2 tbs. granulated sugar + some for coating pan

Preheat to 325F.

Place jelly roll pan filled with water on bottom rack.  Grease a 9” springform pan with butter on the bottom and sides.  Dust the sides of the pan with sugar, it will stick to the butter.

Beat egg yolks until they just start to foam.

In a separate large bowl, add egg whites and 2 drops of lemon juice.  Beat until foamy, then gradually add in the 2 tbs. sugar and beat until they form stiff peaks.

In a double boiler over med-low heat, melt chocolate and butter together.  Stir until completely melted, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.  Then whisk in egg yolks.

Fold 1/4 of egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold all of the chocolate back into the big bowl of egg whites.  Fold until it just blends together, there will be some white streaks still.

Pour into the springform pan, smooth out with a spatula, and tap to get rid of any big air bubbles, then bake in the oven on middle rack for 40 min.

Take out, cool, then refrigerate at least 5 hours.

Spread a thin layer of Nutella on top,

and serve with warm strawberries and homemade whipped cream, YUM!

Gingerbread Cake:

This is Christmas of cakes (we had 3 in the house) and this is Christmas in a cake.  Warm, sweet, gooey, spicy and delicious.

I found the recipe on Heidi Swanson’s blog, and just had to try it.

My sister was the one who made the cake, and it turned out wonderful.  She actually made it in a bundt pan and we both cheered when it actually came out perfectly.

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/black-sticky-gingerbread-recipe.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+101Cookbooks+%28101+Cookbooks%29

I really thought it was good served with coffee, and homemade whipped cream YUM!

Rhubarb Concoction:

My mom surprised me with some frozen rhubarb, she had saved from summer, since I had trouble finding any good rhubarb in CO.

I wanted to do the rhubarb justice, so I did some research to find an awesome recipe.  I found this rhubarb contest recipe runner up and, man, it’s a real winner.  I dream of this rhubarb, it was soooo goo-oood.

I can only describe it as a crazy concoction of complex flavors which coexist and compliment each other wonderfully.  I did use 1/3 cup of mango cane sugar from hawaii (xmas gift from last year) and granulated sugar instead of plain cane sugar.  I also added ~1 tsp fresh ginger and used ground cardamom instead of cardamom pods.  As well as  navel oranges instead of valencia, and really good Earl Grey tea.  I also didn’t bother to peel the apples (extra fiber!).

http://www.food52.com/recipes/4275_rhubarb_with_earl_grey_tea_cardamom_and_orange_zest

3 cups chopped rhubarb

2 apples chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1/3 cup mango cane sugar

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 bags good earl grey tea steeped in 3/4 cup boiling water for 3 min

1 tbsp fresh ginger

zest of 2 navel oranges

vanilla icecream

or

plain greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350F

Put rhubarb and apples in medium sized casserole dish.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix with your hands.

Place in the oven uncovered for 15 min,

stir,

cook for another 15 min or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Cool for 5-10 min.

Spoon into a bowl and scoop some icecream on top.

I really really enjoyed this for the breakfast the next day on top of some greek yougurt,

ah man it was awesome.

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Best way to eat apples…

Cut up an apple, serve with a whopping spoonful of peanut butter. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

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Yes

Colorado Rocks!

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SWEET!

huh!

candy.

Eat a baby.

awesome song!

fun.

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What to do with all that beer that you got on sale for St. Patrick’s Day…

1.  Drink it

This is a great option of course (and what happened to most of the beer).

2.  Cook with it.

To celebrate my Irish heritage I ate some cabbage for dinner of course.  I also whipped up some delicious Irish beer bread to accompany it.

I don’t know if they actually made this bread in Ireland ever, but it’s along the same lines of Irish Soda bread, no yeast required.  Apparently the Irish used a lot of soft wheat (it’s cheaper than hard wheat, and a lot of soft wheat was grown there), soft wheat is a lighter flour, so it doesn’t require (or do well with) yeast to rise.  Instead of yeast, baking soda or in this case beer is used as a leavener.

Traditional soda/beer bread is made with just 4 ingredients: Flour, baking soda, salt, and sour milk.  I added a few spices and some sugar to my bread to make it a little more interesting, and I poured some butter on top before baking to make a nice buttery crust (hey it’s a holiday right?).  The fat is on top of this bread rather than inside it.  If the ingredients are over mixed, the bread is dense and chewy instead of light and airy, so it is important to just stir a few times until the ingredients are mixed and then stir no more.  This makes for one easy, quick, and delicious bread to bake, just throw all the ingredients in a bowl and stir a few times.

IRISH BEER BREAD

(this recipe is adapted from several different beer bread recipes I found online, there’s millions!)

1 12oz. beer (preferably Irish) unopened at room temp (I left a bottle sitting in a window for an hr or 2)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup rye flour (or use 3 cups all-purpose, I happened to have a little rye laying around)

1 tbsp baking powder

3 tbsp brown sugar or honey

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dill weed (dry- use at least 2x more if fresh)  Can use other spices to go with different   beers, coriander and a tiny bit of cinnamon are good with sweeter beers.

2 tsp dried mustard seeds (grind or use mustard powder)

2-4 tbsp unsalted butter

Listen to this fabulous rendition of a popular Irish song while you cook:

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease a bread pan.

Throw all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.

Pour in the beer.  (Note: remember to pour the beer slowly, otherwise the air will escape before cooking and the bread will not rise.)

Stir until all ingredients are mixed, all the flour is moist (about 10 stirs).

Put the dough into the greased pan.

Pour 4 tbsp melted butter evenly over the top.

Cook for about 35 min, until the bread is golden on top, and a fork comes out clean.  (may take longer than 35, I’m at high altitude).

Sing and dance along to my favorite Irish song (and church song) while you wait for your bread to cook:

Enjoy!

Warning: Share with friends or you will eat it all by yourself in one day (Mine was gone in 2).

This bread is super good plain, but also awesome topped with some good Irish cheese and broiled, and I am sure it is amazing with peanut butter.

Another thing you can make with a bottle of beer is….

DRUNKEN BEANS

I’ve been a bean kick lately and I was looking for some new ways to cook beans.

These are super delicious loaded up with some sour cream(or homemade yogurt), cheese, and mango (or another sweet) salsa.  They are a bit spicy on their own, but the cheese and or yogurt really balances out the spice.

2 tbsp cooking oil

4 cups cooked beans (I used pinto, but I am sure great northern or red beans/many other beans would work fine.)  (See chickpea post to learn how to cook dried beans)

1 onion chopped

1 small can diced tomatoes (~14 oz.) (I actually used what I had leftover from a 28 oz. can which was pretty much 2 pieces of tomato and a cup of juice)

2 large cloves of garlic

3 chipotle peppers in adobo, diced

1 bottle of beer

3 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of cloves

1 tsp brown sugar (Adds a little sweetness to take away from the spice, but it shouldn’t be sweet like baked beans)

1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (I’m from Maryland)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil on medium heat.

Add the chopped onion, and cook until translucent but not brown.

Add the tomatoes and garlic, cook until the garlic begins to brown and the tomato is bubbly.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Simmer uncovered for an hour or two, until most of the liquid disappears.

Enjoy!

(I suggest a large hot bowlful, topped with a generous spoon of plain yogurt, and a sprinkling of Colby cheese, topped with a little salsa.)

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Things to do with chickpeas…Pea Pea Pasta

I usually buy big bags of dried chickpeas from Natural Grocers.

What do I do with all these chickpeas, you may ask?

Usually I’ll make a lot of hummus, and some falafel.  Sometimes I’ll make some Spanish Chickpea soup.

Recently I experimented with Pea Pea Pasta.  I must say it certainly was a success.

Why is is called Pea Pea Pasta?  Because it is a chickpea based sauce with green peas, and it’s really fun to tell people that your eating pea pea.  Oh yes, I had fun with that one.

If Pea Pea Pasta entertains you as much as me, then you might find these videos entertaining as well:

and those crazy Canadians, just looks like fun:

If you are planning on making anything with dried chickpeas, the first step is usually to rinse and soak.

Rinse the chickpeas and make sure there are no rocks or anything mixed in.  Then soak them in a big bowl, covered with an inch or two of water on top, and throw in a teaspoon of baking soda (I think the baking soda helps soften the chickpeas and is supposed to reduce flatulence, I’ve never had this problem with chickpeas and you could probably skip this step, but I think it helps reduce cooking time).

Let the chickpeas soak for at least 24 hrs.  I usually decide that I am going to use chickpeas at some point during the week and go ahead and soak them and let them sit for up to 2 or 3 days.  If you decide you aren’t going to use them immediately you can drain and rinse them and throw them in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for forever.

If you are going to make hummus or Pea Pea Pasta you are going to have to rinse the chickpeas and then boil them in water (I usually leave about 2 cups of peas out for falafel).  Fill a pot with enough water to cover the chickpeas by about 2 inches, bring to a boil, then simmer for an 1-2hrs until soft and squishable (skim off foam periodically). Now your ready to make hummus or….

PEA PEA PASTA

Listen to this while you cook:

1 cup cooked chickpeas (keep cooking liquid)

1-2 tsp pepper (I really like pepper)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1/4 + 2 tbsp Olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 cup green peas (I used frozen peas)

1/4 cup craisins (My pantry was very very bare, dried tomatoes would probably better if this is too weird for you)

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp red wine vinegar

Linguine (2-4 servings)

Put the chickpeas and 1 cup of the cooking liquid in the food processor, process with the salt, pepper, and red pepper, until very smooth (should be a pretty thin liquid, add more water if necessary).

Reserve another 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid (could use regular water, I didn’t want to waste all that water, and figured it might add a little nutrients and flavor to the dish), and cook the pasta in the rest.  Cook the pasta 2 minutes less than the time recommended on the box.

Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large skillet, on med. heat.

Add the crushed garlic clove.

Add the frozen peas and craisins.

When the peas are cooked, add the chickpea puree.

Add the rest of the olive oil, basil, red wine vinegar, and 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Add the mostly cooked pasta and stir, cooking the pasta for the final two minutes, and until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Enjoy!

Pea Pea is Yummy!

I plan to experiment with this recipe and the dried tomatoes and some nutritional yeast in the future.  It’s a nice way to add more veggies to a pasta meal.

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And the word of the day is…..

“Mondegreen”- a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung.  (Merriam Webster.)

And the peanut butter food of the day is….

RUSTIC PEANUT BUTTER TARTS

I love eating these for breakfast, they are super delicious, and super cute.  They look like way more work to make, but they are actually super fast if you have pita on hand.

They’re not really tarts and I am not sure that they’re rustic, but that’s what I’m callin em.

Ingredients:

Pita

Peanut Butter

Maple Syrup (gotta use the real stuff its sooo much better than that corn syrup stuff)

1 apple

sugar

cinnamon

Listen while you cook:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread a layer of peanut butter on the pita.  Pour on some maple syrup (you could use honey or sugar instead) and mix it into the peanut butter.

Core the apple and slice pretty thin (1/8th of an inch).

Arrange the slices in a circle on the pita pieces.

Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for 7-10 min (depends on size of the pita, you want the tops to be golden brown and crispy, and the peanut butter to start to bubble).

You can also broil them for a minute or so to get a nice crispy top crust (Pay attention if you do, I burnt mine black one day, but they were still delicious.)

I like to mix some homemade yogurt with some maple syrup, cinnamon, and cloves (to taste) and drizzle it on top of the pita “tarts”.  I also dip any leftover apple slices in the yogurt sauce, for an all around delicious and nutritious breakfast.

Yum

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