Monday, January 30, 2012

These will get a second chance

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Nigella Kitchen Copyright 2010

1¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg, refrigerator cold
1 egg yolk, refrigerator cold
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 x 11.5-ounce bag milk chocolate morsels or chips I used semi-sweet

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and let it cool a bit. Put the brown and white sugars into a bowl, pour the slightly cooled, melted butter over them and beat together.

Beat in the vanilla, the cold egg, the cold egg yolk, until your mixture is light and creamy.

Slowing mix in the flour and the baking soda until just blended, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the cookie dough into a quarter-cup measure or a ¼ cup round ice-cream scoop and drop onto the prepared cookie sheet, plopping then cookies down about 3 inches apart. You will need to make these in 2-3 batches, keeping the bowl of cookie dough in the refrigerator between batches.

Bake for 15-17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks and cool completely.

This recipe might be the one I've been looking for but I overbaked them.  They were crunchy in a pleasant way but I'm not really into crunchy chocolate chip cookies.  It actually worked out well because they didn't tempt me after I brought them to work.  Something tells me if I had heeded the baking times given, I would have had a winner.  I second-guessed Nigella and paid the price.  I'm going to have to try this recipe again.

Just when I was getting back into blogging, I stopped feeling it.  That is actually a good thing - my blog is a bit of an escape I think.  It's time to face the real world a bit more. Also, swim suit season in on the way and I sort of made a promise to my son at the end of last summer about joining the community pool, breaking my long-standing rule of not being seen in a bathing suit unless I'm at least 20 miles from home. I do best when I take as much focus off food as possible. Expect it to be slow around here.  Sorry.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kale - not bad at all

Cheese Tortellini Soup with Cannellini, Kielbasa, and Kale
The Bon Appétit Cookbook Copyright 2006

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces fully cooked smoked kielbasa sausage, thinly sliced I used a smoked chicken sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh fennel bulb I used celery
4 garlic cloves minced
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme I used some dried
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
10 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 cups chopped kale (about ½ bunch)
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained

1 9-ounce package cheese tortellini I used dried so I cooked them most of the way first
1 cup grated Asiago cheese or Parmesan cheese I forgot this

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add next 6 ingredients and sauté until vegetables are soft and kielbasa is brown, about 12 minutes. Add broth and bring to boil. Stir in kale and cannellini . Reduce heat to low and simmer until kale is wilted, about 4 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

Add tortellini to soup. Simmer until pasta is tender but still firm to bite, about 5 minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls. Serve, passing grated cheese separately.

I bought a HUGE bag of kale to make baked kale and I was left with a ton of kale.  I happened to have some smoked sausage and cheese tortellini too so I decided to make this soup and I'm glad I did.

Why does kale get such bad press? I guess all the greens used to get maligned but I hope everyone has figured out that they can be pretty darn good. I loved the peppery taste of this soup and the kale was completely inoffensive and actually delicious. I added too many tortellini because I just wanted to use them up.  Next time I will add more kale and less tortellini. The dried tortellini worked really well here. They have a nice sharp cheesy flavor.

As much as I love kale, I still can't figure out that huge bag. I didn't find that it shrinks down as much as spinach but maybe I'm wrong. Heck, they don't even sell spinach in bags that large. What's the deal?

Something a little different with cauliflower

Fresh Cauliflower Gratin
American Dietetic Association Cooking Healthy Across America Copyright 2005

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 teaspoons salt
1 whole head cauliflower, trimmed and washed
3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise I used regular
4 tablespoons honey mustard or stone ground mustard I used half Dijon and half honey mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart ovenproof casserole dish with the cooking spray.

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil; add the salt and the cauliflower. Reduce heat to medium and simmer about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is fork tender.

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and cayenne pepper in a small bowl; set aside.

Remove the cauliflower with a large slotted spoon. Place in the prepared casserole dish and separate the cauliflower florets slightly. Cover with the mustard mixture and top with shredded cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.

This was a great cauliflower recipe, if you like mustard.  It is the predominant flavor.  There are so many mustards available that you can really picked and choose what you like. Yellow mustard is too harsh.  I misread the recipe and started with Dijon mustard but I only had a couple of tablespoons so I rounded it out with honey mustard. Then I saw that it was supposed to be all honey mustard. I think the mixture was better because I only had some store-brand generic honey mustard.  I did have some better hot honey mustard that I might try next time.

Cauliflower is one of my trigger foods.  I don't want to stop eating it once I start (unless it's raw - yuck!) I made this as a side but I decided to make it the main course.  I ended up that little dish you see pictures several times.

Sorry, that's it. I can barely get a post up these days, never mind make it interesting.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mushrooms and birthday pie

Kennett Square Mushrooms
Best of the Best from America Cookbook Copyright 2005

20-25 medium-size mushrooms (approximately ½ pound)
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced (I added this ingredient)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1/3 cup soft, fine bread crumbs
1/3 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons water

Select mushrooms with closed caps. Pull stems from mushrooms and chop finely. Melt butter in skillet and add stems and onion. Sauté until tender and translucent. Stir in remaining ingredients except water. If preferred, parsley may be sprinkled on top instead of mixed in with the other ingredients. Fill mushroom caps with mixture, mounding over top. Arrange mushrooms in oven-proof serving dish. At this point mushrooms can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Before serving, add 2 tablespoons of water to dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

I had more of those baby bellas from Costco to use up so I made a half-recipe of these stuffed mushrooms.  I've free-styled stuffed mushrooms a few times and I can never get them quite right.  There is always something lacking.  For a simple version (no crab, sausage, etc), these were very good. They were cooked perfectly and the filling had good flavor.  I did add a clove of garlic just because I felt like it. They only required a bit of bread crumbs and a bit of cheese so I didn't feel guilty eating them.

Nick turned 8 this week and this is the first time in 8 years that I didn't plan him a party or make him a cake. He was okay with that (or a party and cake would have happened!)  He got to pick out a present, I bought him a steak lunch (they have steak on the kids menu at Applebees!), I made him birthday treats for school and then I made the pie he requested (Truffle Pie).

I won't lie - I did enjoy a break from the usual insanity of trying to plan a birthday party just a few weeks after Christmas.   I was able to use things I had already - sprinkles, decorations, food coloring, cupcake rings. His birthday treat was Heidi's Sweet and Crunchy Popcorn. I made it in black and gold, his school colors. I packed it in treat bags and added a football cupcake ring (I had a ton of extras from last year since there was a mix up).   It felt good to use up some of my surplus.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Keeping it light to start the new year

Zippy Ham Salad Cucumber Snackers
Rachael Ray 30-Minute Get Real Meals Copyright 2005

1/4 lb cooked deli ham , sliced 1/4 inch thick and finely diced
1 celery rib , finely chopped
2 tablespoons pimento-stuffed green olives , drained and finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley , chopped I omitted this
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (just enough to bind the salad)
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1 large dill pickles , finely chopped
1/4 small red onion , finely chopped I used sweet onion
1 English cucumber (seedless)
fresh ground pepper

In a bowl combine the ham, celery, olives, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard, pickle, red onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.

Cut the cucumber into 1 1/2 inch-thick disks. With a melon baller scoop out a little bit of the center of each cucumber disk to create a cup.

Fill each cup with a heaping tablespoon of the ham salad. Serve cold.

I picked up this cookbook because I spied a couple of ground chicken recipes in it (Rachael Ray is always good for ground chicken recipes). It wasn't until I got it home that I noticed it had a low-carb slant which is perfect since I am trying to watch my carbs. However, these recipes aren't necessarily healthy. I am not doing a meat, bacon and cream type of low-carb thing. This book isn't that far out there but many recipes in this book are still quite caloric and fat-filled. This particular recipe fit my personal eating plan but many of them don't. One Cobb salad recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat, 4 chicken breasts, an avocado and 5 strips of bacon (among other ingredients) and it's only supposed to serve 4 people! Her burgers are still 1/2 pound burgers as usual (I always halve her burger recipes and still make 4 burgers).

My usual basic ham salad is ham, mayo and relish whirled in a mini-chopper. I remember making it in a blender when I was very young. I had tried the deli version and I don't know how I ended up making it myself (I didn't read it on the internet LOL). It was one of my first realizations that you could actually make the same food at home that you bought in a store - duh!

This was a much more flavorful version. I went very light on the mayo - there is so much flavor from the rest of the ingredients, you really just need a touch. I lightened up on the mustard too so it wouldn't overpower the salad. I'll definitely make it like this again. More important than the recipe here was the idea of using cucumbers instead of crackers, a simple trick I'll be sure to remember. The cucumber is bland but the salad has enough flavor to balance it out. Hollowing out the cucumber slices is a simple thing to do but kind of tedious and wasteful though so after these initial snackers, I switched to just spreading the ham salad on cucumber slices.

Let's hope I can at least get through January keeping things light!

Friday, January 06, 2012

For Mushroom Lover's: Mushroom Pâté

Mushroom Pâté
New Creative Cuisine Copyright 1993

4 tbsp butter
3/4 pound brown mushrooms, sliced I used baby bellas
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
pinch of dried thyme
5 tbsp butter, diced
5 tsp soy sauce
1/4 cup sweet sherry
ground black pepper
pinch of sugar

Melt the butter and sauté the mushrooms, onion, garlic and thyme. When brown and soft, reduce heat to low and add diced butter and remaining ingredients except sugar. Stir until melted, them remove from heat, Add sugar, cool slightly, then purée, leaving mixture somewhat chunky. Pot, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 24 hours.

It's hard to make brown food (besides chocolate) look appetizing but to be fair I think my photograph is just as good, maybe even better, than the one in the cookbook. This recipe isn't about looks, it's about taste. If you love mushrooms, I think you will love this rich spread. It's a great make-ahead recipe too.

I'm not sure how often mushroom pâté is still being made but it's been around for a while. I've seen recipes for it in several (mostly older) cookbooks. I know I've had one that I copied from a library book in my Ugly Binder since the 1990s. Oh, that poor recipe has been waiting for so many years to be made and it got trumped by this one since  it was the first mushroom recipe I saw after I bought baby bella mushrooms in Costco on whim.

I know this had a lot of butter but I'm sure some of you have been known to put something on top of a block of cream cheese and serve it. Is this much different? The butter is really the only 'bad' ingredient. The rest is pretty low in carbs but of course it's best served on some sort of carb.

I'm pleased to be starting the year with a recipe I loved.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Best Thing I Made in 2011: Porketta

I'm not offering a detailed recipe today. This post is really for my own benefit. I want to document what I did, so I could do it again. I didn't measure anything. This was the best thing I made all year but I'm biased - porketta has been a long time favorite food of mine.

Porketta (or porchetta) has become quite popular recently. I grew up eating porketta - I'm not sure why it took so long to take off. It was popular in NE PA, where I grew up, as a hot roast or sliced cold for sandwiches. You could buy the uncooked roast preseasoned from the meat department of the local supermarket or you could buy it cooked and sliced from the deli deparment. It was sold at church picnics. Huge platters of porketta sandwiches would come out at family gatherings. Now, you can find restaurants in NYC devoted to it. Smart people, the ones who thought of that!

I took it for granted early in life but then I moved away from home and - no porketta. Of course, I know now that I could have found it in Philly, had I known where to look but it wasn't in the grocery stores in Center City. I could at least find pork in the deli, seasoned more lightly but somewhat of a substitute good for sandwiches but then I moved again and I couldn't even get that any longer.

So making my own porketta roast had been on my mind for years. An old friend I had recently reconnected with on Facebook had posted her porketta recipe which really fired me up but I couldn't find her recipe when I went to make it. I decided to completely wing it and try to recreated it from memory. It came out perfect. It's been too long to say if it's the same as the porketta I grew up on but it hit all the right notes. This was definitely one of those 'why-the-hell-didn't-I-do-this-sooner' things. Hopefully I can do it again.

It was just before New Year's so pork roasts were abundant at the supermarket. This recipe needs a bit of fat so I chose a bone-in loin roast but I removed the bones. Lean boneless roast don't have enough fat. Pork butt or shoulder would be better than anything lean but I though this cut was the perfect medium.

(Note:   You can get a decent gravy from just the roast drippings but the bones removed from the bone-in roast can be used to make an even richer pork gravy if you are going all out. I wasn't that ambitious this time and gravy isn't absolutely necessary to enjoy this roast.)

I flattened it out to make a rolled roast. I rubbed the inside with crushed fresh garlic. Then I pulled out a grinder and made a spice blend using dried dill weed, black peppercorns, fennel, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and salt. I wanted dill, garlic and pepper to be the dominant flavors - the other spices were added more sparingly.

I generously covered the inside of the roast with this mixture, then I rolled it and secured it with silicone cooking bands. I rubbed the outside of the roast with the spice mixture (but not fresh garlic - that was only on the inside). I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

Then I unwrapped it, added more dried dill and garlic pepper all over the outside (the garlic pepper had additional seasoning in it including salt - I only used it because I had no plain garlic powder but it worked so well, I will probably use it again).

I baked it at 325 for 2, maybe 3 hours. I don't know exactly how big the roast was but it was standard. It started out as about a 6 chop roast. I made sure it was at least 160 degrees.

(WARNING: This smells delicious. My son made about 40 comments while this cooked. He couldn't get over how good it smelled.)

When you first cut it hot, it's kind of sloppy and hard to get a neat slice but it's still delicious.

If you chill it and then slice it, it's prettier.  You can either reheat it or eat it cold.

Now this isn't what porketta is to everyone. Porketta is a seasoned roast pork but there are variations. The spices can be whatever you like. Some people like it fattier, even adding an extra layer of fat to the roast. It doesn't have to be a rolled roast. Some people like to serve it shredded. Let's face it, if you take a nice piece of pork and season it well and cook it slowly until it's tender, you can't really go wrong.

(P.S. I am trying to figure out Pinterest. I can't get this 'Pin it' button to work for me but I don't know why. If anyone tries it and it works (or doesn't), please let me know. For me, it looks like it worked but then I can't see it on my boards, just a red X.)

Pin It

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Let me just wrap up Christmas

I did a lot of baking and candy making this year. I really hate dragging Christmas out past the new year but I need to document the new recipes I tried since I plan on making them again.

Polish Honey Cookies
from the internet (filed into the Ugly Binder)

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 ½ cups flour
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon pepper

Cream eggs with sugar until white. Combine with flour, honey and baking soda, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water. Sprinkle in ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, and pepper, and work ingredients by hand into a dough. (I mixed the spices with the flour first.) Knead on floured board, sprinkle with a little flour and roll out to ¼-inch thickness. My dough was super sticky. I added a lot of flour. I might try chilling the dough next time.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with biscuit cutter cut dough into circles (or other shapes) and bake on greased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. The cookies can be glazed with white or chocolate icing. I made a white icing with powdered sugar, water and white food coloring. Store in air-tight tin, preferably for at least a week.


My dad had mentioned honey cookies that his mother made. I did a little research and determined that I could probably not reproduce them - she could have used any variety of spices, some recipes leave out the ginger, some use nutmeg, etc. Still, I was interested in making a version. They were a pain - the dough was sticky, they were more suited to simple shapes (circles, squares, diamonds) than reindeer (yep, those are reindeer). I should have piped on the icing. But boy these were good. They were a light gingerbread cookie. Even my almost 8-year old liked these. They had an interesting texture. The recipe suggested letting them age but I thought they were better when they were fresher.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

from the internet (filed into the Ugly Binder)

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup baking cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
48 maraschino cherries, blotted dry

1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 o 3 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice

In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture (batter will be very firm).

Shape into 48 balls, about 1 inch round, and place on ungreased baking sheets. Push one cherry halfway into each ball.

For frosting, melt chocolate chips in milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; add cherry juice and stir until smooth. Spoon one teaspoon frosting over each cherry (the frosting will spread over cookie during baking LIE!).

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Yield: 4 dozen

These were a bit of trouble. The first batch the cherries went wonky and the frosting never covered them. Only two or three cookies from the first batch were presentable. I started using a wooden spoon handle to make the hole for the cherry so it was in deep. The frosting thickened while I was putting these together but that allowed me to form in around the cherry firmly. I got good coverage but the icing wasn't smooth. I didn't think of it but I could have added more cherry juice to thin it out. Also, don't be too generous with the frosting since it is just enough for 48 cookies.

I wasn't sure if they were worth the trouble at first but in the end these were one of my favorite cookies this year.

BAKER'S ONE BOWL Raspberry-Coconut Bars

from the internet

1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter or margarine, cut up
3 Tbsp. cold water
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg. (7 oz.) BAKER'S ANGEL FLAKE Coconut
1/3 cup red raspberry preserves

Heat oven to 425°F. Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually stir in water with fork until well blended; press onto bottom of 8-inch square pan.

Bake 20 min. or until lightly browned. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Beat eggs in same bowl with mixer on high speed until frothy. Gradually add sugar, beating until thick and lemon colored. Stir in coconut. Spread preserves over crust to within 1/4 inch of edges; cover with coconut mixture. Bake 25 min. or until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting to serve.

These were definitely good and pretty simple to make too. They just didn't wow me. It very well may have been that they didn't get a fair shake and got lost in the crowd. They may or may not be made again. I really can't say.

Besides these new cookies, I made Welsh cookies, Snickerdoodles, Milk Chocolate Florentines, sugar cookies, spritz, South Seas Cookies, chocolate chip brownies, and gingerbread men. I also made caramel and chocolate covered Lorna Doones and pretzel squares, chocolate covered caramels, peppermint patties, Five-Minute Fudge (with mini marshmallows), and crispy truffles.

I thought everything came out pretty well but my personal stand outs this year were the chocolate covered cherry cookies, the Polish Honey cookies, and the five-minute fudge. As always, I was amazed by how good Snickerdoodles taste a week later.