Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Perfect Ginger Snap Cookies (and Mushroom Soup)



I originally started this post last night to be exclusively about the mushroom soup but then I got distracted. Then today, I made the most amazing ginger snap cookies and they overshadowed the soup by a lot, so this is now about cookies, with a side note about the soup.

The recipe I used for the cookies is the same one I used in my last ginger snap cookie post (which I'm too lazy to link to, sorry). The recipe is from David Lebovitz's blog. This time, though, I tweaked it to make it a little healthier.

I was not expecting these to come out as amazingly as they did. I had been thinking I was making it a little healthier and cutting corners, so I was expecting the cookies to be decent, but nothing special. When I finally bit into one of these perfect, pillowy cookies, I was blown away by the subtle spice, the crunchy "crust" and the chewy, delicious center. These are the perfect cookies. Make them. Now.



Perfect Ginger Snap Cookies (adapted from davidlebovitz.com)

Ingredients
  • 2 C Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 C + 3 Tbsp Canola Oil
  • 2/3 C Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 C Mild Flavored Molasses
  • 1 Large Egg, at room temperature
  • Extra sugar for rolling.
Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (all except the sugar) in a bowl (or in a tupperware container, and shake)
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar and oil until fully combined.
  4. Mix in the vanilla, molasses, and the egg.
  5. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until all of the flour is wet.
  6. With your hands (I recommend food gloves) finish mixing the dough.
  7. Form the dough into 1" balls and roll them in sugar, then place them on the baking sheet about an inch apart.
  8. Bake for about 11 minutes, until they are puffy and cracked on top.
  9. Let them sit for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. These are VERY crumbly fresh out of the oven. They will fall apart if you try to move them too soon.


So that's the amazing cookies. Now on to the soup. The soup is very simple and pretty tasty. It's also not too bad for you. The recipe can be found here. I didn't change anything. It was quite delicious.

Before I go, I just wanted to share with you the belated birthday present my mother got me. She said she saw them in the train station and knew I'd love them.



My mother knows me so well. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Turkey Meatloaf

Let me begin this post by apologizing for not having any pictures. If this bothers you as much as it bothers me, remember that I always accept donations to the camera fund. :oD

Now on to business. For a while I've been saying that I want to start eating healthier, at least most of the week. This week I decided to actually do it. For this trick, I had to head to the grocery store and buy some healthy foods, like frozen vegetables, to stock up my freezer/pantry.

As part of this, I planned my meals for the week by hunting through my blogs and piecing together some ideas. Meal planning is something I keep thinking I need to do more of, too, but it's hard for me to remember to do it. Also, I often make the mistake of planning something for two meals, and then I get reminded around night 2 that the Huz "needs" to eat a lot of food or he'll "starve," and the leftovers from the previous night just won't cut it for him.

So here's my plan for this week:

Monday: Turkey Meatloaf with Roasted Butternut Squash and Frozen Green Beans
Tuesday: Eat at my parents' for my mom's birthday (Happy Birthday, MOMMY!)
Wednesday: Sweet and Sour Tofu Stir-fry with a side of rice stuff I discovered at the store. (I would write the actual name, but I don't remember it. I'll post more on it later if it's good)
Thursday: Mushroom Soup and leftovers


Today's post is about last night's dinner, Turkey Meatloaf. I got the recipe off of Gina's Skinny Recipes, a great blog with TONS of healthier versions of various foods. It's particularly great because she includes nutrition information and calculates the Weight Watcher's points for all the recipes.

I took her recipe and tweaked it a little (as I'm prone to do) to make it more fun.

PLEASE NOTE: This recipe contains Worcester sauce. Usually, Worcester sauce contains anchovies, a fish. To avoid mixing fish with meat, make sure to buy a brand which specifies that it contains no fish.

Mini Turkey Meatloaves

Ingredients
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1.3 lb 99% lean ground turkey {I only had 1 lb, but use the whole 1.3 if you have it}
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal {I didn't have oatmeal, so I used whole wheat bread crumbs}
  • 1/4 cup ketchup + 2 tbsp
  • 2 tsp worcesterchire sauce
  • {I also used hot sauce, because I love it}
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • salt
  • {I added in garlic powder, ground red pepper, and some ground black pepper}
Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent.
  3. Mix all of the ingredients, except for the the 2tbsp of ketchup and the worcesterchire sauce, together in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Divide into mini-loaf pans (I got about three little loaves out of it, but the extra 1/3rd of a pound should be enough to get it to four.)
  5. Mix together the ketchup, worcesterchire sauce, and a little hot sauce in a small cup.
  6. Brush the sauce over the loaves.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
  8. Let it sit 5 minutes before serving to avoid burning anyone.


These came out really tasty and are actually a pretty healthy dinner when served with veggies. Check out Gina's Skinny Recipes for the nutrition details.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hoo boy! My bad! (a.k.a. - Neglected Thanksgiving Post)

So, funny story. I know how much you guys look forward to reading my posts and somehow I just got so caught up in school and other wastes of time that I completely forgot to post about the single greatest baking day of the season so far: Thanksgiving!



Let me start off by letting you guys know that I'm not a big Thanksgiving celebrator. Before this year, I hadn't had a Thanksgiving dinner (well, not a REAL one anyway. Last couple of years, we had tacos) for about 6 or 7 years. I didn't mind, really. I missed my father's Thanksgiving cooking (he makes the best stuffing and gravy!) but that was about it.

This year, however, my grandmother is back in town. She moved back here around March and unfortunately had some health problems (which are now resolved, thank G-d) and as November approached, it seemed to be taken for granted that we would have to provide her with a Thanksgiving feast. Okay. No biggie! It's just an excuse for me to try my hand at pie baking. And that's what I did.



My original plan was two pumpkin pies with a homemade crust. But come Thanksgiving day and I got...well, a little carried away. It turned into one pumpkin pie, one apple pie, and a large pumpkin cake.

You see, I was reminded the week before that my parents' anniversary is two days before Thanksgiving. Great! A chance for me to use that new cake-decorating kit I just bought! (By "cake-decorating kit" what I mean is, "An icing bag with 5 tips.")

All around, people loved all of the desserts, but it was definitely excessive. And as it turns out, cake-decorating is not as easy as I thought it would be. Apparently the word "anniversary" is really long in the context of a cake-top (Cake Wrecks, here I come!). I also may have made my cream cheese frosting too runny (snot comes to mind?) and my buttercream decorating icing too thick (really hard to squeeze it through the tube). Had I combined them, the decorating might have been more successful.



Of course my parents still appreciated the sentiment and thought the cake itself was delicious. That's what Thanksgiving is all about, right?

Anyway, here are the recipes:



The pumpkin pie recipe was just straight from Couldn't Be Parve. I used her simple recipe (taken right from the Libby's can) for the filling (replacing the soy-milk powder and water with plain ol' vanilla soy milk) and her crust recipe. I also used that crust recipe for the apple pie.

The apple pie was even simpler than the pumpkin pie. I used canned filling. I know. Dreadful, right? Two cans of apple pie filling. I also used (how shameful) a frozen pie crust for the bottom of the pie. I DID however use a homemade crust for the top.

Finally, the pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. This was a recipe I got from Gourmet Kosher Cooking. I made the cake according to the recipe, but decided against making the icing recipe they give. Here's why: the first time I made it, it was heavenly. The second time I made it, it was runny with lumps of margarine. I was completely determined to avoid the margarine lumps this time, so I left it out entirely. I made the icing with cream cheese, powdered sugar and a little vanilla. The result wasn't great, as I mentioned earlier. It was tasty, but very runny, no matter how much sugar I added. (This is an issue I've had with cream cheese frosting in general). I've come to the conclusion that this cake is better left unfrosted. Call me crazy, but I think I prefer it that way.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spiced Pancakes

I admit it's been a while since I've posted anything interesting (read: food related). So I figured it was high time I made something I haven't already posted about. This morning I woke up in the mood for pancakes and, since I had a paper to work on, figured making some from scratch was a great way to procrastinate.



I think I've mentioned before that one of the more awesome wedding presents I got (discounting gifts of money, expensive kitchen appliances, etc.) was The Joy of Cooking. I can't remember who bought it for me (sorry!) but it's come in handy more than a few times. There are those moments when I feel a sudden urge to make cookies and need a quick and simple recipe, or times like that today when I need a recipe and pointers on making pancakes.



Since I wanted to keep this as simple as possible, I used their basic recipe, but I tweaked it a little to make it more interesting. I added some pumpkin pie seasoning to give it a Fall/Winter feeling. If I did it again, I would add more of it. I only put in 1 teaspoon, which resulted in a subtle spiced flavor, but I tend to prefer my flavors to be more pronounced. They did turn out pretty yummy though. We gobbled those things up like they were going out of style (which believe me, they never will).



Spiced Pancakes


Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 C flour (I used 1 C whole wheat and 1/2 C all-purpose)
  • 1 3/4 Tbsp Baking Powder (I thought this was a weird amount of baking powder, but I went with it)
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Seasoning (I would add an extra teaspoon to this.)
  • 3 Tbsp Butter (melted)
  • 1 1/2 C Milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions:
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing quickly. Don't worry about lumps in the batter (this was a pointer in the book, but I actually tried to get it pretty smooth.) The book also recommends letting the batter rest for a couple hours in the fridge, but I didn't have that kind of patience.
  4. Grease a griddle or frying pan and heat until water splashed on the surface sizzles.
  5. Using a spoon or ladle, pour about 1/2 a cup (or a little less) of the batter onto the pan. To ensure circular pancakes, pour it on one spot. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SPREAD IT AROUND! If your batter is the right texture, it should spread enough on it's own. If the batter is too thick, at a small amount of water or milk (1 tbsp at a time). If the batter is too thin (spreading too much/too quickly) at a small amount of flour to thicken it.
  6. Let the pancake cook until bubbles start to form and pop on the top. I found that this happened pretty early on, but give it time (2 mins?) until you're seeing big bubbles towards the center of the pancake. Using a large spatula, lift up the edge to see if it's nicely cooked on the bottom. If it looks good, flip it with the spatula.
  7. Let the other side cook about 1 minute, or until it seems done.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 with the rest of the batter.
  9. Serve pancakes with warm maple syrup, a pat of butter, whipped cream or whatever else you would normally eat your pancakes with. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Channukah!



Does this confuse you? Refer back to the first post for more information on the Bunny Box.

Still confused? Yeah, that's what I figured.

Be safe this Channukah! Keep fires away from bunnies and other flammable animals/children. Don't leave the candles burning unattended. Enjoy your Chag!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Pumpkin Pasta Post (And Cranberry Cupcakes)

A couple posts ago (here) I wrote about a creamy pumpkin sauce that I had made and mentioned the changes I wanted to make to it. I'm now ready to post the completed recipe and a (sad, blurry) picture.

The second time around preparing this sauce, I made the changes I wanted to make, but mostly I played it by ear. The resulting product was creamy and a perfect mix of sweet and savory. I piled it on my pasta (in a most unhealthy fashion) and was really satisfied with the taste. The pumpkin gives the sauce a slight nutty taste and a richness you don't find in your average tomato sauce.

The main thing you need to know about this recipe is that I am seriously approximating all measurements. While cooking this, I didn't measure a thing. So if you choose to make it (which I strongly recommend) taste it often while cooking and be prepared to adjust. At one point while throwing it together, I accidentally added a bit too much salt. I balanced that out by adding more pumpkin and soy milk.



Creamy Pumpkin Sauce: Revised Recipe
yields: about 1 or 2 cups of sauce. This is a small recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup canned pumpkin puree

  • 1/3 Cup vanilla soy milk (I am really approximating on this. I periodically added soy milk whenever it seemed too thick and to help mix in powdered ingredients, like seasonings.)

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1/2 medium onion

  • 1 teaspoon jarred chopped garlic, or about one clove chopped

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

  • 1 ounce shredded cheddar cheese

  • The following seasonings should be added to taste: ground red pepper (I used a good amount, because I like the kick), garlic powder (not a lot, because there's already garlic in it), salt, pepper.

  • 1 package fettuccine, penne, or other pasta that works well with creamy sauces, prepared according to package directions.


Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat

  2. Saute the onions and garlic until translucent

  3. Add in the pumpkin puree and mix until the butter and onions are incorporated

  4. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix (remember to taste as you go and adjust accordingly.)

  5. Keep it on the heat, mixing often, until the sauce is thoroughly heated and seasoned to your liking.

  6. Toss with the pasta, or serve alongside the pasta so you can dollop on as much as you like.



You may also remember this post where I talked about the delicious cranberry cake I made. I also mentioned that I was going to try them as cupcakes. Well this past shabbos, I went ahead and did just that. I adjusted the baking time to about 30 minutes, instead of an hour, and got 23 cupcakes out of this recipe. (Obviously, that required more than one muffin pan, so I also rotated the pans halfway through baking to ensure they cooked evenly.) The recipe is the same, but I took much better pictures this time.

First, a picture of the eggs and sugar when they're just about ready (the consistency reminded me of marshmallow fluff):


And an aerial view of the cupcakes when they're done:


And last but not least:


I strongly recommend you try making these yourself. These cupcakes go fast, so maybe a double batch would be in order. ;o)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Adventures of D.S. Bunny & Friends: #1 - Love Nubules

I don't know if I ever actually mentioned it on this blog, but a while back I started making a comic with the idea that I would eventually post it as a webcomic. Well, I'm not quite there yet, but just to give a taste and to get some feedback, here's the first comic I made.

The art is...well, keep in mind, this was my first foray into digital art. The sketches in my notebook looked significantly better, but I still think this is pretty cute.

PS -- some people have commented to me that it's difficult to tell what's going on in the last panel. The pink thing is a bag full of "love nubules" which the bunny is dumping on the table. Also, because I made the images a little small before putting them together into the comic format, it's hard to read what it says, so check below the comic to read the signs.



The banner in the last panel reads:

Black Market
Every Other Tuesday
12-3PM
Bunnies only. No law enforcement allowed.


The sign next to the table reads:

Love nubules for sale here.
3 kibbles/nubule

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pizza and Pasta - An Italian Post

Well, here I am in the midst of what would be midterms if I had any. Instead, I've got more than my fair share of papers to write before Thanksgiving. But that doesn't mean I'm not more than happy to distract myself by cooking something interesting for dinner and then blogging about it. So come on. Enable my procrastination and read on.

On Monday I announced on Facebook that I had made pasta with a "creamy pumpkin sauce." I also mentioned that I hadn't perfected the recipe and wouldn't blog about it until I had. Here's the problem with that. I'm unlikely to remember to perfect it later on if I don't blog about it now. So here goes: I wanted to make pasta, but I didn't want to make boring ol' pasta with cheese. I wanted something quick and easy, but interesting and tasty. Well, let's say I got 3/4 of it right. It was quick and easy and definitely interesting, but it was definitely bland. In the following recipe, I'm going to write what I did and share what I would change in these {} brackets. All measurements are approximated, so feel free to take your liberties with them.

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Ingredients
  • Pasta (Penne, fettuccine, rotini - something with more surface area to hold onto the sauce.)
  • 1/2 cup of pureed canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (or cream or any milk other than skim)
  • 1 tablespoon margarine {it's what I had, but butter would be better}
  • garlic powder {I don't think I used enough of any of the following seasonings. Particularly, I think I should have added some ground red pepper to give the sauce a sharper taste.}
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • hot sauce
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • a little shredded cheddar
  • {1/2 small onion, diced}
  • {1 teaspoon minced garlic}
  • {1 teaspoon or more of sugar}
Instructions
  1. {melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add in onions and garlic and saute until "translucent."}
  2. Add in pumpkin and soy milk, mixing until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Add in seasonings and cheese, mixing them in

  4. While doing all of the above, start the pasta cooking (according to package directions)
  5. Drain pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve quickly with more parmesan cheese for garnish.
Let me know how that sauce comes out for you guys if you make it. I think the little changes I made will result in a much tastier sauce.

Now on to part II of this post. Pizza.



Some of you may recall that I recently posted about my accidental cheeseless pizza. Well, since then, it's become a little bit of a favorite for us. The dough is quick and easy, and the toppings are whatever we want, without all the extra fat and calories of cheese. The main problem is that we were getting a lot of carbohydrates and only a very limited number of veggies with little to no protein.

So tonight I decided to try something a little more interesting, and maybe a little more nutritious.

Veggie Veggie Chicken Pizza

Ingredients
  • Pizza dough, rolled out to preferred size and shape (My recipe can be found here.)
  • Pizza sauce
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced thin
  • 1/2 8 ounce package of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head of broccoli, checked for insects, washed and steamed or par boiled.
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 package vegetarian soy chicken food substance
  • dried basil and oregano to taste
Instructions
  1. spread on sauce.
  2. Place slices of zucchini and squash in a spiral from the outside of the pizza towards the center, alternating between zucchini and squash as you go.
  3. Sprinkle on mushrooms and onions to cover pizza
  4. Break up and sprinkle on broccoli.
  5. Add chicken-like food substance
  6. Season with basil and oregano to taste
  7. Bake in the oven at 450 for 15 minutes (if using my pizza dough recipe. If not, bake it as long as your pizza dough calls for.)


We really liked this pizza. I hope you do too. Here's an unappetizing picture I took of a slice of said pizza:



That concludes tonight's post. Hope you enjoyed it. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

L'Kavod Shabbos Baking: Cranberry Cake

Hello ladies and gents!

Welcome to my new segment, "L'Kavod Shabbos Baking." I can't promise that there will be one every week because usually my l'kavod Shabbos baking is really boring (aka - stuff I've already blogged about). But this week, while perusing one of my favorite time wasters, Tastespotting.com, I cam across a couple great things I want to share.

The first is a blog called "Couldn't Be Parve," which is written by a Conservative Rabbi on a mission to develop Parve foods that are so good, you can't believe it's not milchig. She has some pretty awesome sounding recipes on there, but my favorite thing is her In the Pantry section where she introduces all sorts of really great substitutions for dairy ingredients. I recommend checking it out if you like cooking Parve.

The second thing I found is a very easy recipe for cranberry cake. If you're anything like me, and I hope you are, you love cranberries. So the choice to make this recipe is a no-brainer. Short ingredient's list, quick prep time and absolutely wonderful outcome. The only downside is that you probably really want a stand mixer if you're going to make this since it requires you to beat the eggs for 5-7 minutes until they "increase in volume" and "form ribbons." But trust me, this recipe is just amazing enough for it to be worth it.

This can be made in a 9x13 pan or a 10" springform pan. I made it in a 9x13, but on the blogs where I saw it, it was made in a springform. I really wanted to make it into muffins, but I wanted to first see how it would bake up normally so I could get a feel for time. If you try it, let me know how it goes.



Cranberry Cake as seen on one cake, two cake, which adapted it from Vanilla Garlic

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks {I used margarine}
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk {I used soy milk}
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups cranberries (12 ounce bag)
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 pan or a 10-inch springform pan.

  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar for 5-7 minutes, until eggs have increased in volume and stream into ribbons when you lift the beaters.

  3. Add butter and vanilla and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes.

  4. Beat in milk and salt.

  5. Stir in flour, then fold in cranberries.

  6. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

  7. Bake for approximately an hour, until a tester comes out clean (but there might be cranberry juices on it). Cool on a wire rack. If using springform, run a knife around the cake and then unmold.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Real Shabbos Menu

This week, The Huz and I stayed in for shabbos lunch and had my brother over. I did a little food experimentation, and some of it was good, some of it not so much.

So here's the menu:
1) Homemade challah
2) Baked gefilte fish
3) Beef minestrone soup
4) Butternut squash stuffed with quinoa salad
5) Vanilla cake


Challah


I've discussed my challah recipes with you guys. I think I make some pretty tasty challah. But this week, I didn't feel up to making something that time-consuming. Instead, I experimented. Remember that pizza dough recipe? Well, I decided to try it for making a small batch of challah. Truth be told, if I cut my normal challah recipe to 1/4 it would probably be about as easy. But I didn't have the patience for math. So I went with what I had. The main thing I enjoy about the pizza dough recipe is that I don't have to leave it rising for hours. I did give it 30 minutes to rise after forming the dough and another 20-30 minutes to rise once shaped. I baked it in the oven with a pan of hot water on the bottom rack.

Results? It came out as a pretty good dipping challah. It was really moist, too. I actually was pretty impressed with it. I think that any time I need challah on short notice and don't feel like making enough to do hafrashas challah, this will be my go-to recipe. It definitely wasn't as good as my usual recipe, but it does the trick.


Baked Gefilte Fish


Baked gefilte fish is an idea I got from my magnificent mother-in-law. My favorite thing about baking it instead of boiling is that the texture is a little less...well...mushy. It also makes it easier to season. So for this recipe, I cut up some carrots, celery and onion and put them on the bottom of the pan. I unwrapped the log fish (DO NOT DEFROST) and placed it on top. Then I seasoned it with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. I also placed some slices of onion on top. Put a little water in the bottom of the pan and bake it at 350 for about 2 hours.

Result? Tastes like gefilte fish. Only better.


Butternut Squash Stuffed with Quinoa Salad


This was two firsts for me. I've never baked fresh butternut squash and I've never made quinoa as a side dish. The only way I've ever made quinoa was in cholent.

The first thing I did was to cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and remove all the seeds. then I placed it in a pan, sprayed it with a little Pam, and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and a little powdered sage. (I got that idea from a butternut squash soup recipe I saw once. Maybe not my best move.) I put it in the oven, covered, at 350 for about an hour until it was tender enough to eat.

For the quinoa, I cooked it in vegetable stock instead of water. I got that tip from Mrs. B. a bit ago. I made it according to the package directions for the stove top, but I added in some frozen mixed vegetables and spinach. I also seasoned it with a little salt and sage.

When the squash was done, I scooped the quinoa into the center.

Result? Eh. It wasn't bad, but not really fantastic either. I think I should have used acorn squash, left off the sage, and added some onion into the quinoa. Maybe next time, right?



So that was shabbos, ladies and gents.

Have a lovely week! :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Because it's been a while...

This shabbos, I decided we were due for some time at home. So, I decided to make a soup shabbos, for simplicity. I made a huge pot of chicken soup (with kreplach) and some fish for dinner. I have enough of that left over to last quite a while, so I'm going to freeze some of it for later.

For lunch, I took the minestrone soup recipe from this post but made a couple changes. First, I halved the recipe, because I needed it to fit in my crockpot. Second, I added some beef. Third, I took out the beans, green beans, and spinach, because I didn't really like them in the original soup. So what I ended up with was a REALLY good, hearty soup. It's perfect for Fall and Winter, and was really quick and easy to throw together. This is a meal soup, not a starter course. Here's the new-ish recipe:

Beef Minestrone Soup


Ingredients:
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion OR half of one large onion, diced
  • 1 lb flanken beef, cubed
  • 3 carrots, chunks
  • 2 zucchinis, chunks
  • 3 stalks celery, chunks
  • 2-3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup water (I actually just used about 2 cups of stock, because I had it)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup red wine (I may have used a bit much of this for the amount of soup I was making because I eyeballed it, but the soup came out delicious, anyway)
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on the stove over medium-low heat.
  2. Sear the beef in the oil, and remove the beef to your crock pot.
  3. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent, then add to crock pot.
  4. Throw in all the other ingredients. Cook on low until lunch (or whatever temperature you'd usually cook cholent on in your crock pot. I've noticed that pretty much all crock pots are different, so know yours and adjust accordingly.)
  5. {Note: When I woke up in the morning and went to check on this soup, it was boiling slightly, so I removed it to the blech instead of leaving it in the crockpot until lunch.}

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Quickie Post

Well, Yom tov has been great so far, and I'm really loving the stretches of nothing to worry about. However, eventually, all that "nothing to worry about" catches up with you after yom tov is over and you're scrambling to get all your school work done. So this post is a quickie.

I just made some eggs. This may not sound too thrilling. In fact, it's not TOO thrilling. But these are good eggs. So I'll share their secret.

Now remember, this is just between you and me, so no telling, k? The secret? {curry and s'chug}

Did you catch that? Good. So here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Yummy Spinach Eggs

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Cup Egg Beaters (or two eggs)
  • 1/2 Cup fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (from a jar)
  • 1/4 Cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon s'chug (Israeli jalapeno dip)
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions:
  1. Beat eggs, cheese, s'chug and seasonings in a bowl.
  2. Spray a nonstick frying pan with some Pam and saute garlic on medium heat for about 1 minute
  3. Add spinach and saute until wilted and dark green, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add in egg mixture and cook eggs to your liking (scrambled or omelet style)
  5. Serve the eggs on a toasted bagel, or on their own. Eat and enjoy!

This came out really yummy for me. I hope you like them too.

Enjoy the rest of your chag (holiday)!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Best Minestrone Soup I've Ever Had

I know what you're all thinking (all two of you!). "Two posts in one week?! Is she MAD?!" Yes. I am. But that's neither here nor there. I'm here to talk to you about the single most important food group out there: Soup.



I have always been a soup fiend. When I go to restaurants, it's the thing on the menu that usually attracts me the most (and appetizers, my other favorite food group). I've often thought that if I were to go on any kind of diet, it would be a soup diet. In my opinion, there's just nothing more satisfying, more comforting, more spiritually uplifting then a big bowl of hearty soup.

Now here's the sad part of my story. I have rarely been successful at soup-making. I can make all kinds of foods and make 'em delicious, but soups are the only things that have seemed to allude me. Whether I was burning the chicken soup because I hadn't yet mastered the concept of "simmering," or making vegetable soup that was mysteriously bitter because I'd failed to remove the seeds from the tomatoes, I seemed to have my biggest cooking disasters when I attempted soup.



But tonight, all that changed. I now have a new and improved outlook on my soup-cooking abilities. Earlier in the week, I felt a hankering to cook. More importantly, I felt a hankerin' to make a big pot of soup. I hunted through all of my food blogs and a bunch of recipe websites and couldn't come up with anything that appealed to me AND had ingredients I'd heard of. So I checked in with my Facebook peeps (because I'm hardcore like that) and asked for some suggestions. A bunch of people gave some fun suggestions, but one friend really came through linking me to this fantastic recipe for minestrone soup.

Let me start by saying that while I know that the length of the ingredients list seems intimidating, these ingredients are all very easy to find, and you probably have a bunch of them in your cabinets already. So trust me, it's worth the splurge! :)

The soup comes out amazing. I have to admit that I usually don't like minestrone soup. Let me rephrase: I dislike the only minestrone soup I'd had before tonight. That being the Tabatchnik's brand. I actually usually am a huge fan of Tabatchnik's soup, especially their Tuscany Lentil Soup (about which my husband and I have actually composed an entire song), but their minestrone never appealed to me. But even though I'd been hurt by minestrone in the past, there was something about this recipe that really spoke to me. And I'm glad it did. It has an incredible depth of flavors and it's hearty and perfectly everything a good soup should be. Please trust me. Make this soup!




Jamie's Minestrone Soup:

{NOTE: Comments in these squiggly brackets are mine.}

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped {I used jarred}
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery {I decided to slice instead}
  • 5 carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional) {It says optional, but I STRONGLY recommend it. This adds SO MUCH to this soup. I used Kedem Red Cooking Wine.}
  • 1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can green beans
  • 2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
  • 3 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano {I didn't have fresh oregano or basil, so I substituted dried and used a little less. Remember, fresh herbs take up more space than dried, so I used a little more than half a tablespoon.}
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup seashell pasta {You can use any kind of pasta. I used orzo}
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping {I nixed this. Alternatively, you could use pareve chicken flavored broth and include this. Up to you.}
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add chicken broth, water and tomato sauce, bring to boil, stirring frequently. If desired add red wine at this point. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.
  3. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside.
  4. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Spray with olive oil and serve.


Note: I served this with some pita from Pariser's Bakery and some chummus. I'd be willing to wager that this soup would also be great with a little beef in it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Awesome Cheeseless Pizza

As promised, I return. I started out the night planning to make a minestrone soup that sounded amazing, but realized that since I have a paper due on Thursday it might not be the best idea to make something which requires so much prep work. So instead, I decided to make homemade pizza.



It all started out innocently enough. I whipped up the dough in a matter of minutes (recipe below), preheated my toaster oven and took some pictures.

Then, I rolled the dough out, placed it on a little baking sheet and put it in the toaster oven to prebake the crust a little to avoid sogginess. I start cleaning up and suddenly, my toaster oven breaks. It just shuts off and refuses to turn back on. Now, I don't have a milchig oven. My toaster oven (which was a wonderful wedding gift from my father's friend) was all I had for milchig baking. But I didn't have time to mourn that loss just then. I had pizza dough to save!

Now here I was, two small pizza crusts all set, and my only option was to make them pareve and bake them in my meat oven. So I combed my kitchen, foraged in the fridge, probed my pantry and finally came up with some reasonable ingredients. Now I just had to make them work.



I threw my pizzas together, stuck them in the oven and prayed they'd be good. Well, folks, I'm either a culinary genius or very very lucky. Maybe both. They were delicious. I'll admit to being a bit unprepared for my first bite. It didn't thrill me and I had to adjust to some of the flavors. But by the third bite, I was hooked. The crust was perfect! Crunchy on the bottom and soft and warm on the inside. The seasonings had been daring, but it made for a really interesting experience in the finished product. I'd definitely do it again, maybe with some lightly cooked spinach, fresh mushrooms and red pepper next time.

This is a quick, easy, yummy, and (dare I say it?) healthy dinner for two (or three if you want to be stingy with the dough).



Enjoy!

PS--The pizza dough recipe is not mine. A friend of mine shared it with me. She got it from recipezaar, but the link I have for it no longer works, so I can't give credit to the original person that made it. :(

Sara's Accidentally Cheeseless Pizza


Dough:

1 (1/4 ounce) package of yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
1 Cup warm water
2 1/2 Cups flour (I used bread flour, but the recipe doesn't specify, and I'm sure you could make this whole wheat)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Topping:

Your favorite pizza sauce (mine happens to be Liebers)
small amount of green schug (Middle-eastern jalapeno sauce), to taste
garlic powder, to taste
onion powder, to taste
curry powder, to taste
turmeric to taste
1 small can of corn
1 small can of mushrooms (if you have fresh, use them! I hate canned mushrooms, but it's what I had on hand)
1 small onion, sliced into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin (or crushed/minced/left off entirely if that's your preference. I would actually recommend sautéing them a little. I didn't, only because I was feeling lazy. I ended up picking most of the garlic off my pizza.)


Instructions:

1. Combine the yeast and warm water. Stir until dissolved.
2. Add olive oil
3. Combine dry ingredients. Add to liquids, mixing as you go, until it forms a cohesive dough ball (as pictured above. You may have to do some kneading by hand, but nothing too intense.)
{NOTE: When I made this, I found I had to add a tablespoon or two of water to the dough before I got the right texture. You don't want the dough to be especially sticky, but you also don't want it to be falling apart. It should be cohesive and easy to handle.}
4. Let the dough rest about 5 minutes. Take this time to start your oven preheating to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
5. Roll it out to the size/shape you want. I divided the dough in two and made two small pizzas with thick crusts. The dough could probably be divided in three or four but you'd either have smaller pizzas or thinner crusts.
6. Spread on sauce and schug. Season to taste with garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder and turmeric.
7. Smother the pizza with the rest of the toppings (and any additions of your choice. I was constrained to what I had on hand, but if you've got anything fresher/better, go for it.)
8. Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes.
9. Eat. Yum! :)

PS--It occurred to me after I made these that I actually had all of the ingredients on hand to make a pretty awesome Mexican pizza: Black beans, corn, mushrooms, onions, seasoning (like ground red pepper? Chili sauce? Cumin? Maybe some taco sauce mixed in with the pizza sauce?) and that would have at least added protein the meal. I'm sure I'll try it sometime. If you do first, let me know how it is. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dear Avid Fans...

Okay, I admit it! I'm a failure. I haven't cooked or baked anything even remotely interesting in over a month. I haven't taken any awesome pictures either. I've barely even had time to read my food blogs and pick out recipes.

I have some excuses, though! I've been busy. Really busy. So incredibly busy... playing video games...

But you can't blame me! I have the best husband in the world who got me a USB controller and downloaded and set up Super Nintendo emulators and ROMs on my computer. How could I not spend all of my free time playing Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, Super Mario and Yoshi's Island? I know, I know. You're not all nerds like me. Just trust me. There was no way around it.

I hope to start working on something new after the yom tovim...maybe after my sister's wedding in October?...maybe when the semester is over, k? Just bear with me. I'll be back eventually.

<3
Le` Bunny

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Majesty and Beauty

I haven't done any more interesting cooking recently (except for making pecan ice cream this past shabbos. It was delicious. Oh, and I made mozzarella sticks. Also tasty.) but I have been doing some artwork.

A couple weeks ago, the Huz and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary. We decided to make a weekend of it and spread the fun out. So Thursday, July 29th, we went out to dinner with some friends, Friday we went hiking at Piney Run, and Sunday we headed downtown for a day at the science center.



Our hike at Piney Run was spontaneous. I wanted to do SOMETHING outdoors because it was a perfect day. We didn't have time for boating, but we figured the trails seemed like a good idea.



We picked a trail and started walking. Our goal was to get near the water and enjoy the relaxing view, but due to recent storms, there were a lot of fallen trees and branches which kept us from getting all the way to the water.



All in all, it was still a fun and beautiful experience.



On another topic, for the past couple of months, I've been taking painting lessons with my grandmother. I've always admired her talent and wished I could do what she does. I finally had the opportunity to learn from her when she moved back to Baltimore, so I took advantage of it and asked her to teach me. My first picture was a pretty little scene of a path along the side of a house and garden. It has fun colors and minimal detail, so it was a good first choice. When I showed my grandmother a picture that I wanted HER to paint for me, she suggested I give it a try.



This is a picture that I took in Dallas when I was there for my brother's engagement. It was right around Halloween time and this little pumpkin display was set up on someone's brick mailbox in the neighborhood where we were staying. The task of painting it was daunting, but I think I did pretty well (considering it's only my second attempt at oil painting).



Please, feel free to flatter me. :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ravings of a lost child

Yesterday, I received a magazine in the mail. I've been getting it for three years, though I never read it because it was addressed to my grandfather (who lived in this apartment before he passed away). Sometimes I would throw it away, other times I would pass it on to my father with all the rest of my grandparents' mail. Today, however, something on the cover caught my eye, and I took a look inside. The magazine is called "Chemical Heritage" and is the publication of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. The article which caught my eye was called, "Silver and Sunlight" and is about the history of photography. I went on to read several more articles and now I feel pretty confident I'll never throw one of these out again.

The significant part of this story is that it got me thinking about my grandfather. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days when he was alive and well and this time be wise enough to speak to him more. As a child, I never found him terribly interesting because, unlike my grandmother, he didn't tell stories or play with his pills before taking them. Mostly, I remember him perusing the grocery ads and looking for coupons. By the time I was a teenager, he was already unwell and I was uncomfortable being around him. If only I could go back and ask him who he was.

I wish I knew more about his work. It must have been fascinating. My grandfather was a chemist who worked for the government until he retired in the 70's. I wish I had known enough to ask him what he did there. I wish I had cared. When I ask my father, it seems he wasn't too sure.

I know that my grandfather was a good man and a good Jew. I know that he so much wanted his son to have a Jewish education that he sent my father to live in the Park Heights neighborhood so that he could attend TA through middle school. When my father came home with all of the new things he learned, my grandparents went about being more careful about kashrus and shabbos. It's because of this that my family is now religious.

Sometimes I wish that my grandparents had kept journals. Something I could pick up and read and connect to. (My grandmother, the English teacher, would be so disappointed with me for ending a sentence with a preposition.) I wish I had known them better. I wish they were alive today to see how we've all grown up. I wish they could have been at my wedding and met my husband. I think they would have liked him. I think he would have loved them.

Not having ever been too close to any of my grandparents, I didn't feel a heavy loss when they died. Now, all these years later, I miss them and wish I could have them back to get to know them better. Now that I'm mature enough to understand the importance of their lives and experiences, of their love and all the work they did to make my life, and the lives of all my siblings and cousins, possible.

I miss them terribly and wish I could tell them.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Annapolis, Meatballs and Ice Cream (and Shabbos Cooking)



Earlier this week, my mother and I headed into Annapolis for a little day trip. I mention this only because I wanted to include that picture. It's a pretty place and probably a lot more pleasant to hang out when it isn't 90 degrees out.

Now on to cooking. Wednesday night, I made some D-E-LICIOUS sweet and sour meatballs for dinner. The recipe was given to me by a friend who we stayed with for Shavuos last year. She had made it as an appetizer for a yom tov meal, but I felt pretty confident that, if served with whole wheat pasta, it would make an excellent weekday dinner. Boy was I right! It was not only incredibly yummy, but it was really good and filling too! It lasted two nights (even with Yaakov eating it!)

Now, here's what I discovered: It's a little difficult to take appetizing pictures of sweet and sour meatballs with a point and shoot camera. But here's what I've got for you:

The above photographed meatballs are not fully cooked. Once cooked, the coloring is darker. Also, this picture doesn't convey the awesome smell, or that perfect tangy taste against the savory meat.

The recipe is so simple and they come out so amazingly yummy, you've really got to try it! (The recipe is at the end of this post). Another cool thing about this recipe is that, once the meatballs were gone, there was plenty of sauce left over and I was able to use it in my cholent for shabbos. Sweet and sour cholent? Awesome.



Now, today was forecast to be over 100 degrees, so I decided that in the spirit of summer, I'd try out a friend's recipe for pareve mint chocolate chip ice cream. I would share the recipe, but I don't think I'm allowed to. So, instead, I'm sharing pictures. I don't have any of it nicely scooped into a cone, but I do have these shots of the ice cream maker at work: The one above is right after the batter was poured in and the one below is about 20 minutes later when it started to turn into ice cream.



Other than sweet and sour cholent (which is just the sauce, some quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and meat), I also made some honey ginger salmon, soy sauce green beans and mushroom garlic couscous.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

• 1 pound ground beef
• 1 egg
• ½ c. bread crumbs/matza meal
• ½ onion, grated
• ¾ tsp. salt
• ¾ tsp. pepper
• ½ tsp. oregano

Sauce:
• 1 c. jellied cranberry sauce
• ¾ c. ketchup
• ¼ c. brown sugar
• 2 tsp. lemon juice
Pineapple juice to cover the meatballs

1. simmer sauce ingredients for 25-30 minutes, stirring often
2. form meatballs into 1 inch balls. Add to sauce and simmer for 1 hour.


Honey Ginger Salmon

  • Salmon fillets

  • 1/2 to 3/4 Cup honey

  • 1 tbsp (ish?) soy sauce

  • 1 tsp (ish?) olive oil

  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • a pinch of fresh ground black pepper



1. Mix the sauce ingredients until completely combined.
2. Pour over the salmon. Sometimes, I dredge them in a little flour first so that the sauce will stick better.
3. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 15-20 minutes. (check the fish after 15 minutes to see if it's cooked through)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Challah and Birthday Cake

As my avid readers may be aware (hi, Mom! Just kidding. My mom doesn't read this...), my brother and his wife are currently in town visiting from Israel. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to have my sister-in-law as a baking partner in crime.



Together, we've tackled two projects. The first was challah, last Thursday. This time I tweaked the recipe yet again. I used 1 and half times my previous ingredient amounts and managed to get the whole five pound bag of flour into the dough, so I could do hafrashas challah with a bracha. Also, my SIL gave me some excellent advice for getting my challah to come out moist and awesome- put a pan of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven while the challahs are baking. They came out amazing. They were the perfect texture and the perfect flavor (just a little sweet, but not overly so) and were a big hit. It's a good feeling to finally perfect a recipe. This made 3 large challahs, 3 small challahs, and 3 rolls. So this batch should last for exactly three weeks, no problem.

The second project was a special undertaking that my SIL and I had been planning for almost a month. It was a birthday cake for my dear brother (and her husband) decorated with fondant. We spent all Sunday on it, between shopping for supplies, baking the cake and decorating, but it was well worth it in the end when we got to present it to him.



For the cake part, we used my friend Aviva's amazing vanilla cake recipe, because it's delicious and firm, which is important when using fondant. We iced it with a basic buttercream, using margarine instead of butter to keep it parve. And for the fondant, we used store-bought Wilton's brand, but I think in the future, I'll make my own if I can. It tasted like playdough, so it had to be removed before eating. I'd been anticipating this, since I read enough blogs to know that fondant doesn't usually taste too good, but I've found recipes for fondant that actually taste like sugar. I'm told they're harder to work with, but I think it might be worth the extra effort.



The cake was both beautiful and delicious, which was nice since this was my first time ever using fondant. Of course, most of the tough fondant work was done by my SIL, Mya. Way to go! Hopefully, I could do it on my own down the road.

My next project will be to try out a recipe which a friend recently developed for egg-free, pareve ice cream. I'm aiming to make it this shabbos, but it might not get done, so we'll have to see.

For dinner tonight: Sweet and Sour Meatballs (This is a recipe which I waited for over a year to get from a friend, and I finally have the time to make it. Here's hoping I can make it as good as she did!)

Be well, everyone!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Photographic evidence!



This week I decided to try making more of those lime meltaway cookies from last week, but this time I made them without the zest and with the right amount of sugar. And guess what! Turns out the zest adds something after all. Don't get me wrong, they're still decent cookies, but without the zest they lack a certain...well...zest. I did, however, manage to take pictures this time (See above ^_^)

I also made a second batch of these cookies which used almond extract instead of lime juice. Now, since almond extract has a much stronger flavor than lime juice, I decided to use only 1 tablespoon instead of 2. I don't think the flavor came through too well, though. I might try using more next time.



I'll update this post on Sunday when the votes are in from the rest of the family.

Oh, and good news! I left two logs of dough in the freezer to bake later, when my brother and sister-in-law are in town. That way they can have some fresh from the oven. You're welcome! :oP

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My sister's engaged! And I baked more cookies!

Well, if you haven't heard yet (and I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog has heard) my wonderful big sister, Rachel, is engaged! :oD You can read the FAQ about the engagement here.

Needless to say, we're all very excited. But my excitement over the engagement doesn't keep me from baking. Last week, I forgot to blog about the gingersnaps I made. The recipe is from David Leibovitz, Chez Panisse Gingersnaps I didn't take any pictures of the cookies, but they looked pretty much like he pictures them. These were my first attempt at "icebox" cookies. I was surprised to find that after about an hour in the frechallaezer, the cookies still smushed instead of slicing cleanly, like I'd anticipated. It didn't effect the outcome of the cookie, which was delicious. So much so that I didn't even care that they were crunchy! They were also VERY easy to make. If you read his blog post about them, that was the exact point of the recipe.

This week, I made Key Lime Meltaway Cookies from Smitten Kitchen. I decided to make these when I found the recipe using the "surprise me" button on the blog. The pictures looked so amazing and the recipe sounded so simple and delicious I really just felt like I had to make them. Once again, I failed to get pictures of them, but they came out just like the ones on SK.

Two things about making these cookies:
1) Using a zester is probably a better idea than zesting limes with a peeler. It took a very long time (about 30 minutes or so) just to zest the limes and then I had to chop the zest. Next time, I'll have a zester.
2) Pay very close attention to the instructions. While it lists 1 cup of confectioner's sugar in the ingredients, you're only supposed to use 1/3 cup in the cookies. The rest are for coating them after baking. I made the mistake of putting in the full cup and spent a bit of time wondering if I should start over, triple the recipe or just pretend it didn't happen. I decided on the latter and, fortunately, it didn't seem to make a difference. Or maybe it did. Who knows?


Now, I think my grandmother said it best when describing these cookies: "As Sara's friends say, these are 'awesome!'"

They really are phenomenal cookies. My father suggested trying them as almond cookies, lemon cookies, or any other fun kind of cookie. I think I will at some point. But as lime cookies, they really are something special. My only recommendation is to leave them in the freezer quite a bit longer than an hour. Maybe overnight? That way they'll slice much better. I'll make the dough on Thursday night next time. Maybe I'll make a little extra to keep in the freezer for those cravings, like the blog recommends. ;)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grilled Chicken Wraps with Grilled Veggies



For a while now, I've been wondering how my George Foreman grill would handle veggies, like zucchini and peppers. So today, on a whim, I decided to find out. I sent Yaakov to the store this morning to get chicken fillets, zucchini, yellow squash, a red bell pepper, a purple onion and some mushrooms.



After seasoning and grilling the chicken, and grilling all the veggies, I put everything on a plate and served it with various spreads (chummus, schug, mayo, pesto, etc.) and tortillas so that everyone (that being the huz, my brother and myself) could put together their own wraps. This seems to have worked out well. Everyone enjoyed it and it was filling and relatively healthy. If you want to really rev up the health factor, it might be smarter to make it a salad instead of a wrap considering that tortilla wraps add calories, carbs, sodium and fat that you don't really need. But they also add flavor, depth and fun, so I'm all for them.

To assemble these guys, put a tortilla down on a dry plate. Put your spread directly on the tortilla, focusing on the middle (I used roasted red pepper chummus on mine). Lay a few strips of grilled chicken right down the middle leaving about an inch on the bottom and top of the tortilla (see the picture below). Add on the grilled veggies, keeping it all in the middle and continuing to leave room at the top. Be careful not to overstuff! If you put too much in the middle, you won't be able to fold it. When you're ready, fold down the top and bottom parts over the filling and then bring in the sides, being careful not to push the top and bottom flaps out. It takes some practice, but it's not too hard once you get used to it.



Carefully slice the wrap down the middle for the best presentation. Eat and enjoy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blog Roll

I just went ahead and added a blog roll on the right side. I don't read all of them so regularly, and I certainly don't cook recipes from all of them, but I like the pictures. Plus, even if I can't cook everything on every blog, I can dream, can't I?

I think I've decided that after this upcoming semester, I'm going to see if I can't convince my parents and grandmother to get together and buy me this. It's a Canon EOS Rebel XS. It's not the newest model (which means it's cheaper) but I think it would still be a very good starter dSLR and I really want to take a photography class in the Spring. (Seems like a very good time to take it, no?)

That's all for now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh, Lord, So Many Cookies!

So, I'm sitting here right now, about two hours before I want to light candles for shabbos, eating the scraps left over from my Wednesday night lo mein. I spent the majority of my day today baking cookies for my dear friend's shabbos kallah. Don't worry, I didn't bake 12 dozen cookies alone. I had my lovely assistant, Diana, to help me out. (Hi, Diana!)

First we made a big batch of my staple sugar cookies from Joy of Cooking. I accidentally made the cookies a little too big, so the dough didn't go as far as I would have liked. We got closer to 45 cookies instead of the 60 I usually get.

But all's well because I made a very nice sized batch of oatmeal cookies with craisins and chocolate chips. They look delicious and I can't wait to watch people eat them!

The last cookies I made were an Idea I got last shabbos when my dad brought some cookies home from a kiddush. One of them was chocolate with what I first assumed to be white chocolate chunks. After eating them, though, it turned out to be marshmallows. Suddenly, I knew I had to make rocky road cookies. For the base cookie dough, I searched all over the interwebs for an easy chocolate fudge cookie recipe. Easiest one I found? Cake mix cookies. Take a box of cake mix, add 1/2 a cup of oil and 2 eggs, bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. I used a devil's food cake mix and added in marshmallows and walnuts. The first batch came out a little ugly because I just plopped the cookie dough onto the baking sheet and when the marshmallows melted it just made a mess. A very tasty mess. A mess that I will proudly serve at the shabbos kallah because it was absolutely amazing. The next batch, however, I rolled the dough into balls before putting them on the baking sheet and they came out slightly less ugly. They looked more like cookies and less like...well...let's just say they looked nicer.


Rocky Road Cookies


Oatmeal and sugar cookies. For the record, these are gallon sized zip-lock bags.


More oatmeal cookies

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Homemade Lo Mein

I'm trying to get in the habit of planning my weekly meals when I shop. I started it last week and I'm continuing this week. So my menu this week was/is as follows:

Sunday night: we went to a BBQ
Monday night: We ate at my parents' (before posting this entry, I previewed it and it's a good thing because I discovered that this said, "We ate my parents." Which, I assure you, we didn't do.)
Tuesday night: Grilled chicken and green beans
Wednesday night (tonight): Lo Mein
Thursday night: Hamburgers
Shabbos: No plans yet. ~shrug~

So tonight is lo mein night. I've always been a fan of lo mein but never really tried making it, which is silly since I've just discovered how easy it is. I got the idea to do it when I was emailing my sister-in-law last week. She had read the post on the pesto chicken and pasta salad I made and was excited to try it until my brother told her he doesn't like pesto. I think I knew that...
Anyway, I suggested she use sauted mushrooms, garlic and ginger along with the chicken, use long noodles (like spaghetti, angel hair, etc.) and toss it all with soy sauce instead of pesto. I'd never made it before, but it sounded tasty in my head. So I decided I'd make it this week.

It was very tasty. Much better than restaurant lo mein, imho, because it wasn't greasy like restaurant lo mein. It took me 10-15 minutes to throw together and was a filling, delicious dinner. The following recipe is made up of the things I had on hand. If you don't have sausages or chicken, you can use any other protein you want. I don't think fish would be a good idea, but you can do tofu, leftover chicken from soup, beef, or oriental veggies (like snow peas, water chestnuts, baby corn, etc).

Homemade Lo Mein

1 package long, round noodle pasta (like spaghetti, angel hair, etc.)
1/2 8 ounce package of mushrooms, sliced
2 Hot sausages, cut into chunks
1 grilled chicken breast fillet, cut into chunks
1-2 cloves of garlic (depending on your personal preference), thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, diced
(OR - 1 tsp dry ground ginger)
Soy sauce, to taste


1. Cook your pasta according to package directions.
2. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the mushrooms and garlic for about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add in the chicken and sausage chunks and the ginger root/ground ginger. Continue sautéing until it looks yummy.
4. After draining pasta, mix the sautéed ingredients into the noodles along with the soy sauce.
5. Eat and enjoy. :)


See? Quick and easy dinner.<3

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ultimate Challah Success

Some of you may remember that last week I made a challah recipe given to me by my friend's chosson. I mentioned that I wanted to try it with more yeast and sugar and maybe some vanilla. Well, that's what I did tonight. I added 1/2 cup of sugar, used the whole packet of yeast instead of 1 tsp, added 1/4 cup of honey and a tablespoon of vanilla. I also added extra water and flour in an attempt to use enough flour to say a bracha on separating the challah, but since I wasn't sure if I used enough in the end, I just didn't say it. (Though, in retrospect, I probably did use enough. It was about 11-13 cups and I'm pretty sure it was most of a 5 pound bag, but because I hadn't paid close enough attention to be sure, I didn't want to take chances.)

Result? The most amazing challah I have ever made (ever!) with only slightly more effort than last time (because the dough was stickier) and quite possibly the best challah I have ever eaten. I consider this a work of art. Granted, I ate a roll fresh out of the oven. I still don't know if it will be that amazing when it's cold. Still, I think I've perfected my challah recipe. With practice, I suspect it'll keep getting easier. My goal: make this challah twice a month for the duration of the summer and preferably make sure to use enough flour to make a bracha!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pesto, Presto!

Earlier this week, I found a recipe that caught my eye for two reasons: 1) Delicious looking picture and 2) The instructions consisted of one line. "Mix together all ingredients and serve." How could I resist? I'll tell you. I couldn't.

The recipe was for Chicken, pesto and pasta salad. Sounds amazing, right? Click the link. Really. See that picture? Yeah, it was just as good as it looks. :)

So, the minute I saw it, I determined I was going to make it sometime this week. I planned out the week's dinners and decided that Wednesday would be a good night to experiment. So I bought pasta and chicken at 7-Mile Market, but couldn't find pesto. I tried Shoppers, too, with no luck. I was worried I might have to break out my food processor and make it from scratch (heavens, no!!) until my father gave me the idea to check out Giant, where I pretty much never shop. I'm thinking I might have to start shopping there because they have pretty much everything. And they had kosher, parve pesto. Right in the kosher food aisle. I was so excited that I bought two jars AND a small can of black olive rings.

I hurried home and got the chicken ready. The recipe calls for any ol' chicken, but I went for some grilled chicken fillets which I rubbed down with salt, pepper and some random poultry seasoning I had in the cabinet before grilling on the old George Foreman. The rest was as easy as the recipe makes it sound. Mix and serve. (Note: I omitted the pine nuts because I didn't have any.)

It was delicious, filling and easy to make. So, we can call it a success and add it to our regular menu. :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chocholate Peanut Butter Cake

I just realized that I failed to report on the chocolate peanut butter cake I made for shavuos. First, so as not to keep you in suspense, I will tell you that it was a very yummy cake. However, it was a lot more trouble then it was worth, and it didn't turn out quite how I imagined it would. In my head, it was going to be a giant Reese's Cup. In reality, it was a cake that was very peanut-buttery (and a bit dry) with a frosting that was also very peanut-buttery, and neither were very sweet. The redeeming value was the chocolate sauce, which played off the peanut butter in that way that only chocolate can. But really, there was just way too much peanut butter and not nearly enough chocolate for my taste.

My key problem with this cake was assembly. Icing, stacking and glazing the cakes was a real pain, especially because I didn't remember to let the glaze cool before pouring it over the cake, so it kind of just slopped all over the place making a huge (delicious) mess. I think if I were to make this again, I would bake it in a 9x13 pan, leave off the icing, and just pour on the glaze. I think that would be the best way to do it, both for simplicity and flavor.

Okay, now that I've rectified that and you're all well informed about more of my baking misadventures, I can sleep easy. :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Success at last!

Over the past few years, I've had pretty bad experiences with challah making. The first recipe I ever tried was taught to me by a good friend, and makes a really delicious challah, but is utterly exhausting to make. Each time I attempted to make this recipe, I felt that nothing was worth that kind of work. I tried out several recipes in a breadmaker which I was given for my wedding, but they never really came out right, and I would get frustrated and end up, once again, exhausted and just feeling I was better off with store-bought challah.

Now, a few weeks ago, The Huz and I went to a friend's house for shabbos dinner, and her fiancé had baked some pretty good challahs. He informed me that it contained only 5 ingredients (water, sugar, yeast, oil, and flour) so I asked for the recipe. So, yesterday morning, I set out to bake challah, feeling a little hopeful. What I found was that this recipe was both simple and tasty. I proofed the yeast, and mixed in the flour using my Kitchenaid stand mixer until it started to form a dough that I could knead. I removed it to a floured surface and kneaded it, adding flour and water as necessary until it got the right texture. The only setback I experienced was when I went to check on it at the end of the first rising, and found that it hadn't risen. I put it in a warmer place (on top of the back burner [which was off, but acts as a vent for the oven, so it gets pretty warm]) where it apparently started to cook a little. Other than that, the challahs came off without a hitch. I brought them to my parents' house, and everyone seemed to like them a lot.

I declare them a success.

I intend to make them again next week, only I'm going to make the recipe a little bigger, add more sugar and yeast and maybe a little vanilla, just to see what happens. I'll let you know how they turn out. :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

More cookies and even some chicken this time!

So, ok, it's been a while. On the bright side, I finished my paper and my semester is rapidly coming to an end. I have two finals next week and then I can relax and enjoy my shavuos.

In big news, Hubert grew his first sprout! I tried to get some pictures, but I couldn't get them to come out right. They're all blurry. Let's just say, Yaakov and I are very excited! :)

Nothing else too exciting is going on, so we'll move onto food now. (mmm...food...)



Last week, I baked some more cookies, this time trying out oatmeal cookies. I thought it would be interesting to take the recipe on the side of the oat canister and see if what would happen if I substituted 3/4 cups of oil for 1 cup of margarine. I think I should have used more oil, though, because the cookies came out pretty crisp (which everyone but me seemed to enjoy). They were very tasty though, especially when they first came out of the oven and were still gooey. I mixed in some chocolate chips and craisins instead of raisins and walnuts, because that just sounded yummier. I plan to try them again today, this time with more oil.

Now, my big fun over the past couple of weeks was meat related. I've been breaking out my George Foreman recently with delicious results. Last week, I made some hamburgers that came out so juicy and yummy. They were the most amazing burgers ever. Here's what I put in them: diced onion, bread crumbs, egg and homemade sauce (ketchup, worschester sauce, hot sauce, garlic duck sauce, soy sauce, and a little liquid smoke). Mix it all together, make patties, and throw them on the grill. Now here's the key: I watched them very carefully to avoid letting them get overcooked like I've tended to do in the past. I wanted them just a little bit rare, to maintain juiciness and flavor. While I grilled them, I also grilled some purple onion and some large slices of mushroom. The sandwiches were heavenly. :)



This week, I decided to grill some chicken I'd had in the freezer for a bit. I defrosted them in the fridge over night, then prepared them and marinated them overnight in a honey sauce (honey, soy sauce, olive oil, fresh ground black pepper and garlic powder), turning them once during the next day, then I grilled them on Wednesday night. They came out so yummy! The texture wasn't exactly juicy, because they were grilled chicken fillets, but it wasn't dry either. They were just...good...and healthy. My only regret is that the only side dish I had for them was baked potato wedges with cajun seasoning instead of some kind of yummy vegetable.

Last night, though, I made a stir-fry. Tons of green crunchy veggies (snow peas, green beans, broccoli, scallions) mushrooms and onions, stir fried with tofu (marinated in soy sauce) and served on tortillas. Yum! Still have leftovers, too. I'll be eating them for lunch today.

Now, here's my big plan. I found a recipe for a peanut butter cake with a chocolate glaze and I'm now completely determined to make it for shavuot. And I will. Because it looks amazing and decadent and oh-so fattening but oh-so worth it.

So there you have it. I will, iy"H, return with more food adventures next week. :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cookies, cakes, soup, school and papers!

So, I'm sitting here right now watching the very very psychedelic screensaver on my netbook, eating some butternut squash soup, and trying to stall with my paper-writing. You know how sometimes, your final paper sounds so easy, you think it must be a trick. Surely your teacher doesn't actually just want you to summarize large sections of your textbook. Surely she wants us to use deep insight to apply the concepts to real life circumstances. But no. She really does want exactly what she asks for. Now I just have to stop wasting time and write it!

My semester is slowly but surely winding to an end. This semester has been, well, let's not call it easy, but certainly not a challenge. As a result, the last 3 weeks of the semester which are usually characterized by cursing, crying, and desperately wishing it could all be over are looking to be pretty calm. I have this paper due in about 2-ish weeks, (then a wedding in Lakewood) then I have two finals, then a sweet summer break.

This summer is going to be very nice. I'll be working all summer, but because I won't have any classes, I should be able to work out the occasional day off where I can go to DC or do other fun summer-y things. On top of that, my brother and my brand new sister-in-law will be coming to visit for possibly a whole month. Squee! ^_^

Next semester, I'll be taking Hebrew 201, Social Work 397 (the last one I need to take before I do my internship) and possibly a health administration class to fill my "human biology" requirement (unless I can convince someone that the human biology class I took in CCBC should be accepted for it).

As for more current events, I've been baking pretty regularly the past few weeks. Last week I baked a really delicious vanilla cake from a recipe given to me by my friend, Aviva. This week, I was thinking of baking it again to get rid of the Coffee Rich in my fridge before it goes bad when I had the sudden urge to make cookies instead. I thought, "I just want a basic cookie recipe. Nothing fancy." So I went to my "reference" cookbook, The Joy of Cooking.

Now, before I go on, I should mention that I rarely use Joy because it's so big that it's a little overwhelming trying to pick out a recipe. As a result, I've never made anything from it. I use it to get general ideas for how to make basic things. I used it once to learn how to make a glaze. That may have been the only time I ever opened it before Friday. Now I'm really sorry I didn't get into it sooner, mainly because the layout is so much simpler to understand. Instead of listing ingredients and then directions, it incorporates them (as you'll see below). It makes the recipe easier to follow, somehow. The ingredients are bolded, so you can still pick them out and collect them beforehand, but when you're actually preparing everything, you don't have to keep referring back to the ingredients list, or wondering, "Wait, how much flour do I add for this step?"

Anyway, this time, I opened to the cookie section and pretty quickly found myself in a sub-section entitled "Drop Cookies." Those are my favorite. Do you know why? Because they're easy. No refrigerating or rolling. No filling. Nothing fancy. Just mix ingredients and plop them on a cookie sheet. Also, it's easy to make drop cookies come out soft and chewy, which is the way I like them. I've never been a fan of the crunchy cookie.

Well, the moment I saw the words "Sugar Drop Cookies" I immediately knew I'd have to make them. I had all the listed ingredients at hand, and it was so straightforward. How could it go wrong?

The result? Sixty-seven delicious, adorable, sugary, easy-to-make cookies with just the right softness to please just about anyone.



Sugar Drop Cookies

Yields about 60 2 1/2 inch cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees farenheit. Lightly grease or line 2 cookie sheets.

Sift together:
2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (you can do less)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon grated/ground nutmeg


Combine or mix to blend in a large bowl:
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup vegetable oil


Add one at a time, beating well after each addition:
2 eggs

Add:
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and beat well.
Shape the dough into 1/2 inch balls and dip them into:
sugar
and place about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets, or flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, about 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Let stand briefly then remove to cooling racks.


I hope you guys like these as much as I do. Between myself, Yaakov, and my parents, we finished these off in record time. :)

My favorite part about these (other than the taste, texture, shape, and everything else) is that they're made with oil instead of margarine. I really don't like working with margarine. Mixing it into a dough usually requires the use of a mixer, and that's just more equipment to clean. When it comes to cookies, I like something I can easily mix with a fork.

B'te'avon!