Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quinoa Waldorf Salad (and a great corn salad, too!)

This past shabbos, I was expecting to have guests and was trying to plan a menu which would include the apples I had in my fridge. I was considering a waldorf salad, but it seemed too boring. Then it hit me: What if I made a waldorf salad...WITH QUINOA?! I know what you're thinking. "Woah, Sara! Don't go crazy now!"

But I made it.

And it was wonderful.

And you will love it, too.

Quinoa Waldorf Salad

Ingredients
  • 1 Cup uncooked Quinoa
  • 1 and 1/2 Cups apple juice
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cubed
  • 1/2 Cup Craisins
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • candied pecans (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pour the quinoa, juice and water into a saucepan and cook according to package directions.
  2. Let the quinoa cool, then mix the oil, vinegar and sugar and add to quinoa.
  3. Mix in all other ingredients. Eat and enjoy. :)

Corn Salad (Recipe from Talia)

Ingredients
  • 2 cans of yellow and/or white corn
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow or green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 purple onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 scallions (if you have them), chopped
  • 1/2 Cup vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup oil
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp pepper
Instructions
  1. Mix vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  2. Mix vegetables with dressing.
  3. Let it marinate (I marinated it overnight, but you could probably just marinate it for a few hours)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pumpkin Gnocchi (Kinda...)

Tonight for dinner, I decided to try out a recipe for making pumpkin gnocchi. Gnocchi is another one of those blogosphere fads that's going around right now (kind of like the flu) and it looks pretty easy compared to other pastas and also sounds really tasty.

I have never eaten gnocchi and have certainly never made it myself, but I decided to give it a try anyway as a starter recipe for pasta-type-food-things.

My experience with this recipe was kinda "eh." The result was tasty, but nothing truly phenomenal. The texture was soft when hot and pleasantly chewy when cold, but it really didn't impress me any more than just plain ol' pasta. It's definitely denser and more filling then regular pasta, and had that subtle pumpkin/nutmeg flavor, but it just really wasn't anything to write home about. Now granted, my dissatisfaction may have come from my reluctance to pair it with a fresh, homemade sauce. Many of the recipes for pumpkin gnocchi recommend using a brown butter sauce of some kind, but since Yaakov was fleishig and the thought of "brown margarine sauce" was just too awful to consider, I opted to just make the pasta and try it with various sauces already in my fridge (pasta sauce, parmesan cheese, etc.) or just eat it plain.

The other issue I had was in the actual process of making the gnocchi. The recipe calls for 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of flour and I found that until I had put in about 3 cups, the pasta dough really failed to come together as a proper dough. Even once I got it to a manageable point, it still seemed too sticky to work with. I just decided to use a very well floured surface and managed to form them into small dumplings that way. However, the dough was still too soft to properly roll out or to keep ridges. I just free-styled it after a bit and started making small shapes (like tortellini or just plain little dumplings) and it turned out alright.

So the question you're probably asking is, is it worth trying? It's hard to say, because I've never had pre-packaged gnocchi and I don't know if the dough was the texture it was meant to be or if I messed up somewhere. What I do know is that while it was slightly frustrating, it wasn't incredibly hard to make (the whole process took about an hour) and was tasty and unique. I'd say it might be worth a try if you're into that kind of thing, just for the experience.

Pumpkin Gnocchi taken from Closet Cooking

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups pumpkin/squash puree {I used canned pumpkin}
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups flour {This turned out to be three for me}
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg (optional)
  • {I added some ground allspice and cinnamon, too}
Instructions:
  1. If your pumpkin puree is really wet, simmer it in a sauce pan to dry it out a bit and then let it cool down. {I did not do this, which may have been my problem}
  2. Mix the egg yolk into the pumpkin puree.
  3. Mix the salt and nutmeg into the flour.
  4. Mix enough of the flour into the pumpkin puree to form a soft dough that is not too sticky to work with.
  5. Knead the dough for a minute and then roll it out into 4 long thin rolls about 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Cut the rolls into 1/2 inch pieces and then roll the pieces in flour lightly shaking off any excess.
  7. Roll the pieces over a gnocchi board or a fork to give them the ridges.
  8. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water in small batches until it floats to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, remove and set aside to drain.
  9. Use as desired.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

For a long time, I've been hunting for a simple, slightly sweet butternut squash soup recipe. After hunting for a while, finding recipes with obscure ingredients and trying others that came out too savory or, even worse, too bland, I decided to create my own recipe.

I took a look at some of the common ingredients used in these recipes and picked out some of my favorites, throwing in a few of my own along the way. I came up with the recipe below and tried it out tonight.

The soup came out just the way I like butternut squash soup to taste. It was just slightly sweet, a little bit savory, warm and creamy.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup
Yields: about 10 servings (depending on the size of your bowls)

Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced
  • 2 medium size carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 inch cube of ginger, sliced
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 C pineapple juice
  • 4 C water
  • 1 C Sweetened MimicCreme (or sweet soy milk or real cream)
Instructions:
  1. First put the olive oil into a soup pot and heat. Add in the onions and saute until translucent.
  2. Add in carrots, ginger, and parsnip and saute for about 4-5 minutes
  3. Add in Butternut Squash and continue to saute until it starts to soften (about another 4-5 minutes)
  4. Pour in water, pineapple juice and brown sugar.
  5. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.
  6. Take the soup off the heat and blend with an immersion blender (aka - stick blender) until all the lumps are gone.
  7. Add in MimicCreme (does not need to be a full cup. Do it to taste.) and mix it in.
  8. Serve and enjoy! :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Simple, Delicious, Non-Greasy Pizza

When you read as many food blogs as I do, you begin to notice food trends that everyone writes about. Around December, everyone is writing about gift-able recipes like cookies, fudge and various candies, all with seasonal ingredients incorporated in (like ginger, peppermint, etc.). You also notice non-seasonal food trends, like baking certain types of breads or utilizing newly popularized ingredients.

Right now, one of the popular trends seems to be homemade skillet (or pan) pizza. This style of pizza is made using a homemade dough and is cooked in a cast-iron skillet, often with toppings like olive oil, vegetables, marinara sauce, and sparse cheese. My theory is that these have been popularized by the recent movie, "Eat, Pray, Love" which featured a scene in which Julia Roberts ate just such a pizza.

Somewhere along my ramblings through the blogosphere in the past few weeks, I stumbled across a recipe for a pizza fitting the above description that appealed to me simply because the presentation was so beautiful. I have been hunting all over my usual haunts trying to find this post so I could share that picture with you, but I've been unsuccessful. :(

However, it inspired me to try it out for myself. Since I don't have a cast-iron skillet (and if I did, I'm not even sure I'd be able to lift it to the stove), I took out my non-stick frying pan. I knew from the start that this wouldn't quite work out the way I wanted it to, but I was honestly more interested in making the toppings work than in making the skillet idea work. So, in preparation for the inevitable failure of my frying pan method, I preheated my milchig convection oven.

I drizzled a small amount of olive oil in the pan (more for flavor than for lubrication since it was a non-stick pan) and started putting my toppings on. It quickly became apparent that, as I had feared, the bottom was going to cook and the toppings wouldn't even warm up. So I slid my pizza onto a spatula and moved it quickly to the oven to finish cooking. I decided to do this with each pizza because I found that when I allowed the crust to begin cooking in a pan, it was actually possible to transport it to my oven without it falling apart en route.

When they finished baking, the pizzas were delicious without being overly heavy or greasy. I wouldn't call it the healthiest dinner in the world, but it's certainly a step up from your average pizza, and you FEEL healthier when eating it.

That said, I would like to apologize for failing to get pictures. It was just too delicious to last that long!

Non-Greasy Pizza

Ingredients:
  • Homemade Pizza Dough (see here for my recipe)
  • 1/2 container of Ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 C mozzarella cheese
  • Basil (ideally fresh, but I only had dried and it worked)
  • Marinara Sauce (preferably one with basil and Tomato chunks)
  • Veggie toppings of your choice (I used canned corn, because it's what I had on hand. I recommend trying spinach, or similarly light toppings. Avoid imposing flavors like green olives)
Instructions:
  1. Roll out your dough to be no larger than your frying pan. (If necessary, portion out into smaller pizzas) I recommend rolling it out pretty thin since it will probably puff while baking.
  2. Mix the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses together.
  3. Drizzle a light amount of olive oil into your pan and begin warming it on the stove at a medium temperature.
  4. When the pan is warm, put your crust in the pan and begin topping it. Spread the sauce in the middle, going until 1/2 inch from the edge of the crust. Sprinkle some basil on top of the sauce, along with any toppings you choose, and place dollops of the cheese mixture around the pizza. Important! Do not put too much cheese on the pizza. You want to have the sauce showing through. Place the small dollops at least an inch apart from each other.
  5. Top with more basil.
  6. Using a spatula, remove the pizza from the pan. The crust should be partially cooked. Enough so that it won't fall apart when it is removed from the pan.
  7. Place the pizza into an oven at 425 degrees farenheit until the cheese and crust start to just brown around the edges. (5-10 minutes)
  8. Remove from the oven and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

My First Chocolate Fudge and Goals for 2011

A while back, I discovered a new substitution for heavy cream that, supposedly, can be used in any recipe where one would normally use cream. The ingredient is called Mimiccreme and is a non-dairy (and pareve) nut-based cream. Shortly after discovering it, I mentioned it to my father who checked it out online and discovered that their warehouse in Albany was changing the packaging for their sweetened version and as a result were selling the old packaging for a $1 per carton. Considering that this stuff usually sells for closer to $5 per carton, it was a no-brainer that if I planned on experimenting with this stuff, it would be useful to get it dirt cheap! So naturally, when I heard that my husband's uncle would be coming down to visit from Albany, I asked him to bring me a couple cases.

Unfortunately, the week he was supposed to come he got into a nasty car accident while driving through New Jersey. While he was fine, his car was destroyed (along with one of my poor containers of Mimiccreme), so the trip was postponed. However, he came in last week, delivering my 23 cartons of cream substitute and I was overjoyed! (Thanks, Uncle Richard!)

So now I was faced with a decision of what to make first. According to the website, the sweetened MimicCreme is similar to sweetened condensed milk and can be used to substitute in recipes calling for sweetened cream. Great!

My first stop was fudge!



Let me begin by saying that this was actually my second attempt at making fudge, but I don't count the first because I suspect the recipe I used was actually intended for making a hot fudge sauce (which is what it produced, to my dismay!) and never hardened. So for all intents and purposes, we'll call this my first attempt.

I used a recipe for basic, no-fail fudge from about.com. They have a photo tutorial, which is helpful. I went ahead and replaced the sweetened condensed milk with MimicCreme and left out the nuts. Other than that, I followed the recipe to a T.



The good news is, it produced a nice solid fudge. The bad news is, it was fantastically mediocre. The fudge was overly sweet (even The Huz felt it was sickening and has refused to touch it after day one) and was also pretty grainy. It just didn't turn out the way I remember the fudge experience.

The fun part of this is that a lot of the fudge crystalized on the sides and bottom of the pan. When I scraped this bits off the pan, I ended up with a nice crumb topping for my fudge.



Ultimately, it was okay fudge. Very "meh" but edible. I also found that after refrigerating it over night, the fudge tasted significantly better.


Okay, all that said, it's time for part II of this post.

My Goals For 2011
  1. Buy a pasta maker: This goal may sound small, since a basic, manual pasta machine can cost as little as $30, but I've been wanting this for a long time. The food blogs I read are constantly tantalizing me with recipes for homemade pasta which give you the opportunity to make pasta in whatever flavors you want. Pumpkin pasta? Yes, please! Sweet potato ravioli? You betcha! The problem is that it's one of those expenses I can just never justify. Why spend money on a pasta maker when there are more important things to spend it on?


  2. Make a perfect fudge: I think the reasoning here is obvious.


  3. Make homemade caramels: I keep seeing recipes for homemade caramels and they sound oh, so good! This year, I'll try it myself.


  4. Start seriously saving up for that dream camera: People have told me that the pictures I put on here are pretty good, but to be frank they could be a LOT better. I think that if I have the right equipment, I could really step this blog up a notch.


  5. Host more shabbos guests: The Huz and I are prone to going out for shabbos meals, mostly because I'm a little lazy about shabbos cooking, but also because most of my friends have kids and our apartment just isn't kid-proof. Part of this goal involves buying one or two baby-gates so my friends will feel more comfortable coming over.


  6. Get my webcomic moving: I've been talking about my webcomic for a while. It's time to get it going. I need to come up with ideas and story arcs and start drawing. Once I've got a solid archive built up, I can start posting them. The next step? Merchandising, of course!



Happy 2011 everyone!