Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Orange Pepper Tofu

I have recently discovered the Kroger near me. On my last shopping trip, I found a brick of my favorite tofu brand (Nasoya Organic) for 88 cents because the expiration date was five days away. This is the tofu that's almost $4 at Whole Foods. Score!

1 brick extra firm tofu
1 red onion
1 each red, yellow, green bell pepper
1 Anaheim pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
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2 TBSP good horseradish mustard
juice of two oranges, with some pulp
1/4 soy sauce
1/4 seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin

Cut tofu into 1" blocks, coat in oil and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, depending on oven. Turn half way through.

Slice all veggies into 1/4" slices. Be sure to remove seeds and ribs from peppers.

Juice oranges, adding mustard, soy, vinegar, cinnamon, and cumin. Mix well with whisk.

Saute peppers and onion on high for five minutes. Add tofu and saute for another two minutes. Add sauce and toss well. Use 1 TBSP cornstarch mixed with 1 TBSP of water to thicken sauce.

Serve immediately over steamed rice.

Notes:

I have recently discovered that baking tofu gives a nicer texture and makes the tofu easier to saute. You may want to double the sauce and marinate the tofu overnight before baking. I've said before I have a wacky oven. The temperature is dead on, but for some reason stuff takes longer to cook. You're baking this until the tofu is golden brown and crispy on the top and bottom.

This came out spicer than I was expecting, but I like it. In Googling chile pepper varieties to jog my memory about the kind I used here, I found this database. Impressive!

I only had a grainy, deli mustard on hand. It has a nice horseradish quality to it. If you have a real Chinese yellow mustard, you may want to reduce the amount to 1 TBSP since they are usually more potent.

I am not a fan of five-spice powder. If you are, skip the cinnamon and cumin and use that instead.

The Chinese typically use peanut oil for stir-fry, since it has a much higher smoke point that other oils.

This is so good, I'm going back for seconds.

Fall Harvest Ravioli

This was inspired by a pack of mixed mushrooms at the Kroger. I saw them and instantly thought "ravioli!" As usual, the end result is far different from what I pictured, but very tasty all the same.

4 oz. mixed mushrooms I used oyster, shiitake, and white button
1 small apple, peeled
1 small fennel bulb
1/4 cup red onion
2 cloves garlic
12-15 fresh sage leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
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1 egg
15 oz. whole milk ricotta
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
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1 package small wonton wrappers


Rough chop all ingredients. Don't worry how it looks, you're going to whiz it up in the food processor when it's cooked. Saute until soft, transfer to food processor and puree until fairly smooth. Mix egg, ricotta, salt and pepper together in bowl. Add mushroom mixture and mix well.

Lay out wonton wrappers on cutting board, working with a few at a time so they don't dry out. Place about a tablespoon of filling on a wonton square. Wet the sides of wonton and top with a second square. Press out air and press edges well to seal. Repeat untill all filling is used.

In pot of salty water, boil ravioli until they float to top. Drain and serve with sauce of choice.


Notes:

The filling has a delicate flavor, so I am imagining this served with a light sauce, like a white wine cream or a slightly thickened vegetable broth. I think it would be lost to a red sauce or a heavy alfredo.

I think I used a Gala apple. I bought a bag of apples for lunches and tossed out the bag when I brought them home. Use an "eating" apple rather than a "cooking" apple. In other words, stay away from Granny Smith or any other tart apple.

Even for those watching their weight, use the whole milk ricotta. It doesn't have that much more fat or calories than the skim milk variety but it does have a better flavor.

If you are adding the mushroom mix to the ricotta and egg while still hot, be sure to mix the egg and ricotta very well. You don't want scrambled egg ravioli. Well, maybe you do, but not here.

When making ravioli, you want the filling to be pretty smooth so that nothing pokes out of the pasta.

If you want to make your own pasta dough for this, knock yourself out. Me? I couldn't be bothered tonight. I feel okay with using the wonton wrappers since Giada did it on her show a couple weeks ago. If she says it's okay, then it's okay.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Here's Johnny!

It would appear that I have some new visitors here at Chez Meg In The Kitchen. Welcome one and all! I actually have another blog that I update more frequently. I haven't been cooking that much in the past few days, except for some baking therapy. I got some bad work news this week. You know, that news we're all hoping to not get, especially this time of year.

Fear not, loyal foodies! I have a lovely fennel and mushroom ravioli I plan on making tonight. Or maybe a pepper tofu stir fry.

Flying Biscuit Cafe

Flying Biscuit Cafe

I'm not normally one for chain restaurants, but I have to tell you how excited I am about this. I love breakfast food, especially at non-breakfast times of the day. I'm not sure when it opens, but it'll be in Cameron Village which is a 10 minute walk from my apartment. The menu looks great. I am pleased to see so many vegetarian choices, especially on the menu of a (smaller) national chain. Has anyone been to a Flying Biscuit?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Commercial break here too!

Just to let you know I'm going to take a few days off. See you soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 small white onion
2 small carrots
3 ribs of celery
12 oz. mushrooms
1 small acorn squash
1 large baking potato
1 quart 2% milk
2 cups half and half
1 tbsp butter (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel carrots, potato, and acorn squash. Chop all veggies into even 1/2" pieces. Saute in large stock pot with olive oil for 10 minutes. Add milk, half and half and butter. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. When all veggies are soft, whiz up with stick blender until smooth.

Notes:
You could season with fresh sage, marjoram or oregano, if you had any. I did not. I was also going for a fast and simple mushroom soup.

The potato thickens this allowing you to use the lower fat dairy products, rather than the traditional whole milk and cream.

Leave out the acorn squash for a more traditional mushroom soup.

Keep a watchful eye on this. If you burn dairy in or on the stove, the only solution usually is to buy another pot or stove. It makes an awful mess.

Chocolate Crackles

When I get sick, I crave two things. Kettle cooked potato chips and chocolate cookies. These are the cookies I crave. A little crunchy on the outside, a little soft on the inside. I think what I like most about this recipe is that you have everything you need to make these cookies in your kitchen right now.

Many years ago, when I was working in professional kitchens, my aunt and uncle gave me a cookbook called Light Cooking. It doesn't seem to be written by anyone in particular, and it uses ingredients by Dannon, Dole, Borden, and many other household brands. It includes some nutritional information at the end of each recipe. Since not everyone (read: my family) wants to try Olive Lemon Cookies, this is a nice option for healthier stuff that everyone will like. This might be my favorite cookie. Observe:


You can see where this is going, right? I only took 2 dozen of these to the swap. I got about 3 dozen out of this recipe, which claims to make 4 dozen. My first batch were definitely a bit too big.

Chocolate Crackles (yield 4 dozen), from Light Cooking
-----------------------------------------------
1/3 cup Crisco vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees

2. Combine Crisco oil, granulated sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Beat a medium speed of electric mixer until blended. Add egg and egg whites. Beat until well blended. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt with spoon.

3. Place powdered sugar in a shallow dish or plastic food storage bag.

4. Shape dough into 1" balls. Roll or shake in powdered sugar until coated. Place about 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes or until almost no indention remains when touched lightly. (Do not overbake.) Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes before moving to cooling rack.

Nutrients per serving (1 cookies):
60 calories
2g fat
5mg cholesterol
35 mg sodium

Notes:

I always use parchment paper for baking. I hate silicon baking mats. They don't work as well as parchment, they are hard to clean and hard to store. Many people like them. More power to them, but I'm old school. That's how I roll.

Olive Lemon Cookies

I had a tough day at work a couple weeks ago, so I amused myself by brainstorming sweet-savory cookie recipes. One idea I had was a cookie with oil-cured olives, herbes de Provence, and lemon. I thought it should have honey in it, maybe some brown sugar. Imagine my delight and surprise when Gourmet published their favorite cookie recipes online and included this fine specimen, the Honey Refrigerator Cookie. Rather than take the time to experiment, which I did not have with a cookie swap looming on the horizon, I figured I would just modify that recipe. With some good luck, it worked out well. There were many people both at work and the swap party who claimed to not like olives but they loved these cookies. At some point, I will play around and create my own recipe, but for now this recipe works well. You are free to use this recipe, however please be sure to give Gourmet some credit.

I am proud to report that everyone who tried these cookies raved about them!

Olive Lemon Cookies (yield about 4 dozen cookies)
------------------------------------
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 2 lemons
1 tbsp dried herbes de Provence, finely minced
1/2 cup minced oil-cured olives (smaller, wrinkly kind)
-------------------
juice of one lemon
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add honey, brown sugar, and shortening to mixing bowl and cream. Add egg and mix until combined. Sift flour, soda and salt and add to wet ingredients. Add lemon zest, herbes, and olives to wet ingredients and mix all until combined. Shape the dough into a roll about 1 1/2" in diameter. Allow the dough to ripen for a day or two in the refrigerator. Freeze for one hour before you slice with a very sharp knife. Slightly reshape into rounds and bake for about 10 minutes, depending on oven, or until cookie is slightly golden on edges. Underbake these slightly.

Mix lemon juice and powdered sugar to make glaze. When cookies are cooled, drizzle glaze and let dry. Explain to your friends these cookies aren't as weird as they think. Enjoy.



Notes:

My oven temperature is spot on, but it seems to be a little slow, unless my oven and oven thermometer are in cahoots. Things always seem to take a little longer to bake. Bake one or two cookies first to get an idea of how wacky your oven might be.

Olives are salty. Really salty. I highly recommend that you soak your olives in cold water for a couple hours ahead of time. Also, be sure the olives you buy are just oil cured olives, no fancy pants marinade. If they do have some crazy marinade, soak for a couple more hours.

The Gourmet recipe calls for a hot oven, 400 degrees and 10-12 minutes. My first batch was overcooked.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The cookie swap was a success.

How do I know? Because I really, really need to brush my teeth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Consider yourself warned!

Ten things you will never, ever see on this food blog. Ever.

Seriously, you've been warned.

Hordeum vulgare is a superfood!

I've been all about barley lately. As in, I can't get enough. I had no time this morning to make lunch this morning, so I threw the left over barley, frozen peas, and frozen spinach into a container and hit it with a little homemade Italian herb dressing. I expected this to provide nothing more than enough calories to sustain me until I got home. Wrong. It was tasty. And it prompted me to do a search on line for barley. I found this page on the Whole Foods website. As it turns out, it's packed full of goodness, like copper and selenium, helps regulate blood sugar very well, has tons of fiber, and can lower cholesterol better than oats. Yay barley!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Chacon Chip Cookies

1 recipe Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, prepared according to directions

1 pack, or 18 oz, Black Forest Dry Rubbed Salt Cured bacon (minus the three pieces that I ate before I made cookies)
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Cook bacon in oven on 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. It's important to cook the bacon pretty well done, but not burned. Cut off any burned bits or extra fatty pieces. Chop bacon into 1/4" dice.
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When you get to the point where you add the chocolate chips to the dough, add the bacon also. Mix just until combined.

Bake according to directions on the chocolate chip bag.


Notes:

First of all, if you're going to make a chocolate chip cookie, don't mess around. Just use the Toll House recipe. It's the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Don't be fooled by imitations. If you don't have the Toll House recipe, let me know and I'll add it here.

I didn't buy butter because I had a ton of shortening already. I used butter flavored Crisco in place of the butter.

I had a hard time finding a good bacon to use. Most of the bacon I found were too fatty. Don't get me wrong, bacon fat has it's place, but I wanted a meatier bacon for the cookies. (Move over bacon, now there's something meatier!) (Sizzlean, anyone?) (Sorry.)

I settled on this Black Forest bacon for a couple reasons. One, it was meatier than the others. Two, the girl in the Whole Foods meat department (who thinks I'm crazy) suggested this might work better. She said the rub on the bacon was sweeter than the others. I was actually leaning towards the applewood smoked bacon. I got this Black Forest kind instead, which I am assuming has a seasoning like a Black Forest ham, which is tasty.

I spoke to a friend who has a friend who makes chocolate covered bacon. I understand that through trial and error he has discovered that the smoked bacon doesn't work quite so well. In this case, I think I just got lucky and picked the right kind of bacon. While this bacon won't be my first choice for breakfast, I will definitely use it for these cookies again.

I think I'm Kristina's new BFF!!!!

Okay so the bacon chocolate chip cookies are, like, so freaking good, I'm beside myself! Seriously, I'll post details later. You have to try this. If you eat bacon, that is.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gourmet Magazine Favorite Cookies

Go here for recipes from Gourmet Magazine. They've reprinted their favorite cookie recipes from the past 60 plus years. There are some really great recipes here. I think the Honey Refrigerator Cookies might work well as a base for my Provence Olive Cookies I'm making this weekend for the cookie swap next week. Details to come!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rigatoni with Broccolini and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 bunch broccolini, cut into 1" pieces
2 TBSP sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut in to 1/2" cubes
1/2 bag dried rigatoni pasta
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta in large pot in very salty water. (Salt=flavor people!)

Add olive oil to large saute pan, when hot, add broccolini and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. When pasta is al dente, drain and add to pan with broccolini. Add mozzarella and toss all ingredients together.

Notes:
If you can't find broccolini, you could certainly substitute regular broccoli. If you use a whole head of broccoli, you may want to double the other ingredients.

I like my cooked broccoli and broccolini to be a little crunchy. You may want to cook this a little more.

This reheats very well. It should give about 4 servings for me.

Don't add your garlic, crushed red pepper or sun-dried tomatoes to the oil before the broccolini or they will burn.

I used oil cured sun-dried toms here and added a little of the oil to the pan for cooking. You could use any kind of sun-dried toms here.

I love rigatoni pasta because I think you get a lot of bang for your buck. It's a big pasta, which means I can eat a little less and be satisfied.

The Italian school of thought on cooking pasta is that it should be boiled in water that tastes like the sea. That's a bit much for me, but pasta does typically need a lot of salt to taste like anything.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Foxy Moron's Egg Casserole

Here you go, Foxy, something to do with all of those eggs!

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed well
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1/2 log goat cheese, about 4 ounces
12 fresh eggs
1 1/3 cup cream
olive oil
~ 1 tsp each salt & pepper

Saute shallot and fresh spinach in saute pan until spinach is wilted. Drain well and add to generously oiled casserole dish, spreading evenly. Crumble goat cheese evenly into the bottom of the casserole onto spinach. Break all twelve eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add cream. Mix with a stick blender for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach and goat cheese mixture. Poke into egg mixture anything that bobs to the top. Bake on 350 degrees, about 45 minutes, or until center is set and edges are browned.

Notes:
Cooked spinach is W-E-T wet! Drain well so you don't get a soupy, eggy mess!

I prefer to crack them one at a time into a small bowl then add to the larger bowl. The first time you break a bad egg into a large bowl of prepared ingredients, you will too!

If you don't have a stick blender, know it's worth the investment. This step incorporates a lot of air and will make the eggs super light and fluffy.

For this, I used a clear, glass 2.75 quart pan, measuring 7 1/2" x 9 1/2" x 3". Your mileage may vary with a different pan. The deep dish worked great for this!

Barley Salad with Arugula

I made this dinner this evening. I've made it before, with inspiration from the Big Boss Beer Dinner at Zely+Ritz last month. This is great on it's own, or could be good with sliced grilled flank steak or even grilled shrimp if you're so inclined.

salad:
2 cups cooked pearl barley
4 cups fresh, washed baby arugula (or rocket, rocket lettuce)
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms, raw
----
dressing:
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar (seasoned is better than non-seasoned)
1/2 cup mushroom flavored soy sauce (regular soy could work too)
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Combine barley, mushrooms, and arugula in a large serving bowl.
Combine vinegar and soy in bowl, whisk in oil. Pour on salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

If you are going to make this ahead, reserve dressing on the side and combine before serving. To do so otherwise will wilt your arugula. :P Bleh.

Notes:
I like to cook the barley in a large pot with more water than necessary. I find it keeps the barley from becoming gluey.

If you use regular arugula, you may wish to tear in half to make it more manageable when served.

Shiitake mushrooms are best, but expensive. Cremini, or baby portobello, are good too.

Welcome to Meg In The Kitchen!

I don't plan on posting here daily, but you can expect for this to be more than sporadic. As inspiration hits me, I will bring you my recipes. If you chose to make them, please comment on the post with your thoughts, modifications and suggestions.

Enjoy!