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Monday, July 21, 2014

Rosemary Lemon Bars

So some of you may know and some of you may not...I am a part of a wonderful food group.  A friend from work and I met three other lovely ladies at a class we took discovering the food cultures of different Boston neighborhoods.  During that class we decided to continue to regroup for dinner parties in which we would all cook a dish that centered around the same main ingredient.  (Like Iron Chef, but the ingredient is not a secret, there is no real time constraint, and we don't need to cook on-site unless we need or want to.)  For the first dinner, we chose to use bacon for the reason of versatility to all courses as well as pure indulgent deliciousness.  I made this bacon potato pizza (which is awesome.)  By the end of that dinner party, we had already picked our next date and ingredient...citrus!

So yesterday was our Iron Chef citrus night.  It was amazing...these ladies can certainly cook.  Everything was truly delicious.  This was what our menu looked like...

Apps: Lemon Steamed Artichokes with Basil Lemon Cream Dipping Sauce
          Lemon and Grilled Onion Feta Dip
          Tilapia Ceviche

Main Course: Lemon Parmesan Crusted Chicken over a Pine Nut Arugula Salad with a Lemon Vinegarette

Dessert:  Key Lime Pie
              Rosemary Lemon Bars (these were mine!)

I stumbled upon this recipe a long time ago and placed it in my memory bank.  As soon as we decided citrus, I knew I was making this.  I have never attempted any lemon bar before, so I didn't have the slightest idea as to what to expect, but just the idea of rosemary in the crust of these made me need to find out.  They were awesome.  If you have a thing for lemon desserts and a sweet tooth, then you'll need to make these.  The rosemary is not overwhelming at all - it is extremely subtle and I think added the perfect special touch.  Try them out if you are looking for something different and love a good lemon bar.  Since I don't really eat lemon bars, I can't tell you how they compare as far as the sweetness level goes, but I compared it to other recipes and it seemed to use about the same ratios of sugar to egg and flour.

On a totally different note, I would have loved to take a different kind of photo of these.  They would have looked amazing with a dark background, but unfortunately, I already had packed away my slate board.  I didn't even have my cake pan to use for these because I had packed it up not thinking about making lemon bars at the time.  I had to buy a disposable tin to use instead.  I can't wait to be moved already!  I'm cooking my last meal in this house sad and happy at the same time.  My love of food and cooking blossomed in this house.

Rosemary Lemon Bars
recipe from Gimme Some Oven

for the crust:
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 24 small pieces
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon the flour into measuring cups and sweep off the excess)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt

for the filling:
6 eggs
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour (same as above)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9  x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, or grease with cooking  spray.  To make the crust, pulse all ingredients aside from the butter together in a food processor until combined.  Then add the butter and process until a crumbly dough has formed.  Remove the dough and press into the bottom of prepared baking pan in a flat layer.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.  Remove and set aside.  While the crust bakes, make the filling...Whisk together all of filling ingredients until there are no longer any lumps.  Then, once the crust is done, pour it over pre-baked crust.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until filling is set in center (mine took 30 minutes.)  Remove bars and let cool to room temperature.  Then refrigerate for another 2 hours before slicing.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired.  Add a spring of rosemary if you'd like to make it pretty, but don't eat it.  (I'd get yelled at for the inedible garnish if I were on a cooking show.)

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blueberry Plum Galette

Well, do you know what happens when you pack away all of your pie and tart pans but feel the need to make a pie or tart?  You make a galette!  And let me tell you must must must must must make this galette!  It was soooooo good.  Like I want to eat it forever good.  And as far as pie-like desserts go, this is a pretty good way to go.  This particular crust as only one stick of butter (that's actually not that bad for a pie crust I swear...most use shortening too), and the filling has only 1/4 cup of sugar.  So it's almost like you're eating a delicious, warm fruit salad...which you absolutely can not forget to top with some vanilla ice cream  ;)

Blueberry Plum Galette
recipe from Port and Fin

for the crust:
1-1/3 cup + 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
5 Tbsp ice water

for the filling:
3 cups blueberries
1 cup plum slices
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp of water

First, prepare the crust.  In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and sugar.  Then add the butter and pulse until crumbly looking.  Then add the water and process until the dough forms.  Remove from the processor and form into a flat disk on a piece of plastic wrap, wrap, and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and then, in a large bowl, combine all of your filling ingredients and set aside.  Once your dough has chilled, remove it from the plastic wrap and roll it out into a 12-inch circle (or as circle-like as possible...I am too terrible at this for words, but it matters not.)  Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with a thin layer of flour (this was supposed to prevent the fruit juices from leaking out of the bottom of the crust, but mine still did.)  Then pour the filling onto the dough, leaving about a 2-inch border which you can then fold over the filling starting in one spot and working your way around until it it a beautiful dough bowl of fruity goodness.

Brush the crust with the egg wash and place the galette in your preheated oven for 30-40 minutes (mine took exactly 40) until it is golden brown and ready to be devoured with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream - although you should probably wait for it to cool and set first.  Try your best.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, and Sundried Tomatoes

So it's been such a crazy month that I didn't do I single post in the month of June!  That's the first time a month has passed without a post since I started blogging recipes almost two years ago and I did have an actual conversation with myself about this.  I just didn't have time to prepare something to take photos, and I started this blog as a way to have some fun with cooking and photography.  If I start stressing out about cooking solely for the purpose of taking pictures and blogging, then it will no longer be fun for me.  I did make these roasted banana popsicles one night that I intended on posting if they went over well, but they were only so-so.  I'm going to work on that recipe until it's better.  Aside from that, I spent most of my time in June wrapping up my school year by writing college recommendations and grading finals, and then began my summer vacations apartment hunting with my mother for a week followed by an awesome family vacay to North Conway.

I now make up for my recent absence of posts with a new recipe that I put together myself.  It is super quick, super easy, packed with healthy veggies, excellent for leftovers, and really delicious.  It is also, as most of my favorites tend to be, extremely versatile.  Use any kind of pasta you like (whole grain to kick up the health factor, but I just love orecchiette for this - classic), and use any protein you'd like, swap out the sausage for white beans, or omit it completely (to go vegetarian/vegan.)  You can use a different vegetable if you would rather as well, but if you haven't tried broccoli rabe, you should try it.  It can be bitter, but if you blanch it first as I did, it helps the bitterness immensely.  I hope you love this one as much as we do in the Faulkner house.  Speaking of houses...

We are preparing to move in the end of July, so there has been a lot of packing and a lot less cooking.  I have already packed away all my baking supplies, so don't expect any cookies or cakes from me.  I am about to say goodbye to my food processor and mixer, but I keep putting it off.  In the meantime, I haven't been using them much anyway since I've been running around so much.  In addition to our move, my mother is moving as well.  AND I have a graduate course all of next week from 8 in the morning to 5 at night.  Needless to say, I am busy.  Don't expect too much from me during the month of July either.

1 lb orecchiette
1 lb chicken sausage, removed from casings
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch broccoli rabe
7 oz jar of sliced sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained
1/2 cup grated romano cheese

Bring 2 large pots of water to a boil.  In one, cook the broccoli rabe for 30 seconds.  Pull from the water and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.  Once cooled, remove to a colander to drain.  Then chop the cooled and drained broccoli rabe into small pieces.  Place half the olive oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the chicken sausage and allow to cook undisturbed for four minutes or so, then flip, and begin breaking up the meat as it continues to cook.  Cook until the sausage it no longer pink and remove to a bowl.  Drain most of the grease from the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low.  While waiting for the pan to cool, cook the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid before you drain it.  When the pan is ready, add the remaining olive oil and the garlic to your pan and stir until fragrant, about a minute or so.  Then add the chopped broccoli rabe and the sundried tomatoes, and saute until all of the flavors have combined, about another minute.  Return the sausage to the pan and stir.  Then add the cooked pasta and about 1/2 a cup of the pasta water.  (save the rest for any leftover that you save so that the dish isn't completely dry after the pasta absorbs what's there.)  Lastly, add the romano cheese and give one last stir.  Serve with extra cheese and crushed red pepper.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Spicy, Sweet and Sour Cucumber Noodle Salad

There's going to be a lot of meat smoking at my house this summer, which makes me extremely happy...fat and happy.  So naturally I am going to need a side dish to complement your more heavy meals like pulled pork sandwiches.  I can't think of a better balancing act than these crisp, cold, refreshing cucumber noodles.  The vinegar goes extremely well with barbecue and all the ingredients make this extremely healthy and light.  Again, a fantastic side to the plate of meat I will consume, which is just the opposite.  Now there seemed to be A LOT of liquid, so I am thinking of cutting the liquids in half next time.  I am writing the recipe below with that adjustment made.  If you make it and there is not enough liquid, just add some additional water and vinegar.

(Soon to come to the blog...the vinegar cole-slaw I made for the sandwiches was perfect.  It made the sandwich go from delicious to dream-worthy.)

Spicy, Sweet, and Sour Cucumber Noodle Salad
adapted slightly from Just a Taste

4 medium cucumbers, peeled and run through a spiralizer
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 cup red onion, chopped small
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Combine the vinegar, water and sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.  In a large bowl, combine the cucumber strands, vinegar/sugar mixture, red onion, and red pepper.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, top with the sesame seeds.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spinach Pesto Pasta Salad

For anyone reading who doesn't know...I am a high school math teacher.  I love my job for many reasons - aside from math being awesome and kids being funny, I always have a roomful of people with whom to share my thoughts.  So naturally, this food blog comes up quite often.  Do you remember being in school and having a teacher go off on a tangent and thinking, "This is awesome!  Please, please, please keep going long enough so that we don't have homework tonight!"?  Well, now I am on the other side of that, and my students know fully well that the best way to get me off topic is to bring up food.  My students have been the most ridiculously supportive of this blog, and although I am sure that part of that is because it can sometimes lead me to rant about where to find the best cannolis in the North End or how and why you should spatchcock a chicken, I also know it is because many of my students also share in my love of food and cooking.  I am always uber-excited to the point of near speechlessness when I hear that my students - past and present - are cooking my food.

So today was the seniors' last day of school.  I am not gonna lie...I am incredibly happy to be seeing the end of the school year near and summer come along.  Yet it was bittersweet - saying goodbye to some of my students today.  I have had the honor of teaching some of the most amazing kids in the state...the country...maybe even the world.  I hope they are reading this right now and know how proud they have made me with the kindness they demonstrate toward others, their enthusiasm for life, and their perseverance even when math can be a struggle.  I hope one student in particular is reading this now and will get to know how much her thank you meant to me.  She presented me with something truly special and her lovely words brought me to tears.  I apparently brightened her days as much as she brightened mine and it's really nice to know that I actually made a difference and wasn't just another annoying, naggy, math teacher force feeding unsolicited numbers and advice.  One of the negatives of teaching is that you rarely get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  So sometimes an unexpected thank you can bring you to tears with happiness.

Speaking of students...another one of mine asked me if I would bake him a pie to go with his math project guessed it,,,pi!  I told him that if I had any time whatsoever to do so this weekend, I would.  Otherwise, he knows where Stop and Shop is.  (I am going to do my best.)  However, it is Memorial Day weekend and that means a barbecue with friends.  So the priority now lies in this pasta salad...which is awesome.  It is officially my favorite pasta salad ever.  Have a told you how much a hate mayo?  Well the dressing of this pasta salad is a pesto made from spinach!  (It feels kind of weird calling this a pesto when it has no basil, but I'll get over it.)  This pasta salad is so good that I couldn't stop tasting it.  I had to have Jim take it away from me before there was nothing left to bring.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and I want to wish my seniors another sincere congratulations.

Spinach Pesto Pasta Salad
inspired by the kitchn

1 lb rotini pasta
6 oz baby spinach, divided
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 lemon, halved
4 Tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
1/2 cup sliced sundried tomatoes
1 small shallot, diced small

While your pasta is cooking, place half of the spinach leaves in a food processor and top with the cheese, almonds, garlic, salt, and the juice of half of the lemon.  Pulse until the spinach is finely chopped.  Then add the rest of the spinach to the food processor and, while running, add the olive oil.  Process until smooth.  By now, your pasta should be finished cooking.  Drain and return to its pot.  Add the pesto while the pasta is still warm so the flavors can be absorbed.  Add the rest of the lemon juice, olives, tomatoes, and shallot.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  You can serve this salad warm or cold.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Singapore Noodles

Who doesn't need another noodle recipe???  As usual, you can really add any vegetables you want to this one, which is what I love most about noodle dishes in general, but singapore noodles are distinctly flavored with curry powder.  So if you love spice and curry, then you should absolutely love this dish.  It packs heat.  You could also add meat, shrimp or even tofu, but I made these tonight with just the veggies and it was great.  I can't wait to make them again.

Singapore Noodles
adapted slightly from Budget Bytes

8 oz vermicelli rice noodles (use brown if you can find it...they taste equally good)
1 Tbsp hot curry powder
2 cloves ginger, minced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
3 Tbsp canola oil
4 heads of baby bok choy, thinly sliced
2 or 3 carrots, julliened
2 handfuls of beansprouts
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
some chopped cilantro to garnish

Submerge the rice noodles in a bowl of room temperature water for 15 minutes until they soften.  Drain the noodles, transfer them to a bowl, and cut up the noodles a bit with a pair of kitchen shears so that they will be easier to stir fry.  Then sprinkle with the curry powder, mixing until evenly distributed.  Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick pan or wok.  Once hot, add the ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds to a minute.  Then add the remaining veggies, reserving a bit of the scallions for garnishing at the end.  Stir fry for about 4 or 5 minutes until the bok choy and carrots have just softened.    Add the noodles to the pan and stir until heated through, about a minute or so.  Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and sesame oil.  top with additional scallions and cilantro.

Dreamhost Coupon

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Bites

I have so many things to say about these chocolate hazelnut bites, but I'm going to lead with the fact that they taste a lot like nutella and those Ferrero Rocher chocolates...but without ANY of the sugar or oil or artificial ingredients.  Nutella tastes like heaven in a jar, but when I look at the ingredients, I feel...sadness.  Here is the ingredient list on a jar of nutella:  Sugar, Palm Oil, Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Skim Milk, Reduced Minerals Whey (from Milk), Soy Lecithin (an Emulsifier), Vanillin (an Artificial Flavor).  The first ingredient is sugar and the second is palm oil.  Then comes the hazelnuts and cocoa.  I personally find the last ingredient to be the kicker.  They couldn't spring for some real vanilla??? They went with "vanillin" - the fake stuff.  Again...sadness.

So what spurred me to make this creation???  Jim and I have been trying to lay off most of the added sugar in our diets.  I know I always say everything in moderation including moderation - and I still believe that - but that's exactly why we need to pull back from sugar.  Sugar is in almost every processed food that we consume.  It's in our yogurts and our cereals, our granola bars, and it's most definitely in the piece of chocolate I like to eat every night with my cup of tea.  Even when I cook, I often add a little bit of sugar.  Even when I try to avoid processed sugar, I still find that I add honey or maple syrup...still sugar.  I have yet to make a sugar free recipe!  I am still 100% for eating a sweet treat - I just want to try and stop doing that every single day all day long - that is feeling a little bit less than the moderation I try to live by.

So I have been trying to come up with a replacement for the chocolate component of my nighttime tea and chocolate ritual.  There is only so much fruit I can take.  I eat it all day long.  By the time 8 o'clock rolls around, I just don't want any more fruit.  what I really want is CHOCOLATE.  So I have found my fix.  I served these to some friends last night and they all loved them, but I think the key is that you must freeze them.  I tried them after I first made them and I wasn't all that happy.  It just tasted like what it is and nothing more...dates, cocoa, hazlenuts and vanilla.  But after tasting them out of the freezer...holy awesome.

 Chocolate Hazelnut Bites
recipe from Running to the Kitchen
makes 16 balls

2/3 +1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates
1/3 cup rolled oats
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spread the hazelnuts over a parchment lined baking sheet.  Roast for 8 minutes.  After allowing them to cool for a few minutes, place them in a clean dish towel and attempt to remove most of their skins by rubbing the towel against a hard surface.  Then transfer to a food processor and process into fine crumbs.  Set aside 1/4 cup of the crumbs for rolling later.  Add the remaining ingredients and process for about two minutes.  The recipe I used said it would form a ball on the blade when it was ready after about two minutes, but that never happened for me.  I may not have used enough dates, but regardless, I was able to form balls out of the mixture anyway and it still tasted fantastic.  Form balls out of the mixture by the tablespoon and roll in the hazelnut crumbs that were set aside.  Place the finished balls on a single layer on a plate or baking sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours.  You can then place them in a freezer bag and enjoy one whenever the mood arises.