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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hummus


What better way to try out my new pressure cooker than to make hummus?  I love to make my own hummus, but have always used canned chickpeas.  Well today I finally get up the chutzpah to use dried.  I'm not going to lie.  After seeing numerous pressure cooker explosions on Iron Chef, I've been pretty scared to use a pressure cooker.  It looks pretty dangerous.  It has the word "pressure" in it for heaven's sake.  It couldn't possibly be easy to use.  Well, it was very easy to use.  I will tell you how.

To cook the chickpeas:
Soak 1 lb of chickpeas in a bowl of cold water overnight.  The next day, rinse the beans.  Fill your pressure cooker with 8 cups of water.  Then add your rinsed beans.  Cover, lock, and set to high pressure for 35 minutes.  When it's done, let the pressure naturally release.  Open, drain, and you have very delicious and soft chickpeas.  Now onto making the hummus...

Hummus
makes 2 cups

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or a 15-oz can)
2 Tbsp tahini
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add more salt to your taste.  Let cool in the fridge.  Serve with pita chips or pita bread.  Enjoy!
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Coconut Raspberry and Jamaican Rum Truffles


This is my first try at making truffles.  It seemed easy enough - like "I couldn't possibly mess it up" easy enough.  I told a co-worker of mine that I was thinking of making truffles and she very thoughtfully brought me in a Food Network magazine that had a starter recipe.  I just chose my own mix of add-ins/ons and bam - homemade Christmas goodies for the whole family.  Rolling the balls was extremely messy, but totally worth it.  I hope everyone I'm giving them to on Christmas Eve enjoys them as much as I hope they do.

Truffles
this recipe made 24 tablespoon-size balls for me

12 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 tsp of vanilla and 1/2 tsp extract of your choosing - I used raspberry)
1 package of shredded sweetened coconut or 1 bottle of chocolate vermicelli sprinkles for rolling
1/4 cup of cream liqueur (I used creamy Jamaican rum)

Make the chocolate ganache:  Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.  In a saucepan, bring the cream, butter, and salt to a simmer over medium heat.  Add it to the chocolate and let sit for 10 minutes.  With a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate-cream mixture until it is completely smooth.  Add in the vanilla and raspberry extracts and combine.  At this point, add in the liqueur if you are using it, and combine.  Pour the ganache into a shallow baking dish and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.

Make the balls: Take tablespoons of the chilled ganache and roll them in your hand to form balls.  Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap.  Return to the fridge and chill overnight or for at least an hour.  After the balls are chilled, you can roll them in the shredded coconut.





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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks


Let me start by saying that these cauliflower breadsticks are not made of bread.  They have no flour in them whatsoever.  They are called breadsticks because they look and taste like breadsticks.  They are so good that I can't wait to make them again....and again and again and again and again...

It all began when I saw the head of cauliflower in my fridge that was about to go bad.  I have a habit of impulsively buying cauliflower because I love it so much.  (I think I may have mentioned this.)  So I wanted to use it up with other things I had on hand.  I was thinking fritters, but decided to cruise food blogs for some other ideas instead, thinking I might find a good Indian recipe to try out.  Instead I found a ton of blogs talking about making pizza crust out of cauliflower for the gluten-free crowd.  Well I may not be gluten-free, but I am health conscious, have a cauliflower to use, and have been seriously craving breadsticks all week.  (Why are there so many Pizza Hut commercials on???)  So what a great way to satisfy that craving, huh?  My husband was extremely dubious, but since I'd be throwing the cauliflower out if I didn't get to use it anyway, there would be no harm in trying something new.  If it was awful, there's always leftover soup in the fridge.

Well, luckily, these came out amazing.  My husband ate them (and some crow) and asked if there were any more.  They certainly satisfied a breadstick craving and are 100% better for your body than any of that take-out pizza chain crap.  On the downside, I was really hoping this would be a way to sneak some veggies into my two-year old - it didn't work.  I love cauliflower, but you wouldn't know that these are made of cauliflower.  I have no idea how Adrienne could know.  She should go into the FBI or CIA.  So don't let a hatred of cauliflower stop you from trying this.  Next time I am doubling this recipe so that there will be more breadsticks.

Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks
adapted from An Edible Mosaic
makes 8 small breadsticks

1/4 of a large cauliflower (1-1/2 cups, lightly packed, riced)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 oz shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (you can use any cheese you's like)
1/4 tsp dried basil and 1/4 tsp dried oregano, combined and divided
salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray
Marinara sauce, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper so that the excess paper hangs over the sides.  Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.

Rice the cauliflower by grating it on a cheese grater and put into a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave uncovered until softened, on 2 minute intervals, stirring between each.  Let it cool slightly.  While the cauliflower cooks, heat the oil in a small skillet over low heat.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly and let cool slightly.

To the bowl with the softened cauliflower, add the garlic, egg, 3/4 of the cheese (reserving 1/4 for topping later), 1/4 teaspoon of the dried herbs mix (reserving 1/4 teaspoon for topping later), and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine and then spread in the prepared loaf pan.

Bake until the loaf is set and starting to turn golden, about 30 minutes.  Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.  Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the loaf pan and carefully flip it over onto the lined baking sheet so the bottom is on top.  Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Cut the loaf cross-wise into 8 pieces.  Slightly separate the pieces and sprinkle the cheese on top along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon dried herbs and some romano cheese.  Broil a couple minutes until the cheese is melted and golden in spots.  Serve hot or warm.  (If you let it cool for about 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven, the crust will harden a bit so it’s easy to hold like a thin-crust pizza.)




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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sweet and Salty Nuts


Jim has a very big family.  His mom has three sisters who live in the area.  Each of them has children and grandchildren of their own.  Every Christmas Eve, we celebrate in true Italian style - with a lot of family and a lot of fish.  It's two days away and I'm already drooling away thinking of stuffed calamari and clam chowder. But before I get to enjoy the feast, I need to prepare some goodies myself to give away.  I love to prepare a box full of homemade treats for all the aunts, uncles, and cousins - and while I'm at it, I prepare boxes for my neighbors as well.  The cookies and candies I make vary from year to year, but these nuts are always in there.  It's because if I try out something new and it doesn't work out the way I planned, at least I know that these nuts will be delicious.  I have tried this recipe out with pecans, almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts.  I didn't like how the hazelnuts turned out at all.  I won't use them again.  I don't think I'll make the almonds again either, although they were better than the hazelnuts.

Sweet and Salty Nuts
adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country

1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lb pecan halves (my favorite), cashews (my second favorite), or any other nut you'd like to try
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, paprika, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps and set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add nuts, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Some almonds...





And some pecans...
 And all together with some cashews...

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Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup


Today was the last day of school before Winter Break.  I spent the morning making snowflakes with my students to send to Newtown, CT.  What a sad and tragic incident.  As happy as I am that vacation has started, thinking about the families that lost their friends and loved ones overwhelms me with sadness.  It doesn't help that it's been a rainy mess of a day as well.  A bowl of soup is perfect to warm the body and soul and this is my favorite soup recipe - so it should definitely do the trick.  This soup is creamy without any cream.  The creaminess comes from the egg.  That is one of the reasons I am in love with this soup.  It tastes just like one of those bad-for-me-so-I-avoid-eating-it-but-I-want-it-so-very-much-soups.  That is exactly why this soup recipe is in Elie Krieger's cookbook called The Food You Crave.  So thank you, Elie Krieger.  Whenever I make this soup, I double the recipe because I love it so much and I'll eat it for days.  It reheats perfectly.  Halve the following recipe if it's too much for you.  Also, I add 50% more chicken than the recipe calls for because I think it could use a little more chicken.  If you love chicken soup and you love lemon, then you will adore this soup.

Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup
from Elie Krieger's The Food You Crave
makes 8 servings

1.5 lbs chicken breast, cut into small bite-size pieces
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme, finely chopped
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 eggs
6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups orzo
olive oil

In a large pot, heat a little olive oil over medium heat.  Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook until it turns white.  Remove from the pot, add a little more olive oil, and add the onions, carrots, celery, and thyme to the pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Now add all but 2 cups of the chicken broth along with the chicken you set aside.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat so the soup is simmering and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.  You will then add your orzo which will need about 8 minutes to cook.  While the soup simmers, put the remaining 2 cups of chicken broth in another small sauce pan on medium-low heat.  While this gets hot, beat your eggs in a medium bowl.  Slowly whisk in the lemon juice.  When the broth is hot but not boiling, slowly add it to the egg-lemon mixture while whisking constantly.  (This will temper the egg so that your soup will become creamy as opposed to an egg drop soup once you add the egg to the pot.)  Once your orzo is cooked, take the soup off the heat and add the egg mixture.  Your soup should look creamy and taste delicious.  Enjoy!



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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Baked Chicken Parmesan


I absolutely love chicken parmesan.  It takes every ounce of will power that I have in me to not order it when we are out.  It is not worth the fat, calories, artery damage, and ultimately, guilt.  However, I have finally figured out how to make a delicious version that does not include frying the chicken.  It may not be crispy fried chicken cutlets (mmmmmm), but the chicken comes out super moist and it has all the flavors you crave in chicken parmesan.

Baked Chicken Parmesan

Your favorite tomato sauce (Here is my tomato sauce recipe)
1.5 lb. thick chicken breast cutlets
1 cup whole wheat italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
cooking spray
1-1/2 cups reduced fat mozzarella cheese

Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Now prepare an assembly line to bread your chicken.  Put the flour in one bowl, eggs in another, and breadcrumbs in a third.  Slice the chicken cutlets in half horizontally to make two thin chicken cutlets out of each one.  (I hate pounding out my chicken cutlets.  I used to - but it's always a huge mess.  I find that slicing them is easier and neater.)  Now dredge each one in the flour, shaking off any excess.  Then dip it in the egg.  Finally, cover it completely in the breadcrumbs.  Place each chicken cutlet in the baking dish.  Then spray the cutlets with cooking spray for about 5 seconds.  Then flip them and do the same on the other side.  Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and put the chicken in.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and add the sauce and the cheese.  Cook for another 15 minutes.  The cheese should be melted and bubbly.  Enjoy while hot with some pasta.


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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Artichoke-Olive Crostini


This is one of my favorite spreads to prepare for a party.  It's simple, healthy, and delicious.  All of my friends and family enjoy it - vegan and non-vegan alike.  Also, my husband loves it even though he really dislikes artichokes.  So I decided to prepare it for tomorrow's staff holiday party.  Not only has it always been a crowd pleaser, but it's the easiest recipe ever to prepare.  I'm serious.  It's been a very long week - this will taste amazing with a nice glass of wine.


Artichoke-Olive Spread
adapted from Mario Batali via Smitten Kitchen

1 cup pitted olives (I used kalamata, but green also work really well - I've done both.)
1 15-oz can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed
1 Tbsp capers
1/4 cup olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until at your desired consistency.  I like it to have a little texture.  That's it.  You're done.  I told you it was simple.

To make some crostini...

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice your bread into 1/4 inch slices and brush with a little olive oil.  Bake for 7 minutes on parchment lined baking sheet.  Serve with your artichoke-olive spread.



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Monday, December 10, 2012

Garlic and Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Sauce


So I guess the jig is up after this post...all my Jewish relatives will know that I do not in fact keep kosher.  I've never hid it, but I've also never been so brazen about my disregard to the tenants of Judaism either.  I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish (and therefore kosher) household.  The plates and silverware that were used for consuming dairy were always kept separate from those used for consuming meat.  Of course like any modern day Jewish family, we also had a completely separate drawer full of hodgepodge cutlery that would be used when we brought in take out.  On the occasion that a "meat" fork ended up accidentally in the "dairy" drawer upon been sorted out from the dishwasher and it was not discovered until the fork ended up in a nice hunk of cheese lasagna, the fork would be added to the hodgepodge drawer of "non-kosher" silverware.  My grandfather used to tell me that we could make the silverware kosher again if we buried it in the ground for seven years.  I don't think this is true, but it always made me smile to think of a silverware graveyard.

I don't feel any sort of Jewish guilt to have disregarded these kosher laws in my own household.  It seems that keeping kosher is sort of antiquated.  It most likely was created at a time when eating pork was very dangerous due to a lack of refrigeration - and after many deaths, pork was kicked off the menu.  So, tonight I decided to cook a pork tenderloin because it is absolutely safe to do so and will pair wonderfully with the apple sauce I am going to have on top of some latkes.

Garlic and Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Sauce

1 2 lb pork tenderloin
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup apple cider
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, cut in half, ends cuts off and peeled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and rub the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary all over your pork.  Now prepare your sauce before you get your pork in the oven.

Melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk until well combined and golden in color.  Continue to whisk as you add the chicken broth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes until thickened.  With a slotted spoon, scoop out the thyme, bay leaf, and onion.  Adjust the thickness to your liking if necessary.

Heat some olive oil in an oven-proof pan on medium-high heat.  Add your pork and sear on all sides before putting in the oven for 20-22 minutes.  When done, tent and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Remove the tenderloin from the pan and slice.  You can then add the pan drippings to your apple cider sauce.   Combine and serve everything together.

Note: When I made this, I did not begin with the roux.  I am suggesting that you begin this way because the sauce was too thin without it (as you can see from the picture below.)  I'm pretty sure it's a good idea.  I will certainly be trying it myself next time.  If you try it first, let me know how it turns out.


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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Latkes


Happy Chanukah 2012 (or should I say 5773!)  The thing that makes me happiest about Chanukah is the latkes.  When I first started making these religiously (pun intended), my Bubby scoffed at me for putting onions in them.  She would never - never ever.  But I gotta say, after much latke making, I much prefer a latke with onions than without - as does Jim.  The onions add a lot of flavor.  If you are looking for a good latke recipe, then try these.

Potato Latkes

1 large baking potato, peeled
1 small onion, peeled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Peanut oil

In a food processor (or by hand using a grater if you don't have a food processor), coarsely shred the potato and onion.  Place this mixture in a cheesecloth (or a then dish towel), and squeeze as dry as possible.
Let stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze dry again.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg with the salt and pepper. Add the flour and combine.  Stir in the potato onion mixture until all pieces are evenly coated.  I use my hands.

Add enough peanut oil to cover the bottom of a medium non-stick pan and heat the oil until shimmering.
Drop packed tablespoons of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of then spoon.
Cook the latkes over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.

If you are making these for a party, you can cook these ahead of time and then reheat them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven until they’re crisp again.

Serve with your choice of sour cream or apple sauce.


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Honey Balsamic Carrots


Why is it that even when I try to make my life easy when it comes to dinner, I still mind myself compelled to cook?  Is anyone else like this???  On my way home from work, I decided to grab a rotisserie chicken (yummy) and a box of stove top (whole wheat - in an attempt to make myself feel better about eating boxed stuffing - a guilty pleasure.)  But what's dinner without some vegetables?  I am a firm believer in well rounded meals - especially since Adrienne has come to eat at our table with us.  So I could easily throw a salad together.  No work whatsoever, but I have little desire to eat another salad when I eat it all week for lunch.  So this leaves me with no other option but to cook up a vegetable dish.

These honey balsamic carrots are my second favorite way to prepare carrots.  My first is mixed in with all kinds of different potatoes, onion, and garlic, and roasted under a beautiful chicken.  Well, since I do not have the time to roast a chicken tonight, I need to go with the next best thing...honey balsamic glazed carrots.  They are easy to prepare and very delicious.  I love the salty, tangy, sweet combination from the salt, balsamic, and honey respectively.  Not to mention that when carrots are roasted, they become perfect sweet bites of deliciousness all on their own.

Honey Balsamic Carrots
from Budget Bytes

3 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch peices
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the carrots, olive oil, salt and pepper and spread evenly in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Roast the carrots for 40 minutes, stirring once halfway through.  During the last 10 minutes, begin to prepare the balsamic glaze.  Put the balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until thickened.  Then remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.  Once the carrots are finished cooking, combine then in a serving bowl with the balsamic glaze and toss to coat.  Serve while still hot and enjoy!


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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chocolate Chip Pancakes and How to Make Your Own Buttermilk


It's Sunday morning and I feel like making chocolate chip pancakes.  I wanted to try a different recipe that required buttermilk, but I didn't have buttermilk.  So in addition to what turned out to be a wonderful chocolate chip pancake recipe, I will also include how to make your own buttermilk - which is invaluable.  I have always bought buttermilk (which only comes in one gigantic size bottle) and then only use an eighth of it if even that much.  The rest will sit in my fridge until I need another small amount of buttermilk a month later - by which time the bottle I have will have already gone bad and I will need to dump this big bottle of remaining buttermilk down my drain and buy another big bottle which I will barely use. Well some of you may be thinking that I am an idiot and should have figured out that I could make my own sooner.  You are entitled to judge, but the important part is that I have come around and will never go back to buying buttermilk ever again.

Home-Made Buttermilk

milk (I used 1% for the pancakes)
white vinegar

For every cup of buttermilk you need, place 1 Tbsp of white vinegar in a measuring cup and then fill the rest of the cup with milk.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  You now have buttermilk!

Chocolate Chip Pancakes
adapted from Joy the Baker

2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat white flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 chocolate chips

Combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and in a large bowl.  Add the melted butter while whisking vigorously.  (If your wet ingredients are cold as mine usually are the butter will want to solidify up right away...try to prevent big clumps of butter from forming with your whisking.)  In another medium bowl, combine flours, baking soda and powder, salt, sugar.  Then add it to the wet ingredients until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Lightly grease a griddle pan either with butter or canola oil and put on medium heat.  Add a 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and cook until the top bubbles and pops.  Then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown.  Keep cooked pancakes in a 200 degree oven to keep warm until all your pancakes are done.  Enjoy with your favorite syrup.
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