Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whole Wheat Ricotta Waffles with Blueberry Sauce

Most little ones seem to have favorite toys or favorite stuffed animals.  And favorite colors.  But not our little guy Max.  He is rather fickle, dispensing his affection on whatever catches his fancy at the moment.  Or maybe he just kinda likes his toys, stuffed animals and colors equally.  But he does have a favorite letter.  Okay, 2 letters.  He loves both B and O.  And b is just so super awesome because it's also his word for berries.  And it doesn't hurt that b is the first letter of his very favorite thing in the entire world - buses.  Now, he loves all berries, but you never know what berry he will actually want to eat that day.  You see some raspberries on sale and pick up a few cartons, thinking, ohh Max will like this.  No, no, he will not.  He will want blackberries, not the raspberries sitting in the fridge.  But sometimes, sometimes, the stars align all beautifully straight in a row and the kiddie gods smile beatifically upon you and somehow you get the right berry (or B, as it is known) to make him happy.  And since it was his birthday the other day, I made him some waffles with B's.  And it must have been the right B, because he was shoveling the sauce into his mouth.  So thank you gods of toddler eating, we totally appreciate it.  And, I'd have to say these waffles are pretty great for full grown people as well.

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup ricotta
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated

Blueberry Sauce:
1 pound blueberries
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cinnamon stick
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground clove (depending on how much you adore clove)

Blueberry Sauce:  Place all ingredients in a medium pot over medium-low heat and gently boil, stirring often.  Let it cook together for about 5 minutes, and remove the cinnamon stick.  Let cool.

Waffles:  Beat the egg whites with a mixer until they hold soft peaks.  Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk ricota, buttermilk, butter, vanilla extract, and egg yolks.  Stir in the flour mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites.   Pour batter into preheated waffle iron and cook until waffles are crisp and golden.  I like keeping the oven hot at 350 and giving the waffles an extra round of crisping for a few minutes.  Pour sauce on top of waffles and serve.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Easy Mushroom Stir-fry with Chinese 5-Spice

I think I am reaching a point at which I no longer understand what qualifies as typical breakfast food.  There was a time in my life when I was very regimented in my thinking.  Bagels, muffins, cereal, eggs, bacon, waffles, pancakes - those were breakfast foods.  Then college came and I was taught the wonders of pizza for breakfast.  Sometimes you feel like pizza for breakfast!  And also the joys of leftover Chinese food were revealed to me as delicious morning fare.  And from there, chaos ensued.  So while I originally intended this as a quick lunch or dinner, it became breakfast.  An umami, Chinese 5-spiced breakfast.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
pinch white pepper
kosher salt, to taste
3 scallions, chopped
toasted sesame oil, for serving
rice, for serving

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Once the butter has melted and the bubbles in the mixture have started to subside, add the chopped mushrooms. Stir continuously, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the butter and oil mixture. After a few minutes, the mushrooms will brown.  I actually did this step in two batches, as I didn't want to crowd the pan.  Once all the mushrooms have been browned, return to pan and deglaze the pan with rice wine (Pour the rice wine in and loosen up all the tasty stuff stuck to the pan.  The rice wine should cook down very quickly).  Mix in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and 5-spice powder.  Sprinkle with white pepper and kosher salt to taste.  Scatter the chopped scallions on top.  Serve with rice and toasted sesame oil.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spiced Cranberry-Ginger Cider with All the Fixins'

From my perspective, the people who celebrate Christmas fall into two camps.  First, there are the ones who wait until December to decorate.  They let Thanksgiving shine all on its own, without Christmas trying to nudge its way into the spotlight.  And then there are the ones who start decking the halls well before Thanksgiving, letting all the holidays sort of blend together into two, big, rosy, festive months.  We fall into the latter camp.  We are just such big fans of Christmas lights.  They make everything so cozy! And the cats - well, they are definitely Christmas fans, as garland and the tree make for some super amazing toys.  So we like to extend this Christmas cheer as long as possible.  We decorated last weekend, and made this drink to kick off a season of baked goods, good cheer and festive lights.

2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups ginger ale
3 cups apple cider
12 whole cloves
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2-inch orange peel
2-inch chunk of ginger
1/2 cup cranberries
orange slices, for serving

Put everything into a medium-sized pot over medium heat.  Once the mixture is nice and hot, and the aromatics are fragrant, ladle into mugs for serving.  It is also good served chilled. Serve with orange wedges and extra cinnamon sticks.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up!

I love a good list.  LOVE it.  Like really love it.  List making is so therapeutic, putting a bit of order and tidiness onto our messy and chaotic world.  So right now I am smack dab in Thanksgiving list mode - what to make, what groceries are needed, a master list of all the tasks to be done, and a schedule for said tasks to be accomplished.  And of course, this list - a list of possible foods to fill out the Thanksgiving menu.  Here we have some possible ideas for appetizers, side dishes, and some desserts (beyond the pumpkin pie) to round out your feast.


Side Dishes


Very Vanilla Egg-Free Ice Cream
We just love putting this stuff on our desserts instead of whipped cream!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stuffing Pasta

Apparently, I've been born without the genes that makes one enjoy stuffing.  Or dressing, as the case may be.  I don't know why that happened in life.  But I just can't seem to like it.  No matter what wonderful things go into it.  Not even my gram's famous stuffing.  None of it.  But stuffing (or dressing) has been deemed a necessary component of the Thanksgiving feast.  And I can't bring myself to make it any more, to once again be disappointed that my genetic makeup prevents me from savoring each bite of this dish.  To once again, get my hopes up, to think that this one stuffing is the one I will like... then have those hopes dashed.  So instead of stuffing, I like doing a pasta dish that I like to think captures a bit of the essence of stuffing.  But not in stuffing form.  In pasta.  So here is a simple dish with brown butter, pancetta, fresh herbs, hazelnuts, and parmesan cheese.  Never disappoints.

2/3 pound farfalle pasta
4 ounces cubed pancetta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup torn sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme and/or rosemary leaves
pinch nutmeg
white pepper, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile,
heat olive oil over medium high heat in skillet and add the pancetta.  Cook until the pancetta has a nice golden brown color (about 5 minutes).  Take off heat and set aside.

In large sauté pan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add sage, thyme, and rosemary and let the butter brown, about two minutes.  You will see brown specks that have formed on the bottom of the pan.  Be careful to not burn the butter.  Add pepper, salt and nutmeg, as well as the reserved pancetta.  Sprinkle chopped and toasted hazelnuts.  Take off heat and add lemon juice.  Add pasta to the brown butter mixture and toss with cheese.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thick and Creamy, Earl Grey and Lavender Hot Chocolate

Around this time of year, we become a bit introspective, reflecting on those things for which we are grateful.  I've got to say, I'm so grateful that chocolate exists.  I mean, what else is there in our cupboards, ready on standby to be deployed into whatever goodies we feel like whipping up?  Chocolate chip cookies, brownies,  mousses, ice cream, the list is endless.  What else goes with so perfectly well with so many different fruits (and vegetables - I'm looking at you zucchini!).  When there seems to be a dearth of produce to turn into dessert, who is always there?  Chocolate of course!

As Americans, we are looking to Thanksgiving and thinking of turning harvest foods like squash, apples,  pears and brussels sprouts and such into delicious feast food, I wanted to make sure chocolate still felt included in all the festivities.

Using half and half and the chocolate chips made this into a wonderfully thick and creamy hot chocolate, not quite pudding, but almost!  And it was ever so gloriously luxuriant, an edible tribute to our good friend chocolate.

2 cups half and half (or whole milk)
6 ounces good quality semi sweet chocolate chips or chocolate bar
pinch vanilla salt
2 teabags earl grey tea
1 tablespoon of lavender buds in a teabag (or just strain the lavender before serving)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place half and half, chocolate chips, vanilla salt, earl grey teabags, and the lavender tea bag in a small pot over medium-low heat.  Stir continuously, melting the chocolate into the milk. Once the mixture is nice and hot, and the chocolate is melted, stir in vanilla extract and remove the teabags.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Virtual Book Launch Party for An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair

We usually don't post on a Friday, but today is a special day.  We are participating in a virtual book launch party!  An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by the absolutely amazing Faith Gorsky comes out today, and we are so excited to (FINALLY) be able to get a hold of this book from one of our favorite bloggers.  Her book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East.  Her recipes are authentic Middle Eastern, but streamlined for today's cooking with an emphasis on demystifying techniques and ingredients that can be difficult for most of us to master.  The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  So you definitely want to get a copy of this - doesn't this sound like such a valuable addition to the cookbook collection?  I totally think so.

Faith is letting us share a recipe from her book today - Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts.  Such a gorgeous and delicious dish!  This recipe is actually vegan, so it is perfect for incorporating into a vegan or vegetarian meal, but it is also wonderful served with chicken, beef, lamb, or seafood.  Faith recommends pairing the rice with her Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce.

After you check out the recipe below, please head over to Faith's blog to check out her virtual book launch party to see the other bloggers who are participating.  Also, as part of her virtual book launch, Faith is hosting a giveaway of a fabulous set of prizes.  Be sure to head over and enter!

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts


Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky
(Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a
kettle of water on to boil.
2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add
the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and
just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook
2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or
turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook
until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off
and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of
cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Apple Pomegranate Fruit Bars with Rose and Ginger

I love that I am 28 years old, with a child of my own, and I can go to my gram's and still be treated like one of the grandkids.  When we were visiting friends and family back East last month, Max and I ended up with extra time to spend at her place, and it was AWESOME!  She fed us amazing baked goods. She gave us books to read to keep us busy (picture books for Max and Christmas-y cook and craft books for me).  I even had my friend Vicki come over and my gram made us all a homemade spaghetti dinner.  With both coconut pie and shortbread bar cookies with an apricot filling for dessert!  Yay for two desserts!  It probably sounds like she was babysitting both me and Max.  And that is probably a true statement.  I even needed her medical help with this weird thing that had popped up on my arm.  I apparently was the recipient of a spider bite.  I have no clue how that happened.  But my gram took care of it.

So after we got back, I missed my gram!  How could someone not miss gram?  And then I remembered that she gave me the recipe for her shortbread bar cookies with the apricot jam!  I didn't have any jam around, but I had gone to the farmer's market recently.  I combined her cookies with ingredients I had on hand, and it made me feel like she was right next door for a moment.

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 apples, chopped (I used Granny Smith and Pink Lady)
pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon ground dried rose leaves, plus more for sprinkling on top
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Heat oven to 350.  Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar.  In a bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt.  Then slowly mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss the chopped apples, pomegranate seeds, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, rose and ginger.

Press 2/3 of the reserved flour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan.  Pour apple mixture over it.  Then sprinkle remaining flour mixture.  Dust a bit of sugar and ground rose on top.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden brown and the apples have cooked.  Remove and set aside until cool.  Cut into squares for serving.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Butternut Squash Crostini

We as a society have weird rules governing behavior.  For instance, we have deemed the tuxedo, suits, ball gowns, and cocktail dresses as formal wear.  Why?  Why are these things inherently "dressy?"  Why can't pajamas be worn for formal occasions   I'm a huge proponent of comfort.  And why are shoes with a heel deemed dressy?  That just makes me mad.  I'm not super short, but I do veer into short territory, so I know people probably think I should wear heels.  But I refuse, just like I refuse to wear blue jeans because I find them to be uncomfortable!  The same goes for food.  A sandwich is always relegated as a quick food - lunch or dinner on busy nights, but pile some things on just one slice of tiny bread and it is apparently dressy, something that can be served as a fancy appetizer.  I suppose the obvious answer has to do with its tininess, the fact that it's so easy to snatch from a tray of hors de'oeurves. You know what, though?  I say, forget the rules.  They're just as good as an afternoon snack or at home on a weeknight!  

sliced baguette
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
vanilla salt
white pepper
roasted butternut squash puree (see note)
vanilla salt
brush of maple syrup
minced rosemary
thinly sliced carrots
toasted walnuts
sliced orange

Note: I roasted a whole butternut squash in a 425 degree oven for about 90 minutes to 2 hours, then scooped out the seeds and stringy parts and ran the flesh through a food processor.

To toast the walnuts, I place in a dry skillet over medium high heat and toss until they have developed a golden brown color.

Heat oven to 375.  Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet (I used a Silpat to line mine).  Pour olive oil in a bowl, and brush the oil on each slice.  Sprinkle a bit of vanilla salt and pepper on each.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden-brown.

Spread butternut squash puree on baguette slices.  Sprinkle with a bit of vanilla salt.  Brush a bit of maple syrup on top.  Sprinkle rosemary and arrange a layer of sliced carrots.  Sprinkle walnuts and then place some arugula leaves on top.  Drizzle with freshly squeezed orange juice from a slice of orange.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Crabapple and Maple Syrup

I am convinced Brussels sprouts have magical powers.  You try them.  And maybe you hate them.  But you can't stop thinking about them.  And you cant resist buying them the next time you see them because they are so cute.  And then you make them again.  And your feelings have warmed up to them.  And this continues until you have fallen madly in love, and you don't really know why.  Most definitely a magic vegetable!

I might have picked up crabapples at the market purely because of how adorable they looked.  Ok, I definitely picked them up for that reason.  And then I thought, well if these are so cute and tiny, and Brussels sprouts are so cute and tiny - then maybe they would work well together! My reasoning skills leave much to be desired, obviously.  But regardless of how I managed to get these two together, I liked the how the sweet tang of crabapple paired with our miniature cabbage friends, the Brussels sprouts.  The maple syrup, bacon, and rosemary ended up making it a dish we can't get out of our minds.

4 cups halved Brussels sprouts
1 small red onion, chopped
8 thickly sliced crabapples
4 slices bacon, chopped

2-3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
kosher salt
white pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts, red onion, crabapples, and bacon all together.  In a small bowl, whisk maple syrup, vinegar, olive oil, and rosemary.  Pour the maple syrup mixture over the Brussels sprouts and coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place on a baking sheet or 9 x 13 baking pan and roast for about 35 minutes, until the sprouts have cooked through and have developed some nice caramelization.

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