Thursday, December 30, 2010

Double Take: Beef Stroganoff

Until last week, I'd never had homemade beef stroganoff. Growing up, my mom made the Hamburger Helper version and our family really enjoyed it. She always talked about making it without the boxed version but our family didn't eat mushrooms and it never happened. After leaving home for college, I learned I had a mushroom intolerence. Unless mushrooms are cooked for close to an hour, I can't eat them. This has in general caused me to be very mindful of mushrooms in dishes and in general, I avoid them. When I picked this recipe, Melanie asked if I was sure about the mushrooms. The recipe said they cooked over an hour so I convinced myself to try it. Then I hesistated. The week came to make them and I procrastinated. Mel suggested a delay due to being super busy and I was able to dally a bit more. Finally I made the recipe. I hoped for the best....and it was awesome. Since the mushrooms cooked so long, I didn't get sick either! Sorry to spoil part of my review but this is definitely a recipe to repeat.

To reduce the recipe down to a normal level, I halved it. I made a couple of other slight changes which are included below in italics.

Beef Stroganoff with steamed broccoli

Beef Stroganoff (adapted from the All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)


3/4 lb sirloin beef tips or stew beef (chop into small bits)
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  pepper
1 1/2  Tablespoons  vegetable oil
1  medium-size sweet onions, diced
1  (8-ounce) packages fresh mushrooms, sliced (I started with large slices but they will break apart in the cooking process so the size isn't terribly important.)
1  cups  beef broth
1  tablespoons  tomato paste
1/2  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1  (8-ounce) package egg noodles (This is approximately 2 1/2 c. uncooked egg noodles.)
1/4  cup  sherry or red or white grape juice (I used red)
1  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
1  (4-ounce) container sour cream
1  tablespoons  chopped, fresh parsley (optional) (I skipped this)

How To:

Cut beef tips or stew beef into small bits. I cut it into bits around 1/2" cubes.

Sprinkle beef tips evenly with salt and pepper.

Brown beef in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onions and mushrooms, and saute, 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir broth, tomato paste, and mustard into beef mixture. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 1 hour or until beef is tender.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. (In case you're like me and put pasta in a container without directions, boil water and add pasta. Cook the pasta for 8-10 minutes. Test with a fork for doneness.)

Combine sherry/grape juice and flour; stir into beef mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in sour cream. Serve over hot egg noodles; sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

My Response

This was great. I think cutting up the beef made a big difference in terms of tenderness and flavor absorbed by the meat. The recipe states that the original serves 4 people. If serving 4, I'd make the recipe as listed above. It's a lot of food. I served it (in the halved version above) with steamed broccoli and had enough food to eat for 5 meals. I enjoyed it the whole time though. That's pretty amazing in terms of leftovers and personal enjoyment, especially since most anyone can get bored of leftovers by the 3rd or 4th time of eating them. This recipe would be hard to make any smaller though.

Be sure to hop over to Mel's blog to see what she thought of this dish!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Double Take: Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Ok, I've fooled around long enough. I made this recipe last Sunday. I meant to post it by Thursday, then Friday but now its Saturday morning. Eeek. Initially, I forgot my camera at home. Then I got busy at work...It happens. One of these days, I'm going to get ahead. Maybe. I hope.

Anyhow, this recipe tricked me. I thought it might taste like one of my favorite Thai dishes, vaguely entitled Spicy Noodle. The sauce smelled good, the recipe came together quickly but when I tasted it something was missing. I tried several modifications to individual servings before arriving at a good hot combination. I tried the dish cold after some modification and it was great that way. If eaten hot, it required a little something else. While others may disagree, I didn't enjoy this dish as written so I'm posting the modified version for your tasting enjoyment. Don't expect to be eating Spicy Noodle though. The recipe reminds me distantly of pad thai but I don't know what I'd call it otherwise.

Tab's Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce (adapted from the original on p. 282, somewhat recognizable)


1 c. fresh sugar snap peas
1/2 lb uncooked wide rice stick noodles

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 garlic clove, minced
1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion or 1/4 large onion, chopped (roughly 3/4 c. chopped)

3/4 c. lite or regular coconut milk
3/8 c. crunchy peanut butter
1/2 c. chopped, roasted peanuts, divided in half
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper

1 c. bean sprouts, divided
3/4 c. firmly packed basil leaves, shredded and divided (can substitute 3/8 c. dried basil leaves)

condiments: chopped dry roasted peanuts or lime wedges
*Optional: If eating this hot, add 1 tsp of tamarind chutney, tamarind sauce, or hoisin sauce.

How To:

Trim the peas and cut them in half diagonally. Bring water to a boil, add the peas to a large heavy sauce pan and cook the peas 45 seconds. Drain them, plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process, drain them again and set them aside.

Place noodles in a bowl of warm water and let soak for 10 minutes. Remove and drain.

Place 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in sauce pot or wok. Once heated (sprinkle water off finger tips and hear a sizzle), add garlic and onions. Cook at medium heat for 5-7 minutes until lightly changing color.

Add and whisk together coconut milk and next seven ingredients in a large saucepan/sauce pot/wok. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally 5 min or til thoroughly heated.

Add peas, noodles, 3/4 c. bean sprouts, 3/4 c. of basil. Toss and sprinkle with the remaining bean sprouts and peanuts.


I left my book at my sister's house over the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result my sister kindly has been reading the recipes to me over the phone. Tif thought this would be like fettucine alfredo with a topping. Not really. Pad Thai is the closest thing I could compare this with but even at that, its not the same. This dish is best cold. If you eat it hot, it tastes like its missing something. After a variety of changes, I found that a teaspoon of tamarind chutney (could easily use tamarind sauce or probably hoisin sauce) add to the mixture seemed to fix the "What's missing" feeling. I wouldn't call this my favorite Thai dish but I would call it ok and even good with the added tamarind chutney. Its very good cold. The servings worked out to about 6 and there's not a simple way to halve the recipe so that's a downside if you don't have others to help you eat it. A couple people at work helped me with this one and they enjoyed it.

Hungry for more? Check out Mel's comments at Fabulously Fun Food.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Double Take, sort of: Black Beans and Rice

This week's double take is brought to you by the letters F for flu and C for cold. Mel's probably got the flu and I've had a cold. As a result, we have totally random, nonmatching double takes for you today. This is sort of a bonus b/c you get to see two random recipes instead of one recipe compared. My recipe for today is one that was made a couple months back.

When I posted Tex-Mex night, I delayed to post Southern Living's black beans and rice so Mel would have a chance to make it too. She may make it someday but for today, I'm going to give you the low down on it. The punchline of this recipe feeds an army. If you plan to make it and eat anything else besides beans, you'd better at least cut it in half. That being said, its not a recipe that is easily halved. I'm going to give you a reduced size recipe that is slightly larger than half the original. If you have a large family that likes eating leftovers, you may want the full recipe. For that, see page 339. Alternately, use this following reduced version and enjoy it with fajitas or something.

Black Beans and Rice (at the bottom) served with Fajitas (above)

Black Beans and Rice (adapted from the All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

1 c. uncooked long grain rice
3 - 15 oz cans of black beans
3/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped bell pepper, any color (I used orange and red)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp seeded, minced jalepeno pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 8 oz can chicken broth
1/2  - 6 oz can tomato paste, 3 oz tomato paste, roughly 2 Tbsp if you have a squeeze bottle
1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

toppings: shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped tomatos, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, chopped jalepeno peppers

Cook rice per package. Set aside and keep it warm. (I added 3 c. water and cooked in the microwave in a covered microwave bowl for 12 minutes. Make it anyway that works for you.)

Rinse and drain 2 cans of black beans but don't drain the other can.

Saute onions and next four ingredients and the hot oil over medium high heat in a sauce pan for 5 minutes or until they are tender

Stir in the beans (all), chicken broth and next 5 ingredients and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 min.

Add salt to taste and serve with the hot cooked rice and desired toppings.

Review: Everybody really liked these at cooking night. This method would take the leftovers for a small family down a reasonable quantity. I preferred mine with some grated cheddar and a little cilantro but this is totally a personal choice. You could easily make these vegetarian with some vegetable broth. I recommend using a version that isn't unsalted so you don't wind up having to overcompensate with salt that hasn't been cooked into the dish. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Double Take: Artichokes

Artichoke - green vegetable with scales reminescent of a dragon

My huge artichoke. Apparently they come in various sizes, this being on the larger end.

Though commonly mushed into a cheesy dip (possibly mingled with spinach to such an extent that the artichoke's actual flavor is difficult to distinguish), artichokes can be eaten in a non cheesy format. Don't freak. Just because its green and lacks a cheesy covering doesn't mean its not good. Artichokes are typically either boiled or steamed. They contain two main edible components 1) leaves 2) hearts. No no no. ...Don't be alarmed. They're vegetables after all. They don't have beating hearts. Its more like the idea of the heart of a tree. The central core of the artichoke. As for the leaves, you're not eating the whole pointy bit. Actually, you're eating a portion of the inside of the leaf. Let me show you.

Sample artichoke leaf
Place your teeth in the location indicated by the yellow lines and pull your teeth towards the base of the leaf
Above is my not-quite-perfect artichoke leaf from the inside view. You pluck the leaves individually from the artichoke. Looking at the inside you'll see a flat area (indicated on my drawing by dark green) and a slightly puffy pillow like area (light green on my drawing). On some leaves the light green area will be much smaller than others. Either way, the pillow portion contains a filling that you eat. Place your front teeth at the top of the pillow (where the yellow lines are) and rake them to the base of the pillow. Weird, eh?

In this case, Becky suggested cutting a bit off the  bottom until we could fit it in a steamer. From there, we steamed them for 45 minutes. We melted some butter (actually some leftover ghee) and sprinkled a bit of salt on the individual leaves when eating them. When I got tired of pulling leaves and slowly eating them, Becky pulled away the rest of the leaves to reveal the heart. Its kind of an olive green disc in the middle of a light green tough exterior. Becky had to do a little cutting to get to the disc. Although I didn't get a picture of this, Food Blogga did.  That's pretty much all there is to it. Even though it looks super complicated, its pretty simple. For a picture by picture view of how to eat an artichoke, Food Blogga has an excellent reference here.

My reaction:

Wow, its good. It takes a very long time to eat and at points it felt as slow as eating crab legs. I felt I was possibly spending more effort eating it than I was taking in calories from the food. It was good though. I would definitely do this again. I learned that for me, sharing an artichoke is probably a good idea. Also, I learned the leaves reheated really well in the microwave for lunch the next day. Enjoy!

Hungry for more artichokes? See Mels here!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Cranberry Apple Crostata with Orange Pastry Cream

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

November's baking challenge was a crostata (e.g. Italy's version of a tart). Crostatas have two basic parts: the crust and the filling. The crust is called pasta frolla and is buttery with a hint of citrus. The filling is variable, from raw or cooked fruit to crema pasticcera (a.k.a. crema or pastry cream, a creamy custard which is cooked on the stovetop). I thought a lot about seasonal fruits when preparing to make the challenge. I recalled a tasty cranberry apple casserole that my friend Mary makes sometimes for Thanksgiving. I wondered how its filling would taste atop a layer of the crema. This led to the preparation below.

Step 1: Crust

Since the challenge requirements were to use Simona's recipes for the pasta frolla, I chose the first one she listed mainly because it only used wheat flour (standard all purpose). I did make a slight varation on this as I had no lemon available. I did have an orange so I used orange peel instead.

Simona's Pasta Frolla #1

a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar

1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour

a pinch of salt

1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

grated zest of half a lemon (I used the zest of 1/4 of an orange)

1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Making pasta frolla by hand:

1. Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.

2. Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.

3. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).

4. Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.

5. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.

6. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.

7. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Step 2: Crema Pasticcera (Pastry Cream)

For this recipe, I used Simona's aunt's recipe with a slight adaptations. I didn't have extra large eggs so I used what I had (which were either medium or large, they were farm raised locally so they weren't graded.  I'd say you could use medium or large and it wouldn't make a ton of difference based on previous experience.) Since she said her recipe was notably not sweet, I sweetened it just a little. This was especially important since I was adding the tart cranberry apple element as a fruit topping. Finally, due to the lack of lemon, I used orange. Note, this will yield about enough crema for two tarts with half fruit, half crema or one tart filled entirely with crema. Here's my version:


1 large egg and 2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar (65 g)

500 ml milk (slightly more than 2 cups)

3 strips of orange peel about 3" long and 1/2" wide (using a potato peeler to cut the strips makes it easier to avoid
cutting the white part of the citrus)

3 tablespoons all purpose flour (I use White Lily. A harder flour such as Pillsbury will make a stiffer curd.)

How To:

Pour the milk into a pan, add the citrus peel and warm up to to just below boiling point. To describe this state, I'd say, pull the milk off the stove when you first start to see bubbles form. I'd class this as barely simmering.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is bubbly. Basically you'll see some bubble formation in the top of the solution. Its not going to be like a bottle of bubbles. Just expect to see some small bubbles in the top.

Sift the flour over the egg mixture and beat briefly until it is incorporated.

Temper the egg mixture with a small quantity of milk, then slowly add the rest of the milk, mixing with a wooden spoon. I alternated adding first maybe 1/4 to 1/2 c. of milk solution and then mixed the egg and milk solution together using a wire whisk.

Pour the mixture into the pan and set it to between low to medium heat, stirring at least every couple of minutes. When the froth on the surface disappears completely, the crema starts to feel slightly thicker.

From then on stir almost continuously. When the crema reaches boiling temperature and thickens, cook briefly (1-2 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. Then remove the citrus peel. Place the saucepan in a cold water bath, and stir the crema to bring down its temperature.  To prevent making a mess, choose a bowl for the water bath that is slightly larger in diameter than your crema sauce pot.  Fill the bowl 1/4 to 1/2 way full with cold water and ice. Plan to have at least 30-45 minutes to cool your crema.

While the crema cools down, stir it every now and then to prevent the formation of a film over it. Since everything is cooked, feel free to have a taste.

Step 3: Fruit Filling (Adapted from Mary's Cranberry Apple Casserole)


1 1/2 c. of your favorite apples, peeled and diced (The original recipe called for Granny Smiths. I used 1 Granny Smith and 1 Honeycrisp. I'd recommend any sweet-tart apple so Braeburn would work well too.)

1 c. cranberries

1/3 c. brown sugar (I tend to prefer dark brown sugar but dark or light will work.)

How To:

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir them together. Yes that's really it. If you want you can add 2 tsp of lemon juice to keep the apples looking fresh but its really unnecessary as you are about to bake them.

Step 4: Assembly and Completion

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Pull your pasta frolla (crust) out of the refridgerator. Unwrap the plastic partially from around it so that you have plastic on the counter top and the dough atop the plastic.

Cut away 1/4 of the dough and reserve it for making a top crust.

Place another piece of plastic wrap on top. Using a rolling pin or a sturdy plastic cup, roll the dough to 1/8 " thickness.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap. Using the lower layer of plastic wrap, lift and flip your pastry dough on top of your tart pan. If you are using mini tart pans, cut away a section that's about the right size and then move the section rather than the full sheet of dough. Shape your dough into the tart pan to cover the surface.

Add the crema. I filled the crema to about halfway up the tart.

Sprinkle the fruit mixture on top of the crema to fill the rest of the tart pan.

Roll out the reserved portion of dough to 1/8" thickness. Cut out strips to form a lattice or use cookie cutters to create a seasonal decoration. I used maple leaves and served this for Thanksgiving.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes. The crust should be lightly browned.

Now its time to take a taste! Cut off a slice!

Reaction: Its tart! Its sweet! Its creamy! The crust is awesome! I don't want the recipe, I want you to make it again for me to eat! (My favorite response was this last one from my grandma.) Its good to try new things. Its even better to try new things at Thanksgiving with family members who are often picky and who find out they love this new thing you've had them try. I really enjoyed this challenge, both in making and in tasting. I tasted the pastry cream with a little hesitance since I'm a bit iffy on pudding like textures. I found I really liked it. It had just enough sweetness for me. (I only increased the original sugar slightly). Thanks for introducing me (and my family) to crostatas!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Double Take: Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas

Before you say, WHHHHAAAT? I know most of America is busy stuffing themselves to points beyond consciousness but that's part of what makes this post so useful. Seriously. What are you going to do with all those random leftover vegetable trays from appetizers. You know what I'm talking about. The ones with the squash that just stare at you. You could snack on them but you probably will just stick them in the fridge and eat some more pie. What about a way to dress up those random asparagus? How about the onions that you let you let someone else cut up (so you wouldn't cry while you prepped other parts of the meal) and they cut way too many? Presenting ....leftover quesadillas!

Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas with a Potato Cake (Latke). Talk about your cultural melding.

Sure, I'm going to list this with veggies but you could certainly place some extra turkey in here. In addition, the random roasted vegetable medley that Aunt Ruth made could be used in here too. If you want, you're also welcome to get some fresh veggies.

(I felt way too confined by the actual southern living recipe. The main similarity here is that I roasted veggies and put them in quesadillas.)

Tab's Roasted Veggie Quesadillas

10 stalks of asparagus, broken into 1" sections
1 small squash, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil (I used Greek extra virgin olive oil. Use what you like best.)

3/4 c. cheddar, shredded
3/4 c. pepperjack cheese, shredded
5 (8 inch) flour tortillas
your favorite salsa (I used Peach Mango....mmmm)

Preheat your oven to 475 F.
Chop up your asparagus, squash, zucchini, onion and garlic. Place them on walled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 475 F for 10-15 minutes.

Now is a good time to shred your cheese. If you have a smoke detector, I'd turn it off before opening the oven. Roasted veggies tend to generate a fair bit of smoke.

When the veggies are done, spoon them onto tortillas.

Sprinkle evenly with cheese and fold the tortillas in half.

Place a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add the quesadillas, 2 at a time, to the skillet. Cook 2 - 3 minutes on each side until the outsides are toasted to your preference. A light brown makes me happy. Cut the tortillas into wedges. Spoon on some salsa or dip in salsa. Enjoy!

(Note: These reheat well and make a good light lunch.)

My thoughts: I liked them. I learned I preferred the zucchini to the yellow squash. Also, its very important to make sure to cook the asparagus long enough or it will be woody. I would definitely make these again. I'd probably even spice them up with some rosemary while they roasted. They'd be great with potatoes and sweet potatoes too!

Take your turkey legs over to Mel's blog to see her version!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Double Take: Tabboleh

Some of you may be wondering, what is tabboleh? Its kind of a salad with cracked wheat (aka bulgar), fresh herbs, some olive oil, and lemon juice. The rest is up to you. This recipe isn't posted online but frankly, you might not need a recipe. This is the sort of thing that varies no matter who makes it. In this case, the tabboleh contained: lettuce (I used the curly sort), fresh tomato (I smelled mine for fresh flavor, its tough to find tomatoes with taste this time of year), parsley (rinse well before use), bulgar (same as cracked wheat, soak in an excess amount of water [at least double the amount of scooped grain] for one hour, then drain), mint, garlic (well you know how I am). The proportions of the above really don't matter. I'd go with more bulgar to the rest ratio so maybe 1 c. bulgar to other parts being 1/2 c. but in this case, it was more like the other way around. When you chopped everything finely, you mix it all together. Then make a little dressing: 1 Tbsp of olive oil, a little salt, a little pepper, 2 Tbsp of lemon juice (or more, just go with your own taste). Stir it together, let it sit an hour and then taste it. You can let it sit til morning or lunch or whatever. The flavors build so its a good thing to sit. Feel free to switch up the herbs and make it into something you like. I ate mine with italian bread. Yum!

Up close and personal, a very salady Tabboleh
Are you ready for this?


Review: The recipe in Ultimate Southern Living was different than I expected. I amped up the lemon juice and enjoyed it. I also got a few coworkers to try it and they especially liked it with more lemon. Would I make it again? Sure. I would probably use more bulgar though.

Wondering what Mel thought? Satisfy your curiosity at Fabulously Fun Food.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Double Take: Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup

"This is the soup that never ends....It just goes on and on my friends. This girl just started making it not knowing what it was and she'll continue eating it forever just because....."

This soup was my pick. I saw pumpkin. I read the recipe but apparently didn't process it all in my mind. While I normally sometimes read and really think about what something will taste like and how the textures will be when I look at recipes, for some reason I processed this as something like a sweet butternut squash soup...only with pumpkin. I didn't think about it being a thick creamy soup, I just kept on going. Well, its thick and creamy. I learned I really like one bowl of it. I rather enjoy the second bowl. By the time I hit bowl #4, I can't force myself to finish it. Moral (for me): Make sure I have other ppl to eat this soup in the future or just freeze the rest of the pumpkin so I don't get so tired of eating the same thing.

Now the sensible person that I am started this soup before going to work one morning. (Good idea. Not that the soup takes long but sometimes when I come in from the lab, I'm ready to eat, not wait an hour or so to prepare something.) It only took about 15 minutes to reheat and pulse to a smooth texture. No problem. The industrious part of me decided I wanted to make bread bowls from which to eat the soup. This really wasn't a bad idea. It really should have worked but when I got up that morning, the weather was against me. It was pouring rain. In spite of running a heater below the bread for an hour, the yeast refused to budge. I sat the bread dough in the microwave, covered it and hoped for the best. I returned home to find the bread looking almost exactly the same as when I'd left that morning (about 10 hours earlier). There was only one thing to do...go to the grocery deli and get substitute bread.  That got me to do deli's make sure their bread rises everyday? Do they run a dehumidifier? If anyone knows, let me know. I may ask a random local bakery or two if no one reading happens to know. I also wondered, how did they get bread to rise daily when everyone made their own bread everyday and didn't have dehumidifiers. My guess is there's a simple solution. Anyone?

I started to toss the dough. Then I hesitated and sat it back in the safety spot of the microwave. When I checked on it the next morning it had risen! (The rain stopped and the humidity fell.) I placed 4 ramekins upside down on a baking sheet and wrapped bread dough around them. By evening they were ready to bake.  I popped them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 until they browned. Then I flipped them over, removed the ramekins and baked about 5-7 minutes more. They came out great! I reheated soup from the day before and it was great!

Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup in a homemade bread bowl

Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup 
(as featured in the All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)
modifications are in italics


  • 2  tablespoons  butter or margarine
  • 1  large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced (I doubled them, shocker.)
  • 5  cups  chicken broth
  • 1  large baking potato, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4  teaspoons  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh cilantro (I used closer to 1/3 c.)
  • 2  cups  milk
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lime juice
  • Garnishes: sour cream, fresh cilantro sprig

How To:

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeño pepper, and garlic; sauté 15 minutes. Add chicken broth and next 4 ingredients; cook, stirring often, 30 minutes or until potato is tender. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly (about 5 to 10 minutes).
At this point, I took the soup off the heat and did the rest when I got home. 
Process potato mixture, pumpkin, and cilantro, in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.
Return to medium pot; stir in milk, and simmer 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in lime juice; garnish, if desired.

REVIEW: I thought this was a good soup. I would definitely eat a bowl of it the distant future. I got a little burnt out on it after eating most of it myself. Ruthann didn't like it. Becky liked it ok. I think if it had about half or a quarter of the cumin, I'd have enjoyed it more. More lime juice might've helped as well. Overall I'd eat this again but I wouldn't make the whole recipe. I'm only one person and have a limit to how many leftovers of creamy soup that I can force myself to eat. The bread bowl was tasty. I used the recipe from Norwegian cooking night for the bread. Be sure to go for the higher amount of the cardamom. 
Pop over to Mel's blog to see what she thought of the Southwestern Pumpkin Soup.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Double Take: Smothered Enchiladas

Confession #1: Although I've tried a variety of Mexican food, this is my first time eating enchiladas. 
Confession #2: I was slightly anxious about trying them because they never appealed to me in restaurants. 
Confession #3: I can be a bit hesitant about recipes containing cream of chicken soup and/or sour cream.

When Mel picked this recipe out, I said to myself, its good to try new things. I hope it tastes good. Spoiler Alert: It tastes very good! As Lydia Bastianich is prone to say, “Let me taste it for you.” A soft tortilla wraps around a taco meat filling that is more than your average bear. The meat has the added bonus of little green chiles which are not hot but add nice flavor and texture to the filling. As you take a bite, you notice the sweet and moderately spicy flavors of the salsa blending with at once cheesy and creamy sauce that surrounds the tortilla. These flavors are followed by the texture and taste of the taco meat filling with bonus green chiles. If you’ll excuse me a minute, I have an enchilada (or two) to finish.

Smothered Enchilada with Peach Mango Salsa

Smothered Enchiladas (adapted from All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

1  pounds ground beef
1  (1 1/4-ounce) package mild taco seasoning mix
1/3 c. water
1  (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, divided
1  (10 3/4-ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
1  (8-ounce) container sour cream
8  (8-inch) flour tortillas
2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Garnishes: Homemade Salsa, chopped fresh cilantro

How To:

Brown ground beef in a large skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix, water (fill the empty seasoning packet with it ~ 1/3 c.) and half of chopped green chiles; set aside.

Stir together remaining green chiles, soup, and sour cream. Pour half of soup mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Spoon beef mixture evenly down centers of tortillas; roll up. Place, seam sides down, over soup mixture in baking dish; top evenly with remaining soup mixture and cheese.

Ready for the oven

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish, as desired. (I used peach and mango salsa.)

Hot out of the oven!

What I thought:

I was pleasantly surprised. Sweet and spicy meeting up with a whirlwind of texture from chunky salsa to creamy sauce to crumbly filling makes for a little Mexican party in your mouth.

Test #1: How does it taste fresh? A: J.
Test #2: How does it taste reheated? J.

If you have 4 people, leftovers aren’t likely. General responses to the reheated food in the breakroom at work: Oh my gosh, you made that? (Its simple to make but it looks impressive.) Wow that smells incredible. (It really does.) In fact, there was a vegetarian that even liked the smell of it. Variations: You could easily change the filling to a lentil taco filling (instead of beef) or even go with a cheese filling. I would definitely recommend the recipe as modified above.

Drop by Mel's blog, FabulouslyFunFood, to see her thoughts and variations.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Double Take: Tuscan Pork Chops

Most of the pork recipes from USL have been very good so when Mel asked me to pick a set of 9 or 10 recipes to round out the end of the year, I chose a couple of pork ones. For some indeterminable reason, I had trouble getting myself to make this one though. I got the extra ingredients and then something would always come up to prevent it being made. I finally forced myself to make it before I went out of town for a conference.

Tuscan Pork Chops ( adapted from the All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)


1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon  salt
3/4  teaspoon  seasoned pepper
4  (1-inch-thick) boneless pork chops
1  tablespoon  olive oil
3  to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3  cup  balsamic vinegar
1/3  cup  chicken broth
1/2 - 1 can of diced tomatoes or 3  plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2  tablespoons  capers

How To:

Be sure to prepare all ingredients as listed above before starting or you may not have them ready in time when they are needed.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a shallow dish; dredge pork chops in flour mixture.

Cook pork chops in hot oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove chops from skillet.

Add garlic to skillet, and sauté 1 minute. Add vinegar and broth, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet; stir in tomatoes and capers.

Return pork chops to skillet; bring sauce to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 4 to 5 minutes or until pork is done. Serve pork chops with tomato mixture.

Tuscan Pork Chops with Golden Mac and Cheese and Steamed Green Beans

My reaction:

While cooking the dish, I felt confused by the order of preparation. It made no sense to me to cook the pork without seasoning it, set it aside, and then add the seasoning to it for a few minutes. It makes much more sense to me to prep the seasonings, marinate the pork in them for 30 minutes, then cook the pork with the seasonings. I followed the recipe though. To me, it tasted like pork with tomatoes on top. Nothing more. This really didn't appeal to me. If I made it again (which would require considerable arm twisting...possibly brute force), I'd prep the seasonings and marinate before cooking the pork. I'd rate this at disappointing as it is. The macaronis were still pretty good though. I'm glad I repeated them!

Head over to Mel's blog to see what she and Bender thought.

Daring Baker's: Doughnuts!

My immediate reaction to this month's challenge included wide eyes, a broad smile, and a major effort not to jump up and down with excitement. (Confession: The suppression of the jumping may not have been 100% effective.) Homemade doughnuts have been on my baking "to do" list for a few months now so I was excited to get the Daring Bakers push to move doughnuts to the "do it this month" list..even though I knew October would be a ridiculously hectic month for me.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann, and Epicurious.

As I scanned the recipes, I was initially overambitious. I seriously wanted to make yeast filled with multiple items and pumpkin cake and blueberry cake. Did I meantion I was VERY excited? Right. Since October has been busy for me, I had to force myself to pick one type at least so I chose yeast. What can I say? I love Krispy Kreme. I plan to make more later but for this month, one batch was I could handle. That did not mean it would be one varient though.

Chocolate glazed doughnut with sweetened whipped cream case you're was great!

Equipment Needed

For Frying: large deep pot and thermometer
                 Deep fryer with temperature control

metal tongs (for lifting, rolling, coating, etc. ...general handling of doughnuts)

cookie sheets (At least 2 for letting the doughnuts rise)

cups/cutters for preparing shapes of the doughnuts (I used one large cup to cut out the outer doughnut circle and some small fall cutters (Michael's, $4 for a pack of 6) in the shapes of acorns, pumpkins, apples and leaves for minor holes)

optional: space heater to increase kitchen temperature for dough rising

How To:

Time to get started! I'd read the recipe and watched the youtube videos. I felt ready and based on what I'd seen and read, it should only take 2 hours. I allowed 3 because sometimes the unforseen happens and sometimes pro chefs can magically do things faster than a first time preparation will go. I'm glad I started early. I learned that the projected time assumed a couple pieces of equipment were present that weren't available to me, namely, a stand mixer and willingness to use a large pot and thermometer rather than a smaller capacity deep fryer. I started the dough. The recipe reminded me that the dough would be thinner than most yeast breads. However, it was clear that the dough should be stirred until it stiffened and thickened enough to pull away from the sides of the bowl to make a ball. Let me tell you, there is a HUGE difference between a stand mixer and the arm of a grad student equipped with a wooden spoon. I didn't stop. I stirred quickly but I'm no match for a stand mixer. That factor alone more than doubled the prep time for the batter. I'd buffered an extra hour into my total time but now my time buffer was gone!

The use of a small space heater warmed my rising dough and helped trim the first rising time. The kitchen was so chilly, it would've taken quite a while to rise without the heater. While I waited on the dough to rise, I started selecting which cutters I wanted. I chose the largest cup in the cabinet to cut out the doughnut rounds. Its diameter was approximately 4 inches. When I started looking through the cabinet for a smaller container to punch a hole, I found myself concerned. I'd been convinced that a small cup or even a tropicana to go bottle would work very well to make doughnut holes. All I saw in the cabinet was too big! My mind rolled through my kitchen inventory in search of anything remotely close to the needed size (roughly a 1 inch diameter). I suddenly recalled an alternative that wasn't a circle but was the right tiny fall cookie cutters! the acorn, pumpkin, and leaves would be just the right size...not to mention super cute for fall.

I rolled out the dough and cut out the shapes leaving half the dough without holes to allow options for filling. Alton Brown recommended waiting an hour after each rolling of the dough before cutting out the next set of doughnuts. He claimed the 1st set would rise better and that this helped the second set to have enhanced lightness. Since I was short on time, I kept rolling and cutting. I was very gentle with the rolling to try to not overwork the dough. Success! I found my later cut outs were lighter than the first and I was actually most pleased with them. Using my space heater, my rising time moved along quickly.

Acorn cut out with acorn and pumpkin doughnut holes

Pumpkin cutout and other fall doughnut holes

I pulled my deep fryer from its box in the pantry and began heating the oil. As this was happening, my friend Jennifer arrived to help eat doughnuts. She brought along her son and husband too! Yay for doughnut eaters! Another friend of mine had to work a 30 hour shift but really wanted doughnuts so I had plans to bring some by to her at her work for a boost of doughnut happiness. Anywho, it was time to cook them! Using the tongs, I slid 2 doughnuts into the deep fryer at a time. Uh oh. Alton Brown cooked 4 at a time. Does anyone out there spot a time delay? Fortunately, they only took a minute or two to cook a round. After a few rounds, Jennifer felt confident enough to remove doughnuts. Then she got confident enough to add and remove. This gave me time to make a powdered sugar glaze, chocolate topping and whipped cream filling!

Powdered Sugar Glaze

1/4 c. water
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Heat the water and vanilla in a small sauce pot until the mixture reaches a simmer. Whisk in the powdered sugar until it is completely dissolved forming a white or clear sauce (depending on the temperature of the water before adding the powdered sugar).

Chocolate glaze/topping

1/4 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp butter

Heat both together for one minute at a time in a microwave. Stir after 1 minute. Repeat until mixture is smooth. This shouldn't take more than 3, one minute cycles.

Whipped Cream Filling

1 c. whipped cream
half a cup of powdered sugar

Beat the cream only until you get soft peaks. Add the sugar slowly and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat! Stop when you get stiff peaks or the mixture will separate and form butter.


With these made, it was time for assembly! As the hot doughnuts were coming out of the oil, they were removed with tongs and placed on a cookie sheet. Then I picked the doughnuts up with tongs and inserted them in the glaze. I rolled them over in the glaze to coat the surface. Once covered, I removed the doughnut with tongs and set it back on the cookie sheet. This glazing process was repeated with all the doughnuts and doughnut holes.

Doughnut with the acorn cutout inside

We added chocolate glaze to the top of some of the holed doughnuts and all of the solid doughnuts. This was a matter of warming the glaze and stirring it. We warmed the glaze until it was smooth and then either poured or spooned and smooth the glaze on top of the doughnuts. Some of the doughnut holes were simply dipped in the glaze. Since the doughnut holes were immediately consumed, there aren't photos of them. They were the perfect size for a two year old (and tempting for those greater than 2 as well)!

Glazing, coating and filling

To fill the doughnuts, I used two special tools. Tool #1 was a single chopstick. That's right, just a wooden chopstick. Tool #2 was an icing piper. If you don't have one of these, a ziplock bag with an icing tip will work too. My icing piper is small (roughly 5 inches long and 1 - 1.5 inches in diameter). It has a syringe look to it, minus the markings. I filled the tube with whipped cream. Then I used the chopstick to poke a hole into the side of the doughnut. Placing the tip of the icing piper into the hole, I injected filling into the doughnut until it was full. This is something you can feel. If in doubt, keep pushing in filling until you feel pressure pushing back at you. When you feel pressure, back the tip out and keep injecting a little so that the inside has plenty of filling. Voila.


See this smile? That's a this-doughnut-is-awesome reaction!

We enjoyed the doughnuts with milk. They were best hot but still good once cooled. Like most doughnuts, they were best the first day. I refrigerated them to help them last longer and they remained enjoyable with brief microwave heating. (Don't go much over 10 s, or you will melt the whipped cream and make a horrible mess, not that I'd know of course.) I took some over to Rebecca at work and brought a few extra at her coworkers request. They seemed to be enjoyed by all who ate them. Thanks for a great challenge!

Here's the full recipe I used for the doughnut pastries courtesy of The Daring Kitchen and Alton Brown:

Yeast Doughnuts:
Preparation time:
Hands on prep time - 25 minutes
Rising time - 1.5 hours total
Cooking time - 12 minutes
Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size
Milk 1.5 cup / 360 ml
Vegetable Shortening 1/3 cup / 80 ml / 70 gm / 2.5 oz (can substitute butter, margarine or lard)
Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon (2 pkgs.) / 22.5 ml / 14 gm / ½ oz
Warm Water 1/3 cup / 80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C)
Eggs, Large, beaten 2
White Granulated Sugar ¼ cup / 60 ml / 55 gm / 2 oz
Table Salt 1.5 teaspoon / 7.5 ml / 9 gm / 1/3 oz
Nutmeg, grated 1 tsp. / 5 ml / 6 gm / ¼ oz
All Purpose Flour 4 2/3 cup / 1,120 ml / 650 gm / 23 oz + extra for dusting surface
Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)
  1. Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
  2. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
  4. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
  5. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
  6. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
  7. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  8. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
  9. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
  11. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (my doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).
  12. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Double Take: Golden Macaroni and Cheese

I'm admittedly picky about macaroni and cheese. I've never been into the boxed versions. My mom made a good nonbaked version growing up that I still prepare sometimes. My mom also made a baked macaroni and cheese that's been a family recipe for multiple generations. Most of the family raves over it but its never been my favorite thing. I ate it and enjoyed it ok but it wouldn't be on the list for my last meal or anything. No version of mac and cheese has reheated well in my past experience. In fact, reheated macaronis are one of the few things I've struggled to eat as leftovers and often felt inclined to just pitch to the birds and squirrels. When Melanie mentioned this recipe, I grimaced. I've had her favorite mac and cheese (which was handed down through the family too). She loves it. To me, its a lot like my mom's family's version. Hers might be cheesier (which is a good thing) but they're pretty similar. However, I figured, why not try it. It could be better than I expect. It doesn't hurt to try new things. I could always make a small version (which I usually do anyway so that I don't spend all week eating the same thing).

I came home and started a half recipe of the macaronis. I had to measure the cups needed of pasta b/c most of us get macaronis in 1 lb boxes. Then I had to keep my mind on halving everything since I didn't want to rewrite the recipe. (Recipe below is the whole version of the recipe, I made mine in an 8x8 pan.) Everything came together easily and egg! I'm pretty sure I smiled when I realized it was eggless. Its not that I dislike eggs. Rather, I don't prefer to find little white clumpyness in macaronis and be reminded oh an egg bit. Heather called part way through the macaronis baking and asked about coming over to hang out. I said "sure, want to try these macaronis I'm making?" Heather said, " Uh, probably not, I really never like macaronis. Well, since you're making them and I like your food, I'll at least try a taste." I told her I made no promises since some recipes from this book haven't been prize winning but she was welcome to try them.

The macaronis came out of the oven just as Heather arrived. I scooped some up with some fresh steamed green beans. Heather got a plate and sat at the table beside me. We were both surprised to realize..hey these are pretty good. ...actually really good....I think I want some more. After we'd both had 2 servings (which would equal one serving according to USL...their servings are huge), we decided this was a definite keeper. Heather doesn't cook a ton but said she wanted the recipe.

Golden Mac and Cheese with Steamed Green Beans
Final test: The macaronis tasted good fresh...very good in fact. The secondary question did they reheat? Most macaroni recipes are kind of dry and taste odd after reheating. This tends to be part of the reason they get fed to birds and squirrels. This recipe was the exception. It was wonderful reheated. They remained cheesy, soft, and tasty. Sorry squirrels, you'll be missing out on these because they're too good toss.

Golden Macaroni and Cheese (slightly modified from The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

8 oz of elbow macaroni  (approximately 1 3/4 c. measured dry macaroni noodles)
2 c. milk
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. onion salt
2 (8oz) blocks of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (4 1/2 c.) *
1 c. soft bread crumbs
1/4 c. butter, melted (I use unsalted.)

How to:

Cook macaroni according to the package instructions. Typically this involves boiling a pot of water, adding noodles and letting them cook for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place milk, flour, and onion salt in a jar. Cover tightly and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

Stir together flour mixture, 3 1/2 c. cheese, and macaroni noodles.

Pour macaroni mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle evely with breadcrumbs and remaining 1 c. of cheese. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.

Yield: I'd call this 16 side servings, not 8 (as stated in USL). If there's only 2 people, halve the dish. If your family eats a ton of macaroni, go for the full sized pan. Remember that most people are going to want seconds of this dish and plan accordingly.

*(I modified the cheese blocks. When I shredded the cheese, I only needed the equivalent of 2 8 oz blocks rather than two 10 oz blocks per the recipe.)

Final Product, prior to might not win a beauty contest but it tastes great!


Heather and I both loved this dish and I plan to make it again...tonight for dinner with some Tuscan pork chops! (You'll have to wait til next week to hear about those though.)

Be sure to stop by Fabulously Fun Food to see what Mel and Bender thought of this dish.