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Friday, September 30, 2011

Tortellini Soup

I'm very proud of myself. This recipe came* from the most recent Food Network magazine. This really shouldn't be a cause for celebration, but to me it is. Because it means that I have now cooked two recipes from one month's magazine!! And considering I normally tab about 40 recipes in each of the three magazines I receive each month (Cooking Light, Food Network, and Bon Appetit) but rarely make one, this is quite the achievement. I've been forcing myself to cook and bake from the many magazines I get on a monthly basis and the ridiculous amount of cookbooks I own. I don't know why I tend to cook and bake from food blogs. I think there is something to be said about recipes that come attached with pictures of the finished product. Not many cookbooks or magazines can pull that off without charging a ridiculous amount. So, I gravitate towards the photos that look most appetizing and go from there. But given the money I spend on the cookbooks and magazines, it's time to give them some love too!
We absolutely loved this hearty soup. It is an ideal 30-minute meal that can easily be prepped in 10 minutes. Everything practically goes into the pot at once so once it's in and simmering, you're good to go. The soup was very good. I loved the flavors and most especially, the colors. (We recently replaced the lightbulbs in the kitchen. Sadly, this photo was taken prior to the lightbulb change.) The seasoning is mixed in with the ground beef and after that it is super simple. Ron served as my sous chef for this recipe and helped with the canned ingredients. (This recipe can easily be made with fresh products, as opposed to canned, but the cans are the sole reason the recipe is simple so adapt as you wish.) I might hire him from here on out. The recipe makes a ton of soup so you'll have plenty of leftovers. Enjoy!

*Ok, it was listed on an advertisement for Sam's Club. But it still came from the magazine. :)
Tricolor Tortellini Soup
from Sam's Club
  • 1 lb grass-fed 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 x 14.5-ounce canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 x 15.25-ounce can corn, drained
  • 2 x 14-ounce cans chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pound tricolor tortillini or spinach and cheese tortillini (or ravioli)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In large bowl, add ground beef, 1 Tbsp italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper; mix to combine. Crumble mixture and add to skillet with diced onions. Brown in skillet over medium heat.
  2. In large pot, combine browned ground beef mixture, diced tomatoes, corn, chicken broth, water, 2 Tbsp italian seasoning, garlic, spinach, carrots, salt, and pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil.
  3. Once mixture is boiling, add tortellini to the pot and boil for 3 minutes. Decrease heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waldorf Salad with Steel-Cut Oats

The Waldorf Salad, which is a blend of apples, celery, and walnuts, is a pretty dated recipe; it was first served in the 1890's at NYC's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel! I've never really made a true Waldorf Salad before. The salad is typically made with a mayonnaise dressing and I've been trying to lighten things up around our house, so I was very excited when I saw this "Waldorf Salad Reinvented" recipe in Mark Bittman's column in Cooking Light.
This recipe uses steel-cut oats and adds a very unique texture and flavor to the recipe. It is a healthy accompaniment to a dinner, a hearty salad by itself, and stores wonderfully. If you don't like the oats, you can replace it with any grain to suit your preference. I'll be making this again next time I'm in the mood for something wholesome, flavorful, and crunchy.
Waldorf Salad with Steel-Cut Oats
from Cooking Light
Yield: about 4 servings
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups torn radicchio
  • 1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese (or blue cheese crumbles)
  1. Combine oats, 1 cup water, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 7 minutes (do not stir) or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Place oats in a medium bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine walnuts, honey, and red pepper in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook until 4 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and honey is slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally.
  3. Combine remaining 1/2 tsp salt, olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add dressing, apple, radicchio, and grapes to oats; toss well. Place 1 1/2 cups oat mixture on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with about 3 Tbsp walnut mixture and 2 Tbsp of crumbled cheese.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Ron and I are on completely different breakfast schedules. I'm an "I need to eat as soon as I get out of bed" type person and he is a "I need to be up for a few hours before I eat, if I eat at all" type person. Ron is also a late-riser, while I am an early bird. Pair this with the fact that I get sick, grumpy and/or angry if I need to eat and you can see how this poses a problem when we have a planned breakfast, like pancakes.

Sundays tend to be "eat more breakfast than usual" days in our house. It's the day when I go out for longer runs so I'm normally up around 5:30 so I can eat, hydrate, glance through the paper, smell some fresh air and wake up before I head out for a few hours. So even though I love having pancakes before a run, I normally don't eat them unless they were frozen and reheated. (Blech?) I've confessed this before - but it needs to be re-confessed - I've never been successful with pancakes so Ron is the griddle-man. Yep. I refuse to attempt pancakes unless Ron is the one making them. It's worthless (and embarrassing).
But, we sure love pancakes in our house so despite the mess, they are made often. In fact, pancakes-for-dinner is currently on the planned menu for Wednesday of this week. :) And when Ron rolled out of bed yesterday, I had a treat for him that I was super excited for him to try. Regina, one of my loyal blog readers, sent this to my mom and my mom forwarded it to me. Ron is a cinnamon roll fanatic - and I NEVER make them because of a few past incidents with the rolling pin - so I was super excited to give these a try. Unfortunately for Ron, this meant he had to actually cook his own breakfast. But I did everything else so who can complain? (Well, he does. But he's a grumpy morning person.)

These pancakes were so fun and very decadent! I wouldn't eat these everyday but they are definitely going to become an occasional treat! They tasted exactly like cinnamon rolls, without all of the rolling, so I was very pleased.  Thanks, Regina, for reading my blog and for forwarding along such a fun recipe!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
from Recipe Girl
Yield: about 4 large pancakes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cinnamon Filling:
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Glaze:
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Prepare pancake batter: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in milk, oil and egg, just until batter is moistened.
  2. Prepare cinnamon filling: in a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Scoop the filling into a small ziploc bag and set aside. The filling should become a consistency similar to toothpaste, not liquidy. (If it gets too hard, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up again but let it sit out for a bit to harden before adding it to pancake batter - it will be too runny and run all over your pancakes it it's too liquid.)
  3. Prepare cream cheese glaze: in a microwave-safe bowl, heat butter and cream cheese until melted. Whisk together until smooth then add in powdered sugar and vanilla extract, set aside.
  4. Heat large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick spray. Scoop about 2/3-3/4 cup of batter onto the skillet or griddle. After about one minute, snip the corner of your bag with cinnamon filling and squeeze a spiral of the filling onto the top of the pancake. When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, carefully flip them with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1-2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter and keep in a warm over until ready to serve.
  5. When ready to serve, spoon warmed glaze onto the top of each pancake. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Bagels

Happy First Official Day of Fall! I'm really missing Minnesota this time of year. Seattle is still having some warm days - today it's 80 degrees - and while I'm not complaining about the sunshine, I do wish we had some fall colors to gawk at. My favorite thing in Minnesota was riding my bike during the fall. I'd go for the longest bike rides in the most crisp, chilly fall air. Then, I'd come home and brew a carafe of fresh coffee, read the newspaper, and think about apple orchards and picking pumpkins. We're heading out for a long hike this weekend. Hopefully we see some fall colors while we're out!
So instead of reminiscing about the good ol' days, I decided to bake up some new memories and new smells. This bagels were absolutely delicious. The entire house smelled like a giant autumn-fest with cinnamon and apples taking over. The bagels were a lot of work (especially if you only make half of a recipe) but they are totally worth it. They dry out quickly so if you aren't going to eat them all in one day, then make sure you package them up and freeze them. They are delicious reheated. I enjoyed mine with some almond pumpkin seed butter. But they would taste amazing with anything!
Cinnamon Apple Bagels
from My Little Celebration, who adapted from Emeril Lagassi
Yield: 11-12 bagels
For Bagels
  • 2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees F
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packets active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 small-medium granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. sugar
For Streusal Topping (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Add 1 Tbsp of butter to a large skillet over medium heat, then add the apples, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 Tbsp sugar, and stir. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are soft and caramelized. Add more sugar and cinnamon if needed. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, and 3 Tbsp of sugar in a large bowl. Stir and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of WW flour, the apple mixture, salt and 1/4 cup sugar and stir. Then gradually add 3 cups of AP flour and mix until the mixture comes together.
  3. Add 1-1 1/2 cups additional AP flour 1/2 cup at a time. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed, about 10 minutes.
  4. Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove from bowl and punch down the dough. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 2-3 ounces each. Loosely form each piece of dough into a ball and then poke a small hole in the middle of the ball with your fingers. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place on a lightly greased surface, cover with a clean cloth, and let rest until risen but not doubled in a draft-free spot, 20-30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a baking sheet. Prepare the streusel topping by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl with fingers or a fork. (If too wet, add more flour. If too dry, add more butter.)
  7. In a large heavy pot, bring 12 cups of water and the remaining 1 Tbsp of sugar to a boil. In batches, add the bagels to the water and boil, turning for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip bagels on the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 5 minutes. If adding streusel topping, remove the bagels at this point and turn the bagels over. Spoon the topping onto bagels after you have flipped them. Then, return bagels to the oven for another 30-35 minutes. If you are not adding streusel topping, do not remove bagels at the 5 minute mark but rather leave them in the oven for a total of 35-40 minutes. 
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Corn and Green Chile Bisque

In the years that I've posted on this food blog, I've learned that all food cannot be aesthetically pleasing. I'm sure this soup could look beautiful in appropriate lighting and with the correct dishes. But the soup looks like baby food, to be kind. However, I refuse to keep this recipe from the blog simply because it does not look as appetizing as other things on this blog! This delicious meal has a backstory! Since moving to Seattle, we've gotten hooked on the corn and green chile bisque from the Metropolitan Market. We tried this soup shortly after we moved and now probably go there at least once a week to grab a bowl to go with a side of Macrina bakery potato roll (or olive roll). It's delicious and my favorite take-out meal of all time. That's saying a lot.
But it's also super devastating when we head into the store to find out that they don't have the soup on the daily rotation. This has happened all too often so I decided it was necessary to find the recipe to make in our own kitchen. Nope. The grocer has other ideas. I've searched everywhere online but cannot find this top-secret recipe. So, the last time I was there, Ron grabbed a bowl and I turned over the sign to check out the ingredients and attempt some adapting at home. This recipe isn't the same creamy bisque that is served at the Metropolitan Market (probably because it lacks heavy cream!). But it's quite a delicious substitution to satisfy for the Metropolitan's recipe. The recipe uses a lot of canned ingredients but you can easily use freshly shucked corn, chiles, and tomatoes in lieu of the cans. But the cans save some time to make this a quick meal and absolutely delightful. Enjoy this on your next chilly fall day!

And as the potato roll is an absolute necessity to pair with the soup, I decided to try my hand at baking my own potato loaf from the Macrina Bakery cookbook. This cookbook is incredible, Macrina Bakery is a must-visit, and the bread was amazing! Recipe will follow. . .
Corn and Green Chile Bisque
adapted from Sassy Dining and inspired by Metropolitan Market
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalepeno, minced and seeded (unless you want some heat!)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 x 14 oz cans corn, rinsed and drained
  • 2 small cans diced green chiles
  • 1 x 14 oz can chopped tomatoes with chiles
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, red and green bell peppers, and saute but do not brown. Add 3 Tbsp of flour to the onions and peppers; stir.
  2. Add the corn, green chiles, and tomatoes; stir.
  3. Add the spices, milk, half and half, and broth; stir.
  4. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes until blended together. Taste then season with salt and pepper.
  5. With an immersion blender, pulse the soup but do not puree. Soup should be chunky. (Alternatively, you can transfer soup to a blender or food processor and pulse.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Buffalo Wing Hummus

I pride myself on the fact that I eat relatively healthy. But I'm far from perfect as evidenced by the multitude of sugar-laden baked goods on this blog and the nearly-empty bag of chocolate chips in the fridge (none were used in any baked product). And I can't resist splurging every now and then. Buffalo Chicken Dip is one of those dips that I simply cannot resist and always save some room to splurge. We often serve it on game-days when watching the Steelers beat the crap out of other teams, like the Seattle Seahawks, who they shut out earlier this morning. . . (No comment about last week's ill-attempt at football from the Steelers.) But anyway, Buffalo Chicken Dip can certainly take its toll on one's waist! The average recipe has a minimum of 16 ounces of cream cheese, 1 cup of Ranch or Blue cheese dressing, and 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese. And most people enjoy it with Frito's! So, I normally limit myself to one or two pathetic little chips and sulk in a corner.
So, imagine my delight when I opened this month's Food Network magazine and saw this recipe for 'Buffalo Wing' hummus. Um, seriously? I pretty much schmear hummus on everything from vegetables to toast (it's second to my peanut butter addiction) so I was very excited, albeit skeptical, to try it out. But! This stuff is amazing! The magazine published two other recipes (from The Desert Cafe) - sour cream and onion hummus and pizza hummus - that I cannot wait to try! The company has over 175 versions, including kinds like pumpkin pie and butterfinger, but I'm not really into buying 6 x 8oz containers for one person. (At least not in daylight hours.) I might need to go to Baltimore... Anyway, this hummus tastes so good and any buffalo craving is absolutely satisfied. One word of caution though: this stuff makes nearly 4 cups of hummus. Looks like it's a hummus-fest for the next week!
Buffalo Wing Hummus
from The Desert Cafe,, The Wild Pea, as seen in Food Network Magazine
Yield: 4 cups
Nutrition: Per 2 Tbsp: 39 cal, 1g fat
  • 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, plus 1/2 cup liquid reserved
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp bbq sauce
  • 2-3 Tbsp cayenne red pepper hot sauce (I used Red Hot)
  • 1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  1. Put the chickpeas, chickpea liquid, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, bbq sauce, hot sauce, vinegar and salt in a food processor. Puree until smooth and creamy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

The other day, I found myself lying around in my yoga clothes, drinking my 8th cup of coffee for the day, nibbling on freshly baked potato bread, and watching Sleepless in Seattle for what might be the 12th time since moving to Seattle. (Fun fact: We live right near Alki Beach, where Meg Ryan's character watches Tom Hanks and his son get off of their boat after they sail from their houseboat.) This was unusual for me. I don't sit down unless I'm by the computer. I don't like sitting. Sitting sucks. (It's for that reason that I don't normally watch tv and am a terrible date at the movie theater -- I'm convinced that I have restless leg syndrome -- but that's a diversion.) But I had no energy. No motivation. No pep. Nothing. It was like all of the energy had been sucked out of my body.
Then, I glanced outside. Yep, clouds. There they were. Everywhere. Gloomy. Overcast. Slight chill. Grumpy. Nastiness. Even the crows weren't making noises. They, too, were suffering. No sign of sunshine.

We've been blessed in Seattle since we moved here. Sunshine, nearly every single day. Heck, three days ago, it was still 80 degrees and sunny! But then it turned, drastically. I'm guessing this is what the locals mean when they say that "summer is great!!" And I guess I now understand why people just pull off on the side of the road and park their cars near the water on sunny days. When there's sun, you need to be in it. Because it doesn't come around much. So, I've been reading the headlines and hearing the locals talk about how "we're in for it" for the next 8-9 months. And when this bout of gloom rolled around, I think it sunk in and hit me like a ton of bricks. Copious amount of sunshine is a thing of my Seattle past. And truth is, I'm not good with clouds. Nor rain. Nor gloom. And I haven't been good with Seattle since arriving here. So I fear that our relationship will never come to be.

I stood up and walked in the kitchen, about to cut yet another slice of bread and stuff my face with it, and realized that I'm not gonna make it through this year if I keep it up at this rate. One day. It took one day of gloom for me to crash. Can we say S.A.D. much? Ron came home that night and asked me to bake an entire 4-layer chocolate cake; he had a rough day also. I told him "it's the clouds" and he looked at me in fear. It was almost like he understood that we need to buckle down and make the most out of these next months because we'll struggle if we don't. I pulled out 4 different cookbooks, bundt pans, cake pans, butter, eggs, chocolate, sugar!! I preheated the oven. But I fought every bone in my body. A giant cake will NOT solve this problem, Ashley! 

I didn't end up making a giant 4-layer chocolate cake to combat our energy-less Tuesday that felt like a Monday. Instead, I turned to these light and fresh tasting Lemon Ricotta muffins, to embrace the citrus smells of summer. And they were flippin' amazing. Just after pulling them from the oven, a ray of sunshine peaked through the clouds for one split second, I darted outside to soak it in and was instantly revitalized. And then I went and pounded out 9 miles on the pavement. Hey, I can't help it if my S.A.D. and my O.C.D. go hand in hand!
Lemon Ricotta Muffins
from Food Network, Giada De Laurentiis
Yield: 12 muffins
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, or more as needed for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds, optional
  1. Line 12 muffins cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended (batter will be thick and fluffy).
  3. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the almonds, if using, and then the remaining 1 tsp of sugar over the muffins. Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Greek Tacos

Ron and I used to watch a lot of the reality t.v. food shoes. Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen's Nightmares, MasterChef, Kitchen Impossible, Dinner Impossible, Great Food Truck Race, that show where "Soul Daddy" won three restaurants but then they shut them down within weeks of opening, including the Minneapolis location, and ripped that poor guy's dreams right out from under him and never spoke about it again, NBC Fail. But then we realized that the majority of them annoyed us. We'd actually allow them to back up on the DVR and consume nearly all of our space. Then we'd get stressed out when we realized we had an entire season of the show to watch. It was a nightmare. We hated watching them: the drama, the smoking, the not-so-subliminal advertising plugs... so finally, we pulled the plug. But we did stick with one show: the Next Food Network Star.
I'm not sure why we enjoy this show. Maybe because there is some "reality" to it. The chefs are actually cooking their own recipes. They are telling their own stories. They actually win something (did you know: most winners on Hell's Kitchen don't get to enjoy the luxury of being an 'executive chef' at the winning location, many don't even get one foot in the door!). And we've watched for the past three seasons and enjoyed the winners. Oddly enough, we usually don't always end up watching the winner's show. I catch a few of them on occasion, but I don't make it a necessity to watch Food Network at 6 a.m. P.S.T. on a Sunday. However, I have tried their recipes and thoroughly enjoyed them. (We made Aarti's Mango Pulled Pork a few weeks ago. I tweeted about it, she tweeted me back, it was awesome.)

But we have been watching the most recent winner, Jeff, on a consistent basis. He's theme was "the Sandwich King" and we love sandwiches in this house. His show is new, so it's rocky, but Ron and I actually enjoy watching it. Ron says that it is actually stuff he can do in the kitchen. But Jeff takes us on journeys to restaurants around his Chicago home, so, well... we know I'm a fan. Jeff's show is on Sundays at 11:30am/10:30c. For years, sandwiches were all that I ate for lunch and most dinners. So, it's exciting to watch someone who is passionate about making sandwiches into something special. Sure, his sandwich recipes often take longer than an actual non-sandwich meal to make. But who cares! His concept takes your general ideas about sandwiches: lunch meat, slices of tomato/lettuce, and bread and takes any meal and turns it into a sandwich. We recently tried out these Greek Tacos and thoroughly enjoyed them. My mom loves gyros so I know she'll love these. The home-made tzatziki sauce was amazing and so easy to make! I'm excited to try more of Jeff's sandwiches.
Greek Tacos
from Food Network, Jeff Mauro
Yield: the recipe said 4, but I think this serves like 8!
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp dry red wine
Feta Mint Tzatziki:
  • 1 english cucumber
  • salt
  • 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh mint
Cucumber Tomato Relish:
  • 1 Tbsp evoo
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 firm tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 english cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • freshly ground black pepper
Sandwich Build:
  • Non-pocket pitas, oiled and lightly griddled on each side (or just use microwave to soften)
  1. For the Lamb: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until the meat gets nice and golden brown, 10-12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the lamb and reserve. Lower the heat to medium and saute the onions in the lamb juice until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano and garlic and cook until fragrant. Season. Add the tomato paste and cook until it caramelizes. Deglaze with the red wine and scrape any bits up that have adhered to the pan. Add the lamb back in, stir and set aside.
  2. For the Tzatziki: Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater and place in a fine-meshed strainer or cheesecloth fitted over a bowl. Salt the cucumber and let sit for 10 minutes. Then squeeze out any excess moisture. Add the strained cucumber into a bowl with the yogurt, feta, garlic and mint. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  3. For the Cucumber Tomato Relish: Toss the olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in a bowl, adjusting the seasoning as necessary. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour.
  4. To Build: Schmear the tzatziki on the pitas, then place on the lamb and top with cucumber tomato relish. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vegetable Biryani

It was a Tuesday. And I was supposed to be in class. But, I'd been having trouble sleeping since I started my freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh. The 8:00 a.m. algebra class on the third floor in the Cathedral of Learning did not help my insomnia. So, when the phone rang at 8:49 a.m., I chose not to answer it because I was afraid it was my mom on the other line, somehow knowing that I was skipping class during the second week of class. Already skipping class. 

And sure enough, the voice on the other line was that of my mom. She left a message on the machine in my single-person dorm room on the 10th floor of Holland Hall. "Ashley, if you are there, pick up the phone or turn on your t.v. One of the World Trade Center buildings in lower Manhattan is on fire." I picked up the phone to talk with her and turned on the t.v. Images were showing people above the point of impact. They were waving shirts out the window to try and get someone's attention. They were alive. They were desperate to be saved. I opened the door to my dorm room - it was right by the elevator - and people were coming in to my room as they were on their way to class to see what was going on. News reports were saying it was an explosion. Others were saying it was a plane. And then there was an official confirmation that there was a plane that crashed into the first tower. A number of people were in my dorm room at 9:03 a.m. We were all discussing what a terrible accident it was. And then we screamed as we watched a live shot of the second plane hit the south tower. And many of the same people were in my dorm room as we heard that another plane had flown into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. And we sat there and we watched, in horror, the news unfolding, history in the making, and a country changing before our eyes. And at 9:59 a.m., we sat there and watched the south tower collapse in a ball of smoke. And at 10:03, we heard that Flight 93 had crashed in Shanksville, PA. And at 10:28 a.m., we watched the north tower collapse. And we watched the live shots of people running for their lives. And we cried. And my mom called back. "We're getting off of campus. Walk up to Chevron." 

I remember how terrifying it was to get off of campus in Oakland - people thought that the terrorists were going to try and hit the Cathedral of Learning or the U.S. Steel building in downtown Pittsburgh - and the city was an absolute disaster. After Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, rumors started to spread that the terrorists had over a dozen planes and planned to hit major targets in several different cities. People started saying Pittsburgh, about 65 miles from the crash site, had been one of the target cities. It wasn't. The plane was said to be going to Washington, D.C. But we didn't know that and anything is believable during times of panic. It was almost like the entire city got in to their cars to get as far away from the city as possible. People were yelling at one another, and swearing, and flicking one another off, like no one trusted one another. There was fear and anger in the air. It seemed like the world was coming to an end. 

I had a number of high school friends in lower Manhattan and in D.C. that morning. And I am a fortunate soul to say that I don't personally know anyone who perished in the horror that was 9/11. In the ten years that have passed since that morning, I've met many people who weren't that fortunate. A good friend of mine from law school worked in lower Manhattan on the morning of 9/11. One day, while discussing the heartbreaks of the world, I asked if she was there that morning. Her tone changed. Her expression softened. "Yes," she replied quietly. "I have many friends that lost their lives in the towers and at the Pentagon that morning."

In my junior year of college, I interned for the local coroner's office. One of the case files I had access to was the first responder's Flight 93 case. Pittsburgh was the largest city closest to Shanksville and Pittsburgh responder's were called on-site immediately. I had studied the forensics aspects of the crash site in another class taught by one of the responders, so he asked if I wanted to view the file. I was staring at photographs of a large man-made grave created by some of the greatest heroes in this country on a day where our country experienced the deadliest attack on U.S. soil. I was staring at photographs of inexplainable things. I couldn't look for long. I heard the voices of those heroes' "Let's Roll" in my head. I heard the 911 calls. I heard the panic. A few years ago, Ron spent a summer working in Reading, PA and I would pass by the "Flight 93 Memorial" sign near exit 110 on the PA Turnpike on every trip. I relived the moments of that morning every single time I passed, but now they were moments complete with pictures. 

Growing up, my parents would talk about historical events that happened during their lifetime. I'd read about something in school and I'd ask them, "Do you remember when you heard that JFK was killed?" And they'd respond that yes, they remember when they heard that JFK was killed, with the exact location, time and feelings they felt at that very moment. I secretly hoped that I'd never have a "memory" like that to share with my children. But, I do. And unfortunately, there have been a lot of those "memories" that have been embedded in my brain since I matured and realized how hard this world can be some times. 

Many of us did not innocently board airplanes that Tuesday expecting to have a relaxing flight to our next destination. Many of us were not in lower Manhattan that morning. Many of us were not working for the air flight control or taking calls at the 911 responders unit. Many of us were not in Washington, D.C. Many of us were not in the small-rural town of Shanksville, PA. We all have different stories from 9/11. But it all impacts us the same: we all remember that day, just like it was yesterday. We all remember how we glued ourselves to those t.v. sets. How we told our loved ones we loved them. How we prayed for the victims and their families. How we appreciated the courageous acts of the heroes who responded. How we watched our President say we were going to get the terrorists who did this cowardly act to our country. How we grew angry at the situation, and sad, and scared. How we felt the first time we got on a plane after 9/11. How we knew this event would change our lives forever. And it did, so began our world, post-9/11...

Every year, I pay a tribute to the victims of 9/11 and those who have since suffered from the aftermath of the tragedy. This morning, I awoke at 5:46 a.m. PST and I've been watching the memorials on CSPAN. Tonight, Ron and I will walk to the Statue of Liberty at Alki Beach for the candlelight vigil. Right now, I'm listening to the victims' families read the names of those lost in the towers that morning. Since the first "anniversary" I've watched the videos, the documentaries, the films, the specials. I reread the transcripts and the 9/11 Commission Report, I look at the pictures, I remember the pictures I saw, I listen to the audio. I find myself going back to these things periodically throughout the year. It is important for me to keep 9/11 in my heart always. I owe it to the people who suffered. And ten years later, it still feels like it was yesterday.

Today, ten years after the worst attack on U.S. soil, we remember the fallen. We will never forget the victims and their families. We remember the volunteers and their efforts. We respect the courage of the men and women who fight in honor of this beautiful country. We Remember. September 11, 2001. God Bless America.

The recipe below, like my freshman year insomnia and my terrible algebra attendance, is such a trivial matter; absolutely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But still I post it. Because no matter what happens in life, life goes on...
Vegetable Biryani
Yield: 4-6 main courses
For the Rice
  • 3/4 cups basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp golden raisins
  • 2 Tbsp blanched, sliced almonds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 3 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Vegetables
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp golden raisins
  • 2 Tbsp blanched, sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 5 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 3 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 small new potatoes (about 6 ounces), peeled and quartered
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp toasted, shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp toasted, blanched, sliced almonds
  1. Make the rice: Place rice in a sieve and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Set aside. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, over medium-high heat. Add the raisins, almonds, turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks and cook, stirring, until toasted and lightly fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 1 minute more. Add the water and salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, wrap the lid tightly with a kitchen towel and cover, and steam until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, make the vegetables. Melt the butter in a medium straight-sided skillet with a tight-fitting lid, over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. 
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the golden raisins, almonds, coriander seed, cumin seed, and cardamom, and cook, stirring, until toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in the cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, carrots, and salt
  7. Raise the heat to high, pour in the water, and cook, covered, for about 4 minutes.
  8. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and most of the water has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes more.
  9. Add the rice to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Divide among plates and top with some of the toasted coconut and almonds; serve.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Bread

I planned to post an actual recipe for a meal today and not just a baked good. But trying to post this recipe for peanut butter bread has nearly been a disaster and a long time coming! While its in good form, I'm just goin' with it! It all started back in May, shortly after I made this bread for the first time (there have been several!). On the day I posted this, Blogger was having major issues and it decided to not publish the post I wrote up AND it eliminated 10 posts ready to publish.
Then, I went to post it again but my computer CRASHED erasing everything on my hard drive including the photographs of the bread. Awesome.

So, I was a bit hesitant to post this recipe. But its the third time I've gone to post it and third time is a charm, right?

I'm in love with this bread. I'm obsessed with peanut butter and obsessed with bread, so it only makes sense to combine them. It tastes so good with jam. With honey. Or if you are like me, even more peanut butter. Or, if you are like Ron, with this delicious Biscoff spread that mommy dearest mailed to me because Washington state does not carry it. But the bread is just delightful. It has 7 ingredients, it's so easy to make, and it just tastes ridiculously good.
Peanut Butter Sandwich Bread
from Eat, Live, Run
Yield: one loaf
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (or almond butter or biscoff spread)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a loaf pan.
  2. Cream peanut butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. 
  3. In separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. With mixer running on low, slowly add in dry ingredients and liquid by alternating dry/wet until mixed thoroughly and smooth.
  5. Pour the batter in the prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for one hour.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cake Batter Ice Cream


Well, actually. I got the ice cream maker attachment to my KitchenAid mixer. But it works just as well and it is the most amazing thing in the world! Speaking of KitchenAid mixers, I finally got one and I've used it almost every single day! My mother has been spoiling the heck out of me lately (perhaps its because she's sick of hearing me complain on the phone). She had received some gift cards and gave them to me and I ordered the most beautiful machine ever. It's been put to great use!

And on the same day my mixer arrived, Hogwarts arrived! This beautiful decoration is sitting on top of the mantle as we speak, front and center. It was like Christmas in July!
So, yes. I had to get the ice cream maker attachment. I'm don't normally eat real ice cream. I always opt for that sugar-free, low-fat, or total watery crap for whatever reason. (Note: frozen pureed bananas are not watery-crap and if you haven't tried them, you must!) Well, watery crap no more! I was celebrating my unbirthday (a justified one; my half birthday) the other day and desperately needed good ice cream. So I got all the ingredients ready for this batter and began the process, super excited to eat the most delicious ice cream ever.

Fail. Apparently, I turned my custard into scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs do not make good ice cream.

But I didn't give up and tried again. And I will never go eat watery ice cream crap again.
Cake Batter Ice Cream
from Annie's Eats
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 3/4 cup yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the heavy cream with the yellow cake mix, sugar, and salt. Heat over medium heat until warmed through. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Combine the remaining cream, vanilla, and whole milk in a large mixing bowl with a fine mesh sieve over the top.
  2. When the mixture in the saucepan is warm, slowly pour a small amount into the bowl with the egg yolks to temper them, whisking constantly. Continue pouring the cream mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously until completely combined. Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. Continue heating, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens slightly and reads 170-175 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.
  3. Immediately pour the custard mixture through the mesh sieve into the bowl with the remaining cream and milk and mix to blend. Cover and chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. Once chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.