Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Green Chorizo, Kale and Potato Tacos

The combination of a CSA box and the need for fast or make ahead meals causes me to branch out to recipes I may not normally try.  This is one of those.  Tacos with kale?  What the what?  We loved this recipe!

I varied greatly from the original recipe, mostly because I was supposed to let the homemade chorizo sit over night for flavors to combine.  I kinda missed reading that part and marking it appropriately on my weekly menu.  When I was prepping my supper ingredients before swim practice, I looked over the recipe and read refrigerate over night.  Oops.  For a variety of reasons, I combined the first four steps which would have taken substantial time into one short, much quicker step.

We still loved the recipe!

I'm contemplating doing a Taco night when it's my night to cook at our extended family's beach week (unless someone else wants to cook--then I'm completely fine with giving up my taco night plans!).  This would be on the menu, it's that good.  It comes together rather quickly when you skip and combine steps like I did.  Or, you could actually refrigerate the chorizo over night and have a much more intensely flavored sausage.

Serves 4 - 6

Green Chorizo, Kale, and Potato Tacos
adapted from Food and Wine magazine

1/8 t whole black peppercorns
1/8 t whole coriander seeds
1/8 t dried oregano
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 clove
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 small poblano chile (optional)
1 c lightly packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 T red wine vinegar
3/4 lb ground pork

1 lb small potatoes, sliced crosswise and cut into 1/2" rounds
1/4 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 lb kale, stems discarded and leaves removed
12 warm corn tortillas
crumbled queso fresco
sour cream

To make the chorizo:  in a small skillet toast the peppercorns, coriander seeds, oregano, bay leaf, and clove over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to spice grinder and finely grind them.  In the same skillet, roast the garlic cloves over high heat, turning until tender and charred in spots, about 10 minutes.  Cook, then peel.  Finely grind the garlic in the spice grinder (if your spice grinder will handle such things).  If you are using the poblano (we didn't because the kids don't like spice), char all over, either using a gas flame, broiler, or gas grill.  Place in a bowl and cover tightly.  Let sit for 10 minutes, then peel, stem and side the chile.  Finely chop.  Combine poblano, garlic, spices, parsley, red wine vinegar, 1 1/2 t salt, and ground pork.  If you are on top things, tightly cover pork and refrigerate over night.  If you haven't read the recipe through until right now, skip the refrigeration part and continue on.

Toss the potatoes with 1 T olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 20 - 30 minutes, or until golden and tender, turning potatoes once.  While the potatoes roast, heat 3 T olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and pork mixture  and cook over medium high heat until meat starts to brown, breaking up large clumps with a wooden spoon.  Add the kale and toss until it fits nicely into the pan (because it's wilted).  Add one cup of water.  Cook over medium low heat until the kale the is tender and the chorizo is cooked, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Fold in the potatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve:  Spoon some of the kale, chorizo, and potato mixture into the center of a warm corn tortilla.  Top with a sprinkle of queso fresco, sour cream, and salsa as desired.  Roll up and eat.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Italian Sandwiches

Unfortunately, in these days of juggling swimming, baseball, and soccer, we have eaten not at home more than once--we've eaten at the swimming pool, at baseball games, and in the car.  I know, not ideal, but it is the reality of early swim season.

Compounding the scheduling problem is the fact that my kids get basic sandwiches most days for lunches--peanut butter and jelly for one and meat, cheese, and lettuce for the other.  When I feed kids on the go, I try to avoid making them eat the same meal twice in one day.

These sandwiches are an answer to that.  They use "fancier" meat and cheeses.  There's a layer of roasted red peppers which make almost all sandwiches better and we use special, chewy white bread instead of the whole wheat fare of lunches.

This is a staple in our early swim season menu and adaptable enough to customize for all of my five silly eaters.  Ideally, I would make this the morning that I wanted to eat it and let them the sandwiches sit all day so their juices absorb into the bread.  However, I don't think my kids would go for that (and I'm just not that with it), so I make them right before we eat them.

This will serve 4 - 6, depending on the size of your sandwiches.  Just change amounts for the number of people you are feeding.

Italian Sandwiches
adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 - 2 ciabatta loaves (I love Whole Foods olive oil and sea salt ciabatta loaves for this)
1/4 - 1/2 c olive tapenade (black, green, or a mixture)
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 lb Italian deli meats, such as salami, prosciutto, coppa, etc (I like the Costco Italian deli meat tray)
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced as a thinly as possible
1 roasted red bell pepper (either home roasted or store bought, jarred)
6 leaves basil, torn into small pieces

If everyone you are feeding will eat an identical sandwich, the easiest way to make this is to slice the entire ciabatta loaf in half horizontally.  Spread bottom half with the tapenade.  Drizzle the cut side of the top half with vinegar and oil.  Arrange the meats on top of the tapenade, followed by the mozzarella, red pepper, and basil.  Place top half on top of filling.

If everyone likes their own version of this sandwich (like in my house), first slice the ciabatta into the desired serving size for each person.  Then cut each slice into half horizontally and add desired sandwich fixings.

If you are me, you eat these immediately and don't press at all.  However if you have more forethought, proceed with the recipe.

Once sandwiches are made (either way you are doing it), wrap with foil or plastic wrap.  Place a heavy cutting board or cast iron skillet on top of sandwiches and weight with 2 - 4 lbs (think of cans of beans, six pack, etc).  Let sit 30 minutes to 2 hours.  Unwrap and serve

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Laab with Pasta

As is the theme with all my May recipes, this is another good swim practice recipe.  It is made quickly and there's nothing complicated about it.  It is good energy for the kids with some pasta to help hold them over to breakfast.

When I first read this recipe, I was a little unsure--turned out it was great.  My budding vegetarian wasn't a fan of this, but the other kids liked it fine.  I am learning the key to different eaters is not mixing everything all together at the end.  I served the laab in one dish and the angel hair in the another and everything worked out.

This serves 5.

Laab with Pasta
adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 lb angel hair pasta
1 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 c sliced almonds
1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, minced (optional)
1 t minced, fresh ginger
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/4 c fish sauce
4 scallions, including green tops, chopped
1 c coarsely chopped fresh mint
1/4 lime juice plus 1 lime cut into wedges

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.  Transfer to a serving dish.

In large pan, toast the almonds over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes (I find the best way to test nuts for doneness while toasting it to smell them.  Once they develop a rich, fragrant smell, they are usually ready to remove from the pan).  Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside.  

Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium high heat.  Add half the jalapeño, if using, ginger, beef, and a teaspoon of salt.  Cook the meat, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, until brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Remove from pan from heat and stir in the sesame oil, fish sauce, scallions, mint, and lime juice.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

To serve, put pasta on plates and top with beef mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining minced jalapeño, if desired, sliced almonds and serve with lime wedges.  

Monday, May 19, 2014


There are a few recipes I've been making forever and just have never blogged.  This is one of those.  Every time I want snickerdoodles, I scour this website.  Finally I remember, no, the recipe isn't here.  Then off to visit Deb (in her Smitten Kitchen) I go!

In the idea of saving some time, I am finally posting the snickerdoodle recipe here.  This would be a favorite cookie of two of my family members, one of which who has been known to convince her friends to give her their snickerdoodles.  On those occasions, I call her my Stinkerdoodle (well, and other occasions too).  It is a term of endearment in our house.

I make the whole batch at once and then freeze them.  When I pack lunches, I simply open up the freezer and viola!  A cookie for everyone!  By lunch time they are just the right temperature and taste much fresher than if they had been on the counter for a week.

Quick, before the school year is over, go make snickerdoodles and put one (or two) in your very own stinkerdoodle's lunch!

This makes 3 - 4 dozen cookies depending on how big you make them.  I tend to make them on the smaller size. (You can eat more that way!)

Stinkerdoodle's Snickerdoodles
adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen who found this recipe from Martha

2 3/4 c flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
16 T (1 cup or 8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs

1/4 c sugar
2 T ground cinnamon

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), combine butter and 1 1/2 c sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes depending on how powerful your electric mixer is.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs.  Beat to combine.  Pour in the dry ingredients and beat just until everything is incorporated.  Chill the dough for an hour or more, to make them easier to roll--otherwise they stick to your hands a lot.

In a small bowl or plate, combine 1/4 c sugar and ground cinnamon.  Form dough into balls (either using 3/4 oz (size 40) ice cream scoop or teaspoons (the eating kind).  Roll in the cinnamon sugar and place on baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 10 minutes.  Cookies should be set in the center and begin to crack (they won't brown--don't even try to brown them because they will be overdone!).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thai Chicken and Noodles

I've been making this recipe for years, but for some reason, it's never made it on to the blog.

As far as slow cooker recipes go, this one is a little more time intensive and hands on than some.  However it is well worth it.  Originally, this is to be served over lettuce.  We like it better over some rice noodles though.

This will serve 6 - 8.

Thai Chicken and Noodles
adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker

1 (3 1/2-lb) chicken cut into 11 pieces (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 4 breast portions plus 2 wings and backbone.  Save the wings and backbone for chicken stock)
2 T olive oil
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into thick (1/4") slices
1/2 lg yellow onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c dry white wine
1/4 c fish sauce
1/2 c chicken stock or water

2 T olive oil
1 T soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
2 t red wine vinegar
1 t peeled and minced ginger

4 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
2 T fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 oz rice noodles
lime wedges

Season chicken all over with salt and pepper.  In a large pan over medium high heat, warm 2 T olive oil.  Add the chicken, in batches to prevent overcrowding, to the pan and sear until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.  Set aside and sear remaining chicken.

Pour off most of the fat in the pan, leaving 1 - 2 T.  Return the pan to medium-high heat.  Add the lemongrass and onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Pour in wine, fish sauce, and chicken stock and stir to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom.    Season with a bit of salt and pepper and transfer mixture to a large (6 qt) slow cooker.  Stack the chicken on top.  Cover and cook on low setting for 3 - 5 hours (mine is done usually around 3 1/2 - 4 hrs, but my slow cooker is not as slow as some), or until chicken is very tender.

When chicken is finished cooking,  bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the rice noodles and cook until al dente.  Drain and place in serving dish.

While the water comes to a boil, transfer cooked, tender chicken to a plate and let cool slightly.  Pull off skin and remove meat from the bones.  (At this point, I discard the skin.  I transfer the bones, plus the neck and wings, and juices left in the slow cooker to a large pot.  I cover with water and let simmer on the stove for several hours for a nice flavorful chicken stock).  Shred the chicken with 2 forks or your fingers.  Place chicken in a serving bowl.

Combine olive oil, soy sauce, juice of 1 lime, red wine vinegar, and minced garlic.  Shake vigorously in a jar, blend in a mini food processor, or use an immersion blender to combine vinaigrette.  Pour half of vinaigrette over chicken along with green onions, if using, and cilantro.  Toss well.  Taste and add more vinaigrette if desired (I almost always desire more).  Serve chicken over cooked rice noodles.  Accompany with lime wedges.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs

March, April and May are my absolutely nuts months, with the end of April/beginning of May being the absolute nuttiest.  There's a lot of juggling practice and game schedules with the usual piano lessons and school work.  This is the fifth year of daily swim practices right smack in the middle of supper making time, so thankfully, I know the key to not eating junk for the entire month of May--planning ahead.

This time of the year, there's lots of meals in the crockpot, meals made in the middle of the day, and meals pulled out of the freezer (that I made ahead of time).  When I choose new dishes to try, they have to be able to be either made ahead or incredibly quick.  Plus, thanks to swim practice they need to pack an energy punch, with the ability to replace the many, many calories the kids are expending during swimming in a nutricious-like fashion.

These was one find.  My picky meat eater even found the meatballs acceptable.  Next time, I want to increase the amount of seasonings in the meatballs, but other than that, it great.

Serves 6 - 8.

Baked Rigatoni with not so tiny Meatballs
adapted slightly from Deb at Smitten Kitchen who got it from Marcella Hazan

The Meatballs
1/4 c milk
1 slice good white or wheat bread, torn into small pieces
1 lb ground beef (or pork)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T parsley, chopped
1 t basil
1 t oregano
1/2 t salt
1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg
1 c flour

The Bechamel
4 1/2 c milk
6 T butter
5 T flour
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

The Assembly
1 lb rigatoni, cooked to al dente
3/4 c freshly grated Parmesan
1 T butter
1/4 c milk

Heat the milk (but don't let it simmer).  Add the torn bread and let it soak for 5 minutes.  If possible, squeeze excess milk from soaked bread after 5 minutes (it's ok if this is close to impossible to do, like it was for me).  Place in large bowl.  Add beef, garlic, parsley, 1/3 c grated Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper.  Stir with a fork until evenly mixed.  Pinch off a small lump of meat, about the size of a raspberry to a large grape (mine were on the larger size of course because raspberries seemed too tedious!), and roll into a ball.  Once you have made all your (not so) tiny meatballs, roll them in the flour.  Over medium high heat, heat enough vegetable oil in a skillet to rise 1/4 inch up the sides of the pan.  When the oil is hot, put as many meatballs as will fit into the pan without overcrowding.  Brown them until they form a nice crust all around.  Transfer to paper towels to drain and continue with remaining meatballs until all have been fried.  Set aside

To make the béchamel:  Heat the milk over medium low heat in a saucepan until it forms a ring of pearly bubbles (but don't bring to a boil)  *You can also do this in the microwave in a microwave proof measuring cup if you are challenged in the area of large saucepans.  In a larger saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the flour, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is combined.  Add 2 T of milk at a time to the flour and butter mixture, stirring steadily and thoroughly through 8 additions (1 c worth of milk).  After this, add milk in 1/2 c increments, stirring constantly to keep it smooth.  Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir the sauce until it thickens.

To assemble:  Combine cooked rigatoni with 2/3 of the béchamel sauce, half the grated cheese, and the meatballs in a large 9x13" pan.  Spread with a rubber spatula so it is smooth.  Pour the 1/4 c milk over top and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.

Bake on the top rack of a preheated 400 degrees oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until a golden brown crust forms on top.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fresh Mozzarella Pasta Bake

Every once in a while, I have a random leftover I have to use.  This recipe was made for that exact reason.  I bought fresh mozzarella for homemade pizza and some was leftover.  I was excited to find this recipe to use the fresh mozzarella, because it was easy and also a good make ahead recipe.

This serves 6-8.

Fresh Mozzarella Pasta Bake
adapted from Jamie

2 T olive oil
1 lg onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 (14.5) cans fire roasted diced or crushed tomatoes (or 1.5 kg fresh tomatoes, peeled if desired, and roughly chopped)
1 lg handful basil leaves, torn or coarsely chopped.
1 T red wine vinegar
1 lb orecchiette (or other medium chunky pasta)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb (more or less) fresh mozzarella balls, sliced

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add tomatoes to the onion and garlic along with a 1/2 c of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender, process tomato mixture to make a smoother sauce.  Add the basil and red wine vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and toss with half of the tomato sauce and 1/4 c Parmesan.  Spread a layer of pasta in a 9x13" baking pan.  Follow with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of Parmesan and 1/3 of the mozzarella.  Repeat these layers three times, ending with a layer of mozzarella on top.

(At this point, you can refrigerate the dish until you are ready to eat.  Add some time to the baking time).

Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes or until topping is golden, crisp and bubbling.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Lemongrass Beef Stew

In Austin, winter doesn't last long, so while it's here, I try to make the most of it.  We're a soup once a week or so type of family.  I embrace recipes that require long periods of time simmering on the stove or slowly cooking in the oven.

This recipe comes from my other Christmas present cookbook:  Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan.  I am so excited to cook out of this book, partly because I know I will learn some new cooking methods, some new ingredients, and some new recipes!

We loved this and our house smelled like loveliness for an entire day.  I started this in the morning, then set it aside and finished it later in the afternoon.

This serves 6 - 8.

Lemongrass Beef Stew
adapted briefly from Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan

3 lbs boneless beef ribs (I used chuck ribs, you could also use boneless short ribs or even boneless stew meat), cut into 1 1/2" cubes
4 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 large (about 2 c) onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c finely chopped lemongrass (cut in half, remove the thick out leaves and then finely chop)
3 T tomato paste
2 x 1" piece of ginger, peeled, then smashed or grated
2 whole star anise
6 c beef stock
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2" lengths
8 oz daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1/2" lengths
2 T fish sauce
1/4 c basil (Thai preferable), finely sliced, for garnish (optional)
1 hot chile (a Thai chile or jalapeño is preferable), thinly sliced, if desired

Place the beef in a bowl.  Drizzle with 1 T olive and sprinkle with 1 t salt and 1/2 t black pepper.  Stir to coat and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 3 T remaining oil over high heat.  Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides.  Set browned beef aside.  In same pot, reduce the heat to medium and add the onions.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is a deep golden brown, stirring frequently.  Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the lemongrass, tomato paste, ginger, and star anise and stir to combine.  Add the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot.  Pour the stock over top.  Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat so the stock is at a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is just tender.  Add the carrots and daikon, cover again, and cook an additional 30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through and the meat is very tender.  Remove from heat and stir in fish sauce.

To serve, top with basil and sliced chiles if desired.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cranberry Beans and Kale

We got home from visiting my family in Virginia at 9 pm on New Year's Day.  The next morning, we were doing Christmas with our kids.  Since ours are still on the younger side--4, 6, and 8 years old, we knew it would be an earlyish morning.  Curtis's mom was giving over to spend time with us as well.

I had planned on pulling a pan of lasagne out of the oven first thing and having that for lunch.  However, after a week of eating wonderful food, full of meat and goodness, I was ready for something a hair lighter.  Lasagne just didn't sound good to either Curtis or I.  After putting the kids to bed, I thought, "I have beans."  The plan was just to have beans and rice for lunch,

I went to my pantry and found a bag of fancy Bob's Red Mill cranberry beans.  I have no idea when or where I bought these--this wasn't a typical purchase.  I usually buy my beans from the bulk bins.  I looked at the back of the bag for cooking instructions and found this recipe.

It was perfect!  I had everything I needed in my house and I had kale that needed to be cut in my small garden outside.  I soaked the beans overnight, cooked them while we opened presents and started the soup once were were done opening presents.

We all loved it.  Curtis and I thought a little chipotle tabasco made the perfect garnish.  Much better than my pan of lasagne and we felt much better about ourselves for eating it (always a nice benefit on January 2).

This serves 6 - 8.

Cranberry Beans and Kale
adapted from the back of the bag of Bob's Red Mill Cranberry Beans

1 1/2 c dried cranberry beans (or other light colored beans--not black, pinto, or kidney)

2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
6 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 lb (more or less) kale, center stems removed and coarsely chopped
1/2 c cornmeal 
1/2 c water
juice of 1/2 lemon

Soak the beans overnight.

The next day, cook the beans in enough water to cover by 1 - 2" inches in a large pot for one hour, or until beans are tender.  (The beans should simmer gently away for that hour--not a fast boil).  Drain beans and rinse out pot.

In large soup pot, heat olive oil.  Add the onions and cook until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Stir in the cumin.  Add the chicken broth, cooked beans, tomato paste, and kale.  Simmer until the kale is tender.  In a measuring cup, mix together the water, cornmeal, and lemon juice into a paste.  Pour it slowly into the simmering stew.  Simmer for another 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper

Serve hot and add some tabasco if you desire.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread

Back in the day, I used to have a favorite restaurant I frequented quite a bit.  This particular restaurant also had a fabulous in house bakery and espresso bar.  I don't want to admit how often I stopped in after dropping a child or two off at preschool, chatted with the barrista (who knew me!!), and would get a pastry.  Usually, I would get their cinnamon buns or bear claws (almond rolls…warm almond paste).  I knew how to time it just right, so the bear claws would be fresh out of the oven and still warm.

I would also stop in the mid morning or mid afternoon for some gelato or a cookie.  One of my favorite cookies was the chocolate dipped espresso shortbread.  This restaurant still sells this cookie, but it is not open in the mornings for coffee any more, they've discontinued my favorite pastries and taken some of my favorite meal/sandwich items off the menu.  Needless to say, I don't go there much at all any more.  It's now reserved as the stop after a kid gets a shot at the doctor (for the gelato….).

However, that doesn't stop my love of the chocolate dipped espresso shortbread.  A few years ago, I found a similar recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking:  From my Home to Yours.  I tried it, wrote copious notes in the margins, and put it my list of favorite cookies.  Since that first time, the recipe has only gotten better as I have changed a few things and I finally have a recipe that rivals the Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread.

Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread
inspired by Mandola's Restaurant and adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe

1 T instant espresso powder
1 T boiling water
1 c (16 T or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c confectioners sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 c flour
4 oz bittersweet (60% cocao) chocolate, finely chopped

4 - 6 oz chocolate chips for coating (this is just a guess…)

Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water.  Set aside and allow to cool.

Using a mixer (I prefer a hand mixer over a stand mixer for this.  It helps prevent me from over mixing my dough--which is the bain of shortbread), beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is very smooth.  (Don't go for light and fluffy like most cookies.  You don't want extra air in the batter.)  Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then add the flour, mixing only until the flour is incorporated into the dough (again, don't over mix so you keep the typical sandy texture of shortbread).  Fold in the chopped chocolate by hand.

Divide the soft dough in half and roll into two long longs, about 1 1/2 - 2" in diameter.  Roll in plastic wrap and put in a zip bag.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days.  You can also freeze the doth for a longer period of time before baking).

Remove dough from refrigerator and cut into slices 1/2 - 1/2" thick.  Place on two baking sheets and bake at 325 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes.  For best results, rotate pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking time.  Let cool on a rack.

To dip cookies:  Melt chocolate.  I prefer to just do this in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat chocolate on half power for 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir and heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between until chocolate is melted (at half power as well).  Dip the cooled cookies in the chocolate and place on a piece of parchment paper.  Refrigerate until the chocolate sets.  Bring to room temperature to eat.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

French Onion Soup

I feel like this soup doesn't need much of a preface.  It's a wonderful soup.  Everyone in my family loved it.  It's happiness in a bowl and not nearly as complicated as I remembered french onion soup years ago when I made it.  This was simple to make, most of the prep time was slicing onions.  Other than that, it was just a couple of hours of happiness as our house was permeated with the aroma of onions and beef.  What a wonderful winter Sunday afternoon.

Love. this. soup.  Need to make it again soon.  Thanks Deb! (of Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 4 - 6.  Maybe.

French Onion Soup
from Smitten

1 1/2 lbs thinly sliced yellow onions
3 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
1/4 t sugar
3 T flour
1/2 c dry white wine (optional)
2 qts beef stock

Optional for serving:
crusty bread, toasted
Gruyere or swiss cheese, grated

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a Dutch oven over med-low heat (4 or 5 on my stove).  Add the onions, toss them to coat them in butter/oil and cover the pot.  Reduce the heat to low (2 on my stove) and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes.  Ignore them.  Don't peek.  After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat (to a 4 or so), and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook the onions, stirring frequently for 30 - 40 minutes, until the have turned a nice brown.  This is the caramelization.  Don't rush this step (don't rush any of these steps in fact).  The slowness of the process is what gives the soup its wonderful flavor.

Once the onions are caramelized, stir in the flour and cook briefly.  Stir in the wine if using.  Add the stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, partially cover, and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes.  If you are using homemade beef stock, you may have foam float to the top.  You can skim that off for a clearer broth.

Enjoy.  For a fancy meal, put a piece of crusty toasted bread in the bottom of a bowl, sprinkle with gruyere and place under the broiler for a few minutes.  I'm scared of my broiler, so I simply cut my crusty bread into croutons and sprinkle grated Gruyere over top and enjoy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tangled (Angel) Hair and Kale

In December came Christmas and Christmas means new cookbooks.  I got cookbooks from both my brother and sister (they know me so well!!).  I've been enjoying each.

This has been one of my favorite new recipes so far.  It was great the evening we served it and I enjoyed it a couple of days afterwards as leftovers.  For leftovers, I fried up an egg, leaving the yolk nice and runny and served it over the cold pasta and kale.  Mmm….

Kids weren't a fan, but that won't stop me from making it again. M usually loves kale, so I'm not giving up on this recipe yet (except M did mention that I always made things I liked, versus always things she liked.  So true, M, so true).

The original recipe called for chili sauce (of the Chinese persuasion) and garlic go in the dressing.  I left both out, because I knew the kids wouldn't do spicy and I can't do uncooked garlic.  If you want to add these back in, use 2 T Chinese chili sauce and 1 clove minced garlic.

Tangled (Angel) Hair and Kale
adapted a hair from The Heart of the Plate by Molly Katzen (of Moosewood Fame)

1 t orange zest
2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
2 t rice vinegar
1/2 t soy sauce
1/4 c olive oil
1 lb (less is ok, too) kale, large stems removed and coarsely chopped
8 oz angel hair (capellini) pasta
2 oranges, peeled, sectioned and sections removed
1/2 c sliced almonds, toasted

In the bottom of your serving dish, combine orange zest, sugar, salt, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking the soy sauce mixture vigorously.  Set aside.

Place kale in a colander in the sink and rinse well.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.  When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta in the colander with the kale in it.  The boiling pasta water and hot pasta briefly wilts the kale (I love this method!!).  Add drained kale and pasta to the serving bowl with the dressing.  Mix the kale and pasta with dressing using tongs, lifting from the bottom of the bowl to coat all the pasta equally with dressing.  Mix in the orange slices and almonds.  (Next time, I'll serve the almonds on the side, because that was M's biggest complaint).

This is also good at room temperature or cold.  If you don't serve this right away, wait to add the oranges and sliced almonds until immediately before serving.

Leftover suggestion:  Add a fried egg with a runny yolk to the cold kale and pasta.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tale of Two Shakshuka's

Sometimes owning two cookbooks by the same author is a problem.  For example, last night, after a week of eating lots of meat and "fancy" (although not really fancy, just different than what we eat) food, I wanted comfort food.  I remembered the velvety warmth of Ottolenghi's Shakshuka---roasted red peppers with an ample dose of seasoning which cradled soft cooked eggs.  Although the red peppers aren't in season, this dish screams winter comfort food.

I am usually a mostly organized person.  I can find what I need and I have things arranged that make sense for me.  Usually.  When I make new recipes, I make annotations in my cookbooks, so I can remember how I made it or what I would do differently next time.  Usually.  Once I decided to make shakshuka last night for supper, I looked first in Jerusalem and then in Plenty.  In Jerusalem, I saw no notes, in Plenty, there were notes.  I proceeded to make the recipe from Plenty, thinking as I went, that this recipe seemed different.

When I was just a couple of minutes out from finishing the dish, I read the note I had written in Plenty.  The note said, "Curtis and I love the version in Jerusalem."  What???  Turns out, I never had made this version before.  Why in the world would I write a note on the recipe I didn't want to make?

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, Curtis and I loved the Plenty version of shakshuka too.  I fed the kids plain fried eggs, along with roasted root vegetables and orange slices.  It was a wonderful winter, light meal and I am looking forward to recreating it this morning for breakfast.

Here are the two versions.  They're both good.  Choose the recipe you want to make based on the ingredients you have or the time you have (the version from Jerusalem is just a hair faster).  Each recipe will serve 4.  To adjust the serving size, just change the number of eggs you use--for just the two of us, I make a full recipe, but only use two eggs.

The First Shakshuka
adapted from Jerusalem

2 T olive oil
+/- 2 T harissa (I use store bought--this is the spiciness in the dish)
2 t tomato paste
2 lg red bell peppers, diced (about 1/4" pieces)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
2 (14-oz) cans diced tomatoes or 5 c fresh tomatoes, chopped
4 eggs
crusty white bread (toasted if you feel like it)

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the harissa, tomato paste, bell peppers, garlic, cumin, and 3/4 t salt.  Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, until the peppers have softened.  Add the diced tomatoes, simmer, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Make 4 little holes in the bell pepper/tomato sauce.  Gently break each egg into a hole.  Simmer gently, covering with a lid, for 8 - 10 minutes until eggs are at your desired doneness (I like a runny yolk, Curtis doesn't.  I try to customize, but have yet to been successful.  If you are more adept with eggs than I am, this shouldn't be a problem).  Remove from heat and serve with bread--I like my eggs and peppers on top of bread, Curtis likes the bread on the side.

The Second Shakshuka
adapted from Plenty

1/2 t cumin seeds
2 T olive oil
1 large onions, sliced
2 red (or a combination of red and yellow) bell peppers, cut into 3/4" thickness
2 t sugar
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped (optional if you don't have it)
1 (15-oz can) diced tomatoes (or 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped)
a pinch of saffron threads
a dash or two of cayenne, depending on your heat tolerance
4 eggs
crusty white bread

In a large skillet, dry roast the cumin seeds on med-high heat for a couple of minutes.  Add the oil and onions and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add the peppers, sugar, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and cilantro and cook for another 5 - 10 minutes on med-high heat until the peppers are soft and the onions have a nice brown color.

Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, and salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add a bit of additional water at a time to achieve and maintain a pasta sauce consistency.  Taste and adjust seasonings (salt and cayenne primarily).

Make 4 little holes in the bell pepper/tomato sauce.  Gently break each egg into a hole.  Simmer gently, covering with a lid, for 8 - 10 minutes until eggs are at your desired doneness (I like a runny yolk, Curtis doesn't.  I try to customize, but have yet to been successful.  If you are more adept with eggs than I am, this shouldn't be a problem).  Remove from heat and serve with bread--I like my eggs and peppers on top of bread, Curtis likes the bread on the side.