Sunday, January 31, 2010

From-Scratch Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies

Oh my gosh. Best peanut butter cookies EVER.

Let me backtrack. So. Every year there's a Pillsbury Bake-Off. Yes? The winner last year was this recipe for filled peanut butter cookies. The only problem is that it uses refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough, and I don't like to use that for any reason whatsoever. Luckily, someone on the internet adapted it and made a homemade log of peanut butter dough to use in the recipe. And I love them for it. It is so freaking good. I love them! I would make these a bajillion times! And if you don't feel like making the dough, using the refrigerated kind would still be ok!


From-Scratch Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies adaptation of Pillsbury Bakeoff winning recipe

PB Cookie Dough
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth, national brand)

Filling and Topping
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy, national brand)
1/2 cup confectioners’/powdered sugar
generous pinch salt (recommended)

Make the cookie dough. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light. Beat in egg, followed by the vanilla and peanut butter.

Gradually add in dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just combined.
Spoon dough onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper, shape into a roll about 3-inches in diameter and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Prepare topping and filling. In small bowl, mix chopped peanuts, granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

In another small bowl, stir peanut butter and powdered sugar (and a bit of salt, if using) until smooth. Shape mixture 20 small (1/2 inch) balls and place each on a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.

Remove cookie dough from fridge. Cut the log lengthwise in half, then make 10 horizontal cuts to slice the dough into a total of 20 even pieces. Each piece should be a semi-circle in shape.

Flatten each piece of dough and place a peanut butter ball into it. Shape each cookie dough piece around the filling, making sure to cover the ball completely. Repeat with remaining dough and balls.

Roll each ball in peanut-sugar mixture and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches between balls. Use a flat-bottomed drinking glass to flatten the cookies down to 1/4-inch thickness.

Bake for 9 - 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Cool for 1-2 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 20 large

Layered Mashed Potato & Mushroom Casserole

I took a chance with this, and it turned out well. This was really yummy. I don't know if I'd make it again, but we enjoyed it. I chopped up the mushrooms very small to make them more palatable to the mushroom-haters and it worked! I also used baby spinach instead of chard. We have some leftovers that I plan to eat tomorrow!


Layered Mashed Potato & Mushroom Casserole
Eating Well, Nov/Dec 2009

Fancy up regular mashed potatoes with a layer of mushroom duxelle—a sauté of finely chopped mushrooms and shallots. We omitted the traditional butter in the duxelle and added chard for a nutritional boost. Serve this hearty side in place of mashed potatoes at any holiday feast or enjoy it as a vegetarian main dish.

3 1/2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds cremini or white mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups trimmed and finely chopped chard or spinach
1 cup mushroom broth or reduced-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1. Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large pot. Place potatoes in a steamer basket, cover and steam over medium-low heat, replenishing the water as necessary, until the potatoes are fall-apart tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, working in two batches, place mushrooms in a food processor and pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed, until the mushrooms are coarsely chopped.

3. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Add butter and mash until chunky-smooth. Gradually stir in buttermilk, egg and egg white and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they release their liquid and the pan is almost dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Add chard (or spinach) and continue to cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pan along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper and rosemary. Cook, stirring, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 1 minute.

5. Preheat oven to 400°F.

6. To assemble, spread half of the mashed potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar 3-quart) baking dish. Sprinkle half the Parmesan over the potatoes. Spread the mushroom mixture on top and spread the remaining potatoes over the mushroom layer. Top with the remaining Parmesan.

7. Bake until hot throughout and the top is golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Make Ahead Tip: Assemble through Step 6, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bake, uncovered, in a 400°F oven until hot, 50 minutes to 1 hour. To reheat, bake, covered, at 350° until hot, 40 to 50 minutes.

Yield: 12 servings

The Best Graham Cracker

This is not the best graham cracker. Don't let the title fool you. It doesn't taste like graham crackers, they aren't grahamy-textured, and it's really just confusing to me why this recipe even exists. They aren't bad, but they kind of remind me of dog treats I made for Emma one time. Not making this again.


The Best Graham Cracker
KA Flour Cookie Companion via CLBB (katyd)

1/2 cup (2 oz.) unbleached AP flour
1 1/2 cups (7 7/8oz.) whole wheat flour
3/4 cup (3 oz.) confectioners' sugar
1 teasp. baking powder
1 teasp. cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 T honey
2 T cold milk (reg. or lowfat, not nonfat)

Preheat the oven to 325. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment or cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and milk. Add the milk/honey mixture to the flour and toss lightly with fork until the dough comes together. Add additional milk if necessary.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold over gently 10-12 times until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half, keep the other half covered.
Roll one half into a rectangle a bit larger than 10 x14 in.; the dough will be about 1/16 in. thick. Trim the edges and prick with a fork.

Cut the dough into 16 rectangles with a pizza wheel. Trransfer the crackers to the baking sheet, laying them close together. Repeat with the other half.

Bake for 15 min. or until medium gold color. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan 8-10 min. Carefully bake the crackers along the scored lines and cool completely on a rack. Store the cooled cracker tightly wrapped.

Yield: 32

Sesame-Orange Shrimp

Well this is an excellent alternative to greasy take-out Chinese food, for sure. It is wonderful. The batter works so nicely and has a great texture but is so ridiculously minimal. I got to use my fun black sesame seeds again! And we used some tasty Valencia orange juice that really perked things up. We would definitely make this again.


Sesame-Orange Shrimp
Eating Well, Nov/Dec 2009

These shrimp are super-easy to make—just coat them in a simple batter, cook them in a little oil and toss with a tangy sesame-orange sauce. The staff at EatingWell simply could not get enough of these delicious shrimp while we were developing this recipe. Serve with: Brown basmati rice and steamed snow peas tossed with a little toasted sesame oil.

3 tablespoons sesame seeds (white, black or a mix)
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp (21-25 per pound)
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 scallion, thinly sliced

1. Whisk sesame seeds, egg whites, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add half the shrimp and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the rest of the shrimp.

3. Add orange juice, sherry, soy sauce and sugar to the pan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced by half, 4 to 6 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately, with scallion sprinkled on top.

Yield: 4 servings

Szechuan Green Beans

OK, so... I didn't really follow this recipe very well. It calls for deep-frying the beans and I definitely didn't do that. I don't fry things. You know that. What I DID do was make the sauce, saute the green beans in a little oil until they were cooked, and then simmer them briefly in the sauce. And that worked just fine. I'm sure it would have been very different if I'd fried them but whatever. We had a tasty side dish and that's that. I would make this again, but I think we have other Asian-inspired green bean side dishes we've liked more.


Szechuan Green Beans
Guy's Big Bite on Food Network

2 cups canola oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 ounce hot chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or white wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 pound green beans, cleaned
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

To medium Dutch oven, add 2 cups canola oil and heat to 350 degrees F.

In medium saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add ginger and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until it turns light brown; quickly add soy sauce, chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin, mirin, sesame oil and cilantro.

Fry the green beans in the canola oil for about 45 seconds, or until beans turn dark green. Remove, strain, and add to sauce. Toss and garnish with peanuts and parsley.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spicy Tofu Bento Bowl

This is kind of similar to the bibimbap we like so much, in that it's a bunch of stuff piled on top of rice with some spicy sauce. This has different vegetables, some tofu, and no egg. The spicy sauce is very good. We really liked this a lot. I don't think I would make the additional dressing again because I don't think it was really noticeable or important. But the tofu is great. We used sambal oelek instead of our usual sriracha, which was fun. Spicy spicy! We would make this again.

Oh and I was very excited to use some of the new black sesame seeds I got from Penzeys, so that's what all the black flecks are!

bento bowl

Spicy Tofu Bento Bowl
Vegetarian Times, November 2009

This salad from October 2006 gives classic veg ingredients an Asian flair. Bento refers to bento boxes, the containers with separate compartments used for take-along lunches in Japan.

Spicy Tofu
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup chile-garlic sauce
2 Tbs. dark sesame oil
14 oz. extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
5 green onions, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup nonfat yogurt
2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. chile-garlic sauce
2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
4 1/2 cups mixed baby greens
2 carrots, peeled
1 cucumber, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

1. To make Spicy Tofu: Whisk together soy sauce, chile-garlic sauce, and sesame oil in bowl. Heat skillet over medium heat. Dip tofu in soy sauce mixture; cook 10 minutes, or until browned. Cool 10 minutes. Add green onions, yogurt, and lemon juice to remaining chile mixture. Toss with tofu.

2. To make Salad: Whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, and chile-garlic sauce in bowl. Mound rice in serving bowls. Top with greens. Shave carrot strips over top with vegetable peeler. Top with tofu, cucumber, and avocado. Sprinkle with sesame seeds; serve with soy sauce mixture.

Yield: 6 servings

Monday, January 25, 2010

Italian Vegetable Hoagies

What do you call a sandwich that has lots of fillings in it? I've always called it a sub, like you'd order at Subway. In Connecticut they're called wedges, here in Pennsylvania they're called hoagies, and I've also seen them called heroes. What do you call them in your region, besides just "sandwich"?

So here's a hoagie/sub/whatever. It's very good but simple. We probably wouldn't make it again, unless I were to make it for myself, or for lunch or something. It's not really special enough to be a dinner thing.


Italian Vegetable Hoagies
Eating Well, July/August 2009

This delightfully easy, and somewhat messy, sandwich packs a punch with sweet balsamic vinegar, artichoke hearts, red onion, provolone cheese and zesty pepperoncini. We love it for dinner as well as lunch. If you're packing the hoagies to take along, keep the ingredients separate and assemble right before eating to avoid soggy bread. Serve with tomato and cucumber salad.

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, separated into rings
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 16- to 20-inch-long baguette, preferably whole-grain
2 slices provolone cheese, (about 2 ounces), halved
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1/4 cup sliced pepperoncini, (optional)

1. Place onion rings in a small bowl and add cold water to cover. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Combine artichoke hearts, tomato, vinegar, oil and oregano in a medium bowl. Cut baguette into 4 equal lengths. Split each piece horizontally and pull out about half of the soft bread from each side. Drain the onions and pat dry.

3. To assemble sandwiches, divide provolone among the bottom pieces of baguette. Spread on the artichoke mixture and top with the onion, lettuce and pepperoncini, if using. Cover with the baguette tops. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Garlic Fries

I like baked fries. I don't deep fry anything, ever. I'll occasionally pan-fry things but it's rare. So. Like I said, I like baked fries. I don't often make them though because I am lazy about chopping up potatoes. But tonight, I remembered that we got a mandolin for our wedding so I used that and had perfectly cut fries in about 5 minutes. Genius! This creation of perfectly sliced potatoes worked against us this time, however. Because they were so uniformly thin, they burned very quickly! The recipe says to bake them for 35 minutes but by the 20 minute mark they were singed. Thank you to our often-malfunctioning smoke alarm for tipping me off that they were overdone! I managed to salvage some but they were all pretty crispy. If I make this again I would definitely need to either reduce the temperature or the cooking time. It was yummy, even all toasty!


Garlic "Fries"
Ellie Krieger

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 large baking potatoes, 12 ounces each
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat the garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Strain the garlic from the oil with a small mesh strainer. Set both garlic and oil aside.

Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch sticks. In a large bowl, toss the oil, potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the potatoes onto it in a single layer. Bake until golden and crisp, about 35 minutes.

Remove potatoes from the tray with a metal spatula. Toss with parsley, reserved garlic, and additional salt, to taste. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fudge-Filled Dessert Strips

There are really only two things you need to know about this:
1. They are easier to make than they sound.
2. They are not at all healthy.

It makes four logs, so we're going to keep two and I think I will take two to work tomorrow. They seem like they'd be good for parties or even bake sales, too. These are freaking delicious!

Edit on 1/25/10: I took two logs to work and they were gone VERY quickly!!!! Hooray! I'm glad people liked them!


Fudge-Filled Dessert Strips
Taste of Home

1 cup butter, softened
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups chopped walnuts
Confectioners' sugar, optional

In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add the flour and mix well.

Turn onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Divide dough into fourths; cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until easy to handle.

In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and milk; stir until smooth. Stir in walnuts. Cool to room temperature.

Roll out each portion of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet into an 11-in. x 6-1/2-in. rectangle. Spread 3/4 cup chocolate filling down the center of each rectangle. Fold long sides to the center; press to seal all edges. Turn over so the seam sides are down.

Bake at 350° for 27-32 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Cut into 1/2-in. slices. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.

Yield: 3 dozen

Wild Rice Crab Cakes

I have no idea why I felt inspired to make crab cakes today, but I did. I did not want to use canned crab because I hate hate HATE picking it over for shell pieces, so I got some surprisingly inexpensive fresh crabmeat. My rice took about 30 minutes to cook (nowhere near the hour the recipe suggests) and it all came together quickly after that. I made the sauce mentioned in the note, with the curry powder. It all was surprisingly delicious! I don't usually like crab cakes so that was fun that I enjoyed this. We would make it again!


Wild Rice Crab Cakes
Cooking Light, October 2000

The addition of cumin to these hearty crab cakes enhances the nuttiness of the wild rice. If you want to top them with a sauce, combine light mayonnaise with lemon juice and a pinch of curry powder. Serve these with lemon wedges.

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1 pound lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add wild rice; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until tender. Combine cooked wild rice, crab, and next 11 ingredients (crab through egg whites) in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 1-inch-thick patty.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 patties; cook 4 minutes. Carefully turn patties over; cook 4 minutes or until golden. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and patties.

Yield: 8

Creamed Leeks

Leeks are delicious, and since we usually use them in recipes in conjunction with other things, like potatoes, I never thought of showcasing them in their own little side dish. How very delicious! I browned them a little (oops) so they're a little brownish in the photo, but if you watch them better they will stay pretty. We would make this again.


Creamed Leeks
Everyday Food

2 tablespoons butter
8 medium leeks (about 3 pounds), whites and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut 1 inch thick crosswise, cleaned (see note below)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add wine and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Uncover skillet; increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until liquid has evaporated, 2 to 4 minutes. Add cream; simmer until it has thickened and coats leeks, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: How to clean leeks: Leeks can be extremely dirty and are best cleaned after they've been trimmed and cut. Soak cut leeks in a bowl of cool water; lift them out, replace water, and repeat until no grit remains at the bottom of bowl.

Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wine and Cheese Muffins

These super-easy muffins are great with soup! They're spongy, kind of like little souffles. The wine and cheese flavors are subtle and make these enjoyable and delicious accompaniments. We would make these again!


Wine and Cheese Muffins
Mad About Muffins via CLBB

1 7/8 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

Heat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the oregano, and parmesan and swiss cheeses. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg and and to it add the milk, white wine, and worcestershire sauce and stir. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Fill greased muffin tins. Bake for 18 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown. Serve warm.

Yield: 12

Tomato Basil with Orzo Soup

Last night we had Vegetable Bibimbap and I forgot to post about it. It was delicious.

Tonight, he said he wanted tomato soup, which I knew meant he wanted the Thai Tomato Soup.... but I decided to make this one instead. He was NOT happy at first, especially upon seeing the chunks of tomato. But once he started eating it, he gave it his official seal of approval. It's very good and hearty with the orzo. I didn't add the roasted red peppers and don't feel like we missed out on anything as a result. I would make this again.


Tomato Basil with Orzo Soup
CLBB (karen w)
adapted from Menu magazine from Wegmans Markets

1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1-2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 can (28-oz) diced tomatoes with basil
1 can (28-oz) crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 carton (32-oz) vegetable stock
Salt to taste
2 roasted red peppers, 1/4" dice
1 cup orzo pasta
1 cup light cream or evaporated milk
2 TBSP chopped fresh basil

Add onion and oil to large stockpot on medium-high. Cook, stirring, 6 to 7 minutes. Add garlic. Cook 2 min, until onion is tender.

Add pepper, cut tomatoes and crushed tomatoes; simmer about 10 min. Add vegetable stock; return to simmer. Season to taste with salt.

Add red peppers and pasta. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until pasta is firm but tender. Remove from heat.

Add a few ladels of hot soup to cream to slowly raise cream temp. Add termpered cream to soup. Fold in basil.

Yield: 13 cups

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Linguine with Spicy Red Clam Sauce

He said this was really good. I can't vouch for it because I am having sinus trouble and can't taste anything today. SUCKS. So I can't tell you if it tasted too fishy or anything like that. What I can tell you, though, is that it's a chunky tomato-based sauce that he liked, and that counts for something. I would make it again, not only because I wonder what it tastes like, but also because he liked it.


Linguine with Spicy Red Clam Sauce
Cooking Light

Canned clams make this no-fuss recipe supereasy. Of course, you can use fresh littleneck clams, if you prefer. Cook them for about five minutes or until the shells open, and discard any unopened shells. Use less crushed red pepper, or omit it if you prefer a milder sauce. Serve with garlic bread and a tossed green salad.

1 (9-ounce) package fresh linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (6.5-ounce) cans minced clams, undrained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes; cook 4 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in clams; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in parsley, basil, and oregano. Serve with pasta.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Couscous and Food Changes

Tonight I made Couscous with Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Edamame - one of my favorites! It was super-fast which was great because Gibby had class til 10 and I worked late so I didn't eat til after 9!

I will take this opportunity to discuss the different changes we are making in our eating habits. First of all, we are making a conscious effort to consume more vegetables and fruits. We've been buying melons and cutting the whole thing up at the beginning of the week and then eating it for breakfast or with meals, for example. Second, we are attempting to purchase certain organic foods - things that grow in the ground, like potatoes, and things with thin skins, like peppers. I'd like to grow our own peppers sometime so we don't have to pay so much. We have also switched to 1% organic milk and I've found that I do not get stomach-aches from it like I do with 'regular' milk. Unsure why. It's neat though. Also getting free-range eggs. In keeping with our attempts to reduce our consumption of chemicals, we are trying to buy less processed foods (this is difficult) and have switched to buying diced tomatoes in boxes instead of in cans due to BPA coating on the inside of tomato cans.

Now. I don't know if we're buying too much into the fads or anything, but I've been doing a lot of reading and I think we're making reasonable choices. I've been reading about how Americans consume more chemicals than almost any other country so I'm hoping to reduce that in some way. Are you making any changes to the way you eat?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shrimp Po'Boys

Tonight we had some Shrimp Po'Boys on Gibby's request. Delicious as always. I used a super-hot Cajun-flavored hot sauce in the ketchup and that was nice.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mari Tuttle's Caramel Sea Salt Brownies

One food 'trend' I really love is the combination of chocolate and sea salt. I love little truffles topped with sea salt. I even love the simple combination of chocolate-covered pretzels. So naturally I was drawn to this recipe, which received great reviews. We both agree that the chocolate and salt combination is delicious, but the caramel piece seems to be a little iffy. We didn't really taste it that much. It doesn't contribute a whole lot except probably the extra sugar. If I were to make these again, I would either leave out the caramel or use a jarred caramel, but making it from scratch wasn't worth the effort.

To top them, we used this beautifully gray fleur de sel from Penzeys. It's my "special" salt that I rarely use except for things like this where the salt is the star of the dish. Look how wonderful it is!

Mari Tuttle's Caramel Sea Salt Brownies
Adapted from

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup caramel sauce, warmed*
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease an 8 x 8 square pan. Line with parchment; grease again.Sift flour; measure; resift with salt. Over double boiler, melt butter. Once melted, add chocolate; stir until melted. Remove from heat.With hand or stand mixer, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together until fluffy and light in color; add chocolate mixture; mix until combined; fold in flour.Pour half the batter into pan; smooth top; pour half the caramel sauce over mixture; smooth evenly; pour remaining batter over caramel; smooth top again. Drizzle remaining caramel sauce over top, in one continuous zig-zag pattern. Turn pan 90 degrees; with toothpick, drag tip through top caramel and batter layer making same zig-zag pattern. Bake for 20 minutes, turn pan and bake for 15 minutes more.Remove from oven and sprinkle sea salt on top. When cool, cut into squares or bars. Enjoy!

**Caramel Sauce**
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour sugar into heavy skillet and caramelize over low heat; constantly stirring until it has completely melted and is light brown in color. Remove from heat and very slowly stir in hot water. Don't worry if sugar clumps, it will melt again when you reheat the mixture.Return the pan to medium heat; stirring to melt sugar clumps. Mixture will begin to boil. Continue boiling until mixture thickens and the boil isn't as rapid. Remove from heat; add butter, salt and vanilla. Strain if there are remaining sugar clumps.

Yield: 1 cup

Butter Crust Sandwich Bread

For such a short list of ingredients, this bread is super-WOW. It is a deliciously perfect white bread that would be amazing as toast, garlic bread, sandwich bread, or just with some butter. It makes me wish I could bake fresh bread for us all week long, because this would be our go-to white bread for sure. I would definitely make this again.

It should be noted that for all the steps until it says to roll it into a log and put it into the bread pan, I just put it on a dough cycle in my bread machine and that worked out just fine.


Butter Crust Sandwich Bread
Cooking Light, March 2006

Touch guides you in three ways as you make this bread: Knead the dough until it feels smooth and elastic; press it to see if it has risen enough; and then tap the baked loaf to determine if it has finished baking. Serve toasted with preserves, or use for sandwiches.

1 tablespoon sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled, divided
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Roll dough into a 14 x 7-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Place roll, seam side down, in an 8 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat surface of dough with cooking spray, and cover; let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Uncover loaf; drizzle surface of loaf with remaining 1 tablespoon butter, gently spreading with a pastry brush. Cut a (1/4-inch-deep) slit lengthwise down center of loaf using a sharp knife.

Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until the bread is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

Yield: 1 loaf

Pasta with Leek, Pepper, and Chive Sauce

This seemed like an easy, tasty meal and I finally found some orecchiette so it seemed like a good dinner. It is, in fact, very easy. It was made better by sauteeing some shrimp and tossing that into the mix. In fact, we wouldn't make it without the shrimp if/when we make it again! Shrimp enhances the flavors quite a bit. Though the instruction in the note to peel the bell peppers seems stupid, I still did it and I'm glad I did because it does change the texture for the better. All in all, a very good dinner!


Pasta with Leek, Pepper, and Chive Sauce
Cooking Light, April 2003

The leeks contribute to make a fine pasta sauce because they cook quickly to a buttery sweetness. Peel the bell peppers with a vegetable peeler; the pepper strips will become softer and adhere to the pasta better without the peel. We suggest that you use ear-shaped orecchiette, but any small pasta will work in this recipe.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 3 large)
3 yellow bell peppers, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
3 cups hot cooked orecchiette pasta (about 3/4 pound uncooked)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek and bell pepper strips; saute 4 minutes. Stir in broth, rind, and juice; cook 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until cream cheese melts (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Add pasta, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Stir in Parmesan and remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cheesy White Chili with Cauliflower

Last night we went on a date-night to On the Border and had delicious sopapillas with honey and chocolate. Delicious.

Tonight we made Cheesy White Chili with Cauliflower again and have officially decided it is the best vegetarian chili recipe. The best. Hooray!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Biscuits and Gravy

This was supposedly an award-winning recipe from a reader recipe contest for Vegetarian Times, but I haven't a clue how it won. It's okay. It was a good recipe for people who don't like lentils, but it was nowhere near excellent. We had it over crisp multigrain english muffins, which was nice texturally. I wouldn't make it again though.

(I know this picture looks awful)

Biscuits and Gravy
Vegetarian Times, 10/08

When Nicole Filizetti isn’t teaching, she spends time cooking up meals from scratch for her husband and two children. “We’re big on having breakfast for dinner,” she explains. “Making this veg version of biscuits and gravy seemed like a good way to add some lentils into my family’s diet.” For an unusually light take on a decadent breakfast favorite, serve this gravy over whole-grain English muffins rather than biscuits. You’ll shave an extra 100 calories off your meal, and the crispy texture goes great with gravy. This fantastic recipe won third place in VT's 2008 Reader Recipe Contest.

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup diced carrot (1 carrot)
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
¼ cup plus 1 Tbs. unbleached flour
1½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. ground yellow mustard seed
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. rubbed (crumbled) sage
2½ cups low-fat milk
½ cup Annie’s Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing
8 whole-grain biscuits or 4 English muffins

1. Bring lentils and 3 cups water to a boil in 2-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 30 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, and set aside.

2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bell pepper, carrot, and garlic, and cook 5 to 8 more minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Stir in flour, black pepper, paprika, mustard, red pepper flakes, and sage; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring after each addition. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until gravy comes to a gentle boil. Remove from heat, and stir in ranch dressing and drained lentils.

3. Split biscuits or English muffins. Lightly toast English muffins, if using. Place biscuits on plates, and top with gravy.

Yield: 8 servings

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn

This was very yummy. It probably would have been even yummier if I had used real long-grain rice and not just some microwave long-grain rice, but that also would have taken much longer. We really liked it but felt that it was not anything particularly special. I'd eat it again, but I doubt I'd make it again.


Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn
Bon Appetit, 11/08

1 1/2 cups wild rice (about 9 ounces)
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled butternut squash (from 11/2-pound squash)
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
1 1/2 cups finely chopped leeks (white part only)
1 1/2 cups frozen white corn kernels, thawed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Rinse rice in strainer under cold water; drain. Bring 6 cups water and 2 teaspoons coarse salt to boil in large saucepan. Add rice; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered until rice grains begin to split and are tender but still slightly chewy, about 45 minutes. Drain. Spread on rimmed baking sheet to cool. Transfer to bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil rimmed baking sheet. Toss squash cubes and 3 tablespoons oil in medium bowl. Spread squash in single layer on prepared sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast just until tender but firm enough to hold shape, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer squash to bowl. Cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and 3/4 cup water; simmer until leeks are tender, about 7 minutes. Add corn; simmer 2 minutes longer. Add rice and butternut squash; simmer until heated through and liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Test-Kitchen Tip:
Some kinds of wild rice take longer to cook than others. The rice is fully cooked when the grains are tender but still chewy and beginning to split. Be sure to test the rice before draining.

Yield: 10 servings

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brown Rice Salad with Citrus-Thai Basil Vinaigrette

This was very easy and very good. I used less oil than the recipe called for and did not find it to affect the outcome. It seems like it makes a TON of dressing but it really is the proper amount, so don't worry. I added a little bit of Thai red curry paste for some heat. We had this with some edamame dumplings and some cantaloupe. We decided that even though it was good, I probably wouldn't make it again due to its similarity to our favorite Mango & Black Bean Salad.


Brown Rice Salad with Citrus-Thai Basil Vinaigrette
Bobby Flay

2 cups cooked brown rice
2 carrots, grated
1 cup pea pods, thinly sliced on an angle
1 small red onion, halved and minced
6 green onions, thinly sliced on an angle
Citrus-Thai Basil Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Chopped fresh cilantro, Thai basil, and/or mint leaves, for garnish

Combine rice and vegetables in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and stir to combine. Let the salad sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with desired herbs.

Citrus-Thai Basil Vinaigrette:
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped (substitute regular basil or mint leaves if needed)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon honey
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for 1 minute.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Fontina Panini with Spinach Salad

This is pretty simple and a clever way to combine the same ingredients to make a full meal. It was yummy. I enjoyed it. It isn't my favorite of the eggplant sandwiches, but I really liked the fontina cheese. We used a rosemary-olive oil sourdough bread that worked beautifully with it. The salad was simple and tasty as well. It's a pretty good meal for people who are fans of the ingredients. I probably wouldn't make this again.


Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Fontina Panini with Spinach Salad
Bon Appetit, 8/09

This vegetarian sandwich has very little oil—but it's still plenty indulgent, thanks to two cheeses and the sweet grilled peppers. Make it in a panini press or pan, or on the barbecue.

Olive oil (for brushing)
1 14- to 16-ounce eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
2 large red bell peppers, cut lengthwise into 1 1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips
8 1/2-inch-thick slices olive bread or country white bread
8 ounces Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
8 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 5-ounce package baby spinach

Brush panini press, panini pan, or grill rack with oil; heat press, pan, or barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush eggplant rounds and pepper strips with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill eggplant until tender, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. Working in batches, grill bell peppers until tender, turning occasionally and flattening with back of spatula for even cooking, about 6 minutes. Place 8 eggplant rounds and 8 bell pepper strips on rimmed baking sheet. Place remaining eggplant and peppers on work surface and slice thinly; reserve for salad.

Place 4 bread slices on work surface. Divide half of Fontina cheese among bread slices; top each with 2 eggplant rounds, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon basil, and 1 teaspoon oregano. Top each with 2 bell pepper strips. Arrange remaining Fontina cheese atop peppers, then top with remaining bread slices, pressing to compact. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature.

Heat panini press, panini pan, or barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush press or pan with oil (if using barbecue, lightly brush bread slices with oil). Place sandwiches in press or pan or on grill; cover and cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar in large bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add spinach, thinly sliced eggplant, and thinly sliced peppers; toss to coat. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut sandwiches in half. Serve with spinach salad.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Herbed Cheese Pizza

I often mention that we are tackling foods that other people don't like, specifically mushrooms and tomatoes. I am a big believer in "acquired taste" - if you eat it enough, and in a variety of different ways, eventually you'll like it. I've taught myself to like (even love!) coffee, beer, blue cheese, cilantro, ketchup, eggplant, and I'm sure the list goes on. It sounds stupid, because if you don't like something, then why keep eating it? Why does it matter? I don't know. It's just the way I am.

So. We focus on Gibby's food aversions frequently on this blog. And yet we haven't addressed any of my own. Because, since I make the meal plans, I avoid the foods that turn me off. I am a hypocrite. Until fate stepped in and made me deal with it. You see, I made my meal plan and we went grocery shopping, and the list had "Kasseri cheese" for the pizza I made tonight. I don't know what I expected kasseri cheese to be, but I figured it was another cow's-milk cheese. But it isn't cow. It's goat. AND SHEEP.

EW. That is my biggest dislike: cheese that does not come from cows. It's too earthy and it tastes the way my mother-in-law's goat pen smells. I can't stand it. But I'd already made the meal plan so I sucked it up and bought the cheese. And tonight we made the pizza with it.

And it was not bad.

The pizza as a whole was great. The crust is amazing and I'd make it even for other pizzas. I made a half-recipe so I still had two balls of dough, so I've frozen those to use in the future. I used some pureed tomato (from a box, since we're switching away from canned tomatoes to reduce BPA consumption) instead of diced tomatoes because Gibby wouldn't like it if it was chunky. And then I sliced up the cheese and put that on top. It cooked so beautifully and was really good. He LOVED the cheese. He loves the strong, earthy cheeses. He liked the pizza a lot. I didn't hate it. The aftertaste was still off-putting to me, but it definitely is a more mild cheese than many of the goat/sheep cheeses out there. I may even consider making this again sometime!


Herbed Cheese Pizza
Cooking Light, September 2009

Chewy, tender crust, rich Greek cheese, and subtly spiced tomato sauce make this a pie you'll love, too.

9.5 ounces bread flour, divided (about 2 cups)
2 cups warm water (100° to 110°), divided
1 teaspoon sugar
2 packages dry yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
14.6 ounces all-purpose flour, divided (about 3 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
Cooking spray

2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot paprika
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
10 ounce sliced kasseri cheese
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. To prepare dough, weigh or lightly spoon bread flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 4.75 ounces (about 1 cup) bread flour, 1 cup warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl; let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 13.5 ounces (about 3 cups) all-purpose flour, remaining 4.75 ounces (about 1 cup) bread flour, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; make a well in center. Add yeast mixture, remaining 1 cup warm water, and 2 teaspoons oil to flour mixture; stir well. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

3. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; divide dough into 8 equal portions. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.

4. To prepare topping, combine oregano, cumin, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to pan. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic, bay leaf, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf.

5. Preheat oven to 450°.

6. Working with 1 dough portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), roll each portion into a 6-inch circle on a lightly floured surface; place circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions. Top each crust with 1/4 cup tomato mixture, 1 1/4 ounces cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon oregano mixture. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until crusts are lightly browned. Sprinkle evenly with parsley.

Yield: 8 servings

Deep Chocolate Mint Cookies

Wow, I first posted about these cookies 4 years ago! That is before I even moved to Maryland, way before PA, way before we were married. I have been doing this food blog for a long time! That is crazy. So. Time has passed, and Deep Chocolate Mint Cookies are still wonderfully delicious!!! Today I used a bag of Nestle mint morsels, but half the morsels were green so it melted into kind of an off-brown color. Meh. Still tasted very good!!!! They turned out so soft and chewy... this is probably the best batch I've ever made.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Big Stockholm Food Post

Alright. I don't know how to organize this, so let's just go in order. It should be noted that this is only going to revolve around food and if you care about the rest of my trip you'll have to look elsewhere.

So we flew to Stockholm on Jan1 to visit my mom's brother and his family. I would like to mention that Finnair has fantastic airline food and offers delicious coffee and free wine. They gave me a great vegetarian option. So we landed in Helsinki, Finland on Jan2 and had some breakfast, which was scary because we were paying in Euros and had no idea what we were doing. Then we hopped on over to Stockholm. We went to my relatives' house and had smörgås (root of smörgåsbord - not like the ones in Vegas though!), which kind of means "open sandwich." This was our first introduction to the flatbread that I am now obsessed with, which is Knäckebröd. We spread it with butter, but I also tried some fish paste (unknown what it is, but it was weirdly salty). We were also feeling pretty adventurous so we had some pickled herring. No joke. It didn't taste too bad. Really sugary. Very bizarre texture. I can check that off my list and never have to try it again. We also tried JulMust, which is kind of like a Swedish Dr. Pepper. Gibby was not a fan.

We then trekked out to Stortorget, where we had hot chocolate and chai and apple cake in a 400 year old cafe.
When we returned to their house, we had Swedish meatballs (a vegetarian version for me!) and potatoes and peas and more JulMust, and a deliciously wonderful ice cream with gingersnaps in it. OK. So that's the extremely long Day 1.

Day 2: We went to my uncle's church, where we were introduced to the phenomenon known as FIKA. Fika, as defined by Wiki, is the "practice of taking a break, typically with a cinnamon roll and/or some biscuits or cookies, or sometimes a smörgås or a fruit on the side, is central to Swedish life, and is regularly enjoyed even by the government." Fika went on to become one of my favorite things ever. I miss it. /deviation. Then we went out for Indian food where I had some wonderful butter paneer masala (similar to my recipe!).

Day 3: A day of sightseeing, particularly notable for our very long lunch at Kafé Vurma, in Hornstull in Stockholm.
I had some lentil and potato curry with a smörgås on the side and it was wonderful.
Gibby had a panini with chicken, apple, walnuts, goat cheese, and spinach, which he was definitely enjoyed.
At Kafé Vurma, we also had our first kardemummebullar, which are like giant dense cinnamon buns except with cardamom and chunky sugar. So freaking good. I like the kardemommeboller better than the kanelbullar (cinnamon buns), but looooove them both.

We also went to a market to get some raclette cheese, so of course we poked around and looked at the cheese counters, meat counter (eww they leave the heads and feathers on the poultry!) and produce. It's always fun to explore markets!




Day 4: Another day of sightseeing! We had some tasty lunch at my uncle's church, including a pasta salad with crawfish tails that my aunt made. Once the sun went down ( 3PM....) we went to have some fika at Espresso House, which has succeeded in keeping Starbucks out of their country, with the exception of at the airport. We got a kanelbulle, hot chocolate (for Gibby) and coffee (for me). My uncle ordered an espresso and it actually came in a tiny, proper-sized espresso cup. So very different from Starbucks!

When we got back to their house, we had...raclette! I heard of this a few months ago when my cousin was talking about it. It's like fondue. Kind of. Raclette is a French cheese that melts beautifully. So you put it in a special raclette machine, which melts the cheese while you cook stuff on top, and then you pour the cheese over whatever you want (in our case, potatoes!). It is AWESOME and makes me want to buy a machine. I think I might at some point!


Day 5: We went to McDonald's! Gibby got a Big & Tasty, which he said was kind of like a Whopper. Interestingly, there are no sizes at their McDonalds. You order a meal and you get the standard size of fries and drink (which are moderately sized). Fascinating! No super-size? What is this? Wonderful! Then we went on a tram ride and then went for fika at Dieselverkstaden, a converted factory building. We got another kardemummebulle, as well as a chokladboll, which was awesome and the internet tells me I can easily replicate them at home. Also more hot chocolate! Swedish hot chocolate is made with real chocolate and isn't overly sweet, so we happily drank it regularly throughout our trip.
For dinner, my aunt made a shrimp stirfry. It should be noted that my aunt is an excellent cook and we had some very yummy food at her home during our visit!

The next morning, we packed up and headed to the airport. Tear. I had my last fika at the airport.
And now we are home, sans one suitcase which was errantly sent to Barcelona and has yet to be returned to us (Finnair may have excellent food and movies, but I'd prefer to have my luggage).

Upon doing research since getting home, I have acquired a kannelbullar mix from our local grocery store's international aisle, some knäckebröd from the airport, and I have learned that there is a fika cafe, aptly named Fika, in New York City that we may have to hit up sometime! All in all, a wonderful trip and wonderful food and I am happy to have had the experience.

Shrimp Lasagna Rolls with Creamy Marinara

I'm getting the Stockholm post ready, but I figured I'd go ahead and update about our dinner tonight. It was pretty good! Not as exceptional as I'd hoped though, and strong on the basil (probably my fault), but pretty good.

We had a minor panic when I realized we had no-cook noodles, but the recipe involves rolling the mixture up in a noodle, so it kind of has to be boiled first. So I ignored the "DO NOT BOIL" notice on the box and boiled them for only a couple of minutes - just until they'd softened. This method worked out perfectly and they finished cooking in the oven. Also don't cook the shrimp the whole way, either. They will cook more in the oven as well. I used fat-free ricotta and low-fat mozzarella.

I don't think we'll make it again, but it was yummy.


Shrimp Lasagna Rolls with Creamy Marinara
Everyday Pasta by Giada de Laurentiis, pg 196

On my last trip to Venice, I fell in love with a shrimp lasagna that I tried. This recipe is my twist on that Venetian dish. If you keep frozen shrimp in the freezer, this is a good way to use them. Be sure not to overcook the lasagna noodles when you are boiling them, as they will finish cooking when you bake the assembled dish. You will only need 12 noodles in all, but cook a few extras in case some break or tear as you are boiling them.

1 lb lasagna
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (15 oz) containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups marinara sauce (storebought or homemade)
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 5 oz)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and the garlic to the pan and saute until the shrimp are cooked, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and let cool. Coarsely chop the cooled shrimp and place in a large bowl with 2 cups of the ricotta cheese (one container and about 1/3 of the other), the Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and the nutmeg. Stir to combine.

In another bowl, combine the marinara sauce with the remaining 1 cup of ricotta cheese and stir to combine.

To make the lasagna, cover the bottom of a 9x13x2 inch baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara mixture. Lay 4 noodles flat on a dry work surface. Spread about 1/4 cup of the shrimp mixture evenly over each noodle. Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat twice more to make 12 lasagna rolls. Drizzle the rolls with the remaining marinara mixture and top with grated mozzarella. Bake until the lasagna rolls are heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

2009 In Review

Last year we made 265 new recipes! (Full post about that here). This year we made 262!! Not quite my goal of 300, but definitely not bad. I am pretty proud. :)

Friday, January 08, 2010

We're Back!

You may have noticed that I have not posted for about 2 weeks. We went to Stockholm, Sweden for a week! We just got back yesterday, slept at my parents' house due to jetlag, and drove back to our house today. So it's our first night home in forever! I'm working on the menu for next week and we should be back to cooking as usual tomorrow night. Also, tomorrow I will hopefully be posting about all the delectable foods we ate in Sweden!!! Woohoo!