Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tomato Pizza with Garlic & Smoked Gouda

Tonight was another make-again: Tomato Pizza with Garlic & Smoked Gouda. Delicious as always, though I did learn a lesson. The lesson is that you cannot substitute polenta for cornmeal, even if you are completely out of cornmeal. Polenta stays hard and crunchy and is not a great idea. So don't do that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Broccoli and Three-Cheese Lasagna

One of the reasons I like recipes from Real Simple magazine is that they are, indeed, really simple. Keeping that in mind, it means you need to pick good ingredients. There are no herbs and spices in this recipe, so you need a great marinara sauce. Real Simple also does not place an emphasis on fat and calories, so I did my best to reduce all of that. Fat-free ricotta, lower fat cheeses, and half the amount of cream - still rich and cheesy! I really liked this a lot. I look forward to taking it for lunch tomorrow. I hope it reheats well!

lasagna

Broccoli and Three-Cheese Lasagna
Real Simple, December 2009

To help the lasagna hold together when it's cut, alternate the direction of the noodles in each layer.

15 ounces ricotta -- (about 1 3/4 cups)
1 pound frozen broccoli florets—thawed -- patted dry, and chopped
2 1/4 cups grated mozzarella -- (9 ounces)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan -- (2 ounces)
kosher salt and black pepper
16 ounces marinara sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

1. Heat oven to 400ยบ F. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, broccoli, 2 cups of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a small bowl, combine the marinara sauce and cream.

2. Spoon a thin layer of the sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 noodles, a quarter of the remaining sauce, and a third of the broccoli mixture; repeat twice. Top with the remaining 2 noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of Parmesan.

3. Cover tightly with an oiled piece of foil and bake until the noodles are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Servings: 4

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lemon Cakes (Game of Thrones)

So, here's the deal. I'm obsessed with Game of Thrones on HBO. I've been obsessed with the book series for YEARS AND YEARS. I've met the author and personally yelled at him for not finishing the fifth book (still!). I have replica coins/currency from the books, as well as two hardcore swords (with a third in production). So when the show premiered, I was PUMPED.

My plan had been to make the Lemon Cake recipe that HBO was spreading around the internet and in real life with their food trucks in LA and NYC prior to the premiere. Except last weekend, the kitchen still wasn't put together and I wasn't ready to make something with a waterbath. It just wasn't the right time.

Yesterday was the right time. Yesterday, I made the official lemon cakes, which were done just in time for the show. I had trouble getting the egg whites beaten because my Kitchenaid mixer was too big (I know, I know, my life is hard), so I called my mom. She solves all my problems. She reminded me that I had a latte aerator (Aerolatte) in my Pile of Kitchen Stuff in the basement, so I used that. Perfectly beaten egg whites in less than 30 seconds! I will use this forever. So I did that, made the lemon cakes, and it was wonderful. These are so light and delicious. They taste just like lemon bars, but lighter. I love them!

So I unmolded the delicious lemon cakes and had a little bit of difficulty with the first one. Kind of wobbly. Then I unmolded the second one and it was beautiful, and then I dropped the ramekin on top, smashing it. Seriously. So instead, you get a picture of the ugly yet unsmashed first one.

lemoncakes

Lemon Cakes
Craft of Cooking, as posted on HBO.com

1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for dusting ramekins
2 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of kosher salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely chopped zest of 1 1/2 lemons

Heat the oven to 300. Butter and lightly sugar 6 4-ounce ramekins. Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks then set them aside. Sift the sugar with the flour and salt. In a mixer, using the whisk attachment, combine the buttermilk, lemon juice, egg yolks and lemon zest.

Gradually add the flour mixture then fold in the egg whites. Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins in a water bath (set the ramekins in a larger pan; fill the pan with enough hot water to come half way up the ramekins) cover with aluminum foil.

Bake until the cakes rise and are almost firm, about 25 minutes then uncover and continue baking until the tops are lightly golden and the cakes spring back when touched, about 15 minutes more. Unmold and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Oven-Fry Poutine with Mushroom Gravy

I know, I know. I tried a poutine recipe a few weeks ago. It was delicious. But then I decided to try another one. I don't know why. It was a different preparation.

It was good, but it was basically like a glorified smothered-covered hashbrowns. The other poutine, I felt, was more "authentic" because of the cheese curds. This just had cheddar cheese on top. It was yummy, but I won't make it again.

poutine

Oven-Fry Poutine with Mushroom Gravy
Eating Well, March/April 2011

Poutine (pu-teen)—fries topped with gravy and cheese curds—is a French-Canadian fast-food classic. Our lighter version features crispy oven-fried potatoes topped with just enough sharp cheese and a grease-free gravy that’s chock-full of fresh mushrooms.

1 1/2 pounds new or baby potatoes -- scrubbed and cut into quarters
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil -- divided
1/4 salt -- divided
1/8 teaspoon salt -- divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper -- divided
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth or mushroom broth -- divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped cremini or white mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450°F.

2. Combine potatoes, 2 teaspoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring once or twice, until the potatoes are tender and browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Whisk 1/2 cup broth and flour in a small bowl; set aside.

4. Heat the remaining 3 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup broth; bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced by about half, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Add the reserved flour and broth mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Stir in chives and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; keep warm on low heat.

6. When the potatoes are done, push them together in the center of the pan and sprinkle with cheese. Return to the oven; bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes more. Serve the potatoes topped with the gravy.

Servings: 4

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grilled Cheese with Onion Jam, Taleggio, and Escarole

Tonight I made Grilled Cheese with Onion Jam, Taleggio, and Escarole. I had a fantastic onion-balsamic jam I found at Stone Cottage Gardens, and it worked wonderfully with this sandwich. We had it with some steamed green beans. Super-yum.

I have some lemon cakes in the oven to eat along with the viewing of Game of Thrones tonight, but they aren't done yet. I'll post about them tomorrow!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Caramel Popcorn

Tonight for dinner I made Vegetarian Pad Thai. This is seriously one of our favorites ever.

Then, since we had a planned "date night" watching movies tonight, I thought it would be fun to try out one of the bazillion caramel corn recipes I have. I may have to just delete all the other ones because this one is absolutely phenomenal. Oh my gosh. It is super easy to make (especially with microwave popcorn) and is very tasty. I can't stop eating it, which is terrible, but it was great for a movie night. I would definitely make this again.

Note: Make sure you go through it to pull out the kernels before you toss it with the caramel! You don't want to accidentally eat one. Ouch!

corn

Caramel Popcorn
Cooking Light, December 2002

Let the caramel popcorn cool completely before dividing it into holiday tins for giving. This recipe is always a hit.

Cooking spray
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon light molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 cups popcorn -- (popped without salt or fat)

1. Preheat oven to 250°.

2. Coat a large jelly roll pan with cooking spray.

3. Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter, and molasses in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring once. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Place popcorn in a large bowl; pour sugar mixture over popcorn in a steady stream, stirring to coat.

4. Spread popcorn mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 250° for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

5. Remove from oven; stir to break up any large clumps. Cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Servings: 18

Jamaican Curried Shrimp & Mango Soup

We have come to the conclusion that Wegmans frozen shrimp sucks. It's also probably less sustainable than the shrimp at the seafood counter (which I know is frozen on its way to the store, yes, but it isn't from the same source). That being said, we were disappointed with this soup but only because the shrimp tasted weird. The mango was delicious. And I followed the tip for how to cut the mango - way easier than the convoluted way I've always done it. WAY easier. We concluded that we didn't really love the celery in it because it freaked me out with the crunchiness (did I get a piece of shrimp shell? Am I going to die?) so I would probably leave it out. We probably wouldn't make this again but it was definitely interesting to try.

I served it with the always-delicious Caribbean Coconut Rice. Yum!

soup

Jamaican Curried Shrimp & Mango Soup
Eating Well, Jan/Feb 2011

Transport yourself to the islands with this Jamaican-inspired soup, full of fresh shrimp and sweet mangoes. We loved this soup with regular store-bought curry powder, but if you happen to have Jamaican-style curry powder, which has a hint of allspice, this is a great place to use it. Serve with brown basmati or jasmine rice with sliced pineapple for dessert.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion -- chopped
2 stalks celery -- sliced
4 cloves garlic -- chopped
1 serrano chile -- minced (optional)
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups seafood broth or stock or clam juice
14 ounces “lite” coconut milk
3 ripe mangoes -- diced (see Tip)
1 1/4 pounds raw shrimp -- (21-25 count) peeled and deveined
1 bunch scallions -- sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, chile (if using), curry powder and thyme; stir constantly for 30 seconds. Add broth (or stock or clam juice), coconut milk and mangoes. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

2. Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Return the puree to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add shrimp and cook until pink and firm, about 3 minutes. Stir in scallions and salt.

Servings: 4

Tip: To peel and dice a mango, slice both ends off to reveal the long, slender seed. Set the fruit upright and remove the skin with a sharp knife. With the seed perpendicular to you, slice the fruit from both sides of the seed, yielding two large pieces. Turn the seed parallel to you and slice the two smaller pieces of fruit from each side. Dice into desired size.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chickpeas with Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

Tonight I made myself this super-easy super-healthy meal. I did not use brown rice and instead subbed couscous, which only takes 5 minutes and goes really well with all the ingredients. I liked it a lot. It isn't anything exciting, but it's good. I would consider making it again. Still with the couscous, of course!

tomatoes

Chickpeas with Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes
Real Simple, March 2011

1 cup brown rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 small plum tomatoes -- halved lengthwise
1 small bunch Swiss chard -- thick stems and ribs removed and leaves torn (about 8 cups)
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 cloves garlic -- thinly sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
15 ounces chickpeas -- rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Cook the rice according to the package directions.

2. Twenty minutes before the rice is done, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, cut-side down, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until browned and starting to soften, 3 to 5 minutes; turn and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the chard, raisins, garlic, 2 tablespoons water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Cook, tossing, until the chard wilts, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Return the tomatoes to the skillet, add the chickpeas and lemon juice, and toss until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve over the rice.

Servings: 4

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mom's Best Pancakes

Yesterday I really wanted some pancakes so I went with my mom's tried & true pancake recipe. I also had the rest of my frozen Honeycrisp apples from October, so I sauteed those in some butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon to put on top of the pancakes. Delicious! It was a lovely dinner.

pancakes

Baeckeoffe

Tonight I tried out the new oven for the first time and made Potato, Turnip & Spinach Baeckeoffe. Now that it is spring, I am sad that I will probably have to retire it until the fall or winter. It's such a nice comfort food. It has quickly become one of our favorites!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Vegetarian Reubens

The kitchen is done today! I don't have updated photos, but I can tell you that I am very happy with how it turned out. I made myself some Vegetarian Reubens to celebrate. Hooray!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Meal

So as I said, the kitchen is not quite done, but tonight I figured I could make some food anyway. The oven is hooked up and the microwave is hooked up, so I made some Bibimbap. Our first meal in the new kitchen! Hoorah!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Not Done Yet

The kitchen guys are finishing up the major stuff today, so we should be able to move everything back in to the cabinets and stuff this weekend. All the appliances are in, too. The refrigerator is HUGE. I love it so much. They'll come back on Monday to finish the painting, cleaning, etc. It's nice to be almost done.

I have some pictures from last night, so it doesn't include the stove or sink or anything, but it's still a good example of what the kitchen is looking like.

kitchen

kitchen

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Miguel's

So as we eat our way through the Lehigh Valley Good Taste list of restaurants, we are discovering one thing: Lehigh Valley standards of fine cooking are variable from the rest of the country.

We have had some delicious meals here, absolutely. Shula's, Emeril's, Pearly Baker's - there are a lot. But some things widely considered here to be fancy fine dining are just sort of crappy and not worth the money. At least to us.

Gibby had been talking about tapas with a coworker because when we lived in DC, there was a wonderful tapas restaurant where we loved to eat. Not a lot of ethnic diversity in this area results in few opportunities for tapas. His coworker recommended a place in Belfast, PA called Miguel's, which happens to be on the 25 Restaurant List we're eating through. We had to be up that way anyway yesterday, so we decided to eat there. Before we left, I looked them up online. Miguel's was previously called Casa del Mar, and seemed to have had a cult following. I was intrigued.

And then I was disappointed. It was awful. Not even remotely worth the money. The food was terrible, the place smelled weird, and the service was lacking. And the bread! How can you screw up bread? It was stale and yeasty. Even my Sprite had been filtered wrong and was mostly carbonated water. SPRITE! When the last of the tapas came out, my heart sank when I saw the fried eggplant:
eggplant

It basically consisted of three too-thick rounds of eggplant that had been SOAKED in vegetable oil topped with wilted basil, raw tomato, and flavorless cheese. It was completely inedible from all of the oil. The waitress asked if I wanted to take it home with me and I told her very politely that I did not like it at all. She just kind of shrugged and cleared the table. Awesome service, guys. Way to make your patrons want to come back!

So. Complete waste of money. Never going back. Makes me wonder about the standards of the other restaurants on this list. We'll probably continue to try them out because it's a nice way to continue getting to know our area, but I hope they aren't all as crappy as Miguel's.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Updates, Awards, and Friends

Let's do this in the form of a Q&A.

Q: Why aren't you cooking?
A: I have no kitchen. The cabinets are up, the flooring is down, and there are exactly zero appliances and no countertop. We're waiting on the granite guy to come install the countertop, and the appliances can't be delivered & hooked up until the counters are in. Thus, we are still living out of our microwave and some pizza boxes, and our refrigerator is still in the garage.

Q: When will the renovation be done?
A: Hopefully within the next week. I'm not positive. All the planets seem to be aligning for the weekend of the 17th. I'm not kidding. A bazillion major life changes are scheduled for that weekend, so it would make sense for our kitchen to be done at the same time.

Q: What's new in the land of food for the Gibsons?
A: We're signed up for a local CSA, which will begin in May. Hopefully our kitchen will be back together by then and I can roast the hell out of all the delicious vegetables we'll be getting. Also, now that I'm going to have a new job ending much earlier in the day (4:30 rather than 7:30!) I'll probably have way more flexibility in terms of cooking during the week. So by the time the kitchen is back, hopefully I'll be posting more regularly than I have been over the past two years. That will be fun.

Q: Who is Keith and what is a blog award?
A: Keith is the fantastic chef behind the Chef Bolek blog. I worked with his wife before we moved to Pennsylvania and she told me about Keith's insane cooking abilities. Despite his wife being a pescetarian, Keith cooks all kinds of foods according to self-assigned challenges, such as Around the World in 80 Dishes, in which he is cooking dishes from different countries around the world, or Iron Chef against himself. Not only does he do research for what he's making, and actually acquires the difficult-to-find ingredients, but he often manages to pair them with a beer or alcoholic beverage from the region he is exploring. I like reading his blog.

So he gave me this:
award

It's so funny because I have another blog dedicated to a medical catastrophe we're working through (infertility), and that blog gets awards all the time when it's really just a bunch of complaining. This blog means more to me in the sense of that it's based on things I make and create, not something that has happened to me, so I feel quite honored to receive an award for it! Especially from a prestigious chef like Keith!

The rules for receiving the award are:
1) Post the award on your blog with the name and blog of the person who gave it to you
2) Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award
3) Contact the blog owners to let them know you have awarded them

Much like Keith, I don't have a lot of food blogs I follow. I think everyone and their mother checks out Pioneer Woman and Cookie Madness every once in awhile, and, if you read my blog enough, you know I love Joe's Blog, but these are all huge cooking websites where no one would notice an award. So instead of 15, I will choose:

-Until We Eat Again, which is a sweet blog by a vegetarian/vegan couple and I really enjoy their reviews of restaurants, as well as their recipes. Yum!

-Justine at A Half-Baked Life, who I met through the aforementioned infertility blogging community. She has this magical way of weaving food and recipes in with the struggles she has endured on her path to parenthood.

-Denise at The Healthy Living Project, who is not only one of my best friends and favorite people in the entire world, but also has an inspirational website about healthy living and her adventures toward wellness.

-Nadine at GoSeeMake&Do, a long-time internet friend from our Great Neighbor to the North, who posts about crafts and has been on a baking frenzy lately. It's great.

You all are wonderful, everything is super, and hopefully I will return with recipes soon!