Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Round-Up

It has taken me forever to post this, mostly because I am tired and don't feel like posting lately. I haven't been cooking, I didn't have Cookie Monday because I was off from work yesterday, Armetta's Pizza is my friend, and I have just been very busy. So. Sorry.

For Thanksgiving, I was trapped in Pennsylvania and my coworker very generously invited me to spend the day with her family. It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of tasty food to be had. Her mom knew I don't eat meat so she made a lot of vegetable side dishes. It was awesome.

Pictures from Actual Thanksgiving:
thanksgiving

thanksgiving

thanksgiving

Then I went to work on Friday, and then I went to Connecticut on Saturday for Second-Thanksgiving with my own family. Unlike other years, I had no desire to cook or make anything new. We had our old standbys, and some storebought pies, and that was totally acceptable. Maybe next year I will feel adventurous and try new things again.

Pictures from Second-Thanksgiving
thanksgiving

thanksgiving

thanksgiving

And of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without Thanksgiving Breakfast:
thanksgiving
{Last year's post about Thanksgiving Breakfast is HERE}

Onward and upward, and hopefully I will cook more around Christmas. It is cookie season, after all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chickpea-Noodle Soup

This is from the Veganomicon and is specifically described as being "comfort food" (see description with recipe). If by "comfort food" we mean "food that is disgusting and that I do not ever want to eat again," then they are exactly right. Oh my gosh. There are too many things going on here, fusing too many different types of cuisines. It is not delicious. It had a weird aftertaste. It will never go in my mouth ever again. I did not like this at all. Ugh I'm so disappointed.

crap

Chickpea-Noodle Soup
Veganomicon, page 139

This is a great soup for when you're feeling under the weather and need something tasty to slurp on while you watch TV and pity yourself. But don't let that dissuade you if you feel fine and just happen to want a nice, comforting bowl of soup.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 cup peeled, thinly sliced carrots (or chopped baby carrots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in your fingers
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mirin (optional)
1/3 cup brown rice miso
6 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked dried chickpeas, or 1 (15 oz) can, drained and rinsed
6 ounces soba noodles

1. Preheat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and carrots in the olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and herbs, and saute for another 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the mirin (or just a splash of water). Add the 6 cups of water and the chickpeas. Cover and bring to a boil.

2. Once the broth is boiling, break the soba noodles into thirds and throw them in. Lower the heat to medium so that the soup is at a low boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the miso and stir until it's incorporated. Taste and adjust the salt, and add a little extra miso if you would like a stronger, saltier flavor.

Servings: 6

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thai Fried Quinoa

Here's the thing about Pinterest: when something looks good, we all pin it. It doesn't mean it's a good recipe, but it gets pinned and passed around and everyone ooh's and aah's over it. This is what happened with this quinoa recipe, which incidentally is from the same food blog as another mediocre quinoa recipe I tried. The chickadee's blog is awesome and she takes lovely photos. But there's something to be said about being honest when recipes blow. I'm not saying her. Maybe when she made it, it was amazing. Maybe she is better at cooking than I am, or had better ingredients. But when normal people cook food, it oftentimes does not turn out as we had hoped, and that is important to acknowledge.

So as you might have gathered, I made this quinoa recipe and it blew. Like there was nothing good about it. The entire thing was awful. Not even salvageable, just awful.

quinoa

Thai Fried Quinoa
Iowa Girl Eats via Pinterest

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup frozen peas
1 8 ounce can pineapple tidbits
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 eggs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
Chopped peanuts (optional)

1. Place rinsed quinoa in a saucepan over high heat. Add coconut milk and chicken broth, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, place a lid on top, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat and spray with non-stick spray. Add green onions, ginger, and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly as to not burn the garlic.

3. Add peas, pineapple tidbits, and cilantro and cook for 1 additional minute.

4. Push the ingredients to the sides of the wok to create a clear space in the center. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl, then pour into the wok. Stir with a spatula until the eggs are scrambled, then stir to combine with the rest of the ingredients.

5. Add cooked quinoa, soy sauce and lime juice to the wok, and stir to combine. Cook for an additional minute or two, or until the quinoa begins to crisp up. Serve with optional chopped peanuts on top.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cookie Monday: Crisp & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Throughout the past week, I had several people request chocolate chip cookies for this week's Cookie Monday. While an easy fallback is Nestle Tollhouse, you know I like to try new things. I'd originally planned to make these: Chocolate Chip Flying Saucers, but the reviews weren't great and I don't have time for mediocrity. I quickly found another recipe from Martha Stewart that promised a crisp edge with a soft and chewy interior. And you know what? That's exactly what it made.

cookie

I doubled the recipe as usual, and instead of making ginormous scoops for ginormous cookies, I made tablespoon-sized scoops and reduced the baking time to 12 minutes. This worked out perfectly, and I managed 8 dozen cookies versus the 40 I would have gotten if I'd used the huge scoop. Again I came home with zero cookies! Among the comments I received as feedback were, "I normally am not a chocolate chip cookie kind of guy but I love these," "These are the best chocolate cookies I've ever had, except for the ones at KFC and Perkins," and "*expletive.*" Hoorah!

So basically the concensus is this is a pretty solid recipe for an excellent cookie. I would strongly recommend everyone make them!

cookie

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Martha Stewart

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 ounces unsalted butter -- softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; beat until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

3. Using a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop (about 3 tablespoons), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden around edges but soft in the middle, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Yield: 20 (or 40 per batch if you are Lauren)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mushroom Potpie

When I became a vegetarian (15 years ago, this month!), I ate a lot of potatoes but I also discovered frozen vegetable pot pies. Just like chicken pot pies, just without the chicken. They were yummy and tasty and I'm sure helped with my transition to eating more vegetables. I still buy them every once in awhile from the grocery store.

This little potpie is very basic, and while it's called a mushroom potpie, it really has a LOT of other vegetables in it. You also can't really go too wrong with things involving puff pastry, because even if the dish itself sucks, you can just eat all the puff pastry. Win-win.

pie

That being said, this was not my favorite thing I have made. It was good, but it wasn't as good as I had hoped. I made the full recipe because I was hoping to take it with me for lunches this week, but I really am not feeling that. I don't know. I was kind of disappointed by this. I wouldn't make it again.

(I did a very bad job of scooping it out of the pan so it's a mess. I'm sorry.)
pie

Mushroom Potpie
Real Simple, November 2011

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms -- (such as cremini or button) halved, or quartered if large
4 carrots -- cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 celery stalks -- sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion -- chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas
1 sheet puff pastry -- (half a 17.3-ounce package) thawed

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the broth and peas; bring to a boil.

Transfer the mushroom mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish. Lay the pastry on top and cut several vents in it. Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Servings: 4

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cookie Monday: Toffee Almond Sandies

Ugh you guys, Cookie Monday is probably my favorite thing ever now. I brought in 6 dozen cookies (SIX. DOZEN.) and I came home with none. I gave them all away! All day long! It is SO MUCH FUN. People are happy with cookies. And some people are then made happy for the rest of the day because they missed lunch and I just helped boost their blood sugar. And it gives me an excuse to talk to random people, and I make new friends, and everything is just the freaking best. And apparently people are reading this blog now, which is both scary and entertaining. I've had a solid ~200 daily readers (which I'll never understand) for about 5 of the 7 years I've had this blog, and this is the first time it's really started increasing. Totally bananas.

On to the cookies.

Since last week was brownies, I determined that this week should not be chocolatey. I usually lean toward chewier cookies, but I do really like pecan sandies (which are hard and crumbly), so this seemed like a fun (and easy) adventure. Make sure you get the toffee bits, NOT the pieces with the chocolate on them. The toffee doesn't really stay solid, either. It kind of melts a little bit and ties the cookie together. The almonds are a nice exchange from the pecans. I don't know. It's just a really good cookie. I had very positive feedback, so that's pretty fantastic. Definitely a recipe to keep!

P.S. It seems like there is a lot of butter and oil in this, but when you realize that I managed to get 7 1/2 dozen out of this recipe, suddenly the amounts don't seem bad at all. I did a Weight Watchers calculator for my friends and it came out to like 1 point for 2 cookies. Not bad at all.

sandies

Toffee Almond Sandies
Taste of Home, Feb/March 1998

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped almonds
1 6-oz package English toffee bits
Additional sugar

In a bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add oil, eggs and extract; mix well. Combine flours, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in almonds and toffee bits.

Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheets and flatten with a fork. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yield: 6-7 dozen

Friday, November 09, 2012

Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, and Pepita Tacos

I've talked before about how I organize and store my recipes in Living Cookbook. I have about eleventy billion recipes, some of which I've made and some of which I want to try. When I say I would make something again, it goes int my "worth keeping" folder. If I actually DO make it again, then it gets filed into the make-again categories. I was looking through one of my folders last weekend to make my meal plan and found this recipe for Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, & Pepita Tacos in the "make-agains." I'm pretty sure I've only ever made it once, and it was only okay. So I decided to try it again and if it was truly worthy of keeping, then super. But it wasn't. It was just boring. So now I can delete it and clear the way for more new recipes!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Warm Salad of Millet and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Walnuts

This is one of those excellent dishes you can make, refrigerate, and take for lunch the next day. And eat for dinner the next day. It makes use of the wonder that is Roasted Brussels Sprouts (which I swear are amazing). I couldn't find millet so I subbed in quinoa. No problem there. I really liked this a lot. I would make it again.

PS I know, it has the most pretentious name. That's ok. I forgive it, because it is so yummy.

millet

Warm Salad of Millet and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Walnuts
Vegetarian Times, October 2012

1 1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
5 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil, divided
3/4 cup millet
2/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 475. Toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl, and season with salt, if desired. Arrange sprouts in single layer in 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Roast 20-24 minutes, or until brown and tender, stirring once. Cool 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add millet, and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden. Add 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer millet to large bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Fold brussels sprouts, walnuts, cranberries, and parsley into millet.

3. Whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, syrup, lemon juice, and lemon zest in bowl. Stir into millet mixture, and season with salt, if desired.

Servings: 4

Monday, November 05, 2012

Cookie Monday: Salted Caramel Brownies

Homemade fudgy brownie layer? Check.
Homemade caramel layer? Check.
Fancy french grey sea salt? Check.

What's not to love?

I made a huge pan of these and cut them into teeny tiny little squares, then set each square into a mini cupcake tin. This allowed for easy distribution at work. Feedback is that these were excellent. People who do not normally like caramel stated that they really enjoyed them, and people who had never had the combination of salt and caramel were pleasantly surprised. Success! I'm so happy.

Making the brownies was very simple, but be forewarned that the dough is VERY dry. Don't panic. That's how it's supposed to be. It doesn't turn into a dry, cakey brownie. It stays fudgy and amazing. I promise. The caramel cooks very quickly and sets very quickly, so make sure you pour it and smooth it very quickly or else it will be all streaky. It isn't like a regular caramel - it's much more like a praline type caramel-icing. But it does harden up a bit and is very yummy. Not overly sweet, either. And then of course the sea salt! I used my favoritest from Penzeys but you can use any good-quality sea salt. It's what really ties everything together!

Ugh these were just so good. I would definitely make these again.

brownie

Salted Caramel Brownies
Cooking Light, September 2011

Brownies:
3 3/8 ounces all-purpose flour -- (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter -- melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking Spray

Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk -- divided
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate -- coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare brownies, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking powder) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add butter mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Scrape batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

3. To prepare topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.

4. Combine 2 tablespoons milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set. Cut into squares.

Servings: 20 (depending on how small you cut it)

Trapp Door Gastropub

My friend and I were sitting at a conference on Friday discussing dive bars in my new area of the Valley, particularly ones that have excellent food and/or ambiance. This led to a googling, and that led to the discovery of the Trapp Door Gastropub in Emmaus. It isn't a dive bar, and it has a fancy brunch menu. But what really sold us was the fact that they have a bloody mary bar. Seriously. A whole mix-your-own bar. (I'll get to that in a minute.)

So naturally this immediately led to making reservations for brunch on Sunday. Five of us went, and though the wait was pretty long for our food, the drinks and food were all delicious.

vodka

Of course, I ordered the bloody mary. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of salts, hot sauces, homemade pickles, horseradish mixtures, pepper, etc, I just started adding all kinds of random stuff til it tasted just right. I think this concoction consisted of a L-O-T of sriracha sauce, horseradish, celery salt, homemade habanero sauce, and a lot of pickles. I know. So weird. It doesn't even matter. It was amazing. Couldn't even taste the vodka. So much love for this. I miss it. I yearn for it. I would like to drink it every day. I shouldn't do that.

Two friends ordered omelettes (yum!) but my camera didn't take a good picture of those. We also had an order of beignets (little fluffy doughnut-like pillows in a framboise sauce). Amazing.

Janet got Eggs Benedict, which came on fancy brioche.

benedict

And I got huevos rancheros, sans chorizo. SO GOOD. Oh my gosh. I was just the happiest.

rancheros

All in all, this was wonderful. I'm glad we found it. It's so close to my house, so I hope to take future guests there for brunch - and perhaps even venture out for dinner or drinks sometime. Especially another bloody mary.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cookie Monday: Halloween Spritz Cookies

Sorry I didn't post this on Monday! The hurricane hit and I lost power. Everything was fine here though! No flooding or anything. I did it all by myself! I am a champion! Everyone's power has slowly been coming back on, and everything is disorganized and a mess, but in general things are okay.

SO on to the cookies.

Every Christmas, my mom makes these little green Christmas tree cookies with her cookie press. She has to make like a thousand of them because my family and I eat them so quickly. Simple and buttery with a slight almond flavor, they're kind of like soft little shortbreads. One year my mom wasn't home for Christmas so we didn't have the cookies and it was like the world was ending (this was only 2 years ago, haha). I bought a cookie press at that point but totally forgot to ever use it. I was looking on pinterest the other day and discovered that my particular cookie press has a pumpkin-shaped attachment. And thus, I knew what I had to make for Cookie Monday this week: my mom's spritz cookies.

As with everything my mom is 'famous' for, her 'secret' recipe turned out to be a Betty Crocker recipe. I found it on the BC website. My mom usually decorates her trees with a little bit of corn syrup and some sprinkles. Since I was making pumpkins (using food coloring to make the dough orange), I decided not to bother with sprinkles. Perhaps next time!

cookie

I'd like to say the cookies were as great as the ones my mom makes, but they aren't quite there yet. Everyone liked them at work, but I think I could have done better. I WILL definitely make these again! This is really the penultimate spritz cookie recipe and I will always fall back on it.

cookie

Holiday Spritz
Betty Crocker

These delightful cookies can be made in various colors for any holiday or occasion - ready in about an hour. Perfect dessert for any party!

1 cup butter or margarine -- softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
A few drops food coloring -- if desired

1. Heat oven to 400ยบ. Beat butter, sugar and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients.

2. Place dough in cookie press. Form desired shapes on ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until set but not brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool completely.

Yield: 4-5 dozen depending on shape

Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Arugula Pesto

I have no idea what day I made this. Sunday? I think I made it on Sunday to use up some of the food I had in the refrigerator before the hurricane. (My power was out Monday to early Wednesday morning, so I lost most of the food in my refrigerator.) This was easy enough to make, but it was so boring. It was kind of bland and not even as pretty green as it was in the magazine photo. I wouldn't make this again.

pesto

Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Arugula Pesto
Eating Well

1 medium clove garlic
5 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts -- divided
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts -- divided
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 9- to 10-ounce packages fresh cheese tortellini -- preferably whole-wheat
5 cups small broccoli florets

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

2. With the motor running, drop garlic through the feed tube of a food processor; process until minced. Turn it off and add arugula, cheese, oil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, lemon zest and salt. Process, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture is fairly smooth; leave the pesto in the blender while you cook the tortellini.

3. Cook tortellini in the boiling water until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes or according to package directions. Place broccoli in a colander and set it in the sink. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta-cooking liquid, then pour the tortellini and the rest of the cooking liquid over the broccoli in the colander. (Pouring the hot pasta and cooking liquid over the broccoli “flash-cooks” it, leaving it bright green and tender-crisp.)

4. Add the reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid to the pesto in the blender; pulse to combine. Transfer the tortellini and broccoli to a large bowl. Toss with the pesto. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts.

Servings: 6