22 January, 2013

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

Oh heavenly vanilla.  

These cupcakes are so delicate, so moist, so delicious.
I had to see if these were really 'the best' vanilla cupcake, as The Cupcake Project claims them to be.
Umm..  they are pretty perfect.  They rise beautifully, are so soft and moist, with a strong (but not overpowering) vanilla flavor.  I usually find vanilla cupcakes don't really have a 'big' vanilla flavor.  The vanilla seeds in this recipe are really what does it, as well as the whopping 1 tbsp of pure vanilla extract.
I frosted them with a quick vanilla buttercream frosting- I won't post recipe as I just threw in the mixing bowl some heavy cream, butter, confectioners sugar, and a few drops of vanilla.  Whipped it up and voila! 

I usually use more heavy cream than most frosting recipes call for- I like my frosting a little lighter and airier (closer to a whipped cream than a true frosting).

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 16 cupcakes

1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self rising)
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temp
2 large eggs at room temp
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil )or canola oil
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (not imitation vanilla!)
2/3 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in cupcake pans.

In a small bowl, combine the vanilla bean seeds and the sugar.  Use your hands or the back of a spoon to break up the clumps of vanilla seeds and disperse them throughout the sugar.

In your mixing bowl, add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla bean sugar.  Mix until combined (on low speed or it will fly everywhere!)  Add the butter, and mix about 3 minutes until combined.  It will be crumbly, not a wet batter at this point.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract.  Slowly add this to the flour mixture and mix until combined.  Slowly add the milk in, letting the dough absorb the milk and mix it in a little at a time.  The batter will be very wet, don't be alarmed- it's supposed to be. 

Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full.  Bake 12-14 minutes, until batter is no longer 'jiggly' and a toothpick comes out clean..  Do not wait for them to turn golden brown (that means they are overcooked).  When done, remove cupcakes from muffin pan and let cool on wire rack.

Frost cupcakes only after they are completely cool.  

Spaghetti Carbonara

This is not an every day dinner.

I made it for my birthday.  

(In case you're worried, don't be- The Boyfriend took me out for a proper birthday dinner as well!)

This is a really rich pasta dish made with an egg yolk sauce and some form of pork (traditionally it's made with guanciale- cured pork jowl, but that can be kind of hard to find!)  In this recipe I use cubed pancetta with excellent results.  You can also use thick sliced bacon.

I tried to make this as traditional as possible (even made my own spaghetti!)  Apparently it's some form of sin to add cream and/or peas to this dish, so you won't see them in this recipe. 

For such a rich, special dinner, it is absurdly easy to make.  

There's only one way to ruin it- when adding the eggs.  Pay close attention, stir constantly, and don't look away.  :)  The last thing you want is scramble egg carbonara, am I right?! 

Serve with a big green salad, and some crusty bread if desired.

Pasta Carbonara 
Serves 3

1 lb spaghetti (boxed or homemade)
1/2 lb pre-cubed pancetta (about 8 oz) or thick sliced quality bacon
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup freshly grated parmigiana, plus extra for serving
extra virgin olive oil
fresh pepper
parsley (for garnish) 

In a bowl, add the eggs, egg yolks, parmigiana, and about 1 tsp black pepper.  Whisk together until completely combined. Set aside.

Cook the spaghetti al dente and set aside.  In a saute pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium  heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crispy.  Once crispy, add the al dente spaghetti and stir to distribute the pancetta thouroughly (and to coat the spaghetti with pancetta fat).  Turn off the heat.  With pan still on hot stovetop, add the egg mixture and quickly begin vigorously mixing.  This is your crucial step.  Continue mixing, not allowing the egg to sit on the bottom of the pan untouched for too long.  Cook about 2 minutes, the eggs will thicken a bit and it will look like a cream sauce.  

Serve immediately, with a bit of parsley sprinkled on top and extra parmegiana cheese. 

18 January, 2013

Upside Down Caramelized Root Vegetable Tart with Flaky Gruyere Crust

What's that you said?

You don't know what a parsnip is either?

I've started a new thing- I go to the supermarket, see something I've never cooked, and buy it.  

Then it sits in my fridge for a week because I don't know what to do with it. 

So I bought a couple parsnips.  Research says they are a root vegetable related to the carrot.  Makes sense, as they look like white carrots.  Wikepedia (yes, I really did get my info here) says they are buttery, sweeter than carrots, and have subtle flavors of butterscotch, honey, and cardamom when cooked.  Sounds pretty good.  
If you don't know (as I didn't) they get peeled the same way carrots do, and then simply cut into slices for this recipe.  

Sounded to me like parsnips and sweet potatoes would go pretty well together, and lucky me- I had a leftover sweet potato! So for you, I decided to make this upside down tart, quite lovely as an appetizer, a lunch, or a snack.  It can be eaten either hot or cold, though the crust is so delishiously flaky right out of the oven. 

Why upside down, you ask?

Because the vegetables caramelize so beautifully when cooked in oil in the hot cast iron skillet.  They turn a nice golden brown and have such a sweet flavor- butterscotch and honey are good ways of describing it. 
And the crust gets SO flaky when not weighed down in the bottom of a pan.  

If I had other root vegetables, I would have thrown them in too.  Experiment with whatever you have on hand, this recipe is pretty basic and forgiving.  

Upside Down Caramelized Root Vegetable Tart with Flaky Gruyere Crust

1 sweet potato, peeled, rinseed, and cut into thin (1/8 inch) slices
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil

Flaky Gruyere Crust
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp butter, cut in pieces and chilled
5 tbsp ice cold water
1/4 cup packed shredded gruyere


Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the cold butter, and using your hands, work it into flour mixture until it is a crumbly texture.  Do this quickly, you don't want butter to melt too fast.  Drizzle water in and incorporate quickly (I don't mean you need to speed through this, but don't start and then walk away..)  Form gently into a ball, flatten into a 6 inch dish, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375.

The veggies:

Heat a few drizzles of olive oil in your cast iron skillet over medium, medium high heat. Add the red onion. Saute until soft.  Add garlic, saute a minute longer, and remove red onion and garlic from pan and set aside. 

Add a bit more olive oil, allow it to warm up for 30 seconds, and add half of the sweet potato. Saute until sweet potato begins to get golden brown color.  Remove from heat and saute other half of sweet potatoes. Remove and repeat with parsnips. 

Once all your veggies are sauteed until golden, remove them all from pan and remove skillet from heat.  Now you can arrange them in a pretty manner.  Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into the cast iron skillet and disperse.  Evenly sprinkle the thyme directly onto the pan. Begin layering veggies: I started with layering the smallest parsnips in the middle of the pan, followed by a layer of the smallest sweet potato slices, the red onion mixture, more parsnips, and more sweet potato. Season generously with salt and pepper. 
Remove the crust from the fridge and roll out until it is large enough to fit over the cast iron skillet. Quickly place it on top of the veggies and tuck the sides in a bit.  
Place in cast iron skillet in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
To remove the tart from the pan: 

Let cool 5-10 minutes until easier to handle.  Using a thin spatula, gently work it underneath the tart to try to lift any veggies stuck to pan.  Remember your pretty arrangement- be gentle with the spatula.  

Grab a plate- most dinner plates will fit just perfectly inside the cast iron skillet.  Place the plate on top of the tart, and (with oven mitts on!) lift the whole pan up and turn is upside down quickly.  Your tart should fall right out and look ever so perfect on your plate!  If it doesn't pry stuck veggies off and rearrange- the tart is pretty east to work with! 

16 January, 2013

Baci Di Dama

Baci di Dama are an Italian cookie, otherwise known as ladie's kisses.  They are a super cute little hazelnut cookie.
 I like them because they are not overly sweet, and I enjoy eating them for breakfast with coffee (real healthy right?) And for a lot of snacks throughout the day.  

They are addicting, I must warn you. 
And did I mention they are gluten free?
I'm always pleased to find cookie recipes that are gluten-free.  I don't have a gluten allergy, but The Step-dad does, and I'm always looking for recipes I can serve when he's around.

It's not just about being able to serve him good food.

It's about serving good food while no one even notices that it's all gluten free.  

That's the challenge. 
These little bites of heaven stand up to that challenge.  They are soft and crumbly, slightly sweet and nutty.

This is a simple recipe.  Easy, limited ingredients.  And the perfect small sized cookie that you can pop in your mouth in one bite.  And eat for breakfast, midmorning snack, mid afternoon snack, pre dinner snack, after dinner snack.  :)

Alternatively to sandwiching the cookies, you could just dip half in chocolate if you so desired. 

Baci di Dama 
1 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup rice flour (can sub 1 cup all purpose flour, but note cookies will not be gluten free)
3 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until very fine- should be the consistency of coarse polenta.  Pour into a large bowl and add the rice flour.  Mix and add the butter.  Use your hands to mix together.  Don't be afraid to squish the dough with your hands so the butter holds the flour together. The dough will be smooth and hold together.  If it doesn't, knead until it does.

The dough will still be a bit crumbly and a little hard to handle.  Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope about an inch thick.  Try to make the rope smooth, no cracks.  If it's too difficult to handle, Divide the rope in half again, making 6 one inch thick ropes.  Wrap each rope in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove one log from the fridge.  Do not remove all of them, you need them to be cold to be easy to handle and to cook properly.  (Letting the sit at room temp allows butter to soften to much- the cookie will cook into a flat pancake shape versus the half round shape in the pictures).

Use a knife to cut a small sliver of dough.  Press into a ball about the size of a marble. You can try rolling the dough into a marble, but I found dough too crumbly.  Pressing it worked better for me.
Continue pressing dough into same size marbles and place on baking sheet about an inch apart.  When done with that log, remove next log from fridge and continue.

Bake 10-14 minutes, until tops of cookies are lightly golden. Rotate cookie sheets halfway through baking for even cooking.   Let cookies cool completely.
In a skillet, add water until one inch deep.  Bring water to a simmer. Place a heat safe bowl in the skillet, and add the chocolate.  Melt until smooth.  Use a butter knife to gather a little melted chocolate and place on the bottom of one cookie.  Take another cookie and sandwich them together.  
If you're having a hard time keeping the chocolate from drizzling all over the cookie, try dunking one cookie in the chocolate, just until the base is coated, and then sandwiching them together.  Start the process with any unattractive cookies (any that may have melted into pancakes).  No use wasted you're prettiest cookies trying to figure out how to control chocolate drizzle :)

Set the cookies sideways on a wire rack and let the chocolate harden until firm.

Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Fennel Orange Puree, Truffled Sweet Potato Matchsticks, Charred Brussel Sprouts

Sounds so fancy right?

Well it can be whipped up in a jiffy.
Probably one of the fastest dinners I've prepared
(have you seen my chili post?! I'm not good at whipping up quick meals!)
The porkchops are lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and rubbed with a bit of sage.  The Fennel Orange Puree is what really does it for these chops- the deep, caramelized flavor of the fennel, the freshness from the acidity in the OJ.. works really well here.

And who's gonna turn down crispy Truffled Sweet Potato Matchsticks- which by the way, all you do is cut and throw in the oven. Do buy a julienne peeler if you haven't already.  I can't imagine trying to cut sweet potatoes into uniform size by hand.  Eek. The julienne peeler works like a vegetable peeler, only instead of peeling skin off, it peels spaghetti-sized perfectly uniform 'matchsticks.'  If you don't have truffle oil, don't sweat it.  Some salt and these will still be delicious.
A weeknight meal to impress or a weekend dinner you don't have to slave over.

Either way, you win.

Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Fennel Orange Puree, Truffled Sweet Potato Matchsticks, Charred Brussel Sprouts

2 pork chops, trimmed of excessive fat (leave some fat for flavor!)
1 tbsp fresh minced sage leaves (about 5 or 6 leaves)
1 sweet potato
1 lb brussel sprouts
1 small bulb of fennel, trimed, cored, and thinnly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp white truffle oil
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinger
salt and pepper

Make the Fennel Orange Puree
In a small pot, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to medium low and add the shallot and fennel.  Saute about 15 minutes, until fennel is very tender. Place the mixture in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Pour in 1 tbsp of olive oil and puree.  With blender still running, slowly pour in the orange juice.  Check the taste and consistency of your puree- add more salt and pepper if needed, or add more olive oil if too thick for your tastes.  Alternatively you can substitute the olive oil for milk or cream if desired for a different flavor.

Truffled Sweet Potatoes Matchsticks
Preheat oven to 400. Cut the sweet potato in half and use a julienne peeler to cut into matchsticks. Drizzle the matchsticks with a bit of olive oil and season with a few shakes of a salt and pepper shaker.  Lay the sweet potato matchsticks out on two baking sheets.  If you use one baking sheet it will be to crowded, and the sweet potatoes will steam, leaving you with soggy matchsticks.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until tender and crisp. When ready, drizzle with white truffle oil, toss to combine, and serve.

Charred Brussel Sprouts
Cut the ends off of sprouts and remove loose outer leaves.  Cut each one in half lengthwise (cutting through the stem).  Heat a large DRY skillet over medium high heat with NO olive oil.  Once hot, place the brussel sprouts in pan cut side down.  Let sit and cook until the sprouts begin to blacken on the bottom.  Once they do, give them a quick stir, pour in two tbsp of olive oil, and give another stir.  Let cook about 5 minutes, season generously with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour in a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar (maybe a half a tbsp).  Cook about 5 more minutes or until brussel sprouts are tender but still just a bit crisp. 

Pork Chops
In a small bowl, mix together a tsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and the sage.  Rub this mixture on the pork chops, coating both sides.  Heat a few generous drizzles medium high heat.  Once hot, add the pork chops.  Cook about 4 minutes per side, until chops have a nice dark golden color and are thoroughly cooked. Remove and let rest for a few minutes.

To serve, arrange pork chops on plate.  Spoon Fennel Orange puree over top and garnish with a few fennel fronds or parsley.  Arrange Sweet Potato Matchsticks next to pork chops, and enjoy!

13 January, 2013

French Almond Cake

Brace yourself.

This. is. so freaking good.  
I made this and brought half to work and left half at home for the Boyfriend. At work they gobbled them up, in between bites I was hearing 'so good' 'open.. bakery...' 'recipe!' 

When I got home, of the 9 or so pieces I left behind, there were 2 left.  The Boyfriend- 'I would've ate them all but I figured you might want some.'  

And so I gobbled them up.
I'm really proud of this recipe.  I love French Almond Cake.  It's just perfectly sophisticated and it's not really a cake in that I can eat it for breakfast. If any survived the night anyways. 

I'm proud because this is the first recipe that I experimented with so completely that I had to do several tests- making small batches and baking the muffin tins one at a time to see what worked best.  It took me all day, and it turned out better than I would have imagined.
The cake is fluffy, almost a angel food cake texture.  It's light and airy with a warm almond flavor. The absolute perfect cake to serve with brunch, with coffee or tea, or as a sophisticated dessert to your dinner.  In fact, add some strawberries and cream and it would work well as strawberry shortcake. 
I'm proud also because this recipe is gluten-free.  That's right.  A gluten free cake that got gobbled up so quickly by gluten lovers and gluten haters alike. Can you believe it?
I've talked a little about gluten on my blog, though not too much.  Those people who have tried gluten free baked goods know that sometimes they can be dense and heavy, though these days people are having increasing success as we understand the chemistry behind baking without gluten. And there's an increasing number of gluten-free flour mixes available in supermarkets, which I have used and I do suggest using.  They work really well.

Gluten is what makes dough 'dough-y'.  When a pizza maker tosses a pizza in the air and it stretches all over the place- that is due to the elastic bonds formed by gluten.  That's why gluten free breads can be hard and crumbly- gluten free flours can't quite achieve the same 'stretch.'

In baking, gluten is what makes the dough rise. Adding protein can help- I used whipped egg whites, and it worked wonderfully.

I particularly love this recipe since it can be made for a gluten-eating crowd and no one will notice it's gluten free. In fact, they'll probably compliment you, ask for the recipe, and then their eyes will bug out when they realize :)

If you are making this because you do have a gluten allergy or are making it for someone with an allergy, beware of cross-contamination.  Put away anything that contains flour.  Don't make yourself a sandwich in the middle of the recipe, or make this recipe at the same time as you are making another cake.  Put away all flour-containing items- flour (duh), bread, crackers, cookies, etc. 

Make sure you are using the clean-est mixing bowls and spatulas.  Make sure you clean your counter thoroughly   Using a mixer?  Make sure you clean the entire mixer, as flour particles may be stuck to the top of your mixer.  This recipe does not call for a sifter, but never use a sifter you have used with regular flour for a gluten free recipe.  It's virtually impossible to remove the flour completely.  Do not store your gluten-free cake where it can touch gluten containing items.  Make sure it's in it's own separate container.

I may be sounding a little dramatic here.. just be aware, use clean items, and everything will be fine. 

And without further ado: 

French Almond Cake

1 cup Almond Flour
1/2 cup White Rice Flour
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
8 egg whites, at room temp
10 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
pinch of salt
1/4 cup turbino sugar, muscovato sugar, or sugar in the raw 
sliced almonds (optional decoration)

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease a 9' by 9' baking pan, a 9' round baking pan, or a cheesecake pan.

In a large bowl, mix the two flours, sugar and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, add the egg whites. Use a mixer or beat by hand until egg whites are foamy.  Add in the butter, almond extract and vanilla extract quickly.  Using a rubber spatula, gradually pour the eggs into the flour mixture, ever so gently folding it in to combine.  Do not use a spoon and do not stir.  Just gently keep folding with the spatula until the egg is mixed is, and it looks like a light fluffy dough.  

Pour into your prepared baking sheet.  If decorating with almonds as I did, you'll have to kind of plan where you'll be cutting slices, and decorate the top or each one.  After placing almonds on cake, sprinkle the whole thing with turbino sugar- it'll give it a nice color and a just a bit of sweet crunch on the top.

Bake about 30 minutes, until edges are just beginning to turn a golden color and cake is set. Cool on wire rack.  
Do not attempt to cut until cool.  Use a sharp knife (I used a paring knife).  Enjoy!!

10 January, 2013

Mexican Flavored Chili

Holy smokes do I have a chili recipe for you!

Back from a day of skiing, me and The Boyfriend were craving some warm comfort food.  I thought I'd make something quick and easy.  

I mean, you just throw everything in a pot when making chili. How much simpler can it get? 

But no.  
Here I go, roasting peppers first, making purees, all sorts of ridiculousness that took me an hour and a half before everything got simply tossed in a pot.  

But I was thinking of you, invisible internet people.  I wanted to share with you a different way of making chili, not using canned tomatoes and tomato paste.  So I made my own puree of roasted red peppers, poblano peppers, and tomatoes. 

You may be scared by all the peppers if you don't like spicy.  I will say this chili has some kick for sure, but it's not one of those try-to-rip-your-tongue-out-of-your-mouth spicy.  Eliminate the sriacha/hot sauce and cayenne if your nervous.  Those who want more spicy can always add hot sauce. 
In the end, this was a most delicious chili, and worth the time and effort.  I made a huge batch (what's the point of making chili if it only feeds you for 2 days?!).  I'd say this recipe would feed about 14 people.  We had leftovers for 3 days, and I have 2 tupperwares in the freezer for some quick winter meals.

Of course this is a perfect party sized chili for all you football fans out there. You could even make it a day or two ahead and have it in a crockpot for when you've had too many beers to actually cook anything at your football party. :)

Mexican Flavored Chili

The meat:
16 oz ground chorizo
16 oz mild italian sausage
3 lb ground beef

The veggies

7 stalks celery, chopped in 1/4 inch slices
1 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, minced 
2 green peppers, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then cut in thirds lengthwise and diced
2 onions, coarsely diced

The stuff you throw in chili:
26 oz can red kidney beans, drained
30 oz can pinto beans, drained
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp marjoram
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp Sriacha or hot sauce of choice

1 bottle dark beer

Base Puree
2 poblano peppers(sometimes called pasilla peppers)
3 red peppers 
5 tomatoes
3 cloves minced garlic

1. Make the base puree.  Broil or grill the poblano, red peppers, and tomatoes until the skin turns black in spots (or for tomato, until the skin begins to crack and peel back on it's own).  Let cool until easy to handle, and remove stem, seeds, and peel skin.  Coarsely chop peppers and tomato and place them and the 3 cloves of garlic in blender or food processor and process until a paste.  Set aside.  

2. While peppers are roasting, brown meats. Add half of each meat to 2 large stockpots and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside (you can set the meat aside from both stockpots in the same bowl).

3. In same two stockpots over medium high heat, add half the veggie mixture to each pot.  Saute until veggies begin to soften a bit, but are still pretty crisp. This step helps veggies release some of their sugars and will make them more flavorful.  

4. Add half the meat back to each pot, and half the 'stuff you throw in chili' to each pot.  Bring the pots to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about an hour and a half. 

5. When finished, marry the two pots.  Once cooked down, I could add one pot to the other and it fit perfectly.  Stir well and don't forget the sour cream!

09 January, 2013

Garlicky Chinese Broccoli

Broccoli can be so boring sometimes.  

I actually love broccoli, but in my house it's always the same.  
Dependable. Trustworthy. 

But sometimes you gotta let your hair down, broccoli! 

This could be served as a Chinese side dish- the perfect accompaniment to stir-fry. 

It's Quick. Easy. Healthy.  
With limited ingredients. 

Lots of flavor but not drowned in sauce.  It's just a bit spicy from the sambal oelek, but not too spicy for everyone to enjoy.  

A little education for you:

Sambal Oelek can be found in the Asian aisle of the supermarket. It's a red chili paste that is used in Asian cooking (a staple in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia).  'Oelek' means ground, and this really is just a variety of ground chilies with not much else added.  Because it's not heavily spiced with additional ingredients, it will add heat to any dish without imposing on the flavor of the dish.   
A couple similar chili sauces/pastes: 


Sriacha is more of a condiment or dipping sauce.  It's spicy, and I love adding it to chili, wing sauce, pizza, and eggs. It is spiced with vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, and has a distinctive taste. 

Spicy Garlic Sauce-

Similar to Sriacha in flavor, this is a deliciously garlicky sauce that carries a bit more substance than sriacha.  It has a fuller flavor, if you will. 

You can use spicy garlic sauce for this recipe, just eliminate a clove of garlic (and remember not to try to kiss your significant other after eating! ;)  

I stepped away and overcooked my broccoli a couple minutes, I will admit. It was more a broccoli mush.  

Okay broccoli.. I let your hair down and you go bananas. Jeez.

Served my mush with Asian-spiced short ribs and rice noodles.

Garlicky Chinese Broccoli

1 large head of broccoli
1 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp olive oil plus extra for cooking
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
4 cloves thinly sliced garlic
1/4 cup of water, chicken stock, or veg stock (I used water)

Cut stem off and cut broccoli into bite sized pieces, rinse, and place in large mixing bowl.  Add the sambal oelek, sugar, and olive oil and use your hands to combine- make sure you evenly distribute that sambal oelek!

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Once hot, add the broccoli.  Saute for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and garlic and stir to combine.  Saute another 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid. Reduce heat and let broccoli steam about 2 minutes.  Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon when broccoli is tender but still firm.  

06 January, 2013

Little Party Bites

Oh look at these cute little bites!  

I made these to ease the Boyfriend's growling stomach while I prepared some 3-4 hour dinner.  If I had any friends here in CO I would prepare them as an appetizer, they'd be perfect to have out for parties.  

The herbed cream cheese gives these bites a savory note, the prosciutto adds a nice flavor from the fat and salt, and the cherry jam gives it a touch of sweetness to round it out.  
And they were so easy to prepare, the most time going into assembling them in a pretty fashion.  

I'll be honest, most of them I just smushed together.  Hey it was just me and the Boyfriend, you know?! What do you want from me?  

Little Party Bites

1 8 oz block cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp minced fresh mint
1 tsp lemon juice
4 oz thin-sliced prosciutto, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch ribbons
Cherry preserves 
1 box wheat thins (or Gluten Free crackers)

Use a mixer to whip the cream cheese with the rosemary, mint, and lemon juice (or alternatively, mix well by hand)

To assemble, spread a bit of cherry preserves on the wheat thin.  Twirl the prosciutto ribbon loosely and place in a half circle on the cracker.  Place a dollop of herbed cream cheese in remaining empty space behind prosciutto.  Garnish with more rosemary, mint, or a spring of parsley. 

Quick Kielbasa Sautee

Here's a quick weeknight dinner for you.

I prepared this on a night when my fridge and cupboards were almost bare, and there was nothing to eat in the house.  Except for kielbasa, zucchini, frozen corn, and rice.

So there you have it.  How this dinner was created.
I really liked the corn/red onion/ zucchini combination, but you could easily substitute whatever you have on hand.  Peppers and/or peas would work. You could add tomatoes if you like.  I've even added pineapple in similar dishes. 

You could also substitute whatever sausage you have on hand, though I do love the kielbasa flavor for a change. 

This is one of my favorite quick weeknight dinners. Limited ingredients, limited time. 

But pretty delicious!

Quick Kielbasa Sautee

13 oz beef polish kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 cups frozen corn
3 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup beef stock (preferably homemade of course, or low-sodium)
Jasmine rice

Heat a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Once hot, add the kielbasa and cook undisturbed for about 5-8 minutes or until kielbasa starts to blacken slightly.  Give a stir, and let cook another few minutes undisturbed.  Continue cooking until kielbasa has a nice blackened exterior- this gives it a really nice sweet, slightly crispy flavor.

Remove kielbasa and set aside.  In same skillet over med high heat, add red onion. Sautee for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions start to look soft and golden.  Add the zucchini, corn, and garlic.  Sautee another 5 minutes.  Zucchini will start to soften.  Add the beef stock and kielbasa and cook another couple minutes until most of stock is absorbed and zucchini is softened. 

Spoon over jasmine rice.