Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Passover!

I hope you're all out having nice Passover sedars this week (even if you're not Jewish. Sedars are fun. And very educational). If you need to bring something to your sedar, here's a few Passover recipes that would be tastier than kosher wine (never drink an entire bottle of kosher wine in one sitting. That's just a friendly little tip from me to you).

Matzo Ball Soup (not from a jar)
Mo's famous Macaroons

I make these macaroons every Passover. I will be making them later this week for our family sedar in Boston! Everybody likes them.

I'll try to find some more Passover recipes to try this week (which will be nice for you gluten free folks as well).

Happy Pesach!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Isn't it spring yet???

Today I walked through the Farmer's Market in Union Square and saw thousands of apples. "It's March!!!!!" I thought to myself. "Apple season is over. OVER! I don't want any more freaking apples!" And then I remembered that I still had four apples in the bottom of my crisper, leftover from a trip that Zack's dad took to an orchard. "I have to use those apples," I berated myself. "But how?"

One trip to the grocery store later, I decided I was too lazy to make a pie crust and picked up some frozen puff pastry. "Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) uses it," I rationalized. "It doesn't make me a bad person." And so, there are now seven apple turnovers in my kitchen (there were eight - but I ate one).

Apple Turnovers

3.5 apples (I had to throw half an apple away - too brown - 3 would have been plenty though)
1 lemon (zested and juiced)
3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on top
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch kosher salt
1 package (17.3 ounces, 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Hope that your oven isn't retarded like mine is and won't randomly stop working for no reason.

Peel and chop your apples. Add the lemon zest and juice so that they don't turn brown. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix it up.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry into a 12x12 square. Cut each sheet into four squares. Put some filling down on half of each square.

Brush your egg wash on the edges of the squares (this is so they will stick together). Fold the squares into triangles.

Push down all the way around with a fork.

Brush the remaining egg wash over the top of each triangle. Sprinkle some sugar on top. Cut two little slits with a knife across the top of each turnover so that they don't explode while cooking.

Bake for 20 minutes or until they are nice and brown.

See how how flaky and delicious they are? Yum.

Make them for breakfast. Or a snack. Or dessert. Or whatever.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yup, they're good

Cadbury Mini Eggs were made by the devil. I love them. You know that. My previous attempt at baking with mini eggs was satisfactory, but still not the ultimate in baked goods. But if at first you don't succeed, bake some brownies and call it a day.

The basic brownie recipe is from the Baker's chocolate box. I don't care. I love it.

Mini Egg Brownies

4 squares Baker's unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
one large bag mini eggs (if you eat some first, I won't tell), broken into bits

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9 inch pan with foil and butter it. Don't skip this and just grease the pan. This is so much easier. Genius.

Microwave the chocolate and butter together for 2 minutes (or you could use a double boiler on the stove. But this is way easier). Stir until the chocolate is melted and add the sugar.

Don't eat it yet. It's grainy and sugary and wonderful. But don't eat it.

Add the eggs and vanilla and blend well. Mix in the flour.

Now you have brownie batter!

Don't you love brownie batter? I sure do.

Mix in some of the mini eggs. Yum yum yum. Pour into the pan. Sprinkle the rest of the eggs over the top.

Pretty pretty. Don't eat it yet! Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let them cool (if you can) and cut into squares. Try not to eat them all in one sitting because it will make you sick.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A break for your arteries

I realize that I get a little sugar/butter/chocolate heavy sometimes and that not everybody appreciates it (Dad). Also, Zack may have been complaining lately that I am making him fat. So, being a kind and understanding wife, I accommodate and try to cook something delicious and nutritious at the same time.

I had a pretty intense craving for creamed spinach the other day, but there were a few problems standing in my way:

1. I don't want to gain any more weight and eating a side dish that is almost entirely made of cream seemed like a step in the wrong direction.
2. I was out of cream.

So I searched the Internet and devised a low-fat version of creamed spinach that was not exactly the same (you can't really replace cream, no matter what anyone says) but fairly satisfying nonetheless.

Fake Out Creamed Spinach

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion or shallot
10 ounces baby spinach
1 tablespoon butter (yeah, you still need a little bit)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk (I used skim because that's all I have)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened (a few minutes). Add the spinach and wilt (another few minutes). Turn off heat and set aside.

In a small pot, melt one tablespoon of butter.

A little butter is okay. You can't beat the flavor and only a small bit of butter won't kill you. This is for the whole dish! Not just you. The healthiness of the spinach will counteract it for you. No worries.

Add the flour and stir it into the butter. Let it cook over medium heat until it turns golden. You want the flour to cook and not taste raw anymore. Ick.

Pour in the milk and stir rapidly or whisk so that all the flour mixture melds into the milk. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Now you've got a little "bechamel" sauce, which is French for white sauce.

Stir in the spinach and cheese (again, just a little bit of cheese to boost flavor. It's okay. Just think about the cup and a half of heavy cream you didn't use).

That's it! Eat and feel virtuous.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Feeling much better now

Recipes call out to me for different reasons. Some have nothing but ingredients that I love. Some remind me of wonderful food I ate once. And sometimes, I see a recipe and I have to make it, just to prove that I can. And that's how it was with this Smitten Kitchen recipe: Homemade Oreos.

I like oreos as much as the next person, but they've never been a particular favorite of mine. I don't really have childhood memories of eating them much (the only store bought cookies I remember eating as a kid at home were Pepperidge Farm Milanos....yum), nor am I really into cookies that are filled with hydrogenated oils. But when I saw the opportunity to make oreos (from scratch! at home!), well that just spoke to the crazy part of my brain and I had to do it.

Smitten Kitchen's Homemade Oreos

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (use 1 cup of sugar for a more authentic less sweet oreo cookie - use more if you want)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set two racks in the middle of the oven (this is already how the racks in my oven are! I love it when I don't have to do anything). Preheat to 375°F.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

This took way longer than I thought it would. I initially thought, hey, I must have fucked this up! Darn it! The oreos are triumphant and I am a loser. But then I just let it run for a minute while I went to the other room to kick something and when I came back, it looks like cookie dough. Bliss.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart (you really want to keep it to a teaspoon, other wise the cookies get too big and it's weird and not very oreo-like). With your hands (I love recipes where you have to use your hands to touch food), roll the dough into a little all and then smush it with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy (as you can see, I used a wooden spoon. I am super old school).

To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip (do you have a pastry bag? I sure don't, but I have a ziploc bag that I cut a hole in the corner of), pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie.

Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies are oreo sandwich cookies!

I wish I could say I would share these with you, except that Zack ate them all (except for the six I saved for Asha). They tasted remarkably like oreos (Zack said they were better than oreos, but he's my husband and can't quite be trusted on these matters). Asha liked them too though.

Make these! Then you too can say "I can make oreos at home! Bow down to me Nabisco, for I am the Queen of everything." It's a good feeling.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


You know what really falls by the wayside when you have a week long stomach virus? Food blogging.

I'm still down for the count, but rest assured, I've got some great stuff saved up for you, including turkey chili, homemade oreos, mini egg brownies and more. Don't hold your breath, folks! I'll be back soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Before winter ends

I have been scared of this post for months. It is long and complicated and I have a bunch of pictures. But as the weather warms up (finally! I hate winter. Except for the holiday bits), I realize that soon this post will become ridiculous as this is a cold weather dish that would be totally overwhelming in the summer. So there goes nothing: Chicken and Dumplings.

This is a bit of a weird choice for a nice Jewish girl from California to make. It's one of those classic Southern dishes that I literally have no experience with. But as I flipped through the Smitten Kitchen website (totally obsessed. Love her!), this dish popped up over and over again. I could make this, I thought. And so I did. Several times.

The first time I made this dish was for my friends Elana and Katie - a fellow California hippie and a Yankee from Massachusetts. They didn't know what to make of this either, but it was below 20 degrees and January, so they warmed up to it fast.

Chicken and Dumplings adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Smitten Kitchen warns you not to use fat free or low fat milk in this recipe. I couldn't agree more.

5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Table salt and ground black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2 medium leeks , white and llight green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, minced
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen green peas
3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter)

For the stew: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Here it is on one side...

And then the other.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin (I have made this a few times now and just noticed this step. Whoops! I always just removed the skin later. It worked fine). Pour off the chicken fat and reserve (use this later to make the dumplings!). Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat. It took me way more than two batches to cook the chicken. But that's okay! You don't want to crowd the chicken or it won't brown right.

Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves.

Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.

Look at my beautiful Le Creuset. I'm not bragging or anything. Okay, maybe I am. But I love it so much.

Normally I don't make a lot of stuff that has to sit for this long. But man, it was worth it.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board.

Yum, chicken. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones (and skin if you haven't already). Try not to burn your fingers. Use a fork or something. Return it to the stew.

For the dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and tarragon (I never used tarragon because I never had any. I just added some dried basil instead), and season with salt and pepper. Using a soup spoon, drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings).

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. The dumplings taste like biscuits. It was super tasty.

This is a great dish to take to your friends who just had a baby. It sticks to your ribs and it's so filling. It will make a Southern afficiando out of girls who have never been below the Mason Dixon line.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Channelling the obsession

If you know me, you know that I am pretty much obsessed with Cadbury Mini-Eggs (I blogged about it here last year ). It's such a well known problem that this year, I had not one, not two, but THREE separate friends who texted me photos when they spotted the first mini-eggs of the season this year. I feel like some sort of deranged chocolate guru.

To try and stop myself from eating a full bag of candy in one sitting, I channelled my chocolate obsession into another more productive obsession: Baking.

Here for your holiday enjoyment (you know how much I love themed food) are my first batch of Cadbury Mini Egg cookies. These are by no means the be-all-end-all recipe that I will come up with. But it's a start.

1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs milk
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
as much of a 10oz bag of mini eggs as you have left over....I ate some. Whoops. Then I wacked the rest into tiny bits to work out my aggression/make the mini eggs into a good cookie bite size. Six of one....

First I just made my basic chocolate chip cookie dough - melt the butter, mix in the sugar, then the egg, vanilla and milk (you could cream the butter and sugar together - but I'm super lazy. Plus, I've been doing it for years now and I like the texture). Then slowly mix in the dry ingredients (I mix in 1/2 cup of flour at a time).

Now here comes the best part.....

Are you ready.....?


Yeah, that's good stuff.

Um, you should probably mix the eggs into the batter now. Otherwise, you'll just eat them all. Or I will.

Scoop out the dough in cookie size increments (whatever that means to you) and bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes.

Not only do they taste good, the colors are so pretty and spring-y. Now if only it wasn't still winter.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not for the health conscious

A few weeks ago, back when the Super Bowl was happening, I thought to myself, "Amazing! What a perfect opportunity to make the Pioneer Woman's Bacon Jalapeno Thingies!" And I bought all the ingredients and psyched up my friends.

Cut to the morning of the Super Bowl, when I am kidnapped by my husband and put on an early morning train to Washington DC and forced to watch the Caps/Penguins game (it was an awesome game. But still). So the Bacon Jalapeno Thingies were never made.

A few weeks later, it was the USA/Canada Olympic hockey game (not the gold medal one) and my hockey league was meeting at a bar to watch and yell and drink beer and stuff. This seemed pretty similar to the whole Super Bowl thing, so I decided to make the Thingies and bring them.

The Pioneer Woman's Bacon Jalapeno Thingies

Jalapenos (as many as you think you may need)
Cheddar Cheese (I used Cracker Barrel's 2% milk kind - no need for the fancy stuff here), grated
Cream Cheese (I used 1/3 less fat kind)
a few green onions, chopped

Ok, this is super easy. Put the cream cheese, cheddar and green onions in a bowl.

Mix them up!

Slice all the jalapenos in half and scrape out the seeds and ribs with a spoon.

I'm in front of my computer watching TheWB.com. Don't judge.

Be careful when you touch the insides of jalapenos because they will make your fingers burn. Then if you touch your eye (or wherever), that part of your body burns.....So wear some gloves, or just wash your hands a lot.

Fill the jalapenos with the cheese mixture.

Wrap the cheese stuffed jalapeno with a piece of bacon (you will probably cut a piece of bacon in 1/2 or 1/3 for this, depending on how long your bacon is). Secure it with a toothpick.

You're going to put a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet and place all the jalapenos on it to bake. This way the bacon fat will drip below and not get everything all gross.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. You want the bacon to look kinda browned. The Pioneer Woman advises you to just throw them under the broiler for a few minutes if that's not happening.

Take to a group of sports fans and hope that they like them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


So this weekend was the Jewish holiday of Purim. I've had a hamantaschen recipe (the traditional Purim cookie) earmarked for some time now, but when it came to the day, Zack forgot to get eggs from the grocery store and I didn't get to start these until the holiday was essentially over. But cookies are good anytime, so I forged ahead.

Purim, for those of you not in the know, is the holiday where the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. The villain, Hamen, wanted to exterminate the Jews, but they were saved by Esther (she spoke to the King on behalf of the Jewish people) and today, everyone celebrates by dressing up and sending out gifts of food. Some people like to call it the Jewish Halloween. The cookies symbolize Hamen's pockets, or ears, or his hat, depending on who you ask.

(Ironically, the first place I read about Purim was in a children's book at my friend Alison Criss's house - my only Christian friend in elementary school - but that's neither here nor there)

At any rate, I wanted to make some cookies. And so I did.

Hamentaschen (adapted from Smitten Kitchen - my current obsession)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (I used Meyer Lemon zest - it was great)
1 1/3 cups plus 4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Jam, pie fillings, what have you. I used the Kahn family blueberry jam (amazing!), strawberry jam (from Smuckers. Substandard) and homemade poppy seed filling (because I am an overacheiver). Get the recipe I used here.

Cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth (I still haven't set up my stand mixer, so I used a wooden spoon.

Power to the old fashioned cooking methods!). Add sugar and mix for one minute longer, then egg, vanilla extract, orange (or lemon) zest and salt, mixing until combined.

Finally, add the flour. I added it 1/3 cup at a time and that seemed to work very well.

Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

I was out of plastic wrap, so I used a ziploc bag. Then I left it over night in the fridge because at this point, it was almost 10pm.

Okay, now it's Tuesday. I had to wake up early and meet with a mortgage banker and wear nice "I'm such a responsible grown up don't you want to lend me hundreds of thousands of dollars" clothes. I'm ready for some damn cookies. Preheat oven to 350°F. Realize your oven didn't turn on, go back to the stove and kick it.

To form the hamantaschen, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is about 1/4-inch thick.

Using a round cookie cutter (or a biscuit cutter! I have fancy biscuit cutters now from Miyoko. Yay for getting married and people giving me kitchen stuff!), cut the dough into circles.

Spoon a teaspoon of you filling of choice in the center.

Fold the dough in from three sides and firmly crimp the corners and give them a little twist to ensure they stay closed. Leave the filling mostly open in the center.

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

My cookies turned out fairly misshapen. But you know what? They tasted good. The dough was really flaky and the homemade jam was a great filling. Like all Jewish cookies, they taste best warm.

Happy Purim!