Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving with the fam

OK, so ever since my parents moved our family away from New Jersey, it's always just been the four of us at Thanksgiving -- not very exciting.

But since I now live in Washington, a (usually) 4-hr drive up the coast back to NJ, I came up here for Thanksgiving and had the big holiday with my mom's family for the first time in, probably 15 or so years.

Last night we did a bunch of the prep work, made my aunt's soup, and started a bunch of the side dishes. Lots of fun, but I also learned that I am allergic to potato peels (I usually only make the skin-on red potatoes) -- as my palms swelled up to double their size, itched, burned and were bright red after we peeled the 10 lbs!!

Butternut squash soup

Sweet potatoes (SOOOOO good)

Brussels sprouts (same recipe as from intern thanksgiving!) - these were a HUGE hit with my family. I was really surprised!

Today there was a lot less to do, so I made some quick rolls - VERY easy recipe (see below), which were also a big hit

I also got put in charge of the mashed potatoes... and got to play with my aunt's Kitchen aid!! :-)

MMMM so many potatoes!

Thanksgiving feast.

In short, everything was DELICIOUS, and I had a blast with my family.
OK, here's the recipe for the rolls:

In a bowl, mix 1 package rapid action yeast, 2 TBS sugar, 1 c milk mixed with 1 c water heated to luke warm (about 120 degrees -- not too hot, do not kill yeast). Mix well, set aside in a warm place for 8-10 mins until foam appears.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together 5 c. flour (you can use whatever kind you like, I used good old All Purpose White), a tsp of salt, and a tsp season salt (if you like). Make a well, and pour the warm yeast mixture in. If the yeast doesn't foam, it's dead or you killed it. Start this step over.

Mix together until a shaggy dough starts to form. Drizzle up to 4 TBS olive oil into the mix, until all flour is combined. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for 10 mins. Return to well oiled bowl and over with damp tea towel.

Allow to proof for up to an hour (longer, if you are using slow yeast, or in a cold kitchen). Dough should be roughly double in size. Punch down (exactly what it sounds like), knead again briefly, then pull small sections (roughly the size of a golfball, I guess), and form a smooth, rectangle or finger shape (try to have as few seams as possible).

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt. 

Bake 12-15 mins at 350 degrees

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

In celebration of finally being employed (and in an attempt to use up the rest of a HUGE bottle of buttermilk) I made my grandmother's Irish soda bread (no raisins) last night and brought it to work, where it was (not surprisingly -- they love food at work) a huge hit.

This is a REALLY good recipe for using up the rest of the bottle of buttermilk (my two other recipes require less than 1 c), and it really shines through in the flavor. This bread has an amazing flavor and is very dense.

I'm not entirely certain what "makes" Soda bread soda bread -- probably the fact that it's leavened with baking soda, rather than yeast. We also noted, at work, it's incredibly density -- either good for surviving those Irish famines or soaking up the large quantities of beer on St. Pat's (one of my favorite holidays).

Nan's Irish Soda Bread:
4 c white flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1/4 stick  butter broken into tiny pieces
optional: 1 c soaked raisins (I never use these -- always had to pick them out as a kid)

1 2/3 c buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix the wet ingredients separately and add slowly to the flour mixture. Knead gently and shape into a large round loaf.

Bake on an oiled cookie sheet, cut a 4" X on the top, and brush with beaten egg.

Bake 60-70 mins at 350 F

Serve with butter and enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pudding pie update

So, unfortunately there are no photos, as I ate the evidence, but I'm officially throwing in the towel on chocolate pudding pie.

I had some leftover pudding yesterday (and really needed to use the bowl for other things) so I threw the rest of the graham cracker crumbs into a container with the pudding and topped with the the leftover whipped cream (again, needed the container) and popped it back into the fridge.

HELLO chocolate pudding-graham-whip-yummy parfait of delight. Insanely easier to make. More graham crumbs than the crust meant an added crunch.

I'm in love with this alternative route to pudding-pie goodness.

Dreaming? of a world where whipped cream + chocolate pudding = 0 calories

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Intern Thanksgiving

Wow... been gone a while (out of town last week on a business trip)

Last night, I gathered with some friends from a summer 08 internship in Minneapolis, and we had our own version of Thanksgiving. It was an entirely delicious ordeal, with enough food to feed all six of us twice and then some, and we're already planning for Christmas.

I volunteered to make a chocolate pudding pie - not fancy in the slightest, but one of my childhood favorites, brussel sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes.

 Proof I smashed my own graham crackers to make the graham cracker crust.

The homemade, and extremely crumbly crust

Whisk the pudding like crazy!!

The finished product cooling. We stuck it in the freezer during dinner when we got to the hostess' place. It was perfect by the time we pulled it out later, and topped with homemade whipped cream.

Chocolate pudding pie with graham cracker crust and whipped cream:

1 large packet (or 2 small) chocolate pudding - the kind you have to cook
3 cups milk or half and half
* cook pudding according to directions on the package, cool

2 c of crumbled graham crackers (plus more if needed -- I used about 1 1/2 packets of grahams, or half the box)
4-6 TBS of butter (I ran out of butter, and subbed in a little water and Pam spray)
1/4 c. sugar
pinch of cinnamon

*grease or spray a pie plate or cake tin
*pour in the measured graham cracker crumbs, mix with the sugar and butter
*use your fingers to press down, and build up the sides of the crust. You may need to add up to half a cup more crumbs/butter mix
*bake in a preheated oven at 300F for about 5 mins (check to ensure it isn't burning), but up to 8-10 mins.
*Cool, then fill with pudding
*allow to sit 2-4 hours until pudding is firm. In the event you have to dash out the door, pop it in the freezer during dinner (about 1 hr to 90 mins)

Top with homemade whipped cream (1 pint cream, 3 TBS sugar -- beat or whisk in a cold bowl until fluffy and forms stiff peaks)

OK onto the sides -- Brussel Sprouts

I grossly over estimated how much of a side dish would be needed for 6 individuals, but here's the general idea of proportions:

Combine the following in  greased/sprayed 9x13 roasting dish
5 handfuls large brussel sprouts, trimmed of stems and sliced (I halved them, then chopped each half into 3 parts) -- it was enough to more than fill a 9x13 pan - - but keep in mind they shrink down quite a lot when roasted
1 c chopped walnuts
about 1 scant cup (or a good sized handful) thinly sliced and halved onions
(about 4-5 pieces of bacon or pancetta chopped is a nice addition to this dish - but we had vegetarians/non-pork eaters, so I omitted it, and it tasted delicious)
Salt and Pepper generously

sprinkle about 3-4 TBS brown sugar over the dish and drizzle with balsamic vinegar to your tasting.

Roast at 325 F for 20-30 mins, checking around the 20 min mark. You want some parts to be crispy, but the largest pieces to be soft. In the last 5 mins, mix in about 1/3 c water

And finally, the mashed potatoes:

Again, we made WAY too many of these - so this would probably serve about 10 people or more.

Boil (about 15-20 mins)
about 15 red potatoes, cut into chunks, skin still on in a pot with salted water. mix in about 2 tsp garlic powder

Drain the potatoes and return to pot, allow to sit over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to allow the steam and moisture to leave the potatoes.

Allow 3/4 stick of butter to melt into the potatoes, then mash gently with a large spoon or ricer, mix in 2 TBS garlic salt, about 1/3 c buttermilk, and 3 TBS parm cheese (optional). You may need to add up to half a cup of buttermilk, depending on your potatoes.

I finish mine with a few minutes being blended with an electric mixer, so they are light and fluffy.

In addition to the above,  our intern dinner featured cranberry honey wheat rolls (watch for an attempted re-make of these soon), vegetarian chili, brie-stuff mushroom caps, chicken piccata, macaroni and cheese, and was followed by peppermint ice cream pie, apple dessert on more ice cream, and the aforementioned chocolate pudding pie. It was intense. :-)

Dreaming? of Intern Christmas.... hopefully we'll be a little more sane about the number of dishes we all bring! :-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Inspired by a fellow blogger

After reading a post by a friend of mine about her cooking marathon, I was definitely in the mood for chili.

I've never really followed a chili recipe - I just kind of keep adding stuff to the pot until it all simmers together and is tasty.

MMM, ground beef, onions and garlic. Korean labels on the ground beef, and my lack of ability to estimate the weight of a package of meat, meant this ended up being a much larger batch of chili than I intended. This got seasoned with lots of chili powder, paprika and cumin. I also tossed in some yellow curry powder and three seeded, diced jalapenos.

Lotsa lotsa green peppers!!

Oh, enter the canned goods.

A chili is born!

Finally the end product.

Usually, I serve chili with tortilla chips, but I also am a huge fan of cornbread. Not having any cornbread or mixes in the house, I tried some polenta -- using the leftover buttermilk from the yummy red velvet cake on Saturday night. 

Turns out chili smothered polenta is a hell of a lot better than polenta smothered in greens! ;-)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mmm tasty naengmyun

** disclaimer: this is NOT the naengmyun I made/ate

Discovered another HMart tonight -- finally found the one in Wheaton, and to my surprise, it's much closer than I imagined. Always a plus. No more grouchy yellow-polo wearing employees of Giant Foods and there horribly disfigured produce!!!!

Another plus: this HMart is wayyyy less crowded than the madhouse that is the Falls Church location. Way more time to browse the aisles. Which, is what led to tonight's mul naengmyun.

Naengmyun are buckwheat or arrowroot noodles that are served with iced broth in Korea. It sounds kind of weird, but on a 90+ degree day in Seoul, tucking in to a huge, nearly frozen bowl of these slurpy noodles with its tangy, spicy broth is nothing short of amazing.

I've made naengmyun at home before, but was more or less unsuccessful. Tonight's turned out surprisingly well. Sliced pickled Korean radish, cucumbers, and chopped bulgogi round out the noodles, broth and spicy seasonings. In Korea, this is served with some sweet vinegar (I used rice vinegar) and spicy mustard (which we didn't have this time).

This dish never quite tastes the same in the States -- whether it's in Korean restaurants, or in my own home, but tonight's was pretty close. Unfortunately our freezer sucks, and there wasn't a good way to ice the broth, just chilled it.

Dreaming? Of a perfect bowl of naengmyun on a hot summer's day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Jake very wisely suggested we consume some of the leftovers from the fridge tonight for dinner.

We found some leftover pasta with the tomato basil sauce, but not quite enough sauce to cover the pasta. I also *hate* reheating pasta already mixed with sauce in the microwave, so I tossed it into a frying pan with another jar of tomatoes, a generous splash of white wine (although I usually prefer reds for pasta sauce), and seasoned with garlic, the last of the basil from my editor, and salt and pepper. Very delicious.... did not taste AT ALL like leftovers, hooray!

Friday, November 6, 2009

More great wisdom from Bitten

More reasons why Mark Bittman is really one of the best food writers out there.

He posts excerpts today from a Q&A he did with Time Out New York:

"Question: “What would you say is the most important skill to develop in the kitchen?
Answer: “The ability to go in there and start. I am the least impressive cook you will ever see. I am completely without knife skills, I screw things up all the time. When I’m in the kitchen I’m not obsessively trying to create the perfect dish; I’m trying to put dinner on the table. Comparing yourself to the people who cook on television is like comparing yourself to Andre Agassi. If you can drive you can cook.”"

I often bemoan my own distinct lack of plating skills and my lack of nice kitchen equipment. But the thing is -- I'm really more interested in how a dish tastes and how it was made. In my kitchen, soups, carbonara, and Korean barbeque are all served out of the same $1 plastic bowls from Target.

If you don't follow Bitten, you definitely should! Great food, and often great discussion on food and food philosphy.

Happy Friday!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yes, I realize the photos on the blog are generally... mediocre

Sundays truly are for baking. We had lots of left over hummus from last week's adventure, so more pitas were firmly in order. 

And, as I recently wrapped up a major work project, I decided celebratory cookies were also in order. This concept isn't without precedent for me. In fall 07, I finished a month-long project covering young women with breast cancer and celebrated with a few dozen cupcakes with nude colored buttercream frosting, and tiny red "nipple" candies. Probably NSFW as an intern... but they went over pretty well at the college paper.
Snickerdoodles.... yum. I used the Martha Stewart recipe linked from Bakerella. They're not as puffy as I would have liked, but still chewy and sugary and delicious.

I also still had some basil leftover from a generous editor at work, so I reduced a big can of tomatoes and mixed in some homemade pesto for a really nice, thick sauce.

Tomato pesto sauce:
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 TBS olive oil
1 tsp red chilli flakes
salt/pepper to taste
1/3 c white wine

homemade pesto:
1-2 C fresh basil leaves
1-2 crushed garlic cloves - to taste
2 TBS parmesan chees
olive oil

Simmer tomatoes, spices, oil and wine and allow to reduce over med-high heat until most of the liquid is gone and tomatoes are soft. Mush them every few minutes with a large spoon.

Blend pesto ingredients and stir into the tomatoes, continue simmering until thickened.

Serve with a pasta good for chunky sauces like rotini or gemeli.