Monday, December 30, 2013

I have descended into full blown cooking nerd mode. (Saffron-Scented Halibut)

I spent most of high school and college avoiding chemistry.  Then I got into cooking.  My husband bought me an immersion circulator for Christmas!  I didn't know that there was a model that could hook on to an ordinary large pot instead of a giant plastic tub.  It looks more like lab equipment than a cooking tool. I've always been curious about cooking with one because I watch way too much Iron Chef America.  The Anovo immersion circulator is very easy to use.  I'm using it here with a pasta pot and some tin foil. One of the first things I wanted to try out was fish.  This is saffron-scented halibut with tomato compute and zucchini.  It was fantastic!  The zucchini was cooked through, yet still crunchy instead of mushy and gross.  The tomatoes had the right amount of softness.  The fish was perfectly cooked.  It was moist, flaky, and evenly cooked.  The saffron sauce had the right amount of zing from the oranges but it didn't overpower the flavor of the fish.  This dish did involve a good bit of prep work but total cooking time for everything was 17 minutes.

To make the meal, I attached the immersion circulator to my pasta pot, set it for 140 degrees F through its very simple touch screen interface, and covered the pot with tin foil.  The instruction manual emphasized that covering the pot is necessary and suggested tin foil if a special lid wasn't available.

I feel a bit like a mad scientist.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Big White Chocolate, Almond, and Cranberry Cookies

This recipe means it: these cookies are big!  1/4 cup of dough for each cookie.  Even though they contain enough butter and sugar to stop your heart, they are amazingly good.  So, break out your colored Kitchenaid mixer that you got for your wedding and use once a year because these cookies are worth it! This recipe was a bit out of my comfort zone because it contained more than five ingredients.  It also reminded me that baking soda is actually used in cooking instead of only for being left in the back of my fridge for several months as a deodorizer.  ("Replace after three months"? I think David Tennant was still The Doctor when I put mine in there).

Tablespoon added for scale.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chicken with Olives and Oranges

About a year before I got into cooking, my mom got me three books with the best recipes from Bon Appetit magazine.  One of the recipes I made a lot was chicken with olives and oranges from the January 2005 issue.  The first few times, it was actually pretty bland and my attempts to make it more flavorful didn't exactly work.  So I took it out of my regular rotation and hadn't made it in years.  Back in May when I was cleaning out my cookbook army, I found the Bon Appeitit book and decided to try it again.  This time, I added some new tweaks and the result was a pretty tasty meal.  That said, I should have served it with a salad or something.  By itself it's not a large amount of food.

The trick to improving the magazine's recipe was to add a bit of lemon juice and some extra olives.  I halved the recipe to make it for two people but didn't halve the amount of olives.  I also seasoned the chicken with more black pepper than usual.  The result was a tangy, salty (in a good way, it wasn't overkill) chicken dish that is relatively healthy.  The recipe below is heavily adapted from the original.

Spicy Sausage Ragu in the Slow Cooker

I'm back from falling off the face of the earth!  I was super pregnant at the time of my last post.  As a result of having a new baby around, most of my dishes over the last two months have been of the "what can we make really, really fast?" variety.  Most of them were tried and true quick favorites.  We also had a freezer full of pre-made food donated by friends and family, which is *awesome,* especially during the first few weeks when painkillers and coffee are food groups.

Since I'm on maternity leave, I decided to experiment with my slow cooker.  I bought a copy of The Italian Slow Cooker and used a recipe from it for the first time last week.  Generally, if the first recipe I try from a new book in my cookbook army isn't very good, it takes a long time for me to use the book again, I guess I'm judgy that way.  The Spicy Sausage Ragu was a huge success!! Not only did my husband and I love it, there was enough left to freeze!

It doesn't look pretty, but trust me it tastes fantastic!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cream of Broccoli Soup

When I was a kid, cream of whatever soup came in a can, contained my monthly sodium intake, and was usually used to flavor chicken and rice.  It was almost always beige, even if the "whatever" in the soup was a green vegetable like broccoli or asparagus.  In other words: yuck.  That said, home made cream of whatever soup is really good! And in the case of cream of broccoli soup, it's actually green! There's a lot of broccoli in it and not a lot of whatever would make the soup beige.

This recipe is from The New Moosewood Cookbook and is vegetarian.  It has relatively few ingredients and is easy to make, especially if you have an immersion blender.  I seasoned mine with a bit of black salt at the end, that's what the flecks are in the picture.  Even though there is no heavy cream in this soup (I used 1% milk), it was still nice and creamy (and healthier).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lobster Mac and Cheese

I love mac and cheese! I know it's not good for me to eat 6 pounds of cheese, but I don't care.  Lobster is awesome too.  I've tried lobster mac and cheese at several restaurants and figured it was time to make my own!  My husband doesn't love lobster as much as I do and he still enjoyed this dish.  I don't think it took very long, there is very little chopping involved.  But there is a ton of grating.  A lot of it can be done while the pasta cooks.  I would definitely make this again, but I'd probably alter the recipe to use a different cheese instead of colby jack, which I thought was too mild.  I don't want to overpower the lobster, but I want my cheese to be a little more flavorful.  This is fantastic comfort food!  The recipe says it serves two.  It was too much for my husband and I, we both had seconds and then I had some left over for lunch the next day.  It reheats well.

The finished product!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bowtie Pasta with Mascarpone, Asparagus, and Hazelnuts

Back when I was first learning how to cook, this was one of the first "fancy" pasta dishes I tried to make.  In the beginning, I'm pretty sure I added way too much water to the sauce and ended up with watery, bland pasta with some asparagus and cheese on it.  But, I got better at it and it was on regular rotation in our house for about a year.  Then I started accumulating cookbooks.  I wanted to try Indian! Thai! Stir Fry! Mexican!  And this recipe was forgotten for a few years.  

A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my cookbooks to donate some to charity (and make room for more!) and found a "Best of Bon Appetit" cookbook.  This recipe was in it.  I got nostalgic and decided to make it again.  I'd forgotten how much I like it!  It's quick, easy, and vegetarian.  The sauce is pretty mild so it does need some salt and pepper.  But, it's very creamy, slightly sweet, and goes well with the roasted asparagus.  I added some sauteed garlic for extra flavor.  If you can buy blanched hazelnuts in bulk at your grocery store, that will make this dish really quick because then you don't have to do it yourself.  Honestly, if you're strapped for time, leaving the husks on will make your dish less pretty but I don't think it's worth it to remove them unless you're serving guests or have the time to spare.  My main alteration to this recipe is that I barely added any of the reserved cooking water to the sauce.  I did it very slowly and stopped as soon as the sauce reached my desired consistency, which for me was still relatively thick. It was easy to stir and coat everything, but not watery at all.  I definitely recommend this dish for a quick work night dinner.  I served it with some cantaloupe.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gnocchi with Spinach, Peas, and Lemon

This quick, vegetarian gnocchi dish is a staple in my house.  It's a good way to eat some greens if you don't want to make a salad.  The lemon juice adds a great tang to the sauce and compliments the spinach.  I use a little extra lemon juice because I love the flavor it adds.  There's almost no chopping in this recipe, which makes it easy and quick to prepare.  I use frozen gnocchi, I think it tastes better and has a better texture than the vacuum packed stuff.  I added some extra peas to the dish because I'd had them in my freezer for a while and had about 3/4 cup instead of 1/2.  I think it's fine to add more peas, they're good for you. I also added some extra cheese because cheese is awesome.  The recipe calls for using 1/4 cup of reserved pasta cooking water as part of the sauce.  I eyeballed it and didn't use all of the reserved water, I never do when I make this dish.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beer and BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

I was at a party a few nights ago and someone was discussing the awesomeness of chicken cooked in beer and barbecue sauce.  I've always wanted to try a pulled meat recipe that included beer.  Cooking with wine is fun, so why not beer?  I searched the internet for a good crockpot recipe and found one with only a few ingredients.  This meal requires very little prep work and could be tossed into the slow cooker in less than 10 minutes.  But that's no fun!  Instead, I made my own BBQ sauce.  The recipe suggests that a thinner sauce is better for cooking the chicken, so I didn't leave mine on the stove for very long.  After I poured some in the slow cooker, I let it cook more to thicken it to my desired consistency.  The BBQ sauce I made freezes well.  If I was in a hurry, I'd just use a bottled sauce.  The chicken is amazing! The meat didn't taste like a chicken drowned in beer, it was a very mild flavor that went really well with the BBQ sauce.  My sauce isn't overly sweet, which I think is a good match for the beer.  The smoked paprika gave it a slight kick. After 8 hours in the slow cooker, the chicken required zero effort to shred.  When it was completely cooked, it took about five minutes to shred, mix with the sauce, and put on a bun.  This is a great dish for a work night if you can get it in the slow cooker in the morning (and it has a keep warm setting).  It's also great for leftovers.  I served it on an onion roll with some foil baked corn on the cob and a small salad.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Quick Vegetarian Dinner! Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad

This salad involved a bit of chopping but it still didn't take very long to make, about 15 minutes.  The dressing has mayonnaise in it, but not a lot.  It's a pretty healthy vegetarian meal. It would also make a good side dish for a meat entree though you might have leftovers. I made a half recipe, using only one can of hearts of palm.  It made plenty of food for two people for a light dinner on a warm day.  The dressing is tart, but not overwhelming so the hearts of palm aren't smothered.  The original recipe called for yellow cherry tomatoes.  I didn't have any, so I used orange grape tomatoes and it was fine.  I preferred the hearts of palm sliced a little thinner than 1/2 inch.  It's annoying to only use half an avocado in a recipe, so I just ate the rest of it tossed with some lemon juice.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Agedashi Tofu

I've loved agedashi tofu since I first had it back in law school.  It's pretty easy to make at home.  I use instant dashi instead of making my own from scratch.  It's easier, faster, and I can make mine more mild because I don't like the strong bonito flavor of full-strength dashi.  I've made this dish many times, and it's really important to get the silken tofu, it makes a huge difference.  Wegman's doesn't usually carry it and so I've substituted soft and firm and it will work, but if you can get silken tofu, it's worth it.  For this batch, I stopped by my local Korean supermarket and got some silken tofu.  The tofu is lightly crunchy on the outside and the silken tofu melted in my mouth.  The garnishes are a nice touch.  I used daikon, ginger, green onions, and a mix of basil and mint.  I served this with a side salad and some left over Asian style slaw.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Quick Beef Stroganoff

Normally when I hear the words "beef stroganoff," I think of the uber salty and gross frozen meals I used to nuke for lunch at work.  The ones with the limp noodles, mushy vegetables, and "meat" of questionable quality.  But I love egg noodles and the picture for this recipe gave me hope that beef stroganoff could, in fact, be edible and even tasty. True to its name, this dish was very quick!  I loved it, and will definitely make it again for a good work night meal.  The sauce was nice and creamy, I added extra hot paprika to give it a kick.  I used skirt steak instead of flank steak because I didn't feel like buying 2 lbs of steak when I could get  1/2 pound instead. I used full fat sour cream instead of nonfat. The only other change I made was to buy crimini mushrooms instead of the exotic blend, which my grocery store didn't have.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Carnitas Tacos with Pineapple, Jalapenos, and Tomatillo Salsa

A few weeks ago I made carnitas in my slow cooker and froze the leftovers. Initially, I decided that the meat was definitely an ingredient rather than something to throw in a bowl with some cheese, lime, and pico de gallo.  There's a fantastic Mexican restaurant near me that serves amazing carnitas tacos with pineapple, pickled jalapenos, and habanero salsa. They're unbelievably addictive!  I've wanted to try and make something similar for a while. I decided to make a green salsa instead of attempting to use habaneros.  At the restaurant they pickle their own jalapenos.  To make this a quick meal, I bought a can of them instead.  Since this dish was made from leftovers, it was super fast.  All that needs to be done is defrost and warm up the meat, chop the pineapple, and make the salsa.

Tecate will always be "Hellboy Beer" to me. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Truffled Potato Gratin and Wild Boar Ragu

The first time I shopped at Wegmans, I noticed the truffles in the produce aisle.  They were locked in a plastic case and at the time it was really strange to me. Who on earth would spend that much money on a mushroom?! I think I'd tried something with a truffle in it once or twice and wrote them off as insanely pricey.  As the years went by, I got more curious but never actively searched for something to make with them.  A few years ago, some friends invited us over for dinner and they served truffled potato gratin.  It was amazing!  My husband and I promised we'd make it ourselves and then we never did.  Last week, my in laws came to visit and we decided to cook for them instead of going out.  It was the perfect excuse to make the potatoes.  They aren't healthy.  They're expensive.  They're fabulous.  

Sprinkle liberally with Lipitor before serving

Monday, January 7, 2013


I love carnitas!! There's a Chipotle a few blocks from my office and I can't resist a rice bowl with carnitas and tons of hot sauce. I finally decided to make my own. It's probably healthier and I can freeze some for leftovers (not that "healthy" is the first word I would use to describe eating a MOUNTAIN OF MEAT).  I made this in my slow cooker.  The pork shoulder pulled apart very easily; it was so tender.  I will definitely make this again!  I didn't think ahead and so I had nothing to serve it with except salad.  Ideally, I'd use this as a filling for tacos or enchiladas.  The fresh orange juice and Mexican oregano added both sweet and savory components.  The flavor was mild and a squeeze of fresh lime juice really brought it all together.  I added some cheddar cheese and made a quick approximation of pico de gallo with a random tomato, lime, and some left over red onion from last week.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Coconut and Orange Snowballs

I made cookies!  And my house is still standing!  I don't bake terribly often.  I feel like baking has to be so precise.  I can't just cover up my mistakes with garlic.  I think the last time I made cookies was for my friend Maggie's cookie swap last year.  Fitting that I made them this year for the same party.  This year I decided to branch out and try a recipe with more ingredients.  They turned out so well that I made them twice!  And the second time I was willing to feed them to my parents, so you know they were good.
Proper Christmas dish provided by my mom.  I just use ziplock because I'm lazy like that.  


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