Monday, November 26, 2007

snowed in

It snowed here last week. So much so that it finally feels like winter now; which in itself is a double edged sword shovel.

First, let's start with the good...

We like winter because in the colder weather we tend to cook slow, comfort foods like the above beef stew. This stew was cooked for 6 hours on very low heat, making the meat tender and flavorful. It was braised in red wine and garlic, along with carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes. Originally we were supposed to have this for dinner last night but unfortunately I didn't start it early enough in the day to allow it to cook in time for a decent hour dinner. So, I left it in the oven until it was done (11pm) and then reheated it for tonight's dinner.

I had mine as is, but Mony had his over rice.

I think it was even better today as the flavors had a chance to mingle and blend together overnight. An important tip...I think the secret ingredient to really good, savory stew is good quality wine and large strips of orange zest. There is just something about beef and orange that pair up so well together.

And now to the bad...

The new house has snow in it!!
This gives new meaning to the term snowed in...

Remember last week when it looked like this:

Hopefully the weather won't delay any construction; we're so anxious to see more progress! Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

party leftovers - take 2

I thought I had posted about everything I made for the anniversary party...until I realized that I still had some of the cheesecake bars leftover. This recipe came from Janet who got her recipe from Paula. Usually I am not a fan of Paula Deen's recipes but this one looked too good to pass up. It combines 2 of my favorite desserts: cheesecake and apple crumble.

The recipe is super easy and made with everyday ingredients. The crust is not your typical graham cracker crust but rather more like a buttery flaky cookie.

I garnished mine with dulce de leche but you could use any store bought caramel sauce to simplify it. Actually, you don't even need the sauce; but it does add a nice touch.

Paula Deen’s Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Streusel topping

Streusel Topping:

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 13x9-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  2. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Pour over warm crust.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel Topping. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

party leftovers

Here's an elegant and easy way to serve leftover smoked salmon (when you're tired of having bagels and lox).

Smoked Salmon Salad

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup drained capers

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Grape tomatoes, cut in half
6 ounces smoked salmon, torn or cut into bite-size pieces

Parsley leaves

Mix lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Add capers and onion; toss to coat. When ready to serve, pour some dressing over salmon, tomatoes, and parsley leaves; toss to coat.

* Start with a little dressing and add more to taste.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


There has been so much chaos in our lives lately that it's been hard to stop and say, 'hey, that would be good for the blog!'. Truth be told, we really haven't been cooking much and most of our meals have consisted of fast and easy, quick and cheesy.

What has kept us so busy?

Well, first trying to sell the condo. It's hard to cook elaborate meals when in the back of your mind you know that you need to keep your kitchen in tip top shape because at any point someone might want to come see it. It's a hard, hard life.

Second, there has been so much work/time spent in building a new construction home. Mind you, it's all been fun work, but still work none the less. There have been countless meetings, appliance shopping, brick choices, upgrade decisions, and the list goes on and on...and we still have 4 more months to go...

This week, the land was dug up and the foundation was laid. It's such a tiny step towards our new home, but yet so exciting!

Is this where the kitchen will be??

Lastly, the siblings and I had to plan an ambitious anniversary party for the in-laws. There was a lot of planning involved and a lot of food. It all went well but unfortunately in all the scramble, very few food pictures were taken. Here are a few...

Roasted vegetable baguettes with crumbled feta and hummus:

I also volunteered to bake a cake. As we know, cakes and I have a volatile relationship. Still, I always look for opportunities to bake because how will I ever get better if I never try, right? Right.
And I'm happy to say that this cake was somewhat of a success. It was a beautiful recipe from Dorie Greenspan.

Perfect Party Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

9 oz cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 3/4 fl. oz. buttermilk
4 large egg whites
10 1/2 oz sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

7 oz sugar
4 large egg whites
12 oz unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-in pieces
2 1/4 fl. oz. fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves (I used strawberry)
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter two 9" x 2" round cake pans. Line the bottom of each cake pan with a buttered parchment circle.

For the cake: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk the buttermilk and egg whites together in a separate bowl.
Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a stand mixer bowl and rub together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and smells like the lemon.
Add the butter to the mixer bowl and beat together with the sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and light.
Add in the vanilla extract.
Add in the flour and buttermilk mixtures in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixtures. Be sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.
When everything is added beat the batter for an additional 2 minutes.
Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes in the oven or until the tops are set and springy, and a cake tester inserted into the centers come out clean.
Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for a few minutes, then flip and unmold the cakes (run a knife around the sides of the cakes if necessary). Peel the parchment off and flip the cakes back over right side up on the wire racks to finish cooling.

For the buttercream: Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth.
When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth.
Add in the lemon juice and beat until combined. Add in the vanilla.
The buttercream is ready to be used. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it to prevent it from drying out.

To assemble the cake: Using a sharp serrated knife, slice each cake layer horizontally in half.
Stir the raspberry preserves until it is loose and spreadable.
Place a layer on a cardboard cake round, cut side up. Spread about a third of the raspberry preserves on the cake layer.
Spread a layer of buttercream on top of the preserves. Top with a second cake layer. I found that if you have problems with this, you can spread the buttercream on a second cake layer and flip it over onto the preserve-covered layer - but you have to be very careful doing this or you'll break your cake layer!
Spread preserves and buttercream on the second cake layer as you did with the first. Top with a third cake layer.
Spread preserves and buttercream on the third cake layer as you did with the second. Top with the last cake layer, cut side down.
Use the rest of the buttercream to frost the sides and top of the cake.

Press the coconut over the sides and top of the cake.

So that is basically everything that has been going on in our life. We've been busy, but we're very happy. This is a good time for us and we're glad that we can share it with all of you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

the ganoush

I like being right. No, I love being right.

Sometimes, Mony has preconceived notions about certain foods. Eggplant, for example. He will tell anyone and everyone that he dislikes eggplant. But he doesn't. He just thinks he does.

This past summer we've had eggplant parmesan, grilled eggplant, stuffed eggplant, etc. and each time he's happily eaten it all. Yet, ask him today if he likes eggplant, and more than likely he will say no.

Take this recipe for baba ganoush as a prime example...

I love baba ganoush and always wanted to try making it on my own. When I told Mony what I was making, I heard the usual eggplant complaints. Of course I didn't listen and went ahead with my plans. I roasted the eggplant, scooped it out, mashed it up with other tasty ingredients and was left with a delicious, creamy dip.

Baba Ganoush

1 large eggplant
2 Tbs. tahini
juice of 1 lemon
4 Tbs. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
5 Tbs. plain yogurt
fresh pepper (to taste)
sea salt (to taste)

Poke holes in the eggplant (this is very important) and oven roast until very soft – about 2o minutes, depending on the size of your eggplant.
Once cooked and cool enough to handle, scoop out the meat from the eggplant, leaving the purple skin behind.
Mash with a fork and add remaining ingredients.

Garnish with a swirl of olive oil and a dash of paprika.
If you have a gas stove, I would roast the eggplant on an open flame to get that smoky flavor.

And finally what you've been waiting for...

Of course He loved it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

chicken pot pie

Tonight's dinner was a first for me. I've had chicken pot pie before but have never made it before. I remember growing up eating the frozen 'ready in 15 minutes' individual pies, but they weren't really good at all...

I decided that I could do better and wanted to try my hand at making it from scratch. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and the results were fantastic. It was oddly satisfying making the roux and chopping up all the vegetables. The pastry was easy and made a crunchy, flakey crust.

I highly recommend this recipe. It makes a ton and can easily be adapted to add whatever veggies you have on hand. We loaded it up with carrots, broccoli, onions, peas, fennel, and celery.

Chicken Pot Pie

3 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
1 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup diced carrots,
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Pie crust ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (best to chill cubes in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before using)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water

Place the chicken breasts on a plate and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Sauté in pan for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut the chicken into large dice.

In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well. If the mixture is too thick, add more stock to thin out. If too thin, add more flour.

For the pastry: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the chilled butter cubes and pulse 5 times to combine. And the shortening and pulse a few more times, until the dough resembles a coarse cornmeal, with some pea-sized pieces of butter. Slowly stream in ice water, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the dough sticks together when you press some between your fingers. Empty the food processor, placing the dough on a clean surface. Use your hands to mold into a ball, then flatten the ball into a disk. Sprinkle with a little flour, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour filling into oven proof casserole dish. Roll out dough to fit the top of your casserole dish. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.