Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

Wow, after over a week pretty much unplugged, I figured I'd better get up a quick post about Christmas before I turn into a pumpkin... or it becomes 2010, whichever comes first ;)

We had Christmas Eve at our place, with one set of grandparents. We had a fabulous meal that began with the traditional Barszcz made by Grandma. That was followed by shrimp, salmon, pierogies (recipe here), and roasted veggies.

roasted veggies, salmon, and pierogis

The roasted veggies included carrots, parsnips, delicata squash and acorn squash, roasted at 450 with cinnamon and curry powder. For the fish of the night, I slightly adapted a recipe from Angela. Once I got out all of the bones, it was easy to put together, cooked in no time, and was enjoyed by everyone--included my mom who doesn't like salmon!

Baked Dijon Pecan Salmon

Baked Dijon Pecan Salmon
adapted slightly from Oh She Glows, who adapted it from allrecipes

1.25-1.5lb wild sockeye salmon fillet (Mine had the skin on, I just lifted the salmon off when serving)
1T butter
1/4c dijon mustard
~1T oil to thin
1-2T honey, optional (I can't actually remembered if I used this)
1/4c panko bread crumbs
1/4c chopped pecans
1/4c chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400deg.

In small bowl, melt butter. Add dijon mustard and mix. Add enough oil/honey until the mixture has thinned enough to be spreadable.

In another small bowl, mix together bread crumbs, pecans and parsley.

Place salmon (skin side down) in a large baking dish. Top with dijon and spread to cover the fillet. Top with crumb mixture and press lightly into dijon.

Bake 12-15min, or until flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

Apple Pie w/Thyme Crust & Gruyere Crumble

For dessert, I made another apple pie, since my parents didn't get to try it the first time I made it :) It was still delicious and from the moans that came from the other side of the table, I'm guessing everyone liked it!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season!! And don't be afraid to give into temptation and have a snowball fight...

I couldn't resist making more of Katie's Chocolate Macaroon Babies and also tried some of Averie's Gingerbread Balls and Sugar Cookie Balls. A good way to ease your way off of the holiday treats (or was that just me??), getting in some more wholesome sweets! Or you could get wild with Katie ;)

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pierogi Extravaganza 2009

This post is a bit late, as the event occurred a month ago, but I figure since we'll be eating what we made for Christmas, it's almost appropriate to post it now, too ;) The saturday after thanksgiving, aunts, cousins, grandma, and nephew came over to do some serious pierogi making. We're talking 3 batches of dough with 4 different fillings. My uncle is an amazing photographer (check out his site, gorgeous shots like this make a great gift!!) and documented the process. I'll point you to last years' post for the recipe. Enjoy the "show"!

Making the dough

Rolling out and cutting

little helper!

Potato & Onion (my favorite)

forming the pierogi

(much better with these than my hair ;))

Sauerkraut filling
(sauerkraut, drained and cooked with onions and butter, seasoned w/salt and pepper)

the sauerkraut ones get forked

lined up and ready for action!

Cooked, ready for cooling and freezing.

I should note, that they can be frozen without cooking, you just don't want to defrost them before cooking them (i.e. add them still frozen to boiling, salted water). With the amount of people we had in the kitchen, it wasn't too much work to cook them a few minutes, cooled, and then frozen. This makes it a little easier on the eating end :)

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!! I'm (hopefully) on a bus home right now, looking forward to spending some time with the family!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cookies, Cabbage, & Pears

It's been quite a busy time around here, between baking, lab work, and holiday events. I can't say I haven't indulged a bit too much, but at least I have been eating more than cookies ;) Speaking of cookies, I have a few more for you before we get to the main course.

A friend of mine recently had her gall bladder out, and to help her recovery amidst the holiday treats, I sent along some that she could enjoy. This meant no butter, chocolate or nuts to name the usual suspects. I found a few recipes to try including Gingersnaps, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and Carrot Cake Cookies (these were her favorite of the bunch). Olive oil took the place of butter, and I used the white whole wheat flour already in my fridge.

(l to r) Gingersnaps, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and Carrot Cake Cookies

In the midst of the sugar coma that's been the past few weeks, I've tried a few great recipes, and some others that won't be repeated. If you notice a common ingredient, it's because I got a little over-zealous when I saw cabbage for 50cents a head. I'd recommend not trying to buy the biggest head you can find, unless you're prepared to eat it every day for over a week ;)

I am a sucker for good salads with layers of flavor, and this Sugar-Crusted Fennel & Pear Salad was a certainly a winner. I have probably mentioned I don't like raw fennel before, but caramelize it and I just adore it! I used gorgonzola instead of fennel, and since I was eating it at work, dressed it with a Balsamic Vinaigrette already in the fridge. Delicious!

Sugar-Crusted Fennel & Pear Salad

It's snowy and blustery here, perfect for some soup! I've come to enjoy parsnips when their sweetness is brought out by roasting, or when paired with a fruit as in Ricki's Pear & Parsnip Soup. To accompany this soup, a ripe avocado came to the rescue in some Avocado Corn Muffins.

I tried out two cabbage salads-- a Cabbage, Pear & Pistachio Salad and Cabbage, Apple & Walnut Salad (not pictured, sorry!). In the former salad, I didn't have any salted pistachios, so I used pecans. In the latter recipe, I used greek yogurt instead of creme fraiche and gorgonzola instead of blue cheese. Both were tasty, and I was happy to mix it up :)

Cabbage, Pear & Pecan Salad

The last remarkable cabbage dish was this Kielbasa & Cabbage Skillet, made with a grainy dijon and turkey keilbasa. Although I grew up eating my kielbasa with ketchup, much to the chagrin of my grandfather, mustard is a more traditional pairing, and a combination I enjoy now :) I added more cabbage to the recipe, but I would easily double or triple the written out next time.

Kielbasa & Cabbage Skillet

I was also excited to (finally) try a couple of Molly's recipes on the heels of finishing A Homemade Life. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and was delighted by the recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Pear, Cider & Vanilla Bean (not pictured, oops!). Another winner, which I've seen pop up various places is her Warm Butternut & Chickpea Salad w/Tahini Dressing. It combines two foods I can't get enough of- butternut squash and chickpeas, and made for a wonderful lunch! I'd recommend the book and these recipes :)

Butternut & Chickpea Salad w/Tahini Dressing

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cookie Monster

I did some baking for a few cookie care packages last Saturday, and thought I'd share the loot ;) It took awhile to figure out what to make, but I finally decided on a few new varieties and challenged myself to come up with one of my own.

clockwise, from bottom R: Chevre cookies, Blueberry Lavender Butter Cookies, Seven Layers, Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies and Persimmon Cookies

To accompany the Seven Layers that everyone loves, I tried a few cookies from fellow bloggers. I think my favorite one was Nicole's Persimmon Cookies, but Elise's Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies did not disappoint. I used my usual substitutions-- white whole wheat flour for AP and Smart Balance 50/50 sticks for the butter/shortening. In the Chocolate cookies, I used Candy Cane Kisses instead of Peppermint Bark, since I already had them. There was one other variety in there that I didn't really like as a Christmas cookie, but I sent it out anyways (sorry guys!). I think they would find a better home on a cheese tray....

For my own recipe, I took a cue from some muffins Kelly turned me on to this summer. Into a butter cookie base, I added some lavender buds (a free sample from Marx Foods), dried blueberries and a little lemon zest. Different, but I really liked them :) On a side note, I wasn't sure if these were a butter cookie or shortbread. Anyone know the difference??

Blueberry Lavender Butter Cookies

Blueberry Lavender Butter Cookies
Recipe by Shannon

1 1/4c white whole wheat flour
1/8t salt
1 stick of butter, room temp (I used Smart Balance 50/50 sticks)
1/2c plus 2T powdered sugar
1 lg egg
1t lavender buds
1c dried blueberries, chopped
zest of 1/2-1 lemon

Beat butter until light and creamy in a stand mixer (or by hand). Add in powdered sugar over a few additions. Once incorporated, beat in egg. With the mixer running on low, add flour and continue to mix until well combined. Fold in lavender (crush with your fingers while adding to the batter), blueberries and lemon zest. Transfer to a large piece of saran wrap and shape into a log. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350deg. Line cookie sheet (1 large one or two smaller ones) with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and make 1/4" slices (unwaxed floss could be used, but I just used my chef's knife). Place on baking sheet and bake 12-13min, until just starting to brown on the edges. Remove and cool on a rack.

*My note: I did not chop my blueberries, so when I tried to cut them the blueberries got in the way and they fell apart. I just shaped the cookies by hand and that worked well!*

I'm sending these to Susan for her Christmas Cookie Roundup! Click here to find out how to submit your own recipe (hurry, time's running out!), and click here for the roundup and more ideas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cookie Friday!

You'll see alot more cookies in the next few weeks, even some of my own creation ;) But to start off, I've got two types for you....

First up is a classic, witches hats or peanut butter blossoms. I made these using Nicole's flourless recipe and topped them off with Meltaway Kisses. While you can put all sorts of things in the base of the cookies, I love the simplicity of ingredients and how these melt in your mouth!

Flourless PB Blossoms

To play with some of the last apples from the orchard, I adapted a recipe from Maria to come up with Apple Oatmeal Scotchies. From her recipe, I swapped out cinnamon chips for butterscotch chips. I also made my usual sub's of WWW flour instead of AP and Smart Balance 50/50 sticks instead of butter.

Apple Oatmeal Scotchies

Do you like to make favorites over the holidays or try new things? I'm doing a bit of both this year (or planning to). Now if only I could find the time...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Holiday Party

I'm way behind over here, but I thought I'd share a few pictures from a holiday party I went to this past weekend.

It just so happens we also had our first accumulation of snow, so it made for a pretty night and I couldn't help but snap a few pictures :)

I volunteered to make a few things, so I brought along some Apple, Gorgonzola, and Walnut Turnovers...

And some Gruyere Gougeres...

Luckily these turned out the second time (1st was a tasty failure). I ended up combining recipes from Jaden, David, and Alain (as if we're on a first-name basis ;)).

Gruyere Gougeres
Yield: alot (I didn't count and it depends on how large you make them)

1/2c water
1/2c milk (I used Smart Balance Lactose-Free, Fat-Free)
1 stick unsalted butter
140g flour (1c)
4 lg eggs
1/2t salt
few grinds of pepper
little bit of freshly grated nutmeg
1c finely grated gruyere, divided (3/4 for batter, 1/4 for topping)

For the method, check out David's recipe here.

Last, but not least, a tart! Inspired by Kitchenbelle, I followed her recipe for a crust using crumbs of Trader Joe's Almond Windmill Cookies (an almond shortbread). I used a vanilla bean pastry cream from Baking Bites. Pomegranate arils and mandarin oranges adorned the top of the tart. I thought about using persimmons instead of mandarin oranges, but I had already eaten the ripe ones in my apartment so that was a no-go :/ I realize now I completely forgot about the glaze, as I was worried about the gougeres! Oops, still delicious :)

There was quite the spread, even a drink competition (!!), and everyone left with smiles and full bellies :)

Twinkle toes!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

'Tis the Season

With the holiday season in full swing, I thought I'd share some gift ideas from birthday presents I received this year. I think they'd be great for anyone who loves food!

For whatever reason, I find prep work (chopping veggies, measuring ingredients, deseeding a POM...) therapeutic :) Tasks in the kitchen are endless, so I greatly appreciated a cushioned anti-fatigue mat! I first saw these at Bed, Bath & Beyond for a pretty penny, but my mom picked one up at Home Depot for a good price. It wipes clean easily, too, so I don't have to worry about spilling beet juice all over the floor. Not that I've done that recently...

I am actually VERY excited for colder temps, so I get in the mood for some warm, hearty dishes like chili made with heirloom beans! From Rancho Gordo, a friend of mine gave me several varieties of dried heirloom beans and their cookbook (full of how-to's and wonderful recipes). I can't wait to give them a try :)

It might be a little late for farmers markets in some areas, but I think it's safe to say anyone would appreciate a local, hand-crafted product. My aunt had picked up a few varieties of Pappardelle's Pasta (in flavor like Southwest, Lemon Chive, Spinach Garlic, Spicy Thai, and Sweet Potato to name a few) that has been fun to play with!

Lemon Chive Pasta w/Zucchini, Goat Cheese & Sun-dried Tomatoes

Another option for hand-crafted gifts is Foodzie (a place for artisan food), where you can find items like the pumpkin and cranberry marshmallows, pumpkin pie caramallows, or passion fruit chocolates I got to sample at the Foodbuzz Festival. Oh, I can't forget Annie's drool-worthy cookies!!

Pumpkin Pie Caramallows from BonBonBar

Don't forget about your own two hands! I don't think anyone in their right mind would turn down some mini raw mounds bars (aka Katie's Chocolate Macaroon Babies)... unless they don't like coconut ;) Easy peasy, and better than my old favorite!

Mini Chocolate Macaroon Bars

Last but not least, a "cookbook" of sorts, The Flavor Bible. I first heard about it from Shauna, and it immediately went on my wish list. While it doesn't have any recipes, it lists ingredients in alphabetical order, and follows with flavors that work well as well as some good cooking techniques. I have fallen in love, and it has allowed me to get a bit more creative and come up with more of my own recipes (like the Roasted Pears w/Rosemary & Honey)!

If you're still looking for something, check out some of these ideas!

Averie is also offering up some Amazing Grass and Kay's snacks that would also make great gifts ;)

What's on your wish list??

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Roasted Pears w/Honey & Rosemary

I found myself with some ripe seckel pears and with the holiday season now officially upon us, wanted to create a healthier dessert. I think my parents were surprised at how much they enjoyed this :) The tart greek yogurt and honeyed pears seemed to be in perfect balance, with the slight hint of rosemary, mmmm. I licked my bowl clean!

Roasted Pears w/Honey & Rosemary
Recipe by Shannon (inspired by a few others)
serves 3

8-9 seckel pears
1 sprig of rosemary
juice of 1/2 lemon
greek yogurt or ice cream, for serving (I used 2% Greek Yogurt)

Preheat oven to 400degrees.

Cut pears in half or thirds, depending on size, and core. Place in baking dish (I used a loaf pan). Drizzle with honey and lemon juice. Toss pears, then add rosemary. Roast until soft and almost caramelized (~20min?).

Cool slightly before serving over greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey (minus the rosemary!).

Roasted Pears w/Honey & Rosemary over greek yogurt

And since I forgot last time, there are lots of giveaways going on! Katie's got an Artisana giveaway here, Sabrina is sharing her love of regional artisans, Kerstin is giving the gift of chocolate, and Elina can help clean our teeth after all of these treats! You really can't go wrong :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dips and Veggies

Wow, a busy week and here we are in December--eek!! Hope everyone in the states had a great thanksgiving :) Before I forget, I wanted to share a few fabulous recipes that I've tried out...

The first is Ricki's Roasted Red Pepper & Apple Dip! I whipped up a batch for Elina's housewarming and was nervous that I overdid it on the red pepper flakes... I cut in some Nufatchel (1/3 less fat cream cheese), although it did seem to mellow in the fridge. The dip was great with crudites, on top of roasted veggies, and tossed with whole wheat pasta and steamed broccoli!

Roasted Red Pepper & Apple Dip over roasted carrots and parsnips

Inspired by a head of cauliflower in my fridge and this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. I roasted the cauliflower florets in a little EVOO, salt and pepper until a little too crispy ;). For the topping, I sauteed 3T bread crumbs, 3T chopped almonds, 1T capers (with some of the brine), 2T golden raisins (plumped up in hot water) and chopped parsley and thyme in ~1/2T butter. What a delicious flavor combination, I'll definitely be making this again!!

Roasted Cauliflower w/Almonds, Raisins & Capers

I told my mom I'd whip up a dip for appetizers Thanksgiving day, and I found this bookmarked recipe for Caramelized Onion Dip over at Andrea's Recipes. I followed the recipe, using greek yogurt for the sour cream, and it seemed to be a hit! I mean, who doesn't love caramelized onions? (besides one of my Uncles and some fellow bloggers... that just means more for us!)

Caramelized Onion Dip w/crudites

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Sides

I received a sample of Musselman's applesauce to come up with some recipes utilizing it in side dishes one might have this time of year. I thought and thought... then i went into my kitchen :)

After the success of the Spirited Cranberry Sauce I made last year, I decided to put a spin on this for an appetizer I had in mind. I kept the sherry-soaked dried apricots, but used apple cider and spices when making the sauce. To finish is off, I folded in some applesauce and adjusted the sweetness. While this could easily be used as is, I thought it would make a great topper for some baked brie!

Spirited Cran-Apple-Apricot Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2c thin sliced apricots
1/4c sherry
3/4c apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1t vanilla
3-4T honey (or agave, brown sugar, or your desired sweetener)
1 package cranberries
1/2c Musselman's Natural Applesauce

Place apricots and sherry in a small bowl and let sit overnight.

Combine apricots and sherry, cider, cinnamon stick, vanilla and cranberries in a medium pot. Cook over med-low heat until thickened and desired consistency. Add 3T sweetener and applesauce, mix to incorporate, then taste and adjust to your desired level of sweetness. With the amounts I used, it was pretty tart but went perfectly with the brie :)

Don't worry, yours will look better (I didn't have a full wheel of brie)

Baked Brie w/Spirited Cran-Apple-Apricot Sauce
inspiried by The Kitch'n

1 wheel of brie
1/2-3/4c spirited cran-apple-apricot sauce
chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired

Preheat oven to 350. Cut top rind off of brie. Place in a small baking dish. Top with cranberry sauce (keep a small border). Bake for 12-15min, until heated through and cheese is bubbly. Serve in dish or transfer (carefully) to a serving platter. Serve with crackers.

I also used the applesauce to create an Acorn Apple Soup. Seasoned with a flurry (curry?) of spices, this was a delicious, light soup that would be a good addition to any meal!

Acorn Apple Soup
Serves 2

Depending on what you're in the mood for, this soup can be subtly spiced or more robust. Adjust to you're own tastebuds! The amounts listed below come out somewhere in the middle :)

1 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t curry powder
1/6t cardamom
1/6t coriander
1/2c Musselman's Natural Applesauce (or homemade)
apple cider
1/2 apple, diced small
finely grated gruyere

Preheat oven to 425. Place squash on baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO. Sprinkle spices, then bake until squash is tender (time will depend on the size). Remove from oven.

While squash is roasting, prepare garnishes (if desired). Saute diced apple in a little butter or oil and a blend of the seasonings used to season the squash (I didn't measure, just shook some on). Set aside.

To make gruyere crisps, heat a nonstick pan to med heat. Add gruyere in small disc shapes (~1-2t per circle) and cook until melty. Using a spatula, carefully flip over discs and cook until lightly browned. Depending on how hot your pan is, this can go pretty quickly. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. I had ~ 1/3c grated gruyere and got 10 crisps.

Once cool, scoop out squash into a blender (I used an immersion blender). Add applesauce and puree. Add enough apple cider until it reaches your desired consistency. Transfer to serving bowls and top with diced apples and gruyere crisps right before serving.

If you're looking for a sweet ending, the applesauce also works well in this Apple Cake, even if it wasn't vegan ;) (I had some buttermilk handy!)

Sorry for the monster post, but I hope everyone has a fabulous Thanksgiving!!
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