Monday, November 23, 2015

charred cauliflower

I recently had some of the most flavorful cauliflower when Mike and I were out to dinner and it had me thinking about this vegetable in a whole different light. I normally roast it, or boil it and mash it with potatoes, but I have never though to prepare it almost like..meat.

But it's a hefty vegetable, one that can stand up to high heat and charring and not turn limp or burn easily. And this is an incredible way to infuse flavor into this easily overlooked veggie.

I tried it in my cast iron and I have to say: easy and delicious. I saved all of the smaller pieces and pureed them into potatoes, so none of it went to waste either.

Also, in case the 4 ingredient list below doesn't make it clear enough: its E-A-S-Y.

May I suggest this as a turkey day side to break up all those carbs?

charred cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, with florets chopped so each piece is flat on both sides
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil

  • preheat oven to 375
  • preheat skillet to medium heat, add olive oil
  • season pan/oil with salt and pepper, add in cauliflower once hot
  • let cauliflower char for about 3-4 minutes each side, until browned
  • flip over, repeat for 3-4 minutes and transfer to oven for 10 minutes
The result will be perfectly seasoned, slightly charred and melt in your mouth cauliflower. Who knew I would get this excited over a vegetable?

Friday, November 20, 2015

friday tips: kitchen remedies

Focusing todays tips on cleaning tricks and ways I survive minor kitchen mishaps..

how to fight fruit flies:

this one is a HUGE peeve of mine...they drive me crazy!

set out a bowl with a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and a few squirts of dish soap. the sweetness and smell of the vinegar will draw them in and the dish soap will catch them and eventually...well..drown them.

the many uses for baking soda:

clean the bottom of a burnt pot. I do this more than I would like to admit, by overcooking a sauce or forgetting about something on the stovetop.

put about an inch of water and two tablespoons of baking soda and let it bubble. scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon and repeat until the burned bits are gone or can be scrubbed away.

clean your glass cook top. I have to say, my stove boils water pretty fast, but these things are a pain to clean. I've bought cooktop cleaners, tried different wipes, nothing can get them clean. until...baking soda.

mix about a tablespoon with a few drops of water until it forms a paste and scrub it on the stubborn spots. then scrub with a sponge, towel, or just your fingers until the spot comes out.

while we're on the topic of baking soda...I also like to date the baking soda I keep on the shelf to keep track of when I last did a deep clean of the fridge.

stinky microwave? 

stick a half of a lemon in there for 15 seconds and then wipe it down with a damp cloth

glasses not coming out of the dishwasher clean?

run a half/light cycle with a cup of white vinegar at the bottom and you will have your glasses sparkling again!

Monday, November 16, 2015

s'mores treats

Up until two months ago, I had never made rice krispie treats before. Sure, I've eaten them tons of times; one of my former coworkers made the BEST ones. (Her trick was extra marshmallows, which I have employed generously below.)

Since my favorite marshmallow-y treat is a s'more in any form, I knew where I was taking these. Simple, quick and oh-so-delicious, whip these up to make your Monday a little sweeter.

s'mores treats
2 cups of golden graham cereal
3 cups marshmallows (I used mini) + 2 tbsp set aside
1/2 cup chocolate chips + 2 tbsp set aside
2 tbsp butter

  • melt butter and 3 cups marshmallows until gooey, add cereal
  • stir together and remove from heat, stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • spread in 9 inch pan, press down with wax paper
  • sprinkle remaining marshmallows and chocolate chips on top, set aside and let cool
  • cut into squares and serve!

Friday, November 13, 2015

friday tips: what does [insert cooking term] even mean?!

For this friday tips session, lets talk about cooking terms. What does it mean when a recipe says chiffonade basil? What is "scant"? And how can you tell the difference between sauté, braise, broil...?

Just a few things I think about when I am writing or reading recipes, preparing foods and thinking about how to bring my cooking to you guys. Am I being descriptive enough? Will people know what this means? Do I even know what this means?

Comment with terms you want help solving!

sauté: (this one I had to look up) from the French word sauter, which means "to jump." to cook food in some sort of fat over fairly high heat, uncovered

dredge: to coat something, usually in a flour

blanch: partially cook fruits and vegetables in boiling water, usually to be finished in another manner or to quick cook. used on green beans, or fruits such as tomatoes to help peel the skin. this method also helps keep the color on a vibrant fruit or vegetable

condensed milk: (another one I had to look up) made with whole milk where the water is removed and sugar is added. it stores for a loooong time in those cans

rendering fat: this means to separate fat from the item cooking; this causes the fat to melt and create that delicious bacon fat juice at the bottom of your pan

deglaze: remove the bits stuck to a pan after cooking meat, usually with wine or liquid such as stock. often times used to form a sauce

parboil/parcook: partially cook a food, to be finished in another manner

braise: often used on a tougher cut of meat; a slow cooking method of cooking meat in liquid, covered, in the oven or stovetop, for hours until the meat is tender

broil: (looked this up because its actually a bit confusing..) cooking food directly below dry heat. usually the distance between the heat and item cook is specifically measured. also helps give a quick, bubbly crust on cheesy items but can cause burning easily!

chiffonade: cut in long term strips, a french term. this is usually used for herbs or leafy greens and involves rolling up the vegetable and chopping.

scant: slightly less than whatever measurement is called for, for example you may see 1 scant cup of flour in a recipe

mince: finely chopped, smallest dice. term typically used on garlic

Thanks to everyone who submitted-there were a few I didn't cover that will be used in a future post!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

hearty vegetable soup

My absolute favorite part about our neighborhood here in Seattle is the year long farmers market. I love to stroll through, smelling the freshly fried doughnuts, scoping out the produce and picking up some $5 bouquets for the apt. Yep, FIVE DOLLARS.

One nice days (aka not this past Sunday) I can take my time perusing and pick up staples as well as some seasonal faves. But when it's downpouring 3 minutes after you walk outside (ahhh, Seattle) then you get in and out as quickly as possible. This weeks mission? Items for soup.

I didn't know exactly what I wanted aside from carrots: I found some rainbow ones that looked beautiful. I also added some potatoes, spinach and a small berry pie (not for the soup) along with some freshly baked brioche buns. Then I hustled home in my hunter boots, soaking wet and ready to cook.

I had a few other staples on hand to add to the meal. The best part about this soup, as with many of the things I cook, is that it's versatile and is SO HARD to mess up. Seriously, tell me if you do.

hearty vegetable soup
5 medium sized carrots, peels and diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 shallot, finely minced
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup of spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup of kale, roughly chopped
5 small potatoes, cubed into bite sized pieces
4 cups of vegetable stock (low sodium if you can find it)
1 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
2 tbsp of carrot tops, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup of pasta (I used small pasta)
2 tbsp butter
parmiggiano rind if you have on one hand, or some grated parm

  • heat the butter on medium high heat in a pot, let it melt slightly then add the carrots, stirring
  • lower heat to medium and let cook for 5 minutes, add celery and season with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • continue to stir and add in garlic and shallots, a bit more salt and pepper and let sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently so they don't burn
  • add vegetable stock, rosemary, parsley, carrot tops, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, parm rind and remaining salt and pepper
  • reduce to low heat and cover for 2-3 hours
  • add in potatoes and let cook for 5 mins on medium-low heat
  • in a separate pot, boil water for pasta
  • cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside
  • remove bay leaf and parm rind, add spinach and kale to soup
  • stir together and let simmer for another 5-8 minutes
  • ladle into bowl and spoon pasta on top along with some more grated cheese

variations: literally any veggie you have on hand, adding chicken, sub in rice for pasta, use double the kale and no spinach or vice versa, spice it up with extra red pepper flakes.

I served this with steak sandwiches on the aforementioned brioche buns and it was the perfect cozy Sunday night dinner. Give it a try!

Monday, November 9, 2015

chocolate chip pumpkin bread with cream cheese frosting

I went to make this bread yesterday and looked through my blog archives - twice - to realize I had never posted it. It's the single pumpkin flavored item I make each fall and I'm pretty excited that I get to share it with you all!

It's adapted from a friends pumpkin bread recipe; I just added the chocolate chips, brown sugar and replaced the crumble (also delicious, I will include) with cream cheese frosting. I used to snack on this bread with cream cheese and then decided to cut out the middle man there.

I made two loaves and then a tray of muffins to freeze for an on-the-go breakfast option with coffee.

chocolate chip pumpkin bread
(makes 12 muffins + 2 mini loaves, 4 mini loaves or 1 standard loaf)
3 cups of flour + 1 tsp flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 16 oz. can of pumpkin
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (optional but highly recommended) 

  • preheat oven to 350
  • toss chocolate chips in 1 tsp flour to coat-this will help them distribute through the bread and not sink to the bottom
  • spray baking cups/loaf pans with cooking spray and lightly flour
  • sift remaining flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
  • in a large bowl, mix pumpkin, brown and white sugar, oil and eggs
  • add flour mixture, stirring in slowly and mix in chocolate chips
  • if using crumble topping, add, distributing evenly
  • bake muffins and mini loaves for 15-20 minutes/until toothpick comes out clean; bake large loaf for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  • remove from baking pan and let cool on cooling rack for at least 20 minutes, frost

cream cheese frosting
1 cup cream cheese
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer, set aside

crumble topping 
(instead of cream cheese frosting)
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp butter, softened

  • mix all ingredients in a bowl by hand until it forms a crumbly texture, set aside

Monday, November 2, 2015

eggplant and zucchini lasagna

Lets all be clear here: I'm a pasta freak. It's in my blood. We ate it six days a week growing up and thats a conservative estimate. But..trying new things, looking for healthy know the drill.

Let me also state that I don't think I've completely perfected this recipe yet. I tried it once with just zucchini, and the second time with eggplant and zucchini and both were tasty, but the consistency and presentation left a little to be desired. So I will share with you my recipe, as well as my suggestions for how to solve those problems. When I get it perfect, trust me, you will know.

eggplant and zucchini lasagna
3 small eggplant (also known as Italian eggplant, the longer skinnier ones) -you can also use one large one
3 medium sized squash or zucchini
1 cup part skim mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup ricotta
1 egg
1 cup tomato sauce (note below)
1 cup bechamel sauce (recipe below)
a handful each of basil and parsley, roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning
cooking spray

  • pre-heat oven to 375 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  • slice the eggplant and zucchini horizontally using a mandolin or some impressive knife skills, about 1/8 inch thickness
tip: I left the skins on for the color, just make sure you wash them well, but you can also peel them
  • place eggplant and zucchini on baking sheet, lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides 
tip: be stingy with the oil--you want the veggies to get a little dry as that will help keep the lasagna from getting soggy
  • let roast for about 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown
  • while cooking, heat/prep your tomato sauce-the trick here is to make the sauce extra thick using tomato paste. a watery sauce will only contribute to a watery lasagna
  • if you are using jarred sauce, simmer it, covered, with extra tomato paste. if you are making your own, drain a bit of the liquid and use more of the tomato chunks, and be generous with the tomato paste
  • combine ricotta, egg, 2/3 cup of the cheese, 2/3 of parsley/basil and salt and pepper in a bowl, stir together and set aside
  • spray a baking pan with cooking spray and spread a little bit of tomato sauce on the bottom, then layer eggplant, bechamel and tomato sauce and dollops of ricotta mixture. use enough of the sauces to cover the layers, but don't over-do it.
  • repeat with squash, alternating the veggies, until you reach the top of the pan
  • layer on remaining ricotta mixture, then sprinkle with the 1/3 cup of mozzarella and basil/parsley you set aside
  • bake, uncovered, until cheese melts and bubbles, about 15 minutes

bechamel sauce
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup fat free milk
1/3 cup cream
salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg

  • whisk together butter and flour until it forms a paste, add milk and cream off the heat and stir in
  • place back on medium low heat and let bubble until it thickens, add seasonings and set aside