Sunday, July 31, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Coffee Ice Cream

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings selection was supposed to be Olive Oil Orange Bundt Cake. Somehow, I got my dates mixed up. I never actually went back and checked the recipe schedule, I just assumed I knew what this week's pick was. Then, this morning, when I went over to the blogroll to link up, I realized that I had made the wrong recipe! Oops. It was a tasty mistake, though, and now I'll be making the bundt cake on the week that the recipe I did make is scheduled to be on.

So, here's my offering: Coffee Ice Cream! I was really excited about this; I have recently begun to embrace my little home ice cream maker, and I knew this recipe would just have to be wonderful. Coffee, Kahlua, custard base? Count me in!

I decided to reduce this recipe to half the amount, since I was going to have to make it in small batches either way. I only have a half-pint ice cream machine, and it really isn't very powerful, anyway. Plus, I knew only my hubby and me would be eating this; no coffee or booze for the kiddos, of course!

The custard base was very easy to assemble and didn't take very long to make. It required a bit of stirring while on the stove, but otherwise it wasn't labor intensive. The base is cooled down to room temperature, and then set in the refrigerator for a long chill. I made my base the day before we were going to make the ice cream. I think it aged well, because it tasted even better the next day (yes, I know this because I tasted the base after I first made it. Wouldn't you?). I found out after the fact that I had forgotten to reduce the salt measurement by half, so my ice cream did turn out a tad salty. Lucky for us, we like salty/sweet desserts!

I discovered that it's hard to get a decent picture of ice cream for food blogging purposes, so here's my weak attempt at getting a good shot. I think you get the gist; it was very creamy, with a nice solid coffee flavor, and the alcohol really wasn't noticeable at all to us. I would certainly make this again and again! If you'd like to find out what everybody else in the group thought of the bundt cake, check out the blogroll, located here. I'll be making it at the end of August; in the meantime, try the ice cream!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

CEIMB: Chicken Sate with Asian Noodle-Vegetable Salad

It's been two weeks, so it's time for another great Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe! As it turns out, this week's selections mark three great new recipes for the price of one. Danica of Danica's Daily chose for us to make Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce and a Soba Noodle-Vegetable Salad. I was actually quick shocked to discover that I hadn't made any of these dishes yet. Well, I was going to fix that for sure!

First off, we have the Chicken Sate. It's a simple enough recipe. Take your chicken pieces, coat them in a yummy marinade, then thread the pieces onto bamboo skewers and grill until cooked through. A sprinkle of basil (and chopped peanuts, which I didn't use) goes on top, and then you can dip your chicken sticks in the Spicy Peanut Sauce.

The chicken turned out juicy, succulent, and flavorful. It almost didn't need any dipping sauce....almost. The sauce is addictive stuff! I love anything that contains peanut butter, so I knew I would be a fan. However, Ellie adds a couple unique touches to her version of peanut sauce, such as a small amount of curry paste, which make this particular dip unforgettable. It's just spicy enough, just sweet enough, and just tangy enough to be, in my book, perfect. Yum.

The Noodle-Vegetable Salad is great, too, although I did like the chicken and peanut sauce better. For my salad, I chose to use a combination of some skinny brown rice vermicelli that I had left over from a soup I made long ago, and some wide Asian noodles. The latter noodles were similar to a fettuccine noodle, so I thought the two contrasting cuts of pasta would be fun. And it was fun, but a bit confusing. In the future I will definitely stick to just one type of noodle! The salad was very delicious. It was fresh from the chopped herbs, crunchy from the red bell pepper and carrot, and zingy from the Asian dressing. The dressing was the best part of this recipe, no doubt. I will be using this dressing in other salads! I did not follow the directions to the letter here. Ellie says to present the salad in lettuce cups, made from Bibb lettuce leaves. I didn't have any nice lettuce to use for this, so I just served up the salad as is. In my opinion, it worked out just fine.

Thanks to Danica for the excellent picks! Together, it all made for a fantastic Asian meal that my family truly enjoyed. To see if the other CEIMBistas loved it too, check out the blogroll, here. For the Chicken and Peanut Sauce recipes, click over to Food Network's site, here. The Noodle Salad recipe is over there also; click here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crispy Oven Fries and Roasted Summer Squash

Yep, it's another post about side dishes today! These are good ones, I promise you. The first one I'm going to tell you about is the Double-Baked Oven Fries I made the other night. I found this recipe over on Rachael Ray's website. I remember her making oven fries on her show once that were reportedly "crazy crisp," restaurant-quality french fries. Supposedly, you couldn't even tell they were baked instead of fried! I had to make them for myself to find out if this claim was true.

Even though Rachael Ray is not my favorite celebrity chef by any means, I have to admit that this whole concept is very clever. She uses cooling racks on top of the baking sheets, then spreads the potato slices on the racks. This allows for even heating all over the potato, so it doesn't have a chance to get soggy on the bottom. Then, she double-bakes the fries, at two different oven temperatures, with a brief re-toss in oil and spices in between. The fries do become very crispy, golden, and delicious after cooking them this way. I absolutely loved them; my seasoning of choice was Old Bay this time, but you could use virtually anything you particularly like. The only minor gripe I have with these is that you have to eat them right away, or they do eventually turn soggy. It's no biggie if you're making just enough to serve with no leftovers, though!

It's summer again, so of course that means the summer squash is in abundance around these parts. Sometimes, when I'm trying to figure out what to do with all of it, I become overly ambitious, coming up with ideas that are somewhat elaborate or time-consuming. Often, the easiest preparation is also among the most delicious.

This way of roasting squash just could not be simpler. Just toss sliced squash with some sliced onion, then add oil, salt, and pepper. As with the potatoes, any other spice of your choice could be added. Then you roast the veggies for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees, and you have sweet, juicy, tender summer squash that you barely exerted any effort in producing. Not bad for a lazy summer dinner!

Double-Baked Oven Fries
adapted from
makes about 1 1/2 lbs. fries

1 1/2 lbs. medium Idaho potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Old Bay seasoning, to taste (any of your favorite spices can be used)
1-1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with foil, then place an oven-proof cooling rack over the foil on each sheet.

2. If desired, peel the potatoes. Cut each potato into thin fries, lengthwise: the thinner they are, the crispier they will be. Transfer each slice to a large bowl.

3. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and olive oil over the potato slices. Toss well to coat all the slices. Transfer each slice to the cooling racks, taking care to leave space between each.

4. Place the fries in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and increase the heat to 425 degrees. Return the fries to the bowl, and toss again. You may add more seasonings at this point.

5. Return the fries to the baking sheets and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until crisp and brown. Serve immediately.

Roasted Summer Squash
recipe by Bri
makes 1 lb. squash

1 lb. yellow summer squash, ends cut off and thinly sliced into circles
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced into strips
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss squash and onion pieces in the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange vegetables in a baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until veggies are tender and slightly brown. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Tabbouleh and Batata Harra (Spiced Potatoes)

As promised, here is the other half of my Middle Eastern meal from the other night. I figured it would be smart to blog today about the meatless side dishes I served, in honor of Meatless Mondays! I had the pleasure of making a Tabbouleh for the first time for this meal. Although I mostly used Cat Cora's recipe, I did make some changes to her formula.

I want to try her version soon, but I loved this one! Mine was more what you would consider a standard Tabbouleh, with tomatoes and cucumbers and parsley. Cat Cora's swapped out the tomatoes for red grapes, and fresh mint in place of the parsley. Yum! But I happened to have the tomatoes and parsley on hand already, so that is what I went with. It's a very easy side salad to make; the bulgur literally prepares itself once you pour boiling water over top. Once all your veggies are prepped and chopped, everything just gets tossed together with olive oil and lemon juice.

For the Batata Harra, or Lebanese Spiced Potatoes, I had to do a little bit of research. A couple weeks ago, my family ate dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant, and there was a very big menu. I finally opted for a large tasting plate for my entree, but I had my eye on the Batata Harra as well. Since I did not order the potatoes in the end, I decided I would just find out how to make them myself; they sounded too good to pass up! And they were simple and very delicious. They have quite a kick; I used both a fresh jalapeno and cayenne pepper, and you could definitely feel the heat.

My preparation method was different from the recipe I found; I made mine a bit healthier. In the original recipe, the potatoes are deep fried, and then all the aromatics are tossed in more oil. I decided to bake my potato pieces, and then I tossed the aromatics in a much smaller amount of oil. I'm happy to say that my dish still turned out extremely flavorful, and the potatoes were deliciously crispy. I don't know what the restaurant version of these tastes like, but I'll be making these at home again for sure!

adapted from Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist
makes 8 to 10 servings

1 2/3 cups boiling water
1 cup bulgur
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup chopped scallions
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumber (about 1 medium)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted

1. Pour the boiling water over the bulgur in a large bowl and stir just until all the grains are moistened. Cover and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.

2. Pour the oil and lemon juice into the soaked bulgur. Add the scallions, parsley, oregano, tomatoes, and cucumber; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Cover and refrigerate tabbouleh for at least 1 hour so the flavors have a chance to meld. Top with the pine nuts just before serving.

Batata Harra (Lebanese Spiced Potatoes)
adapted from
makes 1 lb. potatoes

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp. fresh lime juice

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the potatoes with some salt and pepper, and 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Spread on a nonstick baking sheet, or a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray, and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the scallion, garlic, jalapeno, cayenne pepper, coriander, salt and pepper. Saute the mixture for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Toss the potatoes in the scallion mixture until well coated. Take the skillet from the heat; stir in the parsley and lime juice. Transfer to a serving dish and serve.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grilled Middle Eastern Turkey Meatballs (Kofte) with Olive and Oregano Hummus

I prepared a meal last week in which every component was delicious enough for me to want to blog all about it. It consisted of a nice Tabbouleh salad, a potato side dish, and these truly yummy Grilled Middle Eastern Turkey Meatballs with some Olive and Oregano Hummus to dip them in. The meatballs and hummus, as well as the tabbouleh, came from Cat Cora's most recent cookbook. I'm loving this book so far!

The hummus comes together in about 5 minutes flat, and it's amazing. I love the addition of salty capers and kalamata olives; you can decrease the amount of salt in the recipe and it still tastes just salty enough. I do my hummus a bit differently than most recipes instruct; I add less olive oil and then I throw in a bit of warm water to thin it out. My hummus still turns out smooth and creamy, but with less fat. I wrote the instructions to reflect my changes.

The meatballs have a really long ingredients list, but most of those ingredients are spices and I feel like they are all vital to the overall flavor of the meatballs. The recipe is very simple; as long as you have all your spice bottles or jars out and lined up when you are ready to assemble these, the prep time flies by. Cat instructs you to make your meatballs long and cylindrical, rather than perfectly round. That's because these meatballs are grilled, rather than fried or baked, and the heat needs to be able to cook the balls evenly from the bottom.

Though my meatballs were pretty spicy (I think because I had only hot paprika, rather than the sweet papriks called for in the recipe, and also because my freshly ground black pepper was a kicker!), they were packed to the brim with great flavors. They taste exotic, but familiar at the same time. With the hummus alongside, the meatballs were a huge hit with hubby and me. I'll blog separately about the Tabbouleh and potatoes, since four recipes in one post is a bit much! But below I am including the meatball and hummus recipes.

Grilled Middle Eastern Turkey Meatballs
adapted from Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist
makes 12-15 meatballs

2 slices wheat sandwich bread, torn into pea-sized pieces
1 lb. ground turkey (dark meat)
1 small red onion, minced or grated
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. pure chile powder (I used pasilla chile powder)
2 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
Nonstick cooking spray, for coating meatballs
Nonfat Greek-style plain yogurt, for dipping (optional)
Olive and Oregano Hummus, for dipping (optional)

1. Preheat a gas grill or indoor grill pan to medium-high heat; allow to heat up for 30 minutes before you plan to cook.

2. Mix the bread, turkey, onion, all the herbs and spices, and salt together in a large mixing bowl with your hands or a wooden spoon. Divide the meat mixture into 12-15 equal portions. Shape each portion into a cylinder. Spray each meatball with a light coating of cooking spray.

3. If using an outdoor grill, cook meatballs over indirect heat; use only one grill burner and cook the meatballs on the opposite side of the grill. If using indoor grill pan, cook meatballs slightly to the side of the heating element.

4. Cook until slightly springy but firm to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with yogurt or hummus on the side.

Olive and Oregano Hummus
adapted from Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist
makes 2 1/2 cups

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup tahini sauce
1 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. warm water
1 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives

1. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except for the oil, water, and olives. Pulse until everything is finely chopped.

2. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil. Slowly add warm water until the hummus is the consistency you like best. Add the olives now and pulse once or twice to chop them, or fold them in separately so they will remain large pieces. The hummus will keep for 1 week, covered, in the fridge.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Blondies

A few weeks ago, I received Iron Chef Cat Cora's latest cookbook, and I was eager to start digging in and making all the wonderful things I've found in there. In a few days I will post about a fabulous dinner we had recently, most components of which came from this book. But since I personally believe that dessert is the best meal of the day, I will be telling you about these Peanut Butter Blondies first!

First of all, a simple bar-cookie-type dessert loaded with peanut butter, and with a surprsingly low butter content? Count me in! I debated making these, or making her peanutter cookies, but I have a feeling those cookies will be making an appearance in my house sooner rather than later! I'm glad I chose these, because they took about a blink of an eye to make.

These are very simple blondies, but sometimes that can be such a good thing. With these, I felt like they turned out just a tad less moist than I would like, but I am guessing that this is because I test-drove a new peanut butter in these. Smucker's now makes a reduced-fat natural peanut butter. Since I have never seen a peanut butter that is both natural and reduced-fat, so I definitely wanted to see if it would work. And while the peanut butter is very tasty and doesn't seem lower in fat at all, I think that it did contribute to the less-than-greasy texture of the blondies. But I'm not complaining about it; I warm up a blondie for a few seconds, pile some ice cream on top, and I'm a happy girl. I made them in my Magic Brownie Pan, so that eliminated the guesswork of slicing these evenly, too. So easy, it's dangerous! There's no excuse not to make them often!

Peanut Butter Blondies
adapted from Cat Cora's Classics With a Twist
makes 12 blondies

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup peanut butter, preferably creamy
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I actually used vegan cane sugar)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. quick oats (Cat used 2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the middle; coat a 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, or line it with parchment or nonstick aluminum foil.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.. Add the vanilla and mix until smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture, beating after each addition, until a smooth dough forms. Spread the dough in the prepared pan and sprinkle with the quick oats.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the blondies cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then cut into 12 rectangles and serve. The blondies will keep for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baked Black Beans with Chorizo

I found this dish in a recent issue of Cooking Light, and I just had to try it. When you see the title, Baked Black Beans with Chorizo, you may think of the traditional baked beans that are served in a red sauce with hot dogs or pork. This, however, is deliciously different.

I've already made this twice; the first batch was promptly inhaled and devoured by hubby and me. It's a simple enough mixture of ingredients: among them, onions, jalapenos, black beans, Spanish chorizo, and cheese. Something happens to this stuff after you mash it up together and bake it, though. Something magical.

Oh, and I used Manchego cheese to top this the first time I made it. It's a hard, Spanish cheese not too different from Parmesan. I especially loved it on there; it formed a great cheesy crust on top and lended a nice salty tang to the dip. But any cheese would be wonderful, I'm sure. It's great, too, because you have the freedom to mash up the beans as much or as little as you'd like, so the dip can be just the texture you want. We left ours with some substance to it, but it was mashed enough that it was very scoopable (and was fantastic with tortilla chips). It's a great appetizer to serve if you're having people over for tacos!

Baked Black Beans with Chorizo
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 6 servings

1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup diced Spanish chorizo
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne pepper)
5 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth (or water)
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped seeded tomato (I omitted)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Manchego cheese (or Monterey Jack)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chorizo; saute for 2 minutes. Remove chorizo from pan. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and jalapeno; saute 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt, cumin, red pepper, and garlic; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly.

2. Stir in broth (or water) and beans; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Mash to desired consistency. Spoon bean mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. Top with chorizo, tomato, and cheese. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Top with green onions.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Peaches and Dream Pie

This weekend's Baked Sunday Mornings selection was another great, summery pie: The Peaches and Dream Pie. Isn't that a fabulous title? Once again, the Baked guys have taken something that is traditional and garden-variety, such as a peach pie, and turned it on its head.

It all starts out with a generous pile of peaches (the recipe gives you the option to use either canned or fresh, but I went fresh because the peaches are peaking right now and they looked fabulous!), diced and spread out in a standard pie crust. Next, you mix up an interesting mix of eggs, honey, sour cream, salt, flour, and dark brown sugar, and pour it all over the peaches in the crust.

Finally, you make up a topping made only of flour, dark brown sugar, and cold butter that is worked into the other ingredients until you have, basically, sand. It is pretty much the same type of topping you would put on top of a crumb or coffee cake, and it is divine. That was the smell that pervaded my house while this pie was baking, and it really made me want to pick at the hard, yummy crust that formed on top of the pie when it came out of the oven. But I resisted, because I was serving this to my husband's family the next day and I didn't want to have to explain why there was a big hole on the top of the pie!

When everything was said and done, this pie baked up beautifully, was very easy to make, and received rave reviews by everybody who tried it. What more could you ask for? Please check out the results of the other members of Baked Sunday Mornings by clicking on the blogroll, here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

MSC: Yogurt-Lemon Cupcakes (With Lemon Curd)

For this month's Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club, we were supposed to make Yogurt-Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam. I say "supposed" to because, in typical fashion, I just had to deviate from the script!

This one was chosen by Jenny of Give Cupcakes, and I was happy to see it on the schedule because, quite honestly, this is one cupcake that I probably would have always overlooked in favor of fancier, flashier cupcakes! The beauty of this cupcake is in its simplicity; there's no special bells or whistles or crazy swirls of frosting here. It's basically just a dense, lemony cupcake that has been cut two times lengthwise and filled with raspberry jam. You can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top if you'd like. And that's it. No frills necessary.

So, what did I do differently from Martha? Well, for starters, I didn't actually have any yogurt, but I did have some sour cream! So I subbed that in for the yogurt, and I think it worked out just fine. In addition, I decided to make mine super-lemony by filling them with a homemade lemon curd, rather than the recommended raspberry jam. I just got a new cookbook for my birthday that I wanted to make something from, and the lemon curd jumped out at me. I figured it would be perfect for this.

Though the lemon curd did turn out a bit runny (which I am sure was a result of me not cooking the curd to a thick enough consistency), it tasted completely wonderful. It was very tart; the curd is sweetened with some agave nectar, and nothing else. I love citrusy desserts, so this one really worked for me. A bit of fresh whipped cream on top would have sent this over the top, but I still enjoyed it. Thanks to Jenny for the pick!

I am sharing the lemon curd recipe below, in case anybody was interested in trying out this combo. The book the recipe is from is Sugarbaby by Gesine Bullock-Prado (Sandra Bullock's sister), and I can't wait to keep making treats from it! Everything looks amazing.

Lemon Curd
adapted from Sugarbaby
makes 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided (from about 3 large lemons)
Zest from the above lemons
1 cup organic agave nectar
6 egg yolks
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. In a heatproof metal bowl, combine the 1/2 cup lemon juice, the agave nectar, and the egg yolks. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining 2 Tbsp. lemon juice until it blooms, or in other words, looks soggy. Set aside.

2. Place the bowl with the egg mixture over a pot of simmering water and whisk until it has thickened enough that it ribbons when you pull out the whisk. Remove from the heat; immediately add in the gelatin mixture and whisk until it is completely melted.

3. Add the butter and the lemon zest, and whisk until fully incorporated. Transfer the curd to a different bowl. Take a piece of plastic wrap that is larger in diameter than the bowl, and place it directly on the surface of the curd. Make sure the plastic touches the entire surface of the exposed curd; otherwise a skin will form. Refrigerate for a few hours until it is completely cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CEIMB: Stir-Fried Chinese Cabbage with Tofu

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly was chosen by my friend Liz of This Chihuahua Wears Pearls (how awesome is the name of her blog?). And for her, I would gladly make pretty much any dish, even one that initially sounded...well, too healthy to be good!

Luckily for us, I was very wrong about that. This dish, Stir-Fried Chinese Cabbage with Tofu, was downright shockingly delicious! I think it had something to do with the preparation of the tofu. Instead of pressing all the liquid out and then simply stir-frying it, as I have done before, this recipe instructs you to marinate the tofu, then bake it in the oven.

While the tofu is baking in the oven, you can assemble the rest of the dish. I pulled out and dusted off my wok, and did a quick fry of the aromatics: ginger and garlic, and I threw in a small red jalapeno I had on hand. Then in went the bok choy (I could only find one large head, as opposed to the 3 small heads the recipe directs you to use) and scallions. Next, you throw in the cooked tofu and some soy sauce diluted in a small amount of water. I reduced the amount of soy sauce ever so slightly; I watch our sodium intake at home and I just thought I could make do with 3 total Tbsp. instead of 4.

The stir-fry is garnished with sesame seeds (I toasted mine for just a couple of minutes in the wok while it was still dry), and I chose to serve mine over brown rice. I am happy to report that this dish is packed with great Asian flavor! The ginger, garlic, and jalapeno gave it a great kick, and the toasted sesame seeds gave it a nice nutty flair. I particularly loved the marinated tofu; I believe I will only be baking my tofu from now on! It was the perfect texture, not crumbly or mushy at all.

I think if I am remembering correctly, Liz is not the biggest fan of tofu. But knowing her, she wanted to try this dish to see if she could learn to love it. I hope you enjoyed this one as much as we did, Liz! Thanks for choosing it; I don't have Ellie's first book and I never would have known about this recipe if you hadn't introduced it to us! For the full recipe and the CEIMB blogroll, click here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Zucchini-Crusted Quiche

So this dish is a good example of a meal that sounded so amazing in my head, so unique and different and interesting, that it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. I was thrilled to be making this quiche and was way too excited about it. Alas, my dreams were dashed.

We got these gorgeous, huge spring onions from my in-laws, and I was itching to use them in something good. Plus, they gave us one huge zucchini to use, and suddenly I remembered something I saw recently. I was able to go to a Taste of Home Cooking School show not long ago, and they made this incredible quiche. Instead of a traditional pie crust, they used a bed of shredded zucchini. How cool is that?

And so, it was settled. I wanted to try that Zucchini-Crusted Quiche for myself, but I would change the filling and make it my own. So I made this beautiful bed of shredded zucchini and sliced spring onion, although I was a bit worried with all the liquid that zucchini can give off. I had set the zucchini in a strainer after shredding it, and I had wrung it out -three times- in a kitchen towel. Still, I was not completely convinced that my zucchini was dry enough by the time I needed to prepare dinner. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

I made this about a day or two after I prepared the Chicken Pepian for CEIMB, so I actually had some leftover pepian sauce to use up. I thought maybe it would be cool to use that sauce as the liquid in the quiche. The original recipe I was using as a model utilized evaporated skim milk for the liquid. I took a risk and threw in the pepian sauce, along with a bit of Mushroom Duxelles for a bit of earthy goodness. I mixed the sauce up with the eggs and egg whites then poured everything into the prepared zucchini "crust."

I used some shredded Muenster cheese on top of the quiche, which gave the finished product a pretty, golden-brown crust on top. This quiche turned out looking amazing and it smelled wonderful, too. I was so hopeful that this was going to work out perfectly.

Well, my luck ran out. As soon as I cut into this quiche to serve it, my heart sank. Underneath the knife was a small puddle of water. Turns out the zucchini wasn't dry enough, after all. It seeped a bunch of liquid while it baked in the oven, and as a result the quiche was sitting in sogginess. We still ate it, and Andy and I agreed that it tasted very, very good. This quiche had so much darn potential! That is why I decided to share this story with you, here. Maybe somebody out there is brave enough to try this, and learn from my mistakes! I think if you had perfectly dry zucchini, this would have been a real showstopper. I will include a guideline recipe below, but of course substitutions and improvisations would be great here!

Zucchini-Crusted Quiche
adapted from allrecipes
makes 4-6 servings

Nonstick cooking spray
1 large zucchini, shredded and drained of all liquid
3 large spring onions (or 6 scallions), sliced
12 oz. liquid (can be evaporated milk, or leftover sauce, etc.)
2 eggs
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 oz. Muenster cheese, shredded or chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Gently press the shredded zucchini and spring onions into the pie plate, covering the entire surface evenly. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the eggs, egg whites, whatever liquid you choose to use, the mustard powder, salt, and pepper. Pour the liquid mixture into the zucchini "crust," making sure it is evenly spread.

3. Scatter the Muenster cheese evenly over the surface of the quiche. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the center is set and a toothpick inserted into the quiche comes out cleanly. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Grilled Baby Peppers (for Wine and Cheese Date Night)

Recently, my husband and I were afforded the blessed, rare opportunity to have a date night. With two little boys and no relatives living close by, we find that our alone time is pretty sparse these days. But the kids were off for a few days with their grandparents, so we decided to have a fun date night where we pretended we were sophisticated and know how to pair wines with cheeses. Silly us!

I went all out for this meal. I was inspired by some meals we have had at restaurants in the St. Louis area, where we always seem to order the assorted cheese plates. What can I say, we love our assorted cheese plates. They usually come with some type of dried fruit, some nuts, some olives, or some cured meats. Well, I figured I would just serve all of these!

We had golden raisins, green grapes, dried cranberries, and dried apricots. We had cashews and marcona almonds. We had a wide assortment of olives that I picked up from the olive bar at Whole Foods (which may be my new favorite section of the store!). We had pita bread, toasted wheat bread, and hummus. We had so much food I was a little overwhelmed by it all!

I went to a fancy cheese store that afternoon, and they were very helpful there. They let me sample pretty much any and every cheese I glanced at. I wanted a good variety, and there was so much to choose from. I settled on a Muenster, some Gouda, some Gruyere, a nice Manchego (which is a hard cheese, like Parmigiano), a bit of Camembert (that was my fave), and some super duper stinky blue cheese called Morbier. To go along with it, I picked up some spicy Spanish chorizo from the same store.

We lined up four different types of wine (two reds, two whites) and tried to pair up the various cheeses with the corresponding wines. In some cases, we were shocked at how beautifully it all worked. In other cases, though, it just didn't work out. We still had a blast trying to figure stuff out. It's not something we're likely to do every day, but it was great for a staying-in date! And I would imagine it was at least marginally less expensive than going out.

Now, because none of my blog entries seems complete without some kind of recipe, I will share with you the absurdly simply recipe for the baby bell peppers I served with this meal. I found it in Food Network Magazine, and it seemed like something that would go well with everything else we had that evening. It's a snap, and so very pretty!

Grilled Baby Peppers
adapted from Food Network Magazine
makes 4 servings

1 lb. baby bell peppers (or quartered full-size peppers)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh mint, to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4-1/2 cup feta, crumbled

1. Preheat a grill pan to high. Toss the peppers with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Throw them on the grill pan and cook for about 10 minutes, turning frequently, until blistered on all sides.

2. Remove the peppers from the grill pan and place on a serving dish. Sprinkle the mint over the peppers, along with the juice of the 1/2 a lemon and the feta. Toss lightly, and serve.