Sunday, November 15, 2009

Four-Star Service @ Home

My sister, Dori visited me from Dallas this weekend. She flew in Thursday evening and we booked a hotel at the Grand Hyatt in Denver. Friday morning we went down to the restaurant for breakfast and ordered a few things to share. Lox and bagel and this poached egg dish. It was so good.

On Saturday morning I recreated it. It was pretty damned good if I do say so myself. Even better I think. The dish at the hotel had two spears of asparagus on the side, but I omitted that. You could add it but it would be good if you layered it with the dish.

Diane's Take on the Grand Hyatt Poached Eggs
serves two

4 eggs, fresh
can of chopped tomatoes (I chose fire roasted with garlic)
4-6 small slices of thin sliced ham
fresh basil leaves

Warm your serving plates in the oven at 200 degrees.

Simmer the tomatoes in a sauce pan with a little of the juice from the can. I added some dry herbs like oregano and thyme. Heat the ham in a skillet till warmed through.

Poach the eggs in simmering water. If you add a dash of white vinegar to the water this will help set the egg whites. Poach till you achieve the desired yolk consistency. I like them really runny and the whites soft.

In your warmed serving plates lay a tablespoon of the heated tomato, then the ham slices, then the poached eggs, top with more tomato, and finally tuck in some basil leaves. Enjoy.

This dish is so comforting and delicious but yet not heavy. Who says you have to stay at a four-star hotel to get this type of food? You can do it at home!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good For the Soul

Since I have been sick this past week I have been making soup for days now, and today I changed my method. Today I baked the chicken with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, then cut it up and poured the juice in a pan. I then minced onion and threw it in the pan and turned on the heat. Once the onion was translucent I poured in some vegetable broth that I accidentally grabbed when I grabbed a chicken broth form the pantry. I brought that to a boil and added some shredded carrot (don't like big chunks of carrot in my soup) and some big egg noodles. Yum!

This was probably the best method I've had as I've been boiling the chicken in the broth. Roasting it seemed to improve the chicken taste and texture. Next time though I'm going to roast the vegetables with the chicken.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's good to have an open mind.

This is one of my favorite Korean dishes to eat when drinking beer. In fact I think it's one of every Korean's favorite. What's not to like about it? It's spicy and sweet and tangy and chewy. I love it! What is it you ask?

I had eaten this dish many, many times before really knowing what was in it. My Korean friends always said it was just "seafood." Well, that could mean anything. My last duty station in Korea my friend, Ah Young told me the secret to making this. I finally figured out what was in it I just didn't know the proportions. The main ingredients are fresh veggies (mostly cucumber and onions) and canned sea snails called golbaengi. Don't wince. No gagging allowed until you try it. They are very good.

In fact when my sister, Darcie came a few days earlier than everyone else during the big journey to Korea this summer, she had a taste of it. Of course I didn't tell her what it was. She liked it until I told her what it was. Poor Darcie. She doesn't know what she's missing.

GolBaengi MuChim

1 can sea snails
(you can pick these up at any Korean market. Just ask the Korean ladies who work there. They will be more than happy to help you!)
1 cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 carrot, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin (you can use less onion. I just like a lot)
3-4 green onions, julienne into about 2 inch lengths (I just sliced mine on the diagonal too)
1/2 cup dried cuttle fish, snipped into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces (I used more because I like it)

3 Tbls. Korean red pepper paste (I used 4 because I like mine extra spicy)
1 Tbls. Korean dried red pepper flakes (of course I used more)
1/2 Tbls. soy sauce
2-2 1/2 Tbls. sugar (start out with less and add more to taste)
2-2 1/2 Tbls. cider vinegar (start out with less and more to taste. I added way more because I like the tang)
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. sesame seeds (or more if you would like)

Angel hair pasta, cooked, rinsed in cold water, drained well

Cut the veggies and put in a bowl. Open, rinse well, drain, and chop the snails into bite sized chunks. Don't gross out. They are very good. Snip the dried cuttle fish into bite sized strips. Set aside.

Mix all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the sauce over all other chopped ingredients in bigger bowl. Mix well. Chill overnight if you'd like or eat right away. It tastes better when it sits in the fridge a bit.

Take the angel hair pasta and coil into little bundles on each side of the salad. Mix when ready to eat. Drink copious amounts of any type of beer. Delicious!

I'm eating this for lunch and I made this batch without cucumber. I hate cucumber, but for some reason not having it in my dish makes it taste...not quite right.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Give Me My Daily Bread

I love bread and nothing is better than a slice of warm fresh baked bread with butter. Bread is not very complicated as far as ingredients, but the method is less to be desired for me. All of that kneading and rising and punching down and rising. Well, I tried out this super easy recipe that I heard about on National Public Radio's "The Splendid Table" with Lynn Rosetto Casper.

I was really impressed with how simple it was and anyone could whip up a batch on a Sunday afternoon such as I did. You just let it sit on your counter for several hours then you throw it into your refrigerator. Very easy!

So, this morning while I was sewing a project I took some of my new dough out and shaped it and let it sit for a bit and then baked it. The final word...YUM!

Five-Minute Artisan Bread

1 1/2 Tbls granulated yeast (I used two packets)
1 1/2 Tbls kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting dough (I just used regular white all-purpose)
Cornmeal (this is kind of important to use)

In a large plastic resealable airtight container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm (about 100 degrees) water. Using a large spoon stir in flour, mixing until mixture is uniformly moist with no dry patches. Do not knead. Dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the plastic container. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. I just set the lid on top without sealing it or you can use a clean towel or plastic wrap.

Let dough rise at room temperature, until dough begins to flatten on top or collapse, at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours. At this point dough can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks. How simple right? Cold dough is easier to work with and if you want bread that day put the dough in the refrigerator at least 3 hours. However, the longer you leave the dough in the fridge the flavor will develop and the texture will get better.

When you are ready to bake a loaf (of any size) sprinkle some cornmeal on a pizza peel or a small wooden cutting board will work. The cornmeal is important because it acts like little ball bearings to help slide your loaf into the oven.  Place a broiler pan on bottom rack of oven and place a baking stone on middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees, preheating baking stone for at least 20 minutes.

Sprinkle a little flour on dough and on your hands. Pull dough up, and with a serrated knife, cut off whatever size you want (a grapefruit sized piece is about 1 pound). Working for 30 to 60 seconds (adding flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to your hands; most of the flour will fall off and it is not incorporated into the dough), turn dough in hands, gently stretching surface of dough, rotating ball a quarter-turn as you go, creating a rounded top and a bunched up bottom.

Place shaped dough on your cornmeal prepped pizza peel and let rest, uncovered for 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it in lidded container. Dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in airtight containers and defrosted overnight in refrigerator prior to baking day. Dust dough with flour.

Using a serrated knife, slash top of dough in three parallel, 1/4 inch deep cuts (or in a tic-tac-toe pattern). Slide dough onto preheated baking stone. Pour 1 cup hot tap water into broiler pan and quickly close oven to trap steam. Bake until crust is well-browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

Of course I couldn't wait for the loaf to cool and I sliced off a piece immediately and slathered some butter on it. As the loaf was cooling off a bit you could hear the crust snap and pop like cereal. The crust was so crunchy and the inside texture was soft and perfect. Very, very satisfying.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Man, I love kitchen gadgets...

...especially clever and useful ones that really do what they claim to do.

I was at Bed Bath and Beyond last night and came across these nifty little things. They claimed that you could turn any bag into a container. Well there were three different colors so I bought three (at $ 4.95 each) and I tell you they do work!

I put this one on my fresh bag of coffee beans I bought today at Starbucks then popped it into the fridge when I was done grinding. This thing is ingenious! How many times do you open up a bag of something and you don't use it all or you need to find a container to store it in? I know I do it loads of times. Chocolate chips, coffee, candy, frozen peas...really whatever that is small and "pourable." The lid is only about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. You can't use this for potato chips, but there are a hell of a lot of other things you can use it for. I'm getting some more soon. I just don't have that many things in bags right now. Hmmm...maybe I should run out get more? Ha!

Gotta Love Fried Mac & Cheese!

I'm glad I like leftovers. In fact I love leftovers. Some things just seem to taste better the second (or third and even fourth) time around. Mac & Cheese is wonderful fried. You can either cut it up like I did this one or mix it with an egg and some crumbs (crackers or bread or whatever you have on hand) and throw in some onion or spices and then fry it up in a big non-stick skillet with some butter or oil. Butter is best. Flip it over like a frittata. Be careful not to flip it onto the floor!

I cut a nice healthy (the size of the portion, not the ingredients) piece and then continued to slice that up. Then I heated up some butter in a nice hot skillet and carefully slipped in the sliced mac & cheese.

Let the slices get nice and brown and crunchy (this may take about 3-4 minutes, but be careful not to burn it) and then carefully flip over. You can see the middle piece kind of fell apart, but did that stop me from devouring it? I think not. After all it is what is in the inside that counts and not the outside right?

I served my fried mac & cheese with a veggie burger on white potato bread no less. Go figure! Good thing I went to the gym this morning! Try this out and you will soon find that you will love leftovers too! Mac & cheese leftovers anyway!

The the white things in the little bowl are some super thin sliced onions that I pickled in a little cider vinegar (water and sugar) and left in the fridge overnight. That's a very Minnesotan thing...only minus the cucumbers. Ew. As for the rest of the leftover mac & cheese? I cut them into four remaining squares and froze them. I tell you it is a damned good thing that I love leftovers!

Egg-static For Eggs

What can I say? I love egg sandwiches for breakfast. I actually made it to the gym this morning and feeling pretty good. Went to Starbucks with my new re-usable "paper" coffee cup and bought a pound of beans. Can you believe that I went through all 15 pounds of coffee that my friend, Melissa gave me while we were deployed in 2006? Anyhoo, that's the not the purpose of this post!

Let me introduce you to my little nifty pan that my sister, Darcie gave me. There is this whole line of these little kitchen accessories. Darcie gave me an egg separator too. I need to invest in the tiny egg turner as none of my huge utensils fit in this pan.

Today I made a yummy sandwich with bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and onions. Then I sprinkled a little cheese on it and threw it on my sandwich thin bread. It was divine and now I'm ready for the day!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

This Is Not Your Childhood Mac & Cheese

I love the NPR show "The Splendid Table" with Lynn Rossetto Casper and listen to her live and on podcasts. Well, one episode someone called in about making fried chicken and then they added that they were going to serve it with macaroni and cheese. Lynn immediately told them about this recipe. I was practically drooling in the car!

Today is a little chilly and I thought what's better to have on a chilly Sunday after noon? Mac and cheese! This is a very easy recipe and very adult with three types of cheeses (cheddar, Gruyere and cream cheese) and garlic and onions.

21st Century Mac & Cheese

Serves 4 and doubles easily.

1/2 pound (2 cups ) raw penne pasta, slightly under cooked and drained (I used curly tube pasta)

1 large egg

1 cup milk

1 small clove garlic

3/4 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 generous cup (5 ounces) shredded good quality, extra-sharp cheddar cheese

5 ounces cream cheese, crumbled

2/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese

Generous 1/8 teaspoon each hot red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly ground black pepper

Generous 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

12 saltines, coarsely crumbled (I used whole wheat crackers that I happen to have in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and add cooked macaroni.

In a blender or food processor combine egg, milk, and garlic, and process 3 seconds. Add onion, cheeses, peppers, salt, and paprika, and blend 10 seconds. Turn into dish, folding into macaroni. Casserole could be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point.

To bake, bring casserole close to room temperature. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Coat crackers with butter and spread over top of casserole.

Bake about 20 to 30 minutes, or until thick yet creamy. If top is not golden, slip under broiler for a minute. Remove from oven, let stand about 5 minutes, and serve.

Wow, this was satisfying and very rich. This definately beats anything that comes out of a box and would be a very good side for any occasion!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Lighter Round For Breakfast

Okay, I can admit that I love bread! Bread has gotten such a bad rap too. Not enough fiber, too white, too many carbohydrates...yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm fortunate that I love breads other than super white or super processed wheat. I plan on making my own as I've come across a great recipe to keep the dough in your fridge and you can make a roll or a whole loaf whenever you want. I'll post that in the near future.

For the time being I came across these cute little things called Orowheat Sandwich Thins. They kind of scared me as they look suspiciously like MRE shelf stable bread. I've eaten more of that then I care to admit and the dense crumb of the bread and the Play-Do-like flavor was less to be desired, but when I split open one of these flat little buns I discovered that it was moist and slightly coarse. Each little round contains 100 calories and 5 grams of fiber. That's a lot of fiber packed into a little slice of bread. A normal slice of commercial wheat bread contains 70 calories (and usually you need two slices to make a sandwich) and less than 2 grams of fiber per slice. I don't usually count calories, but as I'm getting older the calories that I consume usually count if that makes any sense. Let's just say my midsection and tush aren't as trim as they used to be!

Anyhoo, Darcie gave me a cute little egg pan a few years ago and it's not very practical. You can make one egg in this 5 inch or so pan. Well, I realized that it was perfect for this little sandwich thin. A perfect fit you might say. Lightly toast the round (don't over due it or you will be sorely disappointed) lightly butter (I used 1/2 tbs Brummel and Brown at 20 calories) , and slap a slice of cheese (I used Havarti at 110 calories per slice) on the egg (70 calories per egg or even less if you use Egg Beaters) while still in the pan then gently slide that bad boy onto the bun. Heaven. A perfect little breakfast sandwich for one at about 300 calories. Compared to a fast food egg and cheese biscuit at a 410-450 calories (and my favorite bagels are over 300 calories each!). I'm finding at near middle age (I'm going to be 110) every calorie (or lack of) counts! Enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mmm, Mmm, Good

What can I say? I love soup. Amy's Organic is my favorite tomato soup. I threw some croutons on top, but some fresh shredded Parmesan would have been even better. That and a grilled cheese sandwich!

Go out and buy some of Amy's soup at your local Whole Foods! Yes, this post is a shameless plug!

Great Party Food

My friend, John invited me to join some of our other friends at a house party. I was in the middle of building my huge bookshelf and thought it would be good to take some time out for myself and some fun. What to bring? I had this old William-Sonoma catalog that I had been meaning to throw out, but only after I wrote down the recipes. There were so many good ones in that issue and I had tried several. This one was one I wanted to try.

The picture above should have mixed greens on the top with goat cheese and oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. I prepped everything when I got to Scott and Renee's. Sorry, I didn't bring my camera! It's actually very pretty and everybody loved them and they tasted sublime. They are very easy and look impressive.

Onion Tarts With Mixed Greens
Serves 8

Savory Tart Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
12 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (1 1/2 sticks)
6 to 7 Tbs ice water

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until pea-size crumbs form. Add the water 1 Tbs. at a time and mix with your hands, adding more water as needed until the dough comes together. It should be moist but not sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide into 2 balls and shape each into a 5-inch disk. Cover separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough disk into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Using a small knife, trim the uneven edges.

Transfer each round to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Use as directed in your tart recipe. Makes enough dough for two 10-inch tarts.

Onion Mixture

2 rolled-out rounds savory tart dough, each 12 inches in diameter
5 Tbs olive oil
4 yellow onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
2 Tbs minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 oz. mixed salad greens (I used an herbal mix, it was delicious)
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Place the dough rounds on separate parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the thyme, parsley and 2 tsp. of the vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Spread half of the onion mixture on each dough round, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the dough up and pinch together at 2-inch intervals. Lightly brush the top of the dough with the beaten egg. Bake the tarts until the crusts are golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the tarts cool for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tsp. vinegar, the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper to form a vinaigrette. Toss half of the vinaigrette with the salad greens, then place the remaining vinaigrette in an oil mister. Top the tarts with the salad, dividing evenly, and sprinkle with the cheese. Mist the salads with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

I'm Back In the Kitchen Again!

When I got home from Korea I was so jet-lagged. My internal clock was way off. Sleeping at a decent local time was basically impossible, and the times I was hungry was usually at midnight!

My first night home I stayed up until about 2 am, and around 11:30 pm or midnight I was ravished. I hadn't shopped at all so I had to dig into my pantry to find something yummy. Well you can't go wrong with lentils. I made the base and then kept eating it (for the next two days) in different variations. I'd add noodles, more jarred tomato sauce, and thin it out for soup. Yum!

Midnight Lentils

1 quart box chicken broth (I use the low sodium)
1/2 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used garlic lovers)
1/2 cup dried lentils (be sure to sort out any stones, rinse and drain)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt to taste (the lentils will absorb the salt so you may want to add more later)

In my small pressure cooker pan I added the chicken broth, sauce, and the lentils and brought it to a boil. I then covered and sealed it and boiled until I achieved the correct pressure. Read your pressure cooker instructions. I just listen for a gentle hiss. After the hiss is audible I then turned the heat down to low and cooked for 20 minutes.

The lentils were creamy and the soup was thick. I mashed some of the lentils up with my potato masher and delve into a huge steaming bowl. Talk about good stuff!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's been a very long time!

I actually cooked tonight! It's been a very long time. I have been so busy and so tired that I haven't taken out much time to cook. I learned how to make a delicious egg dish (on the left). It's steamed and you can add whatever you like to it.

Korean Steamed Egg

2 eggs
1/2 cup water
whatever you would like in the dish (I used sliced red peppers, red pepper powder, black pepper, kosher salt, and a little beef seasoning)

Beat everything together and place in a crock or heat proof bowl. The egg should come up to about half way up in the dish. Place in a pan of boiling water (the water about 1-2 inches from the top of the dish) cover and keep boiling over medium high heat. It'll take about 15-20 minutes and the egg rises to the top of the bowl. You will know when it's done when you press a bit in the middle and it feels spongy.

Serve immediately. The egg will deflate, but it's still very delicious!!