Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Biscotti


One day before Christmas, my mom and her friend Kathy would stay up all night baking. I remember they used to lay clean tablecloths all over the kitchen and living room and every surface would be covered with mexican wedding cakes, chocolate pinwheels, pizzelles, rosettes, oatmeal raisin and thumbprints.

My mom had these tin canisters that she'd line with wax paper, fill to the brim and hide in closets until Christmas parties started. Of course, we all knew the hiding spots. We snuck one at least three times a day. By the time Christmas came, I didn't want to see another cookie for at least a week.

I've never gone to the extreme that my mom has, but I did get into holiday baking a few years ago. The most I made were 3-4 different varieties.

Well, every year it seems there is less time for cookie making, and my list has shrunk accordingly. This biscotti outlasted them all, and it's my favorite treat to give away (and eat by the bag full) for a few reasons...

- Unlike most biscotti I've tasted, this has a buttery flavor and a cookie-like texture
- Biscotti, by nature, is a durable cookie, and seems to have a longer shelf life than its counterparts
- You aren't stuck at the counter rolling out countless dough balls
- The word biscotti means twice baked. I like this recipe because if (when) i'm in a hurry, the cookies taste just fine if they are only baked once! I actually only baked one** of my 8 batches twice this year...shhhh...technically, I guess I make uni-scotti
- This recipe has almond extract....mmmmm...

**I tried a new spin with one batch and added crushed candy canes to the dough (just removed the dried cranberries) and then sprinkled the cut biscotti with more crushed candy canes and baked a second time. Sooooo goood.

~Mangia & We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Lora

Adapted from Epicurious.com

White Chocolate & Cranberry Biscotti
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white

preparationPreheat oven to 350°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, 2 eggs and almond extract in large bowl until well blended. Mix in flour mixture, then dried cranberries. Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each piece into 2 1/2-inch-wide, 9 1/2-inch-long, 1-inch-high log. Transfer both logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush egg white glaze on top and sides of each log.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, 2 eggs and almond extract in large bowl until well blended. Mix in flour mixture, then dried cranberries and choco chips. Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each piece into 2 1/2-inch-wide, 9 1/2-inch-long, 1-inch-high log on baking sheet. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush egg white glaze on top and sides of each log.

Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 35 minutes. Cool completely on sheet on rack. Maintain oven temperature. Transfer logs to work surface. Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same sheet. Bake 10 minutes; turn biscotti over. Bake until just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Transfer biscotti to rack.


Or skip the second baking and do a taste test to see if it's a good texture. ;)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tortilla Snowflakes


I bought this present for my niece, Violet. We flipped through it before wrapping it up and stumbled on these little gems. Clipping tortillas into snowflakes, what a grand idea! I think I will make some small cookie-sized tortillas and turn this into a new Christmas tradition.

Whether you use store bought or homemade, all of your work is mostly done. Just fold the tortilla into quarters and clip shapes on the edges with kitchen shears. Line baking sheets with the number of tortillas you want and brush lightly with melted butter. Sprinkle with colored sugar or raw sugar and bake at 350 until lightly brown. Douse with powdered sugar.

A month or so ago I was looking for a flour tortilla recipe with leaven and read about these on the homesick texan blog. They puffed up a little more than my great-grandma's recipe. Shhhhh. But they were equally as tasty, of course.
And check back for a corn tortilla post soon. Lora bought me a tortilla press!! Think that was her oh-so-subtle way of leaving that task up to me.

Texas Flour Tortillas (adapted from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison)
Ingredients:
Two cups of all-purpose flour (can make them whole wheat by substituting one cup of whole-wheat flour for white flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
3/4 cups of warm milk

Method:
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil.
Slowly add the warm milk.
Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.
Knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft.
Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.
After the dough has rested, break off eight sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes.
After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.
In a dry iron skillet or comal heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done.
Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat.
Can be reheated in a dry iron skillet, over your gas-burner flame or in the oven wrapped in foil.
While you probably won’t have any leftovers, you can store in the fridge tightly wrapped in foil or plastic for a day or so.
Makes eight tortillas.


Mangia
~Tracey

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Soup Stock



Hardly anything is more satisfying (or better smelling) than a big pot of something simmering on your stove. Sauce, stock, soup, stew…

That reminds me.

I saw a commercial this week that really got my goat. It promoted Lean Cuisine's latest brainchild, Market Creations. Have you seen it? It starts of with the sound of a knife chopping against a cutting board and goes on to dismiss the idea of using cooking to de-stress after a long day.

Seriously?!

There is nothing more relaxing for me than cooking. OK, honestly? A massage would probably beat chopping in an arm wrestle… But come on!! Can advertisers dumb up the American public any more?

I think the eras of convenience (enter the 50's and 60's) ruined most American home cooks. Ads shouted at our moms and grandmas, "Hey, you! Yeah, you lady! Don't get stuck in the kitchen a minute longer than you have to! Leave it up to the professionals." Yeah, the guys in lab coats who crafted condensed soups, tv dinners and who now genetically engineer our food. Those professionals.

We all know we are smarter and more capable than any commercial portrays, but we are consistently inundated with messaging that claim otherwise.

Cooking CAN be a stress-reliever and cathartic. Cooking puts you in touch with the ingredients that enter your body. It allows you to care for yourself, and offer nutrition to those you love. And it results in deliciousness! Yes, it can take longer than "a few minutes" (the time-frame Lean Cuisine claims your dinner will be ready), but it probably won't take longer than 30-40 mins.

I made stock for the second time this weekend. It brought me full circle. Creating stock empowers you. It shows you that you can take a raw product and create several delicious, healthy meals with your two hands with no pre-conceived spice packets or powders.

We are all busy, and we all deserve time-savers. But our society has robbed us from one simple truth: We can cook healthy, flavorful meals at home, and they do not take hours to prepare (after the two hours on Saturday afternoon when you simmered your stock, of course :).

It's easy and worth the time. Dare I say, it feeds your soul.

Do you agree? Disagree? I'd really like to know what M&M readers think (use the comment section to post your thoughts).

Well, here's Tracey's recipe if you have (or plan to have) a turkey or chicken carcass hanging around.

Miss out on the turkey remains? Roast a chicken! ;)

~Mangia
Lora


Stock

1 chicken or turkey carcass (don't ya love that word?)
Any veggies you might have roasted with the bird (and reserved)
And/ or some fresh veggies, like: halved onions, celery stalks, carrots, smashed garlic
Herbs. I used dried rosemary, thyme, and sage.
Bay leaves
Peppercorns -0r just some ground black pepper
Healthy sprinkling of salt

Cover everything with water
Bring to a boil
Lower to a simmer and cover
Pour a glass of wine
Put your feet up

After 1 or 2 hours (whenever you feel the broth has a rich color and flavor) turn of heat and let cool

Strain then pour into multiple containers and refrigerate or freeze.

P.S. Since I'm currently obsessed with chipotles in adobo, I added one when I made turkey soup (pictured above) using this soup recipe today. I just used shredded turkey meat instead of meatballs and the homemade stock. The chipotle added the appropriate kick in the pants. Highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Barefoot Onion Rings

Fried food makes me weak in the knees. My willpower hides around the corner when it sees a french fry coming. Don’t even ask me what happens when a plate of calamari hits the table. It's weird that I've never fried anything at home before a few weeks ago.

So what was the catalyst for our foray into the crispy unknown?

I'm so glad you asked.

When we moved in January, Rich and I decided to just get basic cable. My beloved Food Network was the only part of this decision that gave me pause. I could literally watch Tyler, Bobby and Giada cook for hours. Ok, I watch Giada on mute. Her random "authentic" Italian pronunciations make me crazier than when people say "EXpresso".

In case you where wondering, I haven't picked up knitting or mending to fill my time now that food tv isn't readily accessible. I have, however, picked up my unbelievable obsession for food blogs. So it's safe to say that I'm still wasting the same amount of time. But at least now I'm reading, right!?!?

Rich recently came across a few Barefoot Contessa episodes on hulu and we jumped at the chance to sloth and drool for a few hours. Ina Garten is of course the queen of all things fabulous and fantastic. During one of the episodes she made FABULOUS (said in her posh, Hampton-esque way) steak with sides.

Crispy, sweet, salty onion rings were on the list of sides. She soaked them in buttermilk and encrusted them with cornmeal. They looked ridiculously delicious, and it didn't even hit me that these beauties were attainable at home until Rich said, "We are so making those tomorrow." What? We don't have a frier. Fry something? We can’t make THOSE! We don't have the right "stuff"!

Truthfully, all I needed; vegetable oil (check), vidalia onions (check), cornmeal ( check), a deep pot for the oil (check) where all in my kitchen! Wow, we can totally do this!! I felt empowered.

Now? I'm feeling very frightened...

These little babies are only 30 minutes away...

Mangia~

Lora


Ingredients

  • 2 large Spanish onions (or 3 yellow onions)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (medium) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 quart vegetable oil (I think we used far less than a quart)

Directions

Peel the onions, slice them 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and separate them into rings. Combine the buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings, toss well, and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (The onion rings can sit in the buttermilk for a few hours.) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

When you're ready to fry the onion rings, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a large pot or Dutch oven. (A candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot will help you maintain the proper temperature.) Working in batches, lift some onions out of the buttermilk and dredge them in the flour mixture. Drop into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown, turning them once with tongs. Don't crowd them! Place the finished onion rings on the baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the next batch. Continue frying the onion rings and placing them in the warm oven until all the onions are fried. They will remaincrisp in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Source: Food Network, Ina Garten

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicken Mole

Mole, pronounced 'moh-lay', is elusive. The concept varies greatly from recipe to recipe. Some cooks pride themselves in the literal days of preparation for this deep, rich, and traditional sauce, but there are plenty of quicker versions for us normal people. I mean, really.

Traditionally, the dark color of the sauce comes from the charred remains of burned chiles and unsweetened chocolate. The complexity of the flavor comes from the variety of ingredients, sometimes 20 or more. There is a deep family history behind many mole recipes, each one different to one degree or another. The most common ingredients in the recipes I have found are chiles, spices, chocolate, nuts, and tomatoes. Catch your interest yet? Well, I promise this won't take you three days, and it's a tortilla-sopper-upper.

I remember first tasting my Little Grandma's mole when we were quite young. I was thrilled to hear we were having chocolate on our chicken that night! All I remember of the taste is being disappointed that it wasn't more like hershey's syrup. Crazy kids. If only I had known what a treasure it was eating such a dish from her hands. Luckily, Abel likes this version and ate up most of his helping before declaring it "a bit too spicy." I thought it was perfect.

Here were our mole results:

First night with rice…


Second night in enchilada form, even better…

We trucked the leftovers to Lora's and created these oh so yummy enchiladas together. And thanks to our dear friend Zaida for the cilantro and lime cabbage recipe!


Recipe adapted from J.M. Hirsch, Food Editor of The Associated Press

Chicken Mole

2 T canola or vegetable oil
1 chipotle chile in adobo (canned), chopped; taste for heat after simmering
½ tsp mexican chili powder
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 T cocoa powder
½ tsp each ground cinnamon and red pepper flakes
¼ tsp each ground cloves and ground black pepper
1 cup smooth almond butter
1.5 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
salt to taste
1 slice soft bread or tortilla cut into small pieces
1.5 lbs chicken (breast or thigh) cut into ½" chunks

In dutch oven type pot over medium-high heat:
Combine oil, chile, onion, garlic, cocoa, and spices. Saute for 5 min.
Add the almond butter and mix until it melts.
Add the tomatoes, broth, salt and bread; bring to a simmer.
Add the chicken and return to a simmer.
Cover the pot and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

If using the entire pot of mole it would probably make close to 20 enchiladas. We rolled a small amount of the mole sauce with sauteed onion, grated parmesan cheese, sharp cheddar/Colby jack mixed into a flour tortilla. Line in edged baking tray and top with excess sauce and cheese. Bake at 350°F for 15–20 min, or until heated through.

Top with shredded cabbage and chopped cilantro, tossed together with fresh lime juice.

Mangia~

Tracey

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Guest Post: Tomato Basil Bisque

Ladies and Juggamen (Sorry, that's how Vi says it. I couldn't resist), I give you M&M's first ever guest post!

This post is from my lovely friend, Erin. She's a sassy redhead (okay, it's really auburn), with a heart of gold. She's also a SUPERB cook, and bakes like a pro (as well as excessively modest, as you will see in a moment). She and I share a love of all things foodie, and we have fantasized about starting a supper club on several occasions. Maybe, one day, Erin. Maybe.

I'm so glad she's sharing this recipe. We've eaten it, and I think it's not only a winner, but it's one for the weekly recipe planner. If I may be so bold as to suggest a grilled cheese sandwich to accompany it...

Everyone, I give you, ERIN:

Hi Everyone! I met Lora I can’t remember when (is that bad?), but I know that it was at church many moons ago (2006? 2007?). We clicked pretty much from the beginning, and a friendship full of laughter began. (Awww....) I think Lora’s one of the best people around, and I’m envious of her mad culinary skills.

I am by no means the best cook in the world. The extent of my technical knowledge pretty much amounts to knowing what chiffonade means, and I know what a stiff peak looks like when you’re beating egg whites. But, I love it. I love creating something with my hands that can bless someone else or make my husband say, “You should really make this again.” Especially in the fall, I love being in my kitchen, baking and cooking and filling the house with warm, inviting smells that just feel like a giant hug. To me, there’s almost no better feeling than having friends over for dinner and talking and laughing and living while sharing a meal. Memories can be made at the dinner table, people! Likewise, cooking with others...it’s so much fun for me to share cooking with friends and my mom and sisters.

My mom taught me to cook when I was young and so most of the things I make that are “specialties” are really rip-offs of things she would make. I also, gasp!, don’t like to measure. Unfortunately, this means that when I create something that mightalmostcouldquitepossiblybe original, I guess at the amounts for when I want to re-create it. This recipe, however, is the exception. My mom found it when she was sick one day and asked me to make it for her. I have since made it many, many, many times, and my 18-month old will eat this up every time I make it.

You can make it as healthy as you like, but let’s be real. Who doesn't love using real cream when the opportunity presents itself? Like when making truffles...mmm...truffles. Oh wait, this is a soup recipe.

So, bon appetit!

Tomato Basil Bisque
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 tbsp. butter
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 a small can, essentially)
1 tsp. dried basil 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup half-and-half (ahem, HEAVY CREAM)
4 tsp. sugar (I don’t add that much because I find it makes the soup too sweet for my taste, but add as much or little as you want. You will want to add some sugar though, to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.)

In a large saucepan, saute your veggies (including garlic) in the butter till tender (not brown). You will want them pretty tender. Add the tomato juice, broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and spices, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or till slightly thickened. *Now, here’s the slightly tricky part...and as complicated as the recipe gets.* Puree till smooth. If you do not have a handheld blender/immersion blender, tell your loved ones you MUST have one for Christmas, and then pull your food processor or blender down. Only puree HALF of the soup at a time and then return to the cooking pot. If you have a handheld blender, plug that baby in and start stirring away right there in the pot. (Turn the heat off.) Once your soup is pureed (it probably won’t be perfectly smooth and that is okay), stir in the half/half (HEAVY CREAM) and sugar. Heat your soup through and voila! You have made bisque! Pat yourself on the back, reach for a glass of wine and enjoy. I have topped this with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. Both are unnecessary, but add tastiness. Also, feel free to serve this with a salad and crusty bread and you will have a meal that will impress. :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Night



Before we headed out yesterday to stuff our molars and gullets with refined sugar and chocolate, we ate vegetables. Yes, I HAVE turned into my mother. Although, I don't think my mom was so cruel as to serve us swiss chard and spinach salad before trick-or-treating. I remember warm soups and stews. Turns out I'm not as nice as my mom.

Halloween coincided with the collection of our last share of harvest from Mud Creek Farms (sniff). The last haul brought us a rainbow of swiss chard, yellow cauliflower, tender spinach, and celeriac root. My mom and Tracey were here, and we worked every single one of 'em into our menu: roasted veggies, spinach salad with apples and penne with swiss chard and cider.

I was placed in charge of the chard. What to do...
I've eaten it before but never prepared it before this fall. The last time I prepared it, I served it over mashed potatoes. We knew we had to incorporate pasta into the deal somehow since Poppa G was here. So that's where the penne came in.

Now, I'm convinced the organic methods used by Mud Creek produce the best tasting vegetables I've ever eaten. This swiss chard was so fresh and delicate tasting it could have been a salad green! It did present some bitterness though, so to be sure the kiddies would gobble it up I added some cider to the mix.

Mangia~
Lora

P.S. I also promised Karie that I would share this recipe I used for the Jalapeno Popper dip I made for a Halloween party this weekend. It's soooooooooo bad (bad meaning good).


Penne with Swiss Chard and Cider

A large bunch of swiss chard (about the size of the bunch above)
1 lb penne
1 largish glug of olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup apple cider (maybe more if you are using store-bought chard? just taste as you go and if you need the bitterness cut more, add another splash)
pinch red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste
Generous handful of Parm cheese (although my mom and I agreed that crumbled goat cheese would be even better)

Put pot on to boil for pasta.
Glug olive oil into a deep, saute pan.
Add minced garlic and turn on the heat to low-med.
Let the garlic bubble away for a few minutes until the scent fills your kitchen (or the deepest corners of your bedroom closets, like at my grandma's house).
While the garlic is getting toasty, tear the chard away from the stem and begin to toss bite-size pieces into the pan.
Mix to incorporate with oil and garlic as you go.
Add 1 cup of stock, cider and turn up the heat to med-high. Cook until wilted and tender and then turn down to low. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flake to taste and simmer for a minute more (this is when you would add more stock if you need it. This IS the sauce for the pasta so it needs to have some looseness to it).
When pasta is cooked, add to the pan and simmer together until ready to serve.
Add cheese and mix and then sprinkle more on top.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One-Pan "Stuffed" Cabbage with Mashed Potatoes


This recipe makes plenty of leftovers, which is good because you will want to eat it for days on end! I do, at least. You could also make it for a larger crowd, if you feel like sharing.

I have been craving Grandma Millie's stuffed cabbage rolls, or pigs-in-the-blanket, as we call them. I heard a rumor that she made some last week and they are patiently waiting in the freezer for me to pick them up! Well, I am extremely excited about that, but it got me thinking about them even more. So until I get a chance to make the 3-hour round trip, we came up with this one-pan version of the flavor I was craving. Our mom used to do the same when we were little since it is such a time-saver but every bit as delicious.

And you ALWAYS have to have mashed potatoes with stuffed cabbage. It's a rule.
After a friend tasted this she called it, "The perfect Irish meets Italian collision!"

Mangia,
Tracey

Cabbage
1 leek or med onion diced
2 large cloves garlic diced
2 large carrots chopped
1 rib celery chopped
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 lb mild italian sausage (or ground beef, if you prefer)
2 cups cleaned and cut baby bella mushrooms
1 small can tomato paste
1- 15 oz can diced tomatoes- undrained
salt, lots of black pepper
1 heaping teaspoon of sugar
1.5 small heads of green cabbage chopped in quarters and then strips
2 - 3 cups chicken broth, I like it with extra sauce which would be more toward 3+ cups
1 apple chopped

Saute leek, garlic, carrot, and celery in butter/olive oil in large deep pan over medium heat. Cook for a few min and then add sausage and when it is almost brown add the mushrooms. Stir in the tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Turn heat up to med/high and add most of the chicken broth. Once it's at a boil, add the cabbage, half at a time if you need to make room in the pan. Bring to a boil, turn to med heat, cover and let cook for 15+ min in order for cabbage to cook down. If you have time, you could cook on simmer for up to an hour, but who really wants to wait that long? Season with salt and lots of fresh black pepper, and stir occasionally. Top with parmesan cheese if desired.

Potatoes
5 lbs russet potatoes peeled and cut
3 T butter
salt
1 c milk or half/half + a little more if needed
Cook potatoes in large pot, cover with 2-3 inches of cold water. Heat with cover on until tender and can be smashed easily with a fork. Drain thoroughly and add butter and milk. Mash with hand masher or mixer until smooth. Add more milk if necessary. Season to taste.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall Fare


We obviously took the rest of the summer off! But we are back in full swing.

Tracey and I were lucky enough to come into a farm-share in September. Every Monday, one of us treks out to Mud Creek Farm in Victor, NY, where we select a specified amount of fresh, organic produce from the previous week's harvest.

Recently, this has meant beets, carrots, garlic, onions, salad greens, swiss chard, and delicata squash. I've never cooked beets or delicata. Which makes me sad that I've missed out on these lovely vegetables for so many years. I think I'm making up for lost time.

I thought I'd share this recipe for beet salad that was inspired by a restaurant salad I had recently (and allowed me to use my excessive amounts of salad greens), and I'm sharing a picture of meatball soup. I posted the recipe a while back, but never added an image. I included the delicata squash and tons of fresh thyme this time round. I cooked the squash in a pat of butter separate from the other veg in the soup because I was afraid it will fall apart otherwise. It was a lovely addition.

Cheers to all things fall!

~Mangia

Lora

Roasted Beet Salad

Generous handful of salad greens for each person
Pecans (toasted if you have time)
Heirloom tomatoes (if you have any)
Crumbled blue cheese
Roasted beets (peel and chop 5 med beets, drizzle with evoo, s & p. roast at 400 for 30-40 mins - or until the are carmalized and soft. Let cool slightly)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Smoked Gouda, Bacon, and Spinach Quiche

I've been wanting to make quiche for a few weeks. And then a friend had a baby and gave me an excuse! I don't know why baby=quiche. But it works.

Mom makes sheets of quiche. She always has been good at making a lot of something that takes time, so that we can reap the benefits for more than one meal. I personally don't like the idea of rolling out a cookie sheet sized piece of pie crust. ;)

This one is savory and a good blend of egg and cream. I didn't have the right amount of half and half but I had heavy cream! So adjusted amounts of liquid are accounted for below. And if you have time to par bake the crust, I recommend it. Makes for a flakier version.

Pastry:
I usually make a 2 crust recipe no matter what I am making and either use it for a deep dish version or save the second portion:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 c plus 2 T shortening
4-6 T ice cold water

Pre-heat over to 425.
Mix flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour mixture until pea sized crumbs form, Add water one T at a time and toss with a fork until mixture can shape into a ball. Cut in half for two crusts.
Line 9+ inch pie plate, set in refrigerator for 10-15 min, and then place a piece of foil over the crust and fill with rice or uncooked beans. Bake at 425 for 10 min, remove foil, bake another 5 min. Let cool.

Filling:
4-6 strips bacon, cooked for 5 min, chopped
4 oz smoked gouda shredded
small handful of baby spinach chopped
Put these on the bottom of the baked crust.
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs
salt, pepper

Whisk together cream, milk, and eggs. Add salt and pepper. Cover the other fillings with this mixture. Bake for 50-55 min, until knife comes out clean. Cover edges during baking if browning too fast.

Mangia~

Tracey

Campfire Meals

When camping, sometimes, it's nice to eat hotdogs. Because part of being on vacation is not having to work.

But sometimes it's also nice to eat a hot, tasty, and hearty meal, while sitting by the fire. Those can be easy too! Always good to have a simple plan for some potential meals and then wing it. Keeping hotdogs tucked in the cooler for those lazier nights.

Shawnie is the queen of delectable meals while camping. Several years back we had a full thanksgiving dinner, campfire side, thanks to her genius. Pies (pre-made) and fried turkey to boot! The bears thought the turkey was a great idea too. But that's a whole other story.

This is one meal we came up with last week during vacation and it was the best variation yet. Great way to cook and eat leftover scraps or purposeful things without much cleanup. Any meat, potatoes and veggies would work and you don't really have to be camping to try it. It works well that everyone can put in as much of the options as they choose.

We just was cut up left over mushrooms, red onion, sweet corn, and the last few potatoes. Added some apple-chicken sausage…

Laid it out on some cooking spray coated heavy duty foil (oh, and put a few dabs of butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder on it)…

Then we made little pouches and set them on some hot coals for about 25 min with a few shakes here and there (we left a small gap at the top of each pouch for steam ventilation)…

Ohhh, and they were tasty!

We've done this on previous camping trips with large foil packs of zucchini, yellow squash, and tons of fresh garlic. And the old-stand-by of potatoes, onions, and peppers.

If interested in more camping ideas…

Homemade Mac-n-Cheese: making a cheese sauce takes little time and if you bring a pot big enough to boil some pasta, voila! Just keep the fire at a consistent temperature.

Rice and Bean Burritos: we like to use Goya rice/bean mixes. I think the black bean one is best, and either make it ahead or right on the fire. Stuff a large tortilla with that and some shredded cheese and canned refried beans and wrap it in foil. Put it on the coals long enough to heat it through. This is a great tasting meal!

Ramen Noodles: these don't have to be just boring college food. After a long hike last week, we made up a few packs of these noodles. But we only used part of the included seasoning, preferring our own flavor combination: a can of diced tomatoes, slabs of cheddar cheese, lots of black pepper, and tuna.

Magia~

Tracey

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Simple Meals - A Flavorful Life


I've learned many things from my Grandpa Romero. Perhaps the most important is truly valuing the simple things life has to offer; family, friends and good food. Thankfully, he's been surrounded by all three throughout his life.

His food memories are vivid and shared with passion.
Whether it's bringing to life a bowl of oatmeal from his childhood (topped with salt and butter), a roasted chicken from his Mother's kitchen, raw clams from a family reunion, or describing in detail the hearty lunches my grandmother prepared for him while working at the steel mill, his stories bring you back to a point in time when particular foods (and the people who prepared them) brought flavor to his life.

This ability to tie fond food memories to feelings of being cared for, loved and celebrated, allows him to appreciate flavor over lavish ingredients, simplicity over complexity.
It isn't uncommon for my Grandpa to sit down to a PLATTER of corn for a mid-August dinner. He will eat corn - only corn. Because it's what is good and flavorful. Why fill up on chicken, when you can eat chicken any other night of the year? And he doesn't lather it with butter. He thinks it muddles the sweet flavor. I think he's right.

He has also been known to skip dinner on a hot summer night and treat himself to not one, but TWO black raspberry ice cream cones. Because black raspberry ice cream is delicious, and it tastes best eaten outside when you need to compete with the heat to consume it. He likes vanilla as well, or maple walnut if he's feeling sassy. "Who dropped a candy bar in my ice cream?" he exclaims with a sly grin when presented with any other flavor. A purist? Yes. Picky? Possibly.

This is also the man (along with my parents and grandmother) who introduced my sisters and me to the "indoor picnic". Many holidays - long, laborious hours in the kitchen were traded for an extensive list of cheeses, sausages, produce, and artisan breads to be grazed for hours. (How very ancient Rome of us... ;)

Many cooks today are famous for doing what both my grandparents just inherently know...cook good food, with great ingredients, and you'll produce satisfying meals that family and friends can build memories around.

This summer meal was inspired by in-season vegetables, on-hand ingredients and by my Grandpa, lover of all things simple and delicious.

Easy Summer Dinner
Scrambled Eggs (with fresh herbs):
5 large eggs
Dash of cream
Tiny pinch of salt
Tiny dash of garlic powder
Scattering of fresh herbs
Whisk together and cook on med heat in frying pan with 1 tbsp butter - slowly scrapping down pan until desired texture.

Fresh tomatoes, sprinkled with salt, fresh herbs and vinaigrette

Corn on the cob cooked in boiling water with a tablespoon of sugar (approx 10 mins)

Fresh bread - the best you can get your hands on

Mangia~
Lora


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Burrito Bowls


My parents hosted a sleepover for the grandkids last weekend, which meant I was on my own for lunch on Sunday (Rich was very busy watching the British Open)! I had heard rumblings that the new burrito bar at Wegmans was worthwhile so I gave it a whirl.

Ultimately, it was a lack-luster lunch. ;(

I had such high hopes. I ordered the burrito bowl thinking it would be a nice new twist on an old favorite (basically, all of the traditionally burrito fillings layered in a bowl, sans tortilla). But their beans had no flavor, their rice was boring, and the cilantro portion was far too tiny. Each bite I hoped would be better than the last. I was disappointed every time.

The recurring thought running through my mind as I ate: "I could make a much better burrito bowl!" So that was the challenge of the day. I called my mom and asked them to stay for dinner (and to be my official taste-testers) and got to work (and yes, I ate two burrito bowls in one day). No new recipes for this post (it is a great meal to use up leftovers!) I made arroz verde (tweaked it a bit this time, adding more cilantro, half of a raw poblano, and some chicken broth for more flavor), frijoles (refried beans), grilled peppers, added shredded cheese, corn, shredded chicken, poblanos, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro (of course!). My mom WILL NOT stop talking about this dinner. ;) That's always a great sign that you've had a successful dish.


Mangia~

Lora

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grilled Portabellos

I love to grill (or I should say, I love when Rich grills). It takes me back to those hot summer days, so long ago. We'd spend most of the day in the pool (after finishing our laundry list of chores, of course!), and we'd see Daddio fire up the grill and mom begin passing him things through the kitchen window. We knew something good was in the works. Cooking outside, over coals, adds so much flavor to food and to the evening.

I like the idea of filling a mushroom with food and then grilling it. Not only do you get the great taste of the mushroom and the grill, but you have the natural benefit of portion control! We grilled these mushrooms (first cleaned, then brushed with oil, S & P), then stuffed them with everything we love (sauteed sausage, tomatoes, spinach, basil and fresh mozzarella - do I sense an Italian themed dish?!), and then grilled them again for a minute of two.

You really could fill them with anything. Make them with more traditionally Mexican ingredients (arroz verde and chorizo, perhaps!), or grill a plethora of veggies, chopped and tossed with a vinaigrette for a vegetarian version. Very versatile, very satisfying, very summer.

Mangia~

Lora

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Arroz Verde


On a recent trip to NYC, Tracey and I strolled through the West Village while we waited for Nan to get out of work. After walking 40+ blocks we were getting a bit hungry so we began a restaurant hunt. Of course, we hoped that we would discover a Mexican restaurant amongst the sea of potential targets. We got soooo lucky. We turned a corner in the Meat Packing District, and there before us stood a wonderful looking restaurant. There was Mexican music playing and tables outside to enjoy the beautiful night. Ofrenda did not disappoint. We opted for ordering a few apps and sides instead of entrees. This turned out to be a great choice because the food was superb and this way we were able to try many different things.

We started with some fresh chips with frijoles and guacamole. Both were pureed to a smooth, delicate texture. Out. of. this. world. We spent the entire time discussing how we would execute such deliciousness. Next came grilled zucchini with chili sauce, plantains with manchego cheese, pickled jalapeno quesadillas and a pile of arroz verde.
Stop my beating heart.
Rice enveloped in cilantro laden sauce!!!?!?! With lime!??! How did we not know about this sooner?!?! I think we slightly embarrassed ourselves with our over-exuberance for this rice (Tracey was a little less subtle when she stood on her chair and yelled "FIESTA!!" at the top of her voice).

We vowed to find a recipe when we got home.

Little did I know the recipe would find me! A food blog that I read faithfully put up a post for cilantro rice recently and I knew it was a gift from the good Lord, himself.

I made the rice last week for dinner, along with the grilled chicken, frijoles and sliced tomatoes pictured here. Nice dinner. Terrific rice. Since I made the rice I've been reading even more recipes for arroz verde, and this is going to be the next attempt. I feel like I've been given a gift, so I need to share this gift with you. If you like (LOVE) cilantro, make this rice and fight the urge to cry from the sheer joy and happiness it brings.

Mangia~

Lora

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Veggies

How likely is it that twins might buy the same thing on the same day at the grocery store? Very. Lora and I were planning a quick cookout last week on a beautiful night before one of Abel's last tee ball games. We both bought chicken. But, not just any chicken. Wegmans organic thighs and drumsticks. And let me tell ya, they are the perfect thing for grilling. And you can even marinade them in the packaging and not dirty a dish. Throw those on the grill for a couple min on each side for the thighs and some veggies and you have a great, fast meal.

Chop it all up and toss with some couscous, feta, and basil. Dinner is served!

Mangia~

Tracey

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer is On


A nice fresh meal out on the veranda. Or out in a small city backyard at a picnic table. Either way, good food.
I love how summer time automatically means lighter and fresher food. That usually translates into less prep time. These steak pinwheels are juicy and flavorful, thanks to bacon. Guess that isn't so light. The tomato, avocado, peach, and basil bits are though! Just drizzle with a little olive oil and salt/pepper.
We have been trying to use small plates at meals for a while now. It really is amazing how much less food per portion we eat when we do that. This is a perfect small plate meal.
Our tomatoes, peas, basil, rosemary, chives, and zucchini, are all growing up now, hopefully a summer meal will include some more of those soon!

Steak Pinwheels

Beef Round sliced thin or hammered
Sliced bacon laid on top
Spinach on top of that (frozen or fresh works fine)
Parmesan cheese (go heavy)
Salt and Pepper
Roll up and pierce with wet toothpicks before grilling
Drizzle olive oil over prior too
Grill for several minutes per side.

Mangia~

Tracey

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Greek Feast

This menu was born from a craving for greek olives and feta cheese. It couldn't be simpler.

Mangia!
Lora

Lemon chicken:

1 lb organic chicken thighs
Sprinkle with:
Salt and Pepper
Juice of one lemon
Let marinate for one hour (if time allows).
Grill until crispy, yet still moist (grill a lemon, peppers, and any other veggie you have on hand - tossed with olive oil and S/P first).

Fettuccine
:
Place a few heavy drizzles of olive oil in a cold skillet
Add three minced garlic cloves
Warm until the scent of garlic fills your kitchen and then shut off the heat
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a boil.
Cook 8oz of fresh pasta (we used Wegmans brand) according to package directions.
Once pasta is cooked, add to olive oil. Add chopped greek olives, a large sprinkling of feta cheese and chopped scallions.

Hummus was adapted from this recipe.

Cookies n' Cream Cupcakes

My mom taught us well; Oreos are some of the best stuff on earth, and cookies n' cream ice cream (with oreos) is the king of ALL ice cream flavors. When I saw this recipe that included a creamy vanilla cupcake, oreos AND cream cheese frosting (for another post) I knew it was unknowingly created for me and my family. I've attempted homemade cake batter a few times in the past and it's always come out like cornbread. I've never come even close to a cake Gram Austin made for me and Tracey so many years ago. (Tracey's grandma-in-law is one of the best homemade cake bakers I've ever met. Don't worry Mommasita, you're still the queen of all birthday cakes and all things pie. Although, a bake-off would be interesting...and 'd happily volunteer to be a taste tester. ;) So...this vanilla cake batter is delicious and would actually be quite wonderful alone. But what ISN'T better with oreos? They are like the bacon of the dessert world.

If you have a free afternoon...please make these cupcakes, and PLEASE share them with me.

Mangia~

Lora

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ginger Black Beans and Rice



If you have listened to Dave Ramsey, the finance wizard, then you know his mantra, "beans and rice, rice and beans!" He's right. It's a cheap combo. Especially if you soak your own beans, but I rarely have the forethought for that to happen.

Rice cookers are beautiful things. I like to cook an extra cup so we have some leftovers for the next night's dessert (my mom's speciality!). Cold rice, milk, cinnamon, and a little honey makes for a good one.

This recipe was born from the ginger. I bought some and it sat on our table for a couple of days before I had a chance to think about it much. I really wanted something gingery and we didn't have much in the way of other groceries and that is where beans and rice always come through! Though this had just the right flavor and spice to seem much more yummy than plain old rice and beans. A winner every time.





1 large onion chopped
2 large cloves garlic smashed and chopped
1 heaping T chopped fresh ginger (or more if you like)
4 T olive oil
2 cans black beans rinsed
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 t curry
1/2 t cumin
1 small can chicken broth
1 tomato chopped 1/2 or more Romano cheese

Saute onion, garlic, and ginger with olive oil, add beans and seasonings, then broth and cheese, simmer until heated through and beans are soft. Either mix with cooked rice in pan or on top rice.

Salad:
Spring Mix, cucumbers, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper.


Mangia~

Tracey

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Linguica with Roasted Carrots and Noodles



Our Grandpa is the sausage guy, he knows all of the best butcher shops to pick up the most flavorful links. He simmers it to perfection and piles on the thinly sliced onions and peppers. Or adds some to my Grams perfect red sauce, or in soups, or with any meal really. We eat a lot of sausage and we like all kinds.

Chorizo is a great sausage made with pork, spices, and peppers. There are many versions and different styles depending on the country from where it originates. I was looking to get some chorizo the other day to make with eggs and saw linguica sausage instead. It said "A Portuguese Sausage, milder than chorizo" on the package. Hmmmm, sounds kid friendly, I'll take it. Many chorizo sausages get pretty spicy. And. I forgot to get eggs so...

No matter our or your opinion of Rachel Ray, she makes some dang good food. She had a sausagey noodly dish in her last edition and I plugged in the ingredients I had which were not the ones she had. But it gave me the idea for roasting the sausage with the other stuff and that also provides the sauce base you just mix with a little pasta water. Delish.



Cook 3/4 lb of desired pasta

Toss with a little olive oil and pepper:
1 lb fresh or cured linguica or any sausage you like cut up
3 cloves of garlic mashed
4 large carrots peeled and sliced
1 large onion sliced
a splash of cider or wine vinegar
Roast above all together on a tray at 425, toss a couple of times while cooking until the carrots can be pierced with a fork, reserve juices and combine in saute pan with a cup of pasta water, bring to a quick boil and then let simmer until desired thickness and toss with pasta and veggies.

Top with sliced green onion and romano cheese.

Mangia~

Tracey

Monday, May 3, 2010

Worth Your While- Oatmeal Cookies




I hate making cookies. Not sure exactly why but I think it has to do with the extended time commitment for baking them. I like to mix something together and put it in the oven all in one shot. None of this waiting business.

Growing up we often made cookies if we wanted them, otherwise we wouldn't have ever had cookies. I remember the procedure, put the first tray in and set the timer. When the timer went off they weren't done. Put them back in and don't set the timer, burn the first tray a little. Second tray be more diligent watching the clock, perfectly golden! Third tray, a slight bit over done. Last tray, throw them in an completely forget about them, burned to a crisp.

Scott makes perfect chocolate chip cookies. He promises he will make a post about his technique... someday. I still prefer oatmeal raisin over ANY other cookie. Even though I don't like making them, I don't seem to mind as much if they are oatmeal!

This recipe is great. I love thick oatmeal cookies and this one wins the blue ribbon for that. Seems the key is more oats less flour! I didn't have pecans so I just threw in a little extra oatmeal. No complaints. I think the pecans would make them extra fabulous. And I didn't burn a single one.

Mangia~

Tracey

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Guacamole Love





Next time you're out shopping, grab these simple ingredients. And maybe double the amount, because guac is not just for chips anymore. Use it as an additional ingredient in almost anything for a flavor boost. Or slather it on grilled cheese sandwiches, roasted chicken, or coat some pasta with it. Go crazy.

Our latest batch turned into the cheese, black bean, guacamole quesadillas above. I'm drooling just remembering them!

2 ripe avocados
1/2 of small onion diced super fine
2 cloves garlic diced and smashed up with a little salt
1 small tomato deseeded and diced fine
2 T cilantro diced
1/2 a lemon's juice
pinch of cumin and a little salt

Mash avocado until slightly lumpy and mix in remaining ingredients until a little airy. Then drool.



Mangia~

Tracey

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cauliflower Pizza Crust





What?! That's right, no flour. Scott and Abel tried this at a friend's party recently and told me about it. It sounded too interesting and good not to try! She sent us the link to the recipe and we gave it a whirl.

This is a great gluten free recipe and definitely worth it for people who are looking for a pizza dough substitute or as a way to get more vegetables on your plate. We made a white pizza variety and a run o the mill pizza. My one piece of advice is to let it cool very well before slicing and the texture will be great.

So try the crust recipe above and top with whatever you like. For the white pizza I brushed olive oil over the pre-baked crust added diced garlic and onion, parmesan, sliced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, and mozzarella.... yummmm. The other one had red sauce, bacon, tomato, and mozzarella. Abel was our taste tester and diplomatically declared a tie. :)

Mangia~

Tracey

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rustic Oatmeal Scones

Our Gram loves to bake and share special desserts with the ones she loves. I like to bake too, if I'm in the mood. It's bad. I've been baking waaaay too much lately. I'm dangerous when there are baked goods in the house. Add blueberries and I'm lethal. Just don't know when to say, "When!!"

I've made two batches of these in one week...

Mangia (in moderation)~
Lora

1 large egg
½ cup vanilla yogurt
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
Pinch of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
10 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, grated on a large grater or cut into small pieces
¾ cup fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries
Drizzle of milk if dough is dry

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Combine the egg and yogurt in a liquid measuring cup. Stir together; set aside.
Whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the bowl and toss. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture so that the mixture is crumbly. Pour the egg and buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork just until incorporated (the mixture will be sticky). Fold in the berries just until incorporated (be particularly gentle if using fresh berries). Gently knead the dough just until it comes together into a sticky dough. Portion the dough out into 8-12 scones, depending on the size you prefer, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until golden -about 10-15 mins.

Adapated from Annie's Eats.

Here's my little helper, anxiously awaiting the fruits of our labor: