Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Clove Snaps

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!  Lynn outdid herself this year with her Thanksgiving dinner, so I couldn’t help but stuff myself.  On Friday, I woke up determined to make Christmas cookies, and I succeeded in making the dough.  I was sluggish from the big meal the night before, so I didn’t manage to actually bake any cookies (that’s my story anyway).  My son and I managed to bake cookies on Sunday afternoon.  That’s my kind of afternoon!

I know I’ve told you I’m a cookbook collector, but have I told you I have to buy any magazine with a Christmas theme?  Well, I do, and I’m not content to read the magazines and throw them away.  No, I have to keep them (which entails finding somewhere to store them).  I pulled last year’s Fine Cooking Cookies magazine from the top of my pile.  It has my favorite rolled cookie recipe, and I found this recipe for Clove Snaps while I was flipping through and drooling over all the pictures of cookies.  These Clove Snaps intrigued me. 

I’m a sucker for spice cookies, and Clove Snaps looked like a recipe I would enjoy. When you bake these cookies, don’t let the smell emanating from your oven fool you into thinking these cookies are overly spiced.   The kitchen smelled like I was cooking my Easter ham, but when I tasted the cookies, the clove and pepper was a spicy aftertaste, and not over powering at all especially with the orange rounding out the flavors! I’m not sure this recipe replaces ginger snaps or these cookies, but the Clove Snaps are nicely sweet with a subtle flavor of orange and spice, and they are a fun addition to your Christmas cookie line-up.

Clove Snaps
Adapted from Fine Cooking Cookies 2009
Printable Recipe
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
 2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time and blend well.  Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed just until the flour is absorbed.  Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth.  Split the dough in half and flatten the halves into disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut out shapes with a two inch round cutter (re-rolling scraps as needed).  Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges and on the bottoms, about 12 minutes (rotate the baking sheets half way through for even baking).  Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets on wire racks.  Makes about six dozen cookies.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I know I am a little late with my favorite mashed potato recipe for Thanksgiving, but if you will be making mashed potatoes again anytime soon, this recipe is great.  I found this recipe in Everyday Food last November, and I tried it for Thanksgiving last year.  These potatoes were a big hit.  They are velvety and smooth with great flavor. But, my favorite part of this recipe?  You can make the potatoes ahead of time and heat them in the oven later!

Luxurious Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Everyday Food
Printable Recipe
5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ to 1 cup heavy cream, warmed
ground black pepper

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with 2 inches of cold water, and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer potatoes until they are tender.  Drain the potatoes  thoroughly and pass through a food mill back into the cooking pot.

Over low heat, add the butter and stir into the potatoes until the butter is melted and the potatoes have stiffened up slightly.  Slowly add the cream, stirring constantly until the potatoes have reached the desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you make the potatoes ahead, reheat at 350°F in a covered baking dish for about 20-30 minutes.  Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Tikka with Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds

I’ve been craving Mediterranean food lately.  This is a new craving for me, because while I have craved Mediterranean food in the past, it was always French, Italian or maybe Greek food.  I didn’t realize there was another whole section of the Mediterranean food I’d been overlooking.   I’ve been missing out on a more eastern Mediterranean culinary experience (Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese).  Well, that changed a few months ago when I met some girl friends for a good-bye dinner for our friend Barb at a local Mediterranean restaurant.  I loved every bite of my dinner!  We ordered the appetizer platter with flat bread and more toppings than I can remember.  For dinner, I ordered a chicken dish with aged yogurt and saffron rice, and I was in heaven.  My dinner was full of exotic spices and tangy yogurt.  I couldn’t wait to have eastern Mediterranean food again. 

Les and I went out to another Mediterranean restaurant on another night, and we enjoyed it, so I knew I needed to try my hand at Mediterranean food myself.  I bought a few Mediterranean cookbooks and drooled over the recipes (I will be testing other recipes from my new Mediterranean cookbooks, so stay tuned).  But, I played it “safe” and tried a kabob recipe from Food Network Magazine.   My family loved the kabobs, and I knew this would be a great recipe for entertaining.

A few weeks ago, I served Chicken Tikka and Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds for dinner to some of my friends who were at Barb’s good-bye dinner.  The dinner was on a Friday night, so I needed an easy menu I could throw together quickly (with the help of my husband who grilled the chicken).  Chicken Tikka, Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds and a simple green salad was the perfect menu for dinner, and this menu satisfies my craving for Mediterranean food. 

The chicken was moist and tender and perfectly spiced.  Be sure to serve it with the yogurt sauce as the sauce adds great flavor.  Food Network Magazine had the recipe in their 50 Kabob booklet, but I like the whole pieces of chicken as they stay moister, but you can kabob the chicken with some green onions if you would like.  The cranberries in the pilaf added a touch of sweetness to the rice while the slivered almonds add a great crunch.
Chicken Tikka
Adapted from Food Network Magazine 50 Kabob booklet
Printable Recipe
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups Greek yogurt, separated
2 tablespoons garam masala
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, separated
1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger
1 ½ teaspoons grated garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice, separated
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup Greek yogurt, garam masala, ½ cups chopped cilantro, ginger, garlic 1 tablespoon lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.  Take out 2 tablespoons of yogurt mixture and set aside.  Add the chicken to the large bowl with the remaining marinade, and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

In a small bowl, add 1 cup Greek yogurt, the 2 tablespoons of reserved marinade, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and 1 tablespoon lime juice.  Set aside.

Take the chicken out of the marinade, and grill over medium heat until done, about 3-5 minutes per side.  Serve with yogurt sauce.
Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds
Printable Recipe
1½  cups basmati rice
2¼  cups chicken broth
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add vegetable oil and butter.  When the butter is melted, add the onion, and cook until softened.  Add the dry rice, and mix until the rice is coated with the butter and vegetable oil.  Cook the rice until it becomes opaque.  Add the chicken and cook until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Add the slivered almonds and cranberries, stirring to combine.  Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Beef and Bean Chili

My friend Barb moved to Nashville over the summer, and she recently sent a picture of the trees in her backyard with their vibrant hues of red and yellow. My backyard is full of trees that don’t turn color in the fall, so I have to look for other signs of the changing of the season.  Well, we have turned our clocks back and turned the house heater on, so I know it’s fall. 

During the first week of the time change, I’m always in a panic to get dinner on the table when I get home from work.  I guess I get into a rush thinking it is almost time for bed.  I rushed dinner so much on Monday night, we were finished and the dishes were done by 6:15pm!  I hardly knew what to do with myself for the rest of the evening! 

Once we change the clocks, I know I have to change what I plan for dinner.  I can no longer ask Les to barbeque on a weeknight (our backyard is too dark to barbeque in the winter), so I have to have some other dinner standbys.  And, nothing says fall to me like a pot of chili. 

I love to have a pot of this chili ready for a weeknight meal.  This recipe is easy to put together.  I will cook this chili on a weeknight if I have some time, but I am more likely to make it on the weekend and heat it up for a quick weeknight meal.  I usually serve this tasty chili with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and chopped onions, but I will also whip up a batch of cornbread to go with it.  This chili is low fat with lots of fiber, so I love to have leftovers to take with me for lunch during the week.

Beef and Bean Chili
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine March 1990
Printable Recipe
1 pound lean ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 14 ½ oz cans low sodium dark red kidney beans (do not drain the beans)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 ½ oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 8 oz can diced green chili peppers

In a large pot, brown the ground beef and onion until the meat is tender and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the chili powder, oregano, salt, red pepper and black pepper, and heat for another minute.  Add the undrained kidney beans, tomatoes, and green chili peppers, and bring to a boil.  Cook uncovered for 1½ hours, or until the chili is dark in color and the desired consistency.  Makes 12 1-cup servings.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chinese Chicken Salad

As I’m sitting here looking out my window at the rainy weather, I’m having a hard time believing what a beautiful day it was yesterday.

Les and I were invited to a wine tour and tasting at a local winery.  We have some lovely wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but I often forget about them, and think we need to travel to Napa or Sonoma for wine tasting and tours.

Our hosts, Beth and Scott rented a van for the ten of us who were going on the tour, so we could taste the wine without worrying about driving home on the winding roads.

We all brought a contribution for lunch, and we purchased wine and gourmet mustards from the winery to enjoy with our lunch. The weather was sunny and warm with a light breeze, and we spent most of the day laughing and enjoying our friends.
Lunch was delicious.  I am always amazed at the potlucks this group of friends puts together.  Everything always goes together beautifully.  For lunch, we had cheese, fruit and crackers, sandwiches and delicious desserts.  My contribution to lunch was a Chinese Chicken Salad.  I’m not sure the salad was a perfect match for the Pinot Noir, but no one complained. 

Chinese Chicken Salad
Adapted from Ellie Krieger Food Network
Printable Recipe

1 cup rice wine vinegar
6 Tablespoons soy sauce (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil

½ head of green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
2 large carrots, shredded (about 2 cups)
¼ head of red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into chunks

I package ramen noodles, broken into small pieces

In a small bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, canola oil, brown sugar, sesame seeds, chili garlic sauce, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. 

In a large bowl mix together the green cabbage, carrots, red cabbage, onions cilantro and chicken.   Toss the chicken and vegetable mixture with the dressing (you might have a little extra dressing, so you might not want to put the dressing all on at once). Top with the crumbled ramen noodles, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Black Bean Soup

Here is the recipe for my black bean soup, as promised.  I have been searching high and low for a good black bean soup recipe.  I had a delicious bowl in a restaurant, and have been searching ever since.  A friend of mine served me her recipe, and I liked it, but it didn’t have quite the flavors I was looking for.  I’ve tried other recipes that were just too smoky with the amount of bacon they used.   I didn’t think I would ever find a recipe for my “perfect” black bean soup.  

I was craving soup on Saturday, and decided to make my own version of black bean soup.  This one is a keeper (if I do say so myself).  My black bean soup is slightly spicy with a subtle smoky flavor imparted by both the chipotle powder and the bacon fat.  Now, if you don’t drain your bacon fat into a small mason jar and keep it in the refrigerator, you can use olive oil, but you might want to add a little more chipotle powder or try some smoked paprika to add some smoky flavor (I didn’t test the recipe that way, so no promises).

Both the kids loved this soup, and wanted seconds, so I consider this a soup success.

Black Bean Soup
Printable Recipe
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or olive oil)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
½ sweet red pepper, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
4 14oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken broth
½ cup chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
Salt to taste

Heat the bacon fat or olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and red pepper and cook until softened.   Add the cumin and chipotle powder, and heat for a minute, or until the spices are fragrant.  Add the black beans and the chicken both and bring to a boil.  Add the cilantro.  In a blender or using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until it’s smooth.  Add the lime-juice and salt (I added a ½ teaspoon of salt).  Serve garnished with sour cream, minced sweet red pepper, and cilantro sprigs.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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