Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

The loaf shaped dessert cake has long meant one thing to me - pound cake -intensely rich, a dangerously decadent treat. But all that has changed. Behold the lemon cake.

I can already see you puckering up your lips. But you don't have to, it's not that lemony. It's very delicate. Something to have a slice of with tea. Or for breakfast, if you're my husband. Even though I've made it a few times now, I'm still always surprised at exactly how light it is. And I'm excited for the summer, because come raspberry season, I'm doubling this recipe and baking it in round tins, adding some lemon curd filling and some raspberry filling and making into the showpiece it deserves to be. But for now, it's one tasty non-threatening treat.

adapted from Barefoot Contessa, episode Going, Going, Gone
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided (1 cup for cake, 1/3 for glaze)
3 extra-large eggs (I used egg-beaters)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice + 2 T
Preheat oven to 350.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix. In another bowl, mix together the yogurt, sugar, eggs and lemon zest, and the 2 T of lemon juice (save the 1/3 of a cup of juice for later). Slowly add the dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Add the vegetable oil and fold in with a spatula. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan. Cook for 50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Right before it's done, mix together the 1/3 C sugar and 1/3 C lemon juice on low heat until it's clear. Set the finished cake on a baking rack and pour over the glaze. (I actually ended up glazing all sides of it, because I like the lemony part). Allow to cool.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, in which I am so tired, I nearly ruin dinner.

You know I don't really cook from a recipe right? I scan the list of ingredients, say "hmph" a few times when things aren't to my liking and then read the directions through and go with it. This is not because I am some incredible master chef, Oh no. This is because I am lazy. And tonight, it meant that when I was casually adding the cayenne pepper, I added a titch too much. You know, just enough so that sitting here 10 minutes after sampling a taste of what was supposed to be a nice, warm, soothing comfort-food dinner my lips are still burning. Honestly, my intentions were good. I was going to give my lazy version of this incredible butternut squash mac and cheese recipe that girlymae introduced me to. I'm sure her original is heaven itself, because up until today my lazygal's twist was pretty gosh darn delicious. But I've never made her original. Why? Because I am lazy. Also, very tired. So you know what? You're going to have to do the work tonight. I'll give you an updated recipe from girlymae and tell you my shortcuts, and then you're on your own, got it?

as made by your lazy, lazy blogger

1 butternut squash LAZY ALERT: I use frozen winter squash (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 packages, and defrost in the microwave
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard LAZY ALERT: I have no dry mustard, I use jar mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper LAZY ALERT: Do NOT over cayenne your dish, no matter how tired and lazy you are.
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock LAZY ALERT: I've never added the stock, maybe because the cooked winter squash has more liquid naturally than a real squash? I dunno.
1 slice of bread LAZY ALERT: I use bread crumbs from a can. About a half cup.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice squash in half and discard seeds . Peel one of the squash halves and cut into 1-inch cubes. Spray the half and the chunks with cooking oil and sprinkle with a little nutmeg. Place the squash half, cut side down, on a baking sheet and scatter the squash chunks next to it in a single layer. Roast for 45 minutes until very tender.

While squash is cooking, make breadcrumbs by putting 1 slice of bread in the food processor and pulsing until it creates fine breadcrumbs. Set aside.

After removing squash from the oven, reduce the heat to 350.

When squash has cooled, set aside the chunks of squash. Peel skin off the squash half and discard. Puree squash half in food processor until it has a smooth consistency. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously. Boil pasta to al dente - about 6 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside.

Melt 3 Tablespoons butter (set aside 1 Tablespoon) and slowly stir in the 1/3 cup of flour to form a paste.

Off heat, SLOWLY whisk in 1 1/2 cups of milk. Return to medium low heat until sauce fully blends and thickens.

Add pureed squash to the thickened sauce.

Add mustard, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of cheese (set aside 1/2 cup for the topping) and 1 cup of stock, alternating cheese and stock by cupfuls. Taste sauce, adjust seasonings if needed.

Combine pasta, squash chunks, and cheese sauce in a large casserole dish, toss to coat evenly.

Melt the remaining Tablespoon of butter and blend with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and the breadcrumbs to form topping. Sprinkle mixture over the macaroni.

Place macaroni uncovered in a 350 degree oven until cheese sauce is bubbling and breadcrumb topping is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
(Serves 8, leftovers freeze well if you're so inclined)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Greek Burgers

After a long few weeks of eating food provided by others (my mother, my husband, various restaurant chefs, the vending machine at work) or eating no food at all (thank you work, for making it difficult to impossible to eat over the last 2 weeks), I have finally returned to my home, my kitchen, my stove and lucky for you, my blog. So tonight, I had to gently ease my way back into cooking. And a triumphant return it was.

I love greek burgers. I mean, I finished mine about 15 minutes ago, I'm full, and all I can think about is when I'm going to eat my next greek burger. Which is pretty high praise for a dinner that was created because I ran out of yellow onion one day. GREEK BURGERS
1 package ground turkey
1/4 C red onion diced very fine
1/4 to 1/3 C kalamata olives pitted and diced
2-3 oz feta cheese crumbled
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
Pour a small amount of olive oil in a small non-stick pan. Saute the onion over medium-low heat until it is soft and translucent. Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the olives and feta are both salty. Add the oregano. Turn off heat, and mix well with the ground turkey meat. Allow to cool if you're planning on using your hands. Mix in the olives and the feta. Form patties. I get 4 big patties or 5 smaller ones depending. Heat up enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a cast-iron pan (alternatively, you could do this on the grill, I have no grill). and heat pan to medium. Add the burgers. Cook 4 minutes and flip. Cook 4-5 more minutes until done. Serve on a bun with lettuce, tomato, more red onion, whatever you want!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Better Biscuits

When I was 12 or 13, most normal girls my age were experimenting with crimping irons and doing their best to deplete the ozone layer by shellacking their bangs as high as they could. I was dreaming of being Scarlett O'Hara. And since a 17" waist and a Georgian plantation were out of the question, I was left to try to reclaim my southern heritage by baking biscuits. I stood in the kitchen, meticulously cutting the butter into the flour mixture using two knives, oh yes, I shunned the high-tech world of the mixer back then. And even though they were the first thing I'd ever baked completely unsupervised, those biscuits turned out wonderfully, and I continued to make them using the same recipe, until about a month ago. Now 18 years is a long time to be faithful to a recipe, so you have to understand just how incredible this new recipe is. Because I have thrown over those biscuits of my youth and I am not looking back. And if you have a problem with that, well, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

original recipe found on Epicurious - Cheddar Dill Biscuits modified to be plain biscuits:
2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1 t sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
5 T cold butter
3/4 c plain yogurt (yes, I use low fat or non-fat)
1/3 c milk
Mix dry ingredients together well. Blend in butter until it has a pebble-y consistency. In a separate bowl whisk the yogurt and milk. Then add the yogurt milk mixture to the rest and mix until the dough just holds together. Spoon heaps of dough onto a baking sheet - the recipe says it make 12, I usually get 14-15. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.

Incidentally, I've made this both with too much (1 Cup) and too little (2/3 C) yogurt. And both times it's still been wonderful. How's that for forgiving?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Easiest Onion Tart You'll Ever Make

Quiches and tarts are not inherently difficult to make but with the sauteeing of ingredients, making the crust and mixing the custard, they can end up being a giant pain in the you-know-what. This tart is different. It doesn't have a million ingredients. Just the basics, done right. And it is heavenly.

1 large onion (maybe even a tad wee bit more than this)
1/2 to 3/4 C grated cheddar. (Now I'm usually all for adding more cheese to anything, but I've only ever made it with 1/2 C and it's seemed right).
2 eggs (or 1/2 C eggbeaters - that's right, I didn't even use real eggs)
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 T fresh thyme (use less if you're using dried)
1 recipe crust
Slice the onion so that you have long strips of onion, not a dice. Add a T of oil to a non-stick pan on low heat. Cook the onion until carmelized, this can take 20-30 minutes, you can make the crust while it's happening, if you're a good multi-tasker. Onions are carmelized when they turn a golden brown and taste very sweet. Make sure the heat is low, or they will start to crisp up on you, which is not what you want at all. When they're done, add salt and pepper to taste, and the thyme. Put in a bowl and mix with the cheddar and the egg mixture. Pour into the crusts.

I cook mine in the toaster oven at 350 for 25-35 minutes or until the center is set and the crust is browned a bit. If you try it in a regular oven I would probably increase the heat slightly, but feel free to share what worked for you.

Here's the crust:

1 C flour
1 T sugar
pinch salt
1/3 C butter
4-6 + T of ice water
This is a million times easier with a KitchenAid mixer. Cutting shortening/butter in by hand is no fun. So, mix together dry ingredients in the mixer. Add butter (still cold from the fridge, make sure it's not warm or room temp) in small chunks (I tend to cut my in tablespoon sized slabs). Mix until the whole mixture has a coarse sand or pebbley consistency. And this is where it gets hard. Add water. The amount you need varies based on where you live, the weather, the mood of your crust. You'll need to learn to add enough that it all holds together as a dough, but not so much that it's a wet mess. Go slowly, mix carefully. I don't measure anymore. I pour straight from my Brita of ice water into the mix (while the mixer is running) and see if it becomes a ball. I separated it into 4 small disks (because of making the mini-tarts) and let it refridgerate while I was grating the cheddar and finishing the onions. Then I rolled each out, and stuck it in the pie tins.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


See, now that's what the cider-gingerbread spice cake is supposed to look like. Pretty, yes?

Failure and Redemption

I'm just now getting around to writing about Thursday's dinner, things have been a bit hectic around here. Also, I wasn't so sure I wanted to share with you yet another failure. But it wasn't all failure, so for the sake of impending Thanksgiving dinners everywhere, I'll share with you orange dinner number 1,548 - Sweet Potato Soup with Pumpkin Pie for dessert. Clearly, I'm only eating orange foods these days. Maybe now that it's getting deeper into November, I'll branch out. Maybe.

So, I came home on Thursday, and immediately set about figuring out my
new! improved! pumpkin pie plan. I had these delicious spice cookies, and I felt that they would make a delicious and more interesting version of the graham cracker crust. So I promptly whipped one up, popped it in the oven and set about reinventing pumpkin pie filling. About 10 minutes later, I pulled out these delightful looking treats. All of the crust had crept back down the sides and pooled at the bottom and the whole mess was slightly blackened. So after a few heart-wrenching moments and a phone call to my mom, I decided to scrap the whole bunch. Which made me wince, because I can't bear throwing out perfectly good food, but then again, you might argue that a burnt solid mass of cookie crumbs does not qualify as perfectly good food. With the filling already mixed, I didn't have time to experiment with another crust and went for the old standby crust I've been making since I was twelve. With my trusty crust, I managed to turn out some slightly sad looking little pies, which people kindly proclaimed "interesting." What they really meant was: This doesn't taste like what I'm used to, and I am so much in shock I cannot possibly give you my actual thoughts on whether or not this is tasty. After eating a few of them myself I can tell you that they are indeed, tasty, but not very related to the standard Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Which is good to know if you plan on making this ever. Considering the fact that I managed to peel my thumb and burn a finger during the making of this meal, it really is a godsend that I managed to fix the sweet potato soup recipe so that it is no longer a sweet potato broth. See I told you it wasn't all failure.

1 recipe crust - see below
1 can packed pumpkin puree
2 T + 1 t maple syrup
1/3 T molasses
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 C whipped cream (I felt this was a little much, maybe try 3/4 cup?)
2 eggs
Mix all ingredients together. Pour into pie crust. Cook at 425 for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 cook for 40-50 minutes more.

1 C flour
1 T sugar
pinch salt
1/3 C butter
4-6 + T of ice water
This is a million times easier with a KitchenAid mixer. Cutting shortening/butter in by hand is no fun. So, mix together dry ingredients in the mixer. Add butter (still cold from the fridge, make sure it's not warm or room temp) in small chunks (I tend to cut my in tablespoon sized slabs). Mix until the whole mixture has a coarse sand or pebbley consistency. And this is where it gets hard. Add water. The amount you need varies based on where you live, the weather, the mood of your crust. You'll need to learn to add enough that it all holds together as a dough, but not so much that it's a wet mess. Go slowly, mix carefully. I don't measure anymore. I pour straight from my Brita of ice water into the mix (while the mixer is running) and see if it becomes a ball.

1 c onion diced
1 leek (cleaned by soaking the rings), sliced
1 carrot peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
2 large sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2" or 1/4" cubes)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 large regular potato (same as above)
salt and pepper
1/4 C white wine (or vermouth)
4 C chicken broth (or veggie, if you want it to be vegetarian)
1 C water for thinning (at the end, if needed)
butter/olive oil
sour cream (for topping at the end)

1 recipe buttered pecans (see below)
Add a few T of butter or olive oil to a large pot. Add the onion, carrots, leek, garlic, bay and salt and pepper. Cook over medium until vegetables are soft and translucent. Use the wine or vermouth to deglaze. Then add the potatoes (sweet and regular) and cover with chicken broth. Simmer for 20 minutes or until a fork goes into the potatoes easily. Remove the bay leaves. Puree mixture in a blender (I use an immersion blender). It may take a while to get smooth. Check the consistency, if it's a bit thick or lumpy, add the cup of water, and reblend until it's smoother. Pour in a bowl, and top with a big dollop of sour cream and some buttered pecans.

Add a few T of butter to a skillet on low-medium. Add the pecans (maybe a bit under a cup) and stir until well coated. Let cook about 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Not that I've ever done that. No not an expert chef like me!


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