Friday, February 27, 2009

A Friday Roundup

Hi friends. It's been a long week for me. Has it been a long week for you? I have been surviving on leftovers and bowls full of weird combinations of stuff all week, and so I don't have any recipes to share with you, but I did want to point out a couple of things that have been amusing me this week.

This New York Times article on paranoia in kids with respect to food being either "good" or "bad" for your health raises an interesting question. How far do you go when trying to teach kids about healthy eating? Even as a grown-up (well, sort of, anyway) it can be difficult to figure out exactly what moderation means, it must be extremely difficult for kids who get different messages from their parents, teachers and friends and have very little control over what food is available to them.

Speaking of available food, aren't you glad you're not a cave man? The Economist explores the idea that cooking is what makes us human. Whoa. (Thanks, Tyler, for sending this!)

And on a lighter note, Under the High Chair's post on what to expect when dining with a food blogger has cracked me up at least four times this week. It's not entirely true of me, per se, but I'm still sort of new to this... let's give it time, shall we?

Enjoy your weekends everyone!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What do YOU do with marjoram?

Last week I bought some marjoram, and I have no idea why. Does this ever happen to you? I make a mental list of what recipes I want to try that week and then I take my mental list to the store and by the time I've gotten home I forget at least one of the things I was going to make. Something with chicken? I still don't know. When I did a little food blog search for marjoram I came across tidbit on SeriousEast called Marjoram: What is the Deal? My question is: what is the deal with this totally emo photo of marjoram? How did that happen?

Anyway, it was some interesting reading, but not many recipes mentioned. I wandered over to instead and came across this little gem, Castellane Pasta with Sausage, Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, and Marjoram. Oh man. There's certainly no way to make it look pretty (so I sort of quit trying... sorry, I was hungry!) but it tastes great. Kind of like the old standby of sausage and peppers, but punched up with tomatoes and marjoram and mellowed out with tangy goat cheese. If you grow marjoram or have some around, give it a try. Oh, and if you have a kick ass marjoram recipe, could you leave it in the comments, please? I still have tons of the stuff and I'd hate to let it go to waste now that I know I like it!

I made some substitutions, of course, based on what I had around the kitchen: sweet sausage vs. hot, whole wheat pasta vs. regular, adding a jalapeno because I only had sweet sausage. The link above will take you to the original, this is the way I made it.

Pasta with Sausage, Peppers & Marjoram
adapted from Bon Appetit

serves two

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb sweet italian sausages, casings removed (three links)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, semi-seeded and minced (I like a little heat, remove all seeds and ribs if you don't)
1/2 medium onion or 1 large shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 handful whole wheat spaghetti
3 ounces goat cheese

Start a large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then saute the sausage (casings removed, remember), breaking it up into bits, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add both peppers and the onion, then saute 10-12 minutes or until the peppers are soft and the onions are golden. Stir in the marjoram and tomatoes, and saute 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes get squishy, then crush them with your spoon.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving a little cooking water.

If the skillet is large enough, add the spaghetti to the skillet. If not, return the cooked spaghetti and sausage/pepper mixture to the pot. Add the crumbled goat cheese and stir to blend, thinning with cooking water if necessary. Transfer pasta to plates and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Citizen Bean, again

A little while ago I asked you guys if you had ever heard of Citizen Bean, the artisan roast small batch coffee of the month "club" of sorts. A short while later, CB contacted me to ask if I would like a sample shipment. I had a little debate with myself about whether I thought it was a good idea, but in the end I accepted, and I made it clear that I wouldn't write about them again unless I thought it was a really great product. I feel ok telling you about this because I asked the question and now I can answer it.

Well, it's very good coffee. I'm not sure my palate is very finely tuned first thing in the morning, but I have enjoyed it.

They also include a little treat in the box - madeleine cookies or truffles or what have you. Yum! And a grind sample so you can see how finely to grind coffee for your french press. Except I use a Mr. Coffee drip brewer (sacrilege?) so I didn't pay much attention to the sample size.

The only thing I don't like, actually, is the packaging. It's all very precious with the crinkly paper and things rolled up and custom stickers and what not, but it feels like a lot of waste to me, even if they are using recycled paper. So, that's my analysis. Very good coffee that I'm sure makes a lovely gift.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I know it's sort of a stupid holiday...

But at some point (maybe not today, but some time) you should make your sweetheart this soup. It's really tasty. Happy long weekend, everyone!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Make your own gummy candies! Sort of.

Ok so technically they're called orangettes. But they taste like orange flavored gummy candy, except way, way better. (It's a good thing I have this space to unleash my brilliant writer's mind, because I am so descriptive.)

I'm not really sure what posessed me to make these. My mom sent me a link to somebody's blog which linked me to the Martha Stewart recipe and I thought oh hey, those look nice.

Plus someone at work had mentioned that the oranges in the grocery store are really good right now. I cut Martha's recipe in half (I only used three oranges) and then I ate THREE oranges in a 24 hour period. They are really good right now.

Getting the peel off was a little tricky, and trimming the excess bitter pith was sort of a pain, but I think the end result was worth it. I had a birthday party for myself on Saturday night (birthday on a Saturday, word) and these were a hit.

Also a hit: the birthday cake Adam made! He made two and layered them into one cake with raspberry jam - highly recommended. And no butter! What?

I didn't take a photo of the dredging in sugar step, because, well, my hands were covered in sugar. In the summer, I plan to garnish girly cocktails with these. And I can't wait to try them with other citrus fruits. I think grapefruits would be killer.

Candied Orange Peel
adapted from Martha Stewart

3 medium navel oranges
3 cups granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
3 cups water


Using a paring knife, make six shallow cuts in each orange from top to bottom, cutting through the rind but not into the fruit. Use your fingers to gently loosen the six sections of rind off each orange. Use a longer, sharp knife to carefully slice off any extra white pith. Slice rind sections lengthwise into 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch strips. I got four strips out of each section of peel. Place strips in a pot, cover with cold water, cook on high heat just until the water starts boiling. Drain and repeat (cover with cold water, bring to a boil, drain and set aside).

Combine water and 3 cups sugar in a large, wide-mouth pot, cook over medium-high heat until mixture is boiling and sugar has completely dissolved. Carefully add sliced rinds into pot, turn heat down to medium, leave on a rapid simmer for about an hour, until rinds are translucent. Remove pot from heat, use tongs or a slotted spoon to fish out all the slices from the syrup & arrange in a single layer on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet or old newspaper. Pat a couple of paper towels on top of rinds to lightly blot up any excess syrup but do not dry completely. Dredge slices in extra granulated sugar until well coated, return to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kristen's Chili

Ok, I know! I know the Superbowl was last Sunday and maybe chili season ends with football season. But it's really, really good... Maybe you can serve it at your, um, Grammy watching party this Sunday? And honestly, I don't think you'll blame me. How can I be blogging about chili when this little love muffin is running around distracting me from chopping up peppers??

And the dog ain't bad either! (ba-dum!) I kid, I kid. We're puppy sitting for Megan's cousin this week and Mimi has been an absolute joy to have around. Look at how she snuggles during super bowl prep! And please note my t-shirt: I'm wearing it with irony.

Where was I? What were we making? Aaah yes. Kristen's Chili. I think it's proper name would actually be Kristen Iverson's Award Winning Chili since she won the Great WGA Chili Cook-Off of 2008.
Pardon the slightly crappy photo of the ingredients. Also, I didn't photograph the meat because frankly, ground beef is not lovely in any way. But it tastes so. good. In fact one of the best things about this chili is that it contains both ground beef and chunks of stew meat. It also contains beans and tomatoes, which may offend some purists but I think it's delicious. And here, I think, is why:

I love the way the recipe is written: "at least 2 tbsp each: crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, cumin, dill weed, hot chili powder, regular chili powder, celery salt, parsley, 3 tbsp garlic powder." But that's not quite the way I did it. I ran out of garlic powder, but I added Aleppo pepper. I didn't have any celery salt at all but I added some chopped chipotles. I didn't want to use a beer I would drink, so I bought a teensy weensy can of Bud Light, and since I cut the recipe down (I made a 3/4 batch or so) I used heaping tablespoons instead of 2 tablespoons of the spices.

All's I'm sayin' is feel free to take some liberties. Kristen never makes it the same way twice but it always turns out delicious.

It's spicy, so have some sour cream and cheese around to cool it down a bit for the wimps (me) and some hot sauce to crank it up for the crazies (ahem, you know who you are). It's GREAT in bread bowls, but I got so excited I forgot to take pictures of them. This is the last serving of leftovers.

Kristen Iverson's Award Winning Chili
parenthetical notes are from Kristen, not me-acb

For the Vegetables:
olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 large green peppers, chopped
3-4 small Hungarian yellow peppers, chopped with seeds
2 -3 jalapenos, chopped with or without seeds (I also buy a couple more random peppers and throw them in)

2.5 pounds ground sirloin
1 tbsp butter
1 small white onion, peeled, chopped
1 pound beef stew meat
olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
celery salt and pepper

3 cans beans (I use an assortment- light and dark red kidney, white cannelini, whatever)
2 cans green chilies (hot or mild)
3 cans (28 oz each) diced tomatoes
1 can (28 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 can (28 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14 oz) zesty diced tomatoes
at least 2 tbsp each: crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, cumin, dill weed, hot chili powder, regular chili powder, celery salt, parsley
3 tbsp garlic powder
hot sauce (I use Frank's, Tabasco, and one other one we have in our house) (I skipped this-acb)
1 12 oz beer

In a large skillet, heat however much olive oil is needed and saute red onion, celery, green pepper, jalapenos, and Hungarian peppers (or whatever peppers you buy) until softened. Remove from skillet and set aside.

In a large stock pot, the one you are going to cook all the chili in, saute the white onion and garlic in olive oil and butter for a minute or two. Add the ground sirloin, some celery salt and pepper and brown the ground sirloin leaving the fat in the pot. In a large skillet (I spooned all the sauteed veggies into another bowl and then threw the beef in the original skillet) heat some more olive oil and brown the beef stew meat.

Pour the stew meat (with the liquid) and sauteed vegetables to the large stock pot with the ground sirloin. Add all the canned stuff (tomatoes, beans, chilies) and spices (once everything is in the pot I just start dumping all the spices in, you don't have to measure everything out exactly)

Bring to boil and then reduce to low heat, let simmer uncovered, stirring often, until desired thickness. I let it simmer about 5-6 hours, the longer the better.

ta-dahhhhhh! serves 20.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chipotle and Cheese Souffle Muffins

Have you made those cottage cheese muffins yet? I may mentioned them to you a few months ago and told you to give them a try but did you? Did you? Hmph. Maybe you did. I'm sorry, I don't know what's come over me. Maybe it's that I made this awesome chipotle and green onion version last week and they're gone now... tragically gone! And I'm back to store bought English muffins for breakfast! My life is SO HARD! *sob*

Okay! Enough melodrama. Here is the story: I had an open can of chipotles in adobo in my fridge, and for the life of me I cannot remember what I originally opened them for. I know they went into scrambled eggs and chili and these muffins once they were open but the first use escapes me.

Wait, I remember! I opened them for the same reason I bought the queso fresco that aaaalso went into these muffins. I made a giant white bean and kale chipotle baked thingy. It was great. Next time I make it I'll add more kale. So apparently this is a 101 cookbooks-centric post. Thanks for all the recipes, Heidi!

That said, I've tweaked the recipe a little bit: since I didn't have any almonds around I just used whole wheat flour for the whole thing. Now please forgive the wacky tone of this post, as it is only Wednesday and I was ready for it to be Friday when it was still only Monday. Look at that sentence! See what I mean? I blame the snow, not these muffins.

Chipotle & Cheese Muffins
adapted from 101 cookbooks

1 cup plain cottage cheese (low-fat is fine)
3/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
1 1/4 whole wheat cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup water
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line muffin tin with paper cups or grease lightly OR use a silicone muffin pan, like me (I love it).

Put the cottage cheese into a bowl with the queso fresco, the flour, baking powder, chipotles, green onions, water, and eggs, and season with salt, then mix all together.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set, risen, and golden brown. Serve as hot or at room temperature.

My muffin tin has 12 cups so this makes 12 smallish muffins.