Saturday, April 30, 2011

chive talkin'

This morning, I jazzed up my breakfast with some chives, my new favorite herb. I think that chives are the best thing if your food needs some jazzing.

This month's bon appetite features some quick, easy recipes using chives, eggs and salmon. Mmmm!

Good breakfast to you!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eat Your Greens!

Recently, a friend raved about something called broccoli slaw. Personally, I am not a huge fan of slaw. Sure, slap some on top of a pulled pork bbq sandwich and I am in. Otherwise, it's typically a side dish I'll pass on. However, I was intrigued by this new fangled version. I've also been craving everything fresh veggie and fruit wise...if I had a garden in my backyard, I would just go out there right now with a fork and a knife. I decided to try it out. My friend Liz referenced Smitten Kitchen and her recipe. I slightly adapted her version but kudos goes to her. She made me enjoy love slaw.

oh green, how I have missed you.

they always make me cry.

On a side note, tricks I learned when googling how not to cry when cutting onions: refrigerate/freeze your onion beforehand for 20 or so minutes, chop under cold water so the vapors will go down the drain or just plain wear goggles. I also learned that George Washington used to eat an onion as a cold remedy, that the largest onion ever grown was 10 lbs and 14 ounces, and something I already knew but maybe you don't yet, is that the Vidalia Onion is the state vegetable of Georgia. Shout-out to Mandi's kin-folk, who hail from Vidalia.

it's so pretty.

The recipe I used is pretty much the same as hers:

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted (I used walnuts, just as good)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing 
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/3 cup sour cream (she used mayonnaise, I just can't get behind that..)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot 

(These are her directions)
Trim broccoli and cut it into large chunks. From here, you can either feed it through your food processor’s slicing blade, use a mandoline to cut it into thin slices, or simply had chop it into smaller pieces. I used the stem and the flowerets, but if you have a broccoli stem aversion you can just use the tops.

Toss the sliced broccoli with the almonds, cranberries and red onion in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the broccoli (if you’ve skipped the stems, you might not want it all; I otherwise found this to be the perfect amount) and toss it well. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.
Should keep up to a week in the fridge.

I will definitely make this sometime again soon. On Smitten, she talks about a possible variation with cauliflower and currants. I am not a huge fan of cauliflower but she's made me a believer out of this slaw, why not try some other combos? Look forward to some more creative salads and slaws coming up, it's SPRING TIME!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Sunday

What is brunch without sweet tea? Well, I guess if you are above the Mason-Dixon, it's brunch. But where we come from, it aint worth the powder to blow it to hell (or so they say...). I wanted some kind of fruit flavored tea for Easter brunch. We had a quart of strawberries in the freezer and a plethora of teas in the pantry. I added 5 bags of Tazo Awake tea, which is a plain black tea with a fancy name, to a pot of boiling water. I added about 3 1/2T sugar and let it steep for a few minutes. Once the color looked good, I added the thawed (almost) strawberries and let them sit for about 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Since the strawberries had been frozen for a while, and then dyed brown from the tea (read: nasty-looking), I made the decision to take them out. Plus, we didn't want our tea to taste like cough medicine (sorry, Josh). Bam. Sweet Strawberry Black Tea.

I don't have any pictures of tea to show you, but here is a photoessay of our Easter Brunch:

British recipe = headache 

Elizabeth's creative interpretation of the recipe I gave her

...turned out to be pretty tasty

we're busy

I'm sorry to report it looked a lot better than it tasted. But it did give me some ideas for next time.

"Christos Anesti!"


THERE you are, Peter!

The afternoon was just what we wanted it to be: fun, delicious and relaxing. 

Next up: Sanne's Sweet Broccoli Slaw!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I like big buns and I cannot lie.

Hot cross buns! 
Hot cross buns!
One ha' penny, two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

I remember that's the first song I learned on my recorder in music class in the 1st grade. Those recorders are parental torture devises..even a well executed song is shrill and anything but melodic. Oh well, I guess it's how you capture the attention of 6 and 7 year olds in music class and I am certain if someone handed me one right now I could shriek out a horrifying version of it for you. Thank you Mrs. Reynolds, you made an impact.  

Our Easter brunch had a little bit of everything; an array of hot crossed buns, quiche, sangria, fruit salad, broccoli salad, chicken salad and croissants, deep dish bacon, egg and chive pie. It was an abundant spread shared with great friends on a BEAUTIFUL sunny, spring day. It hit 69 y'all. It's almost been a full 7 months since I've felt temperatures in the 70s. If I wasn't afraid of my translucent skin getting third degree burns, I might have laid down on someone's lawn on my walk to church on Sunday. (Seriously, I have to squint to see my freckles now.) 

Anyhow, for our feast we delegated this time around. Mandi and I gave some food assignments out to our friends who were coming. I took on making hot crossed buns. Mandi recently acquired a magazine called Delicious. It's UK based. We definitely did some hard math conversions with grams and such. We did find a helpful website if you ever find yourself in the same predicament: helpful conversion calculator.

The magazine had a recipe for Spiced-Chocolate and Orange Hot Cross Buns which I used. (I have been on quite the chocolate-orange combination kick, so thank you Delicious magazine writers for further indulging my current obsession.) The full recipe and directions are on their website, so forgive me for being lazy and giving you a link instead of typing out all the details: Spiced-Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns.

Here are some photos of my buns:

There was one ingredient which is tough to find here unless it is Thanksgiving or Christmas, candied orange peel. I looked at several grocery stores until I was fed up. I knew Cardullo's in Harvard Square had them but by the time I got home, I was so tired of being not home and it was raining, the last thing I wanted to do was get back on the bus and head out just to get ONE ingredient. I was going to skip them in the recipe altogether but at the last minute, I was curious enough to google a recipe on how to make them. I had all the ingredients and wanted to take a shot at it.

I had a lot of fun doing it. Here are my photos of making the candied orange peel (I made some lemon too.):

I used one orange and one lemon to start.

Scoring the oranges and lemon like this makes them easier to peel sections off to later cut into 1/4" strips.

Using a potato peeler to scrape of the pith saves time.

Put in water to boil. Enough to cover them and then some. I didn't really measure this part.

Boil for 20 minutes.

Drain. Boil 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup water. Once it reaches 230f on a candy thermometer (thread stage, they call it) toss in the strips of orange and lemon. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Drain again.

Dredge the slices through sugar. You can also toss the sugar in a ziploc with the slices and shake to coat in sugar.

Let them dry overnight. You could also set them in very low heat in the oven, checking often to hasten the process. Personally, letting them hang out all night works for me.

So fun and delicious and not as daunting as I thought. I'll definitely make them again soon. I'm going to make lime and grapefruit ones too. You can also roll them in melted chocolate for an extra treat. They are quite tasty on their own too.

We will share more about the rest of Easter Brunch soon with more recipes. I hope you had a Happy Easter too!


On Top of Spaghetti

Last night I went to a class at BU called "All About Sausage" [insert dumb joke that I've already heard from at least 3 people here] Johanne Killeen and George Germon are the owners of Providence restaurants Al Forno and Tini, pasta lovers and sausage enthusiasts [go ahead, I'll wait...]. After cooking and running restaurants for over thirty years, Germon and Killeen had A LOT to say on many different topics, including how to get the best flavor in your homemade sausage, some tricks to cooking good pasta, and even their own thoughts on how much food has changed over the years and how the younger generation is pushing to get back to what it was(go us!). This is what I got to taste tonight (Please excuse the camera-phone photos):

Not pictured: Crostini with Sausage and Stracchino cheese. But trust me, it was awesome.

I got to take home their cookbook!

I don't remember the names of the wines they gave us. Just know they were Italian and I drank them both. Johanne said she likes to keep wines in the restaraunts at 13.5% alcohol or lower, because otherwise "it isn't a beverage. It's something else." A frat party?

Johanne Killreen and Tini's head Chef David

Chef David is the sausage expert. He orders casing from their butcher, but said Whole Foods will order them for you, too. And you don't have to have a meat grinder to make them-- you can have a butcher grind your meat for you, or you could do it yourself at home with a very sharp knife. Don't use a food processor- it ruins the texture.

Pasta Shells with Spicy Sausage Red Sauce

Johanne and George are not the first professionals I've heard give this advice--
You need A LOT of water and A LOT of salt for cooking pasta. NO OLIVE OIL. It just isn't necessary. Another tip that I will be adapting is this: cook the pasta al dente, and then finish cooking it in your sauce. That will allow the pasta to take on more of the other flavors.

Roasted Sausages and Grapes with Al Forno Mashed Potatoes

This is one I am definitely going to try to replicate. Johanne said that a lot of inspiration for their recipes comes from random conversations they have with people about food and from photographs. Roasted Sausages and grapes was an idea that she got from a photograph of an italian woman holding a pan of a pork roast surrounded by red and green grapes.

It's interesting. In graphic design, you learn to look for ideas and inspiration in everything. Color combinations and layout ideas are everywhere, patterns start to slap you in the face. Why should food be any different?

If you are reading this in Boston, I highly recommend you check out BU's culinary seminars each semester. They are excellent. The speakers are thoughtfully chosen, the topics are relevant, the food is amazing, the price is right. The semester is just about over, but keep checking in with Boston University Food and Wine to find out about upcoming tastings and demonstrations. In the meantime, there are a TON of classes offered at Boston Center for Adult Education.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Best Meal of the Day

There is nothing better than a Saturday morning. The world is quiet and still, the light is soft and you have an entire day of possibilities ahead of you. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee and a piece of toast or as elaborate as a 4-ingredient casserole. Whether all alone with a newspaper, or with your 5 closest friends, breakfast isn't so much about the food you eat, but the way in which you eat it.

Breakfast is the best meal of the day.

Ask any 10-year old boy what his favorite subject in school is and 10 bucks says his answer is lunch. I'll go further and say, I dare you to find something more satisfying than a beautifully assembled sandwich. The right bread, the perfect meat, and an array of crisper-drawer favorites topped with the best condiment (Mustard, period.), and you have a meal fit for Liz Lemon. If everyone in the world ate a big club sandwich with a pickle on the side for lunch every day and washed it down with an ice cold glass of milk, we might have a better shot at peace on earth, good will toward men.

Three cheers for lunch!

Wow your girlfriends, win over your mother-in-law, make up with your boyfriend: Dinner time is your time to shine. You aren't confined by the science of baking. Your right brain gets to lead the way! You can taste as you go, experiment with new techniques and ingredients, or change things up on a whim. Creativity rules. You can try on other cultures, remind someone of home, offer with condolences after a death or with support after a new baby. Above all other meals, dinner might be the greatest form of self expression and love.

I [pasta] you very much!

We sing around birthday cakes, we scream for ice cream, we cry over pints of Ben & Jerry's, we go door to door begging for candy. No other meal of the day evokes more emotion than dessert. If future civilizations were to study our culture based on the food we eat, dessert would be our stone tools or clay pottery. Whether you take the healthy route or choose to indulge, the whole purpose of this unassuming little meal at day's end is to make you smile. That's it.

Thank you, dessert :)

What's your favorite meal of the day?


Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Fish

Tonight we had a typical Good Friday dinner... fish! I don't know why, but I always forget about fish. Maybe its because we're such a chicken nation. Sad, because fish is so good! 

I found this recipe in delicious magazine. It's easy, but sooo good. This recipe called for potatoes, red onions, tarragon, parsley, white fish and lemon. We didn't have potatoes, and honestly, I'm glad. Roasted potatoes remind me of winter. And I want no part of that, thankyouverymuch.

First, cut up some onions. I used red and yellow, and sautéed them in some olive oil for a little over 5 minutes on low heat. I added some crushed garlic and cooked just until everything started to smell. Then, I cut up a few tomatoes, and tossed them with the onions in some olive oil. Add some salt and pepper, chopped parsley, oregano and maybe a little basil. Slice white fish into personal portions and place on top. Tilapia was on sale this week, so that's what I used. I squeezed a little lemon juice on top of everything, added a few pats of butter on top of the fish and put it in the oven.

Roast at 350 for about 15 minutes. After that, I broiled it for another 15, just because I always broil fish. Maybe it's an OCD thing (I might have a touch of that, too), but I don't feel like fish is done until it has broiled.

Oh my goodness, it was good. We had it along with Sanne's broccoli salad, which was also amazing. I'll let her tell you about that tomorrow. Roasted fish with vegetables, broccoli salad and Rosemount Merlot makes for a good dinner. I tell you, you have to be very talented to mess up fish and veggies.

Throw in this week's Parks & Rec and Modern Family, and you've got yourself a perfect Friday night, if I do say so myself. Especially if this week sucked for you (which reminds me, vote in our new poll in the sidebar-->)

...brought to you by April showers (buh-dum, chhhh)

After dinner and primetime TV, we decided to dye some eggs. As I mentioned before, I have had many a Greek Easter. So the last couple of years, my Easter eggs are red.

 I may be off base here, but I am going to tell you about hard-boiling eggs. I couldn't remember the proper way, with all the rules and etiquette and what-not, so Sanne googled it. Here you go:

Cover eggs with 1-2 inches of cold water. Slowly bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, take the pot off heat and cover. Let sit on low heat for 1 minute. Leave the cover on, turn off heat and let it sit for another 10-20 minutes. If you're doing a large batch, you can sacrifice an egg to find out if they're done. If you aren't into taking risks, just let them sit a little longer. Now for the fun part...

Sanne and I were talking about natural dyes. We used food coloring tonight, but I have been seeing a lot of egg-dying using colors found in nature. Coffee, beets, cabbage, turmeric, and maybe even chili pepper can all be used to dye eggs naturally. Just substitute for the food coloring, with the usual warm water and vinegar ratio, and you're good to go! 

Be sure to check back after Sunday to see our Resurrection Day feast! Happy Holy Week, and Christos Anesti, y'all!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

therapy baking

Today was one of those days for me. You know what I'm talking about... The kind of day where everything goes so wrong and everyone is so rude and its so cold outside and the elevators are so broken and the bus leaves without you and you just want to lock yourself in your room so that you don't accidentally punch the face of the next person that looks at you wrong. You know? Maria aka my Boston Mom finally said to me: "Mandi, go home." when I told her I was about to burst into tears because I was so frustrated.

So I am home. After a quick detour to Cardullo's for a personal wine tasting from Eileen, I am taking a page from Sanne's book, and am going to try therapy baking. I just hope it doesn't backfire on me like my usual baking adventures.

I started with last night's pizza dough recipe and substituted whole wheat flour for all purpose flour, and mixed some fresh chopped basil into the dough. This dough is very pliable, and really didn't need to rise.

I halved this recipe, because how much pizza does one really need in their refrigerator at once? (rhetorical) I topped this one with chopped onions, sun-dried tomatoes, honey goat cheese, mixed greens and balsamic vinegar.

(I realized after I took these, that the mixed greens can't bake on the pizza that long, or they'll dry out. If you added them already, take them off and then throw them back on with a drizzle of olive oil during the last 5-10 minutes or so of baking.)

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

I have to admit, I felt much better after kneading that dough. I'm starting to understand this whole baking-as-therapy approach. Pound flour, not elevator buttons (or your coworkers' faces).

Have a great day!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A lasagna mishap, a brownie save, and a baking first

Last night was a fluke. In theory, Spicy Portobello Lasagna sounds great, but if you haven't made lasagna before and aren't following a recipe, things don't come together the way you want them to. It's okay, Sanne. You can't be great at everything.

A few tips for better lasagna:
-Add crushed red pepper, a dash of cayenne and chopped portobello to the ground beef in your favorite lasagna recipe. 
-The typical cheese ratio is about 2 parts ricotta to 1 part mozarella to 1 part parmesan or whatever other kind of cheese you like.
-Don't forget to add plenty of sauce so the meat doesn't dry out.

it's pretty though

No worries, though. I saved the day by making Sanne's from-scratch brownies, with chocolate chips and a larger splash of milk, making them a little fudgier than last time but just as delicious.

Tonight we are going to an old stand-by. Pizza. But this time, we are making our own dough. This is something we haven't tried yet, because typically, we save pizza for when we're feeling lazy. I poked around online for homemade dough recipes, and found a few with good reviews that were basically the same. I'm not sure why baking intimidates me so. If I've learned anything from watching The Biggest Loser, its that I need to face my fears and make my own pizza dough. By myself. So here goes.

I found this recipe on Mix together:
3c flour
1t salt
1T sugar
1c warm water
2T vegetable oil
1 pckg dry active yeast (which is 2 1/4t)

Mix the dry ingredients and slowly incorporate the water and oil. My dough was super sticky, so I ended up having to add about another cup of flour. Basically, just keep adding flour until you get the right consistency. It also helps to have a baker nearby, encouraging you. Because if you're anything like me, you psyched yourself out and ended up ruining the first batch and had to start over. That's okay. Jay got voted off the Biggest Loser and ended up coming back a few weeks later and he's still losing weight!

This recipe said that the dough didn't need to sit in a dark corner somewhere and rise. I set it in a bowl on the stove while I finished the sauce, just in case. They were right, though. About 10 minutes later or so, I rolled it out, topped it off and it was good to go. So easy!

I used a homemade pasta sauce, with crushed red pepper, chili powder, a dash of cayenne pepper, dried oregano, and parsley. Then, some chopped plum tomatoes, torn fresh basil and monterey jack & cheddar cheese. And of course, some more crushed red pepper on top.

Bake it at 370 for about 25-30 minutes.

Oh, it's good. We are talking about variations on the dough for next time. Whole wheat dough with herbs baked into it... like rosemary and garlic, or basil, spinach... any other ideas?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

traditioooon, tradition.

I've been scouring the cookbooks, blogs and magazines in search of the perfect combination of Easter Brunch recipes, and I think we may have it all worked out. I'm really excited to start cooking, and for you guys to see how it turns out.

Maybe it's because I'm the oldest sibling, but the making and keeping of traditions is very important to me, more so now. Lately I've been thinking about holiday traditions. For my family it was always: a turkey sandwich picnic for Thanksgiving, Hoppin' John on New Year's Day, and this bunny cake every Easter:

We would also always get a new dress and shoes to wear to church. I will never forget my favorites-- the purple Sam & Libby's with the big giant bow on them.

kind of like these

Anyway, back to the food. Have any of you ever read delicious Magazine? The issue out now had so many beautiful photos that I had to buy it, even if it was $9.

Several of our Easter Brunch items are coming from that issue, and 1 from the website. Check it out. You'll have to convert the measurements, though, they're metric. Here is a collection of their Easter recipes.

I was thinking, Sanne's cupcakes would be a nice addition to your menu, and would work nicely as a cake, too. With an arrangement of the pineapple flowers on top? Try it and send us pictures. We'll give you a prize if you do.

What about you, any Easter/Passover traditions? What are you going to cook?


Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston Cupcake Camp 2011

Recently, I attended something called Cupcake Camp. It's a gathering of professional and amateur bakers to share and eat cupcakes. It happens worldwide and Boston participated this past week. I attended and brought my own cupcakes to share. I previously posted about making dried pineapple flowers and coconut cupcakes and that's what I made for this event. The recipe is at the end of the post.

It was so much fun! So many different kinds of cupcakes and so many fun people (bakers and eaters). If there's a cupcake event happening near you, I highly suggest you get involved. Bake something (don't worry, you can be an amateur) or simply attend and eat your heart out. I recommend bringing a friend. In theory, you might think you want to eat a dozen cupcakes all by yourself but in reality you really want to share them. You are still both assured a proper sugar coma when sharing.

However, there are always a few that you don't want to share. My favorite of the night was the Strawberry Margarita cupcake by Cupcake Mojo. Words fail me when I try to properly describe it. It tasted like I was actually drinking a Strawberry Margarita. It was as close to perfect in a cupcake that I've ever tasted.

Here are some photos from the event that I took throughout the night.

My little set up. Handmade sign made by Mandi. The amateur bakers were spread out around the outside walls.
So cute!

Maple Bacon Brittle topped variety...

Yes and they were good. 

as far as the eye can see...

Banana with a honey crumble and other deliciousness I am forgetting.

These were vegan and you wouldn't know it. Lemon with blueberry mousse inside. Sooo good and beautiful.

What if cupcakes grew on trees?

The professionals setting up in the center ring.

Earl grey goodness cupcakes. 

To the left were Nutella frosted...both knockouts. 

our first round. (don't judge)

The crowds starting to gather.

not an uncommon sight.

second round. (I swear I was taking a few to a friend who graciously let me borrow her car in the rainy weather to set up.)

There was even a station you could choose your own cupcake, icing, and toppings. Just like Coldstone.

We left at 830pm. (All my cupcakes were gone by 8.) It started at 7pm and this was the line when we left. Get there early!

Here's the recipe for the coconut cupcakes I made:
(This makes about 32 cupcakes give or take a few)

2 c. sugar
3 sticks of butter (room temp)
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. buttermilk
14 oz. shredded coconut

For the frosting:
16 oz cream cheese (room temp)
3 sticks butter (room temp)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 almond extract
powdered sugar to taste

Cream butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes. (this makes it so light and fluffy) Add eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping sides of the bowl between each. Add vanilla and and almond. Mix well.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and soda in separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to creamed mixture, alternating beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold in the coconut.

Oven at 325 and bake 25-35 minutes. Mine cooked closer to 25 minutes. Allow them to cool in their pans for 10 or 15 minutes. They are really delicate when fresh out. You can put them on a cooling rack after that to fully cool.

Cream cheese frosting is one of my favorite things to make. I like it just sweet enough. It's easy to over do so it's better to add a little and then taste before going all in with the sugar. Butter and cream cheese first, then the extracts, then the powdered sugar. You can use a piping bag or just slather on with a spatula. I sprinkled with leftover coconut and topped with the pineapple flowers.

What's your favorite cupcake? Do you have any ingredient-combination challenges you would like to throw my way?