Monday, December 28, 2009



*Tap, tap.* Is this thing on?

I am now the proud owner of my very own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Gastronomical bliss is forthcoming.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Year-End Bonus Recipe!

I love the holidays, for three reasons:
  • One--it's a season of spending time with family, and whether that's my brother and dad or Tim's spectacular parents and sister, I know I'm going to be laughing and full of love.
  • Two--it's a season of eating, and I love to eat! Tim's parents are excellent cooks, and I love to bake, so there's no shortage of delicious food to consume in the month of December round these parts.
  • And three--Tim's swimmers like to send him home from practice with treats. (See above bullet point about how I love to eat.)
Last week, or maybe this week, or maybe some other time, one of Tim's swimmers sent him home with an adorable little Christmas-y lunch box filled with miniature poppy seed muffins. Tim hates poppy seed muffins. I adore poppy seed muffins. I'm not a big muffin person in the first place (I hate blueberry, pumpkin, orange, banana, cranberry, and most other types of muffins, and I've only ever met two or three kinds I'll eat), but there's something about poppy seed that really makes my heart leap. At any rate, it had never occurred to me to attempt to make poppy seed muffins before, but after eating a full dozen mini muffins in one sitting and still wanting more, I figured I'd better find a recipe and hop to it!

So, without further ado, Poppy Seed Muffins, just in time for the new year!

One stick butter
Three-quarters of a cup of sugar
Two eggs
One and a half teaspoons almond extract
One and a half cups of flour*
One and one-eighth teaspoons of baking powder
Half a teaspoon of baking soda
One-quarter teaspoon of salt
Half a cup of buttermilk
Two and a half tablespoons of poppy seeds

* I suppose you could use any old all-purpose flour you like, but I used cake flour, which is specially formulated for soft, light, fluffy cakes. I figured it couldn't hurt my muffins, so I went for it.

Oh, and please forgive the bad photography. It's winter in the PNW, and my kitchen is very dark even in the middle of the day. Poor lighting is not my fault!

Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add in the almond extract.

One egg...

Two eggs!
Preheat your oven to 350F.

Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in two additions each, alternating dry-wet-dry-wet.
Dry addition #1...


Dry addition #2...

All done!
Fold in the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into 12 prepared muffin tines --either line them with paper or thoroughly grease them.

Bake for 15-18 minutes till done. Use a toothpick to test like you would any cake. Mine took about 17 minutes.

Mmm...golden, light, moist, heavenly poppy seed muffins. Enjoy!

Makes 12 muffins.
Takes about 20 minutes, plus bake time.
Difficulty: 2

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stuffed Breasts!

OMG Yum.

This has been a week of surprising recipes. Monday's beef tenderloin was wayyyy easier and more delicious than I expected it to be. Tuesday's chicken noodle soup was surprisingly bad--the noodles were ridiculously starchy, and it ruined the whole thing. And these stuffed breasts were phenomenal. Enjoy!

You will need:
Chicken breasts
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Chicken broth
Parsley & Basil

Either buy thin-cut breast filets to begin with, or flatten your breasts as thin as you can between a couple sheets of wax paper. In a small bowl, combine a quarter cup of olive oil, two cloves of minced garlic, two tablespoons chopped parsley, one tablespoon chopped basil, and plenty of salt and pepper.

On each breast, lay one slice of proscuitto (it's an Italian ham (I think) that you can find at the deli counter) and a spoonful of the parsley mixture. Roll it all up tight and secure with a couple of toothpicks. I don't have toothpicks, so I chopped up a couple of bamboo skewers. I really must invest in toothpicks.

Place the chicken in a baking dish, seam down, and bake at 350F for 15 minutes.

(The chicken's in a baking dish, and not, in fact, just sitting on the burner. Don't despair!)

Blurry, dark oven action shot!

Warm up a cup of chicken broth in the microwave and use it to baste the chicken. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, basting often, until the chicken is done.

Spoon the juices over the top and enjoy!

Takes about 40 minutes, start to finish.
Serves as many as you need it to, just make more parsley filling for more than 4.
Difficulty: 2

So, this is probably the last recipe you'll see this month. With Christmas and New Year's coming up, I'm either not cooking much in a week or relying on old standbys for every day in the week. I had to scrap a couple complicated recipes I'd planned because I suddenly find myself employed! I don't know how long it'll last, but it seems like it'll be fairly steady for a couple months. I don't want to say too much about it because I don't want to jinx anything, but I think it's enough to know this: I'm finally back in a productive, positive environment where I love what I do and I love the people I'm working with and I'm putting my considerable skills to good use. I've had a phenomenal week and I'm really quite thrilled. Big ups to Brooklyn!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beef Tenderloin

I now present to you, for the first time on this blog, "The Easiest, Quickest, Classiest, Yummiest Dinner Ever."

Here's what you're gonna do:

Preheat your broiler and adjust a rack to the top position.

Slap two beef tenderloins (or however many you need) on a baking sheet, or broiler pan if you have one.

Season with salt and pepper. (I used a seasoned salt blend, and it was delicious, but I usually use kosher salt for this kind of thing.)

Slap the whole thing in under the broiler, and use tongs to flip every two minutes for ten minutes.


This picture is overexposed as all get out, but I like that you can see the steam.

Here's a better picture. Still poorly lit, but it's winter, so give me a break.

I'd meant to have salad with this, but when I got to the store this morning, I realized I'd left my list at home, and forgot. So we had pineapple instead, which I did remember to buy.

Feeds as many as you need it to.
Takes ten minutes.
Easy as pie.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I hope all your gastronomical dreams come true today.

What are you making? My sister-in-law's doing the bulk of the cooking at Grandma's house today, but I've got an apple pie in the oven right now, and as soon as it comes out, Mom's rosemary bread goes in.

And, oh yeah, my house smells amazing right now. Happy Turkey Day!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beef Kebabs

One and a half pound beef sirloin steak, cut into one-inch cubes
One-quarter cup grated yellow onion*
One tablespoon minced garlic
Two tablespoons ground coriander
One tablespoon ground caraway
Two teaspoons curry powder
Half a cup coconut milk
Two tablespoons soy sauce
Two tablespoons lemon juice

In a small bowl, combine the grated onion, garlic, coriander, caraway, curry, coconut milk, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Add the beef and marinade to a plastic bag and shake a little to evenly distribute the marinade. Allow to stand at room temperature for an hour.

Preheat a grill and slide the beef onto skewers. Grill about 8 minutes for medium, turning occasionally. Serve with steamed white rice. You can also do this on a baking sheet under the broiler, like me!

Tim really liked these, and I didn't like them at all. For me, it was wayyyy too much caraway. Possibly that's because I used seed instead of ground, so make sure you have ground caraway before making this.

*My grater squished the onion more than anything, so I gave up and just diced it. Worked for me!

Difficulty: 1
Takes about 20 minutes of prep, 10 minutes cooking, and an hour soaking.
Feeds 6.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Oven Braised Chicken

A couple months ago my sister-in-lawesome gave me a Williams-Sonoma cookbook chock full of mouthwatering recipes for all my favorite meats. She said she didn't think she was accomplished enough to attempt these recipes, but I think she could do it. Anyway, I'm glad she felt like she couldn't handle it, because this is wayyyy too fabulous to miss out on. November's meals are 100% out of this cookbook.

Oven Braised Chicken with Vegetables
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Meat & Poultry cookbook

One roasting chicken, 3-5 pounds
One yellow onion, halved
One head of iceberg lettuce, cored and sliced lengthwise*
Two carrots, peeled and chopped
One green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Two tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
Half a cup dry white wine
Half a cup chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Chop your onion in half.

Peel and chop your carrots.

Seed and chop your bell pepper.

Slice your lettuce.

Rub the chicken's cavity with salt and place the onion halves inside. Place the lettuce, carrots, and bell peppers in the bottom of a heavy oven-proof pot.

Rub the outside of the chicken with butter, and then season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken in the pot, breasts up.

(That's not actually butter on my chicken, that's margarine. I fully support you using butter, but you know, I'm lactose intolerant. So I choose to forgo it.)

Add the wine and the chicken stock. Cover and put in the oven for an hour. Remove the lid and continue cooking until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone reads 170F, about 30 more minutes.

Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter and spoon the juices over the top.

This was good--tender and moist--but there wasn't a ton of flavor. And the lettuce got really gross after being cooked for 90 minutes. So next time I make this, I think I'll skip the lettuce (and maybe the pepper, too, since Tim doesn't like them) and chunk up a potato instead.

Serves four.
Takes about 20 minutes of prep, plus 90 minutes cook time.
Difficulty: 1

* I actually chose to use Boston lettuce, because my market sells it in tiny heads. There's just no way we can use a whole head of lettuce before it goes bad. And seriously, if I'd used an entire head of iceberg, I don't know how I'd have fit the chicken in the pot. It was a tight squeeze with all those veggies!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marinated Flank Steak

Here's my thing about Rachel Ray (besides the fact that I generally find her loud and abrasive)--I don't feel like she gives you crucial bits of information at crucial times. Like tonight, when I was making this recipe. When it comes to steak, I generally prepare it and then make Tim take it outside and grill it. But it's super cold this time of year, and if I wait for Tim to get home and grill, we may not eat until 7:30 or so. And that's pretty much too late for me. So I was really excited when the recipe noted that I could cook this steak in a cast iron skillet on the stove--except the recipe neglected to note that I would burn part of the steak, create a heckuva ton of smoke, set off the smoke detector, scare my cat, worry my husband, and generally feel like I'd failed at life. So anyway....the recipe.

Marinated Flank Steak & Bacony Potatoes
Adapted from Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals

Two cloves of garlic, minced
One tablespoon of your favorite grill seasoning
One teaspoon chilli powder
Two teaspoons tabasco sauce
One tablespoon worcestershire sauce
Two tablespoons red wine vinegar
A one-and-a-half-pound flank steak
One pound small red new potatoes
Four slices bacon

Mix the garlic, seasoning, chilli powder, tabasco, worcestershire, and vinegar in a plastic bag. Insert the steak and shake a little to evenly cover with the marinade. Let it sit until you're ready to cook it, at least 15 minutes. (I didn't have red wine vinegar, so I used apple cider vinegar. I think regular white vinegar would be fine, too.)

Cut your potatoes in half and place in a medium pot. Cover with water and liberally salt. Potatoes need salt, people! Cover with a lid and heat until the water boils. Then remove the lid and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
Chop your bacon and cook it.

Heat a grill or cast-iron skillet over high heat. Cook the steak on the hot pan, about 6 minutes per side. Please note: this will create a lot of smoke, so turn on as many fans as you can. Also, any garlic still adhered to the steak will burn! It is 100% worth your effort to remove as much garlic as possible before adding the steak to the pan. If you set off your smoke detectors (like me), put the skillet in the oven at 350F for an additional 5 minutes or so, and then cut into it to figure out if it's as done as you need it to be. And just keep putting it back in the oven until you get it there (that's what I did).

Smash your potatoes with a bit of milk and butter, or sour cream, or chicken broth, or half & half. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the bacon! Mmmmm....

Enjoy! For all my whining about smoke and feeling like I'd failed, the steak actually turned out pretty amazingly delicious.

Feeds four.
Difficulty: 2
Takes about 45 minutes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

General Tso's Chicken

I'm no General Tso aficionado, but I thought that this tasted exactly like it was supposed to. It's got a fair few ingredients, but the prep is pretty easy, and it's still a fairly quick recipe.

General Tso's Chicken
Four tablespoons cornstarch
One cup snow peas
Four cloves of garlic, minced
Two teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Three tablespoons brown sugar
Two tablespoons soy sauce
Half a teaspoon red pepper flakes
Two egg whites
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
One pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
Two tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut the snow peas in half and set aside.

Mince the ginger.

Dice your chicken.

In a medium bowl, whisk together one tablespoon cornstarch with half a cup of cold water until smooth.

Add the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper, and snow peas. Toss to combine.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg whites, remaining three tablespoons cornstarch, half a teaspoon of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon pepper.

Add the chicken and toss to coat.

In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Shake the excess coating from the chicken and add to the skillet. Cook until golden-brown, turning occasionally. Remove to a plate.

Add the snow peas and sauce and let bubble for a minute or two. Add the chicken back in and stir to combine. Serve with rice.

Feeds four.
Difficulty: 2
Takes about 35 minutes.

So hey, what are you all planning to make for Halloween dinner? My dad always made us chilli before we went out trick-or-treating. We're not trick-or-treating this year, nor are we attending any parties, but we'll probably still have my dad's chilli. What about you? It's sort of a special day, are you making anything special? I love to hear about other peoples' food choices.