June 12, 2012

Roasted Carrots

I promised a friend I'd start posting recipes more often... that was at least two months ago. So I'm going to try to start posting simple recipes from my phone as I make them.

About six months ago, I joined Weight Watchers Online (lost 20+ lbs and counting!); so now most of my cooking is veggie heavy and low on fat. The plan allows you to eat unlimited fruits and vegetables so I've found some ways to make delicious vegetables with little else added.

Tonight I made some carrots. I added some spices, a little Splenda brown sugar, and some olive oil spray. Then I roasted them, because roasted veggies are yummy.

Here's an approximation of the recipe:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel and cut a bag of carrots (1 lb I think) into 1-inch chunks.
In a bowl, spray carrots with cooking spray; I used olive oil spray. Use just enough to lightly coat.
Sprinkle with (approximate measurements) 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp dry ground ginger, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 2 tsp Splenda brown sugar.
Toss to coat evenly.
Turn out into a cookie sheet (I roast all my veggies in a Pampered Chef stoneware roasting pan).
Cook for 50-60 min or until nicely browned, stirring occasionally.
Enjoy! I ate the whole batch for dinner, so maybe make more if you have a WW member on hand.

February 6, 2012

Root Beer Float Cake


There's a complicated story behind the "party" for which I made this cake, but basically I wanted to make an out-of-the-ordinary cake to reward some of the students I work with for a fundraising job well done. This cake was delicious but not a roaring success in terms of attaining the taste I was going for, but I took pictures, so it goes up on the blog.

This "Root Beer Float Cake" didn't quite taste like a root beer float but it was still very tasty. I convinced myself that I tasted the root beer but most samplers of the cake said it just tasted like chocolate cake. For the frosting, I found several sources that said making a vanilla buttercream with vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract would make it taste like vanilla ice cream. Having tried it, I can't vouch for the truth in that idea. I did come across a few recipes that actually listed ice cream as an ingredient and I'll probably go that route if I give this concept another try.




Chocolate Root Beer Cake
One 12-oz bottle strongly flavored root beer
One Box Devil's Food Cake Mix

Mix them together with a hand mixer or by hand until well blended. Follow instructions on cake mix box for time and temperature. My batter was pretty thick and I was only able to get one round 9-inch cake out of it.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 T vanilla bean paste
1 T milk

Beat together softened butter and sugar, adding sugar slowly until it reaches a frosting consistency you like. Then add in the vanilla bean paste and some milk to smooth it out.

Once cake is cooled, spread on frosting. I used this decorator bottle to make the top of my cake pretty. 

November 30, 2011

Accidentally Delicious- Tomato and White Bean Sauce


I often make an impromptu delicious dinner and think, "Hey, I should blog this." Inevitable I forget to take pictures and/or forget how I made what I made. But tonight, in a cranky-hungry stupor, I've created something delicious. In my pantry I had a can of small white beans and a fancy can of chopped tomatoes (some Whole Foods brand with garlic and onion). I also have this great "Quick-Cook" pasta that cooks in 3 minutes. And all of a sudden it was delicious and blog-worthy. I'm literally not even done eating as I type this. I took the picture on my webcam, you can see the pasta sliding out of my bowl and the drip of liquid that fell on my keyboard immediately after the picture was snapped. I know it doesn't look appetizing; I promise, it is.

Here's how you do it:
Put up a pot of water to boil. Keep an eye on it and cook the pasta while everything else is going on. Drizzle 1-2 tsp olive oil in a small saucepan. Add some garlic (I used 2 frozen cubes of this), about a teaspoon of rosemary, and a pinch of red chili flake. Let that all heat up and flavor the oil then add the can of tomatoes, cook off some of the liquid, for about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse the can of small white beans. Once the tomatoes have reduced, add the beans (I only used about 2/3 of the can) and continue to reduce down. It will start out looking a lot like soup, let it cook until it more closely resembles sauce. Stir in 3-5 TBSP grated parmesan cheese (the powdery stuff). When the pasta is done top it with the tomato bean sauce. It's so good.

Sorry again the picture is terrible. Just make this dish, it's SO easy, and healthy. The sauce would probably be good on whole wheat pasta or quinoa if you're looking for a healthier starch. But those don't cook in 3 minutes.

February 23, 2011

Easy as Pudding Banana Cookies




I came across this recipe: http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2010/12/day-1-of-12-days-of-christmas-cookies.html in December and loved the idea of using pistachio pudding mix because I love pistachio flavoring. So I whipped up a batch only adjusting it by replacing ¾ of the chopped nuts with white chocolate chips; why? because I ran out of pistachios and white chocolate chips are delicious. I brought them into work as a treat for the volunteers I manage while they work hard at a solicitation booth. I have another booth coming up this week and I wanted to bake them some more cookies. I looked up a few recipes but I really wanted to make the pistachio cookies again, then it dawned on me: If you can use pistachio pudding mix, why not use some other kind of pudding. When I went to the store, the only non-chocolate/vanilla/pistachio pudding they had was banana cream, so I got it and decided it would be good with walnuts and chocolate chips, so I made these, and they are good.

Ingredients

1 package sugar cookie mix
1 package (4 serving) instant banana pudding mix
¼ cup AP Flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup melted butter
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾-1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix together cookie mix, pudding mix, and flour. Stir in butter and eggs to form dough. Add in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Drop by teaspoonful on an ungreased cookie sheet (I lined mine with parchment) about 2 inches apart, they will spread out. Bake for 9-11 minutes (I baked mine for 11-12). Cool for at least 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheet, then cool completely.

Everyone who tried them really seemed to like them, here is a picture of my friend and volunteer, Leah, enjoying her cookie.


February 19, 2011

It's Been a Long Time French Onion Soup

I know it’s been a while and I am ashamed of my neglect. The main reason I started contributing to this blog was to add a little accountability to the quality and frequency of my cooking. Oops. I’ve been cooking and I have a few backlogged recipes and photos, and I’m going to see what I can do about posting a little more often. The reason I’m posting this particular recipe is because my friend asked for a French Onion soup recipe; so thanks for getting me back on the blogging wagon, Shelley.

Hi, my name is Jenna, and I’ve been a Food Network junkie for about 15 years now. I can’t say I love 100% of their programming, but I still remember the traumatic experience of learning something from Food Network that I absolutely did NOT want to know. French Onion soup is made with beef stock/broth. This was not good news to me. I had grown up having this delicious soup at non-kosher restaurants. The beef stock isn’t kosher there, and beef stock and cheese is never allowed. I just had to stop eating one of my favorite foods, cold turkey. mmm...bubbly cheese, how I missed thee. This happened when I was 10 or 11, by the way. So I went years without French Onion soup, but I finally started to realize I could achieve its rich flavor with no beef involved (I always choose cheese). All it takes is a few hours to milk (caramelize) the onions for all the flavor they’ve got. This is a simple recipe, but it is not a quick, weeknight recipe. However, your patience will pay off.

2 lbs yellow onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3-4 T olive oil
1 T salt
6 cups water
1 small pkg dried porcini mushrooms
1 cube beef bouillon (parve! yay!)
1 T flour
½ T balsamic
½ T soy sauce
½ t dried thyme
½ t dried rosemary (optional)

Garnish
1 ½-inch slice good baguette per serving
1 thin slice fresh mozzarella per serving (gruyere preffered)

caramelize onions over low heat in 3 T olive oil. This will take a long time, like 1 to 2 hours. If you are cooking over a low enough flame, you won’t have to stand over the stove the whole time. For the first 45 minutes you only have to stir them about once every 10 minutes. You can let the onions stick to the pan a bit, but stir again before they burn. Sprinkle some salt in every once in a while, starting at about 20 minutes into the cooking time. You can add a little more oil after 45-60 min too.

make broth by putting 6 cups of water up to boil. once it’s boiling, add the dried mushrooms and the bouillon. you may want to crumble and dissolve the bouillon in about ½ cup of the hot water so you don’t get clumps of saltiness in your broth. let it all boil for 2 more minutes then turn off the flame. let the flavors steep for at least 30 minutes, still keeping an eye on the onions and stirring them to prevent burning.

when the onions are caramelized and have reached a rich brown color, sprinkle them with 1 T flour and stir, cook for about a minute. Then add soy sauce and balsamic and a little broth to get all the sticky onions off the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth, carefully avoiding the reconstituted mushrooms and any grit, you may need to leave some broth in the pot just to be careful. Rinse the mushrooms, and slice about half of them and add them to the soup. Add the rosemary and thyme. Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes.

meanwhile, make the garnish. All you need is toasty bread and cheese. You can use storebought croutons and shredded cheese, or you can make your own toast and broil cheese on top. I did something in between, a little closer to the fancier version. I think the best way is to make the toast and broil the cheese on, but I don’t have oven safe serving dishes, so I toasted the cheese directly on the toast and “floated” them in the soup. I also added a little shredded monterey jack cheese to the soup under the crouton.

August 26, 2010

Orange Sesame Slaw


This slaw was my contribution to a summer barbeque, it was pretty tasty. Like other salad recipes, I’m not going to go into too much detail, but I will talk about how to make the wonton crisps and infused oil.

To make the wonton crisps, I sliced wonton skins into 1/4-1/3 inch strips then heated up about 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a pot (the amount of oil depends on your pot size, but try to have at least half an inch of oil heated in the pan). A deep fryer would probably work better, but start by dropping a few wonton strips into the hot oil. Make sure you watch them, they burn quickly! Once they start to turn golden brown take them out with a wire “spider” or an slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. If you can find premade wonton crisps, that would probably be easier, I’ll try to improve my method, but I wasn’t completely enthused with how my crisps came out.

You’ll have a pot of oil left over, and I hate the waste oil created by frying, so I decided to repurpose it for my dressing. And I decided it would be an adventure to try infusing the oil with some good flavors for my dressing, I originally wanted to leave the solids from my infusion in my dressing but they kind of burned and formed a giant clump. I minced some garlic, ginger, and shallot, and threw it in with some sesame seeds, brown sugar and orange zest. If you’re more careful than I am fry all of the solids until they are cooked and lightly browned and then mix in the oil with the other dressing ingredients. If you have my luck, remove most of the solids, and measure out about 1/2 cup of the oil for the dressing. Enjoy!

Slaw
Napa Cabbage, shredded
Red onion
2 Valencia Orange- segments of 2 and zest of 1
2 Avocado
grilled corn (I didn’t use it, but it would probably be good, Trader Joe’s sells frozen roasted corn-win!)
wonton crisps
sesame seeds

Orange Sesame Dressing
juice of one very juicy orange
~1 T sesame oil
~1 T rice vinegar
S+P
1/2 c veg oil infused with garlic, ginger, shallot, sesame, brown sugar, and orange zest

RRay-style Mushroom Pasta


I may have mentioned that mushrooms are my absolute favorite food before, they are just plain awesome. I’m pretty sure Rachael Ray also really like mushrooms, as she’s written several super-mushroomy recipes that inspired this dish. I also really love RRay, and I’m proud of it. I know her voice is annoying and she isn’t gourmet, but I like the way she cooks, and I admire the success she’s achieved in her life and business. I only disagree with her and another one of my idols (Kelly Clarkson!) on one big thing, they both don’t want kids, and I think babies are awesome. This recipe was fun and was one of the first times I made a successful roux. This was *shockingly* my first time cooking with dried mushrooms, and to be honest, I’m not sure I loved the smokiness of the porcinis in the mushroom broth, I may try another type of mushroom next time. Another thing I want to clarify is the way I made the mushroom broth. Most recipes call for chicken stock/broth to steep the mushrooms, but I didn’t have any on hand, plus chicken stock can’t be eaten with dairy products like the butter, milk, and cheese also in this recipe. I like the way the mild onion soup flavor (I used a lot less mix than I would for making actual package directions soup). I thought this tasted delicious, so did Ruby, she didn’t say anything while we were eating it but a few days later she said “yeah, that mushroom pasta was really good”.

Ingredients
2.5 cups water
1-2 T onion soup mix
0.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
EVOO (had to, for RRay)
half a box whole wheat penne rigate (maybe a different pasta would be better)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced (shallots preferred)
6-8 large shitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
2+ T butter
2 T flour
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T milk (cream preferred)
1 sprig rosemary (and/or thyme), leaves removed and roughly chopped
parsley
parmesan for finishing

Directions
In a small pot bring water and soup mix to a boil, turn off heat and add porcinis, cover pot and steep mushrooms. Put water for pasta up to boil. Over low heat, begin to saute the garlic and scallions (or shallot) while you clean and slice the shitakes and creminis. Add mushrooms and rosemary to the saute pan and cook until soft and lightly browned. Push vegetables to the side of the pan and start to melt butter. Sprinkle flour into melted butter and make sure the two are fully blended. Let the flour cook for 1-2 minutes to get the raw flour taste out. Start to ladle in some of the mushroom broth and blend with the roux until it’s smooth, I had to use a whisk. Add about 1 to 1.5 cups broth total and mix in with the mushrooms in the pan. Stir in the balsamic and the milk or cream (you could also add some starchy pasta water if you’d like) and cook down until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Add the cooked pasta and the parsley and parmesan and mix until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Garnish with a little more parsley and parmesan.