Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Meals to Warm Up With

Well, today we are supposed to get a boat-load of snow (that's the technical term) in the DC area which pretty much means CHAOS.  Schools are closed, the government is closed, and grocery stores have bare shelves.  5-8 inches of snow means we will be holed up in our houses for 3-4 days. 

We are admittedly, babies about inclement weather.  By the reaction of folks, you would have thought the end was near.  I think we might benefit from some lessons from our friends in Colorado and Chicago.

Given the snowy conditions, here my top 3 favorite meals to warm up with....

Curried Lentil Soup
Chicken and Dumplings
Guinness Beef Stew

I thought I would share so you could prepare a nice, warm meal tonight to enjoy with a toasty fire and watch the snow fall.  Happy Snow Day!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ham and Cheese Spoon Bread

I dig spoon bread.  It's a lighter version of a casserole and a heavier version of a soufflé.  It can be served along side a bowl of soup for a cozy dinner (double bonus.. you can eat it with the same utensil you eat your soup with -- your spoon!).  Or you could serve it for brunch.  Look at that, it's so versatile.  

Here's the recipe - dig in and enjoy!

1 cup of diced ham
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup of chopped pepper
1 tablespoon of butter
2 3/4 cup of milk
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 cup of yellow cornmeal
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup of pepper jack cheese
4 egg whites

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Butter a 1 1/2 quart dish.  Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and melt the butter.  Add the ham, onion and pepper and sauté until tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

2.  In a large sauce pan, combine milk, sugar, thyme over medium high heat.  Heat until it simmers and then add cornmeal in a constant, slow stream to the milk while whisking constantly.  After the cornmeal is added, heat for a minute or two while whisking until the mixture thickens. 

3.  Transfer cornmeal to a large bowl, add the egg yolks and let stand for 8 to 10 minutes.

4.  While the cornmeal mixture sits, beat egg whites with a mixer until stiff peaks form.

5.  Add ham, onion and pepper, cheddar cheese, and pepper jack cheese to the cornmeal mixture.

6.  Mix in 1/3 of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture with a spoon.  Fold in the remaining 2/3 egg whites using a rubber spatula.

7.  Using the spatula, scrape cornmeal mixture into the buttered dish.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes until puffed, golden brown and set in the center. 

8.  Serve immediately with a spoon!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ode to Sauerkraut

I love pickling.  I grew a darn vegetable garden just so I could experiment making different varieties of pickled spicy green beans! 

So I decided to combine my love of mason jars & pickling with a new trick - fermenting food.  According to my initial research (e.g., the internet), one of the easiest foods to ferment in a jar is home-made sauerkraut.  I love pork and sauerkraut so, SOLD

Here is what I did and it was very simple...

1/2 head of cabbage
3/4 tablespoon of kosher salt
2 mason jars
cheese cloth or just a regular cloth

1.  Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and reserve.  Cut the cabbage in half and use only one half of the head.  Save the other 1/2 for later. 

2.   Slice the cabbage into strips.

3.  Place cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle with 3/4 tablespoon of kosher salt.  Gently massage salt into the cabbage and mix with your hands for about 10 minutes, until the cabbage begins to wilt. 

4.  Place cabbage and juice from the bowl into two clean mason jars.  Press down cabbage with your hand so it is packed tightly. 

5.  Fold one of the green outer leaves and place on top of the chopped cabbage in the mason jar and push it down.  This should help submerge the cabbage in its juices as it ferments.

6.  Cover with cheese cloth so air can pass through but the jar remains clean of dust/dirt.  Secure into place with a rubber band.  Put jars in a place away from sunlight and where it is relatively cool (like the basement).

7.  When it has been 24 hours, check on the jars and press down cabbage.  If there is not enough juice from the fermentation to cover the cabbage completely, you will need to add more liquid (I did).  Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in one cup of water and add to each jar until the cabbage is fully submerged.

8.  After 5 days, your cabbage is ready!  Remove the top green leaf and place in the refrigerator.  Serve with pork or bratwurst and mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Making hummus at home is super easy.  And, most recipes make enough hummus that you have a bunch, so you can bring to work for lunch, serve as a dip, and still have leftovers  to spread on sandwiches.  Here's a simple recipe for roasted red pepper hummus that makes enough to share with friends.

1 red pepper, cut in half with membranes and seeds removed
1/4 cup of tahini
juice from a whole lemon
1 clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper/Korean chili pepper
1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt

1.  Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place red peppers, skin side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast red peppers for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until slightly charred. 

2.  Remove peppers from the oven and place in a plastic bag to steam.

3.  After cooled, remove the peppers from the bag (the steaming makes the skins easier to peel off).  Peel off skins.

4.  Combine tahini and lemon juice in a food processor.  Blend until thoroughly mixed.  Add garlic, oil and cayenne pepper to the processor, mix again until blended.

5.  Drain and rinse the can of garbanzo beans in a colander.  Add half the beans to the food processor and blend for 2-3 minutes.

6.  Add the rest of the beans and the sliced roasted red peppers to the food processor. 

7.  Blend until well mixed, about 5 minutes.  Halfway through the time, stop the mixer to scrape down the slides to make sure all of the ingredients are blended. 

8.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.  Or chill until ready to serve.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 New Year's Foodie Resolutions

It's that time of year again.  Time to set some goals for the upcoming year.  I did this on my blog last year and I went back and looked at them to see how many I actually achieved.  Turns out, I did pretty good - 4 out of 5!  I did not get #5 complete (Acquire more Le Creuset) but that's okay.  I bet I can make up for that in 2014 (Le Creuset folks, if you see this blog and you are interested in helping, you know where to find me!).

So, since last year worked out pretty good, I thought I would do it again this year.  Here they are, my 2014 New Year's Foodie Resolutions!

1.  Make pasta from scratch.  I got this little machine as a Christmas gift and I really love homemade pasta.  It tastes so much better than the store bought dried pasta!  So now I need to actually put my money where my mouth is and use this puppy (crank and all).  I read the directions and needed a glass of wine afterward.  Wish me luck.
Looks complicated.
2.  Redesign my blog.  It's time.  The layout and design will be two years old in August.  So, the time is now for a facelift before it's stale (which we are rapidly approaching).  Just need to figure out how to make it look better without having so much crap on it that it takes too much time to load (I hate those pages). 

3.  Ferment my own batch of kimchi.  I made my own sauerkraut and that turned out well.  Next on the list of fermentation with my favorite addition of spice is kimchi... yum.  I'll know if I do it right if it survives my friend Yoonji's taste test.  If not, back to the drawing board. 
The beauty of fermentation.
4.  Engage in the food blogging community.  I think it might be fun to find some other food blogger friends and get involved in the food blogging community.  What this looks like, I have no idea.  Maybe I go to a food blogger happy hour?  A guest post somewhere?  Feel free to send me your ideas and suggestions!  Clearly, more research is needed but the writing on the wall says "I need to branch out."  I just hope they are ready for the Jersey sarcasm, it's a refined taste.

5.  Read one of these books in its entirety.  They are dense.  And frankly, a bit heavy on the words and tone (ahem, you know who you are in this pile).  But I need to get schooled.  And of course, continue to grow my appreciation of cooking and food.  So one of you is gonna get READ.  And you're going to like it. 
Not to be read with a glass of wine... too easy to lose the content!
And there they are.  My 2014 New Year's Foodie Resolutions.... let's get crackin'!