Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Basic Cheese Quiche

It's December Potluck at I Heart Cooking Clubs. I've picked a quiche recipe and a flaky pie crust recipe from Mark Bittman's  How to Cook Everything. This is my basic "go to" book when I'm looking for a basic recipe. I love the instructions and explanations that make the recipes almost full proof.  There is still room for human error as I will explain.
The pie crust is made with the help of a food processor, but realizing that not everyone owns one, Bittman suggests alternative methods. In the past, I've used a pastry cutter or two knives to mix the flour and butter. Bittman describes a mixing method using your hands, "...cut cold butter into bits and rub it and the flour very quickly between your fingers, picking it up, rubbing it and dropping it."  He further explains the basic principal of making a flaky crust. Of the methods I've tried, using your hands is the most fun and this will probably be the method I use in the future.
For the filling, you have a choice of milk, cream or half & half. You also have your choice of cheeses. I added some  pre-cooked broccoli to the filling for added color and nutrition. Even though I used a deep dish 9" pie pan, I had too much filling. You would have thought that I would have respected the law of physics, but alas, I didn't want to waste a bit of the rich cheese filling. I soon realized my mistake as the filling spilled over the edge of the crust.

Oh well. I wiped up the mess. I still had a full quiche. It was delicious. My older daughter said it was the best quiche I had ever made and the only one she ever liked. (Gee, I always thought she like the dish. Who Knew?)

 You can find the recipes in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, page 743 and 686. I couldn't find a link to the recipe on-line, but this is a worthwhile book to own or borrow. Check out what other delicious dishes other cooks made for the December potluck at IHCC.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ricotta-Orange Pound Cake

A year and a half ago I bought Food & Wine magazine because the cover featured "Best Italian Dishes."  I didn't realize until I read the article that those dishes were recipes from Giada De Laurentiis' new Las Vegas restaurant.  The recipe that caught my eye, and the reason I've kept the magazine all this time was Ricotta-Orange Pound Cake.

I don't bake a lot and recently, everyone in our household has been trying to shed a few pounds. (Well, okay, by everyone, I mean my spouse and me. The kids are away at school and the dog will eat anything.)  All in all, I just couldn't justify baking a rich, delicious cake for no reason. Until this weekend. My birthday is Sunday. It's a major milestone and I've always been very happy to celebrate my birthday.

As if that wasn't reason enough, I Heart Cooking Clubs' featured chef this week is Giada De Laurentiis. And we were invited to a holiday potluck tonight. So all in all, this cake was meant to be.

The recipe is straightforward and simple. For me the most difficult steps were zesting the orange and finding a small bottle of Amaretto.

The cake is meant to be served with whipped cream, and Prosecco soaked strawberries.  I took the simpler route.  The orange and the ricotta are what attracted me to the recipe in the first place. Also, strawberries at this time of year are flown in from thousands of miles away and tend to be lacking in flavor.

The cake itself? It's delicious and moist. Despite only one teaspoon of orange zest,  the cake had an intense orange flavor. It was a big hit at the party. If I were to bake it during the summer, I would try it with the strawberries.

The recipe can be found here or in the May, 2014 issue of Food & Wine. Head over to IHCC to find out what other tasty dishes other cooks made.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Smoked Paprika Potato Chips

Its Nibbles and Noshes week at I Heart Cooking Clubs blog, featuring the recipes of Ellie Krieger.  For some time now, I've been interested in making potato chips at home. I love chips, but won't bring them into the house because frankly, I have no self-control. It really is a challenge to eat just one potato chip, or ten, or twenty.....

But if you make them at home, you don't have to make a whole lot of them. When you follow EK's recipe, you can bake them instead of frying them. This recipe features smoked paprika which is one of my favorite spices, so all in all, this was worth a try. 

An important part of the success of the recipe is a mandoline, so you can slice the potatoes 1/16 inch thick. It probably also helps to keep the slices fairly uniform as well. I don't own a mandoline and frankly during this, the giving season, I wasn't keen to spend any money on an implement I might use only once.  I decided to try my hand at slicing the potatoes with a knife. If I liked the recipe enough, I could always buy a mandoline later .... maybe during January sales.

Is the finished product worth buying a mandoline? I think so. Even when the potato slices were uneven and therefore some were crisp and some ... well, not so crisp, they were tasty. You can find the recipe at  Also, for other great ideas for nibbles and noshes go to I Heart Cooking Clubs.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is approaching. I know which main dish I'm making and Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without my mother's dressing.  A friend is bringing the veggie main dish and homemade cranberry sauce. My husband will make pies (I hope, I hope.)  But we're still short a couple of side dishes.  Luckily,  I Heart Cooking Clubs  is featuring side dishes by our current chef, Ellie Krieger.

I have long wanted to try making oven baked onion rings. I love onion rings, but dread deep fat frying.  The recipe is from The Food You Crave or you can find it here.  It's quite easy to make. It's not the same as eating traditional onion rings, but it's a satisfying dish all the same.  I might add a little more salt and I wonder what it would be like if I used regular potato chips instead of baked potato chips.    

There is one other thing I will do differently next time.  Onion slices are dusted with flour, dipped into buttermilk and then covered with potato chip crumbs.  The crumbs got soggy after a few of the onion slices were dipped in them.  After that, it was hard to get the crumbs to adhere to the onion slices. Next time, I will divide the crumbs into smaller portions, so the crumbs stay drier.

I also made broccoli toasted with garlic, from the same book.  The recipe is available here as well.  Basically, you sauté the garlic, sauté the broccoli, pour the garlic on the broccoli and voila, a very tasty, healthy side dish. 

Visit IHCC to see what other wonderful sides people cooked up.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

Food-wise, Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday.  When the kids were at home and we had Shabbat dinner every Friday, our menu often included turkey, dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce and Challah.

Any Way You Slice It is the theme for the week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC) so clearly that's a sign that I should make a turkey breast for dinner. There are only two of us at home these days, so a whole turkey would be too much. Sunny, our dog, might disagree. 
"Ahem," says the dog, eagerly waiting for turkey.
I made Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast from The Food You Crave. You can also find it here.   The dish is described as "a breeze to make and a real crowd pleaser." Agreed. You basically rub a mixture of olive oil and herbs onto a skinless turkey breast, put it in the oven and wait.
The biggest challenge for me was removing the skin.  I often remove the fattiest parts, but this was the first time I took off the whole skin and I was surprised by how much fat is under it all. I was worried that the turkey would come out quite dry. Instead, it came out flavorful and moist.  I should mention that I have a kosher kitchen and that the turkey breast comes pre-soaked and salted. From the kosher point of view, that is done to remove any trace of blood from the meat.  From a technique point of view, that may be known as brining the meat. This may account for some of the moistness.
I threw in some onions and potatoes to roast with the turkey and made cranberry sauce, as well. The recipe for the cranberry sauce is on the back of the Ocean Spray  package or here. . 

To see how many ways you slice oh so many kinds of delicious dishes check out IHCC .

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chicken Teriyaki

Every month, I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC) has a potluck. That means we get to choose any recipe we want from the collections of chefs that have been featured in the past six years.  That is not a small set of choices.  I went with chicken teriyaki from Nigella Kitchen.  I have owned the book for years, but haven't cooked from it very often. And in our household, anything teriyaki is a winner. It's a rare taste on which we can all agree.

What I like about Nigella Lawson's recipe is that it uses mirin (sweet rice wine) and soy sauce as a base with a little sake  and other ingredients thrown in. Some recipes I've tried have you start with bottled teriyaki sauce and mix in other ingredients.  I thought this recipe was cleaner and brighter. 

When I went to my favorite Asian market to purchase the sake and mirin,  I was surprised to fine a variety of sakes, at different price points and sizes. And frankly I had no idea how to choose.  It's different when I'm at a sushi restaurant and all I have to do is order small or large.

There was sake in elegant glass bottles, in jars with pop tops and even small aluminum cans (serve chilled!). I decided on a small bottle of mid-priced sake; the one with the  eye-catching red dragon on the label was the winner. 

The dish comes together quite easily, but leave enough time. There's a little chopping and marinating involved.  You can find the recipe on pages 38-40 of Nigella Kitchen (lots of pictures, not a lot of steps) or you can find it here.

To find out what other cooks came up with, look here.  It's worth it because there is quite a variety of yummy-looking dishes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Savory Carrot-Cashew Soup

This week, I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC) is featuring recipes by Ellie Krieger that feature one or more orange hued ingredients. This shouldn't be difficult. Think butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, papaya, oranges and other citrus fruit, persimmons, pumpkins, get the idea.

Perusing Ellie Krieger's website I came across this tasty recipe for carrot soup. Carrot soup is one of those dishes I've been meaning to make for years, but never did. Why? Who knows. Fortunately, I tried this recipe. It's tasty, filling and healthy.  Most importantly, my husband and I really liked it.  This recipe is a keeper. You can find it here: Carrot-Cashew Soup. 

To see what other members of IHCC came up with go here. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

South Indian Vegetable Curry

One reason I enjoy on-line cooking clubs is that it is an incentive to try new things, especially the ones I've been meaning to try for a while. And "by a while" I mean for a long time -- months, maybe years.

I recently discovered I Heart Cooking Clubs or IHCC. Mostly, they feature one chef for about six months. We just started cooking our way through Ellie Krieger's repertoire of healthy recipes.  Every so often IHCC tries a new theme. Maybe it's for the variety; maybe it's a chance to revisit a previously featured (and beloved) chef. This week, we are cooking recipes from Nigella Lawson. 

I bought Nigella Kitchen a few years ago. I have enjoyed reading her essays about home cooking and the kitchen. I can relate to her relaxed attitude towards cooking and I love the variety of cuisines and styles of cooking. I've thought a lot about the many mouth watering recipes in the book, but have only managed to use two of the recipes in the book. That is why I am happy that IHCC gave me the kick in the a... I mean, the opportunity to pick a new recipe from the book and actually cook it.

I chose South Indian Vegetable Curry.   You can find the recipe on page 154 of Nigella Kitchen or here.   I don't often make curries and I don't use much coconut milk or tamarind paste in my cooking, so this was my chance to try something new.  My husband and I are also trying to eat healthier, which means more vegetables. 

Basically, the recipe is really easy to make. There is a lot of chopping, but nothing complicated. I made a few modifications to the recipe. I like a little heat, but my husband likes very little to no heat, so I held back on the red pepper flakes and used only half of a jalapeno pepper. The recipe lists 5 kinds of vegetables, but you can change the combination any way you want.  I would have like to use green beans as called for in the recipe, but the green beans at the grocery looked kind of sorry, so I used mushrooms instead. My husband doesn't like cauliflower that much, so I halved the amount and threw in potatoes as well.  I served the curry over couscous.

I had "wet tamarind seedless" from the local Asian market. It had the consistency of paste, so I guess it was the right stuff. It didn't seem very seedless though, so I pulled my punch and only added a half tablespoon.  In retrospect, maybe I should have done a little more research or added more in.  At any rate, the taste of the tamarind was subtle at best.

Overall, I would say this was a success. My husband liked it and so did I. Next time, in addition to adding in the full tablespoon of tamarind paste, I'd probably add less liquid. You can't tell from the photo, but the dish was very soupy.  My photo  makes the dish look quite dull. I guess in this case,  picture is not worth a thousand words, but this dish is tasty and filling.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach and Couscous from Ellie Krieger

This blog has been dormant for a little over two years. I had been part of two on-line cooking groups, but stopped during an especially challenging year at work. Fortunately that is behind me and I'm ready to restart.  I found iheartcookingclubs  This blog features one cook for about six months. This week we welcome Ellie Krieger.

I am really happy she is the featured chef. I recently found The Food You Crave at our library's used book store and it is full of great looking recipes. Also, both my husband and I are thinking about eating healthier. Ms. Krieger is a nutritionist as well as a cook, so she keeps the recipes healthy.

Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach and Couscous is described as a great dish for "a busy mom who is really cranky when she's hungry."  Even though I am an empty-nester, I can identify with the cranky when hungry part.  The dish requires a little prep and then comes together quickly.  I really enjoyed that although the dish was easy to make, it wasn't dull.  There was a great combination of flavors; the spinach by itself would make a tasty side dish.

You can find the recipe in The Food You Crave or on-line at this link here.  Head over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what other cooks enjoyed.