Saturday, October 30, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

Alrighty, so it's my wonderful hubby's birthday on Monday! Because of how our schedules are we decided to have make the cake today and eat it tomorrow.
Now, it's always been my family's tradition for the birthday boy/girl to pick a 'design', if you will, for their cake. My brothers and I were always quite creative in coming up with cake ideas. Anything from a pipe organ, to a beehive, to a portrait of Abe Lincoln. And it appears that my husband is no less creative!
This year he told me he wanted a hill with a battered, old-looking gray tower, like something out of a fantasy novel.
When he told me that I thought to myself, "Okay, so why am I carrying on this tradition?!"
A battered castle tower on a hill. Hrmm.
I'm not going to go into the details of what all went into this cake. That would take a long time. But I will sum up:
I used 2 9x13 cakes and 3 mini round cakes. The 9x13's were devil's food cake and the tower is white cake.
I used a lot of fondant and a whole mess of butter-cream frosting. And by a whole mess I mean about 5 cups of it.
I made a HUGE mess, what with mixing color into the fondant, rolling the fondant on a powdered-sugar sprinkled counter, mixing up edible paints with clear vanilla and food coloring, and lots and lots of cake pieces and crumbs from carving the cake.
I spent a total of 8 hours on this cake. And yes, my whole entire body is aching right now.
But DH was really, really happy with the outcome, so I think that it was all worth it in the end. I think the whole thing looks like a mess, but hubby keeps assuring me that it's pretty much exactly what he wanted. So I give you a battered tower on a hill cake.

Also, DH thinks it's awesome that I messed up a little and accidentally made the tower look like a skull.
By the power of Grayskull!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The American South??

Well, ever since discovering that the grocery stores in this city in which I reside does not carry some of the more specialty ingredients which were required for some of my ethnic recipes, I find myself short several days for this ethnic month. What to do! What I always do, fudge my way through. With grace and brilliance, of course.
So, after a kind of busy day running errands, I needed something to make for dinner. Some quick and preferably easy. Something kind of ethnic...and by kind of, not really ethnic at all. Actually, 'regional' would be a better word. And the only thing that makes this recipe regional in any way is that my recipe came from the kitchen of a friend of my mothers'. This wonderful lady is from the South, is a great cook, and has one of those Southern twangs we all secretly wish we could pretend to have without looking ridiculous. (Yes, sometimes I like listening to Southern accents, it's relaxing. Not the redneck, inbred southern accent, mind you, but the homey, smooth southern accent.)

Anyway, back to the food. Sausage Balls. For you with your minds in the gutter (like me) Sausage Spheres.
Every since the first time I ate these concoctions I have loved them. I love cheese, and this recipe definitely fulfills that hunger. And this recipe is quick and easy. But, if you make it like you're supposed to, (mixing it by hand), it can get kind of messy. But that's part of the therapy of cooking for me, being able to make a mess and know that it is for a good cause.

So, this recipe has 4 ingredients:
(water not pictured) :p

Dump all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and delight in the absurd amount of cheese you see before you.

                                                             Glorious cheese...ahhhh.

Now, mix the heck out of it with your hands. No cheating, use your hands!
In a random rabbit trail: I've recently been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to buy a kitchen aid. My mother confirmed to me that someday when I have three children like she did, I would NEED one. I replied by assuring her that I would never, ever have three children. And do I really need one? No, for I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing it can make that I cannot make with my hands and some elbow grease. And mixing things by hand adds a wonderful new dimension to the practice of cooking. Something almost, (dare I say it?) spiritual. I think that in a lot of recipes' cases, that mixing things by hand, or with a good ol' wooden spoon adds a subtle delicious flavor to food. And it definitely adds a lot of love (not that I'm saying your cooking didn't have any love, mom) and love always makes food better.
And besides, with the $200+ a kitchen aid costs, I could buy many other things for my kitchen. Or a month's worth of food...gotta sort out the priorities!

Sorry....I forgot to warn you that I can go off on random rants from time to time.
Back the the Ba....Spheres ;)
After mixing up the ingredients this is what the 'dough' should look like (you may have to use more water than is called for, but just mix in the extra a little at a time). Also, why you should take off any rings you might be happening to be wearing before mixing..

Now, break off pieces of the dough (about a heaping tablespoon) and roll into a ball shape. Place these on a cookie sheet. Bake them for 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Now, abandon all reason and tear into these delicious morsels like a barbaric caveman, i.e., like my husband did, hahaha.

To the sweet Southern lady who first supplied my mother with this recipe: my tastebuds are forever in your debt.

Now here is the recipe as I have it written down:

3 cups bisquik biscuit mix
1 lb. ground sausage
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup water.

Mix. Bake. 350. 10-12.

Now, for the translated version

Same ingredients

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and stir/knead with hands until it forms a sticky dough. You may need to use more water than is called for. Tear off pieces (about a heaping tablespoonful worth) and form into balls. Place on a cookie and sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not let them get very brown, for then they will be crunchy and not as delicious.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Greece - Spanakopita

I've never really eaten much Greek food. I don't really know much about it. So when it came to finding a good recipe for Greek night I was ever so slightly clueless. But I found a couple good looking recipes for Spanakopita. I remembered my mom making this a couple times when I was younger, and I didn't remember hating it, so I decided to give it a try.
This recipe was kind of a mess to make, and again, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. Hmm, and as I'm reading over the recipe again, I'm realizing I changed it more than I thought. Turns out I forgot two ingredients and a cooking step. Haha, whoops. Still turned out delicious.
So I started with a bag of fresh spinach instead of frozen. I'm pretty sure it made no difference. I sauteed some onion and garlic in olive oil, then added the chopped spinach and cooked it till it was pretty well wilted. Apparently, I was supposed to add some dill and flour at this point and cook it until all the moisture was gone. You can see how well I pay attention to the instructions when I actually start cooking....
Instead of doing that I dumped in the eggs and feta and stirred it up. It was a little runny, and now I understand why. Wasn't a big hindrance, though, I was able to squeeze most of the moisture out as I used it.
So the instructions said to lay out one sheet of phyllo dough and spray it with oil. I don't have a oil spray bottle. So I just brushed it with oil and called it good.
The recipe also said to cut the sheet into three equal lengths the long way. I'm not sure what brand of phyllo dough the original author of this recipe was using, but if I had cut my sheet into 3 strips, I would have had about 3 inch wide ribbons to work with. So I just cut the sheets in half lengthwise.
And after spooning (and squeezing a lot of liquid out of) the mixture onto the corner of one strip, and folding it in half repeatedly to make a triangular shape, I decided to double the phyllo. It helped keep the excess liquid from soaking through the dough and it made for a crispier finished product. And crispier is usually better in my book. Well, at least when it comes to phyllo it is.
Then I put all the little triangles onto a wax paper lined baking sheet (the recipe said to use parchment paper, but I didn't have any, so I used what I had and it worked fine).
Then into the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. After that 30 minutes was up, I didn't think my spanakopita triangles were quite golden brown enough so I turned on the broiler full blast and let them sit under it for about 1 minute. If you do that, be sure to watch them very, very closely, for they could easily and quickly go from yummy and golden brown to gross and burnt.
These were very yummy, but I think they would serve better as an appetizer rather than a main course. You can also make spanakopita in a more casserole form, but I thought the triangle thing was cool, so I did that. Maybe the casserole style would be more filling as a main course, but hey, trying out stuff is how we learn things, right?


1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach (thawed overnight in fridge) (I used fresh spinach)
1 tsp. dried dill
1 Tbs. flour
4 oz. feta
2 eggs
1 pkg. phyllo dough
melted butter

Saute onions in some olive oil over medium heat till soft. Add garlic, saute 30 seconds. Add spinach, dill and flour, cook 7-10 minutes or until most of the moisture is gone. Remove from the heat and add eggs and feta.
Take one sheet phyllo dough and spray with oil, and place another sheet on top. Cut in half lengthwise. Put a spoonful of spinach mixture and fold up one corner and bring it over to the side. Flip up so it forms a triangle. Continue folding until end of length is reach. Brush the top with butter. Bake on a parchment paper-lined (or wax paper) baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. If not brown enough, turn on broiler for about 1 minutes to crisp up the phyllo. Watch closely so they don't burn.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not For the Faint of Heart

WARNING: If you are afraid of calories or don't like butter, leave now. Just stop reading and go eat some celery or something.

Alright, for you brave ones who kept reading I would like to share with you the first thing I created with the fresh pumpkin puree I made this morning. But first, I'll show you how I made that puree.

Start with pumpkin, peel removed and chopped into fairly evenly sized cubes. I didn't use a pie pumpkin, so I had to chop it all up first, but a smaller pumpkin you could just cut in half and roast with the skin on, similar to how you roast a butternut squash:

Spread the cubes of pumpkin onto a greased baking sheet:

Put it in the oven at 350 degrees add let it cook anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour. Just make sure the pumpkin is nice and tender. Once it's done, it should be a beautiful orange/yellow color, and it should no longer resemble cantaloupe like it does in the above picture.

Let that cool for just a little while, and then in batches, dump into a food processor and blend it until it's smooth. Voila, pumpkin puree.

My pumpkin yielded about 5 cups of puree. Yes, that's a lot of pumpkin and no, I don't know what I'm going to do with all of it!

But what I came up with today was good for starters. I'm calling it my Pumpkin Pecan Pie Hybrid. I decided to mix a pumpkin pie with a pecan pie and see what happened. I was extremely excited to make up my own recipe instead of stealing somebody else's.
I didn't want to make a regular old pie crust either, so I tried to think of something fall-y, that went well with pumpkin and could be made into pie crust. Gingersnaps. It was (hopefully) perfect. Gingersnap crumb crust. Yum.
So I started by melting 3 1/2 Tbsp of butter and mixing it with about 2 cups of gingersnaps and about 1/4 cup white sugar. I'm saying about before all these measurements, because, truth be told, I didn't measure hardly anything in this recipe, so I'm guessing the amounts and hoping they are accurate.
So, anyway, mix up the butter, sugar and crumbs and press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-in deep-dish pie plate. It's very important you use a deep-dish pie plate, otherwise you might end up with a mess oven to clean. Bake the crust at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. While that's baking whip up the filling.
I combined my two fillings in two separate bowls before combining them. I have no idea whether that made any difference in the end or not. We'll say it did.
So in the first bowl I mixed 1 cup light karo syrup, 3 eggs, some vanilla and 2 Tbsp of melted butter. There's the pecan pie half. (Yes, I know there aren't any pecans in play yet, I'll get to that, be patient!)
In the second bowl I combined about 1 1/4 cups of my fresh pumpkin puree, 1 egg, about 2 Tbsp. each brown and white sugar, three dashes of pumpkin pie spice (about 2 tsp), and about 1/4 cup milk.
Then I dumped the two mixtures in together and whisked the crap out of it. Pour the filling into the warm gingersnap crust, reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and bake it for 45 minutes.
Now for those pecans. I used pecan halves this time, but chopped pecans would work just as well. I decided to try to praline the pecans to give them a nice caramel-y sugar coating, so I melted 4 tbsp of butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a skillet over medium-high heat. After it melted completely and I mix the sugar and butter together I tossed in 1 cup of pecans. Then I stirred it until the sugar mixture started to look all bubbly and angry, then I poured it all out onto a couple sheets of tinfoil. Just let it sit for a while till it cools down.
After the pie has baked for 45 minutes, take it out of the oven and dump the pecans all over the top (be sure to get all that extra sugar-butter on there!). Then, put it back in the oven and bake it for 15-25 minutes longer.
Let the pie cool on a baking rack for about 20 minutes, and then carefully eat 3 pieces. Go slow though, so your teeth don't immediately fall out... (I'm just kidding, DH and I could only manage one piece each, this stuff is just plain sinful.)

Let me tell you, fresh pumpkin puree really makes a big flavor difference. I can't wait to try a plain pumpkin pie with this stuff. It's hard to describe but even DH noticed the change. He said he probably would never want a pumpkin pie from canned pumpkin ever again. That could be a bad thing....I guess there is going to be a lot of pumpkin puree making in my future.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

2 cups crushed gingersnaps
3 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. sugar

Mix together well and press mixture onto the bottoms and up the sides of a 9-in deep-dish pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.


(pumpkin pie)
1 1/4 cups fresh pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2-3 Tbsp. milk
1 egg



1 cup light Karo syrup
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp. melted butter


Mix together the two different fillings and pour into the warm pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans (halved or chopped)

Melt butter and sugar in a skillet over medium high heat. Add in pecans and stir until mixture starts to bubble. Pour onto a sheet of foil and let cool.

After pie has baked 45 minutes, pour pecans and praline mixture over top and return to oven. Bake for 15-25 minutes longer. Cool on a baking rack for at least 20 minutes. Store in refrigerator.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mini Blog II!

So the hubby and I carved our jack o' lanterns today. It was the first time I've ever carved a pumpkin for Halloween. I have to say it was a lot of fun, but speaking as someone with a lot of back/neck problems, it's also quite a chore!
And of course, what do you get besides an awesome Jack-o'lantern when you carve pumpkins?? Pumpkin seeds!! I've never roasted pumpkin seeds before, but I figured it couldn't be too terribly hard to figure out.
So after getting off all that stringy, nasty, slimy gunk off the seeds, rinsing them and drying them a little on a towel:

I tossed all of them in a little olive oil. Now, I prefer sweet and the hubby prefers savory, so I divided the seeds in half, and mixed in salt and pepper to one batch, and some sugar, ground cloves and cinnamon to the other half.
Then I spread them onto a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes.

They taste pretty damn good, so even if I did something wrong, they turned out yummy and Erich is devouring his quite rapidly, so overall a great success!

And here's the pumpkins we carved! Erich's:


And I'm probably going to have another mini blog tomorrow, when I figure out what to do with the massive amounts of pumpkin that I cut up from a third, smaller pumpkin that we bought. Two gallon bags full of raw pumpkin....should be an adventure.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Country XIII: Sweden

After searching the web for Swedish recipes, I have come to the conclusion that most people think that Swedes survive on a diet that consists solely of Swedish meatballs. Finally, after looking at probably 30 different meatball recipes, I found a recipe for a Swedish hash, or Pytt i Panna. Which made me happy, because I hate making meatballs. I changed the recipe I found a bit, but not a whole lot.

Besides a lot of dicing, this recipe is super easy. I cut the carrots into coins instead of dicing them, because I'm just wild and crazy like that. Then you dice up some onion, beef, parsnip and potatoes (I used 5 small red potatoes). The recipe said to cook the meat and the veggies separately, but I think not having to wash 4 different pans when I'm done eating, so I cooked it all together in one big skillet. Saute the onion  first though, to get in that nice caramelized flavor.

Cook all of it for about 10 minutes, then pour in a little beef stock (the recipe called for chicken stock, but I only had beef, and I figured, what goes better with beef than...beef?). I also added just a touch of half and half cream. Just because. Cook that until most of the liquid evaporates and season with salt and pepper. I used white pepper instead of black and it was delicious.

Serve it with some mustard (the recipe said to use Dijon, but all I had was good ol' Heinz yellow, still tasted great), pickled beets and a fried egg. These flavors all worked so great together it was quite amazing. DH and I voted this one a keeper recipe.

Pytt i Panna (Swedish Hash)

3 diced potatoes (I used 5 small red)
1 diced onion
1 diced carrot (I coined instead of diced)
1 diced parsnip
2 Tbsp. butter
3/4 lb beef, diced
2 eggs
1/4 cup chicken stock (I used beef)
Pickled beetroot
A strong mustard (I used Heinz yellow)
Salt and pepper

Cut beef into dices of about 1/2 inch squared.
Gently fry onions in butter until golden.
Fry potatoes, parsnip and carrot about 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat. (I just put the beef in with this and made the whole thing easier). Add a little chicken stock at the end, and let it boil in completely.
In a very hot pan, fry beef quickly until brown, but not well done.
Add the vegetables and onion and fry together for about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with fried eggs, beetroot and a mustard.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Country XII - Finland

Sorry it's been a couple of days since I posted. Had date night with DH one night, and then I was sick yesterday, but now we are back on track.
So Finland. I really had very little idea what was traditional in the way of food in Finland. But after doing some research I learned that cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes is one of the traditional dinners there. I was happy to learn this, for I love both cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes.
I was very excited, and pleased with the outcome, but this dinner was rather time and effort involved! But I decided, since it was so delicious, that it was worth it.
Let's start with the mash, since that was easier.
Peel and chop some potatoes, and boil them until they are fork tender.

Mash them roughly with a fork.

Now, the secret to great mashed potatoes is 1) these two ingredients, and 2) not being at all shy with them:

(Don't use fat free half and half if you want a fluffier mash, I just used this to make them slightly more runny, in the European fashion. I normally use regular, fattening half and half.)

Add the cream and butter, and whip with an hand mixer. Again, I used a lot of fat free half and half to make these potatoes the more traditional European way.

Now, on to the cabbage rolls. First, get some white rice cooked and cooled. Then, brown 1 lb. of ground beef. Next, take 1 head of cabbage and cut a deep cone shape in the bottom, removing the core.
Drop that, bottom side down, into a large pot of simmering water, and cook until the leaves are tender. I removed the leaves one at a time with tongs to drain in a colander:
Let those cool a bit and finely chop up some onion. Now, combine the rice, ground beef, onion, heavy cream, white pepper, salt and egg yolks. Warning, this mixture will be quite runny, so prepare to have a very messy counter-top. So, roll up about 1/3 cup of the mixture into each cabbage leaf, placing seam side down into a very well buttered baking dish (I used a 9x13). 
Now, my mom always topped her cabbage rolls with tomato sauce, but I read that the traditional Finnish way of preparing these was to mix equal parts melted butter and molasses and brush the tops with that mixture. So I mixed 3 Tbsp. butter and 3 Tbsp. molasses (next time I think I will use more than that) and brush the tops of the rolls with 1/2 of the mixture. 
Bake those at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then, turn the rolls over and brush with the remaining molasses mixture. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 90 minutes longer. 
Serve with those delicious mashed potatoes. One thing to make this dinner preparation easier to just make the potatoes ahead of time, and just reheat them in the microwave before serving. Enjoy!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 cup cream
2 egg yolks
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup cooked short grain rice (I used about 2/3 cup to help soak up some of the cream)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 large head white cabbage
Cut a deep cone-shaped incision in the bottom of the cabbage and remove the core. Place whole cabbage, bottom side down, in a large saucepan, at least half submerged in simmering water. Cook until leaves start to soften. Remove gently with tongs and drain.
Mix together beef, rice, onion, egg, cream and spices. The mixture will be runny. Stuff leaves, rolling tightly. Place cabbage rolls seam side down in a wide, generously butter oven pan. Mix equal amounts melted butter and molasses and brush rolls with 1/2 of the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip rolls over and brush with remaining molasses mixture, reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 1.5 hours. Turn rolls every 30 minutes if desired. Cover with foil if the rolls are browning too quickly. 

Mashed Potatoes
I'm afraid I have no recipe for these. The amounts of everything you use depends on how many people you are serving. Today I used 6 medium potatoes, about 5-ish Tbsp of butter and about...uh...maybe 1 cup of half and half. (Remember I was making the potatoes runnier than usual). The amount I made today would serve about 3-4 people.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Country XI: Italy (Homemade Pasta!!)

Italy. When most people think of Italian food, they usually think of copious amounts of red sauce, cheese, alfredo, and pasta. I love all of that stuff, but I wanted to stay away from the heavier Italian dishes this time, and I also really wanted to try making homemade pasta. So, I was looking at Italian pasta dishes, and I was finding a lot of the same; red sauce and cheese. Until I finally stumbled upon a blog entry about Corzetti pasta. And I honestly cannot remember whose blog this was, and I forgot to bookmark it, otherwise I would share a link.
Anyway, it was all about there are special corzetti pasta cutters, that have handcarved designs on them that imprint onto the pasta, blah, blah. But they are hard to come by and will cost you an arm and a leg. So I decided that I could do pretty much same thing with a small round cookie cutter. My corzetti just wouldn't have any pretty pictures on them.
So the blog included an easy recipe for the pasta and a simple dressing of pine nuts and herbs. Nice and light, and no red sauce!
Now, I was a little worried about making my own pasta, because again, I've heard a ton about how it's so difficult and hard to do. But I forged on ahead because I seem to like cooking things that could turn out to be massive disasters.
So, all that you need to make this particular recipe is flour, egg yolks and white wine.

Take the flour and just dump it straight onto your (hopefully clean) counter-top. Use your fingers to make a little well in the center.

Put the egg yolks into the well.

Beat them gently with a fork and add in the wine, (and please make sure you own a corkscrew before you get started, unlike me. I had to leave the yolks and flour just sitting on my counter while I ran and bought a corkscrew) and muddle those together a bit.

Carefully incorporate the flour into the mixture in the well, and yes, this will be very, very messy. I suggest you wear an apron. A big one.
So mix it together until it forms a dough, adding flour until it's no longer sticky. Don't make too dry though, because then you would have to start all over.

Wrap the dough tightly in floured plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.  While it's sitting you can clean up the huge mess of flour that is now taking over your counter-tops. Also you can set up whatever pasta machine you are using. I have this one that my mom has owned for years and she was kind enough to let me borrow.

Yeah, it's pretty awesome. Now unwrap the dough and cut it in half. Set the pasta machine on the widest setting, and run the pasta through, folding it over thrice before each time through the runners. Flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Gradually set the rollers thinner, until you get the pasta to the desired thickness. (I went to setting 5 on my machine). This is what you should end up with:

Now I just used a small, round cookie cutter to cut the pasta. I ran the remaining back through the settings on the machine and re-cut it, but I couldn't do it more than twice, because the dough starts to get too tough.
Have a pot of salted, boiling water ready for when you're done cutting the pasta shapes.

These little darlings only have to cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain them in a colander (I ran just a little cold water over them to stop the cooking process). Now you can get the pine nut dressing ready!

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet and saute the minced garlic for one minute. Toss in the fresh, chopped parsley and pine nuts and cook that until the pine nuts reach a nice brown color.
Put your freshly cooked pasta in a serving dish, top with the pine nut mixture and top that with as much grated Parmesan cheese as you would like.
This stuff was sooo good, not heavy at all, and homemade pasta is massively different from the boxed variety. It's very tender and not as gummy as store bought. I think I may become addicted to making my own pasta. And to think I was afraid at the beginning! I think everybody should at least try making their own once in their life. It's too good not to!

Corzetti with Parmesan, Pine Nuts and Herbs

1 cup all purpose flour
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup pine nuts
Handful of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan

Place flour on workspace and make a well in the center. Place egg yolks in well and beat lightly with a fork. Add wine to egg and mix. Slowly incorporate the flour with the fork until a dough forms. Knead and add flour till dough is no longer sticky. Wrap in floured plastic and let rest for 20 minutes. Cut in half and take each piece and run it through pasta rollers on the widest setting Fold in thirds and run it through rollers several more times. Adjust roller to next thinnest setting and pass pasta through (flour constantly to avoid sticking). Pass through till you get the thickness you want, usually #4 or #5 for corzetti. Lay pasta sheets on floured surface and cut out small round shapes. Place pasta shapes in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and dress with sauce.
Heat oil in a small skillet and saute garlic 1 minute. Add pine nuts and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until pine nuts are nicely toasted. Pour over pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Country X: England

Not too much too write about this one, which is actually good because that means that is was super easy to do.
Full English Breakfast. Need I say more? It was so good.
And you don't need a recipe! Cook up some bacon and sausage links. Broil or pan saute some sliced beefsteak tomato and some sliced mushrooms. Fry an egg. Heat up some baked beans and toast some bread. Voila! Breakfast is served..or breakfast for dinner is served. I can't imagine eating this for breakfast everyday. Talk about a way to gain some weight!
It was very good, though.
One of my husband's good friends is English and told Erich about this stuff called 'HP Brown Sauce'. They sell it at both the World Market and at our local Dillons Marketplace. It is a bit on the expensive side, but DH hubby just loves this stuff. It's kind of like a citrus-y, Worcestershire sauce-y, hard to describe sauce, but it was a very good accompaniment to our full English breakfasts.
Sorry, this is such a short blog, but I can't think of anything else to say about it. It's easy, delicious and uh...easy.
Tomorrow will be a much longer entry for tomorrow is going to be...let's just say it's going to be something else that could either be really good or a total disaster.
But today was full of win, so all's good for now!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Country IX: India

I was a tad bit nervous about India day. I have never really liked Indian food, but I decided since this month was about being brave about food, we'd give it a shot anyway. I was browsing recipes, and nothing was grabbing my attention, and I had decided from the beginning that Tandoori Chicken with Naan bread was waaay to cliche. In the end I found a recipe for Murgh Makhani, or Butter Chicken. Now, the lady whose blog I got this recipe off of, stated in said blog that an Indian woman had told her that 'white people' love butter chicken.
I decided that was perfect. 
I could not find some of the ingredients in this recipe, so I kind of fudged it, and I'm glad to report that fudging it worked just fine. 
Now, I'm not putting many pictures up this time, because, though I took quite a few, I wasn't happy with hardly any of them. I'm working with a small, 10.2 MP camera and poor apartment lighting. Yes, I'm saving up for a good camera, but they aren't exactly cheap, so it might be a while :(. And my solution to the lighting problem is on it's way in the mail. More on that in another entry, mayhaps.
Anyway, first off, you marinade the chicken. The recipe called for a boneless chicken cut into pieces. I just used 1 1/5 chicken breasts and cut them into large chunks. The marinade also called for garlic and ginger paste. This could easily be made with a small food blender or mortar and pestle, but I have neither and since my food processor was much to large, I just very finely chopped up even amounts of ginger and garlic. Mix that with yogurt, salt, chili powder, and oil and marinade the chicken in it for 4 hours. 
Then you just put the chicken in a broiler pan under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes until it gets a nice brown color. I didn't have a broiler pan either, so I improvised with a metal cooling rack and baking sheet (yes, it's truly awful, but it worked, right?):

Set those aside for later. Now, the recipe called for cardamom pods...I couldn't find those anywhere, and something tells me I couldn't afford them even if I had. So I substituted cardamom powder and tweaked the cooking steps a little bit. 
Heat some oil in a deep skillet and cook your cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods (if you have them), whole cloves, and bay leaves for 2 minutes. Then add the ginger and chilies (this is also when I added the cardamom powder) and cook for 1 minute. 
It's going to look very pretty in the skillet and it's smells wonderful. 

After that add the can of whole tomatoes, honey, tomato paste and some water and simmer for a while. By the way, you simmer this uncovered, so it's going to pop just a little here and there, and your stove top is going to be covered in little red polka dots. 
Right, so after it's done simmering, sift through it with some tongs and get out the cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Throw those away. Dump the remaining mixture in the food processor and blend it until it's smooth. Return it to the pan. Now here is where, according to the recipe you add the dried fenugreek and cashew paste. Yup, you guessed it, couldn't find any dried fenugreek. I really need to move to a more foodie-oriented town. I substituted about 1/2 tsp of celery seed. I made a cashew paste of sorts by finely chopping some cashews and mixing them with a little water. Again, a mortar and pestle or mini food blender would work great here, but that's why being creative is a good thing :). Anyway, add that to the pan and salt to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside. 
Now, here's where the butter comes in. Melt 1 Tbs. in the skillet and add the chicken and some cashews. I added more cashews then were called for simply because I like them. Cook those for 3 minutes. Then add the sauce and 1/4 cup heavy cream. I also added more cream than called for because I wanted to tone down the heat of the chilies a tad....and because I like it. Cook that 3 minutes. Then remove from the heat and toss in 3 1/2 Tbs. of butter and stir it until the butter melts. 
Now, traditionally, this would be served with Naan, an Indian grilled flat-bread, which is very good, but I didn't have the time to make it...or a grill. But mostly because of the time.
Instead I used what I had. What I had happened to be couscous. Yes, it's kind of weird, but it turned out to be a perfect compliment to the sauce of the chicken. 
DH really liked this recipe. It was kind of spicy, and I have very little tolerance for anything spicy, but this was so good, I ate it anyway. Then I ate some of the leftovers after I got home from work. This one is another keeper recipe for sure. 

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

1 lb. boneless chicken, cut into pieces
3 1/2 Tbs. garlic and ginger paste
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 Tbs. oil
Mix marinade ingredients and add chicken to completely coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Heat oven broiler. Spread chicken in one layer on a the tray in a broiler pan and put under the heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the outside is well browned.

3 Tbs. oil
4 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
5 whole green chilies
1 14 oz. can whole tomatoes
1 Tbs. honey
1/2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves, ground
3 1/2 Tbs. cashews, ground with a little water to make a paste
Salt, to taste
Heat oil to medium heat then add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Add ginger and chilies and cook 1 minutes. Add tomatoes, honey, tomato paste, and 1/3 cup water and simmer for 20 minutes, until the whole tomatoes break down and thicken. Remove and discard the cardamom, cloves bay leaves and cinnamon and blend remaining mixture in a food processor until smooth. Return to pan and add fenugreek and cashew paste. Salt to taste and simmer 10 minutes.

1 Tbs. butter
Cooked chicken
1 Tbs. cashews
Prepared sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 Tbs. butter

Melt 1 Tbs. butter in pan, add chicken and cashews and fry for 3 minutes. Cover with sauce and cream and simmer for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 3 1/2 Tbs. butter until it melts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Country VIII: Wales

I've always wanted to visit Wales, and I was really excited to try some of Wales' traditional food. I found a recipe for Cynhwysion or in English: Leek Pasty. It was basically a big turnover of sorts. Two pie crusts filled with leeks, bacon and butter and baked on a cookie sheet. Super easy and ridiculously delicious. DH and I really liked this recipe, it's definitely a keeper. We didn't even have any leftovers.
First you start off with a simple pie crust recipe:

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, then cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add cold water slowly, mixing with your fingers, until it all comes together into a nice dough. Divide the dough in half and roll it out to about the size of a large dinner plate. I made this easy by rolling it out really big, and then laying one of my dinner plates upside down on the dough and cutting around it. Nice and uniform and perfect.
Lay the first pastry on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Now the filling:

Now, this recipe called for 6 leeks. I'm not sure how big this dinner plate of theirs was, but there was no way I was fitting 6 leeks into my dinner plate size. I chopped up three, and I ended up with this:

I wasn't even able to fit all that on the crust. So, yes, now I have a whole bunch of chopped leek that I'm going to have to figure out something to do with. Maybe another mini blog will come of that problem.
Anyway, put as many chopped leeks as you can fit onto your bottom pie crust, leaving the edges clear.
Cut a couple bacon slices in half and lay over top of the leeks. Dot the whole thing with butter.

Now, lay the top crust over that, and seal the edges. You may need to use a little water to get them to stick together, then press the edges with a fork.

Looks kind of like a big upside down potpie I guess. Prick a couple holes in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. I brushed the top with melted butter when it had a about 5 minutes left, to help it get nice and golden brown.
I cannot begin to describe how comfortingly delicious this was. I'll definitely be making this again when the really cold weather gets here. Wales day was indeed a great success.

Cynhwysion (Leek Pasty)

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup shortening
a pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
6 leeks (I only used about 2.5)
4 slices bacon (I only used 2.5)
black pepper to taste
2 Tbs. butter (plus more for crust if desired)

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add just enough cold water to form a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and halve. Roll the halves out till they are both the size of a large dinner plate. Wash leek well before chopping them finely (you'll want to remove about 2 inches of the white part and about 4 inches of the dark green part).
Place one pastry on a lightly greased baking tray, then scatter leeks on top, leaving edge of pastry clear. Lay bacon on top of leeks, season with salt and pepper, and dot with butter. Lay second pastry on top, and crimp down edges, using the tines of a fork. Prick the top of pastry. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or till golden. If you wish, brush the crust with melted butter when there are 5 minutes remaining.