Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

It's really cold outside.  It needs soup.  And so came out this recipe from Pioneer Woman.

If you're worried about the alcohol not getting cooked off, just keep the heat on a bit longer after you put in the cooking wine, and wait to put in the cream until after you turn off the heat.  There are non-alcoholic replacements for sherry if you're very particular, but they don't taste near the same and I don't know what they are.

I served this with hot garlic bread.  It was all very tasty and warmed us all up.  And we have a little extra for another time, bonus!

So yum.
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
from Pioneer Woman Cooks

6 Tbsp melted butter

1 whole medium onion, diced

1 bottle (46 oz) tomato juice (I couldn't find one so got a bigger one and have extra)

2 cans (14 oz each) diced tomatoes

1 Tbsp chicken base (I couldn't find this either, so I just dissolved I think 6 boulion cubes in 1T water

3 Tbsp (or up to six if you want) sugar

1 pinch salt

black pepper to taste

1 cup cooking sherry (I used white cooking wine because that's what we had, but it's really the same)

1 1/2 cup heavy cream

chopped fresh parsley

chopped fresh basil

1. Sautee onions in butter until translucent.

Pre-cream and basil
2. Add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken base, sugar, salt, pepper, and stir.

3. Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat.  Add in sherry and cream and stir. (Or see my previous statement)

4. Add in parsley and basil to taste.
Yay greens

Serve it up hot!

Hungry men.  No leftover bread.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Trying Indian

We love Indian food.  But it's expensive to eat out at the really good Indian places here (Bombay House, yum!), and I've never tried to make it myself, until now.

A while ago we got this "India's 500 Best Recipes" book from the bookstore at school (super clearance section, yeah!).  I decided to try a few of our flagged recipes when my parents came to town.  My mom is always complaining that I never cook for her (probably because she lives 12 hours away), so this was my chance to show off.

I think next time I won't try three new recipes on the day I'm making dinner for visitors, because it got to be a bit too stressful.  The food turned out really well though, and I'll probably be making some of this again.

A note about some of these spices: you will probably need to get the garam masala, ground turmeric, and tamarind pulp at an Asian food store.  The one we went to was across Center street from the Target in Orem.  There are a couple more in Provo but they were closed when we went looking (also, probably don't wait until a few hours beforehand to go searching).  Also, not only could we not find the tamarind pulp at the store, but the lady didn't even know what it was.  I looked up a few replacements, but replacing it with lemon juice really didn't have the flavor it should have (but it was still good).  So just plan ahead I guess.


Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce
from India's 500 Best Recipes

2 medium onions (we were all in tears-- even the cat-- during meal prep this time)

2 Tbsp tomato puree or paste

2 oz or 1 1/2 cup cashew nuts (fyi, these were kind of pricey, maybe I just don't know where to look)

1 1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp chili powder (I omitted this because my mom is sensitive to spicy stuff)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/4 ground turmeric

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp plain yogurt

2 Tbsp oil

2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander/cilantro

1 Tbsp golden raisins (I omitted these too because raisins are gross)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed

2 1/2 cups button mushrooms (it doesn't say to cut them, but I did, into quarters-ish)

1 1/4 cups water

1. Cut onions into quarters and place in food processor or blender and process for about a minute.

2. Add tomato puree, cashews, garam masala garlic, chili powder, lemon juice, turmeric, salt, and yogurt.  Process the mixture for another minute or more.

3. In a heavy pan, heat the oil, lower the heat to medium and pour in the spice mixture from the food processor.  Fry the mixture for 2 minutes, lowering the heat a little more if necessary.

4. When the spice mixture is lightly cooked, add half the chopped fresh cilantro, the raisins, and the chicken cubes.  Continue to stir-fry for another minute.

5. Add the mushrooms, pour in the water, and simmer.  Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes.

6. After this time, check that the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick.  Cook for a little longer if necessary, then spoon into a serving bowl (or just on the plates).  Garnish with the rest of the cilantro.  Serve with rice.

Doesn't look like much, but it sure is tasty.

Cauliflower and Coconut Milk Curry
from India's 500 Best Recipes

1 cauliflower (this turned out to be a ton, so we didn't use every floret)

2 medium tomatoes, skinned if you like (I didn't)

1 onion, chopped (again with the tears)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 fresh green chili, seeded (I omitted this for previously mentioned reasons)

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

2 Tbsp sunflower (or other) oil

14 fl oz can coconut milk

1 cup water

1 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp tamaring pulp, soaked in 3 tbsp water (again, we replaced this with lemon juice, there are a variety of other things to replace it with if you search)

1. Trim the stalk from the cauliflower and divide into tiny florets.  Chop tomatoes into 1-in pieces and set aside.

2. Grind the onion, garlic, green chili, and ground turmeric into a paste in the food processor.

3.  Heat the oil in a heavy pan, wok, large frying pan, karahi, whatever.  Fry the spice paste to bring out the aromas but do not allow it to brown.

4. Add the cauliflower florets, toss to coat well in spices.  Stir in coconut milk, water, sugar, and salt to taste.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain the tamarind and reserve the juices.

5. Add tamarind juice and chopped tomatoes to the pan then cook for 2-3 minutes only.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then serve.

Cauliflower num

from India's 500 Best Recipes

2 cups unbleached white bread flour

1/2 tsp salt

15g fresh yeast

4 Tbsp lukewarm milk

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp plain yogurt

1 egg

butter, for brushing

1. Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.  In a smaller bowl, cream the yeast with the milk.  Set aside for 15 minutes.

2.  Add yeast and milk mixture, oil, yogurt, and egg to the flour.

3.  Combine the mixture using your hands until it forms a soft dough.  Add a little more of the lukewarm water if the dough is too dry.

4.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (about 10 minutes).  Return dough to the bowl and let it rise until doubled in size, or for one hour.

5. Preheat oven to highest setting.  It shouldn't be any lower than 450 degrees.

6. Turn out dough onto floured surface and knead for 2 more minutes.  Divide into equal pieces, shape into balls and roll out into teardrop shapes (we made five large pieces).

7. Throw naan onto preheated cookie sheets and bake until puffed and browned, 3-4 minutes.  Place under broiler (if you have one separate) for a few seconds until browned.  Brush with butter and serve.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spiced Peach Pie

Remember all those ages ago when I made that apple pie for that silly pie contest?  This is essentially the same, only I decided to make it with peaches instead.  I make this peach pie often as a treat for people who do me great favors, but I usually only have access to canned peaches (and it's delicious just with those, believe me).  This time, we were able to use some of the fresh peaches from Sam's grandparents' that we'd frozen back in September.

Another tweak I made from the original was to add a little spice to the crust.  I added a tablespoon or so of cinnamon sugar and a good shaking of ground nutmeg.  However, you don't really need it.  I just thought it made it extra special.  Oh, and if you have an amazing pie crust recipe that you think is the greatest of all time, please share it with me.  I'm always on the hunt.

This pie is delicious, and the peaches are sweet and literally melt in your mouth.

Why do I always forget to take a picture of the slice?
Spiced Peach Pie
modified conglomerate of recipes

approx 2-3 cups of fresh cut peaches (I think this is about 6 peaches) or 2-3 cans sliced peaches
2 T flour
3/4 cup sugar
pinch or two of salt
2 T cinnamon
1/2 T nutmeg

1. Cut the peaches into slices if they aren't already.

2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The original recipe called for far less cinnamon and nutmeg, so if you don't like flavor, reduce it all you like. Actually, the measurements I gave you for those two ingredients are more of my estimate. You should go more by what you think smells and looks like enough.

Spice those peaches
3. Pour the "spice mix" into the peach slices, and mix up with your hands (or a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Don't dissolve the peaches.). Pour the mix into the pie crust, but be judicious about adding all the goop at the bottom of the bowl, because you don't want your pie to be drippy and dissolve the bottom crust)

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
a couple of pinches of salt
3/4 (one and a half sticks) of butter/ vegetable equivelant (or shortening, if you want to go the traditional route)

1. Mix flour and salt.  If you decide to spice the crust, now is where you would add it.

2. Get your butter out an hour or two beforehand to make sure its soft, or leave it on top of the oven while its preheating (but not for too long, or it will melt). Do not microwave the butter!! Not only does it make it too liquidy, but it separates the parts. Just make sure your butter is soft, because if it's too hard, it will be difficult to work with.

3. Cut the butter into little chunks (about 1T each) and plop into the flour mixture. Work in with a fork or pastry cutter until the chunks are considerably smaller, then work in with your hands. This will guarantee the butter is worked in properly.

4. Add water, a tablespoon or two at a time, and work it in. Use your hands to tell when it's ready. The dough should be a little past the point where it's just coming together. Work into a ball.

5. Separate the ball into two parts, one a little larger than the other. The larger ball will be your bottom crust. Pound and roll out the larger ball into a circle and drape over a 9-inch pie or cake pan lightly dusted with flour on the bottom. Pour in filling.

6. Repeat process with smaller ball. Drape over top of pie, pinching sides together, making the edges look fluted if you so desire. Cut a few slits in the center of the top crust so the filling can breathe and seep as it cooks. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon-sugar if you like.

7. Place a cookie sheet under the pie to catch any drippings if you're worried about it. Put in oven pre-heated to 425 degrees. Cook for about 40-45 minutes (this will depend on your oven, of course). Pie will be done when the crust is golden brown.

Pomodoro Romano Sauce

When we were in Italy, one of the foods that I discovered I really loved was a jarred pomodoro romano sauce.  I've never seen it sold here in the States, and anyway, everything's better fresh, so I vowed to recreate it when we returned home.  I decided to alter a pomodoro sauce recipe I already had, and we invited our friends Autumn and Joe over to test out the finished product.

I also had a serious time trying to find fresh pasta.  Everywhere I go I can find fresh raviolis and tortellinis galore, but never any noodles.  Eventually I found it at our local(ish) farmers-type market grocery store, Sprouts.  I wish Utah Valley was more into eating fresh and good quality food.

According to Joe, who served a mission in Italy, it's totally uncouth to
put grapes on your plate, but I don't care.
Pomodoro Romano Sauce
modified from a recipe I think I got from Take Home Chef about 6 years ago

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped/diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped/diced
2 cans (they're large, I forget the size) whole, peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, juices reserved
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup fresh grated/shredded Romano cheese (I could only find a three-cheese blend that was primarily Romano)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.

2. Add onion and garlic and cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Carefully add tomatoes and about 3/4 cup of the reserved juices.  Season with salt and pepper.  I also added about a half a tablespoon of white sugar and a half a tablespoon of brown sugar to offset the tomato's bitterness, but that is optional.

4. Cook until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.

5. Simmer for 20-30 more minutes.  Periodically stir with a wooden spoon (because everything tastes better when it's stirred with a wooden spoon), breaking up and squishing tomatoes and adding reserved juices as needed, until it's all in.

6. About ten minutes to the end, stir in the cheese, adding it slowly in small amounts until it's all stirred in.  Break up any clumps of cheese.

Cheesey deliciousness.
7. Add the shredded basil and stir in.

Mr Yumness
8. Serve immediately over fresh pasta.

A good time was had by all.  The boys even humored me for forced candid pictures, heh heh.

Oh, and we had pie for dessert.  Delicious pie.


These are some of my favorite non-chocolate cookies (nothing beats chocolate...usually).  And Sam confessed to me the other day that these were actually his favorite cookies that I make of all the other kinds.  Taken aback!

I remember loving these as a child, but we didn't often make them.  Maybe because they require a secret ingredient that isn't super common, or really used for anything besides snickerdoodles.

Tartar: huah!  What is it good for? 
Anyway, they're sort of holiday-y in my mind, so here's a nice holiday treat!

lightly modified from ye olde childhood recipe from Mom's recipe box

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt

1. Cream the butter and sugar together.  In case you're wondering, the original recipe calls for half butter and half shortening, but butter is always better in my opinion.  Plus shortening is gross and I don't have any.  Your butter should be softish.  If it's frozen or too cold, let it sit out for a while, but do not melt it!  It will mix better and help the cookies be fluffier.

Cream it up, one two three
2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.  Sift or whisk together.

3. Combine sugar mix and flour together.  You may need to work the dough with your hands if your butter was especially cold.

4. Round dough into little balls.  Roll in 2 Tbs of sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon combined in a little bowl.

Give it a nice coating
5. Place balls an inch-ish apart on greased (or parchment-papered) cookie sheets.  Cook at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

6.  Let cool, then eat warm.  Maybe with hot chocolate.  Oh yum.

An encore

Monday, December 3, 2012

Eggnog Biscuits

Yesterday afternoon we got back from our two-week trip to Italy!  It was a crazy and fun time, and we had a lot of delicious food that I'll be talking about in future posts.  But today, I have for you these festive biscuits!

Because we got in on a Sunday afternoon, and because our car decided to die while we were gone and left us with no way to get to the store, we had no food this morning for breakfast.  Lying awake in the middle of the night thanks to jet lag had me wondering what in the world we would eat, and my mind ran to my favorite I-forgot-to-go-shopping breakfast: biscuits!

Usually I have some Bisquik on hand for such emergencies, but we only have about half a cup left, and I'm trying to phase it out because I don't use it that often and it has all those preservatives that make me skeptical.

A biscuit-from-scratch recipe is pretty easy.  But without milk, it'd be useless (well, there's water, but I prefer not to eat things with the excitement of hard tack).  Fortunately, my brother in law persuaded us to take a leftover container of eggnog with us after we had dinner with them last night.

I hate eggnog.  Sam loves it.  Since the eggnog expires today, I was afraid I'd be nursing a Sam sick from an eggnog binge by the end of the day.

This is literally the only thing in our fridge.

So that's just what I did, simultaneously (but temporarily) curbing my appetite for holiday goodness.
oh, oh, the mistletoe...
Homemade Eggnog Biscuits
de moi - makes about 9 large biscuits, more smaller ones

2 cups flour

1 T baking powder

1 T granulated sugar

1 t salt

1/3 cup shortening, margarine, or butter (I used butter)

1 cup eggnog

cinnamon and/or nutmeg to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Sift together dry ingredients.

3. Cut butter into little chunks.  Work into flour mix with your hands (you can also use a pastry cutter if you're timid, but hands always work better).  The end result will be a sort of moldable, mealy flour.

4. Add eggnog and stir together (or keep using your hands) until just combined.  Dough should be sticky enough to pull away from the bowl.  If it's too wet, add a little flour.  If it's too dry, add a little more eggnog.

5.  If you're making drop biscuits (I always prefer drop biscuits, they have better texture in my opinion), just skip the next step and go straight to step 7.

6.  For round biscuits, knead the dough on a floured surface until it's less sticky.  Roll out to ~1/4" thickness.  Using a round cookie cutter or glass top, cut out biscuits.

7.  Place biscuits on greased (or parchment-papered) cookie sheet.  Bake for 13-15 minutes (mine went for just over 13 minutes and were only ever-so-slightly doughy in the center.  But I liked it.

8.  Eat while still warm.  We tried butter, jam, and honey, and decided the honey was the best topper.  But they are also very tasty plain.

Flavor note:  if you want a more subtle and less "spiced" taste, omit the cinnamon/nutmeg.  They're still very tasty.

look at that fluffy, crisp goodness

Now I'm off to plan some Christmas sugar cookies...