Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Top Posts: A Year in Review

I have always liked how the authors from various blogs pull together their favorites at the year end.  So I thought I would pull some lists together for you.  The first list is by hits.  The second list is my favorite, most tastiest meals that I would most certainly make again.  There were others but I narrowed it down.  I don't want to seem boastful. You know, let me take this moment to say that when I feel good about a recipe I don't take credit for it really, it's the author of the recipe.  When I develop a recipe that I post, it's not bragging its more sharing.  I think everyone, yes everyone, is capable of delicious food.  I always want to come across as your food cheer leader because I think if you take the time and learn and begin to trust your judgment, some amazing food can be made.  Trust yourself.  You can become your own chef extraordinaire.

Your favorites from 2010 by hits:



Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Garlic Sauce

Cake Lollies

Conchas

The Chutneys: Cilantro

The Chutneys: Tamarind

Croquettes

Olive Straws

Mini Pigs in a Blanket

Gingersnaps

Lentil Sauce with Poached Egg

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Pineapple Vinagre

Rum Balls

Here are my 10 favorites from the year:

Apricot Almond Torte

Garlic Studded Chana Saag

Chick Pea Tikka Masala

Two Tone Decadent Ice Cream Cake

Cheesy Lentil Burgers

Turkey Mole Pizza

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Apricots
Pretzel Rolls

Hoppin' John


Kickin' Queso


Carrot and Potato Indian Stir Fry

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sun Dried Tomato Spread


This is really good stuff.  It disappeared very quickly.  We spread it on Rosemary Olive Spelt bread but really it would be fabulous on any bread.  Or by itself on a spoon.  It's real simple to whip up for an appetizer.

Sun Dried Tomato Spread

8 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
6 sun dried tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

In a food processor whirl garlic and sun dried tomato until it forms a paste.  Add in cream cheese. Remove from processor and fold in walnuts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Swedish Meatballs


Here is a really nice appetizer that you could prepare ahead.  I love to have appetizers for New Year's.  To be honest I really am not looking forward to New Years as that would mean that my brother has left and gone back home.  I hate for him and my Sister in Law to leave.  I wish they lived close by. 

I hope all of you are enjoying your Holidays!

Swedish Meatballs

1.5  pound beef
1.5 pound ground pork
1 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Gravy

1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black
4 cups boiling water
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 whole bay leaves

Combine milk and bread crumbs.  Let sit while you gather the ingredients for the meatballs. In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs except the vegetable oil.  Mix together and add in milk/bread crumbs.  Mix thoroughly.  Form into balls.

In a nice sized skillet or a soup pot, brown the meat balls in batches unbtil they are all browned nicely.  TO that skillet with the oil add the flour and stir until it browns lightly.  Add boiling water and stir well. Add bay leaves and remaining ingredients.  Then add the meatballs back to the pot.  At this point you could transfer it all to a slow cooker. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Great recipe for sugar cookies from Mimi's Kitchen
Compliments of the Graphics Fairy (she is the bombe!)
I heard the bells, on Christmas Day
-By Henry Longfellow

I heard the bells, on Christmas Day,

Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pierogi and Christmas Eve Polish Traditions


We decided to form the pierogie in advance. This way on Christmas Eve we would not be hurrying to get it done. We could relax and enjoy the day a little more.
It was perfect. The kids were at school for their last day before Winter break. Just my Mother and I, I call her Mamushka (a term of endearment for me). We talked about Christmas past. Memories of loved ones who have passed on. We talked about pierogi failures and pierogi triumphs. We talked about the kids, the relatives and anything that passed through our minds. I really enjoyed this time with my Mom and will lock this nice memory safely away in my head and my blog.
I have been very fortunate in my life to be blessed by loving family, on both sides, my Italian side and my Polish side. I have come to know that other people do not have it so good. While it may have its own dysfunction as most families do, it is my family and I see it in gratitude. I have seen it shrinking as the years go past. People passing on. They live on in our memories, still and bringing tears to our eyes as we miss them especially around the Holidays. I will keep them in my mind as I create more memories with my new family. My husband, my children, my parents, my brother and his family. We will create more memories this season to last for years to come. For me and my children.

We will celebrate our Polish holiday tradition of the 12 dishes.  We have mushrooms, barley, boiled prunes, sauer kraut, pierogi (usually two kinds potato variety shown here and deep fried sauer kraut filled), herring, fried white fish, a vegetable, boiled potatoes and mushrooms with onions and butter.

We break Holy bread before the feast begins.  And after the feast we eat sweets, talk and play games.

We will pass both Polish traditions and Italian traditions on to our children as best as we can. So they can keep them dear to their hearts with memories of all of their Christmases.

Pierogi
We used a different recipe this year for the dough.  We added a bit more egg to keep the dough lighter. Rolling it thin before stuffing is also key to lighter pierogi. As you can see my Mother is quite good at stuffing them to the gills with potato filling.


This recipe makes about 90, depending on how big your pierogi are.

dough

6 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups (more or less, I really don't measure) water to form dough

Make a pile for flour and the salt.  Make a well.  Place eggs inside the well and add water pulling flour from sides.  Add water and mix until you have a smooth dough that just sticks a little to your hands.

Let dough rest for thirty minutes.  Break off small pieces and form small balls, about half the size of a ping pong ball.  Roll out into thin rounds and fill with potato mixture. Make sure none of the filling touches the edges as they will not stay closed when boiled.

After pierogi are formed, drop into salted boiling water to cook.

filling

8 cups mashed potatoes
24 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1 cup cottage cheese

Cook potatoes and mash thoroughly smoothing out lumps. Add in cheddar while it is still hot, combine.  Add in cottage cheese and salt and pepper.  Cool completely.

Wesolych swiat (veh-SOH-wik SHVYOHNT)! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole



This shot will never win a photo award but this recipe could.  It stole the show on Thanksgiving Day.  I would totally make it again.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wanted to share it with you despite its terrible photo.  We were in a hurry to eat and there was no time for snapping pictures.  Unless I wanted an angry mob.  I highly recommend this creamy and delicious side!

Sweet Potato Casserole
adapted from this recipe at My Recipes/Cooking Light.

4 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups cornflakes cereal, crushed
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Bake sweet potatoes at 400° for about 1 hour or until tender. Let cool to touch; peel and mash sweet potatoes. I did this ahead of time which made it much easier.

Beat mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, and next 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon potato mixture into a greased casserole dish or an 11- x 7-inch baking dish.

Combine cornflakes cereal and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle diagonally over casserole in rows 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle alternate rows with marshmallows; bake 10 additional minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Passionfruit Melting Moments

Passionfruit- if you have not tried it- is a bit like a lemon and a apricot mixed together.  If you eat it fresh when perfectly ripe its sweet and luscious and you will say to yourself I have a passion for this fruit.  Thats why they named it passionfruit.  No, not really.  Seriously though I HAVE a passion for this fruit.  My freezer has passionfruit pulp and passionfruit curd in it.  My jam stash has passion fruit jam in it.  I have made passion fruit cheesecake which I have to say is one of the best cheesecakes I have ever had.  That tartness completely balanced out the sweetness of the cheesecake. If you are wondering where to get the stuff, the best place is the frozen food aisle at your supermarket.  Goya makes it.

Completely captivated by this recipe, I just had to make it! I am glad I did. Paired with passionfruit buttercream, you just can't go wrong.

Passionfruit Melting Moments

Adapted from this recipe at About

125g butter, at room temperature ( smidge over a 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup (115g) plain flour, sifted
1/4 cup (45g) pure icing sugar, sifted
1/3 cup (50g) cornstarch
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
6 tablespoons passionfruit pulp

Filling
60g butter, softened
1 cup (150g) pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp


Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Line baking tray with parchment paper or silpat.

In a mixer or a large bowl beat butter until pale and creamy, about four minutes. Add passionfruit juice. Mix well. In a seperate bowl combine sifted flour, icing sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest.  Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Place on lined baking tray, about 1 inch apart. Dust back of a fork with cornstarch to gently flatten. Repeat process with remaining dough. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through.

Set aside on the tray to cool for 3 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool.

To make the filling, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar, passionfruit pulp and beat until combined.

Use a small knife to spread a small amount of icing onto one side of a biscuit. Sandwich with a second biscuit. Repeat with remaining biscuits and filling.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chip Chip Candy

A week or so ago, I was at my friends house for our monthly meeting of four ladies. We have been meeting monthly for ... um, wow, has it been ten years? February 2001 was our first meeting. Dang... Well, anyway. My friend had made these great little candies. She wanted us to try them before she told us what was in them. We took a bite and swooned. Creaminess, a bit of peanut butter and crunch. Really nice crunch. Crisp, delicious and creamy all in one. Ah, and salty and chocolate all in one. She said they were formally known as PMS candy. Here's why. They are made with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and potato chips. I am here to tell you they are really good.
Melt a bag of dark chocolate chips, a bag of peanut butter chips.
Meanwhile crush up about 3/4 of a bag of potato chips, the thin variety works really nicely here.
Stir in those crushed chips to the melted chips.  Spoon onto wax paper.  Chill and eat.  And chill... and eat.. and, well you know.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gingersnap Cookies

I am a collector of gingersnap recipes.  I love them.  I have made quite a few recipes in my time (you can check out this one here that I made as well).  I have to say this is one of the best ones I have made.  I think the only thing that could make them a tad better is the addition of fresh ginger.  They have a really nice texture.  If you bake them thoroughly they will be crisp.  If you take them out a bit prematurely they will be crispy on the outside tender in the middle.  If you take them out at the earliest possible point they will be soft and chewy.  That about covers all the preferences of cookies out there, doesn't it?



Gingersnap Cookies
Adapted from this recipe from Cooking Light, My Recipes.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups cups granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup more for coating
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Cream the butter and 1 3/4 cups sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, molasses, vinegar, and vanilla. In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and pepper. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Beat until incorporated. Fold in the crystallized ginger. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. Preheat oven upon removing the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon form balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and with the bottom of a glass press cookies down into rounds. Place on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake until crinkly around the edges, about 10 - 14 minutes. Place on wired cookie tray to cool.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Daring Cooks: Poached Eggs

 



It' s Daring Cooks time!  I am a wee bit late as posting day was yesterday.  I had a broken modem. :(  So no internet.  Now, I am up and running.  It's amazing how addicted I am to the internet.  Have a medical question... go to the internet.  Want to look up a phone number... go to the internet.  Want to share a song with my girls like Dominic the Donkey... go to the internet.  It happended several times yesterday.

I was very happy to do this challenge.  I love eggs.  Oh man I love eggs!  Poaching them is a special thing for me.  Growing up my mother would always make these for us when we were sick.  It was love in a bowl when I wasn't feeling good.  She would break them up and stir in a little bread.  They were creamy and delicious and very soothing.

Jenn of Jenn Cuisine and Jill of Jillouci have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

The mandatory item for this months challenge was:

To use the technique of poaching an egg (or vegan substitute) in either one of the recipes listed below or your own creative take on the challenge. But whatever you do MUST involve the technique of poaching.


Lentil Sauce over Pasta
Adaped from Fix It and Forget It Lightly

1 cup lentils
1 1/2 quarts stewed tomatoes
2 carrots, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion , chopped
2 cups diced butternut squash
2 tablespoons pesto
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning (I used Tuscan blend)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf

Mix all ingredients in a crock pot and set at low for 7 to 8 hours. You can place it at high for four hours as well.

Fill a asauce pan 3/4 full and add a tablespoon of vinegar.  Bring to a boil.  Crak one ro two eggs in a bowl, being careful not to break the yolk.  Gently dump the eggs one at a time into the sauce pan of boiling water.  Let the egg cook until firm.  Scoop out with a slotted spoon.

Place on top of lentils*.

* A dollop of sour cream is excellent on top as well.  But the egg was rich and creamy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

CRAB and CORN CHOWDER

This past summer we ate some of these crabs while on vacation.  My cousin, who is the nicest guy, picked apart the remainder of the crab so we could take it home and make some soup.  I have had it in my freezer waiting for me to be inspired by some amazing recipe.  Finally I eas.  I soent one day making broth and the next day making this soup.


CRAB STOCK

crab shells with meat inside, 10 cups
8 celery ribs, including leaves, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
cracked pepper
water to cover
*bay seasoniong
**1/2 cup white wine

Place shells in large stock pot with celery, bay leaves, onion, cracked pepper.  Pour in water until the crab and celery are covered.  Place lid on pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and gently simmer for one and a half to two hours. 

* I did not add Old Bay seasonings because the crab was cooked in it.  If your crab is not cooked in it I highly recommend this flavorful seasoning. You can make your own bay seasoning too.
** I totally forgot to add this.  I think wine is a nice addition to broths but it is not necessary.

CRAB and CORN CHOWDER

6 ounces bacon or 1/2 cup cooked chopped bacon
1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter
1 large onion
4 stalks celery, diced
1 cup yellow and red pepper, chopped
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
5 medium potatoes, diced
1/4 cup unbleached ap flour
2 quarts crab stock
1 can corn or 1 small bag frozen corn
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
reserved meat from crab shells or you can buy some fresh meat and add it in

Fry bacon in a large soup pot until crisp.  Remove bacon and most of the oil from the pot.  Add butter.  Saute onions, pepper and celery.  When the onions are translucent add flour and brown, stir constantly.  Add broth stir, thoroughly mixing.  Bring broth to a boil and add potatoes, thyme, bay leaf and parsley. Simmer until potatoes are tender.  Add corn and heat through.  Finally add the cream and milk.  Do not bring to a boil after you add the cream.  Heat gently. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chocolate, Almond and Coconut Biscotti

I had to hide these- what does that say? Seriously, they are that good. I like to try recipes and you just know when one is a real keeper. I have made a lot of biscotti in my time- all kinds of flavors and this one ranks right up there with the best!

Dip these in coffee, dip 'em in tea... ohhhh hot chocolate.

And I just have to say, Grace, they have the almond, the chocolate and the coconut all in one delicious bite.  You know, sometimes you feel like a nut! And I do!  (for those of you that dont get the reference, click here.) A seriously addicting jingle.  I have been singing it for days.

Thank you Fine Cooking- this one is totally a winner.  And I have to say without payment from the magazine- their recipes are truly the BOMBE!  Haven't hit a bad one yet.


Chocolate, Almond and Coconut Biscotti that will have you leaping for joy!
Adapted from this recipe at Fine Cooking

20-1/4 oz. (4-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted almonds
1 1/2 cups semisweet mini chocolate chips

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a stand mixer beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed after each addition until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and then the coconut until well combined.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. The dough will be sticky. With the mixer still on low, mix in the almonds and chocolate chips. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces in the shape of logs and place on the cookie sheet. Working on the sheet, shape  into a loaf about 10 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 3/4 inch high. Bake until the tops are browned, cracked, and crusty, and spring back slightly when gently pressed, 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool about 30 minutes on the cookie sheet. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Transfer each loaf to a cutting board and with a sharp serrated bread knife. When slicing, hold the sides of the loaf near each cut to keep the slices neat. Put the slices cut side down on the cookie sheet and bake until the biscotti are dried and the cut surfaces are lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the biscotti cool completely. The biscotti may give slightly when pressed but will harden as they cool.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Peppermint Dips


I don't like to get started on cookies too early but with everyone making cookies on blogs- I just had to. My goodness you guys tempt me too much. I made these last weekend. I made some changes to the original recipe as I found it to be far easier this way.


Peppermint Dips
Adapted from this recipe at Cooking Light
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 cups flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

20 to 25 drops red food coloring
15 to 20 drops green food coloring
10 ounce white chocolate, finely chopped
5 ounces peppermint candy canes or peppermint candies, finely crushed

Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a separate bowl. With mixer running, add egg and yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mint. Slowly add flour mixture and beat on low just until combined.

Remove two thirds of the dough from the mixer or bowl. Add the red food coloring to the mixture in the bowl.  Once the red has been fully incorporated; shape into a disk and set aside. Clean mixing bowl and paddle attachment. Put last third of dough in mixing bowl and beat in green food coloring; shape into a disk and set aside.

Draw a 6- by 8-in. rectangle on a sheet of waxed paper. Turn sheet over and lightly flour it. Working with one disk at a time, put dough in center of rectangle. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, your fingers, and a pastry scraper or a ruler, roll and shape each disk to fit rectangle. Lay red dough rectangle down then lay the white dough on top and finally the green. (Or whatever order your little heart desires). Chill the layers at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before continuing.

Peel waxed paper from the dough. Gently roll dough stack with a rolling pin to seal layers, then trim uneven edges with a very sharp knife.  Slice 1/4 slabs off of the rectangular dough.  Cut that slab into 2 or 2 1/2 pieces as cookies.  Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 8 - 10 minutes.

When cookies have cooled completely, dip tips of cookies in melted white chocolate and then into the crushed peppermint.  The cookies freeze well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

French Onion Soup

I had a few friends over and we enjoyed some French Onion Soup.  It's always so warming to have soup.  And it's always nice to be with company, enjoying them rather than standing at the stove.

You will have to forgive me for not being so verbose these days.  And some of you may be happy about that.  I have been busily making Christmas presents.  One of my goals has been to stop buying junk that is made in China.  Less is more.  The kids have even noticed that a lot of the stuff from the dollar store just breaks- so it is not worth buying.  My goals are less junk, less products from China and more local.  I have bought some local crafts as well for Christmas presents. 

French Onion Soup
These are very simple ingreidents so you need to rely on quality ingredients.

6 cups (48 ounces) broth
1/2 cup sherry
1 large bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
8 cups onion sliced in rings
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter.  Sauteing at medium heat.  You want to keep a close eye on the heat.  At first you will not have to stir so much.  Toward the end you will need to stir the onions often.  Do not salt the onions until they are first starting to get golden.

Once they are golden brown, pour in the broth with the herbs.  Add the sherry.  Cover and let the soup simmer for about thirty minutes.
Ladle into soup bowls and place a slice or two of toasted French bread.  Place a slice of mozzarella or another fine melting cheese.  Roast under the broiler until cheese is toasted.


Ah, one more shot of the cheesy ooziness, swimming and singing, I am delicious, consume me!

We celebrated my friends birthday, complete with pink tiaras.  Happy Birthday L! Oh, and notice I put some toffee crunchies around the perimeter of the whoopie pie.  Oh YEAH!

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