Saturday, December 31, 2011

Red Pepper Relish

Shelby from Grumpy's Honey Bunch contacted me to let me know she was a having a big giveaway and would I like to make something in celebration of her blog-o-versary. Yes, indeed I do. Yes its a busy time of year and I think I am a little late posting but I wanted to tell you about her giveaway- you still have time. It ends on January 7th. And what a perfect time to talk about little bites on the biggest appetizer day of the year. This is a wonderful appetizer that keeps for a while in the fridge, is easy to make and tastes outstanding. I first saw the recipe here at Savory Sweet Life.

Red Bell Pepper Relish

2 red bell pepper (or any other type of bell pepper), chopped in small pieces
1 cup onion, minced
1 1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup of white vinegar
1 teaspoon of aleppo pepper flakes

Add everything to a small sauce pan and stir all the ingredient together. Cook the relish on medium heat for 5 minutes and turn down the heat to medium-low for an additional 20 minutes or more, stirring occasionally until there is barely any liquid left. When you get toward the end of the cooking time be sure to keep a close eye on it and keep stirring- it will burn real fast if you leave it unattended. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Goodwill Towards You

Merry Christmas to you..
Happy Holidays to you.
Whatever your holiday is. 
Even if you don't have a holiday to celebrate.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you joy, peace and happiness.
Not the kind of happiness that makes you jump up and down necessarily but the kind happiness that makes you say to yourself, "eh, everything is going to be okay."
The kind of peace that lets you rest and be harmonious with all that surrounds you, including yourself.
The kind of joy to be found in having an awareness of your blessings or in knowing what you are grateful for.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Weight Watcher Wednesday: Pumpkin Soup

Can you believe it?- a very busy week and here I am, posting on time!  Wahoo.

I picked up this Cinderella pumpkin in the fall.  I love to go crazy over pumpkins and butternut squash.  The people at the market probably think I am crazy, squirreling away all those squashes.  They freeze perfectly and if it keeps me from paying outrageous prices for them at the grocery store then hey I am all for it.
It's a very beautiful pumpkin.  Looks like Cinderella's carriage really.
The seeds were excellent too.  I found a new way to roast them.  You soak the seeds in salted water for 24 hours, drain  and then roast them.  Lots of flavor!

This is a really simple soup and I tend to really get into flavorful soups- one of my absolute favorites is the Thai pumpkin soup and the Olan Stew/Indian soup (yes I have made it wtih both butternut and pumpkin)I make.  Recently I tried some pumpkin soup with smoked gouda and bacon- to die for really- thanks S!  It was totally delicious.

Light and comforting at the same time

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 (15 oz.) cans solid packed pumpkin or roughly four cups pumpkin puree
1 quart water
1 cup milk, 2%
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring often until very soft, about 8 minutes. Once they are translucent, add pumpkin, water, milk, syrup, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking often. Flavors are always better the next day after it has time to meld.

This is about 800 calories for the entire recipe depending on what percent milk you use, etc.  Divided into eight portions will give you about 100 calories.  Each serving will be a little over a cup.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I know you guys are wondering what happened to the light cooking for Wednesdays.  I am wondering what happened to the light cooking too.  I have been sewing so much that really I grab whatever for dinner just to get something on the table.  I have lost my foodie mojo and replaced it by feverish working as Santa's Elf for Christmas.  I will say there has been a lot of soup in this house.  Simple soup and really fairly light.  That's the easiest route to take at this time.
At Christmas time I usually bake a ton of cookies.  This year I have paired down because quite honestly I will eat way too many of them.
But there is one cookie we can not go without in this house and that is sugar cookies.
They have always been my weakness. These have a fabulous flavor.  You might think the combination of almond extract and lemon zest is a bit unusual but they have a nice flavor.
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
This is an extremely big recipe.  With sugar cookies you really got to go big anyhow, right?  For best results make the dough the day before and refrigerate overnight.  These have a nice tender chew.  If you make them thin and bake them a little longer you will have crisp cookies.

9 cups of flour
3 cups butter
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
6 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, mix until light and fluffy (five minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.  Add the cream cheese, flavorings and lemon zest.

Mix the flour baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and add to the butter mixture a third at a time.  Break off about 2 cup portions and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour but better yet- overnight.

Take out one dough ball at a time and roll out on a floured surface.  Cut your shapes and bake in a preheated oven to 350F.  Depending on the size/thinness of your cookies baking time will be around 8 to 12 minutes.

Cool completely before icing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lemon Meatballish Cookies

A couple of years ago Tracy from Ra Cha Chow posted a desire to have the lemon meatball cookie recipe from Wegmans.  I have been on a mission ever since because I really like them too.  It is really hard when your a baker (at least it is for me) to buy a cookie I feel I should be able to make easily at home.  It's kind of been in the back of my mind ever since.

About a couple weeks ago I started going through my recipes, all my magazine clippings and what not.  Initially I was looking for what Christmas cookies I would make this year.  But of course it turned intoa  project of going through all my recipes and whittling them down and organizing them. Its good but why did I get inspired to do that at the busiest time of the year. Anyway I saw a recipe from Wegman's magazine called lemon cookies.  I read the directions and I thought, "this is it!".  

When you make these cookies, pretend lemon is your best friend. Invited her to the party- keep having her join in on the fun. Add lemon here, add lemon there. That's about the only thing I would change at this point.  Use lemon juice instead of milk for the glaze or use a ton of lemon zest in it.  Add way more lemon zest to the recipe itself.  Next time I may even add lemoncello instead of lemon flavoring because quite honestly I was surprised by the fact that the lemon flavoring really didn't add all that much lemon flavor to the final product.

Lemon Meatballish Cookies
Adapted from this recipe at Wegman's

1 cup shortening (I used Earth Balance natural shortening)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream
2 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 2 lemon s
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 Tbsp warm milk  or lemon juice instead
1/2 tsp juice from a fresh lemon (optional- if you don't use all lemon juice)


Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray cookie sheets with cookie spray or line with a silpat.

In a large bowl, beat together shortening and sugar until light. Add eggs, sour cream, lemon extract, vanilla extract, and lemon zest; beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl.

In another bowl or large measuring cup, combine flour and baking powder; add to mixture in bowl and beat just until moistened.

Shape dough into small balls, using about 1 level tablespoon for each. An ice cream type scoot is really helpful here.

Arrange about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Bake 10 min, until lightly browned. Do not overbake. Remove from pans and cool.

Combine confectioners' sugar and milk in small bowl; whip lightly with spoon until smooth and slightly thick. Add 1/2 tsp lemon juice if desired; stir briskly until well-combined.

While cookies are still warm dip tops of cookies into icing. Let set until icing is dry to the touch. Store in closed container.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weight Watcher Wednesday: Indian Stir Fry

I know, it's Saturday.  Humor me.

I missed my day for Weight Watcher Wednesday. I slacked off last week and this week but I am back in full force. I made a definite decision to lighten things up around here.  In many ways.  Me, the amount of stuff I have around the house... So I will have a bunch of recipes to choose from each week. 

Let me remind you of stir fries just in case you have put them ont eh back burner so to speak.  I remember int he 90's they were big.  Everyone had a wok and was doing stir fries.  They were fast and delicious, especially if you had everything ready to go into the wok.  I loved them.  Somehow I have veered away from them.

Indian cuisine offers a lot of stir fry ideas as well.  I recently tried this amazing stir fry.  It went above and beyond what I expected.  At first I thought it and unusually weird combination of vegetables.  But since I had green peppers and squash to use up, I decided to try it.  Fabulous.

Green Bell Pepper and Butternut Squash Stir Fry
Any vegetables will work here.  These spices add so much flavor without adding calories.

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
cilantro (if desired for garnish)
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 cups butternut squash, cut in small cubes*
1 tablespoon ghee or a flavorless oil such as canola
1 teaspoon oil

In a heated frying pan, melt butter, add bell peppers.  Saute until tender then add butternut squash.  Cook until tender.  In a separate small non stick frying pan add oil.  When oil is hot add cumin seeds and mustard seeds.  When they begin to pop add garlic and ginger, cook one minute more.  Remove from pan and set aside. Add to stir fry when it is nearly done.  (When toasting the spices be sure not to burn it as the spices will turn bitter.)

*If you want to up the flavor quotient, spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and roast the squash until lightly browned at 425F.  If you have the time roast at 350F- it will take longer but it will be sweeter.

Coming up... some more Weight Watcher Meal reviews.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vada Pav

Today, I am making chana saag.  I need to do a post on all the recipes that make repeated appearances in our kitchen.  You see that is why I think I have slowed on my posting.  I have a repertoire that I love- not that I dont like to try anything new now, its just that its not as often as it used to be.  Sometimes too, I am making meals that are boring, just because they are so fast.  Having my attention focused on my sewing has really taken a bite out of my passion for cooking and yes the blogging part too.

Quilting is like a soul mate for me.  I am artistic in nature but have never found a medium that totally enveloped me.  I did do water color for quite a while.  I loved it.  It was very relaxing but it just didn't totally fit the bill. Thats not to say that I havent been thinking about doing anoth painting.  Colored pencil and drawing same story.  I am not that good at either.  I am proficient.  Now with quilting- its like a long lost friend descending upon me. Filling my life with joy.  I am not as proficient as I want to be but I am getting there little by little.  It's a journey.

I still love to explore the world of Indian cuisine.  So wide and vast.  Many distinct areas with different spices and dishes.  I have always loved cumin and cilantro so it is a natural fit.  These dishes, along with occassional sweets, seem to be the bulk of what I want to post.

This Vada pav dish is amazing.  I had some leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes that I out through a ricer to lighten them up a little so I could add the spices and aromatics to them.  I also added an egg, mainly for its binding qualities.  We loved these.  I didn't have time to make the chutneys.  You know, it was spectacular even without the sauces.  So I can only imagine what it would be like with them.  You can visit Aayi's Recipes for the original recipe.

Vada Pav

3 cups mashed potatoes
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon ghee (I used my niter kibbeh)
salt and pepper to taste
10 curry leaves, cut in small piece
oil for frying (I used peanut oil)

coating mixture:

2 tablespoons rice flour
1/2 cup besan/chick pea flour

In a fry pan melt the ghee and add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds.  Wait until they begin to be fragrant.  Then add the curry leaves for one minute more.  Inhale that fabulous aroma.  Swoon.  Remove from pan and pour into the mashed potatoes.  Add the onion to the fry pan.  Cook until transluscent.  Add the garlic and ginger. Cook one minute more and add to the mashed potatoes.  Stir.  Add egg and stir until combined.

Form patties and dip into flour coating mixture.  Fry in not oil until golden. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Black Beans or Negro Frijoles

One of my most favorite parts of eating at a Mexican restaurant is the rice and beans. That is when it is done well. So often it is not. But better yet, you can make it at home and control the ingredients etc.This bean recipe I made was inspired from Homesick Texan.  She has a book that just came out.  Nice.  I may need to buy that book as a lot of her recipes appeal to me. 

I wish I had more time to visit blogs.  I feel like I have been in a whirlwind for a while.  First, it was the kids being home for summer vacation.  Next, it was school starting and canning season and now, it is the holidays.  Whew.  I love it, don't get me wrong.  It is no complaint but I wanted to explain why I have been MIA. 

Black Beans
From Homesick Texan.  Click here to see the recipe in its original form.

16 oz. dried black beans
1 tablespoon of lard or bacon greas

1 cup onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 chipotles in adobo, chopped
1 tablespoon of epazote 

1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 cup cilantro. chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup lime juice
Six cups of water
Two cups of chicken or vegetable broth
Salt to taste

Soak the beans covered in water overnight. Next day drain the soaked beans.

In the pot you’re going to cook the beans, sauté the onions in the fat for 10 minutes and then add the garlic for one minute. Add the beans, chipotles, epazote and half the cilantro.

Cover beans with water and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low.  Stir occasionally.

After 1 1/2 hours, add the cumin, tomato paste, lime juice, and salt and cook for 30 more minutes or until beans are tender. At this point, smash a few against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken the broth a bit, stir the pot and serve. Add the remaining cilantro.  (Cilantro is a very delicate herb that has most of its flavor when eaten fresh- cooking takes away a lot of the flavor).

Serve with fresh cilantro, avocado, salsa and my favorite sliced radishes.