Thursday, September 29, 2011

Something is Stewing

I don't really have any witty or insightful comments regarding this recipe. I am cleaning out my fridge/freezer, and happened to have the necessary ingredients. Couple this with the weekend forecast of highs below 60 and my sudden energy this morning, and that's how the stew was made. Actually, the stew was really made by the directions below. . . .


2 lbs of cubed beef
6 - 8 red potatoes, or 2 - 3 large russet potatoes
1 stalk of celery, chopped including the leafy parts
1 large onion, diced
2 - 3 cups of chopped carrots
1 quart tomato juice
1 quart water
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 TBSP black pepper
1 TSP hungarian paprika, but regular paprika will do
1 TSP thyme
2 bay leaves
3 TBSP worcestershire sauce

Stick all the ingredients into a crockpot. Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dirty Blondes or Nutella Blondies

I don't usually bake goodies or treats since I have a husband with little self-control. One time when we were in Istanbul, he ate a pound of baklava by himself. Anyhow, I also don't want to gain 50 lbs this pregnancy, so I have a once-a-week quota for ice cream or other substitute. 

This recipe is not my own, but it comes from a seasoned dessert master: Kari Hickman, leader of the notorious dessert club, published dessert author, mother of 3, and my friend.  I perform a few variations, which in my humble opinion, make it more scrumptious, but the link to the original recipe is

1/2 stick unsalted butter or butter flavored crisco
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP cocoa
1/3 cup hazelnuts
Plenty of Nutella

Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8x11 inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper; butter parchment. Get nuts toasting on a baking sheet - watch closely - just until fragrant, a few minutes.

Melt butter. Beat butter and sugar until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Set half of the whisked mixture into a separate bowl, then add the dry cocoa to one of the bowls and whisk again. You should have one bowl with a white flour mixture, and a second with a cocoa'ed mixture. 

Beat eggs and vanilla into butter mixture. Once mixture is homogenous, put half of it into the bowl with the cocoa'ed flour, and the other half into the non-cocoa'ed flour mixture; stir just until combined. 

Add two heaping spoonfuls of Nutella to the cocoa'ed mixture. Stir in as best as you can. 

Place the batters into the pan a spoonful at time, alternating a scoop of the dark batter with a scoop of the light batter. You have to kind of press it into the pan. Once you've got all the batter in the pan, zap some nutella in the microwave for 15 seconds so it's more liquidy. Then use a spoon to create lovely swirls of Nutella atop your treats. Sprinkle nuts on top. 

Bake for 25 minutes, and let cool for 15 minutes before cutting. 

This is Kari's picture of her world-famous blondies. 

Some of my girlfriends from a mothers' group were the lucky partakers, but Allen ate most of them for breakfast and then took the rest to work. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Easy as Pie: My First Attempt

My pie repertoire prior to this recipe included Swansons' chicken pot pies that you throw in the oven, and quiche using the frozen crust. I did not even dare to mess with pie crust, for I knew it to be a formidable foe. As I prepare for pie-themed dessert club in October, I wanted to do a test pie. I wanted to do a pie that was unconventional. Thus I convened and rallied and chose to make Pear and Gruyere Pie. Note that Gruyere cheese is approximately $1.50 to $3.00 an ounce, so you really want to bring your game face. Also, the bottle of Porto wine from Costco was $15, and I only used 1/3rd of the bottle, and my vino-phyllic neighbor bought the rest off of me. 

I actually had to briefly broil the top to really activate the cheese and make it crisp, and my cute little cut-outs got a bit too dark. But Ivy ate them, and did not protest. The cheesy-buttery crust was incredibly flakey, very rich and palatable. My husband loved the poached pears with the spices and reduced port sauce. It was incredible with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. My only concern was that the cheese crust may have paired better with a combination of pears and apples. Just pears was a bit too bland for me, but I think all apples would be too overwhelming. I think next time I will do a half granny smith and half bartlett pear filling to balance out the cheese flavor with some acidity. I may have a fighting chance to win dessert club! 

Pear Gruyère Pie

This recipe comes from:

Makes one 9 to 10 inch pear pie

Notes from Cat: I don't have a food processor, so I used a good ole-fashioned fork and knife to "cut" the butter into the crust. When you pull the finished crust out of the fridge, you need to let it warm up a bit before you roll it out because it's basically a cold, cheesy brick of butter. I also only put half the recommended amount of sauce into the pie, and used the extra port sauce as a drizzle over the ice cream.

Gruyère Pie Crust:
2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp. sugar
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1 in pieces
3 oz. Gruyère, grated finely
6-7 tbsp. ice water

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and grated gruyere in a large mixing bowl. Using a food processor, mix butter and flour/cheese mixture until the largest butter chunks are the size of large peas.

Remove flour/cheese/butter mixture from food processor return it to the large mixing bowl. Sprinkle ice water over flour in increments of one tablespoon, toss with fork after each addition. Be careful not to add too much water. You can get an even water distribution by adding putting the water in one of those spritzer bottles. When dough begins to clump together as you stir, test the dough by squeezing it in your hands, if it forms in a lump then gather the rest of the dough together into two separate disks, leaving one slightly larger than the other. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Or if you are in a rush, toss the dough in the freezer for about an hour, when it's solid yet still gives slightly under your touch, it's ready to go.

Spiced Poached Pear Pie Filling:
3 lbs. Bartlett pears
1/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. port wine
1 1/2 c. water
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1 cinnamon stick

1 egg, lightly beaten (for crust)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add sugar, wine, water, vanilla, cinnamon stick, ginger, nutmeg and clove into a large stock pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Put an empty medium bowl into the freezer to chill.

Peel and halve pears. Scoop the core and seeds out and then cut the halves in half. Once liquid mixture has come to a boil add cut pears. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the pears are tender.

Using a slotted spoon remove the pear quarters from the poaching liquid and put them into the chilled bowl.

Return the poaching liquid to a boil and reduce until you have about 3/4 of a cup of syrup. Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the syrup to thicken the syrup further. Pour the syrup into a measuring cup and chill.

In the meantime, roll the larger piece of dough into a circle around fourteen inches in diameter. I roll out the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to keep it from sticking. Peel off one side of the plastic wrap and center that side of the dough in the pie plate then remove the other sheet of plastic wrap.

Roll out the slightly smaller dough dish into circle around twelve inches in diameter. Place this dough round on top of the pie. Seal the crusts together using a fork or your fingers. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg, and make three parallel slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Or if you are feeling fancy pantsy, feel free to make decorative cutouts.
Put the pie on a cookie sheet to catch any drips--I like to cover my cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil to minimize the mess. Put the pie in the oven, bake until the crust is golden and you can see the filling bubble up between the slits in the crust, about 30 to 40 minutes. Cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.Remove the pears from the chilled bowl layer them into the bottom of the pie. Pour the syrup on top of the pears.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Said that like a Romanov!

There is a lovely animated movie called "Anastasia." They sing songs as the characters go on a journey to unite Anya, the long lost princess, with her grandma. In one of the songs, Anya sings, "I never cared for stroganoff," to which her friend replies, "You said that like a Romanov!" Every time I make stroganoff, I think of this song- and a twinkle comes to my eyes.This recipe requires time, as the stroganoff is better when it cooks on low in a crockpot for 6 hours. If you don't have time, you can cook on high for 3 hours.


1 beef bouillon cube
2 packets of Lipton onion-mushroom soup mix, but regular onion soup mix will suffice
1 large onion, diced
4 - 6 cups of chopped mushrooms
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
1 TBSP black pepper
48 oz sour cream
3 - 4 lbs of cubed beef
2 cups water

In a large skillet, brown the beef on all sides, but do not overcook. When all sides are mostly brown, put beef in crockpot. Sautee the onion in the same skillet, it should pick up the fats from the meat, but if you need to, add a flick of butter. When the onions are starting to turn golden, empty into crockpot. Then add all the other ingredients. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3. Serve stroganoff over egg noodles or rice. I usually freeze half of this recipe since it makes a ton.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Southwest Simmer: Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder

This should be the preface for every recipe/meal: I always prepare larger portions when I cook. This is because I refrigerate and/or freeze the leftovers for Allen's lunch, for sick neighbors/friends, and for the days when I am beat and have no desire to cook. It is also more cost effective to prepare a larger amount. Let's just say I love Costco. So does Ivy. When I say Costco, she says "Samples!"

Our garden continues to produce peppers abundantly, even though fall is clearly here. We have pinot noirs, poblanos, and jalapenos. Pinot noir peppers are a golden, green with purple violet hues: notes of citrus, and a crisp texture are its most notable features. Poblanos are a mild chile, originating from Puebla, Mexico. It is a fabulous pepper to stuff and fry, or roast. Jalapenos are the ever familiar hot pepper. See these beauties in my photo below.


3 cups water
3 cups of half and half or whole milk
6 white corn tortillas, chopped
2 cans of corn
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 poblano peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped
3 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP cumin
2 TBSP minced garlic
1 TSP anaheim chile powder, or regular chile powder if unavailable
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 chicken bouillon cube


diced tomatoes
lime juice
mexican cheese


Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut peppers in half long-ways, and de-seed. You may want to use gloves as jalapeno seeds are known to irritate the skin. Lay foil over a 9x13 cookie sheet. Spray with PAM. Place the peppers on the foiled cookie sheet so that the outsides of the peppers are facing up. Drain the canned corn. Spread around peppers to cover whole pan. Place pan in oven, and roast until pepper skins are very bubbly, but not black. Remove pan from oven.

As your peppers and corn are roasting, get a large stock pot. Add garlic and olive oil; sautee until the onions are clear and minced garlic begins to toast. Then add the diced chicken breast. Stir occasionally on high heat for 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add anaheim powder and cumin. Stir, then add the milk/cream. Drop in the bouillon cube and bring to a boil.

Take out your blender for this next part. Use a fork to place the roasted peppers in the blender along with 3 cups of water. Blend on medium speed for 5 seconds. Then empty the mixture into the stock pot.   Take a spatula and add roasted corn to pot. Bring the soup to a boil, then add the chopped tortillas. Reduce the heat to simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, then add salt and pepper. Add more to taste.

When the soup is ready, you will want to garnish with chopped tomatoes, mexican cheese, cilantro and a wedge of lime. The lime juice really makes this soup. Sadly, today I can't appreciate the full flavor of this chowder since I have a cold-flu bug from Hades. It will probably be even better tomorrow.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Soup for Fall- aka Cold and Flu Season

The air is brisk, there's a chill in the air. In the evenings, a faint smell of burning embers. My favorite season has come. It's autumn and soup is on!

After discovering the dough cycle on my bread machine earlier this week, I decided to revisit bread bowls.   The first time I attempted these puppies, the result was a lump of dense flour that didn't rise. This afternoon, I owned the bread bowls. At least well enough for them to rise and for my husband to proclaim, "I think you may have the bread machine figured out." Maybe. I have many more months before I can feel confident using that thing. 

The Bread Bowls

  • 1/2 cup water (70 to 80 degrees F)
  • 1 cup warm milk (70 to 80 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast or 4 1/2 TSP

  1. In bread machine pan, place the first seven ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed).
  2. When the cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into six portions; shape into balls. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush with egg white. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.
  3. To make bowl, cut the top fourth off of bread; carefully hollow out bottom of each, leaving a 1/4-in. shell (discard removed bread or save for another use).

The Soup: Turkish Red Lentil

2 large yellow onions diced/chopped
2 cups diced/chopped carrots
1 bunch of celery including the leafy parts, chopped/diced
8 cups vegetable broth (I use vegetable bouillon)
2 cups of water
1 lb red lentils
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp hungarian paprika (more if you prefer spicy)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried mint
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp minced garlic
3 TBSP lemon juice
olive oil
1 crock pot (CP)

I take the onion, celery and garlic and sautee them in a pan with plenty of olive oil. I let them sautee until the onions are clear, and some of them begin to turn dark around the edges. Then I dump the sauteed garlic and onion into my CP. Then I add everything else. I turn my crockpot on high, and once the soup is boiling, I turn it on low. I let it simmer until the lentils are tender and slightly disintegrated. The picture below is an accurate representation of how the soup looks, but it is not my own photo. We ate all the soup before I thought to take a picture. Oops. It looks like they sprinkled red pepper flakes, mint and parsley as a garnish.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cat vs the Bread Machine

Again, I don't bake breads. I have a love-hate relationship with our bread machine. I love it when Allen uses it. I hate it when I use it. Today I was determined not to let the machine beat the human. I was making a pizza dough crust. I added the ingredients in the recommended order, and hit the start button. Then my loving husband gently pointed out that since this is a dough, I use the dough cycle. My response, "There is a DOUGH CYCLE?"

Tonight features a pizza, half pesto sauce and half tomato sauce, with broiled eggplant which comes from our garden. The cheese is a trio of mozzarella, parmesan, and romano. All the basil used in the pesto came straight from our garden, and I made the pesto myself a few weekends ago, and froze 2 quart jars and 1 pint jar. The tomato sauce comes from a plastic pack from harris teeter. Don't act like you're not impressed.

The Dough Recipe:
1 cup water
2 TBSP water
2 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 cup wheat flour
1 TSP sugar
1 TSP salt
2 1/2 TSP yeast
1 - 2 TSP Oregano/Italian herbs if desired

The Directions:
Place all ingredients in bread machine in order listed. Run on the dough cycle. NOTE THIS TAKES 90 MINUTES- much to my chagrin. When cycle is complete, roll it, toss it etc and prepare as desired. Bake at 400 F for 18 - 20 minutes

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

I preface this recipe with this disclaimer: I am not a fantastic baker. I have not even mastered the bread machine. But I did master this recipe. 

Our gardening season is coming to a close. We have a few cold weather crops in the ground: beets, lettuce, chard, beans, broccoli and brussel sprouts. However, I will miss my summer bounty of eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, squash (those not ravaged by squash borers), and peppers. The last of the zucchini was shredded, and some was frozen and some was baked into a few delicious loaves of bread. I got fancy on this endeavor and substituted sour cream for oil, and got a moist cake-like result. Note that I prefer my zucchini bread without chocolate chips or nuts or raisins. 


6 eggs
1 cup of honey
1 cup of packed brown sugar (I used SPLENDA's brown sugar blend)
1/2 heaping cup of sour cream
1 TSP vanilla
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
2 TBSP cinnamon
2 TSP baking powder
2 TSP baking soda
2 TSP salt
4 cups grated zucchini
2 9x5 greased bread pans or 3 8x4 greased bread pans

Optional 1 Cup Add Ins:
Chocolate Chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, honey, sugar, vanilla, and sour cream and whisk until smooth. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda/powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir with a fork so there are surprise pockets of salt or soda or cinnamon. 

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients while beating at a med-high speed. When mixture is uniform, fold in the zucchini and any of your add-ins, then integrate until mixture is uniform again. Divide the dough evenly between your greased pans. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or to the point where you can poke the bread with a fork/toothpick and it comes out clean. 

This bread was so moist. I wanted to make some sour cream frosting for the top, but my dear husband declared that would be too adulterous. He took one of the loaves for breakfast and it served him for a whole week. He declared it the best zucchini bread he's eaten-- but don't tell my mother in law that! 

I would be curious to see if you could use this same recipe but substitute shredded apples or shredded carrots. I think the carrots would work as they are of a similar PH to zucchini, but I anticipate some variances if using apples as they are more acidic than zucchinis. I am also curious to see if separating the egg whites and beating them until the peak, and then folding them in would change the texture. It was already quite fluffy and moist, but I can't help but wonder. . . . 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Feeling the Asian Persuasion: Thai Mango Salad


However, unripe papayas are not good for pregnant women, as they can cause abortion or teratogenic. I found this out after I had eaten som tum in my current state and was searching for the recipe, and was reading about papayas. Lucky for me, there have been no complications thus far in spite of the som tum ingestion. Side note- I prefer my som tum from Thai Square. I prefer all my Thai food from Thai Square. And boy do I prefer spicy food when there's a bun in my oven!

This moves me to search for a substitute for papaya. I didn't really have to look hard as I had an excellent green mango salad from Myanmar Restaurant. It was as delicious as the som tum, and comparable in its ingredients. Side note- the most delicious samosas you will ever eat also come from Myanmar Restaurant. 

The Salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, thinly chopped
1 unripe or slightly ripe mango, shredded and juice set aside
1 bunch of green onions, all parts diced
1 handful of dry roasted or honey roasted peanuts

The Dressing:
1 lime, juiced
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon roasted red chili paste
Juice from shredded mango
Crushed red pepper flakes

Add baby shrimp
Add shredded cucumbers

The mango I used was slightly ripe, so the pale yellow flesh shredded well, but had ample juice to use in the dressing. If I were to have used a green unripe mango, I think I may have had to add 1 - 2 TBSP of pineapple or mango juice to adjust. This salad was bliss. The only thing that could have made it better would have been some samosas and tamarind sauce.