Thursday, October 29, 2009

grandma's recipe

I just got off the craziest couple of weeks of work that hopefully I'll have all year (yeah, right...) I was able to sneak in a visit to my grandmother and while there she gave me the recipe for her snickerdoodles. Since I'm off today to San Francisco to visit the bf, I decided to make them last night. An emergency trip to to Kroger's for shortening and cream of tarter and I was set. (My eggs were past the 'best by' date but looked fine and even after eating cookies last night, I'm fine!)

Mummum's Snickerdoodles
Mix together thoroughly
1 cup soft shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

Sift together and stir in
2 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

Chill dough. Roll into balls the size of small walnuts. Roll in mixture of 2 T sugar and 2 t cinnamon.
Place 2" apart on ungreased basking sheets.
Bake at 400, until lightly browned, but still soft (about 8-10 minutes)
Makes about 2.5 dozen cookies

I pretty much followed the recipe except I didn't chill the dough and used both 2T sugar AND 2T cinnamon in the topping, which turned out fine. The dough did get really crumbly at the end, so I think it should definitely be chilled.

Managed to burn the bottoms of one set, but still have plenty to take with me and leave with my roomie. The recipe also doubles easily.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

quick pic

Cold and rainy weekend in Richmond, so I made one of my favorite comfort foods- risotto!

I wanted to try to make it healthier (because last night I was eating icing out of the jar) so I used a lot of veggies. I had fresh broccoli and carrots (and onion) and frozen peas, mixed peppers and fire-roasted corn. Thew in some chicken sausage to make it hardier.

I also had some aspargus so I oven roasted it to eat on the side. Dinner done!

Pic is from the Macbook camera so not to clear but I wanted to get the picture taken so I could dig in!

conceeding to fall

Note: this post was started a few days ago but then camera problems meant I had no pictures of soup to show you! I've decided to post sans-photo to just get this up.

I love summer. So when fall comes, despite it's many charms, I have trouble letting go of summer. After freezing all day yesterday in my ballet flats and tshirt, I have given in to fall. After all, it is mid-October. So today I put on my favorite black bean boots and a sweater, and after a long day of work came home to make black bean soup.

I had bought a bag of black beans a while ago and had planned to make a batch of black beans. Then I started seeing all these black bean soup recipes and it seemed like the perfect thing to try out.

Like typical, I didn't quite follow a recipe, but had one out to use as a guide. I don't feel confident in my cooking abilities to cook much without a recipe, but I don't keep up well enough with recipes to follow them perfectly either. I started with this recipe from The Kitchn (I do love that site.) Then I altered the ingredients based on what I had in the fridge. I had a green pepper but also a red pepper that was on its last legs. I did have a whole yellow onion but in the fridge I had both a half of a yellow and a half of a red onion.

1 package of dried black beans - 1 pound
Half a yellow onion, half a red onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
about 5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Cayenne and paprika, about 3 dashes each/ to taste

I chopped up the peppers and onion, swirled some olive oil in a pot and started to saute them. Of course, that's when I realize I a) forgot the garlic and b) wasn't supposed to saute them. I thought it could still add a nice flavor so I kept them on the stove while chopping the garlic. Then I added the garlic and black beans, poured water on top until it was about an inch above the top of the beans, and added the olive oil and chicken broth.

I had decided to use chicken broth instead of a ham bone because my roommate's Jewish but I still wanted some rich meaty flavor. After bringing it to a boil, I skimmed of the 'foam' (which I dumped outside due to some current plumbing problems.) Then tossed in some cayenne and paprika. I let it simmer for about 3 hours then added the vinegar.

I'm not sold on this soup. The first time I ate it I added cheese and some salsa fresca I had. The salsa plus the vinegar added too much tang, so the next time I had it without the tang. This helped but I still want a more creamy black bean soup. If I made it again, I'll let it simmer even longer. It could also use a bit more spice. Perhaps I was just missing the ham bone- any suggestions for pork substitutes?

While not perfect, the soup is still good so I've frozen half and plan to eat the rest over the next few days. I bought some sour cream and am thinking a few dashes of hot sauce will create the perfect rainy day dinner.

two minute lunch: coppola's deli

The first time I went to Coppola's was the first day I was in my new office. It seemed perfect- on the same block, grab a decent sandwich and be back in time for a conference call. I wanted an Italian sub- lots of cured meats and a bit of lettuce and tomato. As often happens, I was sidetracked by the menu and ended up ordering a Club sandwich. It came loaded- turkey, ham and bacon- all quality meats. I knew I'd be back but it took me a couple weeks.

This week's been rainy so I haven't ventured far from my office. I went back to Coppola's on Tuesday and once again the menu distracted me. My office had been cold all day so when I saw tomato soup and a grilled cheese, I knew that would be what I wanted. I decided to eat in and the service was good if a bit standard. The soup was much better than the sandwich. Given the quality of products in my Club sandwich, I had expected a crustier bread and actual cheese. Instead I got a diner grilled cheese- Kraft American and sliced bread. The tomato soup was better- creamy and flecked with black pepper and crushed tomatoes.

When I got back to my office, I was going to write a post but my two meals were so conflicting. I looked up what others thought online and most rate the deli highly. I learned that the original Coppola's is in Carytown, and given that it is the only one referenced on clearly the favorite. I'll keep to the one down the block.

So yesterday when at 1:53 I realized I still hadn't eaten lunch, I ran down planning on that Italian sub. But the rainy weather once again lead to craving a hot meal and after passing three people eating meatball subs, I had to have one. It was $7 well spent- 6 meatballs on a great hoagie. The sauce was particularly flavorful and clearly made fresh. I ate half and was full then snacked on the rest late afternoon which kept me full until 8pm.

I'm looking forward to more visits to my corner deli- I still need my Italian sub... maybe after I get one of these?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

spoiled garlic

I was cooking and grabbed some garlic I bought just last week. Despite having kept garlic for weeks in the past, this garlic already had that green stalk in the middle thing going on. I've used garlic that has been like this in the past but since I had also picked up more garlic yesterday I used that instead.

I'm wondering if the green-stalk garlic is okay to use, though. I was planning on making pesto and hate not throw away almost two cloves of garlic. The garlic hasn't sprouted but I don't want to ruin my food. A google search turned up conflicting advice but no reliable sources. Any advice?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

quick pic: a few of my favorite things

Fresh ground pepper + perfectly picked out Pantone colors=
two of my favorite things.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

end of an era?

I'm not old enough to have made too many recipes from Gourmet, but I remember growing up reading every issue and 'suggesting' to my mom things that looked particularly delicious. Most of them involved chocolate, of course. The pictures also tempted me to consider dishes with ingredients I refused to eat at the time- I was rather picky as a child- so I typically just ignored those and stuck to chocolate.

At first, I was shocked to hear the Gourmet is closing, but once I remembered the Bon Appetit is also owned by Conde Nast and since the two magazines are basically competition for each other, closing one does make sense (good call, McKinsey!) According to the New York Times, most insiders suspected Bon Appetit since Gourmet has a 'richer history' but I think the choice makes sense. To my casual readership, Bon Appetit has done a better job at staying fresh and relevant. The layout and typography is less intimidating and also one to be a foodie without feeling over the top or being intimidated. As I've started to cook, I've attempted a few Gourmet recipes, most that I found on Epicurious so I'm glad to hear the recipes will still be available there. I hope that the editorial staff of the two magazines will bring together the best of each.

Checking out the Gourmet website for details on their imminent closure, there is still an advertisment for a subscription special which I recommend skipping because who knows what replacement magazine you'll get. On the website, I did find an interesting column written by W. Hodding Carter. [Fun fact: I am somehow related to this man, though it's because he is related to my uncle's wife so it's more that our family trees form a canopy together, and less that we're actually related.] The column details Hodding's attempts to live frugally with his family, including a month where they spent no money but eat only what they could grow or barter. Very interesting and definitely a bit motivating to be a bit more mindful of my expenditures.

southwestern take on a classic

The Kitchn recently posted on the classic iceberg and blue cheese wedge, but I'm more of a Ranch girl (yes, I was raised in the South.) My favorite iceberg wedge is from Maxie's Supper Club and Oysters in Ithaca, New York (there is also one in Milwaukee.) I liked to pretend that eating it was like eating a serving of vegetables, but, in reality, iceberg lettuce is a fairly worthless food nutrition-wise. But covered in fatty Ranch dressing with bacon, it is sooo delicious.

Wanting to replicate Maxie's version of the wedge, I searched online and found this version of ranch dressing.

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

Whisk together. Keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Instead of buying buttermilk, I decided to also make my own. 1 tablespoon of white vinegar plus just under a cup of whole milk can make buttermilk. I couldn't find a cup measurer so I just winged it. For a more precise recipe, a quick google search turned this up. It says to leave the milk-vinegar solution for 5-10 minutes but I was busy cooking other parts of my meal so it was sitting in my fridge for about 45 minutes. The recipe called for seasoned salt. I was planning on using normal salt but found some "Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt" and decided to use that. 2 tablespoons of green onions was about three stalks and I chopped more to put on top as well.

Putting the salad together was just cutting the head of iceberg lettuce into quarters, spooning the dressing over top and sprinkling on bacon and green onions. I meant to add tomatoes to the top of the wedge as well, but forgot.

In the end, the iceberg wedge was delicious but the Spicy Ranch was not so spicy but more like normal Ranch dressing. I'd up the amount of Tabasco and also add in other spices- maybe paprika or cayenne. Does anyone have suggestions?

cooking for fall

When I was young, I refused to eat macaroni and cheese. My mom made lots of things from scratch, but not mac and cheese. My brother and sister were really into the Kraft but I had this weird thing against cheese and the bright-orange powder cheese really freaked me out. When I was young, I ate cheese only on pizza and nachos. I always claimed I only like 'melty cheese.' As I got older, I started eating more cheese but I still prefer melted or soft cheese. (You will not be able to get me to eat a cube of cold, hard cheese. Never.) As I started eating cheese more, I fell in love with mac and cheese, mostly thanks to my friend Andrew who would make great mac 'n cheese with fake bacon. Today I made my version- with real bacon. Trouble is I don't really have a 'my version.'

You may have realized by now that I solve all my problems by googling, so wanting some sort of reference, I found this recipe for baked mac and cheese. I had already gone grocery shopping and so didn't have some of the ingredients on the list. Here is my interpretation of the recipe, mixed heavily with a version I made from a friend's mom's recipe over the summer.

1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked
16 oz cheese (I bought Kraft Naturals shredded- one bag of cheddar and one of colby-jack because it was buy-one, get-one free)
6 tablespoons butter
4 cups milk
4-5 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 sliced bacon, crumbled
1 cup breadcrumbs

I mostly followed the instructions from the link above, though the sauce mixture was on the stove for a long time due to waiting for the bacon to cook. Melted the butter, mixed in milk, flour, paprika, onions and cheese. I put about 3/4 of the cheese in the milk mixture and then mixed the rest of with the breadcrumbs to put on top. I had doubled the amount of pasta but only partially doubled the sauce due to limited reserves of milk. In the end, there was a lot of sauce and I was even worried there was too much and didn't pour on the last 1/4 cup. After cooking, it was just about the right amount of cheese mixture. I didn't melt extra butter for the breadcrumbs and when I pulled the dish out of the oven, I was worried. It looked super crusty and dry on top, and the shredded cheese was visible and burnt-looking.

The taste test proved me wrong. While I'll probably toss the breadcrumbs in butter next time (cause you can never have too much butter) the crust was still delicious. The good news is I have leftovers for the whole week and macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that just gets better reheated!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

sending all my love to you

I sent my boyfriend these amazing vintage science-lab glass containers. I figured he could use them with his bar set (that I also sent him) to hold syrups to make cocktails. I had to get these for him cause he's a science-y minded guy (phd candidate in engineering. I make him explain many things to me!) I even included two glass swizzle sticks. One of my favorite cocktails is a whiskey double ginger made with homemade ginger syrup. A drink that works with every season but is especially good for fall! Hope you enjoy.

Ginger syrup
4 inch piece of ginger
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup water

Peel the ginger and cut into 4 or 5 pieces. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved and syrup has slightly thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Take out the large ginger pieces and strain to remove any smaller bits. Store in the refrigerator.

Whiskey Double Ginger
2 oz whiskey
1 oz ginger syrup
ginger ale

In a double old-fashioned glass, pour whiskey and ginger syrup over ice. Top with ginger ale.

The ratio of this is totally up to you, however I recommend the following. A medium priced whiskey is fine, especially with the ginger ale. Go with Jim or Jack or even Evan Williams. You can just spoon a little ginger syrup onto whiskey on the rocks, and then I'd recommend something nice like Makers or Knob Creek. Never ever use SoCo. It is acceptable on in college when doing SoCo and lime shots.

(Additionally: when at college bars, do not order a whiskey and coke with anything other than shelf liquor. You are wasting your money ordering Makers that is then completely diluted. No Southern girl is impressed.)