Friday, October 28, 2011

Bird's Nest Toast and Egg with Grilled Tomato

This is one of my favorite simple and easy but still look really fancy breakfasts.

I am pretty sure that there is a fancy name for what this is called, but I've always called it Bird's Nest. I don't know where I even heard that, I may have made it up, but I like it.

Bird's Nest Toast and Egg

1 piece of whole wheat bread
1 egg
butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat a skillet to medium
  2. Light butter/oil both sides of the bread.
  3. Cut a hole in the middle of the bread
  4. When the skillet is hot, put the bread on it and also crack an egg into the middle of the hole
  5. When the toast and the egg are browned, flip the nest over.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove from heat when the egg and toast are browned on the other side again
The inside of the egg will likely still be a bit runny, but I like that, since since the toast is likely to get a bit dry, the runny yoke is great for dipping.

Serve with slices of grilled tomatoes (easily done. Just slice some tomatoes, and before you turn of the oven heat, sear one side of the tomato, then the other. Salt, pepper, and a dash of basil do wonders on it, as well.)

I also like to toast in the pan the extra circle of bread that has been removed from the bread. It makes the meal more filling, and you can get creative with the garnishes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soy Sauce Poached Salmon with Veggies

I adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman's blog, in which he made soy sauce poached striped bass. His recipe is prettier than mine, and also a little simpler since he only has scallions with his, but I wanted mine to be a bit more substantial, so I added veggies. But I knew that I wanted to try something like what he'd made as soon as I'd seen it because it looked delicious. And it was. And the fact that I changed it to salmon didn't hurt in the least.

Soy Sauce Poached Salmon with veggies

1/2 C dark, high quality soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 small shallots, sliced
2 tsp minced ginger
Red pepper flakes to taste
Dash of vinegar (balsamic or rice, preferably, also optional)
3 medium salmon fillets

Mixed Veggies, julienned where appropriate. I used green bell peppers, zucchini, and green beans.

Mix the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, shallots, ginger, and red pepper in a large, flat-bottomed skillet.
Heat on medium until the the mixture is boiling.

Gently add the salmon fillets. Cook for about 5 minutes then VERY GENTLY turn the fish, cook for an additional 5 minutes.

When you turn the fish, add the veggies. The fish will cook much faster than the veggies, but the veggies will also water-down the sauce, so wait until the last minute to put them in. Remove the fish when it is cooked all the way. Taste the sauce at the bottom. If it is too salty or soy saucy for you, add a dash of vinegar and/or an extra teaspoon of sugar. Both of those will help tone down the strong soy sauce flavor.

When the veggies are at your desired tenderness, remove them from the sauce. Cook the sauce a minute or two longer to let some of the additional water boil out, and it will make an excellent sauce to pour over everything. If you like a thicker sauce, you might consider adding some corn starch, though I prefer the thinner, broth-like sauce.

Serve the salmon and veggies with rice.


This has lots of great variations: you could use curry powder or other seasonings, any number of vegetables, and probably most any type of fish, or even other types of meat.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Curried Veggies

I get Bountiful Baskets most weeks, which means that every Saturday morning I get a large box of fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I get fruits/veggies that I eat all the time: lettuce, apples, plums, celery, etc. Those I generally find easy to use.

But sometime I get stuff like sweet potatoes, which I like but almost never buy for myself.

We had some sweet potatoes (or maybe there were yams...I don't really know the difference. Is that a bad confession to make on a cooking blog? Well, I said it) and I wanted to use them up, also they were pretty much the only food in the house other than a few spare veggies. So, I decided to make some sweet potato quesadillas, which I had once and Gurus and kind of liked, but thought I could do better.

The most difficult--and the whole thing is really easy--part about this quesadillas are the mashed sweet potatoes.

Peel and cube 2-3 small sweet potatoes.
Boil the potatoes in water, add a dash of salt and a dash of oregano for flavor. Pepper if you like.
When the potatoes are soft, drain the water.
Mix the potatoes with a dap of butter and a 1/3- 1/2 C cream.
Mash together. Set aside.

Then, make a quesadilla:

Lightly butter or oil one side of a tortilla.
Spread a thin layer of the mashed sweet potatoes on half the tortilla
Fill with cheese. I used a sharp cheddar and a Mexican mozzarella. Regular mozzarella would be superb, as would pepper jack. Jarlsberg would also be great, I have a feeling.
Grill on medium-low heat on one side, until the side is crispy but not burnt, then flip and cook the other side.

It is a great combo of cheesy and potato-y. Can be made spicy or mild. It also makes an ordinary quesadilla into a full meal.

For some color and a bit of extra deliciousness, serve with some fajita veggies on the side.  I also had extra mashed potatoes, so I served that on the side as well with some extra cheese sprinkled over it.

I used onion, green bell pepper, julienned zucchini, and mushrooms for my side dish. I sauteed them in olive oil with a few dashes of curry powder. The curry flavor was mild and not very strong, so just a hint which was a nice compliment to the quesadillas.


It's a good thing I used the sweet potatoes, too, because this week I got more sweet potatoes in my basket. I made Sweet Potato and Pear Soup, so that will be coming up on the blog sometime soon as well.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pink Lemonade

Every wonder what the pink in pink lemonade was? (besides artificial colors, of which there is none in this recipe). I know I did all the time. The flavor is slightly different...the color is way off. I always wondered what made is so different. I mean, why dye lemonade pink? Seems a bit absurd to me.

Turns out it's cranberries.

I suppose you could make it with strawberries, but then it becomes strawberry lemonade, and we all know that strawberry lemonade and pink lemonade are entirely different things.

Here's how to do it: (Or, at least how I did it...I don't really follow recipes, I guess I can't really expect you to.)

Pink Lemonade

1-1 1/4 C sugar (depending on how sweet you like your lemonade)
1 C Water
1 1/2 C frozen whole cranberries
1 C lemon juice

Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and the sugar to a low boil.

Add the cranberries to the boiling mixture, and continue boiling until the cranberries break apart and you can easily mash them with a wooden spoon. Mash them up while still in the pot, getting all the big chuncks mashed.

Strain the cranberry/sugar syrup into a pitcher. Slowly pour an aditional 3-4 C water through the strainer, mixing it with the cranberry pulp to get all the color and flavor out of the pulp.

Add the lemon juice to the pitcher.

Stir, then chill, or serve immediately over ice.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Perfectly Pan-seared Salmon

Pan searing salmon is remarkably simple. Here is the wisdom my fiancee's grandma gave to her, which she passed on to me:

1. Pat dry the salmon fillet with a paper towel. You don't want too much extra liquid in there.
2. Cover the top and bottom of the fillet with cracked black pepper. Be generous with the pepper, you don't want to see pink sticking through. Sprinkle on some good salt. By good, I mean kosher and sea salt.
3. Use lots of butter. Butter the skillet before heating it up, but then also put a little butter under the fillet right when you put it in and right when you flip it.
4. Cook it until the color change goes all the way to the middle, but as soon as it does that, take it off. Don't cook too long!

Here I put the fillet on toasted wheat bread, served with fresh tomato, lettuce, and spicy mustard. The acid in the tomato worked like a lemon might, so it was great. If you're not in the mood for a sandwich, I recommend serving the fillet with a side of rice and sauteed green beans.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mango Tomato Salad

I had a bunch of mangoes, and I had a bunch of tomatoes. And I was thinking to myself "This could be heaven or this could be hell"...wait, no, I was thinking "I bet these would taste great together in a salad." So I did a little internet research, looked at quite a few suggestions, and this is what I came up with. It's a keeper:

Mango Tomato Salad
2 mangoes, peeled and cubed
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large shallot or 1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 C chopped fresh basil
1/4 C Golden Balsamic vinegar
Dash of olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least 15 min before serving. Golden balsamic is divine. If you can't find any in your store, you can easily use some regular balsamic, though the color will be off, the red/brown of the vinegar dying the mango. Since coming up with this recipe, I've made it for several events and it is always a hit. Easy, sweet, summery, and simple. The second time I made it I didn't have any shallots or red onion, so I used green onions. It was still good, but the shallots were definitely better.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cake Balls

It turns out that making cake balls is REALLY easy. I had no idea. I kind of thought that they would be difficult to make. But, there is one simple concept, and then a million different variations you can do from there.

What you need:
A cake
chocolate chips
cake decorating stuff

The Concept of Cake Balls
1. Make a cake. Any standard variety: boxed cakes, homemade, banana or zucchini breads. Any simple cake will do. In the picture above, I used banana bread. Let the cake cool completely before proceeding
2. Crumble the cake up. Use your hands until you get fine crumbles.
3. Mix in enough frosting that you can make a thick, malleable paste out of the crumbles. Again, most frosting will do: canned, simple sugar and milk, homemade store bought, it's all good, just be sure to consider the flavor of cake and frosting you're mixing. Above, I used a banana flavored frosting.
4. Make into balls. This is messy, but fun. You want to keep them small, which is difficult if you're not used it it. Mine ended up being too big. Bite size, maybe like two bite-brownies.
5. As you make the balls, put them on wax paper in a cookie tray. When finished, freeze the balls for about 2 hours (or refrigerate them over night).
6. Melt chocolate chips, then coat the balls in the chocolate, letting them cool.
7. Decorate however you'd like: dip them in toppings while the chocolate is still sticky, or drizzle them with white chocolate, or frost them with addition decorations. I used powdered sugar, chopped almonds, coconut, and powdered ginger for my decorations.

And there you have it! It takes a while, since you have to bake a cake and let things cool several times, but over all, it is pretty simple.

What kind are you going to make?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

White Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

White Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 Tbs cinnamon
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed bananas
2 C white chocolate chips
3/4 C toffee bits

Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together. Add in the bananas.
Mix in all the dry ingredients, adding the chocolate chips and toffee bits once it's all mixed together.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cooking sheet.

Baked at 400 C, 10 min.

Lately I've been using cream of tartar instead of baking powder. Baking powder is just a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar, anyhow, and I figure I can cut out the middle man. Also, baking powder frequently has anti-caking agents, and I just figure I don't need those in my cakes and cookies, or my body. My baking has been a little moister since then. It could be that I am just having a string of good luck, but I am enjoying the result anyhow. I might never go back to baking powder.

To replace cream of tartar for baking powder: add 1 part cream of tartar and 2 parts baking soda. (So you'll add more soda to the recipe if it already has some in it) It's not an exact science, so it won't matter if you're a little over or under on the ratios.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Zucchini Bread with Steusel Topping

I LOVE zucchini bread. It is the bread of choice for summer. With all the zucchini lying around, being given away in basketfuls, you've got to make zucchini bread. Sure, you can also make fried zucchini, or zucchini fritters, or countless stir-fries. But, if you haven't been cooking zucchini bread, then you're missing out. There was one summer when I made it every Friday. The garden supplied the zucchini, and I didn't schedule myself for any work on Fridays. It was a nice arrangement.

I've been trying out zucchini bread recipes for a while now, and this one (with a few of my own tweaks both in flavor and design) is my favorite so far. It is moist and very flavorful. The clove and ginger add a really subtle flavor to complement the ample amount of cinnamon and vanilla I add.

For the zucchini bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup all-purpose wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 generous teaspoons baking soda
1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 dash of ground cloves (optional)
1 tsp ground ginger (optional)
3 eggs
1 cup gently melted butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2.5 cups grated zucchini

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add the zucchini.
In a smaller bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, then gently mix that into the wet mixture.
Place in a lightly greased loaf pan. If you want to share (or control portions) use several smaller loaf pans.
Sprinkle with steusel, then bake at 325 for 40-60min, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the streusel topping
2 tsp flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
1 pinch salt
3 Tbs COLD butter
(If you like nuts, add 1/2 C finely chopped walnuts or pecans and only use 1/2 C oats)

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients. Using two butter knives, cut the butter into the mix by chopping the butter together, almost like the knives were scissors. When the butter is broken up, use your hands to make a nice crumbly paste. Sprinkle the steusel over the bread. This will make enough to cover a large loaf. If you are making lots of small loaves or cooking the bread in a cake pan, you might want to think about doubling the recipe.

I was thinking that I should get some pictures of it just as a slice of bread...but anything that got sliced off got eaten too quickly. It was a losing battle.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Triple Berry Whatever

I didn't know what to call this. It's almost a jam, not quite a syrup. So I've decided on Triple Berry Whatever. It also works because this delicious spread is good as a base for whatever.

Super easy:

Fill a sauce pan with berries. Here I had a combination of fresh strawberries and a frozen triple berry mix. Heat the berries on medium-hi heat. They will cook down. Cook them for about half an hour. They will start to fall apart. Use a hand blender to mix them even further, though a vigorous spoon with also do the trick. Add some honey to sweeten it.

Then let it cool, and store it in the fridge. Use this almost-jam for everything:

Triple berry ice cream shakes (triple berry whatever, vanilla ice cream, a bit of whole milk)

Triple berry grilled cheese (triple berry whatever, Jarlsberg cheese sprinkled with red pepper and basil)

Triple berry PB&J: triple berry whatever and peanut butter on whole wheat bread

Other ideas I've had:

Triple berry lemonade (triple berry whatever, strong lemonade, club soda)

Triple berry munchies: triple berry whatever and cream cheese on a cracker

What would you use triple berry whatever for?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cucumber and Feta Wedge Salad

We all know the worst part of making a salad is cutting the lettuce, right? Well, maybe not.

But, either way, make a wedge salad and you've got less chopping to do in the lettuce department. Sure, you need to use iceberg lettuce in order for the wedge to work and we all know that iceberg is not as nutritious, but there are still some pros to the wedge:

  • Iceberg is super crunchy and crisp. Sometimes it's not about taste, but texture.
  • Wedges are pretty to look at. I like all the lines and wiggly curves.
  • With a wedge, you can focus on the dressing and other veggies, emphasizing that a real salad is about what's in/on it, not always the lettuce itself.
  • Sometimes's it's just fun to do something a little different.

So, to make this salad:
Chop 1 head of lettuce into six wedges. First cut it in half, cut out the heart, then slice each half into three even wedges.

For the dressing/veggies.
1 large cucumber
4 small tomatoes
3 green onions (the whole onion, white and green part)
2 stalks celery
Crumbled feta cheese, as much as desired
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C(ish) white vinegar
a sprinkle of sugar

Chop all of the veggies coarsely, then mix together all the ingredients. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the juices to marinate. The tomato juice and vinegar will especially soak up the flavors of the feta and onions, which then gets into the cucumbers and celery, and it is all delicious. The sugar takes the harsh bite off the vinegar and adds a bit of sweetness to the dressing.

When ready to serve, serve veggies over the lettuce wedges, making sure that each wedge also gets an ample amount of the juices at the bottom of the bowl.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

English Breakfast

Before going to England, I often heard talk of how bland the food was. But, truth be told, I actually found that I really liked English food. Yes, it isn't as strong a flavor as some people prefer in America, but the heavy international influence means that there are strong flavors to be had if you want it.

But even the traditional, "blander" meals are quite flavorful, and very simple, too. For example, the traditional English Breakfast, which we were served almost every day of our trip. The traditional English breakfast includes scrambled eggs, sauteed mushrooms, hashbrowns, grilled tomatoes, sausage, bacon (English bacon, not the wimpy American stuff), baked beans, toast, and tea (of course). It is a big meal and very filling, designed to get you through the whole workday.

I'll admit that I didn't much care for the English sausages, though I'm not a big sausage person in general. The bacon was way better than ours, more meaty, closer to ham. The baked beans were pretty good.

But. But...

The things I LOVED about the breakfast were the grilled tomatoes and the sauteed mushrooms. Seriously, they are perfect for breakfast, and now that I think about mushrooms as a breakfast food, I wonder why I never thought of them before. I can't think of a better compliment to eggs than the mushrooms. Perfect.

So, if you'd like to give your breakfasts an international flair, try making some sauteed mushrooms or grilled tomatoes.

Here's what I do:
After the eggs have been cooked (here I made a simple omelet with chard in it) add a touch of olive oil to the hot pan, mix in cut mushrooms. Lightly salt and pepper them. Once they are just lightly sauteed, take them out.

Meanwhile, cut tomatoes into thick slices, or for smaller tomatoes just cut in half. Just as soon as the mushrooms have left the pan, put the tomatoes in. Lightly salt and pepper them then turn them over. If the pan is hot, the time it takes to salt and pepper them will be perfect. After another 30 seconds, take them off the pan. The idea is to heat them up quickly and not over cook them. They get sweet and warm, and are the perfect compliment to the eggs and mushrooms.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Roasted Squash and Seaweed Stir-Fry Noodles

One of my favorite things ever is to serve food inside of other food. Bread bowls...taco shells...watermelon bowls...crepes... they all give me a small thrill. This is probably one of the reasons I like pie so much, because there is crust AND filling. It's like eating two foods at once, two foods that go perfectly together.

So, naturally, I like serving things inside of squash. The little cavity where the seeds hang out is a perfect place to dish out some other meal, and the sweetness of the squash serves as a great contrast to more savory meals. Here's one that I tried out the other day.

Roasted Squash and Seaweed Stir-Fry
For the squash:
Brush two halves of an acorn squash with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and sea salt. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about a half hour, or until the squash is soft all the way through.

For the stir-fried noodles:
In just a touch of olive oil, fry onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, snap peas, and dried seaweed together. You could really do any sort of stir fry you like: add some meats, add your favorite veggies, etc. Once the veggies are cooked, dash in some rice vinegar and some salt and pepper. In a separate pan, cook thin rice noodles. Drain the rice noodles and stir into the stir fry. Serve over top the baked squash.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Honey-Peanut Glazed Chicken, and Mint Cucumber Salad

This is something from my food archives:

Honey-Peanut Glazed Chicken with Mint Cucumber Salad.

For the chicken: This recipe was adapted from the Peanut Butter Co. Cookbook which is one of the best cook books I've ever had. And the pictures are great, too, which is an essential ingredient for any cookbook that I'm going to be cooking from.

Heat equal parts peanut butter and honey together (maybe just a bit more of it honey), and a touch of butter. Mix in spiciness: hot sauce, red pepper, cayenne, all of the above, etc, to however hot you want it to be. Come just to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes while it gets thicker. Don't burn it. Then, coat the chicken in the glaze, bake it at 350 for 20 minutes, then turn the chicken and baste on the rest of the glaze and bake for another 20 min. If chicken doesn't get as photogenic as you want, broiled it for just a couple of minutes to give it a deeper red color. Garnish with fresh chives.

The Mint Cucumber Salad is a perfect compliment to the deep, spicy flavor of the chicken. It it light, cool, and crunchy where the chicken is thick, spicy, and meaty.

Chop equal parts celery and cucumber. Chop finely.
Squeeze over with lime juice
Add a bit of white vinegar
Add finely chopped fresh chives and mint
A pinch of salt
Garnish with longer chives, cucumber slivers, lettuce leaf, etc.

After we'd had our first servings of the chicken and the salad, we used the lettuce leaf to make a wrap combining the two, and that was great, too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Center Street Deli

I promised all of you that I would also try a new restaurant. I went to Center Street Deli, which is across the street from the Covey Center on Center Street, Provo. It's one of those places where you don't expect much, and, having low expectations, are blown out of the water.

There were a couple of things, however, that let me know from the beginning that it was going to be pretty good: they served Boar's Head deli meat, which is one of my favorite kinds of sandwich meat. I don't eat a ton of meat, but I don't hesitate at all with Boar's Head because the taste is superb and the quality is very high. Yes, Boar's Head is a bit more expensive than average grocery store deli meat, but it is well worth the extra pennies. Kate at the counter informed me that they are one of only three places in Utah Valley that serve it.

The other thing that told me I would love it was that they had malt vinegar on the table, and that I saw them hand cutting their fries. I love french fries, and hand cut is just a nice touch of class. Having just gotten back from England, I was practically addicted to malt vinegar, so it was a nice familiar flavor. The fries weren't awesome, but they were pretty good, nonetheless, and they were served in generous portions.

Another thing I liked right away was their honesty: they were just humble people, unassuming in their desire to serve great food. They weren't even apologetic to tell me that they'd run out of rye, or that they couldn't find any plates to put my food on. They brought me a free sample of prosciutto, a fancy bacon, and told me how expensive it was but that it was so worth it. The ended up putting my Rueben sandwich on Russian black bread, which is still very much like a rye bread, so it was the right touch, and honestly, I like the flavor of it. I didn't actually order a Rueben, either, but in their honesty as I was telling them what I might want, she just said "should we just make it a Rueben?" so I said sure, and was happy with their suggestion.

The sandwich itself was small, but the filling was huge and spilled out over the bread.

The place was a little dingy, the staff was upfront and personal, and the other customers looked like they were mostly the working type. It's not a high class place at all, but you can see right into the kitchen, you can ask a question and get an honest answer, and you'll always get things how they are at the Center Street Deli. The food was great, and I highly recommend it when you are in the mood for a sandwich that is just a little bit more, but with out all the pretension of fancier places.

Another cool thing about it is, of course, its location. On the walk there I walked through a free outdoor concert in the grass at the Covey Center, and even ran into my girlfriend's parents and family there having a picnic and listening in.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Delicious Veggie Kabobs

For a recent bring-your-own-meat BBQ with some friend recently, I decided to ditch the meat altogether and just go right for the good stuff. So, Kirsten and I came up with these delicious veggie kabobs, and also grilled some corn, and had quite the satisfying meal.

Here's what you do:
Mix a healthy amount of balsamic vinegar, a dash of olive oil, a bit of brown sugar, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of cumin together. Mix in various chopped vegetables. We used mushrooms, red onions, green peppers,  and fresh pineapple. Let the veggies and fruit marinate for about a half hour. Then skewer them (if using wooden skewers, remember to soak them. Get them going before you even mix the marinade). The grill them until they are tender. Really simple, and quite delicious.

I would say that the onions and the pineapple are a must for this recipe, they add a sweetness and a bite to the other vegetables that is really great. Also, the favorites at the table were the pineapple and the mushrooms, so make sure you have plenty of those on both skewers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cooking in a Hotel room

I am in England, have been for several weeks now, and even though I am eating pretty well at restaurants some nights and eating decently well on the nights when my fellow students cook up meals for us in the hostels, I was still eager to try my hand at cooking. Especially because my hankering came on a night when we were in a hotel, and there were no cooking utensils to be found.

Still, my friends and I came up with some delicious food, cooked entirely in the hotel room, served entirely on dished found in a hotel room and the ones we happened to have in our luggage (some tupperware for holding sandwiches).

So, next time you are on the road, you can still make: Spicy Couscous with Vegetables. Or, you can adapt the recipe as you like to cook at home...

First, boil water in the coffee pot. (I guess this recipe only works with hotels that provide a water boiler for coffee or tea. I have yet to be in one in England that didn't have one.)

Once the water is boiled, pour it over the couscous, which you can put individual servings of in the tea cups or water glasses. Let stand for 3-5 minutes, then drain extra water off.

Meanwhile, steam fresh vegetables: brocolli, cherry tomatoes, and spinach, all of which you will be able to find pre-cut in a local grocery store. Steam them by pouring boiling water over them, again in the tea cups or in some tupperware. If the hotel has a kitchen, they might let you borrow a plate or bowl.

Mix the veggies and couscous, and then pour on a delicious sauce that requires no additional cooking. We used a coconut korma we found at the local grocery store.

It wasn't much, but it was delicious and good, and we fed 5 people for 2 pounds each (including some ice cream bars for dessert).

Well, that is all from England for now. I will have more about some of the foods I've tried eventually.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lemon Bars

I hope this post makes you drool. Skoticus will be so proud of my pictures, they are lovely. Remember those super sweet, tart, almost fake tasting lemon bars you grew up with and devoured without thought? These aren't those. You have the soft crust, like a shortbread cookie, layered with a custard lemon center that has the best of a lemon in it, without being overpowering. The top is a nice crusty crumb top that gives texture to the whole dessert. Oh, yes, they are good.

I even hunted down a really cool glass plate I got from my mom's collection that I dusted off for these pictures. They had to be outside, lemon bars are only for spring and summer days, so the green grass fits oh so well.
I really like old glass that distorts the world. I want some old glass in my house when I grow up, it'd be really cool in the glass around a front door.
The mint was from my garden, I could host a tea party!
Without further adu, here's the recipe. It's from Wegman's Menu magazine. They left out the part that says to bake the crust, but since it had egg, I knew something had to happen, I put that part in.

Lemon Bars (makes 24)

Sable Cookie Crust
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1/3 cup Granulated sugar
3/8 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
3/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 flour

Add butter, sugar, and salt to mixing blw. Cream on low until combined and lightened, scraping bowl and paddle as needed. Add yolk and vanilla extract. Mix to combine. Stop mixer. Add flour and mix on low until combined. Press dough evenly into a layer in baking pan. Cook at 350 until lightly brown on edges. Refrigerate 1 hour. After dough has chilled 30 minutes, continue with recipe.

Lemon Cream
1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatine
4 tsp water
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp lemon zest (1/2 lemon)
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

Sprinkle gelatine over water in small bowl. Set aside. Stir together eggs, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in top of double boiler. Heat to 170 degrees on medium, stirring often. Stir in softened gelatine. Remove pan from stovetop; let mixture cool to 130 degrees. Place lemon cream mixture into food processor bowl (or in a blender). Add butter through feed tube as processor runs. Pour lemon cream mixture over cookie base.

2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp vegetable shortening
2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (I wonder how it would be to put lemon extract instead)
1/2 cup flour

Add butter, shortening, and sugar to food processor bowl. Cream on low until combined and lightened. Add honey, salt and vanilla extract. Mix to combine. (f you don't have a food processor, at this point use a fork or biscuit mixing thing to create crumble top) Stop processor, add flour through feed tube. Pulse until pea-size crumbles form. Spread evenly on separate baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until brown. Let cool. Break apart if necessary. Sprinkle crumble evenly on top.

Cover; chill approx 3 hours. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Cut into 24 pieces (I use a pizza cutter, it works great.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cupcakes Anyone?

I decided I needed another hobby. After each of my kids I started doing something new. First sewing (not so much anymore), then gardening (still got that, see previous post), running came with #3 (trying to get back into that one) and now I want to try cookie decorating. Right, you thought I was going to say cupcakes. Well, this idea was what got me started.

On Sugarbelle (located on the left) the blogger created these awesome 3D cookies that looked like cupcakes. I wanted to try it, and so I did. For my first batch, I made them pretty big, and I didn't like it that much, although my kids did. Since I didn't like them, I didn't take the time to make frosting, I just put store frosting in a pipping bag and twisted it around. Sprinkles make everything look better!
I had to try again. I made them with the 3 smallest fluted edge cookie cutters and stacked them up. Some of them I had the bottoms all the same size, others had the gradual size change, I didn't count the right size of each one. Looking back, I should have made sure the tops of the cookies would be facing up and that the cookies are centered. I don't have that much patience, I really wanted to see what they looked like and just drove right through the construction.
The hardest part about decorating cookies to look really good is getting the frosting the right consistency. I used royal icing and it was kind of drippy, so it went further down the edges than it was suppose to. But I like it that way. Except, with that much royal icing, it's pretty crunchy when it dries, which defeats the purpose of making a fabulous soft cookie. Again, the kids liked it.So I searched the web and found a good buttercream frosting. This seemed better because they said it dried softer.
This time I made some 'cupcakes' for a birthday. I followed a simple design and was amazed at how cute they turned out. I really like the frosting, but before I commit to that recipe, I also want to try a glaze frosting. It's suppose to be pretty hard to decorate with but taste really good.