Virginia Snowstorm #2

Then:

biscuit's first snow

Now:

biscuitsnowstorm

Five and a half months old, 41 pounds.

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Growing up with an German mother, Bavarian dumplings were not an uncommon accompaniment to main courses of goulash, beef tips and rouladen.  To say I was quite fond of these suckers doesn’t really saw much, since I inhaled just about every dinner mom put before me (I was a…. healthy eater).  I never really understood how they were made growing up, existing in this nebulous state of origin; with characteristics from several directions.  A little potato, a little noodle, a little cake.  It was a delicious mystery.  Later I came to find out that mother (and her mother and probably her mother, etc etc) made dumplings from a box mix, killing that unknown with a dull thud.

Dumplings Minus the Filling

I have a few of those very box mixes in my cupboard, of course, because there’s just something about the food you grew up eating that takes you to a warm comfortable place, no matter what it is or how it was made.  I am amazed sometimes by the culinary geniuses at some restaurants, but it will never replace my mom’s home cooking.  Ever.

Dumpling Filling

That being said, I do love stretching my wings, throwing myself into an area of cooking that I have no experience with and very little business trying.  I’ve been reading a bit about cooking in the Middle East and Africa (thank you, local library) so I decided to try a dumpling inspired by this reading; not from a box (sorry Mom!).

African Inspired Rice Dumplings

African Inspired Rice Dumplings

1 onions; chopped
2 garlic cloves; minced
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup cooked long grain rice; strained well (press the water out a bit)
2 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper

Saute the onions with the butter in a large pan for five minutes then add the garlic and spices and cook for another five minutes. Mix with 1 cup of flour and set aside.

Process the rice in a food processor for 30 seconds and transfer to a mixing bowl along with 1 1/2 cup of flour, milk along with salt and pepper to taste. Mix together, adding additional flour until not too sticky to work with (it will still be a bit sticky). Work into golf size balls and then flatten. Put 1-2 teaspoons of your onion mixture on your rice dough and wrap around to reform a ball. Boil in water for 30-40 minutes until dough is cooked through. Serve and enjoy.

Food Photography – Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the happiest feelings is pulling a perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven.

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In my last few attempts I’d been spurned by flattened cookies, but this time I played hard ball:
- I left the butter out to soften for exactly 45 minutes before working with it
- I spaced the cookies two inches apart, giving them plenty of space
- I didn’t use parchment paper or spray; I read that it can encourage spreading
- I included two extra tablespoons of flour because I left out the nuts

If you’re feeling bummed out by flattened cookies, try a half batch of the Tollhouse Classic recipe, following the above tips, and let us know how it goes!

Do You Eat It?

Embracing The Fungus – Mushroom Barley Soup

The weather has been pretty nuts here lately.  Not that I’m complaining, with my absolute hate of the bitter cold.  But it seems a bit odd to me when the days of January are sporting temperatures in the 50′s and (low) 60′s; and that oddness is compounded when you’re eating stews and other wintry-themed dished.  Madness!

Mushrooms Pearl Barley

Heather and I have both been trying to expand our horizons this year; returning to ingredients that we have less than pleasant feelings towards.  One of the big ones for me is the mushroom.  It’s a friggin’ fungus!  As a friend of mine once said: “you might as well lick the bottom of your shoe.”  To be fair, I’ve been slowly coming around to these suckers.  The stock I made for Slow Cooker week was quite successful and Lost Dog Cafe has, by far, the best veggie burger I have ever had (WITH mushrooms).  So here I go, jumping into the world of mushrooms!

The Makings Of Soup

Barley is not an ingredient you see very often in recipes, which is a shame.  Pearled barley is simple, healthy grain to work with and has a nutty flavor with a chewy texture.  It serves as an excellent thickener too.  I used this to complement some white button mushrooms.  And the result?  A tasty mushroom soup I’ll actually enjoy eating!  The flavor is subtle, but delicious.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1 carrot; diced
1 stalk celery; diced
1 cup pearl barley; rinsed and drained
10 oz mushrooms; cleaned and sliced (I used white button)
6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 fresh chives
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a large stock pot under medium heat and cook the onion, carrot and celery with olive oil until softened; approximately 5-8 minutes. Add your remaining ingredients and simmer until the barley is soft but chewy. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken & Roasted Red Pepper Pizza

Hello, readers!

Yes, I was absent last week… and I didn’t even have the courtesy to say why, did I? You see, I was on a top secret mission to California! My husband (this dude) was on Jeopardy! It has been pretty much a lifelong goal of his to be on the show.

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And now I’m on another top secret mission – I can’t reveal anything about what happened on the show! It hard… very hard… but I can tell you to watch Jeopardy on Thursday, April 8! I know it’s far away; it will be a long wait for us too, but you don’t want to miss the show!

peeling

Since returning from California I’m trying very hard to get back into the graduate school + DinnerCakes mindset. I often find myself daydreaming back to our time at Sony Studios and listening to Alex Trebek answer questions from the audience by going off on humorous rants (did I mention he’s also very polished in real life?).

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Ok, ok.. I’ll try not to talk about it constantly. Let’s talk about this pizza.

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Today’s pizza is probably the best one that we have made. The toppings work together flawlessly. I even took a page out of Chef Edwin’s book for the roasted red peppers. I had actually never roasted them before, but it’s definitely the way to go here.

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There are a few steps to get all the toppings reading, but this pizza really comes together wonderfully. Enjoy!

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Chicken & Roasted Red Pepper Pizza

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked this way and sliced
1/2 cup frozen spinach, cooked according to package instructions
1 red bell pepper
freshly grated mozzarella cheese for sprinkling
1 ball of pizza dough from a local bakery or Italian store
1 batch of Mom’s marinara sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
flour, to sprinkle on work surface

Preheat oven to 525 F. Flour a cookie sheet and roll out dough to a 16 inch circle. Drizzle olive oil over the dough.

For the roasted red pepper, here’s what Edwin instructed me to do:

1) Cut the pepper in half longways, starting at the stem.
2) Put the pepper pieces directly on your burner, turning it as it blackens.
3) After it’s done, put the pieces in a gallon ziploc bag until it cools enough to handle.
4) When they’ve cooled, pull off the blackened skin using your fingers. Edwin adds, “If you have a hard time getting some skin off, just do what you can without destroying it and make a note of it for next time.” (Some other questions I had that he answered for me: No, the ziploc bag won’t melt when you put the peppers inside and no, don’t eat the black stuff).

Pour sauce over dough, then add cheese, cooked and drained spinach, roasted red peppers and sliced chicken.

Transfer cookie sheet to oven and cook for approximately 11 minutes (we use a pizza stone, so we preheat the oven with the pizza stone in the oven, then carefully transfer the uncooked pizza to the heated stone. It takes two of us to transfer the pizza without letting it fall apart, so proceed with caution if you go this route).

Let pizza cool for 2-3 minutes. Slice and serve!

Everyone knows that most restaurant food is not great for you, health-wise. Chances are you can make just about anything on the menu at home with more nutritional value and less fat, calories, etc. Of course, that’s not why we go to restaurants and like everything it’s all about moderation. Moderation is a hard guideline to live by, however, if you’ve got no real clue what you’re eating any many restaurants are responding to the shift in more health conscious consumers by including nutritional information on their menu.

A recent study, however, found that the average calorie count for food was 18 percent higher than the given amount; just shy of the FDA’s 20 percent limit.

Take, for instance, a serving of plain, dry toast from a Denny’s somewhere around Boston that the lab found had 283 calories, 192 percent more than the 97 figure from the restaurant chain.

A little disconcerting for those of us that try to keep our intake in check when eating out and something to be aware of in the future.

Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/01/restaurant_calories_counts.html

Food Photography – Earth, Wind and Fire Scramble

Every time I go out on travel my usual diet goes out the window; it’s not really an option. For most restaurants vegetables in general are just an after thought, never mind an actual complete meal. It can be a bit frustrating, honestly, but on the upside it provides me with an “excuse” to sample cuisine I wouldn’t normally expose myself to; and that is a must when traveling. Exposure to different (and tasty) meals is a highlight of many trips.

Earth Wind Fire Scramble

This past weekend some friends and I went down to Orlando, Florida for a wedding. Disneyland World to be exact. But instead of flying, we decided it would make a great road trip; so we rented a car early Friday morning and embarked on a 15 hour drive. With two other people to rotate driving responsibilities and those two people being friends, it turned out to be a pretty fun trip. We crashed at a friend’s place who happens to live in the city and had a really good time (and ate a lot of really good food).

Earth Wind Fire Scramble Close Up

Sunday morning before the wedding Ben, Lindsey, Carolyn and I went out for brunch at a local spot called HUE and had some really excellent food. On the third Sunday of every month they feature something called Disco Brunch with a DJ and some horribly designed menus (the typographer in me died a little), giving each item some clever name like Billie Jean and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I ordered the Earth, Wind and Fire scramble which was scrambled eggs, smoked ham, Gouda cheese and potato hash. Delicious. If ever in the area for brunch, I strongly recommend HUE.

Much Needed Comfort Food – Thick Mac and Cheese

Sick. By far the most heinous of four letter words. Give me your fornicates, your cruds, your hecks, your shrews; I shall not flinch. Just keep your diseases far, far away. In a locked box. Under the sea. On Mars. Like a beat up Ford pinto far past its prime, my body fails me through a non-stop runny nose, fatigue, a sore throat and that annoying stuffed-up head feeling. Bah! I hate being sick!

Mmmmm Butter

I did this delightful dance a few weeks ago, a condition I largely blame on the pressures of work, trudging through the needs and responsibilities, cutting whatever I can from my list of Things That Require Motion or Thought (which is quite a large list, by the way). When I’m like this everything is a candidate for the chopping block; even, dare I say it, cooking. Who wants to stand and pay attention to hot burny things when they’re sick? There aren’t any beds in the kitchen! Nonetheless, sustenance must be found and after waking from a post-work nap a few Fridays ago my hunger trumped my sickness, so I stumbled into the kitchen. This was a day for simple. This was a day for comfort food. This was a day for mac and cheese.

The Cheese Sauce

I was in no mood to go hunting for ingredients at the local mega mart (have I mentioned it is friggin’ cold here?) so this became a foraging venture, searching for left over ingredients from earlier recipes or ingredients that I had intended to use but for whatever reason did not (the realm of forgotten ingredients). This, my friends, was delicious. The perfect sick-day comfort food.

Thick And Hearty Mac and Cheese

Thick Mac and Cheese
12 oz fat pasta
4TB butter
1 onion; chopped
1 green pell pepper
1 garlic; minced
1 hablano pepper; minced
1 cup light cream
5 oz pepper jack
5 oz cheddar
1tsp chili powder
1tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 cup frozen peas; thawed and drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels; thawed and drained
2-3 cups cooked kidney beans
1/2C chopped fresh cilantro; chopped

Boil your noodles in salted water. In a large pan, saute your onion and green pepper until the onions are translucent. Add your jalapeno and garlic, cooking for another minute. Drop your heat to medium-low and add the cream, cheese, herbs and spices; cooking until well combined. Once ready, add your pasta, vegetables, beans and cilantro. Toss to coat and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables and kidney beans are hot. Serve and enjoy.

Slow Cooker Week – Day 6, Slow Baked Apples

While you’re reading this I’ll be in Florida! A friend of mine is getting married and she and her husband have decided to do a destination wedding at Disney World. Three of us, motivated by either love of the open road or thrift, have decided to drive all the way down to Orlando, starting early (early) Friday morning. It should be quite the journey and we already have plans to check out Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah. Everything else is up in the air.

Cored Apples

Mmmm, apples. So delicious. I couldn’t resist conjuring up something in the ol’ crock pot with apples; and the sweeter the better! Crisps are delicious baked fruit dessert with many excellent candidates to take on the starring role, but there is a cool twist you can take with apples, using the fruit itself as the dish. This is a twist off an excellent Alton Brown recipe, who I must credit for this idea. Very delicious.

Slow Cooker Baked Apples Ready To Go Slow Cooker Baked Apples

Slow Cooker Apple Crisp
This recipe makes plenty of filling for 6 apples. You can scale it back if you’d like or just sprinkle over.

4-6 firm baking apples (Granny smith, Braeburn, etc)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick cold butter; diced
5 teaspoons honey
1 cup apples juice

Cut a thin layer off the bottom of the apples so they sit flat. Do the same with the top and peel a third of the way down. Rub the exposed parts with lemon juice so it doesn’t brown. Core the apples without going all the way through (don’t lose any sleep if you do). Hollow it out a bit for the stuffing.

Combine the remaining ingredients except the apple juice and work in your hands until everything is combined and the butter is in loose clumps in a sandy mixture. Stuff the apples with your filling until overflowing and place in your slow cooker. Sprinkle your remaining filling over the apples, followed by the apple juice. Cook covered on low for 4-6 hours, until the apples are tender. Serve hot, chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy.