Monthly Archives: January 2013

Roasted Chickpeas

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Combining a dedication to eating well while having game-watching get-togethers can be challenging.  Game-day snacks don’t necessarily have to be a diet-wrecker.  For instance, this snack has been an instant favorite in my house.  Not only have I been eating it by itself, I throw it in salads for added nutrition with a wonderful crunch.

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I have experimented with this recipe for a while and for crunchier chickpeas, it’s important to roast the chickpeas without coating in oil.  Call me crazy, but the oil seals in the moisture.  As such, first roast and then coat.  The spices really can vary based on what you want – savory or sweet.  I can’t wait to try a cinnamon sugar twist on this snack favorite.

Roasted Chickpeas

adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (not the same as cayenne pepper)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Dry in between paper towels.  Using a paper towel, to press on and soak up the water and loosen the skin from the chickpeas.  Discard the skins.
  3. Roast the chickpeas for 30 minutes, until crispy.  Stir every 10 minutes.
  4. While baking, whisk together the olive oil, paprika, salt, cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder until fully incorporated.  Remove from the oven and pour into the bowl and stir to coat.

4 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, baking, Snacks, Vegan

Butterscotch Pudding

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My mother doesn’t waste food.  Like nothing.  It could be that she cooks everyday or that she doesn’t eat out unless we take her.  Whatever it is, other than my sister and my habit of stockpiling snacks, she doesn’t have more than what she needs – in food.  Her household hoarding habits are a different story to be addressed later.  

I confided in her one day that I hate wasting vegetables that I never get around to cooking.  She looked at me as if I had just revealed to her that I was working for the devil.  In an attempt to gain understanding, I asked her if she ever deals with that problem.  She just shook her head no.  Now, with just my grasping for a way out of this conversation, I told her the following:  “You know, when I come back from work, I just don’t feel like cooking so we pick up something.”  Like kryptonite to Superman.  Disappointment would be an understatement.

In short, my mom uses everything she buys.  And, I – well, I’m trying my best.

So, when I made this cake, I had four egg yolks left over (from here) that I needed to use.  Otherwise, the guilt would eat me alive.  And, I would much rather eat pudding.

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Oh and by the way.  No skin.  I know this is a heated debate, but no skin.  The fact that the word to describe that layer is called ‘skin’ is just enough to say no skin.  So, if you are like me and no skin – cover like above – place the plastic wrap on top of the pudding itself.  If you are a skin person, cover the top of the dish without touching the dish.

Butterscotch Pudding

Adapted from Taste of Home

Yields 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Add milk and egg yolks and stir until smooth.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Cook and stir 1-2 minutes longer or until thickened.
  2. Remove from the heat; stir in butter and vanilla.  Cool to room temperature, stirring several times.  Pour into individual dessert dishes.  Cover and refrigerate until fully chilled, at least 2 hours.

6 Comments

Filed under Custard/Pudding, Desserts

Toom Sauce (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

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If ever there was a recipe that was greater than the sum of its ingredients, it is this one.  This sauce is heaven.  Heaven.  This sauce is worth the garlic breath.  My family and I frequent a Mediterranean restaurant that offers this freely.  And, I take advantage.  I use it on everything – fish, chicken, eggplant, falafel.  At home, I use it on my sandwiches, eggs and samlon.  It’s creamy and rich in all the right and healthful ways.  I had no idea what was in it.  Without knowing more at the time, I swore there was mayo in it.  Then, I found out that this sauce is a mayonnaise .  Just like mayonnaise, toom sauce is an infusion of garlic and vegetable oil.  Just that.  Many recipes add potatoes which is not necessary at all if this recipe is done right.  This sauce is pungent and has a bite like wasabi.  It has a bite that can be reduced with more oil.

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It is imperative that directions are closely followed.  You have to work with a thin stream of oil.  Do not rush it.  Ingredients should be at room temperature.  Use vegetable oil.  Do not substitute olive oil.  Work with fresh garlic.  You will know if it’s fresh by squeezing the whole bulb and it shouldn’t move that much – the garlic bulbs should be firm and tight.  Make sure the lemon juice is free from pulp and seeds.  The better the ingredients and attention to detail at the outset, the better the final result will be. Also, there should be NO water at all in your food processor, or spoons or anything.  It could break the sauce.  Finally, be patient.

Toom Sauce (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

adapted from Chef Kamal

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peeled garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

  1. In a food processor (completely dry – no water, remember), add the garlic and salt and run it until the garlic is finely minced – about 30 seconds.
  2. Stop your processor and using a spatula (without any water) scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Run the processor again in 30 second increments, scraping after each time, until the garlic turns pasty.  This should be done after 4 times.
  4. Scrape the bowl finally and then turn on the processor – this time, you won’t be turning it off until the whole process is complete.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the oil in a thin stream (cannot stress the thin part of this) until fully incorporated.
  6. Alternate to add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice in a thin stream until its fully incorporated into the garlic mixture.
  7. Then, add the oil in 1/2 cup increment following with the tablespoon of lemon juice until everything is used.
  8. You may notice at this point that the liquid hasn’t come together.  If so, it could be that you didn’t use a thin stream and it broke the mixture.  If this is the case, run the processor for 5 minutes.  If it still doesn’t pull together, turn off the processor, scrape down the mixture and run it again for 5 minutes.  It should pull together to some extent.  But, if it doesn’t, it’s still usable as a great marinade.  This is why I stressed the use of a thin stream.

11 Comments

Filed under Favorites, garlic, Vegan, Vegetarian

Berry Vanilla Cake with Whipped Frosting

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My husband’s family doesn’t care much for birthday celebrations.  But, they do make an effort for their mother.  In a family full of boys one her, it’s quite sweet to watch them devise a plan to celebrate her birthday.  This year, we were short on time and put together a quick plan to accommodate a rowdy baby and a son who was only in town for a short period of time.

Taking into consideration my mother in law’s preferences for cake, I knew I had to construct something light, not-to-sweet and definitely included fruit.  As long as I’ve known her she’s ordered these magnificent cakes with glazed fruit, slivered almonds and whipped cream frosting.  With hours to make it, I found some supplies I had on hand to put together a cake she would love.

With my favorite American buttercream being too sweet for her taste and not having time to make Swiss meringue buttercream, my options were limited.  So, I tried something new based on what I had on hand.  I’m so glad I did.  This cake was a hit.  Bringing back memories of when she would bake cakes for her sons, she ate her cake happily.  It was a good day.

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Frosting using heavy whipping cream can be finnicky and not always the stable when you want to make a presentation.  Although you can stabilize it with powdered sugar, this frosting using Cool Whip is way more stable.  Especially with the addition of powdered sugar, I was able to keep the cake and frosting in its proper form through the afternoon while we ate pieces of the cake.

If I would have changed anything, based on supplies I had on hand, I would have added more blueberries on the top.  If you want to make more layers (cut each layer in half for a four layer cake), just make sure you double the filling and frosting.  I had just enough frosting for a filling layer, the outer layer and just enough for piping.

Berry Vanilla Bean Cake with Whipped Frosting
cake slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction and also used here
makes a two layer 8′ inch cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • seeds scraped from one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Filling:

  • 1 cups berries (mixed or pick one)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar

Frosting:

  • 1 (8oz) container of frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 (3.5 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar. sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Garnish/Decorating

  • berries
  •  sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. If you make cupcakes, line with cupcake liners. If you are baking cake layers, grease two eight-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large and separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the milk and eggs. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, on medium heat, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds, until the mixture is very light/pale.
  5. Add the vanilla extract until fully incorporated.  Carefully add and mix in half of the milk mixture until all is combined.  Then, mix in half of the flour mixture until fully combined.  Add the remaining milk mixture until combined. Finally, add the flour mixture until incorporated.  Once everything is incorporated, beat the mixture for a good 2 minutes to ensure that everything is smoothly combined.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.  Cool completely before frosting.
  7. Prepare filling:  While cake is baking, in a bowl, mash together the 1 cup of berries coarsely – I still like big chunks.  Pour in sugar and mix together.  Set it aside.
  8. Prepare frosting:  In your stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer (using a large bowl), whip together the heavy cream, instant pudding powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.  Mix until its smooth and getting thick.  Remove from the mixer and by hand, fold in the whipped topping until fully incorporated.  Do not over mix.  Once there are no white streaks, place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.  Once firm, assemble and frost cake.
  9. Assemble and frost:  Place one layer of cake on a cake board.  Spread the fruit to within an inch of the border.  Then, spread the whipped frosting on top of the fruit and then place the final layer on top.  Frost the cake completely.

7 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake, Desserts

Guacamole

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True to toddler form, my child’s eating habits are variable at best.  Foods that he loves one day becomes old news the next.  One constant in his life (and mine) has been guacamole.  I attribute it to the fact that I probably consumed guacamole more than I care to admit while I was pregnant and nursing.  Chipotle should have just been on my speed dial.  This has to be one of my favorite dishes – ever.  Similar to other dips, I can and have (on numerous occasions) made a meal of chips, guacamole and salsa.  What can I say?  I’m a Texan through and through.

I’m quite particular about what constitutes great guacamole.  Unlike most places that use tomatoes in their guacamole, I am harshly opposed to that ingredient anywhere near this dish.  Tomatoes add too my liquid and a distracting element to the dish.  Also, I’ve tried almost every onion type (shallots, green onions, white, etc.) and nothing seems more compatible with avocados quite like red onion.  Also, I prefer the taste of serrano as opposed to jalapeno in guacamole but serrano is spicier.  So, pick your pepper accordingly.

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Most telling is that my husband, who really hates most things avocado, ate this happily.  Happily.  Not out of any obligation to consume this nutrient-rich food with wonderful healthy fats.  Happily.  And, nowadays when there is a dish that all three people in the family love – mission accomplished.

Guacamole

yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large (or three small) ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 jalapeno or 1/2 serrano pepper, minced (seeded if you want less spicy)
  • juice from 1 lime (about 3 tbsp)

Directions:

  1. Cut the avocado in half and scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Using a fork, mash or stir around until you reach a consistency slightly thicker than what you ultimately want.  (I prefer a whipped texture that only has a few chunks of avocado in it.)
  2. Stir in onion, cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice.  Start with one half the lime and then add in more as  you want.  Stir until fully incorporated.
  3. Taste for salt and lime and add as necessary.

 

10 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Favorites

Baklava

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Meet one of my favorite desserts – EVER.  It’s not hard considering that I’ve admitted that my favorite food is all things Mediterranean.  Luckily, baklava is just as easy to make as it is delicious.  All in all, this recipe is just the same set of steps repeated over and over again to create a buttery and flaky dessert that’s sure to wow your guests.

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I am going to just say that baklava is an addiction.  It’s a rare treat reserved for special occasions in our house, but once available, I wish someone would ration this.

Baklava

adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) package of phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 16 oz  chopped roasted nuts (I prefer a mix of pistachios and walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar

Syrup:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 clove of cardamom (or a pinch of ground cardamom)
  • 1 tsp rose water (optional)
  • 1 2-inch piece of orange peel

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Using the melted butter, butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13 pan.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the nuts until you reach your desired consistency.  I prefer a mixture of finely ground nuts with some chopped pieces mixed in.
  3. Toss together the cinnamon, cardamom, nuts and white sugar.
  4. Unwrap the phyllo dough and place under a damp cloth so it does not dry out.
  5. Place two sheets of phyllo dough in the pan and brush the phyllo with butter lightly with a pastry brush.
  6. Repeat with two sheets until you have a layer that’s 8 sheets deep.
  7. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the nut mixture over the phyllo dough.
  8. Place another two sheets of phyllo and brush lightly with the melted butter.
  9. Repeat with the nuts and the phyllo dough.
  10. Top the last layer with another 8 pieces of phyllo dough.
  11. Using a sharp knife cut the phyllo dough (into diamonds or squares) within half an inch from the bottom of the pan.
  12. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the phyllo is golden brown and crisp.
  13. After placing the baklava into the oven, prepare the syrup.  In a saucepan, mix together the sugar and water and heat over medium heat until the sugar is melted.  Add the vanilla extract, honey, cinnamon stick, cardamom, rose water, and orange peel.  Allow this mixture to come to a boil and reduce heat to let it simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon stick, cardamom and orange peel.  Let it cool while the baklava bakes.
  14. Once the baklava is done, remove from the oven and immediately pour the syrup over the phyllo dough.
  15. Cool and cut all the way through.

13 Comments

Filed under Desserts, Favorites