Friday, February 26, 2010

Single-pan chicken, peas, and bacon with pasta

Another one that's not for the dieters out there, as the glistening lipids in the above picture can attest.

I lifted the idea for this one from Jamie Oliver, but then I just did what I wanted to do with it. He's got a recipe in his Food Revolution cookbook that is pasta shells with peas and bacon, if you're interested. The one I describe here has chicken, too.

-Put the pasta of your choice on to boil. I think we used bowtie with this one.
-Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet.
-Add in a "lug" (as Jamie would say) of olive oil.
-Meanwhile, cut up about four slices of bacon into small pieces.
-Fry the bacon in those two fats--yes, now we have three fats in there--until it starts turning a nice golden brown color.
-Meanwhile, cut up two raw chicken breasts into small chunks or half-inch slices.
-Add these to the fats and bacon and sizzle to doneness. You can add a little salt at this point, too.

Break out some heavy whipping cream and add about a cup of that, enough to cover the pan, leave the chicken bits poking out a little. If needed, you can add more liquid in the form of chicken broth, but don't make it too thin. This sauce should nice and creamy, like an alfredo, and the cream will thin a little as it heats.

Stir, let it get to a nice simmer with an occasional stir. Then, add in at least a cup of frozen peas--more if you're a big fan of peas. If needed, add in more cream and/or chicken broth to get the sauce to the consistency you like. Do not overdo the chicken broth, or you'll thin the sauce too much. Don't forget, the peas will release some water as they thaw if they're frozen, so wait a bit before adding anything else to see what the sauce is like after the thaw.

Get it again to a simmer with an occasional stir. Salt and pepper to your taste--very little should be needed with all the flavors in this. If you like (and I always like), you can sprinkle Parmesan over the top. Ladle over bowls of warm pasta and serve. In many families, this dish would be kid friendly. It was friendly to two of our three offspring and to us. Just try not to think about the saturated fat content too much.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mrs. Goldberg's Cookies

These are the cookies of my childhood. The cookies Grandma made. The cookies she always called "Mrs. Goldberg's cookies," (which I find adorably charming now, that she felt we need to use a respectful moniker for the cookbook writer, Molly Goldberg) or "thumbprint cookies," but which are, in the book they come from, called simply "Jelly Cookies."

These are the cookies I've always made, too. They are the cookies I'm known for. They are the cookies my friends used to ask me to make for special occasions. Our old roommate, M, once asked me to make several dozen for a fundraiser at a theater he was managing; he came home that night to tell me that Ben Vereen and John Ritter had both raved about my cookies.

Really, I don't have to go any further now, do I? You're sold, right?

They're also the very first cookies Em and N made, too, since I made it a point to use their tiny little thumbs to make the impressions when I'd bake these when they were babies. (I actually have a shot of Em 'helping' me make these when she was maybe a year old; if I can find it and scan it, I'll add it here.)

I will say, however, that I'm not really sure how these are "Jewish" cookies. But there they are, on page 133 of my copy of The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook. Actually, it's my third copy of this cookbook. Because it gets used so often, and the copies I've always had were so old...they tend to fall apart.

I love that I have cookbooks I use so often they fall apart. Something in my wannabe-happy-homemaker's heart finds that indescribably wonderful.

And with that, I give you:

Mrs. Goldberg's Cookies

[A note: There is, in my opinion, never a reason to make only a small number of these. They're full of butter and sugar, and you can't even try to pretend that you're being virtuous when you eat them. And so, I pretty much always triple the recipe in the cookbook. Thus, I'm giving you, here, the tripled recipe. Feel free to scale back down to the original if you want. But you'll regret it. Don't say I didn't warn you.]

3/4 pound butter
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3 cups sifted flour (Side note: Does anyone sift anymore? Molly says to sift, but I never do it. Does it make a difference?)
1/4 tsp salt (The original recipe calls for 1/8 tsp, so this isn't tripled. But I tend to only have salted butter on hand, so I probably don't even need to go up to 1/4 tsp.)
3 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 tsp orange extract
One or more of your favorite fruit-flavored jams or jellies (We tend toward the Grandma-traditional apricot, but eschew her choice of grape for something like boysenberry, most times)

1. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper. (I know. We're obsessed here at NTMC with parchment paper for baking. Trust us. It's for a reason.) Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. Cream butter and sugar together until light. (I do all of this in my Kitchen Maid stand mixer, by the way. But before I had one, I just let the butter get reallllllly soft and did it with a fork. Gave me some muscles, I tell you.)

3. Add egg yolks; beat well.

4. Add flour and salt; mix well.

5. Add vanilla and orange extract; mix well.

6. Shape dough into walnut-sized balls. Using your thumb, make a slight depression in each cookie; fill with jelly. (The book says about a half teaspoon per cookie, but I just eyeball it. As you can see above, that sometimes means they get a little sloppy. I like my cookies sloppy.)

7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until "delicately browned." (God, I love Molly.) As you can see above, I underbaked the batch I photographed. Whoops. They were still awesome. There's something about the orange extract that makes these cookies taste like...well, like childhood. OK. My childhood. But still.

By the way, I just wanted to let you guys know--OK, I wanted to brag to you guys--that I've added the extra vodka and the simple syrup to my limoncello, so that it is now in its second phase, and that on our anniversary (March 17; yes, the two Jews got hitched on St. Patrick's day, and even signed our ketubah in green ink) we will be breaking it out for a first glass. A little early, true, so I'll let the rest sit for a week or two more, but still.

I can't wait. I'll brag more then.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Crumb cake

It's a favorite book in our house, In the Night Kitchen. Thanks to Mickey, it seems, we have cake every morning, an intriguing concept.

Of course, that's not true. At least, not until this week.

I got the bug on Sunday. It was a rare day when I didn't have any work (as in, work for a client) to do. Naturally, not finding the usual work of rearing three boys and wifing one man sufficient, I suddenly felt this urge to bake something. Something...buttery. Crumbly. With a hint of cinnamon. And I'd make it for the boys to have for breakfast the coming week. Give the Viking a break in the morning, as he's the one who handles mornings around our house. What can I say? I need my beauty sleep.

What I had in mind sounded kind of like a crumb cake of some sort, so I turned to my trusty Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Edition for a crumb cake recipe that wouldn't take too long or overtax my limited cake-baking skills. Of course, as with all recipes, I made my own idiosyncratic adjustments with a health boost in mind.

The recipe can be found on pg. 630. (Warning: This is not for the faint of heart or the body on a diet). It calls for a 13-x-9-inch pan, and for some reason, all of mine are letter-sized. No matter. I sprayed my letter-sized Pyrex with organic cooking spray and floured it, and set the oven to 325 F.

Then, to make the morning cake. And yes, there was milk involved. I thought about calling out to one of my sons that we needed "Milk! Milk! Milk for the morning cake!" but decided against it as I thought full-bore nudity--a la the book--might ensue.

Onward. Whisk together the following:
1.5 c all-purpose flour. I used white wheat flour here.
0.5 c sugar
2.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
I also added in about a half cup of wheat germ, which meant reducing the flour by about the same amount.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 large egg, 0.5 c milk (for the morning cake!), 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used canola), and 2 tsp vanilla.

With a rubber spatula, add the dry to the wet, mix to smoothness, and then drop in dollops into your greased, floured pan and spread until it's evenly covering the pan bottom. This was NOT easy to do, and I found that greasing the spatula every few spreading attempts helped a lot.

That was the cake part. The crumb part may give you a heart attack just reading it. Here we go.

Combine the following:
2.5 c. all-purpose flour
(You can also add in 0.5 c. nuts or coconut--I did not do this)
1 c. packed light brown sugar. Yes. That says one cup. I did 0.75 cups because I just couldn't stand it.
1 tsp ground cinnamon.

Now for the heart attack. Melt two sticks--complete sticks--of butter and pour it over the above mixture. Mix until it's like...well...crumbs. If it's not crumbly enough, add more flour, which is what I had to do.

Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cake and bake for 30 minutes or until tester is clean. I ended up going for 40 minutes, the last 10 minutes with the oven jacked up to 350 F, probably because of the wheat flour and wheat germ.

The result is a buttery, crumbly (very crumbly) pretty sweet treat with a lot of fiber that's no worse than, say, a muffin or a scone for breakfast. My kids liked this a lot, and it was exciting to truly have cake for breakfast every morning. At least for this week.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I am in a funk.

A cooking funk. I cannot hardly muster an ounce of energy or interest in food right now. If I could, I'd eat a bowl of cereal every day. Or a piece of toast. Maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every now and then for good measure.

Unfortunately, the natives are uncooperative and demand variety. I've resorted to all of my old standbys, things I've made a thousand times, and my husband is doing most of the cooking.

Does this kind of cooking funk sound familiar to you? Surely I'm not the only person to fall out of the groove.

This past weekend we had a few guests over in the afternoon. I wanted to make a couple of appetizers. First I dug deep into the archives of my recipe box and made a classic: taco dip. I'll save sharing that recipe for a future date, though.

But I wanted a little something extra to go with it. So I did what I always do when I need to find a recipe that has reviews. I turned to All Recipes.

All Recipes is my go-to site. I love the way each recipe has ratings, and I always sift through the reviews as often good tips can be found in there.

What did I find as the perfect accessory to taco dip? Why, guacamole of course.

I do love me some guacomole. And my two daughters actually like it (sometimes) too. I have long wanted to make my own, but had never gotten around to looking up a recipe.

This one had something like 1300 reviews and was rated 5-star. That's a pretty high rating at All Recipes, so I figured it would be delicious.

And it was. Seriously delicious. The little amount that was leftover - I finished it for breakfast the next day.

I'd never had a guacamole with tomatoes in it before, but this was great. I'd still like to find a non-tomato version, though, as that is my preferred way of consuming it.

Without further ado, straight from All Recipes, I present: Guacamole.

You'll need:

3 avocados - peeled, pitted and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (intentional)

In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados with the lime juice and salt.

Then mix in everything else.

I didn't have time to refrigerate for an hour, and it tasted fine. But the flavor was definitely better later in the evening when we had put it in the fridge for awhile. If you can refrigerate before serving, I do recommend it.

The next morning, my husband scooped some guacamole into a corn tortilla with scrambled eggs - very yummy too.


And if you have any suggestions for getting out of this cooking funk, I'm all ears!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Banana chip muffins

This one is so easy and so good you'll soon be calling it one of your go-to baking recipes. It's definitely one of those things that I can pretend is healthy while satisfying my need for something sweet. Plus it's kid-friendly.

Here's what you need:

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of softened butter
6 ripe bananas, mashed
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 cups of butterscotch or chocolate chips, depending on your preference

In a bowl, mash the bananas and mix in the beaten egg and vanilla. Set aside.

In another bowl, measure out your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon) and whisk until well-blended.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the banana mixture and blend thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients, mix well. Stir in the chips by hand.

Pour into paper-lined muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 24 muffins.

I very often cut this recipe in half, especially if I only have a couple of over-ripe bananas on hand. You can also pour the batter into parchment lined loaf pans (the full recipe makes two loaves) and bake for about 50 minutes. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chicken spinach tomato cappellini

It started the way it often does. I had a couple of thawed chicken breasts. I had a lot of organic baby spinach wilting away in the fridge. And then there were the luscious red ripe tomatoes calling to me, saying "Don't let us go to waste, either!" Food speaks to me, you see.

And as I often do, I made something up. Ingredients drive what limited creativity I have as I mentally group various potential additions, trying to find one that seems exactly the right fit for what I want to achieve for dinner that night.

This night, I felt the mood should be light. Something vegetably yet savory. Something with a bit of zing that would cling softly to a nice, lean pasta, like cappellini. So, that's what I went for.

When I cook, I don't measure, so the following is my best guess at what I did.

First, I put water on to boil for the whole-wheat cappellini I was using, and then...reader, I boiled it.

As Jamie Oliver would say, I started the sauce with a couple of lugs of olive oil, heated to a fine warmth, along with a couple of tablespoons of butter. It's all bettah with buttah.

Then, I added the chicken breasts, sliced into about half-inch pieces, and knocked in a few good dashes of oregano. After letting that sizzle up until the chicken was cooked completely, I tossed in tomatoes, letting them get to sizzle. Then came the spinach, lid on top to give it a good wilt, then stirred. With a nice wilt on, I added in the juice of a single lemon, some ground sea salt and ground pepper. For the finale, I sprinkled freshly grated Parmesan over the entire thing and heated it all through.

Pop this on top of the steaming toothy cappellini, add more Parmesan as needed and a good, crusty hunk of ciabatta, and you're good to go with a light, savory, satisfying bowl of food that won't make you feel terribly guilty. This was a fast, easy, and absolutely beautifully colored dinner to make, and it received The Viking seal of approval, high praise indeed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mango black bean salsa

This winter weather is just getting me down!  In an effort to deny the existence of the multiple feet of snow just outside my door, I decided to pretend it was summer time this week and made some yummy tropical-inspired salsa.

It's a super simple recipe which requires only a few ingredients.  Here's what you'll need:

2 ripe mangos
1 small can crushed pineapple
1 small can black beans
1 red onion
red chile powder or the crushed chiles of your choice (I used Asian chiles with a rating of 15k-30k Scovilles)
cilantro (optional)

Ok, now, follow closely —it gets complicated (not)...

Dice the onion
Peel and cube mangos.  Mash the cubes with a fork (or a pastry blender, as I did)
Open the can of pineapple.
Open the beans then rinse and drain them.

Dump everything together in a mixing bowl and add chiles or chile powder to taste.  Mix well then cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to infuse.  Just before serving, tear a generous handful of cilantro and stir it in.

Don't be afraid to experiment with the ingredients —subsitute canned or fresh for any of the ingredients.  I prefer fresh mangos over prepackaged; I think they have a nuttier flavor and aren't as sugary.

If you're not afraid of hot stuff, use this salsa straight out of the bowl as a dip for chips.  Spoon it over fish or chicken before baking for a succulent and hearty main course, or warm it in the oven for a sweet and spicy side dish.  Toss in some extra black beans and serve it with rice and you've got a tasty vegetarian main course.

Please pass me the pitcher of margaritas!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guest post: Lentil and butternut squash soup

I love soup. In many ways I think it is the perfect food. Except for the small fact that my kids usually won't eat it. To get around this I normally make a big pot of jasmine rice and mix some of the soup with a bowl of rice and then we are all happy. But this soup! This soup is the only one that my youngest son Sami—who had declared hating ALL soups—requests for me to make. When I served it earlier this week he stunned us all by eating three bowls. Then he asked to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Can it get better than that? Why yes! Because, you see, this soup is phenomenally easy to make and is very versatile as a leftover. I created this vegetarian soup based on the flavors from a favorite chicken and rice dish and I never wrote down or measured the ingredients. The recipe that follows is pretty close—but more or less of any of the ingredients to suit your taste is probably fine.

What you will need:
2 yellow onions
garlic, minced—about 3 med. cloves
ginger, minced—about 4 quarter-sized slices
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you don't like it so hot)
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt
8 cups vegetable broth
1 bag lentils
1 medium butternut squash

1. Coarsely chop the onions and saute over medium-high heat until translucent.
2. Toss in the minced garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes.
3. Add spices and stir thoroughly for about a minute
4. Add the vegetable broth and lentils, increasing the heat to bring to a boil.
5. Start preparing your squash now. When you have finished peeling, seeding and chopping, your soup should be at a rolling boil.
6. Add the squash and reduce the heat to medium.
7. Continue to cook until the squash is soft. You may also continue cooking for a few more minutes to reduce the soupiness further.

To serve, you could pair this with some freshly cooked rice or eat it by itself as a soup. If you like cilantro, toss a few leaves on each serving or mince a medium-sized bunch, mix with plain yogurt, and add a dollop to each bowl.

For lunch today I put a few tablespoons of it in a fresh flour tortilla and served it burrito-style. The cilantro-yogurt would be a tasty condiment for this. My husband liked this so much that I'm going to prepare a whole bunch of them and stick them in the freezer for those days when I don't want to cook.

Christine's blog home is at daysixtyseven.  She writes about life in the less-virtual home she shares with four boys, all of whom have hearty appetites.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chicken francaise

I never knew how to make this dish, despite the fact that it's one of my favorite ways to eat chicken and pasta. There's something about the velvety lemon sauce and the golden brown chicken cutlets that really speaks to me. I order it often in restaurants, but I had never tried to make it at home.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you, I have still not tried to make it at home. But I have helped to prepare it twice now at a friend's house using her mother's recipe—and yes, it is delicious and surprisingly simple.

If you are more organized than we are, you will defrost your chicken cutlets well in advance. You will be sure to have fresh lemon and parsley on hand and plenty of vegetable oil. But then, the two times we have made this dish together, my friend and I have somehow managed to overcome our lack of organizational skills by raiding both of our kitchens for ingredients and/or calling her mom to rescue us. Needless to say, I recommend making this with a friend (by upping the amounts we fed six adults and three children) and having a nice bottle or two of wine on hand.

Here's what you need for four servings:

2 full boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half and split in half (@ 8 pieces thinly sliced)
egg and flour to coat the chicken

1 cup of chicken broth
1/3 cup of lemon juice
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of cold water

Okay. Ready?

To prepare the chicken, dip each piece in egg and then coat in flour seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper.

In a heavy skillet or frying pan, heat 1/3 cup of oil (we used canola) and 3 tablespoons of butter. Don't pay attention to that enormous stick of butter in the photo, remember when we prepared this meal we tripled the recipe to feed a crowd. You might, however, need to add more butter and oil as you are frying depending on how many cutlets you have, so use your judgment.

Fry the cutlets until lightly golden brown and cooked through. Be careful not to let the oil and butter burn, since you'll be using it as the base for your sauce. Yes, we made this mistake the first time we prepared this meal and had to dump our frying oil and start over. Consider yourself warned: keep an eye on the heat.

Put the cooked chicken on a dish and keep warm. In the same frying pan, whisk in the chicken broth, lemon juice, pepper to taste and dijon mustard. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir in the cornstarch.

Add the fresh parsley and continue stirring until the sauce thickens.

To serve, arrange the chicken on top of thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta and pour the sauce over it. Extra sauce can be served on the side. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.

We served this with peas, a salad and a loaf of crusty bread. For the kids, we kept the sauce separate, and even my picky "no sauce" son was happy with his plain cutlet and pasta with butter. I have to tell you, I could eat this twice a week. I'm pretty sure it's the lemon. I love anything with lemon. Must be the Californian in me. Enjoy!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dairy-free chocolate cake

As part of a family of five that goes through about seven gallons of milk a week, not to mention an abundance of yogurt, cheese, butter, and other products of the cow (and, occasionally, goat), I did not choose this recipe because it is dairy free. But, it is. So I thought it might be useful for cooks who seek either (a) dairy-free desserts their kids (and even the cook) will like or (and?) (b) a really fast way to make a chocolate cake.

This recipe achieves both. It comes from the latest edition of the Joy of Cooking, and you can find it on page 723. The text describes it as "delightfully simple." As someone who's been cooking nigh on three decades, I was skeptical. But it was really and delightfully simple and turned out to be delightfully OK.

Set the oven at 375 F. Your pan is an 8 x 8 greased square, or you can line it with parchment paper. I sprayed mine with organic cooking spray. If you're going non-dairy, that's probably one way to go.

In a large bowl, I whisked together:
1.5 c. all-purpose flour (if you're gluten free, you'll have to work out the appropriate subs here)
1 c. sugar + another 2 tbsp
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder + another 1 tbsp
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt

To this, I added:
1 c. cold water
1/4 c. vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar (full disclosure: I was clean out of this, so I used white-wine vinegar)
2 tsp vanilla

Whisked it up until it looked like a smooth cake batter, poured it into pan, popped pan into oven for 30 minutes exactly. It was done. It looked like a cake. A chocolate cake. I've never, ever been able to make a cake from scratch in 35 minutes before.

You have the option of dressing it up with various accoutrements of your choice, from a dusting of confectioners' sugar to a quick icing. We ate ours plain. And we liked it like that.

As a chocolate lover, I will say that there's not a rich, chocolatey flavor to this cake. It's juuuust chocolate enough. But it is a good cake, a quick cake, and a dairy-free cake that my kids seemed to think was just as good as anything with loads of butter or milk.

Give it a try and chime in with here the opinions around your house.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

AB's Voodoo Chicken

Several years ago, I decided I was going to create a family cookbook, centered around my grandmother's recipes, but also featuring favorites cooked by other family members and friends. I had everyone mail me original recipe cards, so I could scan them and make them the watermark-ish backgrounds of the pages for the cookbook, so that you could see, say, Grandma's handwritten instructions for making matzoh balls, but not have to decipher the words.

I am not very good at follow through. Have I ever mentioned that? Actually, I'm pretty terrible at it.

And so, while *I* have a wonderful collection of awesome recipes from my sisters, aunt, mother, and grandmother, they have...nothing.

Sorry, guys.

All of which is to say that today's recipe, which I recently tried for the very first time, is from that ill-gotten collection. It came from my aunt, AB, who comments here all the time. I'll let her tell you where it came from because...well, because I don't know.

All I know is that it was easy and totally yummy. And it would have been a great addition to the family cookbook if I didn't suck so much.

AB's Voodoo Chicken

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions -- chopped
2 red bell peppers -- cut into strips
2 cloves garlic -- finely chopped
14 1/2 ounces chicken broth
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
10 ounces frozen peas -- thawed

First, an admission: I didn't put nearly as much onion or red pepper into my version, because I only had one of each, and that was fine. I also had less chicken broth than suggested, and that was fine, too; even though the sauce was a little on the thick side, it reminded me a lot of the szechuan noodles I used to get all the time when I lived in New York, and that made me very happy.

Now, on with the instructions, which are AB's except for the one me-parenthetical.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a non-stick skillet (I did this in my dutch oven, actually, and it was perfect for the recipe), heat the oil over medium heat. Add chicken strips and saute, stirring often, for three minutes or until chicken turns opaque. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add onions, bell pepper, and garlic to pan. Saute three minutes or until onions are tender.

Add broth and peanut butter. Stir in hot pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the chicken strips and peas. Cook five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and dish is heated through.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Super easy ham and bean soup

Since the beginning of winter, my little corner of the mid-Atlantic has gotten socked with more snow than I ever remember seeing as a child.  Just when the roads get cleared and schools reopen...BAM! Along comes another blizzard.

This kind of weather always makes me think about comfort foods and simple, hearty foods that warm me right down to my toes.  For some reason, ham and bean soup fits that bill just now. 

This "recipe" is so simple that you can throw it together in a pot on the stove and let it simmer all day while you're playing out in the snow.  Or, you can do what I did and toss it in the crock pot and forget about it until dinner time.  Either way, it's so easy you're going to laugh. 

The ingredients:

2 cups dried great northern beans (slightly larger than yankee/navy beans. Can also sub cannelloni)
4 cups organic vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 pound cooked smoked ham, cubed

Rinse dried beans, making sure to pick out any stones or debris before placing them in the pot.
Cover  beans with vegetable broth and put on low heat (either on the stove or in the crock)
Soak/simmer/slow cook for six hours.  The low heat and acids from the vegetable broth will help soften the beans and the long cook time helps break down the gas-producing enzymes.

If you are cooking this on the stove, check beans periodically.  You'll want to add the extra water when it looks like the vegetable broth is about absorbed.

After six hours, add the ham and any additional water you want to make the soup the desired consistency; I tend to like mine a bit on the thick side.

Turn up the heat and allow to simmer for approximately two hours.  If using the crock pot, turn heat to high and leave it alone for two full hours.

Soup is done when the beans are soft and easily mashed using a fork or spoon.

Serve with some hot rolls or biscuits, a side salad and feel the warmth reach your toes.

NOTE: If you are going to use the stovetop method, you may want to consider soaking the beans the night before.  I use the crockpot because I cannot leave my stove on for that length of time with my son at home; it's just not safe given his propensity to climb gates and get into mischief in the blink of an eye.

Ditto making a homemade vegetable broth.  My life is so hectic right now that I don't have the patience or energy to devote to making my own broth. That said, if you have an easy broth recipe for the slow cooker?  Please share it!

If you're running short on time, toss in a couple of cans of beans instead of using dried; there's really no wrong way to make this yummy, hearty soup.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Daiya "cheese"

I've mentioned before that my older daughter has several food sensitivities so I've had to learn a variety of substitutions and modifications for many a meal or recipe.

In addition to being gluten free, she is also casein free (dairy), soy free and peanut free. Peanut-free is not a big deal and gluten has been fairly easy to get used to not eating.

Then there's dairy. If you have to be dairy-free, it's not too bad if you can have soy products. There are many decent soy versions of things like cheese, butter and milk. If soy is a problem, though, look out.

The single biggest thing that I miss is being able to cook with cheese. There are quite a few decent Vegan cheeses out there, but most contain soy. The ones that don't are, in my opinion, blech. In addition to not tasting very good, they don't melt.

Then I started hearing about a new soy-free Vegan cheese called Daiya. Blog reviews were raving that it not only tastes delicious, but it melts. That means we could make pizza! And quesadillas! And grilled cheese!

With little hesitation, I shelled out a small fortune for 2 8-ounce bags of this miracle food.

And true to what other reviewers said, it was outstanding. Here's how it looked before going into the oven. Looks just like regular shredded cheese, no?

After baking, Daiya was everything I hoped it would be on a pizza. Melted beautifully, tasted wonderful.

My dairy-free daughter, who hasn't had pizza in over six months, devoured it. She may have eaten half the pizza herself!

However, a few days later I decided to make another pizza, and this time she wouldn't touch it. She said she didn't like the cheese.

Stunned was I.

Since she's the only one in the house who has the sensitivity to dairy, it's unlikely I'll buy Daiya again. I admit, I'm disappointed. I was looking forward to HER being able to enjoy pizza again -something she used to love. But I guess maybe she didn't enjoy all that much.

Despite my picky daughter, I'd recommend Daiya to anyone who's looking for a casein-free, soy-free cheese.

Bon appetit!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chicken tortilla soup

One of my best friends has been raving about this soup for over a year. And when she finally made it for me, I had to agree. It's good. VERY good. I'm pretty sure the recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated,  and though the original calls for turkey, I've made it twice now using a rotisserie chicken and can I just say, yum!

Here's what you need to get started (don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients, the soup comes together quickly and is very easy to make):

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
3 six inch corn tortillas cut into 1" pieces
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
4 cups of chicken broth (I used about 6 cups as I felt the soup base was too thick otherwise)
1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander and dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
2 cups of cooked and shredded chicken or turkey (I used a whole rotisserie chicken which came to more than 2 cups, but I definitely think the soup is better with more meat rather than less)
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of shredded Monterey jack cheese
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
salt and pepper

sour cream and chopped green onions to garnish

Heat the oil in a large heavy stockpot over medium high heat, add the onions and garlic and saute about 3 minutes. Stir in the tortilla pieces and saute until they are no longer crisp. Add tomatoes, broth and spices and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes, then puree using an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender or food processor until you have a smooth creamy base.

Return the pot to the stove and add the chicken, corn and cream. Bring to a boil.

Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the soup begins to thicken. (I've let it sit on a low flame for an hour or so before moving on to the next step.)

Raise the heat a bit and sprinkle in the cheese, stirring until it melts. Add the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. 

I've served this with a loaf of crusty bread, or if I'm feeling very ambitious, with quesadillas. My son, happy to eat a quesadilla or a loaf of bread, won't even try the soup, but the rest of us? We love it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Oatmeal maple scones

The tale of oatmeal/maple scones 
It all began with spilled oatmeal. Having cleverly stored an enormous cylinder of Quaker Oats on its side, I should not have been surprised when the lid burst free of its moorings and released a flood of oats onto my countertop.

Like any good mother, I flashed on the various contamination-related scenarios, assessing with a deep maternal calculus whether or not the oats would still be usable after having possibly intermingled with a few breadcrumbs and who knows what else on that countertop. On the pro side, I never work with raw meat or other dire animal products on that counter. On the con side, I've got at least one child who climbs up there frequently to acquire a drinking vessel.

Obviously, heat would be needed. As with many of my cooking adventures, necessity drove me to the index of a large cookbook, desperately seeking to build something around a single awkward ingredient I had available. So, I turned to my new America's Test Kitchen cookbook, a Christmas gift, and looked up oatmeal. Lo', the Test Kitchen came through for me: There, on page 488, it offered up a recipe for oatmeal scones that just happened to call for 1.5 cups of oatmeal, almost exactly the amount I'd just hand-swept from my countertop into a bowl.

The rest of the ingredients
In addition to the oats, the scones required 1/4 c. whole milk, ditto of heavy cream, an egg (large, as usual), 1.5 c. all-purpose flour, 1/3 c. sugar with a bit extra for sprinkling on top, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 10 tbsp unsalted butter. This last had to be cut into 1/4-inch cubes and then chilled. This cubing of butter was by far the most time-consuming part of the recipe.

The instructions
Oven set to 375 F, I dug in. First, I spread the oats on a baking pan to toast for about 8 minutes (I viewed this as a sort of decontamination step); after removing them, I fired up the oven temp to 450 F. Then, milk, cream, egg whisked together, and I added in 1/4 c. maple syrup to enhance the oats with some maply goodness (an option offered on p. 489 of the cookbook). A tablespoon of this milky mixture went on reserve for brushing on top of the scones. After I food processed the dry ingredients, I added in the cold butter cubes and processed again until it all looked like light cornmeal.

In a medium bowl, I combined the flour mixture with the toasted oats and added in the milk mixture. At this point, I could tell that I needed more flour, so I added in another quarter cup or so to give the dough a decent stiffness.

Shaping and baking scones
There are a couple of ways to shape scones. You can use a cakepan, pushing your dough into it to make a nice circle and then cutting out the triangles. Or, you can shape it into a circle yourself on some wax paper and then cut it into triangles as you would cut a pie.

Place each triangle on a cookie sheet prepped with parchment paper. Brush the tops with the reserved milk/egg/syrup mixture and then sprinkle to your tastes and desire with the reserved sugar. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they look pretty much like golden brown scones. You can eat them after about 10 minutes of cooling, or you can have them over the next three days for breakfast, which was what I did. My three-year-old, the world's choosiest consumer, ate only the sugar-crispy, shiny tops and pronounced them acceptable.

Some scone tweaks
If I were to do it again, I think I'd add in more maple syrup into the milk mixture for an increased maple enhancement. And I also put in about a quarter cup of wheat germ because I add wheat germ to just about everything I bake.

The calorie/fat count on these remains a mystery. I can only imagine that with 1.25 sticks of butter, it's fairly robust. In my mind, that's an excellent reason to eat these flaky, maply little triangles for breakfast--that gives you the rest of the day to burn off that butter. Happy baking!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A bit of housekeeping

If you are in the habit of reading our sidebar, you might have noticed that we are now five friends, instead of four. Yes, that's right: We have a new regular contributor to (Never) Too Many Cooks, and we couldn't be more pleased.

I'll let Emily go ahead and officially introduce herself to you tomorrow—for now, let's just say, you are in for a treat because, really, how fabulous will it be to have another voice, another perspective, even MORE great recipes and ideas, and, yes, regular posts on FIVE days instead of four!!

In other news, we are getting closer to one of our original goals, which was to pull in advertising to generate revenue for a good cause. We hope to have the ads in place within the next few weeks. We'll keep you posted on our progress (which may also include a small redesign of our layout to accommodate a column of ads).

This also seems like a great time to simply say thanks. We hope you like what you find here—the recipes, the friendship—this blog is truly dependent on your input and your feedback. If you'd like to be a guest blogger here, don't forget to drop us a line, or leave a comment on any of our posts. We've learned a lot from our guests, and the door is always open.

In the meantime, look for Emily on Fridays. Her first recipe will post tomorrow, so be sure to stop by and give her a warm welcome.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brisket ala TC

Before I go any further, I just have to say: Dude. Come on. You're impressed, right? Even I was impressed with how pretty this came out tonight!

And it tasted even better.


Because I'm a Jew, I make brisket. I can't explain it; I have no idea how this love affair came to be, why this particular cut of meat made the cut, why it has persisted through the generations. All I know is that my grandmother made brisket, my mother made brisket, and I make brisket. So it is, and so it shall always be.

But if you think that means I'm about to reveal to you some family recipe that traveled over from the Old Country (Poland, Russia, Germany, you name it; we are Ashkenazim, hear us roar), you're about to be sorely disappointed. I mean, nu? Who writes down a brisket recipe? You buy some brisket from the butcha, you bring it home, you make it. Vat's to write about?

And so I've pretty much gone it on my own. I mean, I must have called my mom the first time I decided to make a brisket, and I'm sure she gave me some tips. And, of course, there are the meat recipes in the Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook, of which I'm on my third copy right now. (This is the one I have at the moment, but the pages are dangerously yellowed, and the binding is starting to loosen, because I use it that often, and it is, after all, approximately 55 years old. No, that's not an exaggeration.) Still, none of these are the source of The Recipe. Because there is no The Recipe.

But I digress. Here's how I make it, with some ideas for how you can make it your own.

Brisket ala TC


Brisket (How much? The piece at left was about a pound and a half; when I make it for one or another of the holidays at which we will have company, I generally go for four or five pounds of meat. Oh, and even at your local supermarket, you may have to ask the guy behind the meat counter for a brisket; I find they usually have a cut or two available, but they're not always out in the meat display case.)

Oil (Canola, olive, whatever)

Kosher salt


Garlic powder (optional)

Onion (chopped)

Carrots (I've gotten lazy and tend to get the already peeled baby carrots for these sorts of recipes, so I can just throw them in. Does it make you judge me less if I swear that they're organic? I didn't think so.)

Broth or wine or water (You're going to braise the meat, and so you'll need liquid. Even though it's beef, I tend to use chicken broth, because I almost always have some in my freezer, remnants of the most recent pot of chicken soup with matzo balls. You can, however, use beef broth or even beef bouillon cubes, though in the latter case I'd go easy when you salt the meat. Or you can even use wine, though that will change the taste significantly; red probably works better than white, but feel free to experiment. And, to be honest, the world will not come to an end if you just braise it in water. Just be sure to season more liberally as you go.)

Ginger (fresh or powdered, optional)

Honey (optional)

Other veggies (optional; I added peas tonight because neither Baroy nor Em likes cooked carrots, and I wanted them to have some kind of veggies, but it's not a necessity; Molly Goldberg suggests adding chunks of sweet potato alongside the carrots, but I've never actually done that.)


In a dutch oven or similarly wide, deep pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil. Season meat with salt, pepper, garlic powder (or not), then add to pan and brown on both sides, about three or four minutes per side. (See photo above; I'd have liked that to be slightly more browned, actually.)

When meat is almost fully browned, add onions and saute until slightly translucent. (A real chef would probably suggest you remove the meat for this, but I just kind of shove the meat over and go on with my life. Did I mention The Lazy?) Then, add carrots and saute along with the onions for just another minute or so.

Add broth/wine/water/whatever. How much? I was afraid you'd ask. I haven't a clue. I add enough so that the liquid climbs to about halfway to two-thirds up the side of the piece of meat I'm cooking. I don't know if that's the official amount of liquid for braising, but it's what I do.

Cover the pot and let cook for a while. A pretty long while. This little brisket cooked for close to two hours; a four-pounder should probably be left to braise for three or more.

BUT. About halfway through the cooking, I will start tasting and then adding stuff to the liquid if it doesn't quite excite me. Tonight, I added a little bit of powdered ginger, just to give it a little zing. When I make brisket for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I always add a few tablespoons of honey because honey is pretty ubiquitous on Rosh Hashanah. (It's the whole "have a sweet new year" thing.) And I sometimes add it on Passover as well, even if "have a sweet escape from slavery" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Once the braising liquid tastes 'right' to me, I generally turn the meat over, put the cover back on the pot, and leave it alone for the rest of the time it's cooking. Of course, if you're doing as I did and totally ruining the whole traditional-Jewish-dish thing by adding peas (not that Jews have anything against peas, mind you, just that I've never really seen them added to brisket before), you'll want to do that just five or so minutes before you serve the dish, so that they don't get mushy. Nothing worse than mushy peas, if you ask me. Not that you did.

There you have it. (And by you, I mean Kristen, who specifically requested this recipe.) When I make brisket just for the sake of brisket, I always make rice to serve it over, because that sauce? Is to die for. But mashed potatoes would work well, too. Or egg noodles. Or biscuits. Or whatever your little heart desires. Brisket is easy that way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Best GFCF chocolate chip cookies

Last fall I went on a bit of a GFCF cookie exploratory. We don't eat a ton of cookies in the house, but they are nice to have on hand for when a cookie just feels right. Store-bought GF cookies are expensive ($4.99 for a dozen) and kinda blech.

My all-time favorite cookie, hands-down, is a chocolate chip cookie. In fact, I have a little bit of a problem with them. I'm addicted. Homemade chocolate chip cookies are something I just. can't. stop. eating.

Last fall I began scouring the internet for GF chocolate chip cookie recipes. The first 3 recipes I tried were so-so. Edible, but nothing to make me stop looking.

Then I decided to check out what my favorite GF blogger, Erin at M.A.G. - Adventures in ASD and GFCF living, had to offer.

I found the winner. My search stopped.

These cookies are soft and moist and taste every bit as delicious as the chocolate chip cookies that I've been making for years.

In addition to being free of gluten and casein, they are soy-free as well!

Because four different flours are used to make these cookies, mixing up the dry ingredients seems to take the longest. So what I do now is mix up the dry ingredients for 4 or 5 batches rather than just one.

This is easily accomplished by using quart-sized ziploc bags in an assembly-line fashion. I just dump the ingredients in each bag (I don't bother sifting, I can do that when I'm ready to make the actual cookies) and toss them in the freezer. When I'm ready to make cookies, all I have to do is mix my "butter" and sugars, the egg and vanilla, and then add the dry ingredients from my ziploc bag.

Without further ado, the recipe.

GFCFSF Chocolate Chip Cookies
(courtesy of M.A.G. - Adventures in ASD and GFCF Living)

1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup potato starch flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

scant 1 cup (8 oz) dairy free, soy free margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
10 ounces dairy free, soy free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together the sorghum flour through the salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and the sugars until light and fluffy.
Add the egg, beat well.
Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides as necessary. This will take a bit of work if you do it by hand - don't worry if it looks dry at first, it will come together and look perfect in a minute.

You don't want the mixture to be too wet, or the cookies will flatten out and get crisp in the oven. (If you like flat, crispy cookies, then increase the margarine to a generous 1 cup.)

Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by generous teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake about 12 minutes, or until the bottoms and edges of the cookies are very lightly browned.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 30 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Tips: I find these cookies bake better on parchment paper. I make smaller cookies, and get about 3 1/2 dozen out of the recipe.

Note: If you don't need to be soy-free, you can use your regular dairy-free butter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Apple/pear galette

There are all sorts of reasons to love a galette. Not the least of which is that it is super easy to make and exceptionally delicious. It must have been about four years ago when I first saw a recipe in a magazine for this free-form pie/tart, and I've been making it ever since. In the summer, I use blueberries; during colder months, apples or pears.

Though the recipe works well with any of the same fruits you would use to make a pie, I will offer a word or two of caution. Because the galette is really just a rustic pie without the pan to hold it's shape or catch any of that yummy syrup that comes from mixing fruit and sugar and high temperatures, don't be surprised to find that some fruits (like really ripe pears or blueberries, for example) will cause the whole thing to ooze and bubble and spill over its edges. It's no less delicious, just not as pretty as say, an apple galette, that tends to hold its juices better.

Okay. One last thing. I use store bought pie crust. I know. I don't make my own pie crusts. Pie crusts are finicky and dependent on air temperature and all sorts of other things, and I don't have the patience for that. Besides, the Pillsbury crust is good. And I'm okay with that.

Place the crust on a sheet of parchment paper and give it a couple of hits with the rolling pin to even it out. Then slide the parchment onto a cookie sheet and set aside.

Next, peel and slice the fruit into a large bowl. I used a mix of one very ripe pear and three apples. I also tossed in a handful of raisins.

Squeeze about two tablespoons of lemon over the fruit. If you don't have one of these handy tool things, you should get one. I love it. It gets every ounce of juice out of a lemon or lime and considering I now pay $1.00 each for lemons in the grocery store, that's a very good thing.

Add about 1/2 cup of sugar. I went easy on the sugar this time. The pear was VERY ripe. Add about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, plus 2 tablespoons of flour. I'll be honest, I don't measure the spices. (If you use the red box of ready-made Pillsbury pie crust, there's a good recipe for an apple filling on the side.)

Mix well, making sure the flour and the sugar and spices are evenly distributed.

Then spoon the filling into the center of the pie crust. Make sure you have enough crust around the edge to fold up and over.

You can fold the edges neatly, or just sort of scrunch the whole thing together. I tried to be neat this time.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it toward the end of baking time, you don't want the crust to brown too much. And, again, don't worry if the juices ooze and spread, the parchment paper should protect your pan and trust me, it's going to taste yummy no matter how it looks.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, or whip cream, or both, and if you want to get all fancy, you could drizzle a little caramel sauce over the top.