Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crawl on in

I love those food moments where you order something new and usual (to you) at a restaurant, and the first bite is (unexpected) magic in your mouth.

On a trip through the Olympic Peninsula, last year, we at a meal at a small and unassuming Thai restaurant. For reasons still unknown to me, I ordered Tom Kha Gai soup. I'm not sure if it was the location, how hungry we were or the fact that it came in such a fancy pot, but that soup was AMAZING. This soup was so good, it made you just want to crawl into the bowl and roll around soaking up those delicious silky flavors. We have since attempted to order it at almost every Thai place we go to, and although some have come close, we have not been able to recreate the fabulousness that was THAT soup.

What's a girl to do, but roll up her sleeves and try it herself! I found an easy to follow recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Tigers & Strawberries. The recipe below is a variation of her recipe, suited to fit what was in the fridge.

Being in the midwest, galangal and keffir lime leaves aren't to be found in abundance (although, oddly enough, my local grocery store sells lemon grass 5 shoots for $2!). So this (obviously) isn't going to be authentic, but it was still delicious.

Tom Kha Gai

1 quart beef stock (this is what I had, chicken would probably be better)
2 cans coconut milk
5 slices dried galangal root**
4 lemon grass stalks trimmed with the outer layers removed
The peels of 2 limes
2 TBS red curry paste
4 TBS fish sauce
8 fresh mushrooms thinly sliced
1 chicken breast cut into small pieces
Juice from 2 limes
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cillantro leaves

I've tried this before with ginger, not the same, but better then no soup

Combine broth, galangal, lemon grass, lime, and curry paste and bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk and fish sauce. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add mushrooms, chicken, and peppers and simmer until chicken is done. Add lime juice, and cilantro leaves, and enjoy. And see if the urge to climb into that bowl and swim around doesn't hit you too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

BBB: Croissants

I've scaled my mount Everest of baking, now what?

I've always wanted to make croissants, it's one of those impossible things you think is way too hard to even attempt, so you give up before you even get started. Having a bit of extra time on my hands, and a bit of leftover holiday baking butter, I decided, why not try?!

My tummy is so glad I did (my thighs are not).

After an initial failed attempt (see picture below) using the recipe from Thyme for cooking (never trust anyone without a working oven), I tried the breadchick version with much success!

I ran into some trouble with my weakling arms and attempting to roll the dough
thin enough. Luckily the husbots ripped arms came to the plate and took over until
I deemed the dough was just right.

(artistic rendering of the husbot)

Actually, after my initial failed attempt at rolling the second-attempt recipe, I wadded up the half-rolled dough in frustration (headed to the trash) and the husbot convinced me to try again. So, I let it rise again again for an hour, hoping my mistakes would work themselves out. And they did! After an hour of sitting in the sun, we rolled the (warm) dough large enough to fit the butter square. And the rest is history.

I made: plain, chocolate, and parmesean cheese+rosemary+garlic verions of these croissants, and they were subsequently gobbled up by our friends during movie night.

Thanks bread babes for the opportunity! I've been a bread follower for awhile, but
I'm usually too intimidated to hop on board. I'm so glad I did this time
(well, my tummy is, the thighs might need some persuasion).

If you want to take the trek up mount croissant, check out the links and
recipes on the Thyme For Cooking blog.

While I might not make these regularly, it gave me a much greater appreciation
for the fine folks are my local bakery who do!

(first attempt, underneath coffee and tea grinds - much caffeiene went into
the making of these delicacies)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Real Crepes

After a fabulous sushi feast, what better dessert to gorge yourself on then a variety of delicious crepes?

For last night's crepestravaganza we had:
S'mores (pictured) - bittersweet ganache and torched marshmallow fluff (courtesy of my new creme brulee torch!)
Carmel apple - apple-dipping carmel, and apple butter
lemon - lemon zest and powdered sugar
Blackberry+apricot - with their respective homemade jams
Lingonberry + lemon - IKEA jam and lemon zest

(derived from the Joy of cooking cookbook)

1 cup white bread flour (this is all I had)
1/2 cup yogurt (the recipe called for milk, but...see ingredient 1)
1 cup water
4 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/8 tsp salt
3 tablespoons sugar
fillings of choice

Blend everything well, and sit covered for 30 minutes (this is a good chance to prepare all the tasty fillings since the crepes only take a minute to cook)

Heat pan to medium heat. When hot, add a little butter, then add about 1/8-1/4 cup batter (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Lift the pan and rotate to coat evenly. Allow it to cook undisturbed for about 1 minute, until the bottom is lightly browned. Flip crepe (I tried to flip it in the air, with limited success, thank goodness for silicone spatulas) and cook on second side for about 1 minute.

Remove from pan to serving plate and add fillings of choice.

Enjoy, then make another!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Camp Crepes (Crampes?)

I have the wonderful husbot to thank for this great idea! We've seen a lot of camp recipes for pancakes, but what about crepes? They're fast cooking, only require a few ingredients, and provide an easy vessel for your favorite filling!

I made cinnamon crepes from a scaled-down recipe to try out this idea on the stove top.

Camp Crepes

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1 egg
pinch salt

Heat skillet to medium-high heat. I used a $1 cast iron skillet I found at the thrift store yesterday, so I didn't need any grease. If using a regular pan, I would probably add a little butter to the pan before adding the batter.

Mix all the ingredients. When the skillet sizzles when droplets of water are flicked at it, add a few tablespoons of the batter. Pick up the pan and move it in such a way that gravity spreads the batter thinly for you.

Allow to cook for 20 seconds on side one, then loosen the edges with a spatula and flip. Cook on side two for another 20 seconds during which you can sprinkle with your topping of choice (I chose cinnamon). Remove from pan and enjoy! The best time to eat these is piping hot directly from the pan.

These may not be the most nutritious, but the sure are delicious!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kale & Lentil Soup

One food I wish I had discovered earlier in my life is kale.

I love kale.

After a holiday season spend indulging, it's nice to start the new year with meals full of all those vitamins and healthy bits we've been avoiding.

Kale is high in vitamins A, C, and K, which affect (among other things) vision, the immune system, and blood coagulation respectively. Aside from it's healthy profile, kale has the benefit of being delicious as well! Bonus!!

This soup is healthy, fast, and leaves you with a few extra meals. Perfect for relaxing and enjoying the melting snow.

Kale & Lentil Soup

2 cups lentils
4 cups water or stock (+more as needed)
1 bunch kale, with stalks separated from leaves, and both chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 nub ginger, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine lentils, water, kale stalks, onion, garlic, and ginger in a large pot. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 30-45 minutes, until lentils are soft (add more water if needed).

Add in kale leaves, stir to combine and turn off heat. (I also like to add more raw garlic at the point, but not everyone likes barely cooked garlic).

Let the kale leaves barely cook in the still-hot soup, and then serve. Yum!

This is also good with a bit of yogurt and curry powder stirred in to the bowl.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Indulging hobbies

Christmas was very good to me this year. I mentioned last time my new madeline pan. This week has lead to a few different madeline-experiements including: Macadamia nut-lemon...

and, cranberry-chocolate!

Both were delicious, but I think we agreed the ones plain were the best!

Also for Christmas the husbot and I both got sleeping bags, a much needed addition to our fledgling backpacking desires, and a fancy ultralite backpacking stove and cookware! So the past few weeks I've started experimenting with various backpacking recipes that are nutritious, easy, fast, and tasty. With the weather a little too nippy in the midwest for a full out camping expedition, we are settling for dreams and practice meals. Hopefully when we do get the opportunity to hit the trail we won't be confined to boil in the bag meals!

It's important to me to incorporate as much fresh and whole foods as possible, without compromising too much on weight. Since I don't have very much camping/backpacking experience a lot of these recipes may need extensive trial and error to see if they will even function as trail meals. But if possible, I would love to avoid as many hotdogs and freeze dried bagged meals as possible.

The first "meal" I have started toying with is a red lentil curry and bulgar salad. It's important to me to limit the active stove time needed for each dish, so I'll be trying out various grains and lentils to see how to cut down active cooking time. Bulgar is simple, just add hot water in a 2:1 ratio and let it sit for 15-20 minutes to soak up the water while wrapped in a pot coozy. Afterwards, various spices and flavors can be mixed in. For this salad I used crushed red pepper, mint, salt, and a bit of lime juice.

I was able to reduce the cooking time for the lentils to around 10 minutes by soaking them in water (3:1 ratio) before cooking, and then allowing them to sit for another 15 minutes after cooking. These recipes were tested on the electice stove top, so they will need to be tested on the MSR before finished to make sure the timing still works, but here's the first round recipe. I didn't try it this way, but I imagine you could mix all the dry ingredients and just add water on the trail.

Red Lentil Curry

1/2 cup red lentils
1 & 1/2 cup water
5 g curry powder
1 g salt
5 g unsweetened coconut shreds
15 g dried milk

Soak lentils in water for 30 minutes. Mix in other ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, wrap to retain warmth and rest for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A hearty meal for a cold day

One of my favorite presents from this holiday season is my new madeline pan. I've wanted one for nearly a year, but with all my excessive baking supplies I couldn't justify purchasing another single-purpose pan.

For this first trial run, I made a half pan of the standard recipe from the Joy of Cooking. They turned out amazing, and I saved the rest of the batter to play with and attempt other variations. Nothing beats a fresh madeline with tea!

Yesterday, in my attempt to put off hitting up the grocery store for one more day, I produced a rather delicious soup from refrigerator odds and ends. I think today I'll finally have to go to the store, we've been out of milk for a few days and all the holiday leftovers are gone. I served this soup with homeade garlic & rosemary wheat bread. It was a hearty meal for a cold day.

Vegetable Beef Soup

1 lb ground beef
5 carrots
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped, greens separated and chopped
5 mushrooms
5 cloves garlic
1 bottle V-8
1 quart chicken stock
Pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef in a large stock pot, when it's mostly cooked at the chopped carrots, and kale stems. Cook for 5 minutes to soften the vegetables, then add the V8 and chicken stock. Cover and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Add the kale greens, mushrooms, and garlic, and simmer 5-10 minutes more until soft.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Years!

This year Christmas was filled with family and love...and smoked meats! My wonderful in-laws left our fridge filled with tons of smoked meat-leftovers from our Christmas eve feast, including: smoked salmon, pork, and turkey. I used the remaining salmon in a cheesy-spinach-puff pastry new years eve party appetizer. But the leftover smoked pork I hid in the back of the fridge for the special new years day black-eyed peas. I've made black-eyed peas before (and not just on new years!) using ham cubes or ham bits, but this took it to a new level - fitting to start the year out right! Beans are a magic food/fruit, cheap and wholesome, and easy too prepare. Hopefully I'll find many new ways to incorporate them into our diet in the coming year.

Black-Eyed Peas
2 cups peas, picked over** and soaked overnight
1 cup smoked pork (or ham or skip this if you want no meat)
2 onions, barely chopped
5 cloves garlic, barely chopped or smashed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine and bring to simmer
Cover and cook 4 hours
Revel in how lucky you are to be eating delicious black-eyed peas

**Seriously: don't skip this step! The first time I tried to make beans in high school I did, and subsequently fed my poor pop a few pieces of bean-shapped gravel

I also made some Christmas biscotti this year. The recipe came from a Christmas cookie-baking class I attended at our local foods market. I made mine with cranberries and macadamia nuts. They kept us happy throughout the Christmas holiday week. I hope your Christmas was filled with tasty treats, and that the new year will bring you culinary excitement and joy!