Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopee Pies

Here is the much requested recipe for Pumpkin Whoopee Pies. These were amazing! Cook's Illustrated has the best recipes ever!

Pumpkin Whoopee Pies

Makes 18 (This made more like 30 for me)


* 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
* 2 large eggs
* 3/4cup vegetable oil
* 2cups granulated sugar
* 2teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1/2teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
* 4cups all-purpose flour
* 4teaspoons baking powder
* 2teaspoons baking soda
* 1teaspoon table salt


* 8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened but still cool
* 4ounces cream cheese (1/2 package), at room temperature
* 3/4cup Marshmallow Fluff (3 1/2 ounces)
* 1/4teaspoon table salt
* 1teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 1/4cups confectioners' sugar , sifted


1. For the cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in large bowl until blended. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until well incorporated.

3. Using small ice cream scoop (#30 is the perfect size) or tablespoon measure, drop 2 tablespoons of dough on prepared baking sheet. Spread the dough into 2-inch rounds about 1/2 inch thick and spaced 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 14 minutes until lightly browned, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. Cool on cooling racks, still on parchment. Cool baking sheets (I run cold water over them until they are cool), line with fresh parchment paper, and repeat with remaining dough.

4. For the filling: Beat all ingredients except the confectioners' sugar together on medium/high speed with your mixer. Scrape down bowl. Reduce speed to low and gradually add confectioners’ sugar. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

5. Spread 2 tablespoons filling on center of flat side of one cookie. Place flat side of second cookie on filling and press cookies together to bring filling to edges. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. (Cookies can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 4 days).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of 9-Apr-2011

Here is my meal plan for the week!

Sunday: Pad Thai
Monday: Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce
Tuesday: New Potatoes and Spinach in a Garlic-Red Chile Sauce
Wednesday: Broccoli Cashew Teriyaki Seitan Stir Fry
Thursday: Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: burgers and fries

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Bean and Bell Pepper Chili with Cornbread

Tonight, we had a classic meal: chili with cornbread. This recipe is actually my favorite vegetarian chili recipe that I've tried. The chipotle powder adds a really smoky flavor. The cornbread was amazing too.
Yummy cornbread!

Black Bean and Bell Pepper Chili

1 1/2 cups dried black beans sorted and rinsed (or 2 cans black beans, do not drain!)
3 cups water (if using dried black beans) or 1 cup water (if using canned black beans)
1-4 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced (it is ok to use any combination of 3 bell peppers)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 tsp chipotle powder
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
Kernels from 2 ears of corn (or frozen corn to taste)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 1/2 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp pure maple syrup
coarse sea salt

  1. If using dried beans, combine the beans with the water and 1 tbsp olive oil in a pressure cooker and cook at full pressure for 30 minutes.
  2. If using chicken, cut up and saute the chicken until thoroughly cooked, but not dry.
  3. In a heavy pot, over medium heat add 1-3 tbsp of olive oil.
  4. When the oil is warm, add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.
  5. Add the bell peppers, garlic, cumin, bay leaves, chipotle powder, and cinnamon sticks. Saute for 10 more minutes. Reduce the heat and stir occasionally to prevent sticking until the vegetables soften.
  6. Add the beans to the pan with their cooking liquid (or 1 cup of water, if using canned beans).
  7. Process the diced tomatoes in a food processor or pass them through the medium holes of a food mill and add to the pan.
  8. Raise the heat and bring to a boil.
  9. Lower the heat and stir in the corn kernels, oregano, vinegar, and maple syrup.
  10. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  11. Add salt to taste (usually 1-2 tsp) and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks before eating.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
3/4 cup frozen corn (3 1/2 ounces), thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled slightly


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Spray a 9 x 5 inch baking dish with cooking spray (or an 8 x 8 square pan).
  4. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Set aside.
  5. In a food processor or blender, mix the brown sugar, thawed corn kernels, buttermilk, and eggs for about 5 seconds.
  6. Add the wet ingredients (including the butter) to the dry and gently fold the mixture until barely combined.
  7. Pour the batter into a prepared baking dish.
  8. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes.
  9. Cut and serve.

Thai Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Tofu

This recipe was incredible. Really really incredible. Especially considering how easy it was and how few ingredients it took. For curries, I'm used to a giant list of spices, but in this case, it just called for some red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand). I wasn't sure how I'd like sweet potatoes in a curry, but it was absolutely divine. So much so that I'm going to try a different stir fry with sweet potatoes again this week.

Thai Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Tofu
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated


14 oz extra-firm tofu, pressed, drained, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 tsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 medium red bell pepper and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 lb snow peas, strings removed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp fresh lime juice


Prepare tofu:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  2. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes.
  3. Gently flip the tofu and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.
Prepare the curry

  1. Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in the coconut milk, fish sauce, light brown sugar, and water.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes and tofu.
  5. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Turn heat to low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Add the red bell pepper and snow peas, increase the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the peas are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
  8. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the basil and lime juice.
  9. Season with salt to taste.
  10. Serve immediately.

Crepes with Ricotta and Spinach Filling

I am a creature of habit. This means that my weekly menus usually consist of a couple of stir fries, some pastas, and some Indian food. I don't tend to vary much outside of this pattern. So this week, I deliberately tried at least one thing that was not my usual fare.

The answer: savory crepes! I had tried these in Paris, but wasn't terribly thrilled. But these were delicious. It really was a lot like making spinach lasagna but stuffing it all in a crepe instead of layering it between noodles.

Crepes with Ricotta and Spinach Filling
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated


2 large eggs
1 cup milk
6 tbsp water
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp table salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter melted

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic pressed through a garlic press
1 package frozen chopped spinach (10 ounces), thawed and pressed dry (I use paper towels to press out the liquid)
10 oz whole-milk ricotta (1 1/4 cups)
4 oz Gruyère cheese, grated (2 cups)
Pinch ground nutmeg
If desired, several slices baked ham (preferably in 6- to 7-inch rounds) (I actually used Canadian bacon, which I had sitting in my freezer)


  1. Adjust oven rack to the top middle position.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Grease a 13 by 9 inch pan.

  1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
  4. Add spinach, ricotta, 1.5 cups Gruyère, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Set aside.

  1. Mix all ingredients (except extra melted butter) in food processor or blender, 3 to 4 seconds.
  2. Cover and chill for at least an hour.
  3. Remove from refrigerator and stir gently.
  4. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the pan with butter.
  5. Pour 1/8 cup (or larger, if desired) onto the skillet. Gently rotate the pan to form the crepe. If you have trouble with this, there are many videos on YouTube to illustrate the technique.
  6. Cook until the batter looks pretty dry.
  7. Gently lift the crepe with your fingers or a spatula. Cook about 30 seconds longer.


  1. One at a time, lay out one crepe.
  2. If using ham, place one ham slice on the crepe.
  3. Spoon 3 tbsp filling into the crepe.
  4. Gentle roll the crepe over the filling.
  5. Place the assembled crepe into the baking pan.
  6. Top with remaining Gruyère cheese.
  7. Cover the pan with foil.
  8. Bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

Meal Plan for the Week of 23-Jan-2011

Sunday: Chili with Cornbread
Monday: Chicken Stir-fry with Yams, Red Cabbage, and Hoisin
Tuesday: Tortilla Casserole
Wednesday: Spicy Potatoes and Spinach with Blackened Chiles and Coconut Milk (Ulli Ishto)
Thursday: Pad Thai
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Lazy day: leftovers/spaghetti with sauce/burgers with fries

Monday, January 17, 2011

French Macarons!

Here are the results of my first try making French Macarons!

The recipe is found here. It took me a few tries to get the macaron shells to pipe out in the right shape/size, but even the funny-looking ones taste delicious.

Sunday Night Feast: Stir-Fried Seitan (or Chicken) with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake/Spring Rolls

I wanted to have kind of a special dinner that would be similar to going out to a Chinese restaurant complete with one of my favorite foods in the world: fresh spring rolls.

Spring rolls are really a pretty straight forward food to make, if you can find spring roll wrappers. I also found a recipe for peanut dipping sauce. The sauce was...ok. Not my favorite. It is going to take some experimentation to find the right sauce.

To make spring rolls, you first have to decide what you want in the spring rolls. We made pretty straightforward spring rolls.

Spring Rolls

spring roll wrappers (we were able to find these at Cub and at Whole Foods)
1/2 cucumber, peeled with seeds removed and cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
rice vermicelli/rice sticks, prepared
unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped
mint leaves
cilantro leaves

You may also want to add meat, tofu, or mock duck. I've had spring rolls with pork and shrimp, the options are pretty limitless.

  1. Soften the spring roll wrapper in lukewarm water, this takes very little time, maybe 10 seconds.
  2. Spread the spring roll wrapper on a plate. If you have problems with the spring roll wrapper sticking, you may want to use a lettuce leaf to cushion the spring roll wrapper.
  3. Spread about 5-6 mint leaves on the spring roll wrapper.
  4. Spread about 5-6 cilantro leaves.
  5. About 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the spring roll wrapper, lay down the carrot matchsticks, cucumber matchsticks and a small handful of the rice vermicelli.
  6. Sprinkle peanuts on top of the filling.
  7. Wrap spring rolls. Fold over the sides first, then wrap the bottom of the spring roll wrapper over the filling and the folded over sides and roll the spring roll up.
To add more flavor, you may want to consider tossing the ingredients with a tbsp or so of fish sauce and lime juice with about 1/2 tsp sugar. Serve with a peanut-based dipping sauce. I'm not posting my recipe because I didn't like it that much. If you find any other recipes you like, please share!

For the main course, I found a recipe on Cook's Illustrated for Stir-Fried Chicken with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake. I had to vegetarian-ify it for Garison's sake. Fortunately, the substitutions were pretty simple. I used seitan cut into strips to replace the chicken and vegetarian oyster sauce (based on mushrooms). Another substitution I had to make was to replace Chinese egg noodles with standard vermicelli. I would not make this substitution if not absolutely necessary. If you must, cook the noodles past al dente, so they are nice and soft.

The recipe turned out exactly like the kind of food you'd find in a Chinese restaurant. The consensus was we don't really need to go out for Chinese food anymore.

Stir-Fried Seitan with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake


Noodle Cake
9 ounces Chinese egg noodles (fresh) or vermicelli
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Stir-Fry Sauce
1/4 cup broth (I used vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon oyster sauce or vegetarian substitute
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 package seitan (regular or chicken-style) cut into small pieces or strips (if not a vegetarian, go ahead and use about 1 lb of chicken, cut into small strips)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 medium clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
8 teaspoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 head bok choy, stalks sliced into 1/2-inch slices, and greens cut into small pieces
1 small red bell pepper , cut into 1/4-inch strips


Prepare ingredients:
  1. Prepare the noodles according to the package directions. When done, drain thoroughly.
While the noodles cook:
  1. Whisk together the sauce ingredients; set aside.
  2. Toss the seitan with the soy sauce and sherry; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, cornstarch, and flour; set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the ginger, garlic, and 1 teaspoon peanut oil.
  5. Chop the vegetables if you have not done so already.
Once the ingredients have been prepared, make the noodle cake:
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Spread the noodles evenly across the bottom of the skillet and press with a spatula to flatten into a cake. Cook until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Flip the noodle cake over carefully.
  4. Cook until golden brown on the second side, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Move the noodle cake onto a plate or cutting board and let sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing into wedges and serving.
Prepare the seitan:
  1. Stir the marinated seitan into the sesame oil-cornstarch mixture until coated.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons peanut oil in the skillet over high heat until smoking.
  3. Add the seitan to the skillet in a flat, even layer. Cook, without stirring, until golden brown on the first side, about 1 minute.
  4. Turn the seitan and cook until lightly browned on the second side; about 30 seconds.
  5. Transfer the seitan to a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
Stir-fry the vegetables and assemble the stir fry:
  1. Add the remaining tablespoon peanut oil to the skillet and return to high heat until just smoking.
  2. Add the bok choy stalks and red bell pepper and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Push the vegetables to the sides of the skillet to clear the center.
  4. Add the garlic-ginger mixture to the clearing and cook, mashing the mixture with a spoon, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds.
  5. Stir the garlic and ginger into the vegetables and continue to cook about 30 seconds longer.
  6. Stir in the bok choy greens and cook until beginning to wilt, about 30 seconds.
  7. Add the cooked seitan.
  8. Whisk the sauce to recombine, then add to the skillet and cook, tossing constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 30 seconds.
  1. Cut the noodle cake into wedges.
  2. Spoon the stir fry on top of the noodle cake and serve.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bounty!

Today, I am baking for a teambuilding party at work. I thought, why not chocolate chip cookies. They smell/taste so good, not sure how they'll make it to work, though.

I use the standard Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie recipe found here. I did some reading on chocolate chip cookies and one article said to leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight for a richer flavor. I have to say, the flavor definitely was more rich than usual. More toffee flavored.

Also, always use real butter!

Sweet Corn Pancakes

This is week 2 of corn pancakes! This week's recipe comes from the Smitten Kitchen. You can find the recipe here.

These pancakes were light and fluffy. Much less cornmeal-focused than the Lemon-Cornmeal Pancakes. Cooking the corn until browned also gave it a very strong corn flavor. I highly recommend them!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lemon-Cornmeal Pancakes

One of my favorite weekend routines is making a nice breakfast on Sunday mornings. I wonder where I got that, dad. :) I like experimenting with different breakfast foods. Corn pancakes are a little grittier than regular pancakes, but the result is delicious. It's sort of like eating spongier cornbread.

Lemon-Cornmeal Pancakes
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Makes about sixteen 4-inch pancakes

1 tbsp lemon juice from 1 lemon
2 cups milk (any type)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (preferably stoneground)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn, or berries, rinsed and dried

  1. Whisk lemon juice, milk, and zest in a medium bowl or large measuring cup. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
  3. Whisk the egg and melted butter into the milk mixture.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, whisking gently until just combined (a few lumps should remain). Do not over mix.
  5. Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lightly grease the skillet or griddle with oil.
  6. Form pancakes on the skillet or griddle using 1/4 cup batter. Sprinkle corn or berries over each pancake.
  7. Cook pancakes until bubbles begin to appear. Flip pancakes and cook until golden brown on second side, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Meal Plan for the Week of 16-Jan-2011

Meal Plan:
Sunday: Breakfast: Sweet Corn Pancakes, Dinner: Stir-Fried Mock Duck (or Chicken) with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake/Spring Rolls
Monday: Savory crepes with cheese/spinach filling
Tuesday: Peanut sauce with noodles and green beans
Wednesday: Skillet Thai Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Tofu
Thursday: Work outing
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Pasta and Tomato Sauce with Vodka and Cream

Jenny's Weekly Pizza Routine (with recipe for Neo-Neopolitan Pizza Dough)

If you've been paying attention to my weekly menus, you'll notice that at least once a week, we make pizza. That's because pizza is the best food in the world! Today I thought I'd share my weekly pizza routine.

I posted my old pizza crust recipe once before here, but this new pizza crust is much more like a pizza crust you'll find at a fancy pizza restaurant (it reminds me of the pizza crust from Punch Pizza in Highland Park, St. Paul (best pizza place in the Twin Cities, in my opinion). This pizza crust comes from Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart. This is another cookbook I can't recommend enough. Go buy it people!

The main disadvantage to this crust is that it does require being refrigerated overnight. It is actually very easy to do, just takes some advance thought. Because of this, every other weekend, I make pizza crusts and freeze them. The night before I want to make pizza, I take out as many crusts as I want and throw them in the refrigerator to defrost.

Lately we have been preferring personal pizzas, so I divide this recipe into five individual servings. This way I can eat meat on my pizza if I want (mmm, Canadian bacon) and Maddie gets to top her own pizza (she loads it up with vegetables, making her mama proud). You can divide up the dough however you'd like. For a large pizzas, divide the dough in half.

I strongly recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh the flour and water. A precise flour/water ratio always results in excellent pizza.

Neo-Neopolitan Pizza Dough

5 1/3 cups (24 oz/680 grams) unbleached bread flour
2 tsp salt, or 1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 cups plus 2 tbsp (17 oz/482 grams) water, at room temperature
2 tbsp olive oil

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixer with a bread hook. Mix the dough at the lowest speed for one minute. You may also mix by hand using a large wooden spoon for one minute.
  2. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Mix the dough again for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Spread about 1 tsp of olive oil on a work surface and on your hands.
  5. Stretch and fold the dough once. (Click here for a video where Peter Reinhart demonstrates how to stretch and fold the dough.)
  6. Divide the dough and form it into a ball.
  7. If freezing, place each ball of dough into an oiled freezer bag. One day before using, take the dough out of the freezer and let it defrost in the refrigerator.
  8. If using the next day, place the dough into an oiled bowl and let rise in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or up to 4 days.
  9. On baking day, remove the dough about 90 minutes before you plan to bake it.
  10. On an oiled surface, with oiled hands, form the dough into tight balls. Set it on the counter covered loosely with plastic wrap.
  11. At least half an hour before baking, preheat the oven with a baking stone at the highest temperature allowed by your oven.
  12. Prepare your toppings.
  13. After at least 60 minutes, form the dough into a disk and stretch the dough gently with your hands. This takes a little bit of practice. Slide the dough onto the backs of your hands, lift it, and rotate it, using your thumbs to stretch it. If you mess up, no big deal, just form it into a ball again, let it rest for a few minutes, and try again.
  14. Place the dough on a floured pizza peel, top it, and slide it onto your pizza stone.
  15. Bake for 6-8 minutes, scoop it out with your peel, and enjoy!
If you don't have a pizza stone/peel, get one if you'll be doing this regularly. We also found that putting the pizza on a pan works ok, though it will take longer to cook. Just cook until the crust looks golden brown.

Spicy Potatoes and Spinach with Blackened Chiles and Coconut Milk (Ulli Ishto)

It is amazing to me how delicious vegetables are if you prepare them well. I remember the first Indian restaurant I ever went to. I was a vegetarian at the time and the only thing on the menu that sounded relatively inoffensive was a dish called channa saag. The menu said it was made of spinach and chickpeas. I thought, well, I'll choke it down and at least get some greens out of it. I couldn't believe it when I took the first bite. Spicy, creamy, and delicious. To this day, the various spinach dishes at every Indian restaurant are my first choice and among my favorite foods.

Of course, this means when I get cookbooks full of Indian recipes (such as my favorite, 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, which is the source of this recipe), I make an effort to cook every spinach-based dish I can find. This recipe is an excellent addition to my list of delicious spinach dishes. Some of the spices were a little hard to find, but I was finally able to find Nigella (also known as Charnushka or black caraway) at Penzey's in St. Paul.

First, mix the the panch phoron:

Panch Phoron (Indian Five-Spice Blend)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp nigella
1/2 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds

Combine in a small bowl and mix 'em up. I usually put them in a covered bowl and shake it to mix. Makes 1 tbsp.

Spicy Potatoes and Spinach with Blackened Chiles and Coconut Milk (Ulli Ishto)


2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp Panch Phoron
3 dried red chiles (Thai or cayenne), stems removed
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-1 inch cubes
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup unsweetenened coconut milk
8-10 oz fresh spinach leaves, chopped coarsely in a food processor

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering slightly.
  2. Sprinkle in the panch phoron and let sizzle 10-15 seconds.
  3. Add the chiles and stir fry until the chiles darken, about 10-15 seconds.
  4. Add the potatoes. Stir to coat the potatoes in spice, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.
  5. Stir in the salt and turmeric.
  6. Stir in the coconut milk. Heat to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes are tender (12-15 minutes).
  8. Stir in the spinach. Cover the skillet and simmer until the spinach has wilted and the flavors have melded, about 2 minutes.
  9. Serve with naan or rice!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pad Thai

This recipe is adapted from a recipe from Cook's Illustrated. (I am feeling kind of predictable with my recipe sources.) I substituted tofu for shrimp, though you could probably substitute any protein. The first time I made this, I used too much tamarind. The paste I used had no seeds or pulp in it, so it was too strong. I weakened it this time with better results.

Pad Thai

2 tbsp tamarind paste
3/4 cup hot water (boiling)
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
4 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
8 oz dried rice stick noodles, about 1/8 inch wide (the width of linguine) (I used pad thai noodles)
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp table salt
1 package firm or extra firm tofu, drained, pressed to release extra liquid, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 medium shallot, minced
6 tbsp chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
3 cups bean sprouts (6 ounces)
5 medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves chopped (optional)

  1. Soak tamarind paste in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes, then push it through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds and fibers and extract as much pulp as possible.
  2. Stir fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil into tamarind liquid and set aside.
  3. Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in large bowl. Soak until softened, pliable, and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside.
  4. Beat eggs and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small bowl; set aside.
  5. Put tofu in a bowl and add 2 tbsp of the fish sauce mixture to the tofu. Toss gently until the tofu has absorbed the liquid. (I put it in a covered bowl and turned it over a few times.)
  6. Heat 1 tbsp oil in 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke.
  7. Add tofu sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook for 2 minutes on one side and flip over to cook on the other side. Place tofu on a plate with a paper towel to drain and set aside.
  8. Off heat, add remaining tbsp oil to skillet. Add garlic and shallot, set skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes
  9. Add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds.
  10. Add noodles to the eggs; toss to combine.
  11. Pour the fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated.
  12. Add 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions, and tofu to the noodles.
  13. Continue to cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are tender, about 2 1/2 minutes.
  14. Serve sprinkled with remaining scallions, 2 tbsp peanuts, and cilantro.

Meal Plan for the Week of 9-Jan-2011

Only one new recipe this week with some repeats already from last week. I have a new recipe for pizza dough that I will post. I also made some homemade burger buns for dinner on Saturday that turned out beautifully and are now in the freezer waiting.

I love homemade bread!

Pad Thai
Monday: Spicy Potatoes and Spinach with Blackened Chiles and Coconut Milk (660 Curries)
Tuesday: tomato soup with grilled cheese
Wednesday: Green Beans with Tomato
Thursday: Stir-Fried Broccoli and Red Peppers with Peanut Sauce
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Burgers/Fries

Stir-Fried Broccoli and Red Peppers with Peanut Sauce

I have mixed feelings about this recipe. It was nice. Had kind of a mellow flavor that grows on you. With peanut sauce, I usually expect something thicker and more peanut-y, but with this, the focus is on the coconut milk. The peanut flavor is very subtle. The flavor in general is pretty subtle. G loved it. In fact, he requested I make it again this week. Very easy too. Easy enough to be labeled as a weeknight mainstay. This recipe probably won't blow you away, but it is satisfying. I recommend serving it in a bowl with rice to soak up the sauce. If you want to make it more substantial add a protein like chicken or tofu.

Stir-Fried Broccoli and Red Peppers with Peanut Sauce


3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 teaspoon grated zest
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter

Stir Fry:
1 tbsp peanut oil plus 1 more teaspoon
1 large red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
9 oz broccoli , cut into even 1-inch florets (about 4 cups) (I used a package of frozen broccoli)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
1/4 inch piece fresh ginger , peeled and minced (about 1 teaspoon)

  1. Mix fish sauce, lime juice and zest, sugar, and red pepper in small bowl until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add coconut milk, water, and peanut butter, whisk until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until shimmering, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. If using fresh broccoli, add red pepper and broccoli. Stir fry until just tender, about 2 minutes.
  5. If using frozen broccoli, add the broccoli to the skillet, cover, and heat until most, but not all, of the ice is gone (about two-three minutes). Remove cover, add red pepper, stir fry two minutes.
  6. Clear the center of pan. Add remaining teaspoon oil, garlic, and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  7. Stir the garlic and ginger into vegetables.
  8. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in sauce. Simmer to heat through and blend flavors, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

I love this recipe. Love it. Adore it. Would make it every day if I could. Tonight, I made it with grilled cheese sandwiches made with fresh, homemade sandwich bread. Life is good. Best of all, it even results in happy kiddo.

Yay! Happy kiddo!

It's even fast enough to be a weeknight mainstay (about half an hour of prep and cooking total).

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup


4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil , plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
Pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice or diced tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 large slices sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp brandy (optional)


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. If using whole tomatoes, mash with a potato masher until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain.
  3. Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread starts to break down, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove and discard bay leaf.
  5. If using a blender, transfer half of soup to blender. Add 1 tbsp oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Repeat with the other half of the soup and 1 tbsp oil.
  6. Rinse out Dutch oven and return soup to pot. Stir in broth and brandy (if using). Return soup to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve soup in individual bowls. Sprinkle each portion with pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Monday, January 3, 2011

One-Pot Potatoes

This is yet another very tasty recipe from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries. I don't think we have disliked any of the recipes we've used from that cookbook. It is one of the best cookbook investments I've ever made. My only issue with this recipe is that it isn't really a one pot recipe.

One-Pot? Really?

OK, to be fair, one of the pots is for the rice...

It's not an ideal weeknight recipe. Altogether it took me almost an hour to get everything chopped and cooked. Still, a hearty, satisfying meal on the table in an hour isn't so bad.

One-Pot Potatoes

(in a Red Lentil Sauce with Lime Juice)


1 cup red lentils (masoor dal)
1-2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small red onion, diced
1 tbsp chopped ginger or ginger paste
2-3 green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed, chopped finely with seeds
1 lb potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 in cubes (I used red bliss potatoes, but yukon gold or russet would work well)
2 tsp coarse kosher salt or sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
Juice of 1 medium lime

If serving with rice, start cooking the rice just after you've started simmering the lentils.

1. Rinse the lentils until the water used to rinse the lentils is clear.
2. In a medium sized sauce pan, bring the lentils and 2 cups water to a boil. Simmer the lentils for 10-12 minutes and remove from heat.
3. While the lentils are simmering, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
4. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle and turn reddish brown (10-15 seconds).
5. Add the onion, ginger, and chiles. Stir-fry until the onion is caramel-brown (8-10 minutes).
6. Add the potatoes, salt, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cilantro to the onion mixture. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes.
7. Add 1/2 cup water, stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender (8-10 minutes).
8. If you have an immersion blender, blend the cooked lentils in the sauce pan. If not, blend the lentils in a blender or food processor until creamy (this may require more than one batch).
9. Stir the lentils into the potato mixture.
10. Add the lime juice and serve.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce

This recipe was adapted from Cook's Illustrated. I was unable to use a couple of the ingredients this recipe called for. G was against adding prosciutto to start, but I thought that it wouldn't be a major loss to the recipe so I went ahead. But then the fresh basil I bought only two days ago was already starting to mold! I went ahead anyway and the resulting dish was actually quite good regardless. If you make it with prosciutto and fresh basil, let me know how it turned out.

3 tbsp unsalted butter (I only used 1.5 tbsp)
1 oz prosciutto, minced (about 2 tablespoons) (I omitted this)
1 small onion , diced fine (about 3/4 cup) (I used one medium onion which resulted in a little more than a cup, this was fine)
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Table salt
3 medium/large garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 oz oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped coarse (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp dry white wine
2 cups plus 2 tbsp crushed tomatoes or crushed tomatoes with basil (from one 28-ounce can)
1 pound penne or other shaped pasta
1/2 cup heavy cream
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (substituted about a tsp of dried basil)
Parmesan cheese, for serving

  1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add prosciutto (if using), onion, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally 8-12 minutes, until onion is soft and beginning to turn light brown.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add 1/4 cup wine and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Add 2 cups crushed tomatoes and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened (spoon should leave trail when dragged through sauce), 25 to 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until al dente.
  8. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, drain pasta, and transfer back to cooking pot.
  9. Remove bay leaf from sauce and discard.
  10. Stir cream, remaining 2 tablespoons crushed tomatoes, and remaining 2 tablespoons wine into sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Add sauce to cooked pasta, adjust consistency with reserved pasta cooking water, if necessary.
  12. Stir in basil (if using) and serve immediately.
  13. Sprinkle Parmesan on top of pasta.

Meal Plan for the Week of 2-Jan-2011

Sunday: Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce (Cook's Illustrated)
Monday: One-Pot Potatoes (660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer)
Tuesday: Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese (Cook's Illustrated)
Wednesday: Stir-Fried Broccoli and Red Peppers with Peanut Sauce (Cook's Illustrated)
Thursday: Burgers and Fries (Veggie Burgers and Alexia Fries)
Friday: Pizza (Pizza Crust from Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart)
Saturday: Black Bean Burritoes with Poblano Chiles and Corn (Adapted from Chicken Burritoes with Poblano Chiles and Corn from Bon Appetit)