Cardamom and Cocoa? Absolutely!

February 9, 2017

So, say you’ve just been outside shovelling after a snowstorm.  Amongst my friends, the proper reward for such toils is a nice hot mug of cocoa.  So when my roommates and I got back in from an epic shovelling attack tonight, I went straight for the cupboard.

Here’s the thing though – I’m pretty sure I am actually incapable of following the directions on those canisters of cocoa mix.  And I’m totally okay with that.

What I do is:

Heat up water or milk to a bare simmer.

Add about 2-3 times as much cocoa mix as the instructions call for. I like my cocoa super thick.

Add some amount (depending on how many people I’m making cocoa for) of semisweet chocolate chips. And sometimes butterscotch chips, if I’m feel extra feisty and have any on hand.

Whisk until everything is blended together (and the chocolate chips have melted, naturally)

Add a dash or two of cinnamon and a dash of ground cardamom.  Whisk to combine.

Dish it out!  Optional: top with homemade whipped cream, or big marshmallows.

(This is a very rich drink – none of my roommates can handle more than a mug of it. Just so you know. =) )

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My Standard Weekend Breakfast (Lately)

January 28, 2017

Hi, yes, I know, I’ve been in hiding for a bit.  Life, busy, etc etc.

Anyway.

So for the past – oh gosh, at least year or so, I’ve found that my weekend breakfast has remained pretty constant – and it’s a treat for me, both to make and consume.  So I figured I’d share.  But of course, since I’m generally puttering around making my breakfast before I’ve had coffee (and at this point it’s purely muscle memory) … I don’t measure anything.  …Oops.

But anyway, this is quick and easy, and I love it, so I’m going to share it.

The Goods:

2 eggs

cornmeal (look, you can buy the fancy stuff in the international aisle marked “polenta” but let’s be honest here – I’m impatient and hungry and the bog-standard cornmeal you can get in the baking aisle is way cheaper and cooks way faster)

water

chicken or vegetable bouillion, 1 cube or equivalent to make 1 cup stock (optional)

milk (optional but highly recommended)

salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot sauce, etc

fat of some kind – oil, butter, bacon fat, duck fat, whatever.

The method:

Whack a pan (any pan – lately I’ve been favoring a nonstick skillet) on the stovetop and start heating up about 1 cup or so of water. Er… on … medium-high heat, I suppose?

When the water gets to a bare simmer, add your bouillion, if using.

Once your liquid boils, add in about… I dunno, 1/4-ish cup of cornmeal, slowly, whisking as you pour it in. (**important note: if you are using a nonstick skillet, you’d BETTER be using a non-metal whisk. or a wooden spoon.)

Lower your heat to … uh, medium-ish and let your cornmeal come to a simmer, whisking occasionally.  (It will thicken so it won’t *simmer* so much as *form a few bubbles*)

(( If, after it simmers for a minute or two, it’s looking too thin, shake in some more cornmeal.  Too thick? Add more liquid.))

Now is a good time to add some seasonings: I like salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Sometimes I use a generic Italian blend.

Once it’s thickened to your liking, kill the heat and splash in some milk, if desired.  I find that it makes everything deliciously smooth and creamy.  And keeps the polenta from going completely solid as it cools.  Scrape this gooey mess into a bowl and wipe your skillet clean.

Put your skillet back on the heat (medium), and melt/heat a good tablespoon or two of fat.

Crack in your eggs and cook to your desired level. (Mine is ALWAYS over-easy.)

Place eggs on top of polenta, squiggle on some Sriracha (if you’re me) and dig in!

 

See? Easy.

 

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Slow Cooker “Tuscan Cream Soup” (ripped off from BIG CHAIN ITALIAN RESTAURANT)

November 28, 2015

This brings me back to shortly after college, when my best friend from high school and I were still living in our hometown, and we were rather at loose ends with ourselves (I eventually wised up and moved back East) – and we would often drown our sorrows at *Big Chain Restaurant* that always offered unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks at weekday lunch (yeah, you know who I’m talking about).

There’s actually tons of recipes for this soup – it is a DAMN good soup, and actually quite easy to make – but I didn’t want to actually babysit a pot of soup, so I had to figure out a slow cooker version.  Everything is approximate, since I actually left the house while the soup was cooking away – but this is a little bit of nostalgia in a bowl.  And also saving me tons of money and time, because there’s actually not one of those restaurants near me, and I’m not really willing to drive for like half an hour (with no traffic) just to get this soup.

The Goods:

1 lb hot italian sausage (or mild if you prefer, but Hi, have you MET me?)

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

good olive oil, a couple glugs

garlic. lots.  I’d say at least 4 Tablespoons minced, but I just glop it out of my big jar of pre-minced garlic.

2 quarts chicken broth/chicken stock

1 bag cut kale (you might want to actually cut it down further, the pieces are freakin’ huge which makes it a little hard to eat.  Also, this is likely WAY TO MUCH KALE for the normal person, but I happen to really love kale.)

2 large-ish russet potatoes

1 pint heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

oh, and you’ll need a big slow cooker.  Mine is like… 6 quarts…? and it was FULL TO THE TOP.  Like, I had to smush down the raw kale to get the lid on.

The Method:

Get your slow cooker going on low. start heating your chicken broth.

In a large frying pan, heat your olive oil, and sautee your garlic and onions until slightly soft.

Peel the sausage out of its casings and cook in the pan with garlic and onions, breaking it up as it cooks.

While your sausage is cooking, quarter the potatoes lengthwise and then slice them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.  Or whatever looks and feels good to you in the “bite-sized” family.  Add your potatoes to the pot too.  Might as well add the kale now too.  It will obnoxiously fill up your pot.

Once the sausage is all crumbled up and no longer pink, throw that whole mess on top of the kale.  If you’re lucky, it will be hot enough to wilt your kale down a little bit.  I wasn’t quite so lucky.

As gently as you can move things around/stir them up/smush everything down into the broth as best as you can.  Clap the lid on.  Yes, you will have A VERY FULL SLOW COOKER.  It’ll be okay.

Cook on low for… uh… 4 to 6 hours?  Extra cooking will not hurt the potatoes or kale, so really, cook it until it’s dead.  The kale will lose most of its floofy volume.  You will still have like two gallons of soup.  It will be lovely. I believe I gave the soup about 6 hours of cook time, and then held it on warm for another hour or two after I stirred the last of the ingredients in. (see next sentence)

Stir everything together once it’s all cooked down, add your heavy cream, and then add salt and pepper to taste.  I use reduced sodium broth, so I always end up adding more salt than I thought I would need.

Serve with breadsticks or garlic bread or dinner rolls or ciabatta or whatever!

 

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Whoa, how long has THAT been there? All right, time to make a curry!

August 24, 2015

Do you ever go look in the back of your fridge, and have this moment of “whoa, I still have that?  I’ve got to use that up like, TODAY.”

That happened to me the other night, after I finally gave up on my lofty goal of making green smoothies every day for my health. (I need a better blender before that’s really a viable option.)

So I looked in the fridge, and I had just… GOBS AND GOBS of beautiful, lovely spinach and kale, just begging to be cooked. And I thought to myself “well, I can’t just let it go to waste!”  So I went to the store for a few sundries, and got to work.

The Goods: (and this is like, a REALLY ROUGH estimate of what I actually had, okay?  So just… play. Seriously, it’ll be all right.)

– somewhere around 16 oz, combined of baby spinach and baby kale

– 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

– minced garlic, as much as you want. (for me, this was at least a quarter of a cup)

– patak’s curry paste, about 1/2 jar (and don’t ask me how long that had been in my fridge, please)

– pickled sliced jalapenos (like for nachos), about 1/2 cup

– diced tomatoes in juice (possibly the kind with chilies and onions, knowing me), 1 15-oz can

– coconut milk (I actually prefer the whole fat stuff, so don’t skimp, okay?  the rest of the dish is lean enough.)

– chicken.  I grabbed some chicken and garlic sausage, but I think it’d be even better with plain chicken thighs. boneless and skinless, and diced.

The method:

  • Heat a HUGE skillet (or wok, that’s my favorite vessel for pot o’ random stuff) on medium, add a couple glugs of oil.
  • Add onion and garlic, sautee until translucent
  • Add chicken, cook through.
  • Add spinach and jalapenos, sautee until spinach is wilted.  Cook another minute or two to burn off some of the liquid the spinach will give off.
  • Stir in curry paste and tomatoes.  Simmer for about ten minutes.
  • Stir in coconut milk.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.  Now would also be a great time to add in some garam masala, crushed red pepper, curry powder, coriander, or whatever else tickles your fancy.  Or fresh cilantro, that’d be pretty awesome.

Serve over polenta or rice.

Best leftovers ever.

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Winter Storm Comfort Food: Jambalaya!

January 26, 2015
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

As Winter Storm Juno begins burying us out here, I found myself at work earlier today, waiting for the announcement that we would be closed tomorrow, and really just craving the heck out of a nice pile of spicy jambalaya.  Thing is – jambalaya is amazingly easy to make!  It’s very much an everyone-in-the-pool kind of dish.  So yay!

The goods:

1 lb kielbasa, cut into bite sized pieces (Okay, you should traditionally use andouille.  But I don’t *like* andouille. So there.)

1 lb chicken (I like thighs, myself), cut into bite sized pieces

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

2 medium green peppers, seeded and diced

4 ribs celery, diced

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes in juice

3ish cups brown rice

((28ish oz beef stock, or water and beef buillion, or however you get there))

5ish bird chilis, minced, or 2 good-sized jalapenos, minced

chili powder, paprika, cayenne powder

garlic, minced, about 1/4 cup

2 ish tablespoon bacon grease or oil

The method:

In a big ol’ pot, heat your fat. add veggies and garlic, saute until soft.

Add meat.  Cook until chicken meat is all white on the outside.  Add seasonings – a good several shakes of each.

Add tomatoes, stock, and rice. Stir well.

Cover and simmer about half hour to 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed or rice is tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Dish out and chow down!

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Banana Muffins!

December 23, 2014

So I gotta say, I love banana bread.  Not only is it a fantastic way to use up overripe bananas, it’s also so tasty.  Especially nice and warm, with a schmear of cream cheese. Good stuff, man.

I also love muffins, and though they require a bit more work pre-baking, the benefit is that you don’t have to do any slicing to get them into your mouth.  Also, clean-up is a breeze, since I’m a lazy bugger and use paper muffin cups when I bake. =)

The goods:

3 fairly squishy bananas

3/4 cup sugar (you can do a mix of white and brown sugar for extra flavor)

1 egg

1/3 cup butter, melted

1.5 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla (or just splash some in like I do)

several dashes ground cinnamon

 

The method:

-preheat oven to 350 degrees

– grab a muffin tin and plop in your paper liners (or foil liners, or just spray the everliving tar out of the pan if you’re going liner-free)

– in a large bowl, mash together the bananas, sugar, eggs, and butter.

– add vanilla and cinnamon, whisk to combine

– add all your dry stuff, stir until just combined (the muffin method means DON’T OVERMIX, Y’ALL)

– portion out into your muffin cups – you’ll get 12, I promise.

– bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops spring back when tapped with a finger.  or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

You could go ultra-decadent and top them with a cream cheese frosting once they’re cooled, but i almost think that’s overkill.  I do, however, recommend eating them warm, with either some butter or some cream cheese. Enjoy!

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Buffalo Chicken Dip

December 21, 2014

This is something I’ve loved for a very long time but been too lazy to actually try to make until… well, now.  But honestly – it’s so embarrassingly simple, I almost feel bad posting a recipe.  Anyway, here goes.

The goods:

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese or neufchatel (which is low-fat cream cheese)

1 rotisserie chicken, cooked (what? I’m lazy.)

1 16-ish oz jar chunky bleu cheese dressing

1 pint container bleu cheese crumbles

12 oz (1 good sized bottle) AT LEAST your favorite buffalo sauce (I actually used a mix of Frank’s Red Hot and Texas Pete’s)

shredded pepper jack cheese (or “Mexican blend” or, y’know, whatever you like.) a couple handfuls

 

The method:

– Shred all your chicken (get every last meaty bit) into itty bitty pieces in a large bowl.  Discard the skin and bones, but seriously, get all the meat you can off of the bird.  This is incredibly messy, but deliciously so.

– In a saucepan, melt your cream cheese on low/medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once it’s decently runny, stir in the bleu cheese dressing and crumbles.  Stir it all together into one great gooey mass.

– Pour your hot cheesy goo over your chicken.  Add your hot sauce.  Stir it all together.  Taste.  Add more hot sauce if necessary (for me, it’s necessary).  If for some reason it’s too spicy, you can add some sour cream or mayo to mellow it out.

– Sprinkle shredded cheese over top

– Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 ish minutes or until it’s all bubbly.

*Optional: garnish with sliced scallions or chives

 

Serve with tortilla chips and/or celery and/or carrot sticks. Enjoy! =)

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Lemony Kale and White Beans

June 8, 2014

I like this recipe because it’s almost as simple as it sounds – and the lemon adds a nice bit of zing to what would otherwise be a bit on the bitter/bland side.  Also – man, do I love kale.  Seriously.

The goods:

1 large yellow onion

1 bunch kale

1 15-0z can white beans (cannellini are great, as are great northern)

1 tbsp or so minced garlic

salt, pepper to taste

1 or 2 lemons

extra virgin olive oil

 

The method:

As always, this is calibrated for the biggest cooking vessel you own – mostly because kale is just so bulky until it cooks down a bit.  Your biggest skillet or your trusty wok will make this process much easier.

– Get your pan on medium-ish heat.  While it’s heating up, peel and thinly slice your onion.  Add a couple glugs of olive oil.  Once your oil has heated up, toss in your onions.

– Cook your onions gently, stirring once in a while, until lightly caramelized.  Lower the heat if it’s going to fast.  You don’t want to burn them.

– While your onions are going, de-stem and roughly chop your kale.  Set aside.  Drain and rinse your beans. Set those aside, too.

– Throw some minced garlic into the pan, once your onions are soft.  Any earlier and the garlic will burn before your food is done.

– Okay, so you don’t really have to take your onions all the way to caramelized.  But you do want them sauteed until they’re nice and soft.  So whenever you decide your onions are about there, start adding your kale, in big handfuls.  Move it around until it wilts enough to allow more kale to get into your pan.  Continue until it’s all in there.  Add your beans too.

– Cook, stirring occasionally, until all your kale is lovely and wilted (to your desired level of “wilted”).  If your food looks like it’s burning or getting crispy or getting dry, add a little bit of water.

– While kale is cooking, zest and juice at least one lemon.  Do another if you want a serious lemon flavor.  Add zest and juice to pan (to taste).

– Stir this all together, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serving options:

Goes great with lean proteins like pork and poultry.  Would be pretty great with grilled fish too, I’d say.

I was having a vegetarian day, so I served it over Israeli couscous, and topped it with a couple scrambled eggs, for added protein.

(You’ll get around 3 to 4 servings out of this, depending on whether you’re using it as a main or a side.)

Enjoy!

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Turkey and Kale Soup

May 4, 2014

This is actually a really simple recipe – as most broth-based soups tend to be, it’s just aromatics, broth, and flavoring.  Which works fine by me, actually, given that I’m often feeling pretty lazy after work, but in need of sustenance and comfort.  When I first learned this recipe, it included rice, but I left that out in favor of having lovely buttery bread, as pictured.  If you want to give your soup a bit more substance and body, go ahead and add some cooked rice – but you’ll also have to add more liquid, as the rice will absorb a surprising amount of it.  (I get around this problem by cooking and storing the rice separately, and combining the two when I’m serving)

The goods:

1 pound ground turkey

1 large-ish yellow onion

3 to 4 carrots

3 to 4 ribs of celery

minced garlic

1 head kale

6ish cups chicken stock

salt, pepper, oregano, thyme

olive oil

 

The method:

In your favorite soup-cooking vessel (for me, it’s still my wok), brown your turkey in a bit of oil, if needed. (I actually skipped the oil, as my wok is non-stick)  Break up any chunks as you go.

As your turkey is browning, dice your onions and celery, and peel and dice your carrots.  Any size you like, depending on whether you want big rustic chunks or little uniform bits.

Once turkey is browned, drain off as much of the liquid as you can, add a glug of oil, and throw in your onions, celery, and carrots.   Add a good amount of garlic.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.

Add your stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add salt, pepper, oregano, thyme to taste. (I go with a good several pinches of everything.  Keep in mind though that I also generally use reduced-sodium chicken stock, so if you’re going with regular, be careful.)

While soup is simmering, de-stem and chop your kale.  Add to the pot. Bring back to a simmer.

Simmer for at least half an hour, or until all your veggies are tender.  (Because, seriously, I cannot tell you how  annoying it is to bite into crunchy carrot bits in my soup.  Ugh.)

Optional: Add several dashes of curry powder towards the end to give your soup a unique kick.

Enjoy =)

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Chicken Paella

April 16, 2014

It... uh, didn't last very long.

I’ve been wanting to learn paella for some time now – and for some reason always managed to talk myself out of it.  “Oh, it takes too long, it’s too difficult, etc etc”

Which really?  Load of bunk.  If you can figure out risotto and/or rice pilaf – you can do paella.  This version is chicken-only, as I was making it for a party that included some guests who kept kosher.  Me, I’d totally add shrimp and maybe some sausage, if I were doing it myself. =)

The goods:

6 to 6.5 cups chicken stock

saffron threads, a good pinch

2.5 ish pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 large red pepper, seeded and diced

1 large green pepper, seeded and diced

1 large yellow onion, seeded and diced

great whopping tablespoon minced garlic (or more, hey, I’m not going to judge)

olive oil

3 cups short-grain rice (I actually used arborio – I happened to have it on hand so why not?)

10oz bag frozen peas

salt, pepper to taste

ground chipotle powder (optional)

The method:

Get your stock simmering.  Drop in your saffron.  Let it simmer.

Meanwhile, you’ll need your biggest skillet or your trusty wok.  Heat up your olive oil – 3 or 4 glugs around the pan should do it.

Once your oil is barely shimmery, throw in your chicken chunks.  Saute on high until no visible pink bits remain.  Ideally you’d even get a nice sear going on, but with my wok, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Remove your partially cooked chicken to a clean bowl.

Toss in your onions and peppers.  Saute for about a minute, then drop in your garlic.  Saute a few more minutes until onions are translucent. (I took them to “almost starting to caramelize” because I really wanted that rich, bold flavor to come out)

Add rice, stir until coated.  (And here, I very nearly went on risotto auto-pilot.  I heated the rice until they were half translucent.  Which, hey, no worries.  But you don’t really have to do this)

Add stock.  Bring to boil, stirring occasionally.  I should note here that this just about FILLED my wok, so stir carefully, lest you want to be picking paella bits off your stove for the next several hours.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.

Add chicken and peas.

Drop the heat to a simmer, cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this point, you’re done.  If you want to dry it out a little/get some nice crust action going on, continue by:

Transfer paella to sprayed casserole dish (It will fill a 9×13 dish; plan accordingly)

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, uncovered.

Remove from oven, tent with foil, let rest for another 10 minutes.

Et voila!  Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped parsley, or if you’re me, some slightly obscene amount of hot sauce.

 

 

 

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