February 27, 2012

Pin It White Bean Soup

Taken From Shutterbean

Week 9

Meh, this was ok. I've liked the other recipes I've tried from Shutterbean, but this one was only ok. There wasn't a lot of flavor to it (besides what my delicious peppered turkey bacon added), but this may just be one of those recipes that you can/should add a lot of toppings to.  I also just noticed that my sage leaves are much smaller than hers, so I probably should have doubled my sage to get a better flavor. Grated parmesan would be good on top, and I actually added a little hoisin sauce to it too (because I had it in my fridge) but balsamic would probably make more sense.  I'll have to experiment the rest of the week with this one to see what I can add to it to give it a little more oomph. I'm thinking cheese (parm or goat), crispy shallots, more turkey bacon...really you can do whatever you want since white beans are like working with a clean slate, like tofu...or the first day of school.

The only tweaking I did to this recipe was that I used turkey bacon on top instead of prosciutto :)

Mmm, turkey bacon

February 26, 2012

Pin It Cookies and Cream Cookies

 Taken from Cookies and Cups

Week 9

So I've been wanting to try this recipe for a while now but just needed a lull in my sweets inventory in the house to do so.  Between girl scout cookies, campfire candy, Valentine's day candy and a box of Tim Tams from my trip to Canada, that hasn't actually happened yet, but people were coming over to watch the Oscars so I figured I'd whip them up anyway.

They didn't end up very pretty but they tasted good! I didn't have mini chocolate chips so I used regular semi-sweet chips (don't think it makes much of a difference). I also cut the recipe in half as I really didn't need more sweets in the house.

They were a nice twist on an easy recipe. Bonnie's boyfriend Pete was a little confused by the concept (a chocolate, chocolate chip cookie stuffed with cookies and cream candy), but I say "Why not?!"  They were a little caramelized on the bottom but definitely not a disaster (unlike the frozen pizza that slipped off the baking sheet as I was taking it out of the oven, and landed cheese-side-down on the floor.  Oh, and I accidentally baked it with the cardboard still on, so the dough was still raw. Oops.)

Hershey's candy drops, you can find them at most grocery stores
Not so pretty but not on the floor, so that's a plus!

Cross-section so you can see the cookies and creme goodness.  See, they are all fancy in their black and white for the Oscars :)
Marketing that withstood the 350 degree oven

February 25, 2012

Pin It Butternut Squash Skillet Hash

Taken From Natural Noshing

Week 8

And I’m back!
So I took a brief hiatus as I was up in Canada this past week for my brother’s wedding and a mini ski vacation. The trip consisted of lots of family, small children, eating, fancy events, slow moving followed by rushing to get ready for said fancy events, and wintery activities…it was awesome!  It's always fun to have the whole family together (my parents, 7 siblings, 5 brother/sister in-laws and 7 nieces/nephews) as it only happenes about once a year.
My family
The wedding events started off with a girl’s night out with most of my sisters and some other cousins/lady friends of the bride.  Lots of food, drink and 20’s theme garb.
Most of my sisters
Amidst all of the scheduled events and meals, we managed to squeeze in more eating!  We went to this spot for brunch in Vancouver called the Twisted Fork Bistro the morning of the rehearsal dinner, and it was awesome! We sent some of my other siblings there the next day and they loved it too (especially their homemade pear, parsnip and cinnamon jam, which made its way to Whistler with us). This place had their own version of the Caesar (which is Canadian’s twist on a bloody mary, a Cesar uses Clamato juice instead of tomato juice).  Anyway, this place has its own twist on the Caesar called the Brutus, which used horseradish, dijon mustard and topped it with a picked brussel sprout and green bean.  It was yummy.

My brother (the groom) had banana stuffed brioche French toast, sprinkled with cinnamon, powdered sugar and a side of vanilla whipped cream.  I had the gruyere baked eggs with sourdough toast, rosti, tomato and baked beans. Delish!
Banana stuffed French toast
The rehearsal dinner and wedding were beautiful.  Everyone had a great time and it was a fantastic celebration. Always fun to add another member to our crew.
Daniel, Leah, Tom and Me at the rehearsal dinner
All my sisters

After the wedding festivities ended, the second part of our trip continued as we headed up to Whistler for a few days.  Most of my family participated in the non-stop family extravaganza: part 2, which was also very fun. A little less chaotic as no one had to be anywhere in a rush, so it was a bit more relaxing. 
All my nieces and nephews, and I got me meet my second cousin Avery (in the middle) for the first time.

I’ve only been skiing twice in my 28 years, but I tried it again our first full day in Whistler.  I had a good time, and everyone was telling me I was doing really well.  My bruised legs begged to differ.
My sister and her family of seasoned skiers had me on intermediate runs on Blackcomb, a little beyond my level, but it was fun to ski with everyone (or more accurately, have them ski down and periodically wait for me as I slooowwwllyyyy made my way down the mountain).  I did have fun and am glad I skied one of the days I was up there. Whistler is amazing and there was even some fresh snow, something Californians would be very jealous of right now.

The next day I decided to take it easy, go ice skating with some of my nieces and nephews and even got to do some tubing!
Olympic rings in Whistler village
Ice skating in Whistler Village
Tubing on Blackcomb
We even had time to try some local cuisine, including poutine.  This dish is very big in Canada, and in Whistler village, we saw why!  Basically it’s fries, gravy and cheese curds, the perfect snack after a long day of burning calories on the slopes…or in our case, tooling around Whistler and watching others ice skate J.
Daniel and his poutine in Whistler
My trip was awesome and coming back to reality was kind of blah, but 70 degree weather in SF made the transition a little nicer.

As I had no food in my house (ate it all in preparation for my trip) it was back to the dinner drawing board.  I found this recipe on Natural Noshing, the same site I found the lemon lentil soup recipe. 

Again, Trader Joe’s makes my life so easy.  I would have bought a whole butternut squash but it looks like that season had passed at TJ’s.  Luckily, they also sell the pre-cut butternut squash in a bag, all ready to roast (or steam in the bag if you prefer).  I was also feeling extremely lazy, as my trip left something to be desired on the sleep front, so I picked up some pre-sliced crimini mushrooms too. 

This recipe gives you lots of choices as far as ingredients and suggested substitutions, so I'll tell you what I used, mostly because I already had some of the ingredients:

5 cups pre-cut, cubed butternut squash (2 TJ’s packages)
1 ½ Tbs. coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ yellow onion, chopped
~10 oz. sliced crimini mushrooms (1 TJ’s package)
½ cup golden raisins
2 handfuls of baby spinach
~4 Tbs. of feta
3 Tbs. sliced toasted almonds
salt and pepper to taste
*I left out the dash of crushed red pepper

With my lazy person short cuts (pre-cut veggies and such) this recipe was super quick and easy.  It made much more than the 2 servings the recipe indicated (I’d say about 4-5) but that just means more lunches/dinner for the week.  I would definitely recommend this as a yummy vegetarian meal or a side dish to any meat lovers meal.
Roasting goodness
My pan's eyes were bigger than its stomach and I had to transfer all to a bigger pot

What a healthy meal!
Reheated the following day with a fried egg on top, Tom style

February 9, 2012

Pin It Shortbread Heart Cookies and Buttercream Frosting

Week 7

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to make a special heart themed treat for my peeps.  Since I’m headed up to the Great White North (Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.) on the 15th for my brother’s wedding, I decided to get this baking task done a little early (but am still going to count it as week 7  J).
Don't you just want to turn them into edible wallpaper?! 
A few weeks ago after discovering FoodGawker, I came across a sugar cookie and buttercream frosting recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod. The cookies looked really good, but the recipe made 5-6 dozen (which is entirely too many cookies, especially to decorate) and it called for 3 eggs, so kind of a hard recipe to cut in half, and not worth cutting into a third.  I’m also not a huge fan of sugar cookies.

Anyway, I liked the idea of yummy heart shaped cookies so I decided to go the shortbread route.  My oldest sister’s mother-in-law makes amazing shortbread cookies and seems to have a different cookie cutter for every occasion. I’ve been eating these for years now because growing up, my future brother-in-law’s little sister Jenny, was my best friend J Confusing I know, but I come from a big family and when my oldest sister Connie starting dating her future husband Tom, she was 15 and I was just a baby.  The families got to know each other, Jenny and I became friends and our siblings eventually got married when we were 10, which was pretty cool to be kind-of-related to your best friend!

Anyway, I asked my sister Connie for her mother-in-law’s recipe so I could try my hand at her famous shortbread. I don’t feel it is my place to share this recipe for the world to see, although I don’t think it’s a secret ;) However, I will tell you that I had no idea how few ingredients there are in shortbread. It's just butter, sugar, flour and BAM, you have cookies!

For the frosting, I used the Two Peas & Their Pod buttercream recipe.  Needless to say these cookies turned out to be quite the buttery treat. 

I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to decorate my little hearts.  I knew pink would obviously be involved, but wasn't sure if I wanted to go the sprinkle route or the piped frosting route. As I ended up making a frosting rather than a spreadable icing, piping the buttercream onto the cookies with my pastry bags and tips seemed like the way to go.

I love them <3.  I can't get enough of how cute they look! Who cares how they taste (buttery and delicious, by the way), don't you just want to carry them around with you in your pocket?! I told my roommate that I was in love with my cookies, this may be an overstatement, but I was very happy with how they turned out! 

Even the cookie cutter is pink, very appropriate 
Golden perfection 
Not sure what it is about piped pink frosting hearts, but don't they just make you happy?
Zig Zaggy pink buttercream squiggles
Aww, they're friends, see how they like to cuddle with each other?

February 7, 2012

Pin It Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes

Taken From Smitten Kitchen

Week 6

As I have been eating some form of soup for the better part of 2012, I decided it was time to mix it up and try something new.  When I made the carrot miso soup, I had to buy sesame oil for the garnish.  Little did I know, I already had a whole bottle in the cupboard! So now I have TWO bottles of sesame oil and was looking for a recipe that would utilize some of my sesame oil surplus.  I noticed they sell sesame seeds at Trader Joe's (by far my favorite place to buy spices. They have all the basics and are all around $2-3) and thought one of those cold buckwheat sesame noodle salads sounded good.  I perused Smitten Kitchen, since she has a ton of recipes organized in a logical manner, and found this one to try.

After running some errands this weekend, Tom suggested wandering around Japan Town as he had never really explored that area.  We went into one of the markets and found all sorts of exciting things (many of which we had no idea what they were because we couldn't read the packaging). My favorite was the Milk Chocolate Salty Pocky sticks!  Anyway, I did go in there with a purpose, as I’d had buckwheat noodles on the brain.  I found a pack of round soba noodles, grabbed my Pocky sticks and was good to go.

I tweaked this recipe a bit, because as you may have noticed after looking at title and list of ingredients, it calls for hot pepper paste.  Well we all know spicy things hurt my mouth so I tend to avoid them.  For all you spice lovers, I’m sure this would be very good spicy, but I wasn’t about to test it.  I ran my fifth half marathon this past Sunday and testing out my stomach’s durability after long runs is never a good idea.

As a side note, the race I just ran was the Kaiser Half Marathon in SF.  I slept poorly the night before, I wasn’t feeling great at the beginning of the race and had a side crap immediately upon crossing the starting line, but somehow managed to get my personal record of 1:53:29, with a 8:39 pace!  I was pretty surprised since I didn’t feel like I was running particularly fast and I had to use the “facilities” around mile 5 , but I beat my previous best time by over 3 minutes. Wahoo!

Anyway, so I left out the spice. The other thing you may have noticed was that this recipe doesn’t actually call for sesame oil, doh!  Since that was the whole point of this recipe idea, I added it anyway, probably around 2 tablespoons. Other than that, I followed the rest of the recipe and directions, although I may have been a little heavy on the ginger and a little light on the mushrooms. I also used fresh edamame instead of frozen (because TJ’s sells them) so I just added them in the end instead of boiling them with the noodles.  But whatever, it's cooking, and there is definitely room for tweaking and experimentation.  I wouldn’t alter baking recipes so much, unless you really know what you are doing, as that is much more of a science.  My friend Jenn actually showed me this awesome book recently called Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking.  It’s about all the science behind cooking and baking.  I suppose if I read this whole thing I could start tweaking and maybe even creating my own baking recipes, but I’m not quite there yet (I’ve only read the table of contents).

Other than burning my first batch of sesame seeds (watch them carefully as they can burn quickly), this recipe turned out nicely.  It was tasty, pretty simple, didn’t have too many ingredients (always a plus in my book) and I now have a gaboon* of sesame noodle salad in my fridge. This would definitely be a good dinner party/potluck recipe as it makes so much and can be served cold/room temperature.

*Made up word by my Mom meaning a lot of, most often referencing the contents of a large pot or bowl.  Example: “Yeah, I picked up a gaboon of ice cream at Costco today.” (This was a tub of Darigold ice cream that was so big it had a handle).

Slightly modified ingredients 

Gaboon* of noodles

Noodle close up (See what I'm saying about the iPhone camera quality? These noodles could use this as their head shot for their audition with Barbizon!) 

Mmm, dinner (and lunch and dinner for the next week)

February 3, 2012

Pin It Broccoli Slaw

Taken From Smitten Kitchen  

Week 5
So at my last work potluck, the menu was very cheese and cracker/chips and salsa heavy, not exactly what I call a meal.  So to ensure there would be at least some greens in the mix, I sought out a veggie recipe on Smitten Kitchen. After some deliberation on which would be the least involved yet still taste yummy, I landed on this broccoli slaw recipe.

I was able to stop by TJ’s after work and pick up everything I needed for the broccoli slaw, they even had sliced toasted almonds, score!
Can I just rave for a second on how much I love Trader Joe’s?  They make my life so easy!  They are a half mile from my house, have recently bulked up on their baking supplies and have almost everything you need (and even things you never knew you had to have).
Case in point
This recipe was super simple. Nothing complicated about it.  I might recommend using baby broccoli next time (a little more delicate and less crumbly after it’s been chopped) but any broccoli would work.

I substituted in lemonaise (a more flavorful mayo alternative) to add a little more flavor and zing. I tried a forkful of slaw before bringing it in to work (kind of an odd thing to have as your first food of the day) and thought it was quite tasty.  It had a nice crunch to it and I really liked the sweet/tart flavor combo the dried cranberries added to it.

Hopefully the group likes it.  If not, I’m going to be working my way through a huge bowl of slaw this weekend. Not sure that is exactly what I should be eating before running a half marathon on Sunday (in fact I know it’s not) so I might have to pawn some off on others.  Smitten Kitchen says it will also keep for a week in the fridge so that is always an option. 

 Can you see a color theme in my kitchen?!

I've decided that my phone is far superior when it comes to taking food pictures, look at those florets! 

By the way, there was hardly any left after the potluck, always a good sign!