"A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Alsatian Potato Pie

Aside from Asian cuisine, French is my favorite food to make. Tarts, stews, Quiches, breads, madeleines...you name it, I will make it!
I think I was a Parisian in another life..
Today's meal is an Alsatian Potato Pie. I reworked the great Hubert Keller's recipe to suit what I had available in my house. Love ya Chef, but I sped up the prep, used a different cheese and sized down the filling slightly so it would fit in my regular old pie dish.

My Alsatian Pie

1 pkg (2 crusts) already made, refrigerated pie crust (I use Pillsbury)
2 very large yukon gold potatoes microwaved for about 6 minutes (so they are still firm but partially cooked)  cool & slice in 1/4 in thick slices
1 onion diced
1/3 of an 8 oz block monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 15 oz can evaporated skim milk
salt & pepper to your liking
1 tbl dried thyme
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 F
Spray your pie plate with cooking spray. Fit one crust into your pie plate. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork in several places and push a piece of foil on top of  your crust, Bake the crust for 20 minutes.
Prepare your filling. In a bowl beat eggs with a fork, stir in the evaporate milk, salt, pepper and thyme. Add your cheese.
Now that your crust is done, pull it out of the oven and layer half of the sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour half of your filling mixture on top of the potatoes. Layer ,the rest of the potatoes on top and pour the remaining filling mixture over it all.
Fit the top crust on your pie , closing your edges gently. Cut a hole or decoration in the middle of the top crust to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes before you slice it and serve.

Super Simple Pfeffernusse

I am not sure why, but the thought of making Pfeffernusse seems to strike fear in a baker's heart.
Most think they are quite hard or tedious, in reality making them from scratch is rather simple. It's the "curing" or drying of the dough or finished cookie (depending on what tradition you may follow) that takes the most time.
I devised this shortcut recipe that gives you the same flavors of a pfeffernusse cookie (albeit slightly milder) without all the fuss!
An old world cookie made the modern way.

Super Simple Pfeffernusse

1 pouch of molasses cookie dough (such as Betty Crocker)
1/2 cup flour
1 stick softened butter
1 egg
2 tbl water
1 tbl cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cardamom

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbl hot water
4 1/2 tbl cornstarch
2 tsp rum

Preheat oven to 375 F
In a large bowl combine all of the cookie dough ingredients. Mix well, your dough will be stiff.
Take tbl of dough and roll into balls. Place one ince apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. The tops will crack and your kitchen will smell like Christmas!

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to begin cooling.

For the glaze- mix dry ingredients together, add the rum and hot water. Again your frosting will be stiff, you want this as now you will spread dollops of this glaze on the cookies while they are still slightly warm. This allows the glaze to drip a bit over the sides and create a lovely homemade, festive look.
If at some point your glaze becomes super stiff while you are frosting your cookies, simply add a tiny bit of hot water to it to loosen it up.
Leave your cookies to cool completely, the glaze to dry.

Your cookies are now ready for gifting, eating or storing in an airtight container !
(I got 42 cookies out of this recipe)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Spiced Cream Cheese Stuffed Brownies

Given it's the holidays, I took the standard cream cheese layered brownie recipe and made it a bit more festive!
To the Cream cheese layer I added cinnamon and ginger.
If you don't want to fuss with the layering process on this dessert, you could make them swirled. It would work just fine and the flavor would still be there.
In fact you could probably tint the cream cheese filling a holiday hue as well, if you were feeling particularly full of good cheer.
Also, a nice dusting of confectioners sugar mixed with edible glitter would give these brownies a seasonal sparkle.
Chocolate..cream cheese..holiday baking...a Thursday couldn't get much better! Wait... actually it could be better-it could snow for me!

Spiced Cream Cheese Stuffed Brownies

4 oz bar of unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 c butter
4 eggs
2 c sugar
1 3/4 c flour
2 1/2 tsp vanilla

 2 8 oz pkgs of cream cheese, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. 325 if using a darker pan.
In a microwave melt the chocolate and butter together until smooth. Let cool for a moment while you beat together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl . Stir in vanilla and chocolate mixture. Add the flour gradually. Mixture will be somewhat thick.
Spread half the mixture in a prepared 9 x 13 in pan.
In a smaller bowl combine your cream cheese, sugar vanilla and spices. Blend in the egg. Now gently spread this filling over the brownie batter already in the pan. Spoon the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer and with a butter knife, spread it to cover.
Bake for 45 minutes . Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Refrigerate for another hour. Cut into bars and serve or package up for gift giving!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Impromptu Empanada

In my house an empanada is a great use for tid bits of veggies , cooked meat or beans that are hanging out waiting for their glory day.
Much like a soup, I feel you can pretty much put anything in a ready made store bought pie crust, bake it up and viola-dinner!
I like to make one large empanada and cut into slices or wedges to serve. I then offer sour cream and salsa on the side. Also, if you would like to include cheese in yours, feel free! Simply add in 1/3 cup of shredded cheese of your choice to the filling mixture. Monterey Jack or a taco blend cheese works well. In the past I have used Queso Chihuahua (if you're unfamiliar with this cheese, click  here some for some info on it) as it is a superb cheese for melting.

Impromptu Enchilada

1 ready made pie crust


1/2 cup frozen corn
1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast (you could also use a can of any type of bean , drained)
2 tbl green pepper, diced  (i used frozen)
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 of a jalepeno, diced
1 tomato, diced
2 tsp fajita seasoning 
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil (easier clean up). Unroll the pie dough onto the foil lined baking sheet.

In a bowl mix together your filling ingredients.

Once you've got that done, heap the filling onto the pie crust, you want to heap it on one half of the circle leaving an inch or so margin around the edge. Now fold the other side of the pie dough over the filling to meet the bottom edge. ..it will seem like your filling is way too much for this, but I promise you it'll fit. Just take your time and some care when folding the dough over it. 
Now , along the edge where the dough meets, fold the bottom edge up and over so the seam is closed. Crimp that edge with a fork and poke fork holes in the top of your empanada. It'll look like this-

All that's left to do-and it's optional- is to spray a light coating of cooking spray on the top (or alternately you could brush with a beaten egg),  
Put your empanada in the oven and bake until golden. It should take about 40 minutes.

Tada! To serve, slice portions and plate with your favorite salsa, maybe evn some sour cream. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thai Peanut Noodles with Cabbage

I love cooking Asian food.
If no other cuisine existed on earth, I'd be just fine!
Today's dish can be meatless if you want it to be. simply toss in some mushrooms or tofu in place of the turkey and you're good to go.

Thai Peanut Noodles with Cabbage

1/4 cup veggie oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1/2 tsp smoked Szechuan salt & pepper (use regular pepper if you don't have this)
1 tsp chile garlic sauce
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl brown sugar
1 tbl rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar can be substituted if need be)

1tbl veggie oil
1 cup cooked, shredded turkey
3 cups sshredded cabbage (savoy or napa works nicely)
3 sliced green onions

cooked noodles (your fave kind,could be anything from soab noodles to linguine)

In a small sauce pan combine all the sauce ingredients over a low heat until it melts together, combines well.
In another , larger skillet, over medium high heat,stir fry the cabbage, turkey and green onions together in a tbl of veggie oil until crisp-tender. This should take about 7-10 minutes.
Toss the veggies together with the sauce and serve over your pasta.
Dinner in a flash ...quicker than you can say take-out!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Aspirations and Applesauce

My five year old self aspired to be a Broadway star or a ballerina.

While rolling arches in my feet dashed the ballet dream before it had the chance to really take off, my starry eyed visions of singing onstage seemingly won't surrender to the reality that the only audience I will ever have is a shampoo bottle in the shower.
Some days  when I breathe deeply enough, I can feel melodies swell up inside.. pushing and waiting to burst from my body.
It comforts me, reminding myself that I am very much who I have always been ...and though I may never step into the skin of a character that bows gracefully in front of a sea of shining faces, I will always be grateful and comfortable to be Just Me.

What  does this have to do with applesauce you say?
Alot, actually.

Memories are often tied to scents and sounds.

The scent of homemade applesauce brings to mind a time when I was not yet in school full time. My mom, a beautiful woman with many talents, one of which is cooking, was in the process of making applesauce.
I can still see her peeling the apples as I sat on the counter and did my best to help stir the cinnamon into the sugar. I was singing Maybe from Annie and fumbling with the wooden spoon's long handle .
When my arm began to tire, I put the spoon down to watch her chop the apples,
I could see she was smiling brightly. In that moment I hoped that someday I could be as amazing as she was...as she still is.

It's memories like these that rush forward into the present when I am in the kitchen doing something as seemingly mundane as making applesauce. I'm instantly full of the sense that everything is perfect,  I am right where I should be. I might not have known it at the time, but I had a  dream far more grand than Broadway and  I am living  it .

When life hands me lemons, I don't make lemonade.. I make applesauce ;)

Homemade Applesauce (microwave version)

3 pounds apples ( I like to combine varieties, but choose your favorite) cored, peeled, and chopped
1/2- 3/4 cup sugar (if using a sweeter apple use the smaller amount of sugar, a more tart apple use the higher amount of sugar)
1/2 c water
1 tbl cinnamon

Mix  all the ingredients together in a microwave safe container, cover loosely with plastic wrap . Microwave in 3 minute intervals, stirring after each session. Continue to microwave until your apples are tender. I like mine a bit chunky still, so I cook mine about 9 -11 minutes usually. Now mash it with a fork until it's the consistency you prefer. Refrigerate.

This is very much a recipe you can manipulate to suit your taste. Play with it and find your favorite mix of apples and spices!

Coconut-Lime Turkey Soup with Rice

Tonight called for a Meal Vacation. A little mid-December getaway via dinner.
Looking at my front yard is a bit of a dismal experience. I'd really like some snow to herald the season. Instead it's almost 50 degrees outside and ...well...brown out there.
Everything foliage wise is dead and without the snow to blanket it in sparkles and shine, the town's looking sad.
My solution is to inject a little life into tonight's dinner. Using some leftover cooked turkey -fear not, it's not left from Thanksgiving, lol, I made a lovely, bright soup. Sadly, my picture doesn't do this soup any justice, the lighting in my home is rather yellowish. I should invest in some decent lighting solutions.
Anyway, onto the recipe!

Coconut-Lime Turkey Soup with rice

2 cups shredded,cooked turkey
2 cups cooked rice
2 cloves minced garlic
2 sliced green onions
juice of one lime
half of a jalapeno pepper, diced
one can of coconut milk
2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 tbl brown sugar
1 tbl soy sauce
couple shakes of ground ginger
couple shakes/grinds of pepper
dash of hibiscus powder (omit if you don't have this)

In a soup pot combine broth, coconut milk, garlic, green onions,jalapeno, lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, hibiscus powder and black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add turkey and simmer another 5 -10 minutes. To serve, place a scoop of rice in the bottom of a bowl and ladel soup over the rice.
Note- This can be made vegetarian simply by adding cubed tofu, cauliflower florets, canned chickpeas, or meatless/veggie protein "non" chicken, in place of the turkey .