Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fennel with Mozzarella

Sometimes I buy food just because I don't really know what it is. This week it was fennel. I think I've eaten it before, but I've never cooked with it. I read a few Italian cookbooks for ideas. Niall suggested The Silver Spoon. This recipe is mostly butter, egg and cheese. So it's not like it's a healthy use for fennel. But I liked it. I think I'll try using fennel again.

I didn't have much fennel, so the recipe is quartered.

1/4 kg fennel bulb
8 grams (1/4 ounce...basically a pat) butter
50 grams mozzarella cheese
1 egg
50 ml double cream (I used milk)
10 grams (1/4 ounce) Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig, chopped (I didn't use parsley)
salt and pepper

Wash and trim the fennel. (The fennel I got from the grocery store was already clean.) Boil in a pot for 45 minutes until tender. (I think I boiled the fennel for too long.) It smelled so good cooking!
Drain the water and let the fennel cool. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. When it's not too hot to handle, cut it in thin slices. In a skillet, heat the butter and then add the fennel. Saute until browned.
Grease a pie dish and add the fennel. Cover with the mozzarella and Parmesan.

In a separate container, whisk the egg and milk. Pour the mixture over the fennel and add salt and pepper. Place the dish in the oven and bake until browned. (About 30 minutes.)

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Niall likes to take cookie requests at work. One of his colleagues is changing jobs. And they're having a special coffee morning for the guy. Niall asked his colleague for a cookie request and the answer was pumpkin. The problem is I haven't been able to find any pumpkin, so I used butternut squash.

I got a medium squash, halved it and baked it in the oven for about 30 minutes, let it cool, scooped it and smashed it. I used 1 cup for the recipe and froze the rest. I make these cookies a lot, Emily gave it to me years ago. It was a nice change to have the squash. It only changed the flavor slightly.

Makes 40 cookies.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cup flour (perhaps a little more)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 oz chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter with sugar.

Blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and blend well. Add chocolate chips.

Scoop onto baking trays and bake for about 10-12 minutes.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bean and Barley Vegetable Soup

I have been pretty busy lately. I force myself to go on a snail-paced walk once a day. Otherwise, I stay in the house. I don't work, but I do watch TV shows. I lay in bed. I carefully plan each trip up and down the stairs for maximum efficiency. So you can see why I would need to sometimes cook food that takes very little effort. That's how this soup got made.

Niall likes bell peppers. I don't. But sometimes, when I don't feel like eating (because I've been snacking on Triscuits all day), I'll make food with bell peppers. Niall also likes barley. So I did some checking for a vegetable soup with barley and ended up using a recipe from Circle B Kitchen. We didn't have all the ingredients on hand, and since I already went outside today, I just used what we had. Throw everything in a pot, lay down (in the living room, to avoid having to go up and down the stairs) for an hour, and soup's on.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 yellow onion, diced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
1/2 cup split red lentils
1/2 cup barley
1 can kidney beans, washed and rinsed
Spices* (Granulated garlic, thyme, sage, Adobo seasoning, salt and pepper)

Wash and prep the vegetables. Heat the oil in the pan. Add the onion and allow it to saute. Add bell pepper and continue to cook.

Add the rest of the vegetables and tomato paste and stir. Cook for a few minutes, the add the spices.

Add the lentils, barley and beans. Fill the pan with enough water to cover the items by 1-2 inches of water.

Simmer, partially covered (um, I put the lid on but not all the way) for about an hour.

Serve, and hope your husband gets all the bell pepper.

*I tried to just flavor with spices, but gave up and in the end ended up throwing in half a vegetable stock cube.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mexican Open-Faced Tart

If you're Mexican, please don't be offended. I just didn't know what to call this.

I couldn't be bothered to plan dinner. But I remembered I had puff pastry in the fridge. (I have never used it, but bought it to try to make Portuguese pastries...more on that later.) And there were some other things in the fridge. So this was dinner.

1/2 sheet puff pastry, thawed and ready to use
1/2 can refried beans
Enchilada sauce
chopped onion
chopped red bell pepper
chopped tomato
mozzarella cheese
sour cream and salsa as garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pastry sheet and place it on a baking tray. Layer with refried beans, enchilada sauce and cheese. Sprinkle the onion, pepper and tomato on top. Bake for 20 minutes (or maybe a little less if you, unlike me, don't think burnt is a flavor.)

Remove from the oven and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Frozen Yogurt

Um, this "recipe" is cheating. It's not a recipe-get some yogurt and freeze it.
I'm only posting it because it was delicious.

The typical rule for leftovers is "When in doubt, throw it out."
But a smart, modern lady says "When in doubt, eat it. Either you'll have good food or you'll get sick and lose weight."

I bought loads of yogurt and foolishly did not check the expiration label. The yogurt expired and we still had so much of it. I decided to try freezing it, and used the ice cream maker. Holy cow. Why did I never try this before? It turned out so delicious. And in my mind if the yogurt is frozen, it gets a longer life.

Yogurt (this kind was sweetened)

We had raspberry, strawberry, mango and passion fruit flavored yogurt. I put all of them in a bowl and mixed them together.

Poured the yogurt in the ice cream maker.

Mix until the yogurt freezes.

It was so delicious. A little tart, surprisingly refreshing. Maybe I'll add fruit next time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vegetable Lasagna

We had some frozen leftover tomato sauce. So I decided to try Vegetable Lasagna, using bechamel sauce. Which, by the way, I've never made before. (Every lasagna recipe I've used in the past has managed to avoid bechamel.) I used the Italian Cooking Encyclopedia for guidance. (I love how the book has step by step pictures.)

It turns out I love bechamel sauce with cheese.

2 cups tomato sauce
1 zucchini (courgette), sliced
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
10 lasagna noodles (I used egg noodles with spinach)
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 cup milk
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 1 cup mozzarella cheese

Mix the zucchini and spinach in with the tomato sauce and simmer in a skillet.

For the bechamel sauce, heat the milk in a pan with the bay leaf and nutmeg.

In a separate pan, heat the butter until it melts. Add the flour and stir until mixed.

Add the milk mixture to the flour and continue stirring to remove the lumps. Beat the mixture over a low heat until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta. It should be undercooked by about four minutes. (The noodles I used recommended cooking for 10 minutes, so I cooked for six.) Drain and then rinse the noodles in cold water. When they're cool enough to handle, separate them to prevent sticking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once all the tomato sauce, bechamel sauce and pasta are ready, begin assembling the lasagna. Spoon a tablespoon of the sauce in the bottom on the pan. Add the noodles, half of the vegetable sauce and a layer of cheese. Add another layer of pasta, the rest of the vegetable sauce and then add the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle additional cheese on top.

Bake the lasagna uncovered for 20 minutes, until the top is browned. Remove from the oven and allow to set for five minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mamma Driggs' Buttermilk Syrup

Okay-this guy?

One of the nicest people ever. Once we took a trip out to visit his family and his mom made an amazing caramel syrup for pancakes. Thanks goodness the niceness runs in the family because his mom gave me the recipe.

I really wanted a sundae and didn't think I had a recipe for caramel sauce. I called my mom and she suggested Mamma Driggs' Buttermilk Syrup. (It has become a favorite in our family. I mean, with butter and sugar, how could it not be?) Nicely done. I thought it was only for pancakes. I was wrong. It's great with ice cream. We didn't need much, so I halved the recipe. The one below is for the recipe in its entirety.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cube (1/2 cup or 100 grams) of butter
1 Tablespoon light Karo syrup
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk (we didn't have any, so I used milk with vinegar)

Mix all the ingredients except the vanilla in a saucepan.

Stir, bringing to a boil. Continue stirring while the syrup boils, for about five minutes.

The syrup will turn a light brown.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

It's ready to serve. Delicious on ice cream, decadent on pancakes or french toast.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Coconut Vegetable Thai Soup

Niall says this is not Mulligatawny*. I made it thinking it was, using the recipe from Gluten Free Goddess. Whatever its name, it is a nice Thai inspired soup with vegetables.


1 Tablespoon Red Thai Curry Paste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup butternut squash, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
1 potato, peeled and chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used one Pink Lady and one Granny Smith)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can of coconut milk
1-2 limes, juiced (I used one)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 can garbanzo (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the curry paste.

Add the onion to the curry and oil and saute until the onion turns translucent. Then add the carrot, squash, potato, garlic, apple and vegetable broth. Cook for about 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.

Add the sugar, coconut milk (erm, the can I used had separated, which is why the coconut milk looks so turned out fine), lime juice and brown sugar and stir.

Puree the soup. I used a handheld mixer.

Taste the soup and adjust the flavor as needed. Add the garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas.)

The soup is ready to serve. It's nice with a side of jasmine rice. This made enough for 6-7 servings. I liked it better as leftovers because the flavors got better w/age.

*I didn't know what Mulligatawny until we went to eat at the pub Cambridge Blue a few months ago. I ordered Mulligatawny because I was curious and thought it was so delicious. Apparently it's a curry-based soup, and since I like Indian food and soup it was sort of like a dream come true. It had a meat base so Niall couldn't have any at the pub. I wanted to make a vegetarian version, I guess I'll have to keep trying.