Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Apple Cider, Ginger and Cranberry Punch

Since Martha loves ginger and cranberries, I thought she might be interested in this punch recipe that mixes both with apple cider. I emailed it to her a couple weeks ago, and when I arrived in MA, she'd bought all of the ingredients and we gave it a try. Pretty good! Not something you could drink all night, but a nice way to get the party started.

Fresh Spinach Fettuccine

When I was home in Massachusetts for Christmas, I stole Martha's never-used KitchenAid pasta roller/cutter attachment. Upon returning to DC, I immediately made good use of it by making some pretty tasty spinach fettuccine... I thought making pasta would be really difficult, but it actually wasn't that bad! Time consuming and a little messy, yes, but not hard. The roller attachment certainly got the pasta significantly thinner than hand-rolled pasta I've made in the past!I used the spinach pasta recipe straight from the KitchenAid instruction/recipe booklet- pretty light and tasty, and uses ingredients you'd probably have around the house (flour, eggs, frozen spinach). Served the fresh pasta with some of the frozen roasted tomato sauce from the summer, jazzed up with some cream and Romano cheese.
Next step: ravioli!

Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon

After cooking it for a book club dinner centered on Julia Child's My Life in France, Martha has adopted Julia's beef bourguignon recipe and made it her own. It's her signature dish now.

She made it for our post-Christmas gathering (which was somewhat crippled by the East Coast blizzard of 2010), and it was awesome- meaty, rich, tender, complex.
Served it with mashed parsnips (plenty of cream and butter) and sauteed green beans. Yum.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sloppy Joes and Kohlrabi/Apple/Carrot Slaw

Remember way back when I made these "adult" sloppy joes (wow, that sounds dirty!)? Yeah, they're still good. Bourbon, smoked paprika, cayenne... mmmm.

Served them with this awesomely simple crunchy slaw made from kohlrabi (that alien-looking member of the Brassica family), Granny Smith apples and carrots with cider vingar, olive oil and honey (I skipped the swiss chard stems in the recipe...).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Curried Squash, Cauliflower and Apple Soup with Pizza Dough Breadsticks

With 3 days to go before braving I-95 and heading home for the holidays, I found myself trying to find uses for the random assortment of veggies crowding my fridge and counter. Cue curried winter squash/cauliflower/apple soup, served with apple/walnut/goat cheese/pomegranate salad and pizza dough breadsticks.
Loosely based on a couple of recipes, the soup came out pretty well! I took the veggie cues from this one (although I used one kabocha squash, a whole head of cauliflower, and 2 apples) and the spices from this one (plus a couple teaspoons of garam masala). Swirled in some sour cream when I served it.

Then, for the breadsticks, I used leftover pizza dough from the other night, and generally followed these instructions for turning them into twisty breadsticks. I brushed mine with olive oil and sprinkled them with garlic salt. Mine didn't poof up as much as hers did, but that's probably because I was using dough that was several days old. They were tasty anyway!

Black Pepper Beef Jerky!

Mike and Jamie gave me a dehydrator for my birthday back in September, but all I've made since then was some dried apples, which were good, but not earth shattering. I resolved to take my dehydrator training wheels off and engage the dehydrator in a more substantial and ambitious endeavor: beef jerky. After reading/drooling over an article in Food & Wine about homemade artisan beef jerky, I went with a black pepper beef jerky, which uses beef top round, sliced thinly and marinated in soy sauce, Worchestershire, lager and copious amounts of crushed black peppercorns. The recipe is super simple and the dehydrator made quick work of it (4 hours), despite the warnings that beef jerky could take between 4 and 12 hours to dry. The results were delicious, although probably not the most photogenic of all the things I have cooked. Chewy, spicy, meaty...

Butternut and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Wow, this pizza was pretty awesome... the sweetness of the butternut, creamy mozzarella, spicy/garlicky oil on the crispy crust, earthy sage and caramelized onions. Awesome.
Inspired by, but not adhering to these recipes, I whipped up a batch of the same pizza dough and used the same upside-down cookie sheet method I used a few weeks ago on my kale pizzas. Then I topped the pies with olive oil that had been marinating with red pepper flakes and a ton of garlic, laid thin slices of fresh mozzarella and roasted butternut squash, tossed on some caramelized red onions, and sprinkled it with minced sage, parsley and Romano cheese. So good with a green salad on the side!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Broccoli Frittata

Frittata = world's easiest weeknight meal... maybe not the most exciting, but certainly pretty decent for you when you stuff it chock full of broccoli.
I added some minced garlic when I sauteed the onions, because you know how I feel about garlic. Topped it with a combination of fontina and Romano. Served alongside some roasted potatoes.

Creamy Mushroom and Polenta Lasagna

Wow, this creamy mushroom and polenta lasagna was awesome... super simple since it's made with rolls of pre-cooked polenta and some other ingredients that I generally have on hand (mushrooms, onion, garlic, milk, a little bit of cream cheese), but so good. I think the fresh nutmeg in the cream sauce is what really made it special.

Jewelry for Christmas Gifts

Made some jewelry for Christmas gifts, both for me to give and for others to give...

Metal bird pendent, silver chain, blue freshwater pearls

Mixed freshwater pearl necklace

Jasper and brass necklace.

Some simple silver earrings

Dangly aventurine and ocean jasper earrings

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sweet Potato, Apple, Cheddar and Caramelized Onion Gratin

This sweet potato, apple, cheddar and caramelized onion gratin has a lot of potential. The flavor was great: spicy, sweet, creamy. The texture was a little off, partially due to my inconsistent slicing, but partially due to either too much sauce or a too-runny sauce. I can't decide. But the flavor was delicious enough to try again! I'll report back with any changes I make...

Chickpeas and Feta in Tomato Sauce with Couscous

Threw together this chickpea and feta dish pretty easily... rather than use a can of diced tomatoes, I used frozen tomato sauce I made this summer. Also substituted red wine for white, since that's what we had open. Finally, I topped mine with some Kalamata olives to make it more Greek. Tasty and ridiculously easy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gingerbread House

So, I'll admit it: we cheated a little on this gingerbread house. We used a pre-baked kit. But I swear it wasn't on purpose! In a hurry, I grabbed the box, assuming it just had the house-shaped cookie cutters, and that we would be responsible for baking adequate gingerbread walls and roofing elements to maintain structural integrity. I somehow missed that this part had already been done for us (despite the fact that it said "PRE-BAKED!" all over the box). Basically all we had to do was mix the icing and assemble the pieces.
However, the decoration was all me and Chuck, and it required some feats of craftsmanship. The kit came with some candy, but we were disappointed in the selection, so I purchased additional candy (Twizzler Bites for the roofing shingles, Dots for decorative features, Fruit Roll-Ups for the windows, candy canes).

Please take note of the following features, as we are quite proud of them:
  • hand laid brick walkway

  • Spanish-style shingled rooftop (complete with smoke-spouting chimney and skylight)

  • flower-filled window boxes

  • large be-bowed wreath

  • towering evergreen trees in the front yard (decorated for the season)

  • intriquitely detailed front entrance

Christmas Cookies!

As I noted earlier, we hosted a cookie-decorating (and ugly Christmas sweater) party last week to kick off December (see party detritus above).
In advance, Chuckie, Liz and I made over 100 sugar cookies to be decorated at the party, using the recipes from the December issue of Martha Stewart Living (the recipes don't seem to be online). Half of the cookies were traditional vanilla sugar cookies and half chocolate. Additionally, we mixed up large batches of a simple royal icing (well, powdered sugar and milk with a little vanilla, mixed until "right") and dyed it in a rainbow of colors to promote the creativity of the partygoers.

Here's the result of our efforts! If you look closely, you'll see that they ranged from the traditional to the anatomically correct, from basketball players to horror movie characters, from football helmets to PBR labels. Plus, there were some traditionally decorated ones in there, too!

Moroccan Butternut and Carrot Stew with Quinoa

I made this spiced butternut and carrot stew for the mostly vegetarian EPA girls as a precursor to the recycled t-shirt necklace tutorial, and, judging by the clean plates, it seemed to be a hit (except with Jenny, who found it to be too spicy... sorry, Jenny!). I didn't find it to be particularly hot-spicy (I thought it was more spice-spicy), but it definitely warmed us up on a freezing night.
After looking at the comments on the recipe, I decided to double all the spices except the cayenne, added 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon with the other spices, and used smoked paprika rather than Hungarian sweet paprika. Also, I added another 1/2-3/4 of a cup of water, as it was looking a little dry as it cooked. Finally, I didn't have any mint for the quinoa, so I added some parsley in addition to the cilantro.

I think that next time, maybe a little more quinoa would have been good, as we had no leftover quinoa, but a whole serving of the stew remaining. Also, the stew could probably benefit from some raisins or dried currants, and maybe some sliced almonds.

More Recycled T-Shirt Necklaces

Figuring that they would appreciate the recycled and homemade nature of the necklaces plus the funky style, I had the former-OSW ladies over to participate in a recycled t-shirt necklace tutorial and imbibe some tasty beverages. They made their own versions of the necklace I did a few weeks ago, and they came out beautifully! Just in time for Christmas gifting, too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Punch with Lemon/Lime Ice Wreath!

We had a cookie decorating party/ugly holiday sweater party to kick off December, and I decided that would be a good opportunity to bust out some punch and this fancy ice-ring. The Other Martha provided the recipe for Christmas punch, a tasty blend of pomegranate, cranberry, vodka and citrus. Bon Appetit gave me the idea for the wreath-like lemon and lime ice ring, made in a bundt pan. The real Martha provided the cool 3-in-1 punch bowl/dip tray/cake dome.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Recycled Paper Snowflake Garlands

I got on a paper snowflake making kick last week and went a little crazy... I used the Other Martha's directions for getting the fancy looking 5-sided snowflakes, cut up used notebook paper (law school notes, meeting notes from work), then strung the snowflakes on thread to get the garland look. I thought they came out pretty cool!

It definitely brought back some elementary school crafting memories, but there's something about opening up this little abstract triangle and finding out that you made this amazing kaleidescopey snowflake. The finished garlands remind me a little of those colorful hand cut Mexican Day of the Dead flags...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shepherd's Pie with Thanksgiving Leftovers

Another easy-to-make dish composed of Thanksgiving leftovers is a modified Shepherd's pie. Pretty good!
Loosely based on this Rachel Ray recipe, I heated up leftover gravy, threw in shredded turkey, sauteed carrots and baby spinach in a little olive oil and garlic, and zapped the mashed potatoes in the microwave briefly with a splash of chicken stock to loosen it up. Then I layered it all (in that order) in individual casseroles. I sprinkled some grated Parmesan cheese on top of the potatoes and baked them at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes (until it was bubbly).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hot Cheesy Broccoli Dip

This hot, cheesy broccoli dip recipe was super easy- thrown together with randoms odds and ends from my fridge. I microwaved the dip, as instructed, but then threw it under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to get a crusty top. Pretty good! Basically a cheddar broccoli soup in dip form. Fine by me!

Turkey, Cranberry and Fontina Panini

I made this great turkey, fontina and cranberry sauce panini/grilled cheese using Thanksgiving leftovers, inspired by (but not exactly following) this recipe. I also saw some other turkey panini recipes on the internets that were really appealing!
In retrospect, I am thinking I would have liked to throw thinly sliced apple into the sandwich itself for some crunch, but it was pretty tasty nonetheless. Prior to composing the sandwich, I zapped the shredded turkey in the microwave with a splash of chicken stock to reconstitute it, as it got a little dry in the fridge overnight. Worked perfectly.

I would definitely recommend this sandwich for leftover turkey! Also, this avgolemono soup recipe that I made in the past works great with some shredded turkey thrown in at the end!

Braised Baby Artichokes with Garlic Lemon Mayo

For Thanksgiving, Madison brought a bunch of baby artichokes over, in case we needed another veggie, or got hungry while prepping the remainder of the meal. We didn't end up using them that day, so I cooked them the day after as an appetizer prior to digging into the turkey leftovers!

I halved them and braised them in chicken stock and white wine, a la this recipe from the other Martha. Then we ate them with a dipping sauce we threw together with some mayo, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Delicious!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

White Pizza with Kale and Pepperoni

I had some leftover pizza dough after making some broccoli and mozzarella stromboli the other night (which were good, but messy and difficult to roll up!), so we decided to make a white pizza with crispy kale. Tim insisted that we also put pepperoni on it, because he's a man and men apparently need meat. The pepperoni was good, so I shouldn't complain. We also added some red pepper flakes in with the garlic oil that was spread on the dough. The goat cheese was a tasty and unexpected addition... the tang complemented the earthy flavor of the kale and the salty pepperoni.

I broke my baking stone a while back, so I decided to try a different method for getting a crispy pizza crust: I placed the rolled out dough on an upside-down baking sheet covered in a layer of cornmeal. I think using the baking sheet upside down let the air circulate around the crust a little more- I'd definitely use this method again!

Recycled T-shirt Necklace

There's been a whole lotta crafting going on here over the past few weeks... unfortunately, because a lot of the crafting is for birthday and/or Christmas gift purposes, most of it can't be discussed or shown here for at least another month or so!

This necklace is purely selfish, though. I made it for myself on a whim, and I am really digging it. I envision wearing it with jeans and a t-shirt, or even a black dress to work.
Inspired by some tutorials and blog posts I saw on Ye Olde Internets, I cut an old t-shirt (R.I.P. Chuck Norris Experiment soccer t-shirt! You have served me well!) into strips, pulled them so they curled up, strung some silver beads on them, arranged them in graduated strands, then knotted them together in the back. For being made out of an old soccer jersey, I think it's pretty classy and dramatic!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Butternut Squash, Kale and Cheddar Bread Pudding

The flavor of this bread pudding was really great... very appropriate for fall! I liked this, as did Tim, although Chuck was not enamored. I've taken note of her dislikes over the past couple years and, by my calculations, it appears she doesn't like custards... oh well!I switched out the baguette for the heels of a couple loaves of whole grain sandwich bread, which I think gave the bread pudding some heft, and definitely some healthy. Also, for extra flavor, I threw a couple cloves of garlic in when I sauteed the kale.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Over the past few weeks, my office has had a series of baking contest/fundraisers to benefit the Combined Federal Campaign. A few weeks ago we practiced our Thanksgiving pie-making skillz... I made a banoffee pie that got some raves, but Tony won the big prize (read: bragging rights) for his simple, but delicious key lime pie. I forgot to take photos...

This week was a cupcake contest for which I submitted two entries in a naked grab for the baking title. After consulting with Madison, I decided incorporate booze into one of my cupcakes, figuring that was a good hook with which to catch the judges. Deb from Smitten Kitchen provided the recipe I went with, and even though I skipped her whiskey ganache filling, the Guinness chocolate cupcake and Bailey's Irish Cream frosting was enough to secure the win for me!!
Underestimating the amount of time it takes to make 50 cupcakes (it was midnight by the time I turned the oven off!), I also made these lemon cupcakes with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Pretty delicious! I added more lemon juice and zest to the frosting as well as a little less sugar so I could keep it tart rather than sweet.

Cumin-Coriander Sirloin and Sweet Potato Fries

Mmmm... this super simple steak rub was really good: a little spicy, earthy. Served with similarly spiced sweet potato fries that I was hoping would be a little crispier. I made a tasty chipotle lime sour cream for fry dippin'.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Linguine with Brussel Sprouts and Bacon: Meh

I love brussel sprouts. However, I have discovered that I think I only really love them one way: roasted.

This pasta recipe calls for the brussel sprouts to be sauteed/steamed in a pan prior to throwing them on pasta with crunchy bacon. Sounds good in theory, but in practice, meh. Steaming/sauteeing brussel sprouts just doesn't give them the caramelization and crispiness that oven-roasting does. It just makes them limp and kinda stinky.

Lesson learned.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

For some reason, I was craving chocolate pudding last week. I did a search in Foodgawker, and spotted this recipe for chocolate pudding cake... pudding AND cake? Sign me up.

This recipe has the craziest and most intriguing instructions I've ever seen, and it was so easy I couldn't resist. Mix cake batter in the pan in which it's baked, then sprinkle brown sugar, cocoa and a cup of water on top prior to baking? Eh? Come again?
Crazy as the directions were, following them produced a great weeknight dessert. Chocolatey, crusty on top, smooth and pudding-y on the bottom, no extra mixing bowl to clean...

Cauliflower and Feta Baked Pasta

I had a bunch of cauliflower from the CSA, as well as a block of feta, so I decided to make this baked pasta recipe, which incorporated both. However, I amped it up by adding several of my own ingredients for more flavor: crushed red pepper and garlic were roasted with the cauliflower along with a couple small heads of fennel (cut into eighths), plus I threw in a can of artichokes which I'd sliced. Over all, it was really tasty (although not picturesque). Salty, full of veggies, and infinitely reheatable for work lunches.

Dried Apples!

I had a coupon for a big bag of apples from the new grocery section at the neighborhood Target, so I bought the bag and used the opportunity to try out the dehydrator that Mike and Jamie gave me for my birthday. I decided to start my dehydrating adventures with something simple and straightforward: dried apple slices. I figure I can snack on the dried apples at work or use them in granola or granola bars.
The dehydrator worked great! The apples were consistently dried, chewy and sweet.

My next dehydrating escapade may be beef jerky, or perhaps fruit roll-ups. I've been eyeing these jerky recipes from a recent Food & Wine article: black pepper jerky, or maybe Mexican lime jerky.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

I have had this huuuuuge can of pumpkin puree sitting in my cabinet for over a year... I had a panic moment in the midst of last year's canned pumpkin shortage, because I was worried I wouldn't be able to find any to make Chuck's beloved pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving. Lindsay came to the rescue and donated the big can to my cause, but I was also able to procure a couple cans in the meantime. Thus, we had a plethora of canned pumpkin, and after Thanksgiving was over, I temporarily forgot about pumpkin, and the big can sat, and sat, and sat, and sat.

I was feeling the fall vibe this week, and thought I'd put that big can to use in some pumpkin bread. Turns out a 29 oz can of pumpkin puree makes 3 full sized loaves of bread! I had one for home, one for work, and one to send to Chuck's work. Excellent.I followed this recipe to a T, with one exception: I used half brown sugar and half white. Brown sugar is the best. Anywho, this was a pretty typical pumpkin bread recipe... soft, sweet, spicy, rich. Yum.

Mushroom and Gorgonzola Sauce Over Linguine

Using gorgonzola left over from my galette adventure, I made this simple creamy pasta sauce with gorgonzola and regular button mushrooms. Flavor-wise, it was a hit. However, texture-wise, it was a kind of a miss for me... a little gluey for my taste.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola and Sage Galette

I had a couple butternut squashes from the CSA, part of the fall bounty of hearty greens and myriad winter squashes... Having recently remade all of my favorite butternut squash options, so I was looking for something new.Foodgawker pointed me to several blog posts that combined roasted butternut with caramelized onions, crispy pastry, sage, and some stinky cheese. I made a combination of several of these recipes, and came out with this masterpiece... it was perfect with a glass of wine and a green salad! Sweet squash, stinky cheese, flaky pastry, ain't nothin' wrong with that!