Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chocolate orange chip frozen yogurt

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Every now and then a girl needs to buy herself a present.

Which is why I bought myself a Cuisinart ice cream maker last Mother's Day. I saw it at Costco. It was less than $25. I had to have it.

We actually used to have an ice cream maker, an old Danvier. My husband contributed it to the marital household. It involved a hand crank. The most action it saw was in 2003, when baby Weston's favorite pastime involved carrying the guts of the ice cream maker from the kitchen to the bathtub at the other end of the house.

With the new ice cream maker, I mix up my favorite flavors, pour the goop into the machine, turn it on, and come back half an hour later. The hardest thing about using the new ice cream maker is making room in the freezer for the canister. Oh, and portion control - the thing doesn't hold as much as I thought it did, which I found out when one batch of ice cream overflowed its banks and flooded the kitchen counter.

I'm just as lazy when it comes to frozen desserts as with everything else I make. No egg custard base for me. I put my ingredients in the blender, whip them up, and freeze. Works out fine.

I created this dark chocolate frozen yogurt flavored with orange and studded with chocolate chips for my husband, whose college diet relied heavily on chocolate orange chocolate chip milkshakes. He smiled when he tasted it.

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Chocolate orange chip frozen yogurt
This tart, creamy frozen yogurt takes just a few minutes to prepare and is one of the best reasons to own an ice cream maker.
  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar (substitute turbinado or demerara sugar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips (semisweet)
If you have the kind of ice cream maker that requires the bowl to be pre-frozen, make sure you put it into the freezer the day before you want to make the frozen yogurt.Put the yogurt, cream, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and orange extract into a blender and whip until well blended and frothy. Pour the yogurt mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to the directions for your machine. During the last 5 minutes of churning, add the chocolate chips.When the frozen yogurt is done churning, spoon it into a freezer-safe container and cover tightly. Freeze at least 2 hours. Serve, obviously, very cold.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 1 quart

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spaghetti carbonara with smoked turkey

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I know some of you may find this hard to believe, but I made my first spaghetti carbonara last night.

It would have been a classic carbonara, except that I forgot to buy pancetta, and even if I had bought it I might have had to throw it out, because our main refrigerator was on the blink for more than a week, and we ended up losing a lot of food.

So instead I used some precooked chopped bacon (the kind that comes in a bag at Costco) and the meat from a smoked turkey leg I picked up on sale last week and remembered to move to the downstairs refrigerator before it spoiled. I cut the smoked turkey meat into chunks and sauteed it with the bacon while the pasta boiled.

Guess what?

It was really, really good. So good that if it weren't completely outrageous I might go buy some pancetta today and make it the authentic way tonight.

Pretty sure I can't justify that though. I should wait at least another day, right? Must eat at least one vegetable  tonight at dinner.

[Evening update: I should have made the carbonara. Instead I tried to be healthy and was shredding brussels sprouts on a mandoline and cut off a good chunk of my left thumb. If I'd stuck with carbonara, we'd be up a few pounds but my thumb would be intact. Can't win for losing.]

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Classic spaghetti carbonara with smoked turkey
Classic spaghetti carbonara will never be light, but subbing smoked turkey leg meat for some of the pork gets you part of the way there without sacrificing much in the way of flavor.
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 smoked turkey leg, meat removed from bones, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan, romano or Grana Padano cheese, plus more for serving
  • freshly grated black pepper
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti and the salt and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet and add the smoked turkey and cooked bacon. Saute the meat about 4 minutes, until the turkey chunks are browned and crisp on the outside. Add the garlic, stir, and turn off the heat until the pasta is ready. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the grated cheese.When the pasta is al dente, turn the heat back on under the skillet and add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the skillet with the meat. Toss about 1 minute, until the pasta is coated with the juices (okay, the fat) from the pan. Turn the hot spaghetti mixture into the mixing bowl with the eggs and cheese. Using tongs or two large spoons, toss the pasta vigorously to coat it with the egg mixture. Don't skimp on this step - the hot pasta will cook the egg on contact, but if you let it sit too long in one position it will end up more like scrambled eggs and less like the silky result you want. Grind on a lot of black pepper, toss again, and serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 generous servings

Monday, October 22, 2012

Potato skin potato chips

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What do you do with potato peels? Until yesterday, I threw mine away or, if I was feeling particularly motivated, buried them in the end of the garden where I half-heartedly maintain a "cheater's compost pile."

Never again.

Feeling frugal, I took yesterday's mountain of potato peelings, dried them off, tossed them in olive oil and sea salt, and stuck them in the oven.

And what did I get? Chips with fiber, flavor and all the health benefits of potato skins. Next time I'll sprinkle a little grated parmesan cheese on them before baking. Or maybe some smoked paprika. Or za'atar...or curry powder...or cumin...or chili powder...you get the idea.

Are you wondering why I had peeled so many potatoes? I'm working with the Idaho Potato Commission on some exciting new potato recipes for Hanukkah. And these recipes are tasty. How do I know? Let's just say there was a lot of eye-rolling in my house this weekend. The good kind.

Stay tuned. More potato recipes coming soon.

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Potato skin potato chips
Don't throw away potato peelings! Tossed with olive oil and salt and then roasted in a hot oven, strips of potato skin make fantastic, fiber-rich chips.
  • 2 pounds Idaho russet potatoes
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife, peel the potatoes. Reserve potato flesh for another use.Pat the potato peelings dry between two layers of paper towel. Scatter the potato peelings on a baking sheet. Add the olive oil and salt to the potato peelings and mix together with your hands.Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the potato skins until the skins are crisp and browned. The time will depend on how much flesh is left on the skins - if you used a knife, more flesh will be attached and the skins will take longer to cook. Figure about 10 minutes for skins peeled with a peeler and 15 minutes for skins peeled with a knife (but check to make sure they aren't burning).Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 4 cups

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chinese cabbage and onion omelet

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I am on a mission to eat more vegetables for breakfast.

The fact is, I don't always feel like eating vegetables at dinnertime. By then I'm tired and crabby and often a nice bowl of Cheerios will do me just fine. I have more discipline in the morning. And more energy.

Plus, the earlier in the day I start eating vegetables, the more likely I am to meet my "five servings a day" requirement. I strive for 5 by 5 - that is, five servings of fruits and vegetables by 5pm. That way, even if I end up eating cereal for dinner, I know I've gotten the healthy stuff in.

I took this simple breakfast omelet with cabbage and onions a little Asian by adding soy sauce. Bean sprouts would be a nice addition, although I never seem to have them when I want them.

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Chinese omelet with cabbage and onion
Get your veggies at breakfast with this Asian-inspired omelet. Use green or Napa cabbage, and don't skip the soy sauce.
  • 1 tsp grapeseed or canola oil
  • 2 cups green or Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, cabbage and onion. Saute the vegetables about 5 minutes, stirring often, until they are wilted but still crunchy and you see brown around the edges. Add the garlic and stir 30 seconds.While the vegetables are cooking, crack the eggs into a bowl, add the soy sauce, and whisk with a fork.Flatten the vegetable mixture and spread it around the skillet so it is evenly distributed. Pour the eggs over the vegetable mixture, then tilt the pan to make sure the eggs go all the way around the vegetables. Cook about 3 minutes, until the eggs are mostly set and the bottom of the omelet is brown. Use a spatula to cut the omelet into quarters right in the pan, then carefully flip each wedge. (As you can see from the photo above, my cutting and flipping did not go exactly as planned.) Cook another 1 minute on the second side. Slide the omelet wedges onto a serving plate. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple pie oatmeal, and Oatmeal Wars

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We have Oatmeal Wars in our family.

My husband eats a lot of oatmeal. He likes rolled Irish oats and cooks them with lots of water so the finished product is decidedly soupy. He eats it cold, often at midnight, with jam stirred in.

I eat oatmeal occasionally. I am not picky about my oats - generic brands are fine - and I like my oatmeal thick, closer to solid than liquid. I always add a pinch of salt and a slosh of pure maple syrup.

Emery, my older son, will not touch oatmeal of any consistency. He has never liked spoon foods. He eschewed all baby food and was happily eating steak when he was seven months old and had only one tooth.

Weston, my younger son, will only eat the oatmeal my mother-in-law brings with her when she and my father-in-law visit. I believe that consists of steel-cut oats with flax seed added in. She adds milk, raisins and brown sugar. I have tried to make my mother-in-law's oatmeal and thus far have not gotten close enough that Weston has been willing to eat it.

And my mother likes oatmeal but only with salt and pepper. She eats all her hot cereal that way. No one else seems to have inherited that preference.

In an attempt to convince myself to eat more oatmeal, and to kick off my October Unprocessed pledge, I made a big pot of oatmeal with grated apples and cinnamon. I liked it. My husband ate it but went back to his oatmeal soup. Emery wouldn't touch it. Weston tried one bite and declared it not as good as Grandma Vera's. The Oatmeal Wars rage on.

You'll like this oatmeal, though. I added some maple syrup before serving and thought it tasted just like apple pie. I soak the oats overnight to make the final product a little creamier and cut down on morning cooking time.

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Apple pie oatmeal
This dressed-up oatmeal tastes just like apple pie. Serve with a sprinkle of brown sugar or pure maple syrup.
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 large apples (any variety), peeled, seeded and grated
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Combine the oats, water, apples, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan. Let soak at least 1 hour and up to overnight. (I mix this up before bedtime and let it soak while I sleep to cut down on cooking time in the morning.)Bring to a simmer, then cook over medium-low heat about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with brown sugar or pure maple syrup, and sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon if you like.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

15 ways to use empty glass jars for October Unprocessed

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I chose the most visible place I could find for my October Unprocessed sticker - my handbag!

This year, for the first time, I decided to take the Eating Rules October Unprocessed challenge. No processed foods for a month. I haven't been perfect, but I've definitely been more aware of what's in the food I put in my mouth. And that's really the point.

Along with all the great recipes and food essays, the October Unprocessed series includes a "tips and tricks" track. My guest post listing 15 ways to use empty glass jars is up now - please do click over and take a look!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Breakfast quesadilla with smoked salt guacamole

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Every summer I spend a few days in Vermont while my older son is at music camp. Sometimes I stay with friends, but this year I stayed at the very historic Rowell's Inn in the very tiny town of Simonsville.

Rowell's was a safe house on the Underground Railroad in the 19th century, and one of the third-floor guest rooms opens onto the attic where the owners hid runaway slaves. The inn was also featured on the Ideal Tour, a three-week trip around scenic New England, early in the 20th century. Hanging in each room are century-old pages from the inn's guest books, complete with the number of horses and servants guests brought with them.

Inns like Rowell's take you back in time. You can't mind a little dust - there's just no way to get a historic, relic-filled place like Rowell's really clean. But the overwhelming presence of the past makes up for the dust bunnies and cobwebs.

Sadly, Mike, the owner of Rowell's, told me he's just about ready to hang it up. The recession slowed Vermont tourism for a few years, and then Hurricane Irene took it out completely in 2011. I hope whoever ends up with Rowell's finds a way to keep its history alive.

Mike hails from San Francisco and turns out solid Cal-Mex food, an uncommon treat in the Green Mountains. He served me a breakfast quesadilla like this in the Rowell's Inn dining room, the same room where elegant ladies in bustles and big hats no doubt took their tea and crumpets a century ago.

About smoked salt: Buy some and put it on everything.

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Breakfast quesadilla with smoked salt guacamole
A thin omelet studded with cooked bacon and sandwiched between flour tortillas with melted cheese. The smoked salt adds an unusual note to simple guacamole.
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 lime
  • a large pinch of smoked salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped and cooked
  • 4 medium flour tortillas (soft taco size)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, or a mixture
Make the smoked salt guacamole: Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a small bowl. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from both halves over the avocado. Mash with the tines of a fork until you get the consistency you want. Season with the smoked salt. Set aside.Make the omelettes: Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whip them with a fork. Spray the skillet with cooking spray and pour in half the beaten eggs, then sprinkle over half the bacon (you're making very thin omelets, which will go inside the quesadillas). When the eggs are set, flip the omelet with a spatula. Slide it onto a plate when it's cooked, then repeat with the other half of the beaten eggs and bacon. Keep the skillet on the heat.Assemble the quesadillas: Lay two tortillas on the counter or a cutting board. Sprinkle each with 1/8 cup grated cheese, then lay an omelet on top. Sprinkle each with the rest of the grated cheese, then put the remaining tortillas on top. Lift one quesadilla into the skillet and grill it until both sides are golden brown and the cheese inside is melted and gooey. Repeat with the second quesadilla. Cut the quesadillas into quarters and serve with the smoked salt guacamole.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 quesadillas

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pear chutney

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Chutney is an undervalued condiment. Whether paired with meat, cheese, charcuterie or curry, an assertive fruit chutney always brings something special to the table.

I am so passionate about chutney - a sweet-savory mixture of fruit stewed in vinegar, sugar and spices - that I once considered starting a chutney company. I went to my local Whole Foods on a reconnaisance mission. What did I find? An entire aisle of salsa, ketchup and mustard, hundreds of bottles and jars. And, on the very top shelf only giants could reach, exactly three kinds of chutney.

I never got around to bottling this pear chutney for sale, but I've made it every year for two decades. It couldn't be easier and it goes well with just about everything. I brought to the Food Bloggers Los Angeles "Apples & Pears" potluck this weekend, spooned on top of ultra-ripe Brie and thinly sliced dry Polish sausage from Colorado's North Denver Sausage (handmade by my friend Kathy Laurienti). There were no leftovers.

Note: I don't bother with proper canning and instead opt to keep my jars in the refrigerator - the combination of sugar and vinegar keeps the chutney fresh at least six months, and I've pushed it to a year and beyond. If you prefer to keep your chutney at room temperature, make sure you process the jars properly to keep them bacteria-free.

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Pear chutney
A sweet-sour-spicy condiment that pairs well with meat or cheese.
  • 6 large or 8 medium firm Bartlett pears, cored, peeled and diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1/8 tsp red chile pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries or cranberries
Add all ingredients to a large pot. Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chutney is done when the mixture is soft and the liquid has reduced slightly and looks glossy. Use a potato masher or immersion blender to reduce some of the larger chunks of fruit to mush, but be sure to keep the chutney chunky. Store in clean jars in the refrigerator up to six months, or process according to basic canning instructions.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 4 pints