29 December 2009

spicy chili mac

First, belated Merry Christmas! I was late for Hanukkah, so it just makes sense I'd be late for Christmas, too. Equal opportunities tardy, right.

Was Santa good to you? He must've known I have a thing for food because I got some cookbooks, some decorative sprinkles, an awesome gorillapod to help me take pics (my very unsteady hands are bad for food pics), and... a brand new laptop! to search the world wide web for new recipes. Guess being a Good Girl really does pay off!

But Christmas has me kind of cookied out at the moment, so instead of another sweets recipe, how about something savory for this frigid time called winter. It's both hearty and healthy, being packed with fiber and protein while using very little oil (healthy oil at that). Since I used ground turkey, it didn't create a lot of excess oil so I just left it all in there, but feel free to drain it. Top some whole grain spaghetti with it and some cheese like I did for a full meal, or eat it as a side to something else. It'll warm you up right quick, maybe even set your tongue on fire if you're sensitive to spicy food, and keep you full all night.

If you're spicy intolerant, my condolences. You can just leave out some or all of the crushed red pepper, cayenne, and tobasco. Or start with a dash each and add until it suits you. The great thing about this is that it's a forgiving recipe where you just season and taste until it suits your liking.

Turkey Chili Mac
by me

1 spanish onion, diced
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp canola oil
1 lb ground turkey
30 oz black beans, mostly drained
30 oz kidney beans, mostly drained
30 oz diced tomatoes (or 1 can + a few diced tomatoes)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon EACH: chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne, cumin, dried basil, dried oregano, cocoa powder
however many dashes tobasco sauce to taste (I use about a tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent and garlic is soft. Add turkey and stir, breaking up to the meat consistency you want. Lightly salt and pepper. Cook until mostly done. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning, for at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Just taste it here and there and add salt/pepper/spices to your liking.

Option 2 (recommended if you're not in a rush to eat): you can cook the turkey as directed and add it and the rest of the ingredients to a slow cooker and let it sit on low all day.

Make spaghetti according to the box. Top with the chili and some cheese (I used mexican blend, but cheddar works fine).

22 December 2009

Belated Happy Hanukkah

With all that snow over the weekend I almost forgot that a few of us made Hanukkah dinner on Friday. It wasn't anything fancy since, well, we're not Jewish. But we wanted to celebrate the festival of lights with a nice hearty meal before the storm. What's hearty? Matzoh ball soup, brisket and latkes.

I should rewind a bit. Ang. and I had dinner planned for a couple weeks, and just a few days before it we found out J was going to be in town. J being actually Jewish, we invited him, too. He was a bit confused over why a couple of Filipina Catholics were having Hanukkah dinner, but hey he came! And he made the matzoh ball soup. I didn't get a picture of the it, though, because I was too busy scarfing it down. Thanks J! (Mental note, I must learn how to make that stuff cuz it's awesome.)

As for the rest of the food... Ang. made the brisket, and I made the latkes. Ang. pulled the latke recipe for me from Food Network and I kind of can't remember what I did with the print out. But it wasn't hard to make and I can recite it from memory. According to our Jewish guest of honor, they were good!

Latkes (Potato Pancakes)
adapted from a recipe from Food Network

2 big russet potatoes, peeled
1/4 C shallots, minced
2 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
oil to fry
Special equipment: cheesecloth

Line a strainer with some cheesecloth. Use a food processor to shred the potatoes. Put them into the strainer over a bowl and give a nice squeeze. Let drain for 15 min. Pour off the juice, but leave the white starchy part. Mix in the rest of the ingredients except the oil until all combined, then add the potatoes.

Heat the oil over med-high heat until hot. Drop latkes by the tablespoon full. Cook until lightly browned, then flip and cook the other side. Lay out on a paper towel lined plate.
Makes around 10.

Eat with applesauce (or sour cream).

20 December 2009

baby it's cold outside

Can you read that? Yesterday's snow forecast: Washington DC 16-24". They called it thundersnow. Was it an exaggerated weather forecast? Nope, not at all. It's everything they said it'd be and more. After a solid 24-26 hours of snowfall, it looks like marshmallow fluff, 2 feet deep, covering EVERYTHING.

Wanna see? I do!

This was the front yard at my Dad's house around 11am. I packed up half my kitchen and braved the roads to come over last night. What better time than a huge snow storm to bond with the family, right? Plus his neighborhood is prettier (and his TV is bigger and I won't have to cook myself meals).

And this was the front yard again around 8pm. Notice my brother's car... On Fri night he put the wipers up so they wouldn't freeze to the glass. Last night, couldn't see them at all. (Aww look at the sparkly christmas lights.)

So needless to say, we're snowed in, so I baked. Unfortunately I don't have pictures from what I baked yesterday :) I made the awful realization that my camera can only hold a few pictures because my SD card is missing. It's very likely in my work computer... My OLD work computer... the one gave back to IT to replace last week. Ugh. So I'm really hoping that it hasn't been lost completely.

What I DO have are pics from my baking night with my buddy Alan. We made some jelly things, chocolate crinkles, and these mint chocolate swirls. They're light and crunchy, not too sweet, and very cute. Alan had one of those small magazines full of holiday baking... I think it was Betty Crocker, but the photo copy of the recipe doesn't say for sure.

Chocolate Wintergreen Swirls

1 1/2 C powdered sugar

1 C butter or margarine, room temp

1 egg

2 1/2 C flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 C powdered cocoa

1 Tbsp milk

1/4 C mini choco chips (optional)

1/4 tsp peppermint extract

4 drops food coloring (also optional)

Beat together powdered sugar, butter, and egg until smooth. Stir in flour and salt. Split dough into 2 equal sections -- stir milk and powdered cocoa into one half, and the peppermint and food coloring and chips into the other.

Roll out dough onto some waxed paper into equal sized rectangles about 7" by 13". Lay the minty dough onto chocolate one so the edges are as flush as possible. Roll into a tight log, then wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325. Cut roll into 1/4" thick slices. Place about 1" apart on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.


12 December 2009

massage oil and candles and cookies, oh my

A foodie's perfect date night? Maybe. But not tonight. However, those three things led me to my latest foray into the kitchen: candied ginger. How's that? Well, it was a citrus ginger massage oil I scored as a freebie at a ladies night at Nationals Park back during summer that piqued my interest. It was so bright and had a much more zippy smell than only mixed up citrus peels. I lost it for a while, but just found it in my bag a couple weeks ago. Smells sooo good. And just the other week while Christmas shopping for myself loved ones I happened upon a vanilla ginger candle. That spicy note over the normally generic vanilla is what was so interesting, and I bought it immediately. So here I've been hanging out on my couch with a candle burning, filling my house with cozy goodness, looking through all these Christmastime recipes and I noticed that a lot of them, including the cookies I made last week, called for this sweet and spicy candied ginger. But sadly I didn't have any on hand then, so I left them out of the original recipe. And darn it, I wasn't going to let that happen again.

But where to begin... While I'd heard of candied ginger, I had no idea what it tasted like. Heck I barely use ginger in general. I could probably count the number of times I'd used it this past year on one hand, and all of those times in some kind of Asian food. So candied ginger? I had to be missing something if all of these recipes called for it... so what the heck. So with the help of my dear friend Google search, I found half a dozen recipes to play with and used them to make it from scratch.

It started with this guy on the right: a big honking piece of ginger. I suppose this is the part it could be like a date... I got him nekkid by peeling his skin off. Gave him a hot bath twice, then fattened him up with something sweet. And finally capped off the night by giving him some sugar. That's really how you do it, but here's the more G-rated version of how to candy ginger.

Candied/Crystallized Ginger
8 oz fresh ginger (well, 8 oz total after peeling, slicing, so you may want to get more)
1 1/2 C water
1 1/2 C sugar
extra sugar to coating
Special equipment: candy thermometer

Peel ginger. (I used a spoon to scrape his skin off, which makes it easier to get those tight spots.) Slice them into about 1/8" thick pieces. Throw them into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain then repeat one more time.
After the 2nd boiling and draining, add the 1 1/2 cups each of water and sugar to the ginger. Attach the candy thermometer to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so it simmers. Cook, stirring intermittently, until temperature reaches 225 degrees, then take off the heat.
Drain (save the liquid - you can make your own gingerale with it by adding to club soda) and arrange the ginger onto a cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch any extra drippings. Once it's cooled down enough to handle, toss batches of the ginger into granulated sugar until well coated and lay back out on the rack. Let it all dry overnight, then store in an air tight container.
Supposedly it keeps like this for several months, but I won't get to find it -- I'm almost out! You can use it in pretty much any sweets recipe that involves ginger: gingersnaps, gingerbread, cookies, etc. You can even add diced up bits to apple or pear pie for some extra zing.

NOTE: Ginger can also be kept in its syrup. Just allow to cool completely and put the slices and the liquids in an airtight container. It should keep in the fridge for up to a year.

07 December 2009

spicy molasses cookies

What's Christmastime without cookies? Soon all of us will be inundated with food gifts from friends, clients, coworkers. And come the 1st of the year, probably sooner, you'll be cursing those sweet generous people as the devil. (Hey, they didn't force that cookie into your mouth.) Anyways, I'm one of those devils. I tease my hair and wear a bump-it to disguise the sugar filled horns. Nice to meet you.

Ask anyone who knows me... I'm a baker before a cook. This is my season. This is what I train for all year! Okay fine that's almost an exaggeration... almost. These 2-3 weeks before Christmas my kitchen will be consumed in a whirlwind of flour and sugar. While I've never been to or hosted a cookie exchange, and boy do I ever want to go to one of those (come on friends, any of you hosting one?), I at least have a few cookie baking dates set up. Otherwise I'll happily bake hundreds of little treats over the next few weeks.

And it started this weekend with my little holiday thing where I made this delightful and colorful batch of molasses cookies. The sugar coating gives it a nice little crunch before the soft warming center. Dip it into a cup of steaming hot cider (spiked with Captain) on a snowy night and you'll feel all warm and cozy. And if you want to share with your coworkers or friends who'll call you a devil in a few weeks, it'll pep up any cookie tray.

Spicy Molasses Cookies
adapted from Baking Bites

1 stick butter, room temp
1 C sugar
1/4 C molasses (not blackstrap)
2 Tbsp honey
1 egg
2 1/3 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
turbinado and/or sanding sugar for rolling

1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in molasses, honey, and egg until smooth.
2. Whisk all dry ingredients from flour to salt together.
3. Mix the flour and spices mix ingredients into the butter mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and throw into the fridge for an hour or 2.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Roll dough into 1" balls. Roll turbinado or sanding sugars and arrange 2-3" apart on baking sheet.
6. Bake 9-11 minutes until edges are set.
7. Let cool on pan for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.
Makes approx 3 dozen cookies.

05 December 2009

Sausage Potato Puffs

Christmas tree up, check. Shopping for Salvation Army angel tree kid done, check. Shopping for family/friends started, check. First snow of the season, as of today, CHECK! All signs indicate that the holidays are in full swing.

Another sign: holiday parties. And tomorrow is my first of the season... and it's a potluck! There's so much to do for it, too. (Cleaning, not even sorta check, and of course cooking, also not check.) But I got a jump on it today. Tomorrow will be jam packed with prep, so what could I make ahead of time? These.

Sausage Potato Puffs
adapted from Food and Wine, Dec 2006

3/4 lb potatoes (I used red since that's what I had, recipe says Yukon Gold)
1 lb Italian sausages, casings removed (I used turkey because I wasn't sure if my friends kept kosher... plus it's half the calories)
3/4 C water
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 C all purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 C Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 C parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary (I omitted)
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 large egg yolk mixed w/ 2 tbsp water

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Coat 2 24-cup mini muffin tins w/ cooking spray.
2. Bring potatoes to a simmer over med heat until tender. Let cool slightly, then peel and coarsly mash.
3. Cook the sausage over high heat until browned, about 8 min. Coarsly crumble.
4. In a medium saucepan, bring water, butter, and salt to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until just combined. Set the pan over med high heat and cook the dough, stirring until it comes away from the sides of the pan, 2-3 min. Remove from heat.
5. Using a hand held mixer, beat the dough at low speed for 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time at medium speed. Beat in the gruyere, parmesan, herbs, and pepper. Stir in mashed potatoes and sausage.
6. Fill the muffin cups with the dough. Brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Either serve hot, or it can be refrigerated overnight, then rewarm in the oven. Made 40 (recipe yield is 48). I did some math and with the turkey for pork substitution, they come out to just under 100 cal each puff... just in case anyone was wondering.

They're overall relatively easy to make. I'd cut the salt back to 1 tsp next time, but otherwise these savory little bites are an easy make ahead app.

04 December 2009

Why hi there.

I did it: I gave in to peer pressure. Between comments like you should start a blog and you're in the wrong business (uh, it doesn't exactly involve food) and you should start a bakery, I went with the easiest option: hello there, Mr. Blog.

Funny enough, I'm not new to blogging. Remember Geocities (RIP, sad face)? I had one of those. Livejournal? Yep, that too. I even had a Blurty, if anyone remembers that. That was also about the same time as my Everquest days, so really, I was no stranger to being online.

This... this is the next phase focused on one of the loves of my life: food.

So yep, hi there :-D