Monday, December 27, 2010

Grilled Vegetables with balsamic glaze

Say it with me, "Detox", "I must detox". What a refreshing word. So I am currently experiencing seasonal limbo. It is that weird period of time between Christmas and New Years where no one actually gets any work done, nothing is accomplished, everyone is just waiting around for New Years to happen. Also during this time everyone is in this strange food coma like stage. Should we exercise? Should we start that diet we have been talking about? Nah, just wait until New Years and it can fit right in with the resolutions. Speaking of resolutions, I have decided to not make any resolutions. I am pretty much perfect and have no need for reform or redirection of my life goals. Um yeah, not even close. Resolutions, where do I begin? Pray more, exercise more, socialize more...bake less, eat less, sleep more, and most importantly work in get a job more. At the end of the day all that matters is that I fit into my jeans, and currently I do, so all is well.

Another one of my resolutions is to spend more time with the niece. We all just went and saw Tangled, which is a super cute and very tolerable cartoon...which just so happens to feature the vocal talents of my one and only, Zachary Levi...aka Chuck. Growing up I always had long blond hair, and would often imagine my life if I was Rapunzel. Of course my hair never grew past my bum, so if someone wanted me to let down my fair hair to climb they wouldn't get too far.

Two words that go together are detox and vegetables. Aren't they music to your ears? Only if you are a yoga loving, zen driven vegetarian who wears Birkenstocks. I do realize that many of my readers are in fact Birkenstock wearers, and yes, that comment was directed to you. Here enters the recipe. I was first inspired to make this when I had the delicious grilled vegetable salad from California Pizza Kitchen. Of course they served it with grilled chicken and feta, which was awesome. So do that if you want to make a meal of it. Grill up some chicken and toss it with these veggies. Great healthy meal.

Grilled Vegetables with Balsamic glaze

3 TBS olive oil
1 TBS Dijon mustard

1 TBS Balsamic vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grilled vegetables (I used mushrooms, zuchinni, yellow squash, and peppers, eggplant, onions, and shallots also work well.)

Whisk glaze together and pour over warm grilled vegetables. Enjoy hot or cold.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Salted Awkward turtles

Does anyone actually know where the term "awkward turtle" came from? I tried to find out some information online, but nobody seems to know where it came from. I would love to shake the hand of the person who came up with it, but they would probably just go all awkward turtle on me. My mini sister...the queen of awkward, Mimzer loves turtles. The ones of the chocolate kind, not the live ones. I have always wanted to make turtles, but just never got around to it, until today. They were simple, delicious, and mucho yummy. If you are looking for a nice homemade gift, this would be it. I know making your own caramel can be intimidating, but really it is quite simple. You do however need a thermometer. You can buy them at target for $10-15. I use mine all the time for making candies, butter cream icing, meat, and bread. It really is a worthwhile investment, so go ahead and put one in your stocking this year. You can make this without a thermometer, but you have to be careful not to under or overcook the caramel Basically you want it to be a nice dark caramelly color, but not burnt. For guaranteed results use a thermometer.

Speaking of favorite Christmas moment so far has been watching my seven year old niece make Christmas pictures for everyone in the family. She comes home from school everyday and draws these adorable Christmas scenes. Then she gets out the wrapping paper and wraps each picture individually. She was really frustrated the other night because she realized she had been using double stick tape on accident and all the presents were sticking together. That girl has such a big heart, and beautiful soul I love that kid. She helps make Christmas magical for all of us.

Salted Awkward Turtles

Place 2 cups of chopped pecans on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5-8 minutes until slightly colored, you will know they are ready when you start to smell them. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan bring the following to a boil over medium high heat:

1 cup + 2 TBS granulated sugar

4 oz corn syrup*

8 fl oz heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

Stir until sugar is dissolved and then do not stir anymore. Boil until temperature reaches 245 degrees. Then add 3 TBS butter, and 1 tsp vanilla and boil until 245 degrees again. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted chopped pecans. Stir, and then scoop teaspoons of mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Allow to cool until caramel is set. Once cool, melt chocolate according to instructions on type of chocolate you are using. Heat only until just about melted. Do not over heat the chocolate. If it is too hot it will not set properly. Dip each caramel/pecan cluster into the melted chocolate and coat, remove from chocolate with fork and shake off any excess chocolate. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and sprinkle a few grains of coarse sea salt on top of each candy before the chocolate hardens. Cool completely and store at room temperature in an air tight container.

*If you don't want to use corn syrup you can substitute honey or maple syrup. The end result will be slightly softer, but still taste really good.

Traditionally turtles are arranged with 3-4 pecan halves that are laid flat and then caramel is poured in the middle, thus making it look like a turtle. I like having caramel cover all the pecans, so I like to chop and mix instead. Do what you prefer, in the end it still tastes great.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Roasted Eggplant and Lentil soup

I meant to post this recipe a long time ago, I just never got around to it. The cold weather has me constantly thinking of what soup to make. This one is next on my list. While visiting our relatives in Louisiana this past September we stopped in at this new little restaurant. From the outside it looks like it just sells cupcakes, and when you walk looks like they just sell cupcakes. So, needless to say, we bought a cupcake. Well that little cupcake was nothing to write home about. Anyways, while we were sitting there eating the cupcake the owner brought us a sample of her eggplant and lentil soup. Now that was something to write home about. Super yummy and light, very very nice. When we got home I immediately set out to recreate that lovely soup. I think I did a pretty good job and was pleased with the end result. I need to make it again, and soon.

Eggplant facts:

1) Also known as aubergine, melongene, brinjal, or guinea squash...I wonder what my aliases are?

2) Native to India...oh...that explains why it is in so many Indian dishes, it is all coming together now.

3) They come in a nice variety of colors that can color coordinate with any kitchen color scheme you have going on in your humble abode...yellow, green, purple, reddish purple, or white.

4) Technically is a fruit. Go figure.

5) It is bitter tasting when please cook it first.

6) The larger fatter eggplants usually require "degorging". Which is salting and then rinsing the sliced fruit, this makes it soft and helps take away some of the bitterness.

7) Recently I have been buying the small skinny squashes and using them in stir fries. So good!

Roasted Eggplant and Lentil Soup

Take 2 large eggplants and peel them. Then slice them into large flat disks. Then place the slices on a rack and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let the disks sit for 30 minutes. Then rinse them off with water and squeeze out any excess moisture.

Place the slices in a single layer onto a baking pan and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Flip them over after 10 minutes.

Remove eggplant from the oven and cool for a few minutes. At this point you can either dice the slices, or puree them in a food processor. I like my soup to have a hearty texture so I dice. Set aside.

Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and saute 1 large diced onion over medium high heat 5 minutes. Add 3 cloves of diced garlic, and 1 pound of rinsed, drained dry lentils. Add eggplant to pot.

Then add:

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 TBS Apple cider vinegar

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Simmer over medium/high heat until lentils are tender 25-35 minutes. Add more liquid during the cooking process if it is no longer covering the lentils. Taste and season more if needed.

I almost added some diced tomatoes, but didn't. I think I might try that next time, but this was good as is, I need to make it again. I served it along side some nice little spicy lamb chops...very nice combination.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fun homemade decorations...make it now.

Have you visited your local Anthropologie store today? I haven't but I need to. I never can afford anything in that store, but the window displays are out of this world awesome and innovative. I have been tasked with decorating the house for Christmas while my Mom is out of I need to get some major creative inspiration, and soon.

Here is a really cool idea I saw on Martha Stewart. I just made my first tree, and I love it! I don't know if I am going to spray paint the trees or just leave it the urban magazine look instead. So grab some friends or family, put some Christmas music on, make some hot cocoa, and make a bunch of these lovely trees. Happy folding, and Happy Advent!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's raining Christmas Cookies!

Aren't they cute little guys? I have been making these and ones with pink hats or green hats...super cute!

I fall asleep every night having nightmares about snowmen and Christmas trees chasing me through the forest. In these dreams I am always racing towards something. Is it a bright light? Is it Superman? Well, kinda both. It is Christmas. Lord help me make it to Christmas! This year I decided to focus on two main Christmas cookies and make them look uber nice. The lucky cookie cutters that won a weekend for two in the Bahamas were my snowman and Christmas tree cookie cutters. Come on down! For the last 4 days I have been in constant icing mode...which is a good thing, because that means I am getting orders!!! Yipee!!! A special thanks goes out to my wonderful friend Maddie who stopped in for a visit and helped me ice the first batch of cookies. Thanks Maddie, you are the best! I was originally planning on opening up an Etsy store in time for the holidays, but my grandma's unexpected passing set me back and I just ran out of time. Plus, I have been keeping busy with local orders...which is AWESOME!!!! So thank you to anyone out there who reads this and buys my cookies. If anyone does want to order any Snowmen or Trees ($25/dozen+shipping), or a tray of my heaven bars ($18+ Shipping)...layers of oats, homemade caramel, and good does that sound? Then shoot me an email Happy Advent and Happy Christmas Baking to you all!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chai Spiced Snowball Cookies

So my goal was to find or create a cookie that tasted like gingerbread but had the texture of a wedding cake cookie. Instead I got sidetracked and came across this recipe. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice taste of this cookie. Not to knock the traditional wedding cookie, which I love, but this one is refreshingly different.


Chai Spiced Snowball Cookies


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped or ground toasted almonds

  • Cream butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add vanilla, and almond extract, mix until smooth. Sift together spices, salt, and flour then mix in almonds. Mix into butter mixture until dough comes together. Scoop into small balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
    bake 350 degrees 18 minutes. Cool for a few minutes then roll in additional powdered sugar. Cool completely and roll in more powdered sugar.

    Happy Advent!

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Moosewood Brown Sugar Brownies

    Brownies are so weird looking. They honestly just look like a big chunk of chocolate...but oh how they do sooth the weary soul. I have fond memories of one of my friends making brownies in college, the one bowl Baker's recipe...oh so good, and even better while we were all away from home and stressing during exams. They were magic brownies...and no, not in that way. I usually make the Ina Garten Outrageous brownies...which I posted about last year, but I decided to try something new. It seems like most brownie recipes are basically the same...same ingredients, same method, same taste. The thing that grabbed my attention in this recipe is the fact that it called for brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar. I love that. I found that using brown sugar made the brownies have a more complex flavor, a certain je ne sais quoi to it. The other thing I like about these brownies is they are super simple. One pot, one pan, and you are good to go.

    Now for all you die hard "box mix brownies are the best" people, please, humor me and give these guys a try. Oh, and one more out of the oven I didn't really like these brownies, but then I let them sit and had one the next, they were out of this world. So for best results make these a day ahead and then indulge. Happy eating my friends!

    Moosewood Fudge Brownies
    directions adapted

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9" cake pan with parchment. In a medium/large pot melt the following over medium heat:

    2 sticks butter
    6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

    Once melted remove from heat and add the following and whisk until combined:

    2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    Then carefully and quickly beat in 4 lightly beaten eggs. Be sure to whisk continuously otherwise you will end up with scrambled eggs. Once smooth and combined add 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour and mix just until combined.

    Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20 minutes until they start to pull away from the edges.