Thursday, November 20, 2008

Orange Yogurt

In our household, I am usually the one who buys something with the sincere hope of finding a new favorite food and instead almost always finds something new to add to my list of foods to never put in my mouth again.  For once, Brett gets that honor.

Brett loves Yoplait's non-fat yogurt.  He eats it every night for dessert and sometimes takes it in his lunch.  He will eat most flavors, but his favorite is cherry.  Lately the cherry yogurt has had little seeds that certainly didn't come from cherries nor any other fruit listed in the ingredients.  This weirded him out a little bit.  We have also turned into recycling/reducing/reusing  freaks and Brett felt bad about all the little plastic yogurt containers that he was using up.  His solution was to buy a big container of yogurt.  Unfortunately bulk yogurt does not come in delicious cherry and he came home with plain.  One bite of plain yogurt is all it takes...YUCK!

He went to the kitchen to get some dessert and came back to the couch empty handed.  Soon I heard the familiar words that are usually coming out of my mouth, escape his, "I don't think I can eat any more of that.  It's bad."  So I immediately started looking up recipes online for ways to doctor up plain yogurt and I found one for Orange Yogurt from The Barefoot Contessa.

It involved adding honey, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla to plain yogurt.  Sounded good to us.  It also involved adding raisins and walnuts but we ignored that part.  Unfortunately, we also ignored the part about straining the yogurt for 3 hours to thicken it up.  Consequently, our finished product turned out extremely liquidy.  It certainly tasted better (it couldn't have tasted worse) but the thin texture is weird for me.  I don't think I will be eating any more of it, but, as always, I hope that Brett will.

Our other idea for improving it even more is to put it in the ice cream maker and make frozen yogurt.  I have no idea if that will work though.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spiced Squash and Apple Soup

It is incredibly funny (to me at least) that I am willing to try so many new recipes even though I am an extremely picky eater.  I'm quite sure that this blog has something to do with it, and that is a good thing.  With my 100th post approaching I was hoping that whatever I made would be something fabulous, but now that we are here, Spiced Squash and Apple Soup will have to suffice.

This recipe, from Williams-Sonoma's Complete Entertaining Cookbook, serves 12, but thank goodness I had the foresight to quarter the recipe.  I don't think I've ever quartered a recipe before.  Luckily all the measurements worked out easily.  The only mistake I made was putting a whole apple instead of half of one.  When I get to chopping, there's no stopping me!

The chopped onion and apple sauteed in some butter and at first had an odd smell.  But after a few minutes I either got used to it, or it actually started to smell good, I'm not sure which.  While that was cooking I chopped up the butternut squash (which was hard work!) and Brett measured out the nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon and then added the chicken stock. 
Once I was finally done chopping up that squash, we let it simmer for 30 minutes and got to work on the cornbread
I love any excuse to use my immersion blender.  I was worried about the hot liquid splashing out so I wore an oven mitt.  It did splash a little bit once but it was away from me.  When the soup was smooth, we finally got to eat.

Brett and I both agreed that the soup was ok, but we won't make it again.  In fact, there are leftovers in the fridge that I'm hoping Brett will eat because I know that I'm not going to.  We'll probably have to throw it out.  I'm so glad we made cornbread with this soup because otherwise I would have been starving.  I ate as much as I could, but I think I have a problem with pureed soups.  It's a texture thing, or maybe it's an just an unfamiliar vegetable thing.  I don't know what my problem is.  It certainly looks yummy though.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Soft Pretzels

The first yeast bread we ever made was soft pretzels so it has a special place in our hearts. We use the recipe in the Taste of Home Baking Book that has instructional pictures and is really quite easy to follow.  The pretzels turned out so wonderfully the first time that we've been brave enough to try lots of different yeast breads and pretzels multiple times.  Brett got a hankerin' for soft pretzels recently and already had the dough rising when I arrived home.

When it came time to roll the dough out into logs and form them into pretzels I jumped in there because I had only ever watched.  It looked like fun.   I had seen something on T.V. about noodle making where the guy takes the dough and swings it around and it stretches out perfectly, so I decided to try that.  My first one swung and stretched pretty well so I thought I would try it with my next one.  Well, as I was swinging I must have gotten a little overzealous because the long end that had just stretched out broke off and went flying across the kitchen and landed in the sink right in a dirty enchilada pan.  Oops!  Of course I was left with a handful of dough so I made a baby pretzel and fired myself.  Here is some of Brett's handiwork:

With the pretzels formed, Brett poached them in boiling baking soda water for a short time and then I got to salt them before they went in the oven.  My mini pretzel came out cute and soft.  I thought it might have a different texture than its larger counterparts, but it was equally delicious.
We must have a knack for pretzel making because they turn out as good as the kind you buy at sporting events or fairs.  I'm not kidding.  When we see soft pretzels out in public we are able to resist because, "What's the big deal?  We can make them at home!"  We saw some Mickey Mouse shaped pretzels at Disneyland recently and thought that maybe we could try that next time.

The only problem is that they have to be eaten fresh.  They do not store well at all.  We tried the empty cereal bag trick that helps with other breads, but it just does not work with pretzels.  They taste ok the next day but they look wrinkly and have a different texture.  So we just gorge ourselves when they're fresh so that we have as few leftovers as possible.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Spiced Tea

At the first hint of fall I start getting thirsty for what I believe is the best spiced tea on the planet.  I made sure to have the ingredients on hand for when the perfect moment struck.  This past Tuesday it was drizzly outside and definitely had that "it's not summer anymore" feeling.  Of course I jumped on the chance to make spiced tea.

Here is Mamma's Spiced Tea recipe:
8 cups of water
3 tea bags (I use Lipton)
48 oz of orange/pineapple juice
2 cinnamon sticks
18 whole cloves
juice from 2 lemons
1 cup of sugar (I use less maybe 3/4 of a cup)

Just combine all the ingredients in a large pot and simmer over low heat for two hours.  When it's done, strain and drink it.

It always fills our apartment with the wonderful aroma of Christmas (no matter how far from Christmas it is.)  And when you're done smelling it simmer for 2 hours, it tastes like Christmas too.  So sweet and delicious.  I personally can't even taste the tea.  It just tastes like cinnamony, clovey juice to me.  Brett (a very stubborn non-tea person) claims that he can indeed taste the tea.  I'll just let you decide for yourself.   Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Night Dinner

When I was menu planning over the weekend I told Brett that I wanted to make something special for Election Night.  I just had the overwhelming feeling that history would be made and I wanted to remember everything about what I was doing when it happened including what I was eating.  I also desperately hoped that it would turn into a celebration dinner... which it did!

For our Election Night dinner Brett and I chose a recipe for Greek Chicken Strudel out of Williams Sonoma's Complete Entertaining Cookbook.  We had never worked with phyllo dough, you all know how much I love working with chicken, and the recipe called for, as Brett put it, about a thousand ingredients, but it certainly fit the profile of a special dinner.

We cut out a chicken related meltdown by buying a pre-roasted one from the grocery store (on sale for $5!)  We ate chicken Monday and then Brett picked the carcass clean and saved the leftovers for Tuesday.  We also left out the fresh herbs because I hate dill and am indifferent to parsley.

We got the filling ready to go first because I knew that as soon as the phyllo dough is out of the package things have to move fast and it's best to have everything ready.  I sauteed some spinach and had the lovely task of squeezing it dry.  (For all you Harry Potter fans out there it was like holding a handful of gillyweed.  It was hard to resist the urge to shove the whole slimy thing in my mouth and wait for flippers and gills to grow!)  Brett crumbled a block of feta and claimed before bed that his hands still smelled like cheese.  Everything got combined in a big mixing bowl.  "Everything" consisted of jack cheese, toasted chopped walnuts, eggs, sauteed green onions, nutmeg, coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. 

Once the filling was thoroughly mixed, I got a place ready for the phyllo.  When I had a difficult time getting the first sheet off the roll, Brett took charge of dismantling the phyllo (and keeping it covered) while I conquered the melted butter.  Four sheets of phyllo with melted butter brushed between every layer...mmmmmmm.

I let Brett do the filling and rolling because he is very good at that sort of thing.  Soon we had two gigantic rolls coming out of the oven.

In addition to having a special meal, I got out our fancy china platter to eat off of.  In the picture in the cookbook, they have the strudel slices so nicely laid out on a platter.  There was no way it was all going to fit on one platter.  Brett said he didn't really care, so he ate off of a regular old plate.  The picture turned out a bit rosy in hue, but I should tell those of you who don't know that there is beautiful cobalt blue running around the edge of the plate.  It looked very presidential!  They should get our pattern in the White House!

At this point I was starving (what's new?) and couldn't wait to sit down and eat.  This is what went through my head after the first bite, "MMMMM, oh my gosh this is soooooo rich!."  After the second bite, "Oh my gosh I don't think I can eat any more!"  I am not joking.  It was that rich.  I did manage to make it through 3 slices before actually calling it quits (Brett made it through 4.)  It was delicious, but definitely for special occasions only.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tuscan Bean Dip

It's amazing how we forget about about some of the cookbooks we have.  Lately I have been getting out cookbooks that I haven't opened in a long while and taking a gander.  This recipe for Tuscan Bean Dip was found was in my Food Network's Making it Easy cookbook.

Brett and I eat Nacho French Bread Pizza quite regularly but we are always left with half a loaf of french bread that sometimes goes to waste.  We are always looking for new ways to use the other half.  This bean dip seemed like a good way.  It calls for a baguette to be thinly sliced, rubbed with garlic, and toasted, but I figured it would work with french bread.  Of course Brett had different ideas about how we would be using the bread.  He imagined just cubing it up and dipping it in the bean mixture.  We went with his idea because it was less fussy (and boy am I glad because we certainly did not need any more garlic!)

The bean dip was incredibly easy.  I heated some olive oil in a small saucepan and cooked 4 cloves of chopped garlic until it started to brown.  When I took it off the heat it cooked for a while longer and I was worried that it would burn, but it didn't.  Then I put in some rosemary and a shake of red pepper flakes.  The recipe called for a tablespoon and a half of rosemary, but I knew this would be a disaster so I put a teaspoon and even this seemed like too much.  We let that sit and infuse the oil for a few minutes.

Then we put a can of white beans in my mini food processor with some salt and the oil mixture and let 'er rip.  Easy!  

It was good, but it was just too strong!  There was too much of everything.  Too much rosemary.  Too much garlic.  Too much salt.  I should have strained the oil before adding it to the beans.  Next time I will just put less of everything.