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Real Good Taste

I live to eat

Updated: 2018-03-06T11:38:34.178-05:00


BBQ Lunch Box


So- my new phone has a camera and I thought it would be a great way to take a picture of my lunchbox for the blog. As you can see, it was not the best idea ever and the rice looks positively radioactive, which I promise you it was not. So, if you will excuse the picture, let me tell you about my lunch.First off, I like tofu. I always have and it's nothing that I'm forcing upon myself (or Zach) for the vegan challenge. I don't really understand it when people say they don't like tofu, as I think it's fairly neutral in terms of taste and texture. What I love about tofu is it's ability to soak up flavors in a sauce or a marinade. I would say that about 90% of the time that I eat meat, I'm not actually after the meat itself, but the delicious curry, sauce or marinade that it's in, so tofu is a perfect substitute for me. In preparation for the Vegan MoFo, I got Vegan with a Vengance from the library and marked a ton of recipes that I wanted to try, including BBQ Pomegranate Tofu.I'd never made BBQ sauce before, so I thought I would try it, along with some coconut rice and roasted broccoli. I made a few changes to the recipe, substituting fresh pomegranate for the pomegranate molasses as my grocery store didn't have it, and leaving out the peanut butter, since Zach can't stand it. I've also decreased the amount of oil and soy sauce that the tofu is baked with, as I thought it could do with less. The BBQ tofu took a bit longer to make than expected (45 minutes total) so by the time dinner was finally ready, I was starving, but it was totally worth it. I can't remember the last time I made a protein plus two sides, so that in itself was novel. The BBQ sauce was great on the tofu, and the roasted broccoli was crisp and delicious, both with and without the sauce. I overcooked the rice a bit, but I'm sure you won't have that problem. Recipes after the jump.BBQ Pomegranate TofuAdapted from Vegan with a VengeanceServes 4For the tofu1lb/450g firm tofu, cut into 12 pieces1 t. olive oil2 t. tamariFor the BBQ sauce1 T olive oil1 C/2 large shallot, minced2 cloves garlic, minced1t five-spice powder4oz/120g tomato paste2 C/500ml vegetable broth2 T pomegranate molasses1/2 C pomegranate arils1T Tamari or soy sauce1/4C/60ml maple syrup1t hot sauce (or to taste)1t liquid smoke-Preheat oven to 350. Put the tofu in baking dish, pour the olive oil and soy sauce over it, and turn to coat. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, flip the tofu and bake for another 15 minutes. While the tofu is baking, start the sauce.- Heat a saucepan over medium. Add the oil and saute the shallots for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, 5 spice and tomato paste and sauté 1 minute more. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.-Put a few ladle fulls of sauce over the tofu and bake for 15 minutes longer.Coconut RiceAdapted from Vegan with a VengeanceServes however many you'd like it toJasmine RiceLight coconut milk1 Lime- Prepare rice according to package directions, substituting coconut milk for about 1/4-1/2 of the water.- When rice is finished cooking, add the zest of one lime and fluff.Roasted BroccoliServes 41.5lb/700g broccoliolive oilsaltpepper- Preheat oven to 350F (you may already have it going for the tofu).- Cut broccoli into florets, put in on a large baking sheet, drizzle on a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Give it a good mix and stick it in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring once. It's done when it's crisp-tender and starting to brown.[...]

Lentil Chili



Since the weather had suddenly gotten cold here and I've had to pull out my winter biking gear for my daily commute, chili seemed like the perfect thing to help me defrost after the ride home from work. One of my favorite cooking magazines, Cuisine at Home, had a recipe for lentil chili which was practially vegan so it I thought it would be a good start to my Vegan MoFo. I will admit to being slightly sceptical of a lentil chili, thinking that chili had to include beans, but I was completely blown away at how delicious it was. Smoky and full of spice without being too hot, it was absolutely perfect with fresh hot corn muffins and even better for lunch the next day along with a hunk of fresh bread and avocado. You won't miss the beans- I promise. Recipe after the jump.

Lentil Chili
Adapted from Cuisine at Home
Serves 6-8 (extra portions freeze well)

1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and diced*
1/4 C./120ML tomato paste
1 T. chili powder
1 T. dried oregano
1 t. smoked paprika
1.5 T cumin
1 t. coriander
28oz/800g canned diced tomatoes
2 cans/22oz/600ml V8 (or substitute tomato juice)
3C/750ml hot water
2C/400g lentils, green, brown or red
lime wedges for serving
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

- Heat a medium-large pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onion and peppers; cook for 5 minutes until softened but not brown.

- Add the garlic, tomato paste and spices. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until tomato paste begins to darken. Add the diced tomatoes, V8, water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to keep the pot at a simmer, partially cover and cook for 45 minutes, or until the lentils are done to your liking.

- Serve with lime wedges, your favorite garnishes and fresh hot corn bread.

*I always try a piece of raw jalapeno before I add it to a recipe as they can vary in heat. That way, if you happen to get a super spicy one, you don't accidentally make 5-alarm chili.

A New Challenge


(image) Ok- I know that some of you may be slightly wierded out by the logo, and rightfully so. I don't think I've ever (intentionally at least) made something vegan for the blog. Vegetarian, sure, and there probably have been a few things that didn't have any animal products, but it wasn't something I'd ever set out to do. I haven't become a vegan, and I don't think I ever will, however, I have been thinking about what I need to do to get the blog up and running again. I decided that I needed a challenge, some kind of outside goal, something that would force me to try out new things. In short, I needed to get back to my goals for starting this blog in the first place.

A friend of mine has been trying out all sorts of vegan things lately, and I've seen a few vegan cookbooks that looked amazing, so I thought, why not give it a try?
My initial idea was to attempt one completely vegan week and write about it, but with travel plans for nearly every weekend in the next month, I didn't think that would be possible. Then I came across Vegan Month of Food and decided this was the inspiration I needed; a month of something totally new, with lots of other people doing it and providing recipes and ideas. I can't promise that I'll be a vegan for the next month (and I'm slightly afraid I'll get kicked out of the MoFo because of it) but I will be cooking vegan at home, and letting you know how it goes. I hope you'll stick with me for the next month as I try this experiment as I hopefully gain some new cooking skills, recipes, and inspiration in the kitchen.

A New Look


What would a new start be without a new look? I rather impetuously decided to try out a new template last night. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but I'll give a few days to get settled, and me a few days to make some formatting tweaks, and see how I feel about it. As always-- your comments are welcome.

A Return to the Daring Bakers- Doughnuts



I have an unhealthy obsession with doughnuts. I love them, well and truly. Although I avoid most fried foods as I don't think they're worth the calories, doughnuts will get me every time. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'll eat any doughnut that crosses my path. As a rule, I prefer cake style over yeast, especially if those yeast doughnuts come from Krispy Kreme. A certain college roommate of mine loved Krispy Kremes, particularly the way they 'melted in your mouth'. Her words, not mine; I like to masticate my baked goods, thank you.

The only other time I attempted doughnuts was in my 10th grade foods class in high school. I remember the special cookie cutter we had (with center hole removal device) and covertly snacking from a brown bag of doughnuts for the rest of the day. Needless to say, I was pleased with the first challenge to bring me back in to the DB fold.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I chose the
Pumpkin Doughnut recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine, by way of Epicurious, as it was a cake-style doughnut, and I had half a can of pumpkin in the fridge from another recipe. I didn't get creative with this one, besides cutting the recipe in half (as there was absolutely no reason for me to have 24 freshly fried tempting treats in my kitchen), so you can follow the link to get to the recipe. This time around, I didn't have a special device for cutting out the center hole so I improvised and used a rolled up piece of paper. Not the best, but it worked, especially once I started dipping it in flour between cuts. The only word of advice I have on the recipe-- make just half the amount of spice sugar to roll the doughnuts in. I made the amount the recipe called for and had tons left over.

A Tuesday with Dorie



I just spent a Tuesday with Dorie, and not just in cookbook form, in real, live, reading from Around My French Table, telling stories about Madame Saucisson form. This was my first book signing, and I was utterly charmed. Dorie is, as they always say, much smaller than the slim woman you expect from pictures. So small, you wonder how she could really be the author of so many books about food, but then she starts talking and you immediately think that yes, this is someone who knows food and loves to share it, both in cookbooks, and in person for those lucky enough to be guests in her home.

As I was waiting in line to have my book signed, I started chatting with some fellow Dorie-admirers, who happen to be food bloggers as well. Strange as this may sound, it was the first time I had ever met other food bloggers in person. Three out of the four of us had been
Daring Bakers at one point, and I was reminded again how easy it can be to talk to complete strangers when food is the common denominator. Meeting them, and talking with one of my food idols has inspired me to give Real Good Taste another go, so you will be hearing from me again in the near future. Until then, I'll leave you with a few links to my favorite Dorie Greenspan recipes.

Perfect Party Cake (the name really does say it all)
Macarons Parisiens (I'm still working on perfecting this one)
Florida Pie (you'll never go back to plain Key Lime again)
Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes (you can see the recipe if you search in
Baking: From My Home to Yours on Google books
And finally, Dorie's own
website, where she often posts recipes and stories about her fabulous life.

Spinach Parmesan Polenta with Mushroom Ragu



Hearty but not heavy, a breeze to make, especially if you have a slow cooker. Recipe up tomorrow.

It's Complicated


Just got back from a screening of It's Complicated, the new Meryl Streep-Alec Baldwin movie. I am dead tired and starving (why oh why did I think and English muffin with cream cheese and a banana was a sufficient dinner?). Before I miss today's posting deadline foraging around my kitchen trying to scrounge up something edible and slightly less weird than what I had for dinner, I thought I'd put up a quick post about the movie.

I was worried that this post wouldn't be food related, but it is, as Jane, Meryl Streep's character in the movie, owns a bakery. It's one of those gorgeous only in the movies kind of bakeries where everything is just so and all the customers look like movie stars. Jane cooks throughout the movie and it one great scene shows her making chocolate croissants with the help of a nifty machine to roll out the dough. Anyway- the movie was absolutely hilarious, the kind of entire theater laughing out loud and can't stop hilarious that too few movies I've seen recently are. I completely recommend it and now I'm going to eat. Be back with a recipe tomorrow.

On Recipes


I was listening to The Splendid Table, Lynn Rosetto Casper's NPR radio show on food this weekend, when one of her guests started talking about the unreliability of recipes on the internet- specifically in the blogosphere. My ears perked up immediately, as the internet is my main cookbook and I write a food blog with recipes. Her guest made some valid points but his main bone of contention against blogs is that the recipes are not tested multiple times, as would a recipe from the late and great Gourment magazine. I will be the first to agree that having an army of professional cooks test a recipe again and again times to tweak it and make it perfect is a great way to make sure the recipe will work every time; however, I have made recipes from such august publications that have been bland or even downright unpalatable. Even though an army of chefs and cooks labored over it for weeks it just wasn't any good. I have also made many recipes that I have found on blogs by home cooks writing about what they made for dinner that have been fantastic. That's not to say there aren't a lot of bad recipes floating around the internet, but to dismiss food blogs out of hand, as the guest (if only I could remember his name) seemed to do, is too harsh for my taste. So much of a recipe is about trust- you are trusting that the author of the recipes has given you a set of instructions to allow you to recreate his or her dish. You invest your time and money into this and you want it to pay off with a delicious tasty product. It's been a few days since The Splendid Table broadcast and I've continued to think about the idea of recipes. There are certain cookbook authors/chefs that I trust implicitly. Take Marcella Hazan, author of The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Her recipes are detailed and precise without becoming burdensome. Her tips enlighten and, most importantly, I have never made anything from The Essentials, that wasn't absolutely delicious. I've expanded my palate to new things, because I knew I could trust her recipes. She is the kind of cookbook author you want on your shelf.While I don't think many food writers in the world could compare to Marcella, there are a few blogs that I cook from with the same confidence. Chocolate and Zucchini, the very first blog I ever read, is one. Clotilde explains things so clearly I never fear that I've gone astray and she cooks the kind of food I want to eat. Another blog I know I could make anything from is Tartellete. Granted, Helene is a professional pastry chef, which helps, but I know every recipe on her blog would work.All this brings my back to my blog. I have made every recipe I post her at least once, sometimes twice, and in a fewspecial cases, six or seven times. I endeavor to make sure that my recipes are clear, concise and functional but I don't really know if they are. I like to hope so, and there have been many times when I have turned to the archives to make a recipe again and they seem to work.This week Kat at A Good Appetiteposted about her intention to make my Chicken Saagwala and I got nervous, really nervous. Had I written the recipe correctly? Did I forget a key ingredient? Did I defrost the spinach before adding it or not? I'm not sure about the answers to any of these questions but I do hope I got things right and that Kat and Matt enjoy the dish as much as I did.I'll end this post with a request and a question. If you have to make one of my recipes, or your own version perhaps inspired by what I have done here, please let me know how it's turned out. It if works great- if it's a failure even better. Let me know where I could have been more clear and what went wrong and I will try to fix it. I'm not sure I can offer realtime assistance, but if you're cooking and things aren't looking so great, send me and email and I'll t[...]

Sushi Kaiten


Check out this kaiten sushi restaurant in the middle of a shopping mall- neat, huh? I first had the pleasure of eating at a sushi kaiten restaurant when I was visiting a friend in Japan a few years ago and seeing the parade of perfectly placed nigri and rolls, along with other treats, just doesn't get old. I could, and usually do, spend an inordinate amount of time watching the dishes wiz by before I choose anything. It's easy to divide up the tab with sushi kaiten too- just count your colored plates and figure out how much you ate and owe.

This restaurant is a branch
Wasabi, which I have been to before. If you get a chance to stop by, I recommend the fusion dishes on the menu- a bit passe I know, but the chef if Peruvian Japanese and the chicken anticucho, tender bites of fiery chicken perched on a tower of steaming rice and lashed with bright orange sauce, is delicious.

Moo Shu



Moo Shu is one of my favorite take-out Chinese dishes. The crunchy cabbage, hoisin sauce and rice wrapper always seem to hit the spot. This is an easy homemade version, one where you can easily control the salt and fat and leave out the MSG altogether. Don't worry about getting the ingredient amounts exactly right- a bit more or less or any of the veggies won't hurt. This recipes cooks in about 10 minutes so it's very helpful to have all your ingredients lined up and ready to go, mise en place style- this way you won't be frantically searching for the ginger root while attempting to stir a skillet full of shredded cabbage. This recipe includes chicken but it would be just as tasty if you left it out.

I served the Moo Shu with store-bought hoisin sauce (is it even possible to make hoisin sauce at home?) and corn tortillas, since I couldn't find rice pancakes. It satisfied my Chinese craving and was cheaper and healthier than ordering in. Recipe after the jump.

Moo Shu with Chicken
Adapted from the Weight Watchers Cookbook
Serves 6

4 T low-sodium soy sauce (2T for vegetarian)
4 cloves garlic, minced (2 cloves for vegetarian)
1 T minced ginger root
1/2 lb (250g) chicken breast or tenders, cut into bite sized pieces (optional)
1 small head of green cabbage
1 T neutral flavored oil such as canola
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 C straw mushrooms
1/2 C bamboo shoots, drained and chopped
chili paste to taste
hoisin sauce and tortillas to serve

- If you are using chicken. Make a quick marinade for the chicken: combine 2T soy sauce, half of the minced garlic and the chicken in a dish or resealable plastic bag. If you have the time, let it marinate in the fridge for an hour, if you don't, let it sit on the counter while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Combine the remaining 2 T soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a small bowl.

- Remove the out leaves of the cabbage and wash. Carefully cut the cabbage in half then remove the stem by making two cuts at a 45 degree angle on either side of it, aiming and inch or two into the cabbage, depending on how big the stem looks. Cut each cabbage half in half again, then slice lengthwise, creating long, thin cabbage strips. Set aside.

- Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a very large skillet (I used a 12in). Drain the marinade from the chicken. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken and stir-fry until chicken is cooked, 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken.

- Add all the vegetables to the skillet and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring often, until cabbage just starts to wilt, about 4-5 minutes, then add the chicken, the soy sauce mix and the chili oil. Stir to combine .

- Serve the Moo Shu with hot tortillas or pancakes. Let your guests make their own wrapper by spreading on a bit of hoisin sauce and more chili paste if they dare, then topping it with the Moo Shu mix.

Wedding Cake Continued



Heading back to the subject of wedding cakes, I thought I would tell you a bit about my experience baking one. J- asked me a few months ago if I would be able to make the cake for her wedding. Of course I agreed, I mean, if she was willing to trust me to bake for her wedding, who was I to say no. I promptly put the subject out of my head for a few weeks only to begin researching- the more I learned, the more a feeling of dread started to creep into my stomach.

I quickly realized, after spending some quality time on the
Wilton website, that there was no way I could bake a single cake that would serve 160 people, the anticipated number of guests. I put the idea to J- of a smaller two tier cake (her original request) along with a sheet cake or two. She agreed and I got to work. We talked flavors and she and P-, her then fiance now husband, decided on two- a lemon raspberry I based on Dorie's Perfect Party Cake and I carrot cake using Ina Garten's recipe.

I used the Wilton
charts to figure out how much batter I needed for each cake pan and made Excel charts with formulas to determine how much I needed of each ingredient. I shopped, and then I began baking and kept baking and baking for two days. One of those days I ate nothing but frosting. For some reason I thought it was a good idea, and cream cheese frosting has some calcium in it, right? I also called Zach in a panic about 5 times when I though that the carrot cake had failed. His co-workers probably thought I was nuts, although I had buttered them up with many samples of the prototypes.

In the end, the cake and I both survived. J- had little photos made of her and P- and we used them to decorate the cake, I thought the black and white looked great against the cream cheese frosting. Now that's it's a few weeks after the wedding and I can actually think of frosting again without my stomach turning over, I'm looking forward to my next baking challenge.

Spinach Pie with Yeast Crust


One of my first uses of the yeasted pastry crust was this spinach pie. I like to think of it as a cross between a spinach pie, where the majority ingredient is spinach and is only bound together with a bit of egg, and a quiche, that deliciously silky dish of eggs and cream, sometimes flavored with a bit of spinach. This pie is light, almost fluffy, green with spinach and kept from boring with a bit of herbs de provence, nutmeg and cheddar cheese. If you have a crust ready to defrost from the freezer it comes together in just a few minutes. I've served it with salad, although that is a bit unnecessary with all the spinach. A light soup might be nice or, you could do what I did, and wrap up a leftover slice and take it to the airport with you- the crust will hold it together - then, when everyone else is buying $9 sandwiches that taste like cardboard, you can unwrap it and enjoy. Recipe after the jump. Spinach PieServes 6, 8 as an appetizerAdapted from the Weight Watchers Cookbook1/2 recipe yeasted pastry crust OR 1 recipe better for you pie crust OR a 9-10 in pie crust of your choice16 oz (450g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out1/3 C low-fat cottage cheese2 eggs3 egg whites1, 12oz (300ml) can fat-free evaporated milk1/2 t salta few grinds fresh peppera grate or two of fresh nutmeg1 t herbs de provance2 oz. (56g) cheddar cheese, shredded- Preheat oven to 375. Grease a pie plate or ovenproof skillet. Roll out the dough and inch or two bigger than the baking vessel (just pop the pan on top of your rolled out dough to see if you need to roll it bigger). Gently roll the dough about half with up the rolling pin, starting at the far end and picking up the dough with your finger and letting it roll under the pin as you roll it back. Lift the pin with the dough straight up, drape the loose bit over one end of the pan and roll it across. Press the crust down into the pan and trim the edges so they don't hang overboard. Use the trimmings to patch up any holes that may have occurred.- Sprinkle the spinach evenly over the crust.- Place remaining ingredients through the herbs in a blender or blending beaker and wizz the heck out of them, until the mixture is perfectly smooth. [if you don't have a blender just wisk it well by hand, the cottage cheese will remain a bit lumpy but it'll taste fine]. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach in the crust and then sprinkle the cheese on top.- Carefully place the pie in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and very nearly set in the center (test by jiggling the pan slightly- be sure to use and oven mitt). Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.[...]

Wedding Cake


Jeez- it's only the fourth day of NaBloPoMo and already I'm writing this up after 11pm... so much for avoiding the procrastination bit. A few weeks ago I made a wedding cake (well several wedding cakes) for a friend. The experience was both useful and utterly exhausting, which is why I haven't posted about it before now.

Lesson 1: It is entirely possible to make cake for 160 in a home kitchen.

Lesson 2: Eating nothing but frosting all day inadvisable.

More, and more useful, lessons from my wedding cake experience to come. And here is the rest of it.

Yeasted Pastry Crust


The friend who introduced me to Dessert Grec also introduced me to the New York Times Health Section recipes. Like so many in the DC area, I get the Washington Post, and don't read the Times. Even if I did, I wouldn't look to the Health Section for something to eat, but that is where Martha Rose Schulman posts a new recipe every week, one purporting to have certain healthful components. I found the setup a bit cumbersome, a recipe index would be handier than an un-alphabetized list of themes/ingredients, but C- likes it and while I was visiting last month, we made a few of the recipes. Some were better than others (cauliflower topped with nearly straight up tahini was a miss) but I was intrigued by a whole pastry dough made with yeast and resolved to give it another go when I got home. When I got home a few weeks ago, I made a batch of the dough in about 5 minutes, using my KitchenAid. So far so good. The dough rose exactly as expected and I rolled a little less than half of it out to use as a crust for a spinach pie. As Schulman notes, it is easier to work with than a traditional pie crust- the gluten you develop with a light kneading makes the dough stronger and less prone to holes and breaking. Another plus- it's made with half whole wheat flour and perhaps the biggest plus of all, just a quarter of a cup of olive oil, making it much lower in fat, saturated fat, and calories than a traditional crust. It does have a pronounced whole wheat flavor, which I liked in the spinach pie, but which has the potential to overpower more delicate ingredients. I found it a tad salty as well; next time I'll reduce the salt a bit and see if that helps.Even with the slight problems, this is my new go-to crust for savory applications, especially in pie form. For sweet things and if when I want a flakier crust, say for free form apple pie, I'll still use my Better for You Pie Crust . One last note- with the dough scraps from tonight's dinner, I made simple plain and cinnamon sugar crackers, the best homemade crackers I've ever made. It's worth making a batch or half batch of the dough, rolling it thin, and then baking it up for a crispy snack.For Martha Rose Schulman's Whole Wheat Yeasted Olive Oil Pastry click here. [...]

Dessert Grec


This recipe came to me by way of an American friend living in France who found it in a French cookbook so I'm not sure if it's really Greek, but I do know that it's really tasty. From what I understand, many French people end a meal with a cheese course or yogurt. While the idea of eating cheese after dinner is a bit strange to me, having a cup of yogurt seems like a natural way to end a meal on a light note. You aren't tempted to have seconds of the main course, as you know something else is coming, but the yogurt provides a sweet finish without adding too many calories. Plus, it aids digestion and is a good source of calcium.

This Greek yogurt dessert includes dried peaches or apricots and a bit of honey to sweeten it up though you can play around with your favorite flavorings
to customize it. Zach likes his yogurt with sweetened dried coconut mixed in, though that's not the healthiest option.

Dessert Grec
Serves 2

1 C low-fat yogurt, Greek style is most delicious but regular works too
2 dried peaches or 4 dried apricots
2 t. honey

- Roughly chop the dried fruit and divide between two pretty dessert bowls. Top each with half the yogurt and half the honey. Pop in the fridge while you prepare dinner and enjoy for dessert.

Chicken Saagwala and a Challenge


Was it really a month ago that I was promising new posts and recipes with regular frequency? Alas, my innate laziness has manifested itself in the blogosphere was a severe lack of postings. As I need a swift kick to get the posting started again, I have joined the NaBloPoMo- the National Blog Posting Month Challenge. The official big month of daily blog posting was in November, but NaBloMaPo goes on every month and I'm looking forward to the challenge so check back every day (gasp) for a new food related posting.And now, for my first November posting, what could be better than this Chicken Saagwala? After all the Thanksgiving turkey and cranberrry sauce, and with all the holiday parties with cookies, hams and the rest of it, this light chicken and spinach dish is full of flavor but easy on the waistline. Did I mention you can make it in about 30 minutes?This recipe is based off one I found in the Weight Watcher Cookbook. Before you write it off as 'diet' food and therefore tasteless and me as having abandoned good food altogether, hear me out. We all, from time to time, need to focus more on healthy eating. For me, that time is now, and I have to think that some of you out there would like some lighter options to make at home during a month when there are tempting holiday treats at seemingly every turn. I'll never post anything on the blog just because it's healthy- it also has to be delicious and something that I would be happy to serve to guests in my home.I made this recipe last night fully expecting it to be a mediocre homemade Indian dish but Zach and I were blown away wth how tasty it was. The spices really pop thanks to a quick toasting in oil and since it cooks quickly, the spinach and tomatoes retain their color and the chicken breast doesn't dry out. I added some yogurt at the end to round out the flavors and add a hint of creaminess dish and served it with some (leftover) white rice. This really is one of the tastiest dishes I've made in a long time and I'm excited to have another winning Indian dish in my repertoire. Also a plus- it's gluten-free and could easily be made vegetarian with the substitution of tofu instead of the chicken. Don't have yogurt on hand? Stir in a little cream for a richer flavor or leave it out all together if you're lactose intolerant.Note: this flavor of this dish depends on the quality of your spices. If you curry powder has been hanging out in the spice rack since the last administration it's probably time to get a new one. I used McCormick brand curry powder (the one in the glass jar with the green lid) and would recommend it.Chicken SaagwalaAdapted from the Weight Watchers CookbookServes 41 T plus 2t vegetable oil2 T minced fresh ginger2 garlic cloves, minced1 T + 1 t curry powder1 t ground coriander1/2 t ground cumin12oz/350g chicken breast or tenders or tofu, cut into chunks2 tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped12 oz/300g frozen chopped spinach, thawed1/3C/75g low-fat plain yogurthot white or brown rice, naan, or pita bread (optional to complete your meal)- Put the oil, ginger, garlic and spices in a non-stick skillet (that has a lid) and turn the heat to medium. Once the mix starts sizzling and bubbling, stir and toast for 2-3 minutes until very fragrant.- Add the chicken and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Add the tomatoes, mix again and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, still on medium heat, stirring occasionally.- Add the spinach, stir, re-cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes.- Add the yogurt, stir and and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with your accompaniments. [...]

Now Watching


The French Chef with Julia Child. I searched for it on a whim at the library and was pleasantly surprised that it was available as Mastering the Art of French Cooking has a huge waiting list. I guess all those fans of Julie and Julia have the DVD set on their Netflix queues. So far I've seen Julia prepare potatoes 4 ways (dauphinoise, shredded potato pancakes, casserole with sausage and mashed potato pancakes) and I would make any one. Judging from the way Zach cheered every time Julia said "I'll just put a touch of cream in" I don't think he would mind if we had potatoes for dinner every night this week. Julia does use a ridiculous amount of butter and cream in all of the recipes, but I bet the potatoes are amazing. I would like to try the potatoes dauphinoise and the potato sausage casserole, but knowing myself, will probably be cutting down on the fat a bit (Julia did say that you could use milk instead of cream for the potatoes dauphinoise).

Image is the cover art from the DVD set.

Fall Apple Cake


Two boxes of apples from my dad's yard in New Jersey + friends coming over for dessert = fall apple cake. It's suddenly turned into fall in DC, so a warm apple cake seemed like the perfect weeknight treat. I based this off an old recipe that I love, but couldn't find, in the 30 minutes I had to get a cake in the oven before M&S arrived. It makes a buttery cake base that holds lots of tart apples and has a caramel topping that takes it a step beyond your typical apple cake. All it takes is about 30 minutes of prep work (even less if you have an apple peeler/corer, which I don't). The first thing to do is find a cast iron skillet (or other stove to oven pan) and then estimate how many apples you would need to fill up the skillet with apple quarters. This depends completely on the size of your apples- with the little ones from my dad's yard, I probably used 10. If you have monster grocery store apples, you will probably need less, though you could cut them into eights and probably should, as you don't want the apple pieces to stick out above the edge of your pan.Once you've figured out the apple situation, it's time to peel and core. I don't take the whole peel off the apple because 1) I'm lazy and 2) might as well keep some of the vitamins in. I peel in a spiral pattern, leaving a few stripes on. I wouldn't recommend skipping the peeling step completely, as the apple skins don't soften like the rest of the fruit during baking and fighting to cut an apple peel with a fork does not make for an enjoyable dining experience.When you've finished the apples, pop the sugar and butter in the skillet over medium low heat and let melt. Don't stir but pick up the pan (oven mitt, please) and tilt it around to combine the ingredients. Let cook to a medium amber color and remove from the heat. It can be a little hard on your first few attempts to discern the color of the caramel from black skillet, but watch for the color on the foamy parts. Arrange the apples in rings around the pan, then make your cake batter and pour over the top. Bake for about 45 minutes at 350F, turn the cake over onto a plate and serve warm.Fall Apple CakeServes 8-10Apple topping:1/2C (100g) sugar2 T. (30g) butterapples (read above to figure out how many you need)lemon juiceCake:1 recipe, yellow or white cake (coming soon) (If you are really pressed for time you could use a box mix although it only take a few minutes to put together this recipe)- Preheat oven to 350F/180C- Peel, core and cut apples in fourths or eights depending on the size. Toss with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.- Heat the butter and sugar in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Don't stir but pick up the pan (oven mitt, please) and tilt it around to combine the ingredients. Let cook to a medium amber color and remove from the heat.- Arrange the apple pieces in rings in the skillet. Pour the cake batter evenly over the top of the apples. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden and a tester inserted in the cake come out clean. [...]

Tossed Salad with Indian Spiced Chicken


I remember reading an article a few years ago stating that the average American family has about a dozen core recipes in its meal lineup, and repeats them, with a few variations, most of the time. At the time, I thought that would be awfully boring, but I've given more thought to it lately, as I haven't been making things I thought were interesting enough to post on the blog. Part of why I started writing this blog was to encourage myself to try new foods and techniques in the kitchen and it's worked, but lately I found myself in a culinary rut. Granted, this was after a summer of heavy travel when I had simply gotten out of the habit of meal planning and into the habit of pasta and veggie burgers. Now that some big life things have happened- Zach and I got married, I'm leaving my job to take some time off before the new job starts (a luxury I really do appreciate), I am ready to get the blog fired up again.I thought I would start with a 'make the old new again' kind of recipe, turning Indian Spiced Chicken Bites into a meal but putting them on top of a tossed salad with an Indian spice dressing and serving it with warm pita. Is it the most magnificent thing I've ever made in the kitchen? Certainly not; but it was a quick, balanced meal that combines everyday ingredients with a few new tastes to add some excitement to a weeknight dinner.Tossed Salad with Indian Spiced ChickenServes 2, easily doubledDressing based on this recipe1/2 recipe Indian Spiced Chicken Bites1/2 head romaine (or your preferred) lettuce, torn into pieces2 carrots, shredded1/2 C. raisins or chopped dried apricotssalad dressing (below)- Toss all the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl. Top with dressing and toss again. Serve.Salad dressing (you'll probably have leftovers)a bit of lemon zest2T lemon juice1/2t turmeric1/2t cumin1/2t coriander1 small glove garlic, mashed into a paste1/2t sugar2t grated fresh gingerchili paste to tastesalt to taste1/4-1/2C light flavored oil- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a wisk.[...]

Pumpkin Spice Macarons


This month was supposed to be my triumphant return to the Daring Bakers but it began with a baking disaster and is ending with me typing up this post at 10pm on posting day. I have seen macarons online for a while now and have always been more intrigued by their looks than what I thought they would taste like. While the sandwich cookies look so cute, meringue has never been my thing, so I'd never gotten around to trying them, until this month that is.The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.For my first attempt, I carefully separated the eggs and let the whites come to room temperature. Then I proceeded to overbeat them. I knew it but decided to continue on with the cookies anyway, thinking that everything would be all right. Oh no, it was not. The cookies ended up flattened sticky messes and even though I'm usually a one picture per post type of person, I'm sticking in an extra picture of my overbeated egg whites- just in case you aren't sure what they look like (I wasn't). So here they are= if your egg whites look like this, toss them out and start again.For my next attempt, I whipped the white much more carefully and things turned out pretty well. I couldn't find my piping tips when it came time to pipe out the cookies though, so I ended up make them much thinner than I should have. They turned out a little flat, but still have a hint of the 'foot' they are famous for.For flavoring I decided to go fall, and mixed nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and allspice into the macaron batter and made an unsweetened pumpkin cream cheese frosting. I find pumpkin quite bitter on its own, but it worked out really well against the incredibly sweet macarons.One last confession before I end my post. Since my first macaron attempt failed, I switched recipes for the second. The DB challenge recipe is below, but for my successful attempt, I used Helene's recipe. I'm sure both will work, as long as you're careful with the egg whites.MacaronsActual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.Equipment required:• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment• Rubber spatula• Baking sheets• Parchment paper or nonstick liners• Pastry bag (can be disposable)• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip• Sifter or sieve• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off• Oven• Cooling rack• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)Ingredients2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.) Confectioners’ sugar2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.) Almond flour2T (25g, 88 oz.)Granulated sugar 5 Egg whites (Have at room temperature)Directions:1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two [...]

Garlic Scape and White Bean Dip


My summer travels have come to an end and I'm back in DC (for the next week at least). While my summer photos are loading I thought I'd post this dip that I made earlier in the summer. It's healthy, delicious and easy- for a while I was making a batch a week to have as a snack. Yes, garlic scape season has passed us by but it's just as good made with fresh rosemary and a small piece of garlic. I used this recipe from Zested, a blog worth visiting just for the photos alone and made even better by the great recipes. I'll be back soon with more recipes and travel food posts.



Milano cookies are one of my favorite commercial (as opposed to homemade) cookies so I was pretty stoked to see that one of the two recipes for this month's Daring Bakers Challenge was for a homemade Milano style cookie by Gail Gand. I knew I would be traveling so resolved to make these cookies early in the month and give them to a professor of mine as a thank you gift.The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.I set to making the cookies, making a few modifications (bad Daring Baker, I know, but I couldn't help myself). Not everyone loves citrus with chocolate and as as the cookies were a gift, I decided to leave out the lemon extract. Without the lemon to balance out the 2T of vanilla extract, I thought 1T would be more than enough to flavor the cookies. The batter came together quickly but looked much to thin to make cookies and then I (figuratively) smacked myself on the head as I realized I forgot to add the flour. Disaster averted, at least for the time being.Pastry bag improvised, cookies piped and in the oven. 7 minutes later, one gigantic burnt cookie mess comes out of the oven. The cookies had completely run together and burnt. Crud. Scrape trays and start over. Next go, about half of the cookies came out useable. Third go and a few lessons learned. Pipe very small dots, not lines of batter, and leave 3 inches between the dots. Watch them carefully and pull out as soon as the edges get golden. Use parchment or tin foil and pull off the hot sheets immediately, then remove while still a little warm. Ok- method down, several rounds later I have dozens of wafer thin cookies in varying shapes and sizes.Ganache made without problems and then the fun begins. I spread out a layer of cookies and played a matching game, trying to put them in relatively equally spaced pairs, held together with the ganache. Finally, I finished making all the cookie sandwiches and rewarding myself by eating the remaining ganache with a spoon. The finished cookies looked pretty, if a bit rustic in their uneveness. The vanilla taste was a bit too strong for me, even though I had halved it, but overall they were good but perhaps not quite worth the trouble when it's so easy to buy a bag... Milan CookiesRecipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network websitePrep Time: 20 minInactive Prep Time: 0 minCook Time: 1 hr 0 minServes: about 3 dozen cookies• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract• 2 tablespoons lemon extract• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour• Cookie filling, recipe followsCookie filling:• 1/2 cup heavy cream• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped• 1 orange, zested1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.7. Pour ho[...]

Smoky Grilled Chicken


Back in D.C. from a lovely long vacation and thought I would post on this smoky grilled chicken I made a few weeks ago. It's from a recipe my co-worker S- and I saw on the Food Network (don't worry, it was after hours) and we both thought it looked amazing. First, a spice rub and then a long, slow cook on a grill with wood chips to give the chicken great flavor and color. It was fantastic, easily the best grilled chicken I have ever made, and quite simple too. The only problem was that the chicken took about 2 hours to cook so we had dinner at around 10pm... which meant there was a little too much time for mojitos beforehand.

I followed the Neely's recipe closely, so I will leave you with the link and few notes:

1) We used a 'sweet' smoking mix S- picked up from World Market that included applewood but had other things too
2) We have a kettle style charcoal grill so followed Alton Brown's suggestion of making a foil pouch for the (pre-soaked) wood chips and snipping little holes it and it worked well
3) The chicken might take a long time to cook through- have some tasty drinks on hand and friends to keep you company while you wait

Rhubarb Citrus Tart


I made this tart while visiting my family in New Jersey a few weeks ago. Only after I got back from the store did I remember that my dad has some semi-wild rhubarb growing in the back yard. The tart recipe is from Gourmet magazine. This is one of those desserts that prettier to look at than it is to eat. The recipe called for frozen puff pastry and the only thing available was the national brand- I'm sure it would be better if you could find an all butter pastry. The citrus glaze for the tart seemed like a good idea, except after boiling it for 20 minutes and still having much more than the recipe said I should I turned the heat up to full blast, hoping to reduce it quickly. I should have known, especially after this many daring bakers challenges, how quickly sugar can caramelize over high heat. Luckily must have developed my sense of smell a bit because as soon as I got a whiff of caramel I was able to pull the pan off the stove before the whole thing burnt into a solidified citrusy mass.

I salvaged what glaze I could and attempted to spread it over the warm tart but as it was the consistency of molasses, it didn't go very well. Still, I thought it was pretty enough to warrant a post and thought that it might serve as inspiration for some other, better, rhubarb dessert.