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Posted on Mar 14, 2015 in Menus and Recipes

Easy pie for pi day

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Here is an easy pie to make in honor of super-pi day (3.14.15).  It’s based on a minute cheesecake recipe for the microwave. It’s surprisingly good, but after you cook it for a minute or two, it needs to chill for about an hour.  The recipe was originally Atkins/paleo friendly.  Mine is not, but could be adapted easily.

Of course, I made some changes to the flavors, too:

2 minute blueberry key lime pie

This has a great flavor, and almost the same texture as authentic key lime pie.  It could easily serve 2.  I added some whipped cream.

  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/2 T lime juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c blueberries

Whisk together first four ingredients in a mug or microwave safe bowl.

Cook 4 times for 30 seconds each time, and mix between each.

Before the last cooking time, mix in blueberries.

Chill about 1 hour and enjoy.

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5 minute strawberry cheesecake pie

The taste is similar to New York style cheesecake, but the texture is a bit creamier.  You might like it a bit sweeter, so add more sugar or the sweetener of your choice.

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 6 oz greek yogurt
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 eggs

Whisk together all ingredients.

Microwave on high 4 times, 1 minute each time, mixing between each time.

Mix again after cooking, and pour into graham cracker crust, or leave in cooking bowl.

Chill for at least one hour.  Top with sliced strawberries before serving.

 

 

 

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Posted on Mar 2, 2014 in Menus and Recipes

Buttery Cherry Cake

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To celebrate birthdays and having only one grant left to finish, we did a mid-winter girl’s retreat this weekend. It was too cold to go outside, so we napped and cooked, and some of us (not me-still one grant left) did some scrapbooking.

I made a modified version of a plum cake for the birthday celebration.  This is a cake I learned to make from a German friend many years ago.  She used plums, but they were nowhere to be found in this frozen town.  I used frozen cherries instead.  This is similar to the plum cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen, But I used lemon zest for flavor instead of cinnamon.  Cinnamon with plums or cherries seemed wrong somehow.

  • 1 c flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 12 oz frozen cherries
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/c powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, mixing each completely before adding the next egg. Mix in the dry ingredients with a spoon, until just combined.

Line a 9 inch round or square baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the batter (it will be thick) on parchment paper, smoothing to a uniform thickness.  Sprinkle cherries on top of batter.

Bake about 45 minutes, until cake is browned and cooked through. Cool on rack.

Before serving, whisk lemon juice and powered sugar to make a glaze to drizzle over cooked cake.

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When I make this again, I might use medium eggs instead of extra large, or reduce the number to two.  The batter was wet enough to allow the cherries sink into the batter.  You can still see a few cherries, but it would look nicer with more cherries on the top of the cake.

Delicious!

 

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Posted on Feb 10, 2014 in Menus and Recipes

3-ingredient Pasta Sauce

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I have been obsessed this year with simplifying my cooking.  As far as I can without eating boring food, at least.

I have a recipe this week that really surprised me.  It is a 3-ingredient recipe for a delicious pasta sauce.  The recipe seems to have originated from Marcella Hazan, the legendary author of some of my favorite Italian cookbooks.

It has 3 ingredients when you cook it, but only two when you serve it, so it almost makes my list of favorite 2-ingredient recipes or 2-ingredient party recipes.

Simple Pasta Sauce

  • 4 cups tomatoes, crushed with their juices included or 2 (28-ounce) cans of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 c (one stick) butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half

Place all ingredients in a pan and simmer 1 hour.  Add salt if you need it (I did not). Remove and discard the onion before serving.

This recipe makes enough for two dinners, and freezes very well. The sauce does not have the deep red color you might be used to, but the butter adds a lot of richness. Don’t put too much in your dish before you taste it.

It was delicious.

I have to admit it tasted even better with some chopped basil on top.

 

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Posted on Jan 26, 2014 in Menus and Recipes

Making Stock

Chicken stock isn't very pretty.  Here's what the pot looks like

Cooking chicken stock isn’t very pretty. Here’s what the pot looks like

When I was a graduate student, we would often work long hours.  Very often, we had long incubations or reactions in our procedures, and if you found someone in the dive bar pub across the street from the building where we lived, they would say “I’m actually working:  I have an experiment incubating” or “I’m really running a gel.”

Graduate students are excellent multitaskers.

Today, I feel the same satisfaction.  I’m making chicken stock.

I know this seems kind of foodie-ish, but it is true that homemade stock tastes way better than the store-bought kind, and it is so much less salty.  I freeze stock when I have a lot of ingredients, and freeze the ingredients as I cook other things.  Stock is made with bones and extra bits of meat, while broth is made from simmering meat.  When I have parsley stems, celery tops and past-their prime carrots, along with the bones from a roasted chicken, it’s time to make stock in my cast iron stockpot.  This is the perfect thing to do on a cold, rainy day while you are curled up with a good book, or a bad movie.  And you can be relaxed and productive at the same time.  This week, I brushed and washed the dog to distract him from the delicious smells.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

  • Bones, drippings and wings from one roasted chicken*
  • dried herbs and parsley stems**
  • 2 carrots, cut in large pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, or several celery top sections with leaves
  • 1/2 onion, optional
  • 1 quart water

Instructions

Place everything in the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer several hours, or until your housework is done.  Strain everything and save the stock.  You can use this now for soup (add new meat and vegetables) or freeze for later.  You might need to skim the fat, or put the strained stock in the refrigerator overnight and remove the hardened fat with a spoon.  Stock can be used for soup, sauces or gravies, and is delicious when used as cooking liquid for rice or other grains, or for couscous.

* This is the perfect use for the remains of a store-bought roasted chicken that you used for another recipe.

** Whatever you have will make the soup better.  A bay leaf or a sprig of thyme is fine.  Rosemary is very strong, so use sparingly here.

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Posted on Jan 19, 2014 in Menus and Recipes

Cooking with Herbs and Spices

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I like to try new recipes and new ingredients when I cook.  I am lucky to have people who are willing to try these cooking experiments!  Depending where you live, it may be difficult, or very expensive to buy exotic ingredients, though.  It doesn’t have to be!  Even the most mainstream places have spice shops and ethnic groceries.  This is likely where you will find the best prices and the freshest herbs and spices, since they will sell the most, and have a high turnover.

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Learn about new ingredients

Cookbooks are a great source of information and inspiration.  You can check them out at the library, buy them or borrow from friends.  There are even ebooks that you can buy at a low price (or free!).

Cooking classes provide in-depth information on new cooking styles and methods.  These are nice because you will be able to taste and smell the ingredients and finished products, and ask questions of the teacher about ingredients and their sources.  Cooking school classes are great, but can be expensive.  You can also try classes at your local grocery store or co-op, and adult education programs.  Online demonstrations can be a great resource, especially if you are just curious, or if you are in the middle of a recipe and need some help.  Try looking herehere and here.   Cooking supply stores like Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table have inexpensive or even free classes on weekends, often with store discount coupons given out freely.  Don’t go crazy with buying equipment that you will only use a few times!

Television shows are a great way to learn about recipes and ingredients.  The techniques and recipes vary from traditional to the chef’s twist on classics, to simplified methods for the novice cook.  A good source of a broad range of demonstrations can be found on PBS and at pbs.org.  Food TV used to be non-stop demonstrations, but you can still find some between the cooking competitions.

Online recipes are so abundant now, you might find the same recipe on dozens of different sites.  Be careful, though. Some blogs and personal sites have recipes from memory, or that have not been tested.  Your results may vary!  Here are a few places to look allrecipes.com, food network.com and food.com.  WebMD has a section on health benefits of herbs and spices.

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Local stores

Supermarkets usually have ethnic food aisles in addition to the spices you will find near the baking section.  Be careful, though.  Depending on the item, it may have been there for a while.  Herbs and spices should be as fresh as possible for the best flavor and health benefits.

Co ops and health food stores often have more extensive spice sections, and most have bulk spices.  This section is great, because the supplies are fresher, and you can smell before you buy.  There is often experienced help nearby for questions, and you can buy as little as you want to try something out before you commit to a large container.

Ethic grocery stores and spice markets exist in every large city, and many smaller towns as well.  Supplies may vary with the local population, but you will find something new if you look around.  These stores are staffed and frequented by people who use the herbs and spices, so ask someone if you have a question.  If you are less adventurous or live in a suburban zone, you could try World Market stores in most cities for a sampling of world spices and other cooking ingredients.

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Online orders

Amazon.com, of course has everything.  Quality and amount will vary with the supplier, so check the reviews and cross your fingers!

Penzeys is a reliable spice merchant.  They don’t have the most exotic items, but they have their own spice blends, and even several of their own cocoa powder and cinnamon sources.  They also have stores in many US cities.

San Francisco Herb Co. Has a local store, and also sells online. The quality is good, and prices are lower than most sites.

The Spice House has a selection similar to Penzeys, and has a herbs and spice website that can be searched by alphabet, category or cuisine.

Savory Spice Shop carries more unusual items.

Chain stores like Williams-Sonoma, Dean and Deluca, and Sur la Table have a limited selection of herbs and spices.  They will likely be good quality, but more expensive.

 

Spices come from all over the world, but you can grow many herbs in your own garden or kitchen window.  It’s wonderful to have a ready supply of fresh herbs when you are cooking.

Photo credits:  srqpixMartin and Kathy Dady,  LenDog64,  Skånska Matupplevelser

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Posted on Jan 12, 2014 in Menus and Recipes

Thai Chicken Soup Remedy

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I don’t like being sick. It’s difficult to take time off from work, so there is nothing really in it for me, anyway.

When I’m not feeling well and it’s cold outside, chicken soup helps me feel better. This Thai chicken soup recipe is nice for those days, because the spiciness will open your sinuses, and it has plenty of flavor even when you are stuffed up. It’s easy to make, and most of the ingredients can be kept in your freezer and pantry for a long time, so you can be ready for when the flu or cold strikes.

Thai Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 6 c chicken stock
  • 1 c roasted chicken
  • 1 c peeled, cleaned shrimp (optional)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, smashed flat with a frying pan*
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 kaffir limes leaves** or grated zest from 1 lime
  • 1 inch slice of ginger, grated
  • 2 dried chilies, crushed
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 3 green onions, sliced (green parts only)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 2 T lime juice

* I buy lemon grass at the farmers market once per year, then slice each stalk into 2 parts and freeze.  Take out of the freezer a few minutes to thaw before using. Take your anger about being sick out on the stalk by smashing it to release its flavor.

** You can find these fresh in many grocery stores that carry Asian vegetables, or in the frozen section of the supermarket.  The packages are small, so you might need help finding them!

Directions

Pour boiling water over mushrooms to cover, and let stand 15 minutes.  Remove mushrooms and slice into thin strips.  Set mushrooms aside.  Strain water from mushrooms into pot with chicken stock, and heat to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium. Add chicken, shrimp (if using), mushrooms and lemongrass, and cook for 2-5 minutes until chicken is heated.

Add kaffir lime leaves, ginger, coconut milk, chilis, and fish sauce.  Cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add green onions and bell pepper, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until vegetables are hot.

Stir in lime juice and serve.

You can add sliced basil or cilantro as a garnish if you want.

 

Photo credit: snowpea&bokchoi

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