Friday, December 31, 2010

Cheesesteak Pizza

Yeah, that's right. Cheesesteak Pizza. I saw this on Fake Ginger and thought it sounded like the perfect way to use up some leftover steak. And a good excuse to buy garlic-herb spreadable cheese.

I've been making pizza for a while now but I really want to make it more often. If I plan ahead and make the dough the night before, it can rise in the refrigerator overnight and then it's not too much work to put together the next day. As it was, I did not plan ahead with this and I had a hard time waiting long enough for the dough to completely rise (my apartment is not very warm). Anyway, it was still delicious and fun to make. I didn't get a chance to photograph an individual piece because we gobbled it up too quickly!

Step 1. Cut one green pepper and one small onion (I used half a large onion) in thin strips about two inches long. Get out your pizza dough, whether homemade or storebought. And get out your leftover steak (about 4 ounces, 1/4 pound) and slice it into thin strips too.

Step 2. Cook the veggies in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes until well browned, stirring every few minutes. In the meantime, make the sauce: in a small bowl mix together 1/4 cup milk and about 1/2 cup garlic-herb flavored spreadable cheese - Anywhere from Alouette or Boursin to Laughing Cow or even a soft goat cheese could be nice.

 Step 3: Add the sliced steak to the veggies, turn the heat to medium-low, and pour the sauce on top. Mix it up and let it all melt together. Also, roll out your dough at some point.

Step 4: Place the dough on an oiled baking sheet.  Pour the toppings on the dough, then top with a cup of shredded cheese - I used a mozzarella/provolone blend. Add some parmesan too if you like. Place in a preheated 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

 Step 5: Dig in!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Weekly Lunch: Quick Barley Salad

I'm only in the office for three days this week, so my lunch is pretty minimal. Barley with some chopped raw bell pepper and cucumber, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. And a sprinkle of feta of course. Some carrots with peanut butter on the side. Simple and filling. (Sorry for the crappy smartphone pic)
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Caramel Monkey Bread

So sometimes I get totally ridiculous and make things like monkey bread, which is ridiculous enough already, and I add things like swirls of homemade sticky caramel. In other words, one of the best things I've made this year.

If you, like me, find yourself in the position of having made a batch of too-soft, too-sticky caramel candy, consider making some monkey bread and drizzling layers of this caramel in between layers of cinnamon-sugar-crusted biscuit pieces.

  (And yes, I do use canned biscuit dough to make monkey bread. Eventually, perhaps, I will make "real" monkey bread, with yeast and everything. But for now, this stuff does the trick.)

And if you, like me, decide that this is not ridiculous enough, consider drizzling the leftover melted butter and cinnamon-sugar on top of all of your cinnamon-sugar-crusted, caramel-layered biscuit pieces. Then stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Take it out of the oven, then flip it over onto a plate.

What happens next is up to you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Epic Sandwich

I haven't felt much like cooking lately, so I've been eating a lot of sandwiches. I tend to go on sandwich kicks for a few weeks, then I get sick of them and don't eat them for months. This epic sandwich was really fun to make (and to eat).

Step 1: Gather your ingredients. Clockwise from top left: hummus, multigrain bread (with nuts and seeds!), sharp cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes, clover sprouts, and an egg.

Step 2: Fry the egg in some butter, and toast the bread.

Step 3: Spread one piece of toast with cream cheese (whoops, left that out of the picture) and the other with hummus.

Step 4: Put the cheese on top of the egg so it gets all melty.

Step 5: Slide the egg onto one of the pieces of bread.

Step 6: Add sprouts and chopped sundried tomatoes.

Step 7: Put the second piece of bread on top.

Step 8: Cut the sandwich in half, diagonally please.
Step 9: Dig in.

What's your favorite epic sandwich?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Double Apple Oat Muffins

These hearty muffins have both diced fresh apples and a dollop of homemade apple-pear butter in each one. I also tried putting the apple-pear butter on top rather than in the middle - but the surprise is kind of fun. They contain a bunch of healthy ingredients - whole grain flour, wheat germ, walnuts, and being full of apples and buttermilk they are very moist and tender too. No cardboard-y whole grain pastries here!


Ready to bake.

Next time I might cut the apples a bit smaller, but I do like having apple chunks rather than grated apple as I've done previously.

Double Apple Oat Muffins
Adapted from Vegetarian Times, 2006.


  • 2 cups peeled, finely diced apples - I used one giant Jonagold apple(seriously, this thing was like 6" in diameter)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or 1/4 cup yogurt plus 1 cup milk, stirred together)
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 
  • About 1/4 cup apple or apple-pear butter, divided
  1. Heat oven to 400F. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray or use paper liners. 
  2. Peel and dice the apple(s) and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, wheat germ, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, walnut oil, and vanilla.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Stir gently until just mixed, then stir in the apples and walnuts. 
  6. For apple-pear butter centers: spoon batter to fill muffin cups 1/3 full, then dollop 1 tsp apple-pear butter in the center. Add more batter to fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Alternatively, fill muffin cups 3/4 full, then create a small well in the center. Dollop apple-pear butter into the well.
  7. Sprinkle a few oats on top if you wish.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kale Salad

Kale salads are all over the place these days. There are so many ways to make them, I'm looking forward to trying a few different recipes. Here are a few I've been looking at:

  • 101 Cookbooks has a classic recipe with pecorino and breadcrumbs
  • Not Eating Out In NY  adds honey mustard and pomegranate arils.
  • I don't know about the "tabouli" part but Steamy Kitchen's cauliflower tabouli with kale sounds delish.
  • This version in Saveur has an orange-soy sauce dressing, avocado and hemp seeds.

For my kale salad, I used dinosaur (lacinato) kale, the juice of one lemon, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, a couple handfuls of chopped and toasted almonds, about 1 oz. crumbled feta cheese, and a bit of salt and pepper. It is really fun to massage the kale to get it all coated in lemon juice and olive oil!

I let the salad sit for about 20 minutes before serving it (alongside a simple pan-seared chicken breast), but the leftovers were even better the next day.

Anyone else have a favorite kale salad recipe?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Weekly Lunch: Delicata Squash and Barley Salad

Salad on a plate looks so much nicer than salad in a plastic container, don't you think? 

This is another salad with a lot of possibilities for variations. Based on this Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad from 101 Cookbooks, I swapped hazelnuts for walnuts, delicata for butternut squash, hulled barley for farro, feta for goat cheese, added some chickpeas and baby greens and left out the fresh thyme. Yum!

Evidence of my love for this salad: here's another version I made last month.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Apple-Pear Butter

A couple of weeks ago we went out and picked a bunch of apples and pears. They were at varying stages of ripeness, from rock-hard Flemish Beauty pears to the perfectly ripe Bartletts and Gingergold apples shown below. So, with the ripest fruits, I made Apple-Pear Butter! I looked at a dozen different recipes, considering the equipment I planned to use/not use, and my personal preferences for spices and sugar content. I am too scared of canning for now (I want to try it at some point in the future!) so I divided it into three containers, two of which went into the freezer.

I used a total of about 5lbs of fruit (about 3 lbs of Bartlett pears and 2 lbs Gingergold apples), which yielded about 2 1/2 cups of butter.

Here's what I did: peel and core the fruit, then cut it into 1" chunks. Place in a large pot and add 1 cup of apple cider and 1 cup of water. Liquid will not come above the level of the fruit. Simmer, uncovered, until very tender, about 45 minutes.

Put the mixture in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Pass the fruit puree through a sieve back into the pot, in batches. This step alone took me about half an hour, so if you have a food mill, now is the time to use it!

Add 1 cup of brown sugar (you may need more sugar if you are actually canning, to help discourage bacterial growth - please make sure to consult a recipe for this), a cinnamon stick and a lump of peeled fresh ginger. And some ground cardamom (1/2 tsp) as well.

Cook on low for a very very long time, about 2-3 hours, stirring frequently. Better put on some music and get a tasty beverage for this one. When it tastes and looks right, remove the cinnamon and ginger and pour into as many containers as you wish.

This was a lot of work, but the final product is totally worth it. Thick, sweet, almost honey-like. So far I have just been eating it by the spoonful, or on top of yogurt with some of my favorite homemade granola (yes I will share, soon!). But I kind of want to try making some muffins or scones with little dollops of this apple-pear butter inside or on top... I will have to experiment.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Autumn's Finest

Aren't these just the most beautiful leaves? I am amazed at all of the colors.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weekly Lunch: Sweet Potato Salad with Orca Beans

I have been making variations on this salad for a few years now, but the basic components have been constant: sweet potato chunks, beans, greens, and a chili-lime vinaigrette. I usually use black beans, and sometimes I use sauteed swiss chard and eat the salad warm. This time I used orca beans again, raw spinach, both white and orange sweet potatoes, and a mixture of corn kernels cooked with red bell pepper and poblano pepper. It's super colorful and you get a great variety of flavors and textures - sweet, fresh, crunchy, spicy, creamy.

Sweet Potato Salad with Orca Beans
Makes 4 servings

1 cup dried black or orca beans
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (I used a 1 lb white sweet potato and 1/2 lb orange one)
2 ears sweet corn
1 large poblano pepper
1 red bell pepper
Baby spinach or other salad greens
Olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper

  1. Pick through the beans and remove any small stones or detritus. Place in a medium bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water. Soak at least 8 hours or overnight. 
  2. Drain the beans and add to a pot, cover with 1-2 inches of cold water along with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until beans are tender but still hold their shape (could take 40-90 minutes depending on your beans).
  3. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 3/4" chunks. Place in a steamer basket over 1 inch of simmering water and steam for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender. Set aside to cool.
  4. Cut corn kernels from the cobs and chop peppers into 1/4" pieces. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to a pan over medium heat, and cook corn and peppers for about 5 minutes until tender but still crunchy. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste, and set aside to cool.
  5. Pack your lunch containers: layer the corn mixture on the bottom, then the beans, then the sweet potatoes. In the morning or the night before, add a few handfuls of your spinach/salad greens.
  6. Make the dressing in a small container: juice of one lime (about 3-4 tablespoons), another 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, the chili powder, and more salt and pepper (amounts depending on whether your chili powder contains salt). Add dressing to salad right at lunchtime.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Project Pork: The Brisket

I used to be a vegetarian. For almost eight years, from high school through most of my last year of college. Then, there was a day when I just really (really) wanted a BLT. And I got one. And I ate it. It was so good. And although I still eat a lot of vegetarian meals, bacon will always hold a special place in my heart.

So I have a bit of a fondness for various cured pork products. Not all pork products, but a few. Pork brisket is one I had never heard of, but it turns out to be a cut from the the front of the ribs/chest, rather fatty but with some very nice rib meat as well.

Before this week, I had never cooked such a large piece of meat. I've never roasted a chicken, either. So this was definitely a "project."

Step 1. Make a spice rub (proportions for a 2 lb brisket):
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp regular paprika
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
     Step 2. Massage your brisket (all sides) with the spice rub:

    Step 3. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours (longer is better).
    Step 4. Preheat oven to 275-300F (again, wonky oven here). Place your brisket, still covered with foil, in the oven and cook for 3-4 hours until the meat reaches 165F. I flipped this beast over after 2 hours and ended up cooking it for the full 4, and it was closer to 175F by the time I got it out of the oven.

    Step 5. Peel off the kind of scary layer of fat. Shred the meat with two forks. Enjoy some of the crispy bits that have developed (can you SEE how much liquid pork fat is in the pan above?)

    This was really tender and tasty even plain, but better with your favorite barbecue sauce.

    Conclusion: this was a really fun project!

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Weekly Lunch: Orca Bean and Delicata Squash Soup

    Have you ever tried to take a picture of a bowl of soup? I clearly need some practice. I'm looking at photos from people like Heidi Swanson and trying to learn what I can. Here are some things I've noticed:
    • Pile the soup components above the broth if possible - broth is not photogenic
    • Garnish is your friend (especially for monochrome soups)
    • Don't take pictures in your cubicle with overhead fluorescent lighting (!)
    Despite the picture, I promise that this is really tasty and warming for this very autumnal week we are having.

    I found these cute orca beans and couldn't resist buying a bag. I cook dried beans only sporadically, but I eat beans so often I should really use dried ones more frequently. Please note that these were "fresh" dried beans and did not need to cook for too long, so I just cooked them with the rest of the soup ingredients. If your beans are older, you may want to cook them separately and add the fully cooked beans to your soup.

    Orca Bean and Delicata Squash Soup
    Makes 5 hearty servings


    1 cup dried orca beans
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1" piece of ginger root, minced
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    1 small delicata squash, about 1 pound
    1/4 of a kabocha squash, about 1/2 pound
    1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
    Several handfuls baby spinach, torn
    3/4 cup cooked wheat berries (I had some left over, feel free to use barley or even quinoa)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Rinse the beans and pick out any small stones or misshapen beans. Place in a bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water and let sit at room temperature 8 hours or overnight.

    Drain the beans and set aside. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until the onions are soft and the edges are browned. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for 30 seconds.

    Add the drained beans and the stock. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Check on the beans every 20 minutes or so. Peel, seed and chop the squashes into 3/4" chunks. When the beans are close but not quite tender, add the squash chunks and the tomatoes. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes until the squash is tender. Add the cooked wheat berries and the spinach. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Raspberry Oat Scones

    I should have known better than to buy farmer's market raspberries the day after a rainy night, and in October no less. These were pretty watery and smelled great, but tasted... bland. Here's another way to use up less-than-perfect berries, courtesy of Joy The Baker. I had more raspberries than called for, about 1 cup, and used all of them in the recipe, resulting in a pretty wet dough but the scones still turned out well. And the recipe easily accommodated my love for spelt and whole wheat pastry flours too :)

    Mmmm caramelized raspberry

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Weekly Lunch: Barley with Roasted Summer Vegetables

    I had to make one last summer squash recipe before they're all gone! This week's lunch also features one of my favorite grains for salads, hulled barley. It has a great chewy texture and mild nutty flavor.

    So bright and colorful!
    Awaiting the oven
    Sweet and savory
    The finished product
    I also thought I'd share an actual recipe for my lunch this week. Fun!

    Hulled Barley with Roasted Summer Vegetables
    Makes 5 hearty servings


    1 1/2 cups hulled barley
    Three medium summer squash, any variety (I used 2 yellow squash and 1 zucchini)
    1 large or 2 small sweet bell peppers, any color
    1/2 tsp dried thyme
    1 15-ounce can chickpeas, about 1 1/2 cups (apparently I can't go more than a week without eating chickpeas for lunch)
    5 hard boiled eggs (see below)
    5-10 ounces baby spinach (depending on how much you like spinach), washed and dried
    Juice of one lemon
    3-4 tablespoons total olive oil, divided
    salt and pepper

    1. Rinse the barley with cold water (use a fine-mesh sieve so you don't lose them down the sink!)
    2. Combine 3 cups water, 1 tsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add barley and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook barley for 40-50 minutes until tender but still chewy. Drain any excess water and set aside to cool.
    3. Preheat oven to about 400F (my oven is wonky, you may need to go up to 425F)
    4. Chop the squash and pepper into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme and about 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet.Roast your veggies for 20-30 minutes, turning once. 
    5.  For the hard boiled eggs, place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain and place eggs in a bowl of cold water.
    6. Assembly time! I layer the barley on the bottom of my plastic containers, then the chickpeas (open the can, drain and rinse), then the veggies, then one peeled and quartered hard boiled egg. Spinach can be kept separately, so it stays dry, and handfuls can be added to each container in the morning or the night before. 
    7. The dressing this week is equal parts lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon of each. I mix it in a small plastic container and keep it in the break room refrigerator at work, so every day I can just shake it up and pour a little on my salad right at lunchtime. 

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Favorites: Easy Chocolate Cookies

    Sometimes I just really want some warm chocolate cookies. And I don't want to wait too long :) This recipe, from Cooking Light, is perfect for those times. And it uses ingredients I almost always have on hand.  

    Not only are these quick to make, but easy to clean up after as well - you can make the dough in one small saucepan on the stove. I added a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the warm cookie dough and swirled them around a bit before scooping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheet. Definitely not necessary, but a nice touch if you have chocolate chips around. 

    Cocoa Fudge Cookies, from Cooking Light
    Makes 20-24 cookies

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour + 1/2 cup spelt flour)
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt

    • 5 tablespoons butter
    • 7 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
    • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1. Preheat oven to 350F.
    2. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
    3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn off the heat, add the cocoa powder and the sugars and stir to combine.
    4. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract.
    5. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
    6. Add a handful of chocolate chips or dried cherries if desired!
    7. Drop tablespoons of dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly.
    8. Bake 8-10 minutes until edges are set (err on the side of underbaking, since there are no eggs in the dough after all)
    9. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.
    This is the first in a series of "favorites" that I'll be posting.  Check back for more to come!

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Weekly Lunch: Chickpeas and Quinoa (again) with Delicata Squash

    You may be able to detect a formula with my weekly lunches by now: some kind of whole grain, some kind of legume, a couple of veggies, and one or two "extras" like cheese or nuts. Add in a simple vinaigrette and you have lunch!

    Luckily, it's a formula that allows for a lot of variety, so I don't get bored with it. The star of this week's show was a lovely delicata squash - one of my favorites. Here is what I did with it:
    1. Peel your squash with a vegetable peeler. Unless of course you have a thick-skinned squash, in which case you will need to use a sharp knife. Delicata tend to have a thinner skin so a veg peeler works well, which is one of the reasons I like them so much.
    2. Cut the peeled squash in half, lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. If you are not lazy, you can free the seeds from the squash innards, parboil them in salted water, and roast them! But this was a small squash (with a small number of seeds) so I decided it wasn't worth the effort.
    3. Cut the squash halves into slices, then cut the slices into 1/2" chunks. 
    4. Toss the squash chunks with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I used about 1 tbs. each for my small squash) and a bit of salt and pepper. 
    5. Spread squash chunks on a foil-lined baking sheet (again, laziness requires easy cleaning) and place in a preheated 375F oven for about 20 minutes. I usually check on them halfway through and turn them over to encourage even browning. 
    6. Try not to eat them all in one sitting!

    And here is the finished product: baby greens, quinoa, canned chickpeas, toasted hazelnuts, a sprinkle of feta, the lovely squash chunks, and my favorite balsamic-mustard vinaigrette. Yum!!
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