Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Very Cool (and Nerdy - in a good way) Gift

At work this year we drew names for Secret Santa's and my friend traded with a coworker so that she could be my Secret Santa. She had found a perfect gift for me that appeals to both my sci-fi nerd side and my foodie side - the ultimate book! It is The Star Wars Party Book: Recipes and Ideas for Galactic Occasions!

This book is really fun because it fully embraces the Star Wars Universe and covers everything from food to decorations to scavenger hunts to making pajamas. It has lots of good ideas if you have a kid that is into A Galaxy Far, Far Away or if you love to embrace your inner child.

I think my favorite in the book is a recipe for Clone Trooper Cakes - they look so cool and my son absolutely loves them too! I will have to try and make these sometime soon. They are cupcakes that have clone trooper faces on them - I am a little weary of the actual decorating, as I am not the most patient person when it comes to baking.

Another great idea is the Death Star Pinata. Who would not love to take a whack at the Death Star and have goodies come out. The fun thing with that is you could fill it with all sorts of things from candy to toys to erasers or anything small with a Star Wars theme to it. On the cover they show it being hit by a lightsaber - very cool!

Anyway, this book was the perfect gift for me - thank you Jaime and Aidan thanks you too. When I make the cupcakes, I will take some in to work too!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One Hot Dish!

Friday night I took on my first meal in 2011. I decided that I would make somehting Italian and somewhat spicey. The night before, Lydia and I had been at the meat counter in Central Market and I saw that they had loose Hot Italian Sausage and I thought about how and what I might add together to come up with a meal.

Spicey Pork Sauge and Orecchiette
1 1/2 pounds Hot Italian Sausage (removed from the casing)
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion diced
cooking spray
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
12 white mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 box orecchiette
parmesan cheese to top
  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, spray bottom of pot with cooking oil and add, garlic, onion and pork; season with salt & pepper to taste. Heat until fully cooked.
  2. Reduce heat to simmer and add tomatoes, wine, capers and mushroom. Allow to simmer for several hours; stir often.
  3. Cook orecchitte according to instructions. When cooked, pour in to a large pasta serving bowl. Add sauce on top; top with parmsan cheese.

This dish was delicious, but I fear that I was the only one that really fully enjoyed it - I love the heat and the rest of my family does not (so much). Everyone had seconds, but I still have my doubts. If I make this in the future, I would use 1/2 spicey pork and 1/2 plain pork to balance out the heat.

Overall, I was happy with the dinner and I served it with a nice loaf of french bread and a spinach salad. Everyone was grateful for the chocolate ice cream that we had for dessert - I thought that the ice cream might help with the heat too!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ending the Week Right...

Since this has, apparently, been Nigella Week here on Deliciousness of Yum, I thought I'd wrap things up with a quote and a quick drink idea from Ms. Lawson...

Here's the quote...

"I eat healthily. It`s just that I eat enough for five healthy people."

And now for the drink.  I heard Nigella talking about "Dirty Prosecco" on her NPR story, and thought it sounded easy and yummy for the holidays.

All you need to do is add some Campari to the bottom of a champagne glass, then top it with some Prosecco.  Viola!  Instant party drink!

Since Campari is insanely expensive here in WA state, I opted for a pomegranate-flavored alcohol that was on the shelf next to Campari, at a fraction of the price.  The Prosecco was dirt cheap (I got it from Trader Joe's) and delicious.  The drink was yummy and pretty--it would be perfect for Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Name Sounds Silly, but the Food is Good!

Right before Christmas, I heard Nigella Lawson on NPR, talking about some of her favorite quick dishes for the holidays.  In her NPR piece, she mentioned her latest favorite, Peanut Butter Hummus--a recipe that also appears in her newest book, Nigella Kitchen.

I am not the biggest fan of tahini--the sesame paste that usually gives hummus it's flavor--so using peanut butter in place of tahini (essentially sesame butter) sounded perfect.  After hearing the interview, I pulled the recipe off the internet and whipped this up for appetizers for my Christmas dinner.

Peanut Butter Hummus was a hit!  It had a nice texture, smooth flavor, and was a snap to make.  My mom had some a few days later on a sandwich, and she said it was delicious.

The recipe, below, makes a boat-load of hummus.  If you don't want tons of the stuff, you may want to half the recipe.

2 x 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 garlic clove, peeled
3-5 tablespoons regular olive oil
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more as needed
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoons table salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 - 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons peanuts, finely chopped, to serve (optional)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, to serve (optional)
breadsticks, mini pitas, crackers, tortilla chips, to serve (optional)
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put the garlic clove, chickpeas, 3 tablespoons oil, peanut butter, lemon juice, salt, and cumin into a food processor and blitz to a knobbly puree.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the Greek yogurt and process again; if the hummus is still very thick, add another 1–2 tablespoons yogurt and the same of oil. (This will often depend on the chickpeas, as different sorts make the hummus thicker or not.)
  • Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice and salt if you feel it needs it.
  • On serving, mix the chopped peanuts with the paprika and sprinkle on top if you wish, and put an array of bits and pieces to eat with or dip in, as you see fit.
Makes enough for a party of 10
Note: The hummus can be made 1–2 days ahead. Transfer to non-metallic container, cover, and refrigerate until needed. Should be consumed within 2 days of making 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Perfect (and Beautiful!) Banana Muffins

I love bananas and eat them almost daily.  However, when it comes to banana flavored stuff, I'd prefer to pass.  I don't know what my problem is, but I do not like banana bread, banana muffins, etc.  My sister is even worse--she doesn't like bananas in any way, shape, or form.

Because I am a big banana eater, I often end up with leftover bananas that turn soft and brown on my counter.  I hate to throw them out because my husband LOVES banana bread, muffins, etc.  I had four well-aged 'naners on my counter the other day and decided to try out a recipe I found in Nigella Kitchen (see Monday's Cookbook Corner for a book review).  The result?  Muffins that were easy and fast to make that looked amazingly beautiful.  My husband loved them, as did my parents.

Make these when you want something homemade that doesn't take a lot of time (if you like bananas, that is!)


3 very ripe or over ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin cups.
  • Place bananas in the bowl of a freestanding mixer; turn on to mash up the bananas.
  • With the mixer still going, add the oil followed by the eggs and sugar.  Combine well.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, and baking soda). Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, beating gently.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups (note: the muffin cups will be filled up, almost to the top).
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until muffins are dark, rounded, and peaking (as Nigella says) "proudly."  Let cool in the muffin tin  for a few minutes before taking the muffins out of tin and cooling on a wire rack.
Makes 12 muffins.

  • These really are some of the easiest, prettiest muffins I've made in awhile
  • My husband has requested the addition of walnuts and/or chocolate chips the next time I make these--I think both sound right!
  • Since my husband and I are on Weight Watchers, I ran this through their recipe builder.  One muffin is about 6 case you care!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cookbook Corner: Nigella Kitchen

In our family, there are several absolutes.  When it comes to cookbooks, if there's a new book out by Ina Garten, our mom absolutely must have it.  It there's something from Madhur Jaffrey, it's a safe bet for Greta.  For me, whenever there's a new book from Nigella Lawson, I'm probably going to get my paws on it.  My husband understands this, so I was not surprised when he gave me Nigella Kitchen: Recipes for the Heart and Home for Christmas.

This book, like most books from Lawson, begs to be read.  You really need to give yourself time to sit down and enjoy Nigella's overly word, conversational style.  She not only gives you recipes, she also gives you plenty of ideas and thoughts about food, cooking and life.

What to Expect: This book is divided up into several different parts, as follows:
  • Part I: Kitchen Quandaries (chapters include recipes for every day cooking; quick cooking; easy to make meals; and pantry suppers).
  • Part II: Kitchen Comforts (chapters include chicken recipes; meals that require more time and effort; and cozy dinners)
The book also includes Nigella's thoughts on kitchen equipment, tips and shortcuts.

I really like this cookbook--there are plenty of pretty pictures and recipes that I want to try or that might inspire me to make something I wouldn't have. 

Best Recipes: Here are my top five:
  • Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (pg. 44)
  • African Drumsticks (pg. 46)
  • Speedy Scallopine with Rapid Roastini (pg. 68)
  • Buttermilk Scones (pg. 283)
  • Raspberry Almond Bars (pg. 298)
I've already made two recipes from this book (Peanut Butter Hummus and Chocolate Banana Muffins)--both of which will appear on the blog later this week!

Complaints: As much as I like this book, I don't think it's her best (How to Eat and How to be a Domestic Goddess are both killer books!).  My biggest complaints are:
  • Organization of recipes: Instead of all the baking recipes being in one area, they're dispersed throughout the book--as are all the recipes.  If you want a specific chicken recipe, you better use the index at the back to find it!
  • The book itself is large and it doesn't like to lie flat open.  I need to pull a can out of my pantry to act as a weight to keep the book from flopping closed.
Deliciousness scale: 4 spoonfuls of yum out of 5.

Details: This review is based on the 2010 edition of Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home; ISBN 978-1401323950

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cookbook Corner: The Essential New York Times Cookbook

Every year, I always ask for, hope for, and receive, at least two new cookbooks for Christmas.  One of my favorite Christmas moments is sitting in front of the tree and the crumbled up pile of wrapping paper, flipping through my new cookbooks.  This year, my husband spoiled me with three new books and I've been devouring them all ever since.  I'll tell you about the other two soon enough, but today it's all about The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser.

This book is massive.  It's the kind of book that, like the Joy of Cooking or our family-favorite Southern Living Cookbook, will surely become a go-to reference for me when I'm searching for the best way to make a well-known dish.  Some books you get for their inspiration through innovation and originality, this one...provide inspiration based on tradition.  The recipes in this book may not be groundbreaking, but they're sturdy, thoughtful, and they beg to be made.

What to expect: A whole freaking lot of recipes (no, that's not a technical term!).  The book contains tons of recipes, with chapters ranging from Drinks, Cocktails, Punches and Glog, Sandwiches, and Pizzas, and Savory Pies, to Poultry and Game, to Pies, Tarts, and Other Desserts, and everything in between.  This is a big book that requires the owner to sit down and read it.  Sure, you could flip to the back of the index to look up a particular recipe, but if you want a big book all about cooking, take the time to read the book and enjoy it.  No, I am not saying you need to read every chapter and every word, but spending time visiting with this book is time well spent.

Best recipes:  This book weighs in at 4 pounds 9 ounces according to my kitchen scale (yes, I did weigh it!) and it contains more than 1,400 recipes.  It's made up of all the best recipes from the past 150 years that have appeared in the New York Times.  There are some interesting recipes in here--ones that I would never make and others that I can't wait to try out.  I've only gone through this book twice (and have listed several dozen recipes I'm dying to make), but here are my top 5 so far:
  • Spicy, Lemony Clams with Pasta (pg. 336)
  • Crab Cakes, Baltimore Style (pg. 407)
  • Chicken Canzanes (pg. 458)
  • Flemish Beef and Onion Stew (pg. 515)
  • Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew (pg. 561)
Complaints: This is not a complaint of mine, but some may miss photos.  Others may find this book too large and overwhelming.  I've read a complaint that Amanda Hesser provides too much commentary.  I love commentary in a cookbook, so I don't give that complaint much merit.  So far, my only complaints are this:
  • Recipes are not arranged in an orderly fashion. For example, in the fish and seafood chapter, recipes are arranged by type.  Shrimp recipes are mixed with fish on the same page, then you'll go several pages without any fish recipes, then you're back to fish later in the chapter.
  • I haven't had enough time to sit down and really, really examine this book as much as I'd like.  That's more a complaint about me, but I had to list something...right?
Deliciousness scale: 5 spoonfuls of yum out of 5.

Details: This review is based on the 2010 edition of The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser; ISBN 0393061035

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Easy Elegance

Cream Puffs with Peppermint Ice Cream and Hot Fudge Sauce.  Easy and yummy!
After serving up a meal like Boeuf Bourgignon for Christmas dinner, I knew I had to do something easy yet delicious for dessert.  After much consideration, I decided on cream puffs filled with ice cream, bathed in rich hot chocolate sauce.  Nothing wrong with that!

I first read through several recipes for pate a chou before consulting my mother. I remember my mother making cream puffs (or profiteroles) when I was a kid, and I know my mom is not a fan of complex recipes.  I thought I found a simple enough recipe from the Joy of Cooking, but Mom told me to get out my copy of the Southern Living Cookbook.  The recipe she always used was from there and, she promised, it was a piece of cake.

I'm happy to report that I took my mom's sage advice.  The Southern Living Cookbook recipe was perfection--it was easy to follow and yielded deliciously elegant results.  If you need a fancy dessert that's easy to make, I highly recommend this one.  And the best part is that you can do whatever you want with the cream puffs once they're cooked.  They can be used for savory or sweet dishes, and the only limit to fillings and pastry shapes is your imagination.

Try this one's a breeze.  And, you can make it ahead of time and stick it in the freezer.  Nice!

Cream Puffs, fresh out of the oven...cooling off.

2/3 cup water
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs

  1. Combine water and butter in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.
  2. Add flour and salt, all at once, stirring vigorously over medium-high heat until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball.  
  3. Remove from heat and cool 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon after each addition; then beat until the dough is smooth.
  5. Shape and bake pastry immediately according to recipe directions.  Dough can be used for cream puffs, eclairs, etc.
  6. To make cream puffs: drop pastry into 8 equal mounds 3 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet (note: I lined my baking sheet with parchment paper).  Bale at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and puffed.  Cool away from drafts.  Cut top off of puffs and scoop and discard out the soft, uncooked dough in the center.  Add ice cream and top with hot fudge sauce.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Dinner, Revisited

Right before we took our holiday break, I mention that I was planning on making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourgignon for my family for Christmas dinner.  I am happy to report that I completed the meal...and that it was freaking awesome.

I'm not going to reprint Julia's can find in on the Internet if you are crafty (or find it in Julia's book, if you own it)...but I'll show you all the steps involved.  Nothing like looking at pictures of cooking in action to inspire the appetite!

First, I took some time to read (and re-read) Julia's recipe.  I also searched around to see how others make this famous dish.  I made a few adjustments to the original recipe...using normal bacon instead of a 6 oz. uncut chunk of the stuff as called for (I didn't have time to run around trying to find what Julia said I should use and opted for convenience over authenticity.  I don't think my final dish suffered for this.)  When I knew what needed to be done, I got all my ingredients ready to go.

Is there anything more lovely than mise en place?

I fried up the bacon then browned stew meat in the rendered bacon fat.  By the way, bacon fat is the it not?

Next came veggies.

The meat went back into the Dutch oven, along with the cooked bacon and all the residual juices.  Also added were herbs, tomato paste, salt, pepper, garlic and flour.

The whole thing went into a hot oven for a few minutes.  Then I added cognac (not called for in Julia's recipe, but mentioned in others) that was lit aflame.  Once the blue flicker of alcohol-laden flame died out, I added a bottle of French red wine and beef broth.  The Dutch oven went back into the oven to allow for constant heat to work its magic.

At this point, I cooked mushrooms in butter--a combination that made my fungus-loving husband drool.  I also braised pearl onions in butter and homemade chicken stock.

When the meat was tender, the Dutch oven came out of the oven.  The stew was strained and I mixed the fork-tender beef with the buttered mushrooms and brothy onions.

The strained wine sauce simmered and reduced down before being added back to the beef and veggies, and the meal was ready for consumption.

I served the Boeuf Bourgignon over buttered egg noodles with a salad and crunchy French bread.  It was a hit.  It was the kind of meal that warms you up and leaves you fully sated.  And it's going in my "keeper" list.  If you want to make this, don't be intimidated.  It's not as difficult as you might think, and you'll be rewarded for your efforts with tender beef, succulent veggies, and a broth to die for.  Now I'm getting hungry all over again!
(Thanks to my husband for taking photos while I cooked.  His fee?  A few buttery mushrooms and several tastes of beef!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy 2011!

The holiday season is now nothing more than a memory, and we're gearing up to plow through 2011.  We hope you all spent time with your loved ones, celebrating the end of another year.  My sister and I have been insanely busy, and days have seemed to slide by, overlapping.  I feel like all I've done these past two weeks is eat.  And eat well, I might add.

We have much to tell you about.  At Christmas, we both got awesome new cookbooks we'll review.  I spent more time in the kitchen than I have in ages, and have a number of recipes to share with you.  In other words: bare with us.  We're getting our thoughts in order and will have proper posts up in no time.

Until our next post, we're wish you all a happy, healthy, and delicious 2011!