Julia Child’s Potato Leek Soup

23 Mar Julia's Potato Leek Soup

Julia Child–I had the thrill of meeting her once. I walked beside her down a long corridor when I at worked at Macy’s Herald Square back in the early 90’s. Julia was delightful, even for those few moments. She waved and chortled her hellos to everyone she passed. She was tall and happy.

Now, when I make this soup, I think of those few moments when I was in the presence of  greatness. Aside from her height, her happiness was the most noticeable thing about her. When I make this soup, I try to channel my inner joy, in honor of Julia of course.

The thing that I like best about it is that it is simple. This is not what people think of when they think of Julia Child or of French cooking.

There are only 5 ingredients. Six if you count the garnish.

Aside from a little bit of chopping and peeling, there is minimal work to do here. This soup, Julia’s Potage Parmentier, just simmers away for under an hour, then you take an immersion blender to it, and you are just about done. It can be devoured hot, or you can serve it cold, and then you have vichyssoise.

So channel your inner Julia and serve some happiness tonight.

Julia's Potato Leek Soup

Julia’s Potato Leek Soup

Julia Child’s Potato Leek Soup or Potage Parmentier

  • 4 to 5 cups of peeled and sliced potatoes
  • 3 to 4 cups of washed and sliced leeks
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • snipped chives for garnish

1. Place the potatoes, leeks, water, and salt into a soup pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.

3. Add cream and a little more salt, to taste.

4. Serve hot or cold with snipped chives to garnish and give a pop of flavor.

leeks

leeks

and potatoes

and potatoes

add water and salt

add water and salt

simmer, puree, add cream, and voila!

simmer, puree, add cream, and voila!

Julia's Potato Leek Soup

Julia’s Potato Leek Soup

Red Curry Cravings

20 Mar yum!

I really love Thai curry.

Luckily, we have three great Thai restaurants within minutes from our house and we go as often as we can. But unfortunately we can’t spend every night in a restaurant. There are times when one has to take matters into their own hands and make Thai curry at home.

On a busy night it comes together quickly. Shortcuts are okay with me and my family agrees.

I start with the rice. My foolproof way of making rice is this: I take 2 cups of Jasmine rice, 3 cups water, and two teaspoons kosher salt and place them in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave it for 15 minutes with the cover off and 5 more minutes with the cover on. Out of sight and out of mind while I focus on the curry.

15 minutes like this

15 minutes like this

5 minutes like this

5 minutes like this

holes

holes

ready and waiting

ready and waiting

fluff

fluff before serving

Next comes the curry. This is a little different then restaurant curry but it is how we do it at home. And we are out to make ourselves happy after all.

First, saute a cup of chopped onions.

smile

smile

Add 1 tablespoon ginger paste and 1 teaspoon chopped garlic.

add ginger and garlic

add ginger and garlic

Add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste.

add curry paste

add curry paste

Add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and 2 to 3 tablespoons of  brown sugar.

brown sugar and fish sauce

brown sugar and fish sauce

Add  a can of coconut milk.

add coconut milk

add coconut milk

This time I added a pound of pre-cooked shrimp and about 12 ounces of pre-cooked green beans. But you can add anything you like… chicken, tofu, beef, peppers, broccoli, etc.

add green beans and shrimp

add green beans and shrimp

Simmer for about 10 minutes.

simmer

simmer

Serve with the rice.

yum!

yum!

Craving satisfied!

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough with Chocolate Truffle Filling

15 Mar perfection

Have you tried to use chocolate chips to fill a hamantaschen? Of course you have! And did it turn into a chalky dry disappointing mess? Of course it did! And since any kind of negative feelings on Purim are just plain and simple against the rules, I am here to help.

What you want to do is think outside the box, or bag, in this case, and add your chocolate chips to the dough. Then, not only do you get speckled, freckled happiness, but these pied beauties will bring joy to any chocolate lover you choose to bestow them upon.

side view

freckled speckled hapiness

You will need to finely chop the chocolate and add some fresh orange zest as a nod to the land of Israel and Golda Meir’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. But the rest is pretty straightforward and mostly foolproof. The wow factor here is the orange zest so be sure not to skip it.

finely chopped

finely chopped chocolate

You can make the dough and truffle filling up to 3 days ahead and then assemble when you are ready.

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest from one large orange
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
  1. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides as needed.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and stir.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture to the batter and mix well.
  6. Add the finely chopped chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
sugar

sugar

and butter

and butter

mix it up

mix it up

for 3 minutes

for 3 minutes

until fluffy

until fluffy

whisk together dry ingredients

whisk together dry ingredients

add dry to wet

add dry to wet

mix

mix

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

finely chopped

finely chopped

add to batter and mix

add to batter and mix

chocolate chip dough

chocolate chip dough

Truffle Filling

  • 8 ounces of chocolate
  • 6 ounces of heavy cream
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Put the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and pinch of salt into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and stir. Then heat in 20 second increments and stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Place in fridge until firm.

To assemble:

  1. Rip off a hunk of dough and form into a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin until about ¼ of an inch thick. Cut out a circle using a 3” cookie cutter or cup. Repeat.
  2. Put a dollop of the truffle filling in the center of each round (you can use Nutella if you don’t want to make the filling).
  3. Lift sides of dough toward center to form a triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350° F for 12 minutes. Let cool before eating to give the filling a chance to firm up.
grab a handful and make a ball

grab a handful and make a ball

roll it out

roll it out

cut

cut

fill

fill

fold

fold

like this

like this

and this

and this

perfection

perfection

Pizza Hamantashen

11 Mar Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Folks are doing amazing things with hamantaschen nowadays and are creative as can be. Lately I’ve seen rainbow hamantaschen as well as challah hamantaschen and even cupcake hamantaschen, which are all in good fun. If you are looking for a traditional hamantashen recipe (this one has a feminist spin), then there is no shortage of those as well.

But while you are branching out, why not make pizza hamantaschen, since the only thing that kids like as much as cookies is pizza? And you want to make them happy. After all, it’s Purim!

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen  (Pictures follow)

  • ·         1 package biscuit dough, such as Pillsbury or Trader Joe’s,  preferably one that has flaky layers
  • ·         1-14 ounce can pizza sauce (you will use about 6 ounces)
  • ·         Shredded mozzarella cheese (about a cup)

 

1.       Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.      Open biscuit package and separate the dough into 8 rounds.

3.      Peel each biscuit in half horizontally so you have 2 rounds of dough.

4.      Lay them out on a work surface, and top with a dollop of pizza sauce. Do not spread the sauce, and be careful not to put too much or you won’t be able to seal your hamantaschen.

5.      Top with a pinch of cheese.

6.      Fold into the traditional hamantaschen shape by folding up one side and pinching the dough closed, and then lifting up the other side and pinching the other two corners closed. You should be able to see a little bit of the filling peeking through.

7.      Place on the baking sheet and cook for about 9 minutes until the edges of the dough are golden brown and the pizza hamantaschen is puffed. Eat while hot, and don’t forget to be happy!

Biscuit dough

Biscuit dough

Peel apart horizontally

Peel apart horizontally

Lay flat on work surface

Lay flat on work surface

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

It will look like this

It will look like this

Then do the second side

Then do the second side

And the third side

And the third side

Voila

Voila

Repeat

Repeat

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Pizza Hamantashen 16 Pizza Hamantashen 17 Pizza Hamantashen 18

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

Chicken Pot Pie

3 Mar Love!

Snow day has followed snow day, and frankly I don’t mind a bit. The icy roads and sub-zero temps have given me permission to stay home with my family in my cozy house and cook. The biggest challenge on those days is to decide if I will put on clothes or pajamas after a shower, and pajamas always seem to win.

Comfortable clothes lead to comfort food, and this chicken pot pie is an old favorite.

There are varying degrees of how challenging this recipe can be—sometimes I make my own crust and add wine and a bay leaf to the filling ( ask me if you want to know when to add what), other times I use store bought crust and frozen veggies. It all depends on how much effort I feel like putting into it, and honestly, it is always delicious no matter which way I choose to go.

I will give you all of the variations and you can decide for yourself the next time you are snowed in, whether to put on pajamas or clothes, or make or buy a pie crust.

Comfort food equals comfort cooking, so have it your way.

I have made this when company comes, when bringing dinner to sick friends, and when I have bits of this and that leftover in the fridge. It never disappoints, so if winter has you down, this will pick you up!

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe (pictures follow)

  • 2 pie crusts, store-bought, I used Pillsbury, but any frozen crust will do, except Trader Joe’s brand which is too sweet, or homemade (sift 1 cup flour into a bowl, cut in 1/3 cup butter or shortening and mix with fork, sprinkle on 2 tablespoons cold water and blend again with fork, shape into a ball, wrap with plastic and chill in fridge until after you cook the filling)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, or butter, or whatever you like to sauté onions with
  • 1 medium onion, about 1 cup, chopped
  • For the veggies: 1 diced potato or 1 cup chopped cauliflower florets, ½ cup diced carrots, ½ cup frozen peas. On a lazy day I might use a  bag of frozen veggies such as Trader Joe’s Vegetable Melange, cooked in the microwave for twice as long as the directions say, and added after I sauté the onion.
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups diced chicken

To make filling:

  1. Heat oil and sauté onion, peas, carrots, and potato or cauliflower until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper and mix well. Gradually stir in the broth, stirring constantly to make a thick, creamy sauce. Add diced chicken and stir to combine.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Let the filling cool for a bit while you prep the crusts. Roll out both pieces of dough and place one in the bottom of the pie dish, letting it hang over the edge a bit. Set the second piece of dough aside. Pour in the slightly cooled filling, and cover it with the second piece of rolled out dough. Pierce the top crust with a fork to vent, and tuck the edges of the crust under to make a neat edge.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden. Let stand for 15-30 minutes to let the filling thicken a bit before you cut into it.

Pot Pie 16 Pot Pie 15 Pot Pie 12 Pot Pie 14 Pot Pie 13 Pot Pie 11 Pot Pie 10 Pot Pie 9 Pot Pie 8 Pot Pie 7 Pot Pie 6 Pot Pie 5 Pot Pie 2 Pot Pie 1 Pot Pie 3 Pot Pie 4

Love!

Love!

The Things We Do For Love: The Valentine’s Day Blog

14 Feb If this isn't love, what is?

It started back in 1995 when I first met Jesse—being in love suddenly made me want to cook. Although I loved to cook, there was no real point to it since I lived in NYC and considered all of the restaurants in town my own personal pantry. Instead of opening the door to the fridge, I would open the front door to my apartment, and there were a multitude of cheap great eats to choose from.

But on Valentine’s Day 1996 something in my universe shifted. I had an idea, and as goofy as I knew it was, I knew I had to do it. I made my super- cool, crazy-handsome, rocker husband-to-be a heart shaped meatloaf.

Heart Shaped Meatloaf Circa 1996

If this isn’t love, what is?

When I pulled it from the oven I channeled my best June Cleaver, my inner Marion Cunningham, and even my own wonderful mom. Meatloaf to me means more than just that you love someone, it means that you are a family.

Some other V-Day fun:

Salad with Red Pepper Hearts

Salad with Red Pepper Hearts

Heart Shaped Corn Bread Muffins

Heart Shaped Corn Bread Muffins

Guess what these are? Beets cut into hearts...wait for it...Heart Beets

Beets cut into hearts…wait for it…Heart Beets

 

 

Well, all these year later, I will be keeping with the tradition that I started way back when, and will make my 19th heart shaped meatloaf for my love. But now I must make it bigger because there are five of us. You know the childhood taunt, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” Well three babies and 19 Valentine’s Days later, we look forward to it as our family V-Day tradition!

Valentine’s Day Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds ground meat (I use half ground chicken and half ground beef, 85/15)
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup dry oatmeal, ground in a food processor
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • For the glaze mix together: ¼ cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard and set aside.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry mustard powder and the water. Add the egg and stir again. Add all of the remaining ingredients: ground meat, ground oats, garlic, ketchup, salt, and thyme and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
  3. Transfer the meat mixture onto the prepared baking pan and using your hands, shape into a big, wide heart, smoothing the top.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, top with the glaze, and return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Serve to someone, or a few someones, that you love.
Smile

Smile

The Cinco de Mayo Blog: Mexican Chocolate Sauce

5 May Ibarraaaaaah!

It is Cinco de Mayo weekend and time for a fiesta!  For me, Cinco started last week when I was on two morning news shows promoting Mrs. Wages salsa, guacamole, and queso dip. What fun!

See the clips here:

This one is my favorite! Tim Ezell and April were a hoot!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/02/easy-salsa-guacamole/

Elliot politely refused my sombrero but it didn’t stop me from having a blast!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/03/three-amigos-of-cinco-de-mayo-snacks/

For my own Cinco celebration at home with friends, I wanted to do something special after the tortilla chip crumbs were brushed away—so, for dessert, I served  Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce over vanilla bean ice cream!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ten years ago I went with my husband to a conference in San Diego. We stayed at a hotel that overlooked the bay and had a view of Coronado Island.

At the time, my boys were little, 2 and 5, and my girl was not yet on the horizon. It was the first time I was getting on a plane to go somewhere without my kids. It was just two years after 9/11 and getting on a plane was still a little anxiety provoking, to say the least.

The third Lord of the Rings movie had just come out in theaters, and I was almost done reading Return of the King, rushing to finish before seeing it in the theater, which we planned to do on New Year’s Eve on our trip.

We lived in a small town at the time, Winona, Minnesota, and the New Yorker in me was desperate to go to a city, any city, and eat great food and be around hoards of people. So off we went.

It was an icy December, and getting on a tiny propeller plane from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to the Twin Cities was no comfort as it shook and shivered to get off of the ground. I watched the blinding whiteness of snowy Minnesota disappear as we headed to what I hoped was a lush, green California.

When we got to San Diego we were told they were having the coldest winter in recent history. I pulled my coat tightly around me and braced myself for the chilly California weather and an exciting week without my two loves I had left far behind at home.

Return of the King weighed heavily on my mind—I fretted as I read.  Frodo had risked everything to travel far and away and save Middle Earth. Surely I could make it through the week without going to pieces over missing my boys. Frodo and I, we were in this together.

On December 31 we took the bright red trolley to Old Town. A couple of stops further and we would have been in Tijuana. I wouldn’t have dared to travel over any borders with my kids so far behind, so Old Town was as far as we went.

We spent a very enjoyable day browsing ceramic lizards and other hand painted pottery in the Mexican art galleries. We ate delicious Mexican food and drank wide and wobbly glassfulls of margaritas rimmed in salt with clinking cubes of ice. We sat outside under a chilly sky with brightly colored restaurant décor and lively music playing all around us.

That night we would ring in the New Year by sitting through a late showing of Return of the King, too excited to do anything else. But first we would shop at a the Mexican stores—our Minnesota house was too tiny for more art, but the grocery store was pure delight. One of the things I purchased that day was a large box of Ibarra chocolate with plans to make hot cocoa as soon as we returned home from our trip. It was something I could share with my boys from our trip that would warm us up together from the harsh Minnesota cold.

Ibarra

Ibarra

I kept the bag of Ibarra on my lap during the movie that night, and clutched it tightly as I watched Frodo destroy the ring and restore balance to his world. We would go home the next day.

Home was filled with hugs and kisses and joy and cups of hot Mexican cocoa.

All of these years later I rediscovered the yellow box of Ibarra, 5 more paper-wrapped discs waiting patiently to be transformed into more cocoa. But instead I made something much, much better: Mexican Chocolate Sauce.

Ibarra disc

Ibarra disc

On our table I put out the sombreros from my TV cooking demo from earlier in the day. I hung the paper Mexican flags from our window and made bowls of queso, salsa, and guacamole. We had our Cinco de Mayo dinner with friends, and for dessert, little white bowls of vanilla ice cream topped with warm Ibarra chocolate sauce: the flavor rich and spicy; the texture enhanced by the slight sugary crunch and the subtle hint of cinnamon; the chocolate flavor deepened by a splash of Kahlua and silky cream.

Ooooo

Ooooo

We were transported to magical places…

Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce

  • 5 large disks or a scant pound of Ibarra chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  1. Place the chocolate and the cream in a microwave safe glass bowl. Microwave it for 1 minute, stir, and microwave it for another minute. Continue to heat in 20 second increments, stirring each time until the cream is very warm and the chocolate begins to melt. Let stand for a few minutes and stir until smooth.
  2. Let cool to room temp and serve over vanilla ice cream.
Yum!

Yum!

Almond Macaroon Cookies, Two Ways

29 Mar Chocolate Almond Macaroon Cookies

Chocolate Almond Macaroon Cookies

Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup ground almonds (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Meal but you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together the almonds and the sugar, then mix in the egg whites.  Next, gradually add the cooled chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth.
  3. Make twelve 1-inch balls of batter and place them on the baking sheet. Or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop them onto the baking sheet if you prefer.  Flatten them slightly, so they have a smooth round shape.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove macaroons from the oven and cool on a rack. When completely cool gently peel them from the parchment paper and enjoy!

Simple Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground almonds (Trader Joe’s Almond Meal works great or you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    2. Mix the almonds with the sugar and extract.
    3. Add the egg white and and work the mixture very well holds together in a stiff paste.
    4. Make twelve 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and flatten them slightly, or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop the batter onto the parchment paper.
    5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored.  They will be soft, but they will harden as they cool.  Leave on tray until firm before removing from parchment paper.
Ground almonds and sugar

Ground almonds and sugar

add egg whites and vanilla

add egg whites and vanilla

mix into a paste

mix into a paste

roll into balls

roll into balls

flatten

flatten

bake

bake

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

28 Mar Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

 

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

 

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond meal ( I get it at Trader Joe’s but you can grind your own)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond meal, sugar, vanilla, and egg white.
  3. Spoon it into the prepared pan and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. While crust is cooling, make the caramel.
Butter the tart pan

Butter the tart pan

Mix the almonds, egg white, and vanilla

Mix the almonds, egg white, and vanilla

Into the pan

Into the pan

Press it into the pan

Press it into the pan

Baked

Baked and cooled

 

 

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

 

To make the caramel:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula until the sugar melts. Caution: melted sugar is very hot! Once you have started to melt the sugar do not stick your finger in or lick the spoon to taste—you will get burned!
  2. Heat the sugar until it turns a golden caramel color. If you have an insta-read or candy thermometer it will be ready at 350F. If you don’t have one, just go by the color. But be careful—the caramel will go past that point very quickly and burn fast. Remove it from the heat as soon as it turns to caramel—it will continue to cook even after removed from the heat.
  3. Add the butter and whisk until butter is fully incorporated. The caramel may bubble up as you to do this.
  4. Add the cream and whisk until the caramel becomes smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk again.
  5. Let cool slightly and pour into the macaroon crust to completely coat the bottom. Now you are ready to make the chocolate glaze.
I'm melting

I’m melting

Melting

Melting

still melting

still melting

melting

caramel!

Butter

Butter

add cream and whisk until smooth

add cream then whisk until smooth

Pour into crust

Pour into crust

 

 

For the chocolate:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top

 

 

To make the chocolate glaze:

  1. Put all chocolate glaze ingredients into a bowl and microwave for one minute. Let stand for a minute or two and then stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the chocolate glaze over the caramel filling and lightly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let chill in the fridge until firm about two hours.
In the bowl

In the bowl

into the microwave

into the microwave

stir

stir

pour

pour

a sprinkle of salt

a sprinkle of salt

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

 

 

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

25 Mar Lemon Tart for Passover

This one speaks for itself:

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 3 ½ cups sweetened coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large lemons, juiced (1/2 cup) and zested

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan. In a medium bowl mix together the coconut, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Lightly press mixture against the bottom and sides of the tart pan to form the walls of the crust.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack while you make the filling. Lower oven temp to 325°F.

To make the filling:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and bake until just set 15-20 minutes. Set on a rack to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the coconut, egg whites, vanilla

Mix the coconut, egg whites, vanilla

Butter the pan

Butter the pan

Into the prepared pan

Into the prepared pan

Form the crust

Form the crust and bake

While the crust cools make the filling--egg yolks

While the crust cools make the filling–egg yolks

Sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

and lemon zest

and lemon zest

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Whisk it together

Whisk it together

Crust is ready to be filled

Crust is ready to be filled

Bake it

Bake it

All set

All set

Glistening gorgeousness

Glistening gorgeousness

Chill it

Chill it

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart for Passover

The Real Deal Matzah Ball Soup

20 Mar Matzah Ball Soup

“Of soup and love, the first is best.” ~Old Spanish proverb

I have to confess, I don’t have a family recipe for chicken soup. Nothing has been handed down from generation to generation. No one carried a recipe over to Ellis Island sown into the lining of their coat.

Not my actual family

Not my actual family

There wasn’t a magic formula with my name on it either. Until now.

Matzah ball soup with the works

Matzah ball soup with the works

I did have my grandma Esther’s knedelaich recipe, in her handwriting too! But one day I was reading the recipe and measuring the matzah meal from the box, and noticed that her recipe was THE SAME EXACT ONE AS ON THE BOX!!! Well, either she was a trendsetter, or she got it from there as well. So much for my family recipe!

Grandma's recipe on the back

Grandma’s recipe on the back

There are many different permutations for matzah balls, light and fluffy, egg white only, ginger and almond, baking soda and seltzer. Well my friends, you could use ol’reliable on the side of the box of matzah meal, or you can use this recipe for matzah balls seasoned with Herbes de Provence which I make for special occasions. If you aren’t keen on something so adventurous (it is pretty subtle, really), then just leave out the herbs and you will have a light yolk-free matzah ball.

Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence

As a child, I would do anything for soup. It didn’t matter if it had noodles or rice or kneidelach (Yiddish for matzah balls). I would eat it from a package or pot or can.

My childhood comfort food

My childhood comfort food

Almost everyone in my family made soup, and thanks to some sort of wonderful mutant food related super-power, I can remember the taste of them all.

I come from a long line of cooks that cook by eye, throwing in this or that, although all had a signature style.

My dad would overload his with root vegetables and fresh dill, while my mom showed restraint–except when it came to green peppers.  My grandmother Esther’s was simple and straightforward, just like her. My aunt Becca would add spoonfuls of turmeric to turn her soup golden.  I loved them all, the people and the soup. Their style said a lot about them, and I think about them every time I make my own soup.

I’ve been making chicken soup ever since college, when I would occasionally put aside the ramen noodle.

College staple

College staple

I don’t think, in the years since, that I’ve made two soups that were the same. Sure they all had similarities—it is soup of course—but they varied greatly. I’ve ranged from following in the footsteps of my parents to spanning the world to my exotic aunt’s golden soup, and I even have tried a few vegetarian versions. Most were good, some even great, all dependent on the quality of the chicken and the veggies.

Kosher chicken is the best for soup

Kosher chicken is the best for soup

I vary the recipe slightly depending on what in the fridge needs to go. Sometimes I will save up leek greens, or parsley stems, or celery leaves. I vary the ingredients slightly in amount—more carrots and parsnips for a sweeter soup, russet potatoes or yams for a heartier one.

Sometimes at the end I will snip fresh dill and sprinkle it on, especially in the spring (my Dad would approve).

Dill-icious!

Dill-icious!

But good news, folks—I’ve finally found myself. And this is the soup I will pass down to my grandchildren.  More or less.

Aura’s Chicken Soup

  • 12-16 cups water (note: less if it is just for my family, more if company is coming)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt now, plus more later
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs and legs (quarters), preferably Kosher, with skin and bones (see note above)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 green onions or 1 large leek, washed well and chopped
  • 4 to 6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (on the diagonal is pretty), preferably organic

    Carrots on the bias

    Carrots cut on the bias

  • 1 or 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks (to add a little umami)
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup tiny noodles (alphabet, stelline, orzo, or for Passover Manischewitz KFP noodles, cooked separately

    With alphabet noodles

    With alphabet noodles

  • Double batch of yolk-free matzah balls (recipe follows)
  • Fresh dill, optional, but not to my dad
  • More kosher salt, up to 1 tablespoon, to taste depending on size of soup
  1. Fill a large soup pot with the water. Put in the chicken and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes without stirring. After 20 minutes, skim off any foam that rises to the top.
  2. Add all of the other veggies: onion, green onions or leek, carrots, turnip, sweet potato, celery, tomato, parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium-low and simmer. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours, until the soup has reduced a bit and become more concentrated.
  3. Taste and add more kosher salt.
  4. If you like clear soup (we do on holidays or for company), then let soup cool a bit and strain the soup through a large fine mesh colander into another large pot or bowl. If you like carrots or chicken in the soup, then pick those out of the colander and add them back to the soup. In my house we eat it chunky-style with everything in the bowl (except for the chicken skin and bones).
  5. At this point you can refrigerate it (it will keep for a few days, just bring it back to a simmer for 5 minutes before serving. You can also freeze it.
  6. And as for that bay leaf, in my house, whoever gets it in their bowl has good luck. But who needs luck when you have someone to make you soup. :)

Herbes de Provence Mini-Matzah Balls

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence (sold in the spice aisle)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • 1 ½ cups matzah meal
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, using a fork, mix together the oil and egg whites.   Then add the herbs de Provence, salt and pepper, and mix well. Stir in the water, and then the matzah meal, mixing well. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the mixture, and let chill in the fridge for an hour or more.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add a tablespoon of salt. Wet your hands and a small spoon, and make balls of the mixture about 2 inches in diameter. Roll them until they are smooth and then drop them gently into the boiling water. Repeat until all of the batter is used up.
  3. Cover with the lid partially vented and simmer for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon transfer the matzah balls to a pot of your favorite chicken soup or store in the fridge, covered for up to 2 days. Makes about 30 mini-matzah balls or 6 servings. Feel free to double the recipe or even double the size of the matzah ball.
Matzah balls cooking

Matzah balls cooking

Keen on Quinoa

19 Mar Quinoa Salad

Before quinoa became popular, my mother had it in her pantry when I was growing up. Back in the ‘70’s, it was hippie dippy health food and had a picture of a Native American on the box to show how natural it was. I am sure my mother made it once, and it was either tolerated at one weeknight dinner, or rejected entirely, and then left for dead on the shelf, in memory of mom’s attempt to try something new.

But now it has made a re-appearance in grocery stores, and healthful minded people are turning to it for a low-carb, gluten-free substitute for other grains. Understanding what it is and how to cook it can keep its popularity stats up at your dinner table.

First thing you should know is that it is not a grain, although it looks a lot like couscous.

Uncooked quinoa

Uncooked quinoa

My husband thinks it looks a lot like bird seed and jokes that we are sharing dinner with our pet parakeet.

Bird seed

Bird seed

Our parakeet, Happy Love

Our parakeet, Happy Love

 

Quinoa is related to beets and spinach and is high in protein and iron. It is the seed of its plant, and, if you look closely at it after it is cooked, has a lot of personality—it is curly, just like me!

Curly when cooked!

Curly when cooked!

It is also accepted as kosher for Passover—just think, it is the only kosher food that has a curly tail!

Curly close-up

Curly close-up

During Passover I leave a big bowl of it in the fridge, and it will save me from sobbing into my matzah on day 3 of the holiday because I can’t go one more day without my beloved couscous, rice, or pasta (carboholic in the house, yo).

I recommend the Ancient Harvest brand, which is pre-rinsed to remove the bitter coating on each grain of quinoa, which is called saponin.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa

Ancient Harvest Quinoa

Other brands, such as Trader Joe’s still have the coating, and personally I will do anything to save a step, even one as simple as this. If you do buy a brand that you need to rinse, then do so with a fine mesh colander or you will wind up washing a heck of a lot of it down the drain.

I recommend cooking it in broth, not water, no matter how the instructions on the box insist either way will be fine. The broth will give it some flavor, and anything this healthy needs every bit of flavor on its side to make sure it will always have a place at your dinner table.

Cook it in an uncovered pot for about 15-18 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and there are some “holes” in the top of the quinoa.

Broth and quinoa

Broth and quinoa

Cook uncovered

Cook uncovered

 

Done

Done

See the holes

See the holes

 

Many recipes will tell you to put the cover on the pot, but I find that then you will have to drain it, and you already know how I feel about saving a step. Since you are not cooking rice, you do not need the cover.

Once it is cooked you will notice that it has changed a little bit—it will now have the cutest little curlicue shape to it. And when you taste it, it will not be mush, but will have a bit of bite to it and a pleasant texture.

Let it stand for about 5 more minutes off of the heat, then, using a fork, gently fluff it out onto a large platter or wide serving bowl, and let it cool a bit. At this point you can add in any mix-ins to help it along and win over your family.

Mix-ins

Mix-ins

Chopped and ready to go

Chopped and ready to go

Pretty

Pretty

Mixed

Mixed

Add feta and eat!

Add feta and eat!

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and other ideas

  • 1 cup quinoa (I recommend the Ancient Harvest brand so you can skip step 1)
  • 2 cups broth
  • 15 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • ½ red bell pepper

    Israeli Feta

    Israeli Feta

  • 2 green onions
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I love the Israeli feta from Trader Joe’s)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place quinoa in a mesh colander and rinse to remove bitterness (see note above).
  2. Place the quinoa and the broth into a pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. If there is any liquid remaining, drain in the colander and let quinoa cool to room temp.
  3. Chop olives, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, red pepper, green onions, and feta cheese. Mix into the quinoa and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Qunioa Mix-in Ideas:

  • Sautéed chopped onion, sliced grilled chicken, chopped fresh spinach, squeeze of lemon and drizzled of olive oil
  • Diced cooked asparagus, goat cheese, quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh chopped thyme
  • Sliced green onions, dried cherries, apricots or dates, chopped pistachios, almonds, or cashews, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Thinly sliced red onion, crumbled feta, diced cucumbers, and halved grape tomatoes, chopped fresh mint
  • Eat any of these quinoa salads as is or in a lettuce wrap.
  • Stuff any of the quinoa salads into a hollowed out Roma tomato, portabella mushroom, zucchini, or eggplant, and baked in the oven at 350° F until the veggies are tender.

Slow & Low Kale Chips

13 Mar Slow & Low Kale Chips

“Slow and low that is the tempo.” ~ Beastie Boys

By gollly, I’ve done it! After many misleading tips on the interent (who woulda thunk!), I have finally cracked the kale chip code.

It is not like roasting other vegetables. It is its own thing entirely.

More like meringues (well, only sort of), it is a drying out process of properly spaced items on a baking sheet.

To make a lot, two bunches of kale, about 8 ounces each will do it. My local grocery store has curly kale for 99 cents per pound. It also carries organic dino kale, which I love, for $5.98 per pound! It doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. I went with the more affordable option for today.

Remove the kale from the stem and rip it into little bite sized pieces. Wash it well, and spin it in your salad spinner to remove excess water.

Wash

Wash

Into the salad spinner

Into the salad spinner

Spin dry

Spin dry

Lay it on clean kitchen towels or paper towels to air dry completely.

Air dry

Air dry

You can store the washed and dried kale in Ziploc bags in the fridge for a few days. Or, if you are ready to cook ‘em, then do so now.

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Line 2 half sheet sized baking trays with foil. Place the kale on the trays. Drizzle each tray with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with course sea salt. You don’t need much, just a little to give the chips some flavor and offset some of the pleasant bitterness of the kale. Toss with clean hands and then make sure the kale pieces are scattered about on the tray in a single layer with space between them.

Place the kale on the tray

Place the kale on the tray

Two trays full

Two trays full

Add oil, salt, toss, and spread

Add oil, salt, toss, and spread

Bake them, one tray at a time (I have a double oven so can do two at once) for a total of 30 minutes, stirring halfway.

Let cool on tray for a few minutes and pour them into a serving bowl.

Cooling

Cooling

Taste for salt and devour!

Start snacking!

Start snacking!

Any leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and snacked upon as necessary. If you need to crisp them up you can just put them back in a low oven for a few minutes.

Slow & Low Kale Chips

  • 2 bunches kale, any kind, about 8 ounces each
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Course sea salt
  1. Remove the stems and discard. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Wash and dry very well, leaving out to air dry on kitchen towels or paper towels if you must.
  2. Preheat oven to 275°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Divide the kale between them and drizzle each batch with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with a little of the sea salt.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway. Let cool for a few minutes on baking sheet and then taste for salt and serve.

    Slow & Low Kale Chips

    Slow & Low Kale Chips

You’re Doing it Wrong: Hard-Boiled Eggs

11 Mar Gloriously Golden Hard-boiled Eggs

I like to help (queue theme from Superman). And I’m here to save you. :)

I’m guessing that 9 out of 10 of you have never had a properly hard -boiled egg. I know this is true because until recently, neither had I.

I thought I had, but then as I was watching Food Network, I noticed that Nigella’s eggs did not look like mine. Her yolks were gloriously golden. Mine were yellow. And I thought that was what they were supposed to be.

Wrong.

With Passover and Easter right around the corner, now is the time to set things straight this Spring, as they are officially the “hard-boiled holidays.”

If you find yourself choking down chalky green-tinged egg yolks and rubbery whites, or cursing out loud in front of the kids as you struggle to peel a hard-boiled egg and gouge out chunks of it as you go, or you are just unsure of when your eggs are done, then keep reading folks!

The first thing you need to know is that if you want the shell to peel off your eggs easily, then you need to plan ahead. Since Passover is just 2 weeks away (from the time of this blog post), buy your eggs now. Yes, right now. Actually, last week or the week before would have been better, but it will be ok. With most things, fresh is best, but in this case, slightly older is better. Two to three weeks is ideal—it gives the egg time to let air seep into the hermetically sealed shell. Then when you hard boil it there will be some separation between the shell/connective membrane and the delicate white of the egg.

When you are ready to cook your eggs, get out a large pot, big enough to put the eggs into it, cover them with cold water, plus one extra inch of water.

Eggs in the pan + water

Eggs in the pan + water

Bring to a boil

Bring to a boil

 

Bring the uncovered eggs and water to a boil for exactly one minute.

Boiling!

Boiling!

One minute

One minute

 

Then clamp the cover on and remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit for ten minutes if you like your white to be delicate and your yolk to be buttery and golden and tender. Twelve minutes if you want it a little more done. But that is it!

Ten minutes later

Ten minutes later

Now quick–remove the eggs from the hot water and plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. And by ice bath, I simply mean a bowl filled with ice and water.

If you are out of ice, then then even very cold water will do—the important thing is to stop the cooking process.

Next, tap each egg so the shell forms a crack and lets some of the ice water in. When the hot egg and the cold water meet, the white and shell will make some space for one another.

As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle, crack them lightly all over on the counter top, gently roll them under your hand, and carefully peel them, under running water if you’d like. They should just slip out of their shell as easily as you would slip out of your winter coat on a temperate Spring day.

Tap, tap

Tap, tap

Crack and roll

Crack and roll

 

If you have any difficulty, find a spot on the egg, the top or the bottom where the shell is a little “looser” and begin to peel it there. Find your way under the connective membrane that holds the shell together and peel it from there, in big pieces if you can. And holding it under a little running water sometimes helps to ease things along as well.

Delicate white revealed

Delicate white revealed

Voila!

Voila!

 

 

Peeled hard-boiled eggs will keep for about 4 days in a covered container in the fridge.

Gloriously golden

Gloriously golden

Perfection

Perfection

 

Gloriously Golden Hard-boiled Eggs

  • Eggs, 3 weeks old, give or take
  • Water
  1. Place desired amount of eggs in a pot and cover with water by one inch.
  2. Bring to a boil on the stove top, uncovered.
  3. Let the eggs boil for exactly one minute and then clamp the cover onto the pot and immediately remove from heat.
  4. Let sit for 10-12 minutes.
  5. Plunge the eggs into an ice bath and give each a little tap to make a small crack.
  6. When cool enough to handle, crack the eggs all over, and then roll, using the palm of your hand.
  7. Gently peel the shell off and eat warm or cold sprinkled with salt.

Whoop! Here it is–The Whoopie Pie Blog

9 Mar Whoopie pie!

If you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of opinions about food. My opinion about Whoopie Pie is, that it is good. But these, my friends, are great!

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

These can be made hamburger-sized, bun and all, but you can make them smaller if you are into mini things. Part of their charm, if you ask me, is the size, and are not necessarily meant to be delicate. But do as you will.

I say make them big and eat one for lunch.

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

The soft, moist, fluffy chocolate cake will stick to your fingers, reminiscent of the cream filled snack cake in little plastic packages from your childhood, but fresh and homemade.

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

The cream is somehow very un-marshmallow-like and more the stuff that dreams are made of, if one were to dream about cream-filled dessert.

I do…

Dreamy

Dreamy

They are just about foolproof, so go ahead and mis-measure a little, sift or not, substitute here and there–it is entirely up to you.

The only few things I will insist upon, is that you must use vegetable shortening & butter when specified to get the proper texture of cake and cream; and it is the Marshamallow  Fluff  brand I recommend since both the brand and the dessert are classics.

This is the shtuff

This is the shtuff

So experience a little high, and get it on with these Whoopie Pies.

Classic Whoopie Pies

For the chocolate cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper.
  3. Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (yes, you can just use a hand-held mixer instead), beat together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk mixture to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the milk and beat until completely combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop (sm, med, or lg), drop batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart (1 Tablespoon for 2” cakes, 2 T for 3”, and 3 T for 4”).
  6. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48 two-inch cakes which will make 24 Whoopie Pies, or 36 three-inch cakes which will make 18 W.P.’s., or like I did, 24 four-inch cakes for 12 hamburger sized W.P.’s!

For the marshmallow filling:

  • 1 ½ cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing the medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

To assemble:

  1. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon put a large dollop in the center of half of the cookies. Top with another cookie and gently press down to help the cream spread. Eat right away or store between sheets of wax paper in a sealed container large enough to fit the Whoopie Pies.
Flour

Flour

Cocoa

Cocoa

The sifter

The sifter

Adding cocoa to the flour

Adding cocoa to the flour

Ready to sift

Ready to sift

Sifting in progress

Sifting in progress

Done sifting

Done sifting

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Creaming

Creaming

Vanilla

Vanilla

An egg

An egg

Mixin' it up

Mixin’ it up

Add egg and vanilla

Add egg and vanilla

Add half the milk

Add half the milk

Add half the flour mixture

Add half the flour mixture

Batter mixing

Batter mixing

Almost done

Almost done

Scrape down the sides

Scrape down the sides

Beautiful batter

Beautiful batter

Get the scoop

Get the scoop

Drop it

Drop it

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

All lined up

All lined up

Transformed

Transformed

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

All fluf

All fluf

Whip it

Whip it

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

Dreamy

Dreamy

A scoop

A scoop

Filling in place

Filling in place

Beginning to look like dessert

Beginning to look like dessert

Yum

Yum

Lookin' good

Lookin’ good

mmm...

mmm…

The topper

The topper

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

A small army of dessert

A small army of dessert

Heavenly

Heavenly

Whoopie!

Whoopie!

Yum

Yum

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

Happiness

Happiness

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