Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cheddar Cheese Spread

I haven't had as much time this year to make anything amazing or grand for the holidays like I'd hoped.  But I made this for no reason at all this morning (okay, I made it because I've been in a cream cheese mood) and I thought, "This would be so fantastic for any holiday party and so easy!"  So in a way, this recipe is perfect for the holidays which makes it both amazing and grand!

I'm a huge fan of crackers and cheese spread.  Grew up with the store-bought kind, you know the ones... port wine, cheddar & bacon, Swiss almond.  I actually don't see a lot of them in the stores anymore.  Maybe it's a passé appetizer... or maybe we just live behind the Redwood Curtain and don't get a lot of selection at our stores.  I try not to eat a lot of crackers anymore, but we have some crackers left over from a company Christmas party (where Justin made his own take on Ina Garten's Smoked Salmon dip, which was excellent, made with some fresh-caught, home-smoked salmon a friend gave us!) and we also have a ton of cheese in our house because my dad always sends a box of cheese and sausage from Wisconsin for Christmas - we look forward to it every year!  So I was itching for a cheese spread and decided to make one.  I don't think I will ever buy another store-bought cheese spread again!  This was just so easy to make and the different ideas for what I could put in them seems endless!  Beer, wine, garlic, onion, horseradish, bacon, herbs, roasted peppers.... you could put anything you liked into it!  Whatever cheese you want to use (I'd really like to make a Swiss-almond one!)  Like I said, I just used what I had at home and it came out fantastic!

I just heard this song for the first time the other day and I think it might be one of my new favourite Christmas songs.  I've always loved Cyndi Lauper.  Here she is with The Hives doing A Christmas Duel.  -jen

Time:  10 minutes
Difficulty:  So ridiculously easy
Makes:  about 2 cups
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz medium or sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional, but helps it spread better)
  • 2 teaspoons dried chives (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
In a food processor (or with a fork), combine all ingredients and mix until well blended.  Serve immediately or chill for later.  Really, you can choose whatever cheese you want and put whatever seasonings you like in it, that's just what I chose.  Be creative!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

(Not my pic.)
We both grew up with cranberry sauce out of a can... and when we discovered how easy it is to make your own and customize it,  I don't think we could ever go back to the canned version.  Earlier in the year I discovered Pomanders, which are oranges studded with whole cloves and used as a room freshener.  We hung several of them up in our house, in closets, in the hallway, and they really made our house smell amazing... we both fell in love with the smell of oranges and cloves combined. So when I decided to make a cranberry sauce today, I decided to go heavy on the orange and also use cloves.  Sweet, tart, slightly spicy... it pretty much smells like the holidays.

Fresh rinsed ranberries
(Here's a how-to for making your own pomander.)

I've really been trying to cut back the sugar in recipes and I did so in this one as well.  Most cranberry sauce recipes you find will use up to a cup of sugar or honey.  With this one, I figured I've got the orange juice, the cranberry juice, the apple, the Triple Sec... plenty of sweet but a lot of tart.  If you're not big into tart, you might want to use 1 cup of sugar in the recipe.

And in the holiday spirit, I chose Jim Carroll singing "People Who Died".  (I apologize for the video showing Leo and Marky Mark.)  -jen

Difficulty:  Easy
Time:  20 minutes
Makes: 2 and 1/4 cups
Orange & Lemon Zest
  • juice and zest of one orange (about 1/3 cup juice)
  • juice and zest of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice)
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec liqueur 
  • 1 apple (your choice), diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring orange juice, lemon juice, cranberry juice and sugar to a boil.  Add rinsed cranberries and bring back to a boil (about 5 minutes).  Lower heat to a simmer and add citrus zests, Triple Sec, diced apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes (but not more than 15 minutes or it won't set).  Remove from heat and let set.  Serve at room temp or chilled - it's up to you. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin Custard Crumble

I dove into this recipe with good, healthy intentions.  "Oh... I could do a crust-less pumpkin pie... low sugar, low fat, low carbs..."  Totally had the intention of leaving flour out of the topping and going light on the sugar.  Then... then it turned into something evil and decadent and delicious.  Still went lighter on the sugar than most pumpkin pie recipes would call for but... I crunched the numbers (because I have a sick love of spreadsheets) and they weren't pretty.  Per slice:  230 calories; 8 grams of fat; 31 net carbs; 6g of protein.  Still, healthier for you than a Snickers bar, and better tasting!  Not exactly diet-dessert, but probably a little better for you than most.  I got a ton of sugar pumpkins from a friend, so I made my own puree.  Can't speak for the outcome if you use canned... but I'm sure it'd be fine.

Since Halloween is in less than a week, I've really been getting into the spirit.  We hit up the pumpkin patch today because I love carving jack-o-lanterns.  And I did a last practice run on my Dia de los Muertos calavera (sugar skull) makeup!  So I felt like a song in the graveyard spirit might be in order.  Koffin Kats doing "Graveyard Tree".  -jen

Prep:  15 minutes
Cook Time:  55-60 minutes
Preparing to roast sugar pie pumpkins.
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  12 servings

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc)

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried, ground ginger 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 cups fresh pumpkin puree (or 24oz canned puree)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can (12oz) evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously coat a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, combine all of the topping ingredients and pulse.  If you don't have a food processor, cut the butter into the flour, then add the remaining ingredients.  Set aside.

In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, clove, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl using an electric mixer, beat together pumpkin, brown sugar and eggs.  Add evaporated milk. 

Pour batter into prepared baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.  Carefully remove from oven and use a spoon to sprinkle the topping over the top to your desired thickness.  (You can use the back of the spoon to gently pat it into the filling if it looks like it's just resting on a skin.)  Bake an additional 20-25 minutes.  Crust should be golden-brown and a knife inserted into the center should come out clean.  Let cool on a wire cooling rack for an hour.  Refrigerate for storage.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Herb and Cheese Focaccia

I'm not really into making bread... but I don't mind making focaccia at all.  It only takes 20 minutes to rise.  You don't have to do much kneading.  And the stand mixer makes it even easier (though it's not necessary.)  We've been making this recipe since I first moved out to California about 9 years ago and we like changing it up.  Pepperoni... grilled onions... green olives... jalapeños... different cheeses.  It's a pretty versatile recipe.  Sometimes we use the dough for pizza crust!  Sometimes we use it to make pepperoni twists or bread sticks.  I've sliced a loaf in half, made a pesto mayo, and then made a giant sandwich with pepperoni, salami, Mortadella, provolone... sliced it up into little finger sandwiches with toothpicks stuck through 'em and took it to a work party.  It's pretty great.  I made a quick and easy marinara dipping sauce to go with the pepperoni version I made today.

I was actually in a soul mood (as I often am)... usually I go with some 60s soul; Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, James Carr.  But today, I felt like some doo-wop soul and was listening to The Drifters, The Temptations, some old James Brown.  I couldn't really think of any punk covers of soul music... which is a shame, because those are probably my two favourite styles of music.  (Anyone think of any?)  But The Dirtbombs from Detroit came to mind... a little punk influence, some definite soul influence.  They seemed the way to go!  So here they are, doing "Your Love Belongs Under A Rock".  -jen

Time:  50-55 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  1 loaf
  • 1 packet (1/4oz) quick rise yeast (or 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or any combination of dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, etc)
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (separated)
  • pepperoni
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated Paremesan
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar and water.  Stir until dissolved.  Let sit for about 5 minutes until bubbles form on top.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and black pepper.  When yeast mixture has proofed for five minutes, mix in flour mixture and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  If using a stand mixer, use the kneading attachment and knead dough for 10 minutes.  If mixing by hand, stir until combined.  Then on a lightly floured surface, knead dough by hand for 10 minutes until dough is  and elastic. 

Form dough into a ball.  Using 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil, lightly coat a large bowl and place dough into bowl, rolling around to coat with the oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 20 minutes, or until dough has doubled in size.  (I like to preheat the oven to 450 at this point and let the dough rise on the top of the stove towards the back near the heat.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Beat down dough and place onto parchment paper, patting flat and forming into a 1/2"-3/4" loaf.  Using the remainder of the olive oil, lightly brush the top of the loaf.  Place desired amount of pepperoni over the top, then sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella over it.  Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Cool and serve.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Asian Cabbage Rolls & Cucumber-Tomato Salad

Justin's made an Eastern-European style cabbage rolls a few times and we have a recipe for them here.  But ever since he did, I was thinking of other things we could stuff cabbage rolls with... and I instantly craved an egg roll-type pork filling.  Today I finally remembered to make it, along with a chopped vegetable Asian style salad.

Wow.  I first posted this using a song we already used.  That was smooth.  Let's go with something different.... and angry.  Paint It Black doing "Labor Day".  Because sometimes... it feels like a nine to five death march.  -jen

Prep Time:  15-20 minutes
Rest Time:  30 minutes
Cook Time:  35 minutes
Difficulty:  Medium
Makes:  About 12 rolls
  • 1 pound ground pork
  •  whole Napa cabbage leaves
  • 1.5 cup Napa cabbage, chopped fine
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup green onions, chopped fine (2-3 medium onions)
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 small jalapeño, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sambal (Asian chili paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
On a large cutting board or your counter, use a rolling pin to flatten the whole cabbage leaves, one
leaf at a time.  This will help with the rolling process.  Make sure to break down the ribs.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.  Drain off any excess juice.  Lay two cabbage leaves out, slightly overlapping with the stems nearest you.  Measure 1/4-1/3 cup of the meat mixture and place in the center of the leaves.  Starting with the stems, carefully roll-up over meat, tucking sides in as you go.

Place rolls seam-side down in a 9x13 baking dish.  (Line with foil for easier clean up!)  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, until pork is cooked thoroughly (160 degrees).

Serve with Asian Dipping Sauce (recipe below).

(It's like pot sticker sauce!)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons green onion (1 medium onion)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sambal (Asian chili paste)
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Time:   15 minutes
Difficulty:  Easty
Makes:  about 4 cups
  • 1 to 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (about 16)
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped (3 medium onions)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Split cumbers in half length-wise.  Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard.  Dice cucumbers.  Add remaining ingredients and toss.  If you can make this ahead of time, the taste improves after it rests a while. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spicy Mexican Pepper Soup

This soup came out a little like a cross between tortilla soup and a Mexican minestrone... way tasty!  I was pleased with it.  Just enough heat to hit, but not enough that you break a sweat because your tongue is on fire.  I made mine tonight with the beef broth leftover from our Slow Cooker Chile Colorado.  But if you don't want to do two nights of awesomeness, well... I guess you can just add some store-bought beef broth.    I did, however, also use the leftover chile sauce from that recipe... so really, why not just make the Chile Colorado first, freeze your broth, and make this soup when you run out of Colorado!?

I chose a little ska in Spanish for my recipe with Sublime singing "Chica Mi Tipo".  -jen

Prep Time:  10-15 minutes
Cook Time:  40 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 2.5 quarts

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large poblano pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 can corn (14oz)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14oz)
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) beef stock
  • 1 can black beans (14oz)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime (about 1-2 tbsp)
  • 2 tablespoons chile sauce (either CTDF's chile sauce or look for Herdez' Guajillo or Pasilla sauces)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup masa harina (*optional)
  • 3 cups hot water
 *If you're trying to watch carbs, you can totally eliminate the masa harina and the soup will just less like a tortilla soup and more like a minestrone.

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium-high.  Add diced onion, Anaheim, poblano, jalapeño, carrots, mushrooms and garlic.  Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender and onions are translucent.  Add corn and tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes.  Add the beef stock, beans, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, lime juice, chile sauce and cilantro.  Bring to a boil.

While soup is heating to boil, mix masa herina and hot water in a medium-sized mixing bowl with a wire whisk until masa harina is fully incorporated.  With the wire whisk, whisk into soup and bring back to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mixed Berry Syrup

Over the last few years I've weened myself off of soda all together - can't drink it anymore.  But I still get the craving for something bubbly.  I usually end up making myself a Martinelli's spritzer, using 1 part Martinelli's sparkling cider to about 3 parts sparkling lemon water, and then a wedge of lemon.  I'd been wondering about making my own fruit syrups and then making Italian soda with them.  So today, I took some frozen mixed berries we had and went to town.  Really like the way it tastes!  And this syrup would be awesome on french toast, waffles, cream cheese and bagels, English muffins....

I chose The Briggs' "This Is L.A." for no particular reason other than... I like it and we haven't used The Briggs yet.  -jen

Time:  20 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  3/4 cup
  • 2 cups frozen mixed berries
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over a medium-high heat, bring to a boil.  Lower heat and keep at a slow simmer, stirring intermittently, for 15-20 minutes, until sauce has thickened and berries have fallen apart.  Strain syrup thoroughly.  Use to flavour drinks or serve on pancakes, waffles, ice cream, etc.

1-2 tbsp mixed berry syrup topped with sparkling lemon water