Wednesday, November 16, 2011

lemon bars

I made these lemon bars a while ago, but am only just getting around to posting them now.  I know this blog has been a little neglected lately (understatement), but there's just been no time for either of us to focus on it.   So to try and get back in the swing of things, slowly slowly, here's my version of an already delicious recipe from smitten kitchen.

What you'll need for the crust:
225 grams (or 1/2lb.) of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used raw cane sugar, the blonde stuff in the US)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour (I used whole wheat, in a vain attempt to pretend that this is a healthy recipe.  Ha!)

Preheat the oven to 177˚C (or 350˚F).  In a large bowl cream the sugar and butter.

Add flour and salt and mix well.  It'll end up sort of like a clumpy crumble.

Form into a ball, and press it into a greased and floured baking sheet or casserole dish.

Pause by a sun-filled window to admire your handiwork.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.

Now get started on the filling, which is, in my mind, the best part.

What you'll need:
6 large eggs
2 cups sugar (less than the original recipe, I like my lemon bars very tart.  Again, I used raw cane sugar)
2 tablespoons lemon zest (I used about 4 lemons)
2/3 cup lemon juice (I used 6 lemons.  Again, I like them tart.)
2/3 cup flour (yes, whole wheat.  Laugh all you want, it's usually all I have on hand)

Grate and juice all your lemons.  Doesn't that smell good?  Here's to hoping you don't grate your finger and then squeeze lemon juice into it.  Yeah, I'm speaking from experience here.

Whisk eggs, sugar, and lemon juice, and then add the flour and lemon zest.

By now your crust is done and slightly cooled, go ahead and pour the filling over the top of it.

Back in the oven it goes, 30-35 minutes this time.  (It looks the same!  Only the bubbles have popped...)

Let it cool to room temperature.  I know.  It's hard.  It smells so good.  But seriously, this is one recipe that really does need to cool.  Don't touch it.  Do something else to distract yourself.  Ok, now, go ahead, cut it into squares or triangles or bunny rabbits, and dust with powdered sugar.

Dig in!  Granted, these don't look like your average lemon bars, all sunshine yellow on top and pale ivory on the bottom, but it's because of the darker sugar and flour that I used.  I promise they taste just as good, and while I can't say that they're actually good for you, I would venture to say that they're a little bit less bad for you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

blueberry pancakes

Brunch last sunday consisted of extra fluffy scrambled eggs (always with Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning, it's my weird little secret for delicious eggs) and delicious blueberry pancakes.  The blueberries were beyond perfect: slightly tart, slightly sweet and not so ripe that they fell apart and melted into the batter. 

I used my go-to pancake recipe which you can find here, and just tossed in the berries, easy peasy.  I like to throw some berries in the ladle, but then I always strategically place a few more once the batter's on the griddle; can't leave berry placement completely up to chance!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

stir fry

Decided to go pseudo-asian the other night.  Asian because it's a stir fry and I used soy sauce.  Pseudo because, as you can see, I'm totally making this up as I go.  None of that makes this any less yummy though.  What you'll need:

pork fillets
green beans
bean sprouts
green pepper
soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce
spices (I used Chinese Five Spices mix by Penzeys and cumin)
crushed almonds
and of course, olive oil, salt, pepper and turkish red pepper

Slice the pork fillets into thin strips.

Toss in a bowl with liberal amounts of soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce and a few drops of sesame oil.  Let it marinate while you do the rest.

Cut up the beans leaks and peppers into similarly sized strips.  Yes, I'm making fajitas here, but chinese ones.  The sprouts are already conveniently shaped perfectly.

Brown the meat and set it aside.  Sautee all the veggies minus the sprouts with another dash of all those aforementioned sauces and spices.  Not too long, we want everything to stay crunchy!  Add the meat back in and let everything blend.

At the last minute toss in your sprouts.  Serve in your favorite bowl or plate over brown rice, and add some crushed almonds on top.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

kabak kalye

You're craving greens but a cold salad just won't cut it.  Your body wants spinach but your soul wants comfort food.  Something hearty and filling, but healthy at the same time. Sound familiar? I've got the answer for you. This dish combines basically zucchini and ground beef, and I throw in a huge amount of spinach too for good measure.   My in-laws were in town, so I made enough to feed four hungry people, or four not-so-hungry people twice.  Adjust the measurements as needed for your own hungry or not-so-hungry people.

1 onion (I used red - smells so good when you sautee it), diced and sauteed
3 zucchinis, cut into substantial chunks
500 g spinach (I just buy a huge bag of the prewashed leaves)
700 g ground beef
salt, black pepper, dill, and turkish red pepper to taste
2 maggi cubes (or whatever veggie bullion you like best)

I usually brown the meat first, chopping the veggies while the beef does its thing.  That way too I can get rid of the excess fat once it's rendered.  In a big pot, sautee onions, then add zucchini and seasoning.

Add the spinach. I never cease to be amazed at how much spinach shrinks.

Add the beef to the veggies. And then put a bit of boiling water in there with the boullion, so there's a bit of juicy broth in the pot too. Not quite a soup or a stew, but generous amounts of liquid nonetheless.

Let it simmer til the zucchini's tender. And for best results, serve over brown rice, top with plain yogurt and an extra sprinkling of turkish red pepper.

Monday, May 23, 2011

quickie lunch

Sometimes you want to spend hours in the kitchen, experimenting and creating delicious new dishes, and sometimes, you just want to eat.  But I'm trying, in the spirit of finding balance in my life, to make something beautiful and fresh and healthy even on those 'just feed me now' days. 

Quick but insanely delicious and satisfying lunch between rehearsals last week: fresh whole wheat bun from the local market, avocado spread on both halves, a bed of fresh spinach, sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a few basil leaves, and two eggs over easy on top.  It was messy to eat, but wow was it worth it.

Accompanied by a strawberry-banana smoothie made with milk and mandarin juice.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

quickie breakfast

Nothing earth-shattering to post, but for lack of time and energy (and health) we've been neglecting this blog for so long, I thought I'd just pop in and at least say hello.  Here's a quickie photo of my quickie breakfast this morning.  Sometimes just taking 5 minutes to whip up some whole wheat french toast with strawberries and make an iced latte can bring enough joy to last an entire day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

serious chocolate cookies

yes folks, these chocolate cookies are serious in their chocolosity.  Chocoliciousness.  Chocolaciousness.  You know.  The recipe is adapted from the joy of baking website.  Theirs look good, but I can't actually judge how they taste because of course I'm not capable of following someone else's recipe without tweaking it.  So, like I said, theirs look pretty good, but mine?  Mine are insane.

What you'll need:
450 grams semisweet chocolate
1/4 c. butter
4 eggs
1 1/3 c. sugar (I use raw sugar, just because it's what I have on hand)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (if you're lucky enough to be able to find it where you live.  The cookies work without it too)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Step 1: Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.  Lick spatula.  Grin.

Step 2: Beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow and thick enough to fall from the whisk in ribbons.  If you're doing this by hand, get tired and stop before you get that far.  Worry for a second, but then relax because you know these cookies are going to turn out stupendous anyway.

Step 3: Add the melted chocolate mixture and the vanilla extract to the egg mixture.  Stir.  Drool.  Grin.

 Step 4: Add the dry ingredients and mix gently until completely combined.

Change tools frequently so you have an excuse to lick the whisk, the spatula, and the spoon.  Grin.

Step 5: Here comes the hard part.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for minimum half an hour, ideally an hour or more so that it firms up.  That means no sticking your finger in for extra licking.  Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C) and try and distract yourself.

When it the dough comes out the texture will be much thicker, more mousse-like, and easy to scoop.

Step 6: Scoop it out with a small spoon onto a cookie tray with a silicone liner.  You could make them big, but they pack a pretty intense chocolately punch, so I like to make them really small.  That way also you can eat 10 and really it's only like you had 3.  If the dough is sticking too much, use a little warm water to moisten your fingers/the spoon.

Baking time varies a lot, so keep your eye on these guys.  I set the timer for 10 minutes and then watch like a hawk.  It'll depend a lot on how big you make them.  The tops will begin to crack and wrinkle, but they should still look very soft and doughy in the center.  We want these to come out chewy, not crispy like in the original recipe.

Step 7: Let them cool a little, otherwise they'll fall apart as you try to lift them.  Who are we kidding?  Just dig in!  And grin.

Note: even though you might not think it, with only 1/2 c of flour in them, this recipe will make a ton of little cookies.   Share them, give them away, eat them all yourself, I'm not judging.  Just saying. One thing I do is only bake half the batch, and save the dough for a day or two in the fridge.  It keeps pretty well, it hardens a lot more, but I don't think it has much effect on the final baked cookie.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

roasted red and golden beets with hazelnuts

One often reads that roasting brings out the sweetness in beets. I don't get it. Beets are sweet, period.  Also, their flavour is very strong, which is why I find it hard to combine with other stuff. But I gave it another try. I don't discern a difference in taste between red and golden beets, but it's prettier if you mix the two.

Roast red beets and golden beets at 400 F until soft.
Roast hazelnuts and chop them roughly. (Well, no, I didn't chop them. More on that later.)
Make a vinaigrette with orange juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Combine everything.

Pretty good. But then I think anything with hazelnuts is pretty good.

For chopped hazelnuts, I used one of my favourite kitchen tools, the meat pounder.

I grew up watching our big burly neighbourhood butcher pound slices of beef or lamb, using one that's 2-3 times bigger than mine, raising his arm high and coming down with a loud slap. OK, I don't really remember whether he was big and burly. But my memory of it is a loud, violent gesture resulting in a beautifully shaped, delicate piece of meat. So when I saw this meat pounder for sale on an online Turkish groceries site, I grabbed it. I don't pound meat much, but when I do, I have a tool that's so much better than those small cube-shaped mallet-like things they sell here. And for crushing nuts, it's perfect.