Really Great Kale Pasta

Kale is one of those super healthy superfoods, and this is a fun way to eat this leafy green. I know the bacon and the brie significantly detract from the goodness of the kale, but whatcha gonna do? This tastes really incredible, and is kind of a treat around here. When we buy kale we use most of it in healthy soups, so this is our reward for being good.

Pasta with Brie and Kale
4 slices bacon
1 c. skim milk
1 T. flour
1 onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
6 oz. brie cheese, chunked, rind off
1/2 box whole wheat penne
about 10 leaves of kale, coarsely chopped

Fry bacon, set aside. Boil and drain pasta, set aside. Put about 1/2 T bacon grease in a second pan to saute kale with 1/2 the garlic. Saute kale and garlic about 10 minutes on medium, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, keep just a bit of the bacon grease in the first pan and saute onion and remaining garlic for about 5-7 minutes over medium. Keep on medium, add milk and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add flour and cheese, stir till melted and bubbling. Add a little salt and some pepper, then add kale, pasta, and top with crumbled bacon. Serve!
I think this would be good with a hearty white wine, like a full, medium oaked Chardonnay, or maybe Vignoles.


I Heart Wine

As the snow began to fall last night, we stopped at the liquor store and the food co-op to stock up on wine, cheese, and bread, suspecting our cars would have to be dug out if we wanted to go anywhere this weekend. And yes, there's no going anywhere today; good thing we've got plenty of wine! Luckily the PBS-Create channel had the same idea we did, I guess, because they've been showing wine-related shows all day. We watched a couple episodes of the Ted Allen (you know, from Queer Eye) hosted show, Uncorked, in which he gave a introduction to French wine. Here's what I learned from Ted and a little additional internet research.

There are seven major wine producing regions in France: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, the Loire valley, and the Rhone. The Alsace region is over near Germany in the shadow of the Vosges mountains. This region mostly produces the aromatic, light white wines Riesling and Gewurztraminer. There is also some production of dry Pinot Noir rose. These wines are typically not made in oak barrels, so the taste is usually very pure in character. It is a legal requirement that Alsatian wines are bottled only in tall, slender bottles. Riesling was my first 'favorite' wine-- I just loved the spicy-floral quality. And I'll never forget the first time I tried Gewurztraminer... a friend in Las Vegas served it at his house, and I was just blown away. It reminded me of Riesling mixed with champagne, and seemed very exotic. Here in the midwest, Traminette is a very popular grape. According to the wine steward at Oliver winery in Bloomington, IN, Traminette is in the same family as Riesling and Gewurztraminer. I believe her.

Bordeaux wines (known as Claret to the British) are made in the northwest part of France, very near the Atlantic ocean. About 90% of wines from Bordeaux are red wine blends- primarily Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, and Cabernet Franc. When in France last fall, Bordeaux was my favorite nightcap. On the PBS show I watched today, some guy said Bordeaux wines were for the physical senses, they are usually powerful, bold wines. The small amount of white wine that is produced in this area is mostly the sweet Sauternes, which is a blend of Semillion, Savignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. At the end of June, Bordeaux has a four day wine festival. This is my latest "I'm definitely going here someday" travel desire.

According to the guy on PBS, if Bordeaux is for the physical senses, Burgundy is for the emotional senses; these wines are delicate and subtle. Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) is in the east-central region of France, where unpredictable weather produces variations between yearly vintages. Red wines of this region are primarily Pinot Noir, and whites are usually Chardonnay. Both Chablis and Cote d'Or white wines are made in this region from Chardonnay grapes. There are 4 tiers of classification of Burgundy wines: Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village, and Regional. Some of the most expensive wines in the world are Grand Cru Burgundies. Often, Burgundy wines will benefit from 3-4 years aging.

The Champagne region is a small area in northeast France. I think we all know by now that technically only wines produced in the Champagne region of France can carry the label 'Champagne,' and all others must be called 'sparkling wine.' Classifications for Champagne are a little confusing... Brut is the most dry variety (Brut Natural or Brut Zero are the driest of the dry), Extra Dry is a little sweeter, and a label that has the word Asti, Sec, or Demi-Sec denotes a sweet Champagne. Also, Champagne is served in those narrow glasses so the wine does not become over-oxygenated and lose it's effervescence. That's all I care to say about Champagne. I really like Champagne (or, more accurately, sparkling wines), but that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

The Loire Valley is a little strip of land around the Loire River, from the Atlantic ocean into central France. This region is very diverse in it's wine making, and mostly features Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Cabernet Franc, and a lesser amount of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Malbec. I've seen Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, and Reuilly on menus or in liquor stores, and now know that these are all made from Savignon Blanc grapes and are great with goat cheese. Sav Blanc is another wine I love, so I look forward to trying one of these. Vouvray is also a wine I have heard of but know nothing about... it's dry or off-dry and pairs nicely with shellfish; also the dry white Muscadet is prevalent in this region.

On the show Uncorked they discussed the wines grown in the southern, Mediterranean area all together, and I will too. The three wine-growing regions here are Rhone Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, and Provence. The Rhone Valley is thought to be the birthplace of the Syrah grape. Also grown in this area are Grenache, Viognier, and a variety of lesser known grapes known simply as Rhone varietals. Languedoc-Roussillon produces a variety of grapes including Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Savignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. 40% of French wine is from this region. Lastly, Provence produces all of the above, as well as dry Rose. I think I have the least real-life familiarity with wines from this area. Much of the stuff I read about this large region discussed grapes I've never heard of.

I think it would be neat to concentrate on one area for awhile, say, Bordeaux, and try and compare many different wines. After a foray into Bordeaux, do the same thing with Loire valley wines, etc. Anyway, it's well after noon now, and all this writing and reading about wine has made me thirsty! As they say in France, a votre sante!


Smoked Turkey Soup

It seems like a lot of the stuff I make is rather time consuming. This one takes a few hours, but very little work is required-- most of the time is just waiting. My favorite part of this soup is that it tastes really really good but is really really healthy. Sometimes I see smoked turkey legs at grocery stores, sometimes I don't; usually if I'm at a store that's got them in stock I'll pick up one or two to freeze for future use. They taste remarkably like smokey ham.

Smoked Turkey Soup
To make broth:
1 smoked turkey leg
1 carrot, cut in quarters
1 stick celery, cut in quarters
1 onion, quartered
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns

Put all in big soup pot and cover with water. I left the end knob of the leg uncovered by water, but the rest was submerged. Bring to boil then cover and simmer for about an hour and a half. Remove and set aside turkey leg, and remove and discard veggies and spices. I used my hand strainer to remove veggies and spices, you also could use a colander and strain the broth into a different big bowl or pot. Cover and put broth outside to cool for a couple of hours. Once leg is cool, remove meat from bone, cut into bite-sized pieces, and put in fridge. Bring broth inside and skim the fat off the top.

To make soup:
1 c. rinsed lentils
3-4 carrots, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
10-12 stems of kale, leaves only (not stem or spine), well-rinsed and cut into bite-sized pieces
S and P

Bring broth to boil, then add lentils and a pinch or two of salt and some pepper, reduce to simmer and cover. If the lentils are green or split black, cook about 12 minutes. If the lentils are red/orange or split black without skins, cook about 7 minutes. While broth is coming to boil, saute carrot, celery, and onion in olive oil in a skillet on medium-- this will take about 10 minutes. Remove veggies from heat when they are mostly tender. After the 12 or 7 minutes of lentil-simmering, add the sauteed veggies, kale, and the cut up turkey leg, continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Test a lentil at 10 minutes... if it seems too firm, continue cooking and test again in a few minutes. Soup is ready when lentils are tender.
I used split black lentils, and as soon as I poured the lentils in the broth got all dark. I guess the black skins gave me dark soup. Still tastes great, though!

Cardamom Clementine Cookies

Well duh, we really like cardamom around here, so why not put it in cookies? I love these cookies; they taste super good with coffee or tea. These cookies have browned butter in them... I don't know if I browned it right, because it didn't look brown, but I cooked it until it got little bubbles, and they taste great.

C-C Cookies
1 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. clementine zest (or orange zest)
1/2 t. ground cardamom
2 T. milk
1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. powdered sugar blended with 1/2 t. ground cardamom

Melt butter in saucepan over medium. Cook, constantly stirring and watching, till just golden brown and starting to bubble. Immediately pour into medium mixing bowl and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to overnight.

Heat oven to 350, combine cooled butter and sugar, beat with mixer on medium till well mixed. Add egg yolk, vanilla, 1/2 t. ground cardamom, citrus zest, and milk, mix. Change speed to low and slowly add flour, beat until fully incorporated. Dough will be crumbly, but should be easy to press into balls. Shape into 1" balls, place 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 11-13 minutes, until starting to get golden on top. Cookies will have some cracks in them. Immediately remove, cool a minute, then roll, while quite warm, in the powdered sugar/cardamom blend. Set on wire rack. Roll in sugar mixture again when cool. Store in single layers separated by wax or parchment paper in a loosely covered container.


Darling Clementines

If you were with me during my Parisian vacation last year, or if you just heard me talk about it, this dessert might sound familiar. One of my favorite things to do is order a unique-sounding dessert, eat it, love it, then go home and try to re-create it. When I was in Raleigh last year for my birthday we had this INCREDIBLE, exotic dessert at a Lebanese restaurant, and I feel my interpretation is pretty close to the delightful original. I'll blog about that soon. This blog is about a very simple dessert I loved in Paris. I don't know what to call it, though. If anyone reads this, feel free to come up with a name for this dessert and that's what I'll call it.

Clementine Dessert
1 c. grapefruit juice
1 T. honey
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
1/2 whole star anise
clementines (one or more per person)
whole star anise (one per serving)

Combine juice and honey, microwave 30 seconds or so till the honey melts and can be incorporated. Add cinnamon stick, cloves, and the half star anise, sit in fridge for a couple of hours so flavors can combine. When it's time to serve, peel and section a clementine (or two, if you're hungry) per person, arrange in a little ramekin or small bowl. Add a whole star anise in the middle for decoration, then drizzle enough of the flavored juice to cover the fruit about halfway. Bon appetit!

My Current Favorite Meal

We like this so much around here, we had it two nights in a row. We served it to a friend Monday night and made another batch on Tuesday for dinner, and it will last for lunch today and probably lunch tomorrow! Yay! If you ever come to my house to eat, this is probably the dinner I would make (unless you don't want to eat Indian food, then I'd probably make lasagna).

One thing I like about blogging about this meal: I've already typed out the recipe for two of the three dishes. The chicken recipe is in the 'Cardamom, anyone' entry, and the yogurt dip is in 'Indian Food, etc.' The saag paneer (spinach and cheese), however, has a lot of steps. Totally totally worth taking all the steps, because this is about my favorite thing I've ever cooked. This dish is usually made solely with spinach, but we really like using mustard greens with the spinach. If mustard greens don't do it for you, just use all spinach.

Saag Paneer
2 T. cooking oil
1 medium onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 slices ginger (each 2" x 1" x 1/8"), chopped
2 t. Bin bhuna hua garam masala (recipe to follow)
1/2 t. ground tumeric
2 T. tomato paste
8 oz. fresh spinach (stems removed), well-cleaned and coarsely chopped
8 oz. fresh mustard greens (stems removed), well-cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 t. salt
1 lb. paneer (get it in the freezer at the international grocery or make it (blog entry 'Indian Food, etc')), cubed and pan-fried (directions to follow)
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. Punjabi garam masala (recipe to follow)

Heat oil in large skillet on medium. Add onion, garlic, and ginger, stir fry 8-10 minutes, till onion starts to brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the tumeric and the Bin bhuna hua garam masala (the heat from the onion will lightly cook the spices). Transfer the mixture into your blender, add tomato paste and 1/4 c. water. Puree, scraping the sides. Return the paste to the skillet. Pour 3/4 c. water into the blender and give it a quick whirl to wash it out- pour that in the skillet, too. Place skillet on medium again. Pile handfuls of the greens into the skillet, cover it, and let the steam wilt them. Mix them into the puree, add more greens, cover, wilt, etc, until all the greens are incorporated-- about 10 minutes. Once all greens are added cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are starting to break down and the mixture is olive green, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to blender, puree, scraping sides, return to skillet over medium. Stir in salt, paneer cubes, cream, and Punjabi garam masala. simmer covered about 5 minutes, till the cheese and cream have warmed through. Serve with pita bread or rice or alone.

These garam masalas contain similar ingredients, but the Punjabi one is toasted, so the spices have different flavors. The Punjabi garam masala is like a finishing spice. If it's added at the beginning of a recipe the flavors get lost; every recipe I've used this spice blend in tastes way better the day it's made.

Punjabi Garam Masala
1 T. coriander seeds
1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. whole cloves
1/2 t. black peppercorns
1/2 t. cardamom seeds
3 cinnamon sticks, broken up
3 bay leaves

Preheat skillet over med-high. Add all ingredients, toast and shake the pan every few seconds until the coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns and cardamom turn ash-black, and the bay leaves get brittle and crinkly, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to plate to cool. Once they are cool to the touch, grind in coffee grinder. Yum! It smells so great!

Bin Bhuna Hua Garam Masala
2 T. coriander seeds
1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. black peppercorns
1/2 t. whole cloves
1/2 t. cardamom seeds
2 dried bay leaves
3-4 dried cayenne chiles (or 1 t. ground red pepper)

Combine all in coffee grinder and grind up.

Pan-fried Paneer
Take your paneer and cut it into cubes. Put some oil or butter in a non stick skillet on medium, put cubes of cheese in. Check periodically, turn cubes when the bottoms appear golden-brown. I don't usually brown on all eight sides, but I brown on most of the sides. Place on paper towels to drain, then set aside until it's time to add them. I usually start the cheese browning process when I start the onions, then the cheese will be done by the time it's time to add.


Dinner at Dad's

Back in Indianapolis, back in the guest bedroom at Dad's. They had some wild salmon in the freezer, so I offered to cook it if they didn't mind sharing. Dad liked the sound of this recipe that the Barefoot Contessa did on her show, but there were lots of specialty ingredients in her recipe, so we did a little improvisation. Since this is improvised, I can't give exact measurements... Also, Mollie made the teriyaki rice, so I'll let her blog about that if she wants to.

Panko-Teriyaki Salmon
salmon fillet or two
bottled teriyaki marinade or sauce
a box of panko crumbs

Line a baking pan with foil. Preheat oven to 500. Place fish, skin side down, on foil. Brush or spoon sauce over fish. Liberally cover fish with panko, then soak all of the panko with more sauce. Let sit 15 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes per 1 inch thickness-- this fish was about an inch thick, so I left it in for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cover tightly with foil, let sit 15 minutes.

Stovetop Brussel Sprouts
brussel sprouts, cut in half
olive oil
grated parmesan
panko crumbs
salt and pepper

Use an appropriately sized non-stick skillet, drizzle with olive oil, place brussel sprouts in single layer. Cover and set to medium for about 5 minutes, until the sprouts start to brown a little on the bottom. Uncover, raise heat to med-high, sprinkle with salt and pepper, move the sprouts around to brown them further. After about 5 minutes eat a sprout. If it's tender, it's done. If not, cook until tender. When done, turn heat off, sprinkle with parmesan and panko. Let sit a minute or two so the cheese can melt. These were rather small sprouts; large sprouts will take a few more minutes.


Something Else to Watch

We have recently started watching the short-lived but so incredibly wonderful NBC series Freaks and Geeks. The show aired in 1999-2000 and was cancelled after 13 episodes. They'd filmed a few more already, so the dvd collection has all 18 episodes. This show is filled with familiar faces. James Franco (from Spiderman and his recent performance art piece on General Hospital) plays the unofficial leader of the freaks, and he spends his time cutting class and hanging out with Seth Rogan (from every Judd Apatow movie) and Jason Segel (from I Love You, Man and How I Met Your Mother). The dad is the hilarious Canadian comic Joe Flaherty, and Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Stiller, and loads of other people are in an episode or two.

Freaks and Geeks is an hour-long show (or 48 minutes or whatever), and I guess it's mostly funny and touching. There are dramatic aspects of the show, but they never get too heavy before something funny or awkward happens. The show takes place in Michigan in 1980, and they use the fashion , music, cars, interior design, etc of the time as the cherry on top of the great scripts and incredible acting. These high schoolers (especially the geeks, who are freshmen and sophomores) really act like kids. I don't know if this is the best bunch of actors ever or if the writers were the best bunch of writers ever, but all of these kids transcend the 'child actor' stereotype. According to the show's wikipedia page, it won the Emmy award for outstanding casting. I believe it!

Part of why I like this show so much is that it doesn't have the typical teenage drama topics... there's no teen pregnancy or any of that stupid stuff. It's just kids trying to make it through normal life filled with teachers and parents and friends and music. But it's very funny and sweet, like normal life can be.

Asian Ribs and Stir Fried Veg

I'm leaving town again for a couple of days, so I wanted to make a meal that would produce plenty of leftovers. I found a recipe for slow cooking Asian BBQ spare ribs that sounded good, but had a hard time finding spare ribs around here, so I got short ribs. The marinade/ sauce/ whatever in this recipe is really good, and I think next time I would use a chuck or shoulder roast-- I wasn't super impressed with the short ribs.

Asian BBQ in the Slow Cooker
4- 41/2 lb. short ribs or a pot roast
1/3 c. beef broth
1/3 c. soy sauce
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 T. brown sugar
2 T. garlic, chopped
2 T. fresh ginger, chopped
black pepper
a jalapeno, sliced (more, if you like it hot)
1 T. cornstarch (possibly)
1 t. sesame oil
2 t. sesame seeds, toasted

Put the meat in the slow cooker, mix broth, soy sauce, onions, sugar, garlic, ginger, pepper, and jalapeno and pour over the meat. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 3 1/2-4 hours. When done, remove meat from sauce, and if the meat has bones, remove bones. Keep meat warm. Pour sauce into a sauce pan and boil to thicken, add cornstarch water (take 1 T. cornstarch and add 2 T. water to create thickening agent) if needed. When thickening the sauce, add the sesame oil. When sauce is desired consistency, pour over meat, and top with toasted sesame seeds. Serve over rice, because the sauce is great with rice.

Stir Fry Broccoli and Red Pepper
1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 red pepper, sliced
2 T. cooking oil
4 T. stir fry sauce
2 t. toasted sesame seeds

Heat oil over medium-high, add vegetables. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Add sauce, keep stirring for about 2 minutes. Top with extra toasted sesame seeds.

Toasted Sesame Seeds
Pour some sesame seeds in a skillet. Heat on medium, shaking the pan often to move the seeds around. When they're fragrant, they're done. It takes 5-7 minutes. Sesame seeds, like nuts, are way better when toasted.


Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of my favorite things to make, because it's a great and yummy way to clean out the fridge. I had extra white rice from the pork and black bean stew last week, there was about 3/4 of a green pepper left over from the Mexican rice, and I had just a little fresh ginger left in the fridge from Indian food a couple of weeks ago. Of course there's always garlic, onion, egg, and soy sauce around here. Sometimes if I have extra pork loin or cooked chicken or beef I'll throw those in, too, but this time I had no meat leftovers.

Fried Rice

2 c. leftover rice
2 eggs
2 T. cooking oil
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
a sliver of ginger, chopped
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 T. sriracha sauce or 1 t. crushed red pepper

Scramble eggs, then set aside. Pour oil in med-high skillet, when it's hot, add onion and pepper. Saute about 5 mintues, until they soften. Add garlic and ginger and saute another minute. Add rice, egg, soy sauce and hot sauce/ red pepper. Let rice get a little crusty on the bottom, then turn rice over so the other side can brown.

We had some Trader Joe's Chicken Curry Sticks (or something like that) in the freezer, so we had those next to the rice. A very quick dinner.


The Wonderful Walnut

For some reason yesterday I got to thinking about this pasta dish. It's from the back of the walnut bag, and it's really good. I think I just made it one day because I wanted to use the rest of the walnuts I had and I had all the other ingredients in my kitchen, so I thought, 'why not?' I can't wait for the basil to be abundant again so I can make this. Actually, I bet it would be pretty good with parsley substituted for the basil. There's nothing like basil, of course, but fresh parsley is pretty great (and way cheaper).

Pasta with Walnut Cream Sauce
12 oz fettuccine (or pasta of choice)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
4-5 cloves minced garlic
3 T. milk
3 T. sour cream
1/2 c. parmesan, grated
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil (or parsley)

Prepare pasta. In skillet, heat oil on medium, add walnuts and garlic, saute 3-5 minutes. Add milk, sour cream, cheese, S and P. Stir until thickened. Add basil, combine with pasta.

And another way to use butternut squash. It kinda tastes like pumpkin bread... in fact I think I took a recipe for pumpkin bread and just used squash instead. And toasting the walnuts before using make them extra yummy.

Butternut Squash Bread

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 c. pureed or mashed up squash that's been cooked/roasted
1/2 c. cooking oil
2 eggs
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. each: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg
1/2 c. toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour, salt, sugar, soda.
In a separate bowl, mix spices with squash, then add oil, eggs, water.
Combine all, add nuts.
Bake in greased and floured bread pan 50-60 minutes. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Birthday Weekend

Ok, the birthday break is over, so I guess it's back to the grind! Not only did I have an exciting job interview in Indianapolis to start my birthday weekend, but I got to see much of my family while in Indiana. Had fun shopping with Gram and Mom, and Dad and Mollie were gracious hosts, as always. The Colts played Saturday night, and Dad's whole household donned the appropriate apparel.

The dogs have Colts shirts on, too, if it's not clear.

Saturday afternoon we made the short trip down to Oliver winery and tasted some delicious wines. The grow several varieties of grapes there near Bloomington, and buy several varieties from west coast growers. Our wine pourer girl was great, she explained they buy grapes still on the vines, then pick and juice them in Bloomington. Of their homegrown wines, the Chardonel (or Chardonnay light, as it can be described) was my favorite... nicely oaked and very smooth. Of their imported grape wines, the Merlot was my favorite. Beautiful, jammy fragrance and silky smooth taste. There were lots of great wines at Oliver. To be part of the local wine trail here in southern Illinois 90% of your grapes must be grown here. I like the thought behind that, and admire the integrity of the Shawnee Wine Trail for their support of local agriculture. However, you can only grow a small variety of grapes here in the midwest... I enjoy drinking Merlot, Zinfandel, Riesling, etc. I guess I just like drinking wine, really. Oh, another noteworthy Oliver thing-- their Foch was the best Foch I've ever had. Mild, smooth, full.

First meeting of the Carbondale Book Club tonight, so I probably won't cook. Hopefully cooking will resume soon!


Fideo Soup

Fideo Soup
5 T. cooking oil
10 oz. vermicelli
5 t. Tex Mex spice
1/2 c. green pepper, diced
1 c. onion, diced
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
1/2 c. tomato sauce

Heat oil in large saucepan on medium, add noodles and stir till golden, about 5 minutes. Add spice mix and diced veggies, stir a couple of minutes. Add broth, water, and tomato sauce, let simmer about 10 mintues. Serve.

Our conclusion on this: it's kinda like Mexican ramen noodles. This recipe did not make a whole lot of broth and there wasn't a whole lot of flavor. I think I will look around for other fideo soup recipes that might be a little more like that great fideo soup they served at La Michoacan, my favorite Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas.

Also, this (somewhat thankfully) ends Mexican Fiesta week. We are looking forward to returning to a more vegetable-heavy menu.


Mexican Rice

When I lived in Las Vegas there was this chain of Mexican grocery stores that carried THE BEST chips and salsa in the entire world. The salsa was homemade and the chips were thin and crisp. Every time we had a carry-in at work this woman named Karen would bring these chips and salsa, and they was always the first things I went for. We have a little Mexican grocery here in Murphysboro so I thought I would see if they had good homemade salsa. Uhhh, no. Everything I picked up was either very dusty or expired (one jar I picked up had expired in 2008) or both. I bought a bag of rice, though, just to try something, and that's the rice I used for this. The package says it's extra fluffy, and I guess it was.

Mexican Rice
4 c. chicken broth
8 oz. tomato sauce
3 T. cooking oil
2 c. uncooked rice
2 T. Tex Mex spice
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/4 c. green pepper, chopped

In a saucepan, heat chicken broth and tomato sauce till hot. Add oil and rice to a large skillet. Saute rice over medium until golden. Stir in Tex Mex spice, add veggies and cook for a couple of minutes. Add rice mixture to broth mixture and bring to simmer. Turn heat to med-low, cover and cook 20 minutes. Unlid, stir around. Almost all liquid should be absorbed. If not, cover again and leave on burner another 5 minutes. Remove from heat for 5 minutes, keep covered. Serve.

After the 20 minute cooking time the rice looked way too liquid-y, but after stirring it around it looked a lot closer to normal. I kinda played this rice making by ear... the directions I just wrote out are not exactly the directions in the recipe I used. I let this cook about 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for. It tasted really great, though... there was this little hint of smokiness... did it come from toasting the spice mix, maybe, or toasting the rice?


Cheese Enchiladas

Cheese enchiladas sound like the simplest thing to make... take a tortilla, fill it with cheese, cover it with sauce, bake. Well, that's pretty much what we did here, but it took a lot of time and effort. I made the enchilada sauce from scratch. It tasted really good, and I really like knowing what my food is made of-- you know canned enchilada sauce has preservatives or additives. It took a little effort, but I think it was worth it. These enchiladas were delicious. Way better than most enchiladas at most Mexican restaurants. I guess it's quality of ingredients that makes these better than cheap-o restaurants. There's a Mexican restaurant around here that uses, I swear, canned spaghetti sauce as it's enchilada sauce. Or maybe just canned tomato sauce... I don't plan on going back to make a conclusive decision. Anyway, we had the enchiladas with homemade Mexican rice, which also took a bit of effort, but was really good. Again, I appreciate knowing exactly what's in my food, which is why this homemade rice is worth the effort.

Enchilada Sauce
8 T. flour
8 T. butter or chicken or pork drippings (next time I'll be using cooking oil to see if that works)
3 T. TexMex spice (recipe to follow)
2 T. chili powder
3 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. water
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 T. creamy peanut butter

Add flour and butter/drippings/oil to a heavy skillet. Brown for 5 mintues over medium. Add TexMex spice, stirring on med-low for a couple of minutes. Add chili powder and mix another minute or two. Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, and water, bring heat to medium. Stir and scrape and with spatula, working out the lumps in the mixture. Add peanut butter and bring to a light simmer, keep at light simmer for about 10 minutes. If you want it thicker, let it simmer a bit longer.

Tex Mex Spice
3 T. plus 2 t. cumin
3 T. granulated garlic or garlic powder
2 T. salt
1 T. black pepper

This spice mix could also be used to season roast veggies or season meat for tacos or taco salad.

Ok, now we can make...
Cheese Enchiladas
4 c. enchilada sauce
12 corn tortillas, warmed in microwave so they are pliable
3 c. shredded cheese (I used cheddar jack)
1 c. chopped onion

Preheat oven to 350. Dip each corn tortilla into enchilada sauce, stack on plate. Fill each with 2 heaping tablespoons of cheese and 1 tablespoon onion. Roll, place in 9x13 casserole dish. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 12-15 mintues.

This was kinda messy to make, but that made it fun. Also, the onions in this were incredible. If you dislike onions I guess you could omit them, but they were so tasty and kinda crunchy. Also, I got the corn tortillas from the International Grocery. Does that matter? I don't know, but they were very good; we think better than corn tortillas from Walmart. This is long enough for today. I'll get into the rice tomorrow.


Mexican Fiesta Week!

It's January, it's cold, so last night we cooked up a big ole pot of Black Bean and Pork stew. It was kinda like chili but with slightly different beans and meat. I really love chili (we had it twice last week), but this is very tasty too. When would I make this instead of chili? I'm not sure. Maybe if pork was on sale. This is really good, though.

Black Bean and Pork Stew
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
2 1/2 lbs. center cut pork chops, thin cut
3 T cooking oil
2 bell peppers, sliced
2 onions, sliced
2 jalapenos, sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. chili powder
1 T cumin
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Trim bone and fat off pork, cut into 1/2" cubes. Heat oil in pot over medium, add peppers, onions, garlic, jalapenos, cook 10 mintues, stirring. Add pork and cook another 10 mintues, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to med-low, stir in chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, cook one minute. Add beans and tomatoes, cover and simmer 1 hour 15 minutes.

We ate it with some rice under it, and a little sour cream or shredded cheese on top of it.

On the side we had homemade cornbread. Trader Joe's cornbread mix is so so so good, I didn't think homemade could be better. Since there's a little distance between Murphysboro, IL and the nearest Trader Joe's, I had no choice but to make my own. The verdict: homemade is better than even the Trader Joe's box mix. It's also cheaper and almost as easy as a box mix. So, just make your own cornbread.

Another Movie Review

Yes, I still cook, but I haven't yet uploaded the picture of last night's dinner, so let me talk about this movie we just watched.

Pulp Fiction is pretty much my favorite movie of all time, and I very much respect and like Quentin Tarentino, but I can't say I totally love his other films. Jackie Brown was pretty good, but the rest seem full of more violence than I care to see.

So why did I want to see the Nazi-scalping film Inglourious Basterds? Well, I think it's gun-shooting that gets to me more than general violence. Also the machismo that goes along with most gun/violence movies... give me a break. This movie contained violence of all types-- guns, bats, knives, explosions, strangulation, but so what! This movie is great! The 'Jew Hunter', one of the main Nazis, is one of my favorite characters in recent memory. Mike Myers had a small role as an English armyman-- weird and funny. The whole movie was weird and funny and interesting. From the first scene, in which there is this really cool, quick, change of camera focus, I was totally into this movie. I thought I would be annoyed by Brad Pitt in the quirky role he played, but no annoyance whatsoever. He was pretty likable. I look forward to watching this movie again.



While sorting through old books and stuff the other day, Phil found a few old cookbooks.

These Time-Life cookbooks, copyright 1979, have some really interesting recipes that I had never even dreamt of: Lettuce Mousse, Turnip Custard, Russian Meat Patties, and Veal Pudding, in both German and Spanish styles. The pasta cookbook has a recipe for Shells with Blueberries, wherein you take cooked shells, mix them around with blueberries, then top that with a sauce made from butter, tomato paste and red wine. That just sounds so weird, but I do like all those individual ingredients, so maybe I'll try it. One of my favorite pictures came from the pasta book.

This was made in a round bowl slathered with butter, lined with spiraled long macaroni, filled with chicken mousseline and sweetbreads (you know, the pancreas or thymus gland of a calf or lamb).

There is some really neat stuff in these books, though. The first half of each book is dedicated to information about each topic-- there are neat diagrams of where cuts of meat come from in Beef and Veal, and charts that detail seasonal availability, recommended cooking methods and times and strategies for recommended methods in Vegetables. Overall, these were interesting to read, but I don't think I'll be using many of the recipes that fill the second halves of these books.


Skinny on Fat, part two

Ok, the less depressing information can be found in the unsaturated fats category. There are two kinds of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest form of fat— they lower LDL, raise HDL and likely reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These fats are found in various nuts, oily fish, olives, dark chocolate, and are the type of fat in omega-3 fatty acids. Canola oil and olive oil are monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats lower LDL but may not raise HDL. Oils made from vegetables fall into this category.

Obviously using unsaturated fats in cooking is the way to go. Canola oil in many ways seems to be the best—it has half the calories of olive oil, is inexpensive, very light in flavor, and has a somewhat high smoke point. The problem with canola oil is how it’s made. Canola oil is highly processed and refined, so if eating naturally is of importance, this isn’t the right oil. I do like to cook with ‘real’ food and try to stay away from processed food products, so I don’t think I’ll be switching to canola oil. Also, toxins and pesticides collect in the fatty parts of plants (and animals, I guess), so any non-organic oil will likely have plenty of pesticides. It looks like my ideal oil would be organic olive oil, but c’mon, my last name isn’t Rockefeller. Next time I’m at Trader Joe’s I’ll look for a reasonably priced organic olive oil, but until then normal olive oil is gonna have to do. Also, the smoke point for olive oil is 410 degrees. I normally roast vegetables in olive oil, usually at 400 degrees. Now I know if I’m going to roast at 425 degrees, I should use something with a higher smoke point, like sunflower oil. Sunflower oil seems to be pretty benign, but is more expensive than olive oil, so it’s out for regular usage.

Fat is an energy source, allows for proper function of cells and nervous system, and helps hair and skin to stay healthy. Fat is vital for health—20 to 30% of daily caloric intake should be from fat. Lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts, and unsaturated cooking oils are necessary in a daily diet. Saturated and trans fats, the stuff used in packaged, processed food and most restaurant fare, seem to do more harm than good. I love fries and donuts and steaks and all that stuff, but I also love having a healthy heart and clean arteries. I’m not going to completely stop eating saturated fats, but I’m gonna try to make the right choice most of the time.


The Skinny on Fat, part one

A couple of days ago my mom was reading the back of a can of French’s onions and noticed the first ingredient listed is palm oil. Palm oil—good or bad? That night I watched Julie and Julia (if you’re a food blogger it’s required you watch that movie on a regular basis) and Julie said something about how great butter is, and if something tastes wonderful it’s because there’s real butter in it.

These mentions of cooking fats got me thinking about how I use fat and how I choose which fats to use. First off, the difference between a fat and an oil is that a fat is solid or semi-solid at room temperature, while an oil is liquid. I have never done any research into fats and oils, so I pulled out a couple of cookbooks and visited a few of my favorite websites to find out what’s saturated, what’s polyunsaturated, and why it matters.

Trans fat, or partially hydrogenated fat is, as we’ve all heard, horrible and should never be consumed. In recent years there’s been a crackdown on trans fat, but it’s still found in a lot of fast food, packaged baked goods and snack foods. Hydrogenated fat is created when liquid vegetable oil is packed with hydrogen atoms until it’s solid, and was initially used as an alternative to unhealthy saturated fats like butter. It’s creamy and smooth, and makes fries and fish sticks crunchy, crackers and popcorn buttery, and cookies and snack cakes soft. Research is now showing that both saturated and hydrogenated fats increase LDL (bad cholesterol), but hydrogenated also decreases HDL (good cholesterol). Hydrogenated fat also raises triglyceride levels in the blood, which can cause an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Saturated fats are becoming more popular with the condemnation of trans fat. Saturated fat found in meat and dairy can clog arteries, but plant-based saturated fats like palm oil and coconut oil may be metabolized differently and might not be as bad as their animal product cousins. Jury’s still out on that one. Palm oil is cheap and is being used in lots of products that used to use trans fat (like French’s onions). Saturated fats should be avoided as much as possible; while they’re not as bad as trans fat, they still ain’t great. But like Julie says in that movie, butter makes stuff taste good! There’s the rub. I don’t feel too bad about using butter, because it’s pretty natural and unprocessed. The less something is processed the better, if you ask me. And of course, moderation. If olive oil will work, or if a butter-olive oil combo will work, that’s what I’ll do.

Tomorrow: the dramatic conclusion


Cardamom, anyone?

If anyone is interested in dipping a toe into the waters of Indian cooking, this is the recipe with which to start. It looks pretty normal, tastes wonderful, and is very easy to prepare. It might take a visit to the international grocery to get the ginger and garlic paste, but they are cheap and will be fun to use in other dishes. Like, I think it would be good to put a spoonful of garlic paste in mashed potatoes. Anyway, this dish will definitely be on frequent rotation in my kitchen.

Cardamom-Scented Chicken
2 T ginger paste
1 T garlic paste
1 1/2 t. cardamom seeds, ground
1 t. ground cayenne or red pepper flakes
1 t. salt
1/4 t. tumeric
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 T cooking oil
1 medium onion, sliced
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 T cilantro, chopped

Mix ginger and garlic pastes with ground cardamom seeds, cayenne, salt and tumeric to form a thin paste. Cover chicken with paste and marinate in fridge for 30 minutes to several hours.
Heat oil in skillet on medium and add the chicken and marinade, onion, bay leaves and cinnamon. Sear chicken on all sides until a brown layer of chicken-spices-onions forms on the bottom of the pan-- 15-20 min. Add one cup of water and thoroughly scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to med-low, cover, cook for 25-30 minutes, occasionally turning and basting the pieces. Remove chicken pieces to serving plate, increase heat to med-high, stir until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Spoon sauce over chicken.

The onions in this recipe just melt into the sauce. When you eat it, you can't even tell there are onions in there, they really just disintegrate. Cardamom has this wonderful warm, exotic fragrance and taste; I don't know why we don't use it more in American cooking. One last thing: the chicken was so so tender and juicy! After 25 minutes I got a knife out to cut into one of the pieces and the knife just sank into the meat. So tender.


Chai Tea

I looooove chai tea. I don't drink it often, because I don't frequent Starbucks or any other coffee houses, and I never knew how easy it was to make it at home. How easy is it? Very. Especially if you have a well-stocked spice cabinet.

Chai Tea
3 c. water
1 1/2 c. skim milk
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 t. cardamom seeds
3 thin slices ginger
1 t. whole peppercorns
1 t. whole cloves
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. black tea

Mix everything but the tea together in saucepan, bring just to boil, then cover and remove from heat. Let sit, covered, 20 minutes, then return to heat and bring to simmer. Again remove from heat, add black tea, cover and let sit 2 minutes. Strain and serve hot or chill it and serve over ice.

Soooo good.

For When You're Sick

Well, here in my house we're paying the price for hanging out with so many kids over Christmas... Phil's getting over his cold and mine has just started. So what's better for a cold than chicken soup, right? Spicy chicken soup--that's what's better. I used to work with a generous, adventurous cook who made this killer spicy chicken-cilantro-lime soup. One day at work I was sick and he happened to have some of that soup with him. Nice guy that he was, he gave me his soup, and I never forgot that act of kindness or that wonderful soup. Here's my interpretation of John's tonic.

Fiesta Chicken Soup
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
8 c. chicken broth (or stock to make it richer)
1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. ground cayenne or red pepper flakes
1 lb. chicken, cut into small pieces (I used thighs because they were on sale)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
4-5 roasted peppers (poblano or anaheim are very good), chopped
2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
juice from a lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

In a large pot on medium, saute onion in oil until starting to brown, add garlic, saute an additional 3-5 mintues, until garlic starts to soften. Add chicken broth, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper, then add chicken pieces. Bring to a boil. Add beans, peppers, tomatoes. Return to boil, then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Right before serving stir in lime juice and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers... it's spicy!

The beans and the chicken are in there on the bottom.... I guess they don't float the way the veggies do.


I Want This Book

My healthy LA friend Krista recommended this book to me, saying, "it's really great for understanding how different vitamins work together, food combinations, stuff like that. Foods for curing whatever ails you, etc. " (That's a copy and paste from an email from her)

I looked at the reviews and descriptions on amazon.com and lots of strangers also recommend this book for people interested in getting the full benefits from food. It sounds pretty interesting.

In recent years I've had a little more exposure to non-traditional medicine... I worked with a tech in Fort Worth who was pretty into chi and massage, etc, and he helped me open up to that kind of stuff. Then a year or two ago I got a book called The Best Choices of the People's Pharmacy as my thank you gift for my NPR donation. That book is full of natural solutions to various ailments. The neatest thing I learned from that book is that a daily dose of cinnamon can reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), increase good cholesterol (HDL) and triglycerides and reduce and stabilize blood sugar. They say it only takes about half a teaspoon a day to see your numbers change.

Non-Food Post

A couple of days ago I read some movie reviewer's Top 10 Movies You Didn't See Last Year list, probably on slate.com. A lot of the movies on the list seemed gritty and crime-y: two words I would never use to describe a movie I'd be interested in watching. Toward the end of the list was a Robin Williams movie called World's Greatest Dad. I'm kinda back and forth on Robin Williams. I'm sure I've liked him in some movies, but whenever I think of him I think of cocaine and too much energy and try to think of someone else.

Well the Red Box movie dispenser at Walmart had World's Greatest Dad, and since some random reviewer said it was good, we rented it. And it was good! It was very good! It was written and directed by the illustrious Bobcat Goldthwaite (luckily I didn't know this until the closing credits, because you can be sure there's no way I would've watched a Robin Williams movie written by Bobcat Goldthwaite).

I don't want to discuss the plot, because we really had no idea what it was about or what to expect when we started watching, and that whole sense of unknowing made the viewing experience even more pleasurable, I'm sure. Robin Williams' son in the movie is not a very nice person, and has quite a potty mouth... this movie earns it's R rating. If you can get around profanity, I think you'll be happy you spent the 90 minutes or whatever watching this dark comedy.

The other movie we got from the Red Box is Extract, by Mike Judge, starring Jason Bateman. That one was not so good. Mike Judge's other movies are way funnier, and Jason Bateman is way, way funnier in Arrested Development. But if you liked Extract, you'll love World's Greatest Dad, because it's an all-around much better movie.

Another thing that makes WGD good: a quick scene with Krist Novoselic. He doesn't even talk, but it's just nice to see him again. Another thing that makes Extract bad: Ben Affleck is in it, and has the worst haircut ever worn by anyone.

The Paneer is Done!

After about 4 hours wrapped in cheesecloth under a heavy pan filled with water, the cheese is done! It was a cinch to cut-- I was afraid it would fall apart, but look at those little slices of cheese, for the most part they held their shape wonderfully. Some of the slices from the end of the block were not as firm, so there was a little crumbling. I put some clarified butter in a pan and fried these little cheese slices to prep them for the cauliflower- paneer curry. No pics of the frying, though. Next time I'll try harder to remember.

Spicy Cauliflower-Paneer Curry
2 T. canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pound cauliflower, chopped
1/4 t. tumeric
1 c. cilantro, chopped
4 fresh green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, sliced (seeds in)
8 oz. paneer, fried 'till golden
1 med. tomato, seeded and diced
1 t. salt
1/2 t. garam masala

Heat oil in skillet on med-high. Add onion and stir-fry until light brown on edges-- 5 min. or so. Add cauliflower and tumeric, stir for about one minute. Add 1/2 c. water, cilantro, and chiles. Heat to boil, reduce to med-low, cover. Stir occasionally until cauliflower is tender, 10-15 min. Stir in the paneer, tomato, salt, and garam masala. Simmer, covered, occasionally stirring for 5-10 mintues, until paneer and tomato are warmed through.

It's true this recipe has a ton of cilantro, but it's added early in the process, so the flavor is not the bold, sharp taste we normally associate with cilantro. Cooking it down for awhile really mellows it out, and it blends in with the other tastes wonderfully.

It's so fun to make these curries that we had to do another. We had minimal familiarity with lentils, which are so prevalent in Indian cooking, so we decided on a curry with skinned, split black lentils. There are LOTS of kinds of lentils at the International Grocery, so we had to ask a few questions to get the right kind. Black lentils can be whole or split, with skins on or off. If skins are off, they're cream-colored. I'm still learning about the different lentils and beans used in Indian cooking-- I had no idea there was such variety.

Garlic-Lime Split Black Lentils
1 c. skinned black lentils, picked over for stones
1/4 t. tumeric
2 T. ghee or canola oil
1 t. cumin seeds
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 fresh green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, sliced (seeds in)
1 t. salt
juice from one lime
2 T. cilantro, chopped

To clean the lentils: Place lentils in a saucepan. Fill pan halfway with water, and rub the lentils with your hands-- the water will cloud. Drain and repeat until the water says pretty clear. Drain, then add 3 c. water, bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium. Skim and toss foam that accumulates on the top. Stir in tumeric, reduce to med-low, cover. Simmer, occasionally stirring, about 15 mintues, until lentils are tender-firm. Drain.

While lentils are cooking, heat a skillet on med-high and pour in ghee or oil. Add cumin seeds and cook until they turn reddish brown and sizzle-- 30 sec. or so. Add onion, garlic, and chiles, and stir-fry 3-5 minutes, until onion starts to brown and chiles are pungent. Stir in 1 c. water and salt, cook a couple mintues, then add the lentils. Cook until it's no longer runny, about 10 mintues. Add lime juice and cilantro, then serve.

This looks and sounds like a boring, bland dish, but Phil and I were both just amazed that this was really really good. I can't wait to have some for lunch today, in fact. The tumeric gives it that amazing yellow color, and the chiles are nice and hot. This was a surprise! And we love that yogurt-mint-cucumber dip so much that we had that, too.


Indian Food, etc.

Another fun Christmas break activity was making a yummy Indian meal with Krista. Krista and Kirsten set to making saag paneer, while I worked on a cauliflower-lentil curry. We enjoyed our curries with some homemade white wine and pita from that slightly strange hallal grocery store on Hobson Road. Krista made a super quick and easy and very delicious yogurt dip for the pita...

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
1 bunch of mint, chopped
16 oz. plain, non-fat yogurt

combine and scoop up with pita. It's a great way to cool your mouth when eating spicy curries!

Krista made the cheese (paneer) for her curry from scratch, which is beyond cool, if you ask me. It was so simple that of course we had to try it when we returned to our home kitchen. I put a gallon of whole milk on medium-high and stirred until it boiled. Then I added a quarter cup white vinegar, which made it look like this:

When the acid in vinegar or lemon juice is combined with protein-rich milk, the protein coagulates, because the acid is actually "cooking" the protein strands. Curds form:

and when fully drained will become a hunk of cheese. As I type, that bunch of curds above are being squeezed dry. I tied up the cheesecloth to make a block of curds, then placed a glass bowl filled with water onto the curd block. I'll let the liquid drain out of the curd block for a few hours, then slice and fry the cheese for a curry tonight.

What I Did Over Christmas Break

Grandma got these horrible glasses in a pink elephant exchange. She was not amused.

Vacation's over, but we had a wonderful trip back to Ft. Wayne while Phil was off. I spent a lot of my time over the holidays cooking with family and friends... here are some highlights.

Mom let us entertain old friends (and their children) at her house, so we set up a quick spread of kid-friendly munchies. Phil was very proud of his cheese plate, on which each different cheese was cut into a different shape, and I was very proud of the first cheeseball I've ever made. It was really fun to see old friends from back home, but even more fun to meet their children.

A fun Christmas present was a book and various supplies for making macaroons, so Sunday afternoon while the family was away and it snowed all day, I made another batch of macaroons. This recipe was somewhat different than the first recipe I used, and the butter cream recipe was very different than any buttercream recipe I've ever seen, but the results were terrific! Used black tea to flavor the cookies and orange blossom water and honey to flavor the filling. This book is filled with flavor ideas and great pictures of these delicate little treats. It even has ideas for using the egg yolks that are separated out when making the meringue. If you want to make macaroons, this is the book to read.