Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

Holy crap, it's Thanksgiving week already. Sorry for the long hiatus in posting recipes, life pretty much imploded from all angles, so I haven't had a chance to get posts up. Fear not, however -- I've still been baking and cooking, so hopefully I can get some recipes up rapid-fire.

This last weekend was the 3rd annual Thanksgiving dinner I've hosted with friends. I started this my first fall back in Iowa City, mostly because it always looked like so much fun when it happened on sitcoms. Dumb, I know, but occasionally dumb ideas turn out to be delicious traditions! Most family holidays have a milieu of undercurrents running through them and while you love them all, you can't pick your family. Close friends, however, are the family you do get to pick. This isn't a mushy, bffs never fight idea. In fact, this has been one of the most difficult few months I've been through with a few friends -- but at the end of the day, you still choose the family you want at the table and, despite the obstacles, every one of us was there.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cappuccino-Heath Chocolate Cake

Every so often, I crave chocolate. I'm not talking about something that can be fixed with a few Hershey's kisses, this craving requires a really obscene amount warm, gooey, dark chocolate. Granted, this is usually something women can identify with more than men, but I know more than a few guys who are happy to participate in chocolate-fix night.

My favorite Dairy Queen blizzard used to be their Cappuccino-Heath version. In addition to chocolate, I loved the added texture of chewy toffee and hint of bitter coffee to balance out the cavity-inducing sweetness of the chocolate ice cream. So when I had an epic Iowa vs Penn State tailgate and a friend's birthday in the same week, I decided to get creative and turn a blizzard into a cake (much easier to share!) This isn't quite as death (or orgasm)-by-chocolate as many candy-based cakes are, but that actually works better because there are those people out there who don't want to require insulin to offset the cake sugar rush.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Handheld Peach Pies

Ahh, fall is in full… well, change. The temperatures are swinging from warm to downright chilly, it’s getting dark earlier and the leaves are decorating my walk to class with vibrant reds and oranges. One of my favorite fall traditions is college football and tailgating, which has been going strong for several weeks now. If you’ve never had the good fortune of tailgating at a Big 10 school, you’re missing out! The entire west side of Iowa City pretty much shuts down, wears ridiculous black and gold clothes that often border on costume-esque, and anyone walking around who has the good sense to yell “Go Hawks!” is greeted with beer and food from complete strangers at tailgates in the near vicinity.

Tailgating also provides a good reason to get creative with recipes for people who want to move beyond the typical hot dogs, chips and beer. I’ve been looking at this recipe for some time now and was just waiting for peaches to come into season. Luckily for me, peaches hit their prime right about the start of tailgate season, so I was able to put these together for the state consuming Iowa-Iowa State rivalry game.

I will start by saying that these mini-pies are very delicious and look impressive, which gives the baker some bragging rights and lots of admiration from the inebriated friends trying them. I’m going to follow that up, however, with the reality of this recipe – it’s a huge pain in the a$*! I'm also going to throw in a quick apology for the awkward formatting on this post. After fighting it for two weeks, I decided putting the post up was more important than continuing to fight with invisible formatting gnomes that are messing things up!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pumpkin Porter

Ah, beer. As Homer says, the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.

It's definitely fall now in Chicago. The farmer's markets are exploding with harvest-season produce, most of it in gourd and pomme form. Apples and pumpkins from Michigan, acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash from Illinois and Wisconsin, root vegetables from Indiana. There are even a few end-of-season cherry tomatoes hanging on stoically. Combine that with the chilly, damp weather and heavy leaden clouds floating over Lake Michigan, and it is apparent that fall has fallen. Which puts me in a brewing mood like none other.

I woke up in a particularly good mood on Saturday morning, because I knew I was gonna spend all day making beer. This particular recipe is especially time-consuming, because it involves roasting a whole pumpkin, mashing it up, and steeping it with the grains for 45 minutes. In light of that, this one needs an early start. I broke up the whole business a little by playing some Ultimate Frisbee, but that just made coming back to the brew and drinking a couple beers that much more enjoyable.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spicy Caprese Salad and Mediterranean Pasta

A month or so ago, I stumbled across a foodie gem called Tasting Table. They have regional sections, so I'm not reading about recipes that are awesome with produce only in season elsewhere, as well as a national section. One of the weekly recipe emails that caught my eye was a new twist on the traditional insalata caprese. Not that I think there's anything wrong with the original -- dishes with 3 ingredients that stand the test of time usually have a reason-- but it's always fun to add a little spice and see what happens.

This meal nicely spans the changing of seasons, combining the simplicity of the caprese salad (which always seems like a summer salad to me) with a warm, hearty pasta -- and all the ingredients are currently in season! I'm actually quite proud that almost all of the ingredients for this meal came from the Iowa City Farmer's Market, one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday morning. I ended up having to buy the mozzerella cheese from the co-op because my cheese vendor wasn't at the market that morning. I personally always use Barilla PLUS for pasta, because of it's high protein, fiber and omega-3 content without tasting too hefty, but any pasta you prefer will work just as well. Hopefully this will inspire you to check out your own farmer's market if you've never been, or act as an impetus to go more regularly and get ingredients for dinner.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vegetable, Chicken and Fish Taco Trio

I alluded to this in my last post, but one of the major summer events was my best friend's wedding- and weddings warrant a bachelorette party! In planning the party, I decided it would be cheapest for all parties included to make the dinner and have people chip in for groceries rather than going out to dinner... this was the case, though I definitely forgot to factor in how long it takes for charcoal to heat up. An inside grill or gas grill would certainly help speed this process along, and avoid your neighbors gawking at you for barbecuing by flashlight! All in all, the dinner was a big success and the tacos were well liked, including the chicken variety that was a stretch for this vegetarian.
Vegetable tacos 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peperoni Arrostiti all'Acciughe (Roast Peppers with Anchovies)

Okay, so major fail on my part on the whole "I'm gonna post more often this summer" thing. Turns out my summer didn't have as much free time as I thought it would, and I kept forgetting to take pictures when I cooked. But as a nice break from studying bacteria, viruses, and parasites (second year has started off at a grueling pace), I thought I'd post this recipe, because it's really easy and delicious.

I have to say that fall is my favorite season because I have a thing for squash, cold air, fire-colored trees, and the smell of wood smoke. I also associate fall with beginnings - it's the start of the academic year, and I'm always doing really cool (read "disgusting") stuff and haven't gotten burnt out with it yet. That being said, the produce at the end of summer is without parallel. Cherry tomatoes, summer squash, berries of various sorts, etc. etc.

This recipe is the perfect thing for an end-of-summer antipasto, or, if you choose to add the fish, main course for those who don't have a whole lot of time on their hands. The peppers can be used for any number of things, and are light-years better than the canned roasted peppers you can get at the grocery store.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Carrot Cake (or cupcakes) with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm going to start this with a giant apology for the 2 month hiatus in posting- I survived the worst semester ever, I've moved and my best friend got married last weekend, so life was a wee bit busy! On the plus side, I'm now on the other side of all that and even though classes have started again, I can't imagine it will be nearly as bad as this summer. I have 3 recipes ready to go from the summer, so hopefully some rapid-fire posts will make up for the two months I was absent.

New kitchen to break in!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Baked French Toast

Brunch is one of my favorite meals to make, and eat! I can't really explain why, but brunch food is always delicious- maybe it's because I can combine my favorite breakfast and lunch dishes without getting weird looks? Whatever the reason, brunch is awesome and really good french toast is high on my list of things to order-- and this recipe now makes it high on my list to make.

I've been completely enthralled with the World Cup these last few weeks. So far I've refrained from having the live ESPN feed up on my laptop during classes but my weekends are suddenly resembling college football in the fall. After a disappointing US loss yesterday, several of us got together this morning to watch the Germany-England game, which I used as good excuse to try out this recipe! French toast isn't the usual sports watching fare, but it went over very well and I maintain that unless you're actually tailgating at the game, it's completely reasonable.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roasted Tofu with Couscous

I'm sure some of you out there saw the title to this post and groaned. I know a lot of people out there have very poor perceptions of tofu as a mushy, tasteless, foam-like substance, which is quite unfortunate. Tofu, when made well, is firm, chewy and full of flavor, and hopefully this recipe will inspire some of you to give it a shot. If you're already a fan of this version of soybeans, then hopefully this will give you ideas of new directions to take it in.

Tofu is essentially a blank canvas, it can become and taste like almost anything you want it to. While I'm still a little skittish on using it in desserts (I highly doubt I will ever find a tofu-cheesecake recipe worth posting), it's a really great way to add variety to your protein sources. For what it's worth, tofu is also awesome for you -- very low in cholesterol and sodium, it's a good source of protein, calcium and iron. Good luck finding 10g of protein for 88 calories anywhere else! All of that adds up to a diet-friendly food that can be made to fit any palate.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Portuguese Sweet Bread (Päo Dôce)

Hey look! Andrew's making a second post!

When I signed onto this blog I assumed that I would have more time to myself than medical school apparently allows me, by which I mean that med school consumes my whole life. Posts will probably be few and far between for me, but Carolyn is probably a better cook than I am anyway, so she can take up the slack. However, I am now on summer "break" (read: full-time job, which feels like a vacation), so I hope to be able to post a little more this summer.

So now, after a fairly sizable absence following my recipe for barleywine (which, by the way, is delicious), I'm continuing my adventures with yeast and making bread. This recipe is courtesy of my grandfather (pours one out), and its unofficial name is thus "Grandpa John's Portuguese sweet bread."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grilled Spiced Eggplant and Minted Yogurt Stacks with Greek Salad

After surviving 3 weeks of finals, two weeks ago was the one week of vacation I get between now and August, and I very lazily enjoyed it! One of my favorite things about vacation is getting to read whatever I want, just because it's fun. What I decided I wanted to read this week were several magazines (alright, only 2 -- I did buy a Vanity Fair, but only for the pictures of World Cup players in their underwear!). Anyway, one of the magazines I bought was the Bon Appétit's travel edition -- the best of Spain, Italy and France? Yes, please!

Trying new recipes for fun is all well and good, but cooking for people is still my favorite. So I called a few of my fellow nursing students and put together a dinner party. One of my friends, Ashley, had never tried eggplant before, so this stuck out pretty obviously as the recipe to make- never mind that I love Greek food. A simple Greek salad was the perfect compliment to this dish.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rhubarb Crisp

Iowa City Farmer's Market is back!! As promised by the apple pie post, I did indeed buy a bunch of rhubarb, though I decided to be responsible make some rhubarb crisp instead of a pie (pie takes too much time when I should be studying for finals.

In addition to the rhubarb, I also found some asparagus (which will be appearing soon in a pasta recipe!) and herbs for my deck. I went with cilantro, parsley and lemon balm. Truthfully, I thought the lemon balm was lemon basil... anybody know what to do with lemon balm??

Friday, May 7, 2010


Ahh, I love it when the weather is (finally!) consistently warm and sunny. Trees are exploding with green, flowers are blooming - allergies aside, I'm a big fan of late spring. A large exception to this being the finals that have taken over my life, which coincide ominously with the wearing of shorts, sundresses and swimsuits. Keeping that in mind, I'm making an effort for my finals munching food to be something other than scotcheroos or mac'n'cheese, and hummus is one of my favorites. The best hummus I've found so far is from a restaurant in Iowa City called Oasis Falafel. It's creamy, a little nutty and just enough spice to make celery not seem so... bland and useless. This isn't their recipe, but basically the same ingredients go into all hummus recipes, so this is my attempt at it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nana's Apple Pie

There are few desserts that are better than a homemade pie. Really think about all the desserts you've had in your life... are you thinking?... and in your top 5 favorite desserts, I'm betting that some relative's homemade pie that is always brought to a particular holiday or family occasion makes the cut. Of all the fruit pies, my top two picks are apple and strawberry-rhubarb, but strawberries aren't in season yet and as this was a birthday request, I went with apple this time.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad

I’m coming to you from a foreign kitchen again, this time from sunny and beautiful LA!! I found great tickets a few months ago and in the middle of another blizzard, decided I needed to peace out for my spring break- and this is the most relaxed I’ve been since school started. After spending a glorious afternoon reading outside in the sun, fighting the cat-in-sunshine syndrome, I decided to make my favorite squash recipe for dinner.

 Oh, yeah, and this was the view I had from the kitchen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Scampi al Dragoncello and Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

I'm coming at you from a foreign kitchen this time. I enjoyed a very rare break and spent the weekend visiting friends in Columbia, MO. These recipes came from a cookbook my friend Cathy's client loaned her upon hearing that her visiting friend was a vegetarian. I know with my lentil soup post I promised to stop sharing recipes that aren't diet friendly, and truthfully this one isn't too bad. The pasta is quite healthy, and a little goat cheese never hurt anyone :) However, back to the culinary fun the night before: after contemplating canned vs. fresh tomatoes that were required for the vegetarian recipes, we decided that these shrimp looked entirely too delicious to pass up.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lentil Soup

Now that I've successfully ruined everyone's resolutions with the past few posts, time to get life back on track (I'm heading to LA for spring break in two short weeks, this is no time for decadent cheesecake!). This is one of my favorite winter soups- thick and savory. I adapted this from the Joy of Cooking cookbook my godmother gave me for Christmas a few years ago. If you don't own this tome, you should. It's pretty indispensable if you ever branch beyond your comfort zone. I've used it as a reference many times and it has saved the day, or pie, more than once!

Sales pitch over, back to the soup. This is a great soup for seasonal transitions. It's hearty and provides a warm comfort while the weather hasn't quite committed to warmer temperatures, but not so much so that it induces hibernation. Anytime I have carrots, celery and an onion laying around my kitchen, I feel a strong need to make stew (these are the triad that start almost every stew or soup), and luckily I often have most or all of these ingredients already in my cupboard.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

*Successful* Rosemary Focaccia Bread

I made bread! I made bread! I made bread! Sorry for the outburst, but after two previous fails at making bread, that is about what I sounded like as various steps of this recipe worked correctly this time (just ask my roommate, I'm sure it was amusing). I used one of the recipes I was working with the first time around, and I'm not entirely sure what made the difference, but something worked out this time and I had a beautiful loaf of chewy, delicious carbs.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blood Orange Tart

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, nursing school is busier than I ever anticipated. Luckily, I have 2-3 previously made but never posted recipes, so you can expect a few more things throughout the weekend!

I'm a big fan of fruit-based desserts, especially when they're accompanied by a flaky crust. Unfortunately, there isn't much in season when it's January and you live in Iowa. The grocery store had blood oranges on sale last week, so I decided to buy a bunch and find delicious things to do with them. I was somewhat surprised at how few people around me knew about blood oranges (my afternoon snack baffled an entire row of BSN students, which was a little more attention than I was hoping for). In light of this lesser-known fruit, here's a brief background on them: they're a mutation of sweet oranges, slightly smaller and have flesh tinted red by anthocyanin, which is a pigment found in many flowers and fruits, though uncommon in citrus fruits. Alright, now that you know the why blood oranges are red - which I'm sure was at the top of everyone's must know lists - it's time to share how to make them into a delicious tart.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cappuccino-Fudge Cheesecake

I found this recipe last November and have been eye-ing it ever since. SmittenKitchen posted this just a few days after Thanksgiving, which was entirely too soon for me to be enticed enough to go through all the work for something so decadent.  Three months later and approaching a birthday, however, it was time! Now that it's been completely devoured, I can say with absolute certainty that it's worth ruining any and all resolutions, just for a little bit. It's really that amazing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stuffed Chicken/Eggplant Parmesan

Awhile back, a good friend of mine asked me to teach him how to cook. It's a pretty good set-up, I get to co-cook and eat delicious food while he buys the groceries :) For those who started reading way back at my intro, you know that I'm a vegetarian but I occasionally cook meat for those carnivorously inclined. Nate, the culinary neophyte in question, had frozen chicken breasts that he wanted to use, so I pulled out this recipe. It was a big hit two years ago at what was the start of many dinner parties with friends and I wanted to try my hand at adapting it for vegetarians.
*I store my flour in an old coffee container, this isn't actually coffee in this recipe!

Admittedly, this isn't a normal any-night-of-the-week dinner for one recipe. It takes some time and, if you have to buy all of the ingredients, can be somewhat pricey (though certainly no more expensive than dinner at Olive Garden, which is where this recipe comes from). This is a great recipe for a dinner party or trying to impress someone with a romantic dinner. The tv commercials have been out in force for the last few weeks, reminding us that there's an obnoxiously gushy Hallmark holiday coming up soon, so keep this in mind if you're looking to stay in but still impress.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

Tonight was a big night for me. After a day of orientation, which included being toured around the hospital campus where I've worked for the last year and a half, I had my white coat put on me by the deans of the College of Nursing! Granted, most health-oriented graduate schools have a white coat ceremony and it's mostly for show, this meant a lot to me because I spent the last two years figuring out what I should be doing with my life before finally settling on nursing. The program gives me my RN and MSN in 20 months, while each of those degrees normally takes at least two years to complete - 48 months worth of school and clinical hours in 20 is some daunting math, but luckily for everyone involved (especially my two friends in the picture, wearing equally awkward smiles!), cooking and baking is my favorite way of unwinding!

After getting home from the ceremony, I decided to make some celebratory black bean pumpkin soup that I've had my eye on for over a month. This year, for the first time, I started experimenting with cooking whole pumpkins instead of using the canned stuff. Unfortunately I didn't find this recipe until after I'd used all my pumpkins, making several delicious pies, and canned pumpkin works just fine. I found this recipe on my favorite blog to date, Smitten Kitchen, and it was everything I was hoping for.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Epic Fail (x2) at Bread Baking

I'm a reasonably stubborn person. Perhaps tenacious is a nicer term? Either way, when I decide I really want to do something, I make it happen. What I really, really want is make bread! Chewy, soaks up warm olive oil, covered in rosemary and salt focaccia bread... and I have managed to completely fail at two separate batches of dough. Pretty epic failures. It's a very good thing that flour is fairly cheap, because I've used up 3/4 of a bag of flour and still don't have any edible bread.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Homebrew #4.5: Barleywine Round Deux

As this is my first contribution to this blog, I feel like it'd be appropriate to start with beer. I got started homebrewing during October of 2009 with my friend Chris, who has been doing it for a couple years now. Making beer is a fun process, and surprisingly easy - it's basically like making 4 gallons of tea at a time, diluting it a little, and then letting it sit around for a few weeks while it becomes alcoholic.

Okay, so that's a little oversimplified, but it's not that far off the mark. Beer usually requires about an hour of boiling time, though this can vary depending on the recipe. Before the boil you add any crushed grains you're going to use and let them steep up to about 170ºF (any hotter than this and the grains will start to leech out tannins, bitter aromatic compounds that will make the final product taste gross). Once the beer hits a boil, you add any dry or liquid malt extracts the recipe calls for. Malt extract is basically sugar extracted from malted barley; roughly the same end can be achieved by steeping an enormous amount of grains, but I don't have the facilities for that, and I doubt that the final product tastes that much different. Once the hot, sugary bath reaches boiling again, you add a round of hops and start the timer. Over the course of the hour more hops will be added; hops added earlier in the brew will contribute to the bitterness of the beer, which balances the sweetness of the malt and barley, and hops added later will contribute to your final product's aroma. Once the hour is up and all the ingredients have been added, you cool the sugary, hoppy broth (known in the biz as wort) down to about 70º, and then add your yeast. Depending on the beer style, fermentation will take anywhere from one to four weeks.

The basics of brewing out of the way, let's get to my latest concoction:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hibernation Day 2: Moussaka

While chocolate is always good, getting through the obscene cold (it's 2º outside.... that's not very many!) we've been having here in the midwest requires actual food. Warm food, comforting food, filling food -- food that actually warms you from the inside out and induces heavy winter naps. Moussaka definitely fills this need It's not quite as dense as some pasta casseroles or seriously heavy duty chili, but the it gets the job done. The Greeks have been doing this a long time and everything I've ever tried has been delicious.

I found this recipe as I was going through all the cooking magazines I've saved over the years. I made a half batch because I don't have 12 people to feed, and I try to avoid eating the same thing twice a day for 6 days- that's how you ruin loving a great recipe. Moussaka is traditionally made with beef or lamb and a cream sauce. This recipe substitutes lentils for the meat and creamed potatoes for the cream sauce. For those of you who are carnivorously inclined, I'm including a note at the bottom for making the traditional recipe, found in The Joy of Cooking.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 1 of Hiberantion: Chocolate & Mint Chip Brownies

As I was driving home from the gym last night in near-blizzard conditions, I had the good sense to stop at the grocery store so I wouldn't have to go outside in the near future (the wind chill at 1pm today was -15º... definitely not going out if I don't have to!). Unfortunately I hadn't made a list, so what I came home with was an Amy's Frozen pizza, beer and a combo of dark chocolate and mint chips (they were on sale). While the pizza and beer got me through last night's football game, it didn't get be very far into hibernation food, although the chocolate and mint chips did give me an idea of where to head. So, back out I went today, with the will power to at least make myself go to the gym before the grocery store - if I'm already out, might as well preemptively work off these brownies.

A week ago I was thrilled when my apartment was finally free of Christmas confections -- no more cookies, bars, chocolate covered {insert any word}, and things of that nature to tempt my intentions of eating better. A week... that's how long it took before I was really, truly craving chocolate and these brownies have always hit the spot. I originally set out to make chocolate cookies with the chocolate mint chips in them (I wanted to use my new 3-level cooling racks I got for Christmas), but kept coming up empty when it came to a simple chocolate cookie recipe. After searching through my cookbooks and several internet sites, I decided to just make them into brownies- which was absolutely the right choice!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year, New Adventures

Happy 2010! After spending a great deal of time on other food blogs, I wanted to make an attempt at it. I'm not really the resolution type, but if I was making a public resolution, it would be to try new recipes as often as possible. Same for wine, and beer... and I want to learn to like scotch this year. The flip side of all the eating is intending to do as much yoga as I can. As someone whose spent quite a bit of time trying to balance the foodie side with the health nut/yogi side, I came up with a compromise: the majority of what I cook is pretty damn healthy, and often close to vegan. Healthy doesn't really include my comfort foods though, mac'n'cheese and tex-mex food are perfect as they are! Similarly, when it comes to desserts, I'm all French-"you can never have enough butter"-style -- if you want a delicious dessert, make it the way it was intended, love it and you tend to crave less of it.

There's a major snow storm starting outside which will be followed by extremely low temperatures, so I'll be spending quite a bit of time baking or cooking in the next few days -- check back and hopefully there will be some recipes and pictures up soon!