Romano Cheese Risotto with Pan-seared Veggies

January 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ah risotto. Fancy. Creamy. Buttery and cheesy.

It can either be delicious or taste like crunchy, hard, glue.

Let’s avoid the latter.

How to Not Suck at Making Risotto

  • Please use the right type of rice. If you use just your regular rice, this project is doomed from the start. Good types include: Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano.
  • Do not wash your rice. You need starch to get that creaminess.
  • Toast your rice. Cooking the rice in hot butter for about 2 minutes helps it to absorb liquid better.
  • Use good quality wine and broth. Remember it is going to be concentrated, so if you can’t even take a sip of that wine, you don’t want it in your risotto.
  • USE HOT BROTH! Ok no one told me this, and I was wondering why my risotto was so hard. By using cold broth, you are lowering the temperature of the risotto and making it more difficult to absorb. You and to keep the temperature constant, so simmer your broth in a pot next to your cooking risotto.
  • A little at a time. Add about 1 ladle of liquid into the risotto at a time.
  • Keep stirring. That helps to release the starch from the rice.
  • Ignore most time estimations. It really depends on the freshness of your risotto, your wine, your broth, your stove, etc. Do what feels right. If it is hard, it still needs cooking.
  • Risotto should be creamy, not dry, stick to your spoon, and al dente instead of mushy or hard.

Ingredients

  • 20 stalks asparagus
  • 1/4 onion or a few small shallots
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cup risotto rice (I used
  • 4 cups broth
  • 3/4 cups Romano Cheese

Directions

  1. Cut up asparagus, carrots, broccoli, and peas.
  2. Place veggies into a pan with some olive oil and sauté for 3 minutes. Allow sear for another 3 minutes.
  3. Cut up onion and place into pan where you will cook risotto. Add 3 tbsp butter.
  4. Cook onion until it is translucent and soft.
  5. Add rice, toast for 2 minutes, coating it in the butter.
  6. Put your broth to heat.
  7. Begin adding wine, a little at a time. Stir until absorbed.
  8. After wine is absorbed, begin adding hot broth a ladle at a time until all is absorbed. This will take a while. Your risotto should not be swimming in liquid at the end.
  9. Once broth is absorbed, remove from head (to prevent overcooking) and add in 3 tbsp butter and the Romano cheese.
  10. Stir butter and cheese vigorously into the risotto to make it creamy.
  11. Once butter and cheese are totally mixed in, add seared vegetables.
  12. Best eaten hot out of the pot!

For a nice example of how your risotto should look in various stages, see FlourishingFoodie’s great tutorial!


Chicken Noodle Soup for Your Sniffly Nose

January 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am sick.

I woke up a few days ago and I had a runny nose, congestion in my chest and my sinuses, lethargy, a sore throat, the whole nine-yards.

So for me, that normally means a couple of things. First, my chest gets slathered in copious amounts of Vicks Vapor rub. Second, I up my vitamin c and zinc supplement intake. Then, third, I drink a delicious mixture (not really delicious but it helps with the sore throat) of lemon, Angostura bitters, salt, and honey. Down the hatch!

Now, the sore throat made it difficult to want to eat, since every time I opened my mouth I felt pain. Eating literally gave me a headache. So, it became clear that it was time for some soup, and what better soup to soothe an aching body than some home made chicken noodle soup?

Chicken noodle soup is scientifically proven to be awesome for colds! Drinking the warm fluid and the steam that rises from it helps to thin mucus, along with the soup’s cycteines.¹ It is also anti-inflammatory, which helps to shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms of colds and upper respiratory tract infections.² Of course, if your culture is one where your mom use to serve you this when you were sick, the psychological benefits of warm soup are multiplied. Finally, most of the veggies and herbs traditionally in chicken noodle soup are beneficial to our health, and the complete soup gives us carbs, protein, and veggies all on one delicious bowl!

Warning: this soup will take a long time if you include the time to make the broth. However, it is super easy and most of that time does not require your interaction at all. That’s how I was able to make it because, remember, I am sick. So if I can do it, you can too.

Broth Ingredients

  • Whole 5 lb Roaster Chicken (I don’t use giblets etc.)
  • 3 Celery ribs
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Potatoes
  • 1 Onion
  • 5 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp Pepper
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Smalle piece Ginger
  • 10-20 Coriander seeds

Broth Directions

  1. Clean your chicken and put it in your pot. Ok I put it in the whole chicken because I am lazy. You could debone it now, or wait until later, when the meat will be falling off of the bone anyway.
  2. Add enough cold water to cover your chicken. It is important to use cold water to help extract collagen, which is part of what helps chicken soup alleviate cold symptoms. While the chicken begins cooking, you can skim off the “scum” that rises to get a clearer stock, if you are into that sort of thing.
  3. Cut celery, carrots, potatoes, and onion very roughly. Not too small.
  4. Add veggies to pot, along with garlic, parsley, bay leaves, cumin, cayenne pepper, ginger, and coriander.
  5. Stir to incorporate all parts.
  6. Bring broth to a simmer, not a boil. It is important not to boil broth, particularly with celery (which is prone to becoming bitter) because it can cause the soup to become cloudy and bitter. (Also, look at how upset Tampopo is that she let the soup boil. You don’t want to upset Tampopo do you?)
  7. Cover the pot. Lower the temperature of the stove and leave to cook for 4 hours. Don’t be tempted to peek and stir, because stirring helps to break down the veggies and make a cloudy broth.
  8. After 4 hours, remove cooked chick and separate meat from bones. Put meat aside for soup.
  9. Strain broth through sieve and cheesecloth. You can use the leftover veggies by pureeing them with broth for some soup later.
  10. Broth can be stored in the fridge for about a week, and longer in the freezer. If you want a low fat broth, skim off the fat once it has congealed after cooling in the fridge.

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 Potatoes
  • 3 Ribs of celery
  • 3-4 Leaves of kale
  • Onion
  • 2 Carrots
  • Whole wheat fettuccine
  • Chicken, from broth
  • Broth
  • 1 tbsp Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Butter

Soup Directions

  1. Cut all veggies into bite sized pieces.
  2. Shred chicken.
  3. Heat pan and add 2 tbsp butter. Melt butter.
  4. Once butter is melted, add onions. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add kale, potatoes, celery, and carrots. Cook 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add broth to desired amount.
  7. Add desired amount of pasta. I added a ton because I’m not a fan of watery soups, being Trini. Actually I wanted to add dumplings, but decided that was too much of an undertaking for a sick person.
  8. Add desired amount of chicken.
  9. Cook broth for the amount of time required to cook pasta.

Enjoy, and get better!

¹ TLC
²
Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro


Apple Pie

January 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Continuing in the holiday food that I should have posted about earlier series…

I’m sure many have a deep and abiding love for apple pie. Actually, for a long time apple pie was the only type of pie that i could stand to eat. Most commercial pumpkin pies taste too much like baby food, and even our state’s famous key lime pie was too artificially enhanced for my liking.

On the other hand there was apple pie. I guess the thing is, apples are so abundant and so resistant to spoilage there isn’t much of a point in trying to use “apple flavoring.” Also, once the pie crust is cooked, there is not much left to making an apple pie except throwing some apples in there. Perhaps that is why even McDonald’s apple pies held an allure for me (not anymore though, too sweet!).

So, while Thanksgiving and Christmas normally only brings thoughts of Christmas Cake to my mind, I realized for many other people in the US apple pie was the thing to bake.

Oven Temperature: 425 F
Yield: 1 pie

Ingredients

  • 7 Apples
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom

Directions

  1. Make pie crust according to this post.
  2. In a bowl, peel, core. and slice apples
  3. Cover apples with lemon juice, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and cardamom. Mix.
  4. Set aside for about an hour, this helps the flavors to mix
  5. Place filling in crust
  6. Cover with either a plain crust with holes poked in or a lattice (tutorial!) crust.
  7. Brush the top crust with egg white and sprinkle on some sugar for style
  8. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, reduce temperature to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes. It should be nice and bubbly.
  9. Let pie cool completely about an hour before serving.

Nothing to it!

By the way, check out this gorgeous pie from Parade! Doesn’t it look scrumptious?


Yummy Gingerbread Men and Failed Gingerbread Houses

January 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

This was our second year with an unintentionally Florida themes gingerbread house. The first year I didn’t use a template, because it’s just a house right? Stick 6 squares together and that’s that. You have yourself a gingerbread house. It’s gotta be easy because on the television children do it.

So. Yeah. Not so much.

Not a single wall stood. It was a royal icing covered mess. We said that Hurricane Wilma hit the house.

This year I followed a lovely template from Martha Stewart. I printed it out. I followed the lines with a pizza cutter. It looked gorgeous in my cookie pan. After baking, we begin to put it together and all four walls stand! But there was a problem. Every time we put the roof on it fell apart. Once, we put one side of the roof on, but never both sides. This time it was Hurricane Katrina, because when it passed though Florida it mostly only damaged people’s roofs.

How do you guys get your gingerbread houses so perfect? I always seem to cause some distortion that leads to disaster!

Anyway, the gingerbread was still delicious, even if it couldn’t stand up architecturally.

My recipe was inspired by So Good and Tasty’s cookies.

Oven Temp: 350 degrees
Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses

Directions

  1. Mix flour, baking soda, cocoa, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and pepper in one bowl
  2. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time and cream after each.
  4. Add molasses and mix until completely distributed.
  5. Add dry mixture to wet mixture a bit at a time. Mix until combined, careful not to over mix.
  6. Roll dough into a ball and let cool in the fridge 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
  7. Remove chilled dough and divide into two pieces.
  8. Roll out dough as in Sugar Cookie recipe , to 1/8th inch thickness.
  9. Cook 10-12 minutes.
  10. Decorate with powdered sugar or Royal Icing.

 

Pie crust for Newbs

January 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

Ok, so making pie crust isn’t that hard.

It just takes patience and lots of cool dough.

What is difficult is making croissants, which makes me think of how insane people must have been when croissants were invents because of the copious amounts of butter it involves. Seriously, what kind of food requires you to “laminate” it in butter? Of course it is totally worth it, but that is some unhealthy indulgence right there.

Anyway, making a pie crust isn’t like that. It is relatively simple, and just requires a lot of patience and cool dough.

I know this because I made my first pies this holiday season and they came out light, and flakey, and just perfectly saturated with the pie filing. So since I don’t consider myself a master chef, I know that you too can be good at pie making.

Oven Temperature: 450
Yield: 2 crusts

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter

Directions

  1. Place 1 cup of water into the freezer just before beginning your pie
  2. Mix together flour, sugar, and salt
  3. Cut up butter into small pieces and add to the flour-mixture
  4. Using a pastry blender, two knives, two forks, or your hands, cut the butter into the flour. This means you are mixing the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are the size of peas and the mixture is very shaggy and crumbly. The mixture should not be totally even, but make sure to turn the mixture over as you cut the butter. I use my hands because I don’t own a pastry blender and I learned the old school way from my mom, but if you don’t have experience with cutting butter this way you can end up melting all of your butter. You want your butter super cold and visible, melted butter leads to a tough pie crust.
  5. Take your water out of the freezer, and make sure there is no ice in it. Drizzle 1/2 cup over the butter and flour.
  6. Begin gathering the dough together (preferably not with your hands, remember we want to warm it up as little as possible, plus that water is cold!) and add small amounts of water as needed to help the dough stick together.
  7. Divide the dough in half and wrap each in plastic wrap.
  8. Chill dough for 2 hours or overnight.
  9. Flour your surface and your pin.
  10. Take out your chilled dough and flour that too. Don’t skimp or it will stick and oh man you don’t want a broken pie crust. If it does stick, use a dough scraper or a metal spatula to scrape it off of your rolling surface.
  11. Roll your dough slowly and gently. Roll out a few times, lift up the dough, and then turn it 90 degrees. Add flour. Repeat. This will take a while. If you are a weakling like me, your arms will hurt and you will wonder why you needed to make so many pies. Endure and think of the deliciousness your oven will deliver you.
  12. To trim the dough, I use a pizza cutter and add about 2-3 inches to the circumference of my pie pan.
  13. Let crust rest for 10 minutes before baking to help prevent shrinkage.
  14. To transfer, fold the pie dough into quarters loosely but first folding in half and then folding that in half again. Let it loose in your pan!
  15. Press the dough gently into the bottom of the pan, centering the dough as you go.
  16. There should be some overhang of dough over the edge of the pan. This will be your pie crust. If this is a single crust pie (like pumpkin pie) you will crimp the edges by pushing the dough into the knuckle of your pointer finger on one hand, with the thumb and pointer knuckle of the other hand, If it is a double crust, you put the top layer on after filling and crimp it then with an egg wash to help it stick.
  17. Let crust rest in the fridge 20 minutes before baking.

Blind Baking

Blind baking a pie is when you baker the pie crust before putting in the filling. Why would you do that? Well, it is mainly done when you are going to make a pie with a liquid filling that might make the crust too soggy, like pumpkin pie. You can also do it just to store the crust for later.

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the pie. Try to get an even distribution since this helps prevent the bottom from poofing up.
  3. Weigh the pie done with pie weights. Some people use commercial pie weights, some people use beans or pennies (ewwww). I used rice since it was what I had on hand. I put wax paper over the crust and then poured in rice. This is now my pie baking rice and it is chilling in the freezer.
  4. Bake pie for 30 minutes, until the crust is a light brown.
  5. If you are worried about burning the crust when baking the filling, use a pie shield or cover the crust in foil to protect it.

Woo, that was a long post!

Relax and enjoy your pie! You deserve it!

P.S. Check out Smitten Kitchen’s Pie Tutorial for awesome pictures and step by step help!


Making and Decorating with Royal Icing

January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Royal icing is a bit more complicated than making sugar cookies, even though it seems the most simple thing. Sugar, water, and some kind of egg product are all you need. I use merengue powder because I don’t trust my odds against catching salmonella, but you can also use egg whites, pasteurized eggs (Did you know this existed? I did not.), or egg powder.

The keys to a good royal icing are A) the proportion of these basic ingredients, B) their quality (for merengue powder I recommend Ateco), and C) whipping.

For a great tutorial with lost of pictures, see Bake at 350‘s post.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup merengue powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • Dash of Almond extract

Directions

  1. Combine merengue powder and nearly all of the water
  2. Beat until peaks begin to form
  3. Add powdered sugar. You are going to a whipping for a long time if you are not fortunate enough to have a stand mixer. At first it will look like sludge, but keep going. Then it will look like honey, keep going. Then it will lighten and begin to look like frosting, but keep going because you are still not done. You are done when you remove the beater and the frosting does not budge an inch as you move it around!
  4. Add extract and beat a bit more.

Coloring

I use such still icing because I use liquid food coloring. If you use gel food coloring it isn’t such an issue since it wont water the icing down, but the all-natural coloring I use only comes in liquid form. Be careful with these because they can make your icing too liquid-y and runny to work with. In order to avoid this, add the coloring a drop at a time. Your spatula should always be able to stand up on its own in your icing.

Storing

You can store the icing for immediate use in a container with a damp kitchen cloth covering it with a lid on top. For longer periods, store in the fridge in Tupperware with damp napkins inside. To keep the tips of piping bags from going hard while working, place the bags in cups with damp paper towels at the bottom.

Happy icing!

 

The Best Sugar Cookies

January 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

Sugar cookies are the most basic cookies that you can make. You probably have all the ingredients in your cupboard already, and there are no fancy techniques required. You can, however, step them up a notch with a bit of flavored extract and royal icing.

I used to hate sugar cookies. Unlike most little children i didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I missed out on the sugary delights of a lot of “kids” snacks back in the days before organic fruit gummies and dehydrated fruit rolls. Actually, I was a member of the “kid’s club” at Publix (a large supermarket chain in South Florida) when I was younger, which meant that I could get a free sugar cookie if I showed my members card to the employees at the bakery. Eventually, the lady at the bakery realized I wasn’t too excited about my free cookie and she let me choose a less cavity inducing option.

These cookies, though, taste great even with an extra dollop of sugary royal icing on top. I can’t take the praise for their deliciousness though since I took the recipe from i am baker and didn’t change a thing.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Almond Extract
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder

Oven Temperature: 350 degrees
Yield: A crazy amount of cookies.

Directions

  1. Cream sugar and butter until;l light and fluffy. Make sure to turn the mixture with a spatula and check for chunks of sugar or butter. This is a lot of butter, and it is easy to miss these things.
  2. Add eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. Mix until combined.
  3. Add vanilla and almond extract. Mix until combined.
  4. In a second bowl mix flour, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Slowly add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix to combine. Try not to mix too much, so as not to toughen the cookies.
  6. Roll dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  7. Cut dough ball into four sections. You will work with one section at a time so the butter in the dough won’t melt.
  8. Slowly and gently roll out your dough(I like my cookies thin and crisp ), turning it 90 degrees every few rolls to achieve an even layer. Add as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking or use wax paper between the rolling surface and rolling pin. These cookies are so simple that you probably wouldn’t notice the extra flour though.
  9. Cut out cookies. You can put the scraps back into the fridge to cool and roll them out after all four sections have been cut, giving them time to re-cool.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Enjoy these cookies with a bit of beautiful royal icing on top and a tall glass of milk!


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