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Favorite Recipes: Cucumber and Dill Pasta Salad

2 Feb

I’ve taken this one to several pot-luck functions and it’s always a hit.  A slightly different, lighter version of pasta salad.  Fresh tasting, and really easy.  It’s definitely better when it has some time to sit and the flavors combine before you eat it.

Enjoy!

Cucumber and Dill Pasta Salad

Ingredients

2 cups macaroni
2 cups cucumber – peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, and rinse in cold water. Transfer noodles to a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together sour cream, milk, dill, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Set dressing aside.

Mix cucumbers and tomatoes into the pasta. Pour in dressing, and mix thoroughly. Cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour and preferably overnight. Stir just before serving.

Favorite Recipes – Lemony Chicken with Cilantro (Indian)

23 Jan

I don’t know about you, but January always poses somewhat of a cooking-block for me.  After all the food and sweets we ate over the holidays I am generally uninspired to cook.  But there is this husband I have to feed, and he really likes to eat, so we must cook.

So I’m looking for inspiration, old standards, new experiments, exciting new tastes.  I’m going to start posting my favorites old recipes and the best new ones.  I’ll try to be really good about categorizing them so you (and I) can find them again later.

To start out, here’s one I was thinking about the other day.  I’ve made it a few times, and if you like Indian food, it is really great.  Kinda different from anything I had when we were there, but I love love love it.  And it has cilantro.

I’m of the opinion that you can never have too much cilantro.

At any rate, here’s the first of (hopefully) many recipes to be catalogued here.

(OH! And may I suggest you do your mis en place with this one?  Some of the ingredients are added in quick succession, so just do all your prep before you get started cooking.  You’ll thank me later.)

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro

– serves 6 –Adapted from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.

Ingredients

2 to 3 large chunks of ginger, at least 1-inch square, peeled and coarsley chopped
1 cup water
6 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, preferably legs and thighs, skin removed
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
7 ounces chopped cilantro (about 3 cups, from 3 to 4 bunches)
1 fresh green chile, deseeded and minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste

Procedure

1. In a small food processor or blender, blend the ginger pieces with 4 tablespoons water to make a paste. Measure out the spices and other ingredients so they’re ready.

2. Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces in a single layer, cooking in batches if necessary, on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

3. Put the garlic into the hot oil, and after a minute when it turns golden, add the ginger paste. Fry for an additional minute, then add the green chili, cayenne, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. When the spices have cooked together for a few moments and the flavors begin to marry, add the cilantro.

4. As the cilantro begins to wilt, continue to stir, then add the chicken pieces, any accumulated juice in the bowl, and 2/3 cup water with the lemon juice. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is tender. Uncover and cook further to thicken the sauce, if necessary, and taste for salt and lemon juice. Serve with rice.

 

Butterscotch Cashew Bars

25 Sep

These are so good and oh so easy!!  They’re by far my favorite thing from my baking spree last week, and will be added to my normal repertoire, and I’m introducing them to my mom’s Christmas baking routine, too.  Seriously decadent.  Perfect combination of sweet and salty, gooey and crunchy.

Here’s the recipe (via Culinary Concoctions by Peabody) – as always, my notes in another color.

Butterscotch Cashew Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
11 ounces butterscotch chips
¾ cup light corn syrup
1 TBSP plus
1 tsp water
2 cups roasted salted whole cashews

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9″x 13″ pan with cooking spray.

Using two sheets of parchment paper, line the pan’s width and length, creating a parchment “sling.” Spray parchment paper with cooking spray. Normally I don’t use parchment paper, but you definitely want it for this one.  The butterscotch filling gets really really sticky, and this will save you lots of cleanup time.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and salt for 1 to 1 & 1/2 minutes.
Decrease mixer speed to low and add the flour. Mix just until combined.
Lightly press dough evenly into the prepared pan.
Poke holes in the dough with a fork. I forgot to do this – it was not the end of the world.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is a golden color. Remove to wire rack to cool.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, stir together butterscotch chips, corn syrup, and water. Stir until mixture comes to a simmer and butterscotch chips are melted.
Pour over crust.
Sprinkle cashews over the butterscotch caramel.
Bake for 5 minutes.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
After cooling, remove from pan and use a very sharp knife to cut into bars.  Original recipe suggested 2″ bars.  After tasting them and realizing how rich they are, I opted for closer to 1″ squares.  Seriously, they’re amazing.

I wish I had a picture to share, but I was on a baking rampage, and it was finish one recipe, on to the next.  And by the time I realized how great these are, they were mostly gone.  I think I will be making them again soon, though, so I’ll do an update with pictures then.

Eviction Notice

23 Sep
Warning: moody, full-term pregnant woman rant ahead. Continue at your own risk. Really, it’s not going to be pretty.

This baby is due on Saturday and is showing no signs of moving out, so I am handing her an eviction notice.

We have an appointment with our doctor today – just our weekly visit – but this time I have an agenda. I am going to talk to him about inducing labor.

I realize that people have all kinds of opinions on the subject. In fact, on every subject. And for some reason, when you’re pregnant, it’s like they think they have free license to share their unsolicited opinions. If you happen to have a negative opinion about doctors inducing labor, please just keep it to yourself.

Especially if you’ve never been pregnant. Once you are 40+ weeks pregnant and miserable, willing to do anything to get this child out even it has to come out through your nose, then you can talk to me about it. Until then, you don’t know what it’s like, and I don’t want to hear it.

Because I am miserable.

I am a mess.

I have cried every day this week. And by cried, I mean bawled. Really really ugly cry. Like my eyes are almost swollen shut from how much crying I’ve been doing.

I have been awake since 3am. This happens at least once a week now. Sometimes more often.

I have cleaned and staged my entire house for buyers who have not come to look at it.

I have baked everything in sight. Sweet scones, savory scones, candies, cookies, fruit butter, and lime curd. And I can’t even eat it, because there is no room in my stomach. It’s being squished into nothingness by this infant.

I feel trapped in my house because if I go out, I get stared at. (I am aware that I have a giant belly. The baby is not going to pop out while you’re watching. No need to stare.) Or barraged with unsolicited opinions from strangers. Or patronized. Or stared at. Oh, did I mention that already?

I am by myself all day because Joel is at law school or studying (which he totally should be – he’s doing great. I’m just lonely.)

I can’t even call anyone on the phone, because everyone answers with that same excited and hopeful tone that perhaps this is the call, and everyone has the same disappointed tone when they discover that it, in fact, is not.

I discovered this week that both my sister and I came a week late and my mom had to be induced as well – so I’m not holding out much hope that this little girl will decide to enter the world on her own.

For those who are concerned, yes, I do understand the risks. Yes, I also realize that I’m not past my due date yet. However, all my appointments are on Thursdays now. If I wait until next week to ask about it, I will already be almost a week past due, and then they still have to schedule something. And I’m not sure I can mentally or emotionally handle another 2 weeks of feeling like this. I’m pretty sure that my current emotional state isn’t very healthy for either of us.

Anyway, there’s probably not anyone still reading this. That’s fine – this is more about me venting than you reading. If, by some crazy chance someone is still reading, I’ll let you know what the doctor says.

And I’m going to post all of those recipes I’ve been baking. Yep. Current favorites: Butterscotch Cashew Bars and Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones. Not together. Ew. But separately they are both very good. And probably terrible for you. But who cares?

False Alarms or I Hate Braxton-Hicks

20 Sep

I have a little post about a minor scare we had last week, but I think I will save it until she is here, safe and sound. For some reason, it just seems weird to post it now. Suffice it to say, all is well, baby girl is fine and healthy, and has cute chubby cheeks and pouty lips according to the mini-ultrasound we had on Thursday.

I so thought we were having a baby on Saturday.

I started out the day with brunch with some girlfriends to celebrate Kelli’s new baby (our niece), Camryn. She’s about 10 weeks old now, and precious as can be. It was fun to see everyone, and I think we probably confused everyone in the restaurant, as about 6 of the 8 girls were either VERY pregnant or holding a baby. I realized that morning that I have entered an entire new part of my life… I will call it the “baby on my hip” part. Kind of a weird realization, but I’m ok with it.

When I got home, it seemed like a great idea to crawl back in bed for a nap, so that’s just what I did. And all afternoon, I was having contractions. They were about 40 minutes apart, literally all afternoon. I was excited, because it seemed like progress, but about 11:30 that night everything stopped. Dangit. Baby girl is a little tease… already.  We are in trouble.

So now, here we are, about 6 days from what the doctor calls our due date, and nothing. I know that most first babies don’t come early. I shouldn’t have ever thought she would, but man I was hoping. And so were a ton of other people. I feel like there was this expectation that we would have a baby this weekend. Part of that is my fault. But not all of it. I wish there was something I could do to speed up this process, but I can’t do a dang thing. If I could, she’d already be here. Promise.

I know that everyone is waiting for a phone call, a text, or a facebook message saying that we’re at the hospital. And that’s why I haven’t called or texted anyone in several days. We skipped church on Sunday because, even though I know they mean well, I can’t take one more “you haven’t had that baby yet??” or “think it might be today?” comment. I know people are just excited and we are too… Joel asks me at least once an hour if I’ve had any more contractions, as though I could hide them if they were for real.

I think I’m going into hiding until baby girl makes her appearance. Tomorrow I am going to the grocery to get a ridiculous list of ingredients to make a stupid amount of baked goods. Because if I don’t keep myself busy, I will go crazy. So I will bake. If you live in Raleigh, you may find yourself inheriting a bunch of baked items soon. And if you’re my sister, you just might find a care package at your doorstep too. And if you are our doctors and nurses at the hospital, whenever that happens, you will probably get lots of sugary treats for your efforts.

So if you need me over the next couple days, I will be baking.  Likely barefoot and pregnant… in the kitchen.  Wow.  I plan to try a few new things like scones and new muffins, and the old standards like banana bread.

If you have something to talk about besides the fact that I haven’t had this baby yet, feel free to call or come visit. Otherwise, I promise we will let you know, call, text, post pictures, etc, as soon as we can.

Just please don’t say to me “omg, you’re still pregnant???”. Consider this your friendly warning. 🙂

Soft Pretzels – recipe and results

12 Aug

So I saw this recipe yesterday on Joy the Baker’s blog.  It sounded so good that I just had to try it.  I am a bit of a carb addict, and right now they’re really the only part of the food pyramid that really appeals to me.  I know, that’s bad.  But so true.

So, to get my fix, I headed to the store to find the last couple ingredients that I needed.  Here’s the recipe as it was – I’ll put my notes and changes in another color so you have the original and what I learned through the process.

This could be a really fun thing to do with kids I think.  Let them roll the snakes of dough and sprinkle the salt… or whatever they are capable of.  It was definitely fun!  And YUMMY!

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pretzel salt or grill seasoning
1 heaping Tablespoon baking soda (add it to the boiling water just before throwing in the pretzel dough!)

Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).

Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. I found that I needed to flour the work surface for this too.
Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. I just rolled it in the air between my hands – I found it a bit easier.  Definitely flour your hands.
If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)

Preheat oven to 425  I found the temp and cooking time might need to come down – I’d try 400 degrees next time.
Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.
Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes.

Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil.
Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.  The baking soda will help the pretzels brown.  It will also kind of foam up quickly, so just watch out for your arms and hands.  You might get splashed with hot water… like me. Ouch.
Using both hands, carefully add 2 (maybe 3)  pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes.
Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet.
Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt.

Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes. Keep an eye on this – I only baked for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees, I think at 400 degrees, you might be able to go the full 35 minutes
Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm.

Also, I had trouble finding specifically “pretzel salt” – so I ended up using coarse Kosher salt.  It was pretty close – not exactly like the giant pieces of white salt you get on store pretzels, but close.  Definitely a better choice than regular table salt.

A Cool Summer Treat (or use that extra watermelon)

9 Aug

My parents came up last weekend for a baby shower, which was awesome. While all the ladies (me, my sister Rachel, my mom, and my grammy) all enjoyed the fun at the shower, my dad painted the guest/baby bathroom. Valiant of him, no?

Well, confession time… we didn’t come straight home from the shower. We passed the farmer’s market, and my mom had this look on her face that said “oh! the farmer’s market! please someone else say that they want to go to the farmer’s market! i want peaches and tomatoes and blueberries and squash and zucchini! i want to go to the farmer’s market!”

So naturally, I said, “Hey, anyone want to go to the farmer’s market?”

And so we did. And in addition to the peaches, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, etc., we also came home with a large watermelon.

And then my family left (after some car drama – transmission died in the driveway. awesome.), leaving behind a giant watermelon in my kitchen. So I started looking for recipes for watermelon things, because as I am the only one who eats fruit in this house (hoping that baby girl will change that eventually), I could not possibly down an entire watermelon myself. And I found this. It looked heavenly, considering my current and constant desire for all things frozen and fruity and just generally cold, so I tried it.

Watermelon Cooler Slushy
Ingredients

* 4 cups cubed seedless watermelon
* 10 ice cubes
* 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon salt

Seriously, the easiest thing ever. Just stick it all in the blender and blend it up. And it’s amazing. It definitely makes enough for at least 2 slushies, so make sure you have something to do with the rest. I had to toss mine, because it didn’t look like it would keep well as a slushy.

If you are a genius, like my friend Heather though, you would think to put it into a popsicle machine or molds or an ice tray and freeze it to eat later… or even just to cool off a fun fruity drink.

Also, if you’re not pregnant and can enjoy adult beverages without feeling guilty about it, you could add in something like citrus vodka or ooh even vanilla vodka and enjoy it at a great hot summer day’s cookout or something. Yum.

So anyway, you should just try it. I promise it’s delicious!