Cranberry-Pomegranate Cosmopolitans

>> Friday, November 30, 2012


Cranberry-Pomegranate Cosmopolitans

Cosmos are the ultimate girlfriend drink. Sweet, fruity, with a touch of vodka, shaken and poured into an elegant cocktail glass, we ladies look cosmopolitan just holding one. That's why I'm serving this cocktail next week when I invite my girlfriends over for a chocolate candy party. We're going to make truffles, chocolate-covered pretzel rods, and chocolate cashew turtles while sipping these holiday drinks.

Don't worry, I'll be sharing all the party recipes with you. Bottoms up!

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened cranberry-pomegranate juice
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 ice cubes
4 orange peel twists for garnishes

Directions

Pour all the ingredients except orange peels into a large cocktail shaker. Shake briskly, then strain into four cocktail glasses. Rub the orange peel around the rim of the glass, then twist it and drop it into the glass.

Makes 4 4-oz. cocktails.

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Julia Child's French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

>> Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Julia Child's French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)


Angela has been wanting to write this post for a long time. Part of this desire is to share one of her most favorite foods, French onion soup, and re-promote it so that it will become trendy again and she can order it whenever she wants in a restaurant. Because if a restaurant does offer it, she is likely to turn down other promising foods to order soup instead.

This recipe is so much more wonderful than what you usually get in a restaurant or a can. While we have made a few alterations to suit our own tastes, the stock is unbelievably flavorful, rich and onion-y but not harsh, bitter, salty, thin, and grainy like its inferior cousins. The long slow simmering time is what gives this soup its richness. Julia offers several upgrades to the basic recipe, like poaching an egg in cognac under the slice of crusty bread and fine cheese, and if you want to change your life forever, you will try them all at least once.

Simmering French Onion Soup


We found her classic book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," years ago in an antique shop in Iowa. Joe always wanted a basic French cookbook and had a deep respect for Julia. Angela only knew Julia from the "Saturday Night Live" skit where Dan Ackroyd, playing Julia, gets drunk on cooking wine and cuts off his hand during a cooking show. Neither of us pay much attention to popular movies, so we were startled that Julia Child has become a household name again due to the successful movie "Julie and Julia".

Every Julia Child recipe should start out with the directions, "Take out all your pans and a pound of butter." So it is with this recipe. Make a large batch so you won't resent the dishes you will wash later.

Ingredients

6 cups thinly sliced yellow or Vidalia onions, divided in half
3 tbsp butter, divided in half
2 tbsp canola oil, divided in half
1 tsp salt, divided in half
1/2 tsp sugar, divided in half
3 tbsp flour
2 quarts boiling-hot beef broth
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 loaf of crusty French bread
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese

For Soup Gratineed with Cheese (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

2 oz. Swiss cheese, cut into slivers
1 tbsp grated raw onion
1 tbsp olive oil

For Onion Soup Gratineed de Luxe (Soupe Gratinée de Trois Gormandes)

1 tsp cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp Cognac

Directions

Melt half the oil and butter together in a large soup pot. Add half of the sliced onions, cover the pan, and cook them for fifteen minutes. Remove the lid, raise the temperature to medium, and stir in half the salt and sugar. Brown on all sides slowly for 30 to 40 minutes, until the onions are evenly browned and caramelized.

Sprinkle on the flour and stir for 3 minutes. Slowly pour in the boiling broth, stirring constantly. Next, stir in the wine or vermouth, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, covered.

In a frying pan, melt the other half of the butter and oil, and brown the second half of the onions in the same way. Add to the soup and simmer for 15 more minutes. This is where we diverge from Julia's recipe. Cooking two batches of onions will ensure a better texture for the soup, as the first batch of onions will now be rather soft and pureed.

Cut the bread into 1-inch thick rounds. Rub with the garlic clove, then saute in the olive oil.

To serve, place the bread rounds in the bottom of a soup bowl, and ladle the soup over it. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

For Soup Gratineed with Cheese (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare the soup as above and pour into an oven-safe bowl. Before serving, stir the Swiss cheese slivers into the soup. Top with the sauteed bread rounds, then the grated onion, then the grated cheese. Drizzle with the olive oil.

Place the bowl in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Set under the broiler for a few minutes, until the top is slightly browned. Serve immediately into separate bowls.

For Onion Soup Gratineed de Luxe (Soupe Gratinée de Trois Gormandes)

After completing the Soup Gratineed with Cheese steps, beat the cornstarch into the egg yolk, then the Worcestershire sauce and the cognac. Lift up the bread crust and remove a ladleful of soup. Slowly beat it into the egg yolk mixture.

Lift up the crust again and pour the mixture on top of the soup, then stir it gently into the soup.

Serves 6-8. 

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Low-Fat Cheese Enchiladas

>> Sunday, November 25, 2012


The week after a holiday, we're always feeling the urge to scale back our cooking and eat a bit lighter. What we love about this low-fat enchilada casserole is that we can throw this together in the morning before work (or the night before), pull it out in the evening, and relax while it bakes. Yum!

Ingredients

2 cups chopped white onion
1 tbsp oil
2 cups fat-free sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 1/2 cups fat-free sour cream
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
8 large flour tortillas
1 16 oz can red enchilada sauce (we like La Preferida or Goya brand; you can find this sauce next to the salsas)

2 cups chopped lettuce or cabbage
1 cup chopped tomato

Directions

Cook the onion in the oil until tender. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the 1 1/2 cups of cheese, the sour cream, and cilantro and mix well. Spray a casserole dish with oil, then spread 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the bottom.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until flexible. Spoon 1/8 of the cheese mixture in a line down the center of a tortilla, leaving room at all ends. Fold the bottom and top ends up over the mixture. Roll the tortilla up and place in the casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover the casserole with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil  and sprinkle with the last 1/2 cup of cheese. Cook for 15-20 minutes more, until the center is hot and bubbly.

Top with the lettuce and tomato before serving. 

Serves 4-6.

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Murbteig Pie Pastry

>> Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Murbteig Pie Pastry

I have to admit that I've always hated making pie crust. Like other cooking chores, such as handling raw meat, Joe was the one willing to coddle along a pie crust so that it wasn't worked too hard (and became tough), or split and crumbled in all directions.

But then Joe started working tremendous hours in his small business, and my craving for quiches and pastys (if you don't know what this is, the recipe is coming up soon) went unfulfilled. Around that time, I discovered this easy German pastry recipe that makes a flaky, delicate, full-flavored crust. Even better, it will handle just about any amount of rolling and primping and re-forming without getting chewy and hard. It absorbs fruit juices without getting soggy.

I'm smitten. I can't find enough reasons to roll out this dough. I hope you like it, too.

The recipe makes enough pastry dough for a double-crust pie. You can easily cut this recipe in half for a cheesecake, quiche or tart. If you're using this pastry to make a fruit pie, it's traditional to add a few drops of lemon oil or 1/4 tsp lemon zest along with the eggs.

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter (do not substitute)
2 large eggs

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Chop the butter into small pieces and sprinkle it over the top. With a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then mix them into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a smooth pastry. Wrap it in parchment or waxed paper and it let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, so that it's easier to handle.

Cut the dough in half and roll each half out into a circle, or press it into a pie plate or springform pan with your fingers. Prick the bottom with a fork. Add any filling to the pan before adding the top crust and pinching together the edges.

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Light Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

>> Monday, November 19, 2012


Light Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes


These mashed potatoes are fabulously creamy and flavorful without the heavy load of fat found in some of the traditional recipes - my grandma's mashed potato recipe called for a cup of whole milk and an entire stick of butter! Joe has been making this lighter version for years. Cutting back on calories while enjoying the full flavor makes it easier for me indulge in other holiday treats. Like pecan pie. Mmmmm.

Ingredients

8 cloves garlic
1 tsp oil
8 russet potatoes
2/3 cup fat-free cream
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp sage
Salt and Pepper

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off the tips of the garlic cloves and set them upright in a baking pan. This is easiest if you leave the cloves connected to the root at the bottom of the head of garlic. Drizzle the top with oil and roast until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into small chunks. Place them in a pot and cover with water. Boil the potatoes until they are fork-tender but not too mushy. Drain the potatoes well, then return them to the pot.

Squeeze the skins off the garlic and mince them. Stir them into the pot, along with the cream, chicken broth, salt and pepper. If you're waiting for other parts of your dinner to finish cooking, you can keep this on hold at a low simmer until you're ready to mash the potatoes. We like the smash them with a potato masher, but you can also mash them in an electric mixer.

Makes about 6 cups.

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Swank Holiday Pumpkin Bars / Pumpkin Cupcakes

>> Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanks, Dakota Callaway, for taking this picture for me.

These pumpkin squares are a yearly tradition in Jessie's boyfriend's family. Kim Swank was kind enough to give me her recipe, which I think works equally well as bars or cupcakes. I'm a huge fan of cream cheese frosting, and this one is amazingly smooth and creamy.

I plan to pass on the recipe on to my parents this Thanksgiving. Each year, my parents grow dozens of pumpkins on their farm for the grandchildren, and can quarts of pumpkins for the family. They are going to love these cupcakes for the holidays!

Ingredients

Pumpkin Squares

1 cup oil
I 28-oz. can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs, beaten

Frosting

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped


Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together all pumpkin squares ingredients. If you are planning to make pumpkin cupcakes, grease the cupcake tins or use paper baking cups. Divide the batter evenly between the cups. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If making pumpkin squares, grease a cookie sheet with sides and spread the batter in the cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool.

In an electric mixer, beat together all the frosting ingredients EXCEPT nutmeg and walnuts. The longer you beat it, the creamier it gets. Frost cake or cupcakes. Sprinkle the nutmeg and walnuts over the frosting. Cut into squares before serving.

Makes 12 cupcakes or 24 squares.

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Pecan Orange Sweet Potato Casserole

>> Friday, November 16, 2012


Pecan Orange Sweet Potato Casserole


Are you ready to start cooking for Thanksgiving? We're looking forward to all those special holiday dishes! For years, we made that traditional candied sweet potato casserole with the miniature marshmallows on top. The kids loved it. But now that we're all grown up, this velvety casserole with a bit of spice and a caramel-ly pecan topping is much more satisfying. It may sound odd to add a dash of cayenne, but wait until you taste the magic that it adds to these sweet potatoes.

Check back here for more Thanksgiving recipes, and at the end of the week, some recipes to use up all those yummy turkey leftovers.

Ingredients

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp grated orange rind

For the topping:

2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup Pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup Flour
6 tbsp butter

Directions


Simmer the sweet potatoes in a saucepan of water, or microwave them in water until they are fork-tender. Drain them thoroughly and mash them in a large bowl (we like them a little lumpy). Stir in all the rest of the ingredients. Pour it into an 8-inch square baking pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the topping ingredients with a fork until it is crumbly and well combined. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Make-Ahead Tossed Salad

>> Wednesday, November 14, 2012


It's time to think about Thanksgiving dinner - and until the big day, I'll be writing food posts that you can make for your family! If you're the one tapped to bring a salad, this is an easy bet because you can make it ahead of time.

This classic refrigerator salad recipe has been around forever. It used to be one of my favorites when I was young, and my girls used to request it all the time when they were kids. What I love about it is that you can make the salad days ahead of time and stick it in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve it. The dressing layer holds in the freshness and taste, and the vegetables stay crisp and tasty until it's time to eat. If you don't like any of these vegetables, add what you like.

This old-fashioned tossed salad is perfect for a holiday meal, since you can throw it together ahead of time and save your holiday day for something more fun, like stuffing a turkey or playing Outburst with rowdy family members or chasing toddlers around the house.

Ingredients

3 cups chopped iceberg or romaine lettuce
1 cup grated carrots
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup sliced onions
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup sliced mushrooms

Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp dill

Topping

1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese
2 green onions, sliced

Directions

Assemble the salad ingredients in a serving bowl, in the order listed. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Spread the dressing over the top of the mushrooms, making sure the dressing completely covers the mushrooms and seals the salad right up to the edge of the bowl. Sprinkle the topping ingredients over the top.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Just before serving, stir the salad until the ingredients are coated with dressing.

Serves 6-8 as side salads.



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Grilled Fish Tacos with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

>> Friday, November 9, 2012


Grilled Fish Tacos with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Joe has had a special place in his heart for fish tacos ever since a trip to Mexico over New Years' Eve week of 2000, right when everyone thought the world was going to end.

He was meeting a longtime group of friends in Puerto Vallarta, but came down a day early. He loves to travel without plans and reservations and lets the day take him where it will. A helpful cabbie found him a pleasant room for the night and he wandered around those beautiful colonial streets all afternoon. Dinner was the best tacos he ever had, right from a street vendor who grilled bass straight out of the bay and served it on tortillas his wife made that morning. He watched the sun slipping down over the water in golden flakes.

Things were much less tranquil the next day when his hard-partying friends arrived and swarmed the resort on the beach. That song "My Name Is Joe" was huge then, and in the nighttime beach bash with fireworks bursting overhead, they played it over and over, crowd pointing to Joe, who does sort of stand out in a crowd.

"What's my name? My Name is JOE!" they shouted, making a circle around him, pouring the drinks and dancing in the waves.

People kept asking him if he owned the resort, but he just said his name was Joe.


Ingredients

Black Bean and Corn Salsa


1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup tomato, chopped
2/3 cup corn kernels
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 tsp minced serrano pepper (or 2 tsp minced jalapeno)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt

Stir together all ingredients, and serve at room temperature.

Fish Marinade 

1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp grated orange peel
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Fish Tacos

1 lb. tender fish fillets (we use pollock, tilapia, bass, or swai, but use your favorite)
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
Juice of 2 limes
1 cup crumbled Mexican farmers' cheese (queso fresco)
12 corn tortillas

Directions

Whisk together marinade ingredients and pour over fish fillets. Marinate at least 2 hours, but as long as overnight.

Sprinkle the lime juice over the cabbage and toss to coat. Grill the fish on a medium-hot grill, liberally basting with the marinade. Turn the fish at least once during grilling. The fish is done when the flesh flakes when pierced with a fork. Chop the fish into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the tortillas on a dry griddle. Flip them and heat the other side when air bubbles start to form or the top side gets a little puffy. The tortillas are done when you can fold an edge in half and it does not crease or break. Wrap the warm tortillas in a kitchen towel.

Serve the fish with sides of black bean salsa, cabbage, tortillas, and cheese, and let each person build their own tacos.

Serves 4-6.

 





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Pork Roast with Sauerkraut, Apples, and Onions

>> Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pork Roast with Sauerkraut, Apples, and Onions

The German branch of my family came to Chicago in the early 1900s, and settled on the North side of Chicago in the Lincoln Square and West Rogers Park area. This are was heavily populated with German families, and the Hopfner branch of the family had a bakery at 4754 N. Lincoln Avenue where my grandmother worked as a kid.

My grandmother, Therese Detzner Tarr, was part of the first generation born in the U.S. Unfortunately, she came of age as World War II was beginning and anti-German attitudes were rampant. The trend was to assimilate into U.S. culture. I don't have a lot of German recipes, stories, or memories from the family, but one of my favorite meals from Grandma Tarr was pork roast with sauerkraut.

I've updated this recipe in a couple of ways. Joe, not growing up with much sauerkraut on his plate, doesn't like the strong tartness, so I drained and rinsed the kraut before cooking it. Also, I added apples and onions to the pot. It truly becomes autumn on a plate with these extra ingredients.

Ingredients

1 tbsp oil
3 lbs pork roast (any cut will do)
16 oz. sauerkraut
1 1/2 tsp carraway seed
2 cups yellow onion, thickly sliced
2 cups tart apple (Granny Smith, Jonathan, McIntosh), cored and cubed

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Brown the meat on all sides.

Drain the sauerkraut and lightly rinse, if desired. Place the kraut in the bottom of a roaster pan, Dutch oven, or large crock pot. Sprinkle with half of the carraway seed. Place the apples and onions on top, then place the roast on top of the apples and onions. Sprinkle with the other half of the seeds. Cover.

Roast in the oven for 1 hour at 350 degrees, or until meat is tender. Add a bit of water if the pot becomes dry. If using a crock pot, cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.

Serve by placing the fruit and vegetables on a platter, then topping with slices of the roast pork.

 Serves 6-8.

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Norwegian Poached Salmon

>> Friday, November 2, 2012



Joe, being true to his Norwegian roots, loves salmon and every other type of seafood he's ever tried. I'm a little more picky about strong-tasting seafood. I have heard the saying that you have to try something seven times (or twenty or thirty or whatever) before you develop a taste for it, but even though I tasted bits of Joe's salmon whenever he ordered it, I could never get past the strong fishiness.


When I took a Humanities course in the United Kingdom, I developed a bad ear infection in Inverness, Scotland. Left behind by my classmates, I wandered around the deserted hotel and watched the staff take down holiday decorations.

Marriott hotel, Inverness, Scotland
Marriott hotel, Inverness, Scotland

At lunch, the waiter told me they'd just gotten salmon that was caught the day before in Norway. I decided to try their poached salmon recipe, and really liked it. If you have trouble eating salmon, you might just like it this way, even if your salmon fillet wasn't swimming in the Atlantic a few hours earlier.


Highway in Northern Scotland

That night, our Irish bus driver attempted to heal me by ordering me a hot toddy of Highlands whiskey, hot water, lemon peel, and honey. I felt better until the next morning, when I made an appointment with a local doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics. Their public health system was top-notch. 

The Scots told me this is an authentic Norwegian staple recipe.You can skip the drizzle of melted butter if you're watching your fat intake.

Ingredients

2 tsp fresh dill
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth or white wine
1 bay leaf
4 4-6 oz. Norwegian salmon fillets
2 tbsp melted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Whisk together the dill, cream, anchovy paste, broth, and vinegar. Lay the salmon in a large skillet and pour the sauce over the fish. Break the bay leaf in half and lay it in the sauce. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat, and let it steam for 15 minutes, or until the fish is flaky when poked with a fork. 

Remove the bay leaf. Put the fish and sauce on a serving plate. Drizzle the melted butter over the fillets, and sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving. 

This is really good with Mushroom and Pine Nut Wild Rice Pilaf.

Serves 4.

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