Thursday, April 28, 2011

'Real' Easter Egg Dyes

Though I totally didn't have time to dye eggs this year, I want to remember about this idea for next year. Go here for the link or read some of the coloring ideas below (in case the link goes dead later - I seem to have that problem for fun ideas like this).

Bluish-Gray: Mix 1 cup frozen blueberries with 1 cup water. Bring to room temperature. Remove blueberries.
Dark Pink: Cut 1 medium beet into chunks. Add beet to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 tablespoons vinegar. Let cool to room temperature. Remove beets.
Yellow: Remove the peel from 1 orange. Add peel to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 tablespoons vinegar. Let cool to room temperature. Remove orange peel.
Lavender: 1 cup grape juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar

Mint Honey Carrots

Well I probably haven't posted these yet cause they're so ridiculously easy. But I like them a lot and they're a quick side to throw on to any meal. Oh, and everything is 'to taste' so I guess it's not exactly a recipe but you get the idea.


Peel and chop carrots or use baby carrots. Boil until desired doneness. I like mine a little firm. Drain, return to pan with heat off and add a good dollop of butter. Stir around until butter is melted on hot carrots. Add a drizzle of honey to taste. Stir in. Sprinkle with dried mint and serve.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Just fyi - I'm moving this week so it may be a while before there are any new posts :)

Quiche Cups

I made mini-quiches in muffin cups because those little ones at Costco sounded sooo delicious. Plus, HF made them for a party recently and said they were really simple. She was totally right. They are a bit more work than throwing it all in a pie pan but I like the individual serving sizes - and the crust is definitely more forgiving. They're also more portable this way. It's possible I eat more of them tho...

2 recipes real pie crust
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
Assorted veggies
Butter or oil
12 eggs
1/2 cup cottage cheese or plain yogurt (opt.)
1/4 cup or more milk
salt and pepper to taste

Saute desired vegetables in butter or coconut oil or bacon grease until onions are translucent. For this batch, I used 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 1/2 a container of mushrooms, and 1/2 a bag of frozen spinach.

Meanwhile, line greased muffin cups with pie crust. I did this by rolling half of the pie crust at a time into a square and then cutting into 12 rectangles. Sprinkle cheese into the bottom of each cup. I usually use 1/2 Parmesan, 1/2 cheddar.

Whisk together eggs, cottage cheese or yogurt if using, salt, pepper, and enough milk to make the mixture pourable. Portion sauteed vegetables into muffin cups and pour egg mixture over the top. Bake at 375' for 15-20 minutes or until egg is cooked thru.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Brazilian Black Beans

These were a huge success. The recipe is very simple but they taste sooo much better than my usual black beans. And the consistency of the broth was perfect. I got the recipe here but I'll rewrite it so I can include my notes. Oh, and it makes a huge batch so cut it in half if you're wary. We'll probably get 4 meals out of this recipe. The Monkey goes to town on these.

2 lbs dried black beans
8 cups filtered water
4 oz bacon, chopped
1 TB coconut oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
sea salt

Soak dried beans in water overnight. You don't have to measure it - just enough to cover the beans plus a few inches of headroom for when they expand. Drain the beans in the morning and rinse. Add the beans with 8 cups filtered water to pot and bring to a boil. Simmer with the lid on for 1 hour 30 minutes or until softened.

In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove. Add additional oil and saute onion and garlic in the bacon grease and oil mixture until translucent.

Add bacon back in and then dump into bean pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. It will probably need a lot of salt. Turn up the heat on the beans and leave the lid off, stirring every few minutes, until the bean broth has reduced to desired consistency (about 20 minutes). Serve immediately or transfer to crockpot on low. Or get a decent stove that can handle a low simmer without turning off (note to self).

Notes: This was phase one of our experiment to recreate the Cafe Brazil executive lunch. The beans were a huge success. The rice from the same link above pretty much tasted like rice. And the skirt steak recipe we tried was less than stellar. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't what we were going for. I caramelized some onions in butter to go over the steak and those were fantastic. But yeah, still working on a copy cat version of their rice and steak. They also serve it with a mustardy pico and fried plantains but I'll wait to try my hand at those until the basics are up to par.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This is one of V's favorite dishes to make. It is yummy and fast. I'm still a bit squirmish about the egg but I'm coming around. It's from Mario Batali's Molto Gusto, pg 144.

5 oz pancetta, 1/2" strips
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TB coarse ground pepper
6 fresh large eggs
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup pecorino romano

Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 TB salt. Meanwhile, brown pancetta in oil in another pan over med-high. Stir in pepper and remove from heat. Separate eggs, keeping yolks intact. Drop pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente (mine takes about 5 minutes). Drain, reserving 2/3 cup pasta water. 

Add reserved water to pancetta and bring to a simmer. Add egg whites and cook, whisking 'furiously', until frothy but not set, about 1 minute. Add pasta, stirring to coat well. Stir in cheeses. 

Divide pasta among 6 bowls, making a nest in the center of each. Drop an egg yolk into each bowl and serve immediately, having guests stir yolk into hot pasta so it will cook. Garnish with additional Parmesan.

Notes: Go here for a recipe that's a little less eggy because it uses cream. I haven't tried it yet but want to soon. Thanks G!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Banana Cream Pie

This adventure started because of a VT apt. where TH had 'nilla wafers for the kids. So of course when I saw the all natural Vanilla Wafers at Sprouts, I had to put them in the cart. And when V saw that I'd bought vanilla wafers, he wanted to make the most delicious thing possible out of them - banana cream pie. So he did.

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 3/4 recipes Vanilla Pastry Cream
Whipping Cream
1/4 cup brown sugar (opt)
1/4 cup white sugar (opt)

Melt the butter. Mix with crumbs and pat into a pie plate. Bake at 350' for 10 minutes. Cool completely. Make Vanilla Pastry Cream (V makes a double batch and we eat what doesn't fit in the crust - you could probably get away with a single batch but why would you want to?). Pour warm pastry cream into cooled pie shell. Cool and refrigerate until cold - this will take at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, shingle the top of the pie with sliced bananas and serve with whipping cream.

If you have a culinary blow torch, sprinkle sugar on the top of the pie and blow torch it so it forms a little crust like on the top of creme brulee. You can use any kind of sugar but I've had the best luck with mixing equal parts white and brown sugar and leaving it out on a plate for 2-3 days to dry out. This takes some planning ahead though so it may not be worth it to you but it does form a much better crust than wet brown sugar. And rapadura didn't work well at all.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

Otherwise known as vanilla cream pie filling or pudding from scratch. V made this for his banana cream pie and we used some of it as a pancake topping. It's really good. This is from Professional Baking, page 252.

1 pint milk
2 oz sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1.25 oz cornstarch
2 oz sugar
2 TB butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Dissolve the 2 oz sugar in the milk and bring to just a boil. Whip egg yolks and whole eggs in a stand mixer. Sift cornstarch and other 2 oz sugar into eggs, whip until very smooth. Slowly pour in the hot milk in a slow stream with mixer on. Pour all into pan and return to heat, stirring constantly. When it boils and thickens, remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Mix until butter is melted and completely blended in. Cool and serve.

Notes: I highly recommend making Banana Cream Pie out of this. You can also stuff it into cream puffs (looks like I haven't posted this recipe - maybe I'll make it for Easter). Or eat it as pudding. Or add some melted chocolate for chocolate pudding. Or use it as a topping for pancakes. Yum.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fruit Pizza

This is V's mom's recipe and sounded like a great use of my leftover sugar cookie dough since strawberries are in season here. Delicious.

1/4 recipe sugar cookie dough (about)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 TB cornstarch
8 oz cream cheese
2 1/2 TB cornstarch
assorted fruit

For crust, pat out sugar cookie dough into a 9x13 pyrex. Bake at 350' for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely. Meanwhile, make glaze by whisking together OJ, sugar, and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and cool thoroughly. When ready to assemble, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar and slice fruit. 

Spread cream cheese mixture over cooled cookie crust. Top with sliced fruit. Pour glaze over the top and let chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Note: this doesn't keep well overnight once it's assembled - so only top as much of the crust as you plan on eating.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Soap Nut Dish Detergent

I ran out of dish detergent so I decided to try out a homemade recipe. I've read a lot of homemade dishwasher detergent recipes and decided that the only reason I'd bother is if I could make something safe and non-toxic (read: no borax). So the soap nut recipe I found here seemed ideal. I've been using soapnuts for laundry detergent for about 6 months now and have been really happy with the results. I'd never made the liquid soap though, so this was new to me. It was super simple:

15 soapnuts
6 cups water

Bring to a boil. Simmer 1 hour. Cool completely. Remove soapnuts. Store in fridge.

I used 2 TB in my dishwasher and it seemed to work fine the first run. Mostly, I didn't expect it to do anything so I was pleasantly surprised. I kept testing for about a week and the results were not great. I mostly blame my super crappy dishwasher though. I think if we had a good one, the soapnuts would be fine. Basically, if there was residue stuck to the plate, you could still see a little smear where it had been. I started scrubbing all my dishes thoroughly before loading them but before long, they were just piling up because I didn't want to bother with it. I felt like it disinfected and degreased well enough, it just didn't make my dirty dishes clean and I am way too lazy to scrub and pre-rinse everything before loading.

So at the end of the week, I bought another box of commercial detergent. When that runs out, I'd like to try this recipe and see if it works better. Or maybe after we move (in two weeks - yikes!), I'll give the soapnuts another try in the other dishwasher (which looks super old but maybe it works better). I'd love to hear if any of you have better luck with the soapnuts version. It is super cheap and non-toxic and if you're cool and have one, you can even compost the nuts.

Note: the post for the other recipe has been broken for a while so just in case it goes away again, here it is for future reference. (1/2 cup Dr. B Sal Suds, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp lemon juice, 3 drops tea tree oil, 1/2 cup white vinegar. Combine. Store covered. 1 TB per load)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Serious Steak

V read about a new method of making steak so we had to give it a try this weekend. Go here to read the in-depth post. My involvement was mainly roasting the potatoes and cooking the frozen peas. Which was awesome. Basically, you season the steaks the night before and put them on a rack in the fridge.

For future reference, leave garlic out of the rub and have a big, open container of baking soda in the fridge to soak up bad smells. And make sure there aren't any other open containers of things. Um, let's just say steak-infused OJ isn't nearly as good as it sounds. Despite the fridge casualty though, the steaks were seriously delicious. This method is a keeper.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

General Conference

We had a fantastic weekend watching General Conference. The Monkey did really well and spent almost all of Saturday's sessions decorating her butcher paper-covered table with markers. She loved it. Today we made puppets of the First Presidency. They even got a podium to speak from. It was fun.

I try to make GenCon feel like a holiday with food traditions - probably because in my head all family traditions revolve around food. haha. Anyway, homemade Egg McMuffins are definitely on top of my list for GenCon food. I made them Saturday morning and they were fabulous.

This morning I went with decadent pancakes and I think they may fill the seat of my Sunday morning GenCon tradition. V made some vanilla creme (fancy pudding) and dulce de leche from scratch Saturday night so we topped the pancakes with a little of that, some blueberries, and some whipping cream. They were great. They'd also be fantastic with just maple syrup, blueberries, and whipping cream.

Because breakfast was so filling, we had crackers and cheese with fruit for lunch. That might make it into tradition as well because it's so easy with minimal cleanup after a messy breakfast.

Do you have GenCon food traditions?