Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tahini Sauce

Considering I have a bunch of new cookbooks, I have no excuse not to make healthy things. I've made a couple salads which sounds lame but there was kale and some cooking and chopping involved and I made the dressings! So it totally counts. It also counts to be a grown up to make salads that aren't straight out of the bag (that was so 2012 of me). And I got to use more cherries for one of the salads.

Raw ingredients, fresh for the chopping
But this post is not about salads, it's about something called tahini. An accidental theme arose in my cooking but I guess that's what happens when you get recipes from the same source. I'm a fan of eggplant so looked for eggplant recipes. Plus, the picture looks pretty. Smitten Kitchen cookbook contains glorious pictures and I'm a definite picture person, if there isn't an image then I probably won't make it. Visual learner for the win. (Note: I tried to find the recipe online but I guess it's just in the book and I'm so far behind on blogging that I don't want to take the time to type the whole thing. Roast eggplant, add tahini sauce from carrot soup OR buy the book!).

Anyways, this eggplant has chick peas (oh look, a can of chickpeas from that time I wanted to make turkey chili but never got the recipe) and something called yogurt tahini sauce. What is tahini? I'm not sure but based on my Google search, it's kind of like humus. But it's not next to humus in the grocery store. A few laps around the grocery store later, I finally asked a person. I don't like asking people when I don't even know what it is. How would I begin to describe something I don't know about? Well, I happened to pick the one guy who knew what it was from a trip to India and he delved into a description of how it differs from humus (milder, apparently).

Surprisingly delicious and crunchy chickpeas
Back in the kitchen, I have 3lbs of eggplant, a can of chickpeas, some plain yogurt and tahini sauce. I was so proud of myself for getting exactly 3lbs. Note to self: half recipes. I thought I could save myself some dishes and put the chickpeas on the same tray as the eggplant. Now, I learned from previous experiments that the largest of my baking sheets doesn't fit in my oven. SO, we used the second largest--which barely held all the eggplant so two sheets it is.

That's a lot of eggplant...
Simultaneously, I decided to make carrot soup. I stumbled across this when I went to 'like' Smitten Kitchen on Facebook and bam! The post was carrot soup with chickpeas and yogurt tahini sauce. We have yet another theme.

Now remember, the last time I tried to make soup, blender disaster ensued. But now I have an immersion blender and it was amazing! I managed to fit the ingredients into the one pot (this is impressive for me). But this turned out delicious. And I had all this yogurt tahini sauce.

Oh my, blended into perfection and not all over my kitchen
I was afraid I overcooked the eggplant because really, how can I tell? The downside to this is I ended up with a whole lotta eggplant, 3lbs to be exact. I did manage to eat it but now I need a break from the purple plant again. I think every time I make something with eggplant, I make too much. Thai eggplant, roasted eggplant and goat cheese salad, and now roasted eggplant with yogurt tahini. And the carrot soup was tangy and delicious, quite surprising that it wasn't overwhelmingly carrot-y. 

Carrot soup complete with yogurt tahini sauce and chickpeas

I really must explore other vegetables. And halving recipes...

And roasted eggplant with yogurt tahini sauce (and chickpeas)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Maple, White-Chocolate and Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

It's the little things in life that make me feel like a grown up: doing my laundry, taking out the trash, paying my bills. Having all the ingredients to a recipe also makes me feel like a grownup. It actually makes me feel like a real grownup baking person, actually.

I swear this recipe was serendipitous. Remember the cherry scones? How could you forget, they were just posted. Well, I had left over cherries. And remember the mummy cookies from Halloween? Well, I had left over white chocolate chips from that. And remember when I need maple syrup? Yeah, I don't remember either but I have it in my pantry so obviously needed it at some point. And at this point, I always have oats. They are essential for such important things as oatmeal raisin cookies, Single Lady pancakes, and these delicious cherry maple white chocolate oatmeal cookies. That is not an easy thing to say and I will likely rearrange the order of the words a bunch of times.

Mmmk, bustin' out the big bowl for this one. Mind you, I decided to make these and roast eggplant and make soup all at the same time. Because I could and I had produce to make. But more on that later. Busy busy kitchen. In my haste, I didn't take many pictures but the batter looks really exciting with all of its oatmeal and chocolate and cherries.

So many glorious ingredients in happy harmony
These were delicious. I thought I loved oatmeal raisin cookies before but these guys are like grownup oatmeal raisin cookies (because everyone knows raisins aspire to be cherries when they grow up). They turned out a little bigger than I mean to make them, they definitely spread out more than regular oatmeal cookies. But that's okay because that meant that some of them broke in transit from the pan to the plate. Well, I can't just bring broken cookies to work now can I? Plus, I had to test the cookies to make sure they were okay. I definitely approve of these.

So I took them to work and they have oatmeal in them so was able to peddle them as breakfast cookies. Successfully demolished by lunch. And now I have used up some more things in my pantry which is good because at this point, I have 3 kinds of flour, 3 kinds of sugar, about 4 bottles of various vinegars and the list goes on.

The finished product, so yummy!
New resolution: focus my attention on recipes for things I already have. My budget and shrinking pantry space thank future me for this. (Note: my pantry is not a pantry, it's a cabinet. Just one cabinet that is shared with my bakeware and glasses and dishes. Space is super limited and well utilized).

Cherry Scones

I realized today just how long it has been since I posted about a new adventure in the kitchen. I swear, I have been cooking and baking up a storm but I've been so busy already into the new year that I haven't gotten around to blogging about it. And so, here we go!

In line with my resolutions, I did in fact make scones for the premiere of Downton Abbey. I also had tea to go with it but that's beside the point. I had put this recipe on my 'to bake' list after reading it in a magazine. I realize you can pretty much substitute any kind of dried berry for this but cherries sounded pretty good and overall these sounded pretty healthy.

Shiny new bowl
My track record with scones goes like this: cranberry scones with a friend made scone-making not so scary so I made pumpkin scones on my own and they tasted funny. So I guess the cherry scones were also going to be a tie breaker to see if scone making is worth pursuing.

Just a spoonful of sugar on top
I finally got new mixing bowls, ones that aren't made of plastic, so this was their maiden voyage! The scones were super easy to make (honestly, I don't know what I was so afraid of all these years). Unlike the other scones, there was not rolling, forming or cutting them into shapes involved. It was like making giant cookies but healthier (only 4 tablespoons of butter, it doesn't get much better than this). Since they are full of oats and cherries, I deem these healthy and therefore edible for Downton Abbey, breakfast and snack...and dessert. Scones all around!
Delicious pile of scones

They tasted especially good with whipped cream. Literally, I whipped the cream (tada, finally got an electric mixer) and provided the scones with a generous dollop. Perfect for pretending I'm sophisticated and British and delicious enough to distract me from my lack of 1920's wardrobe and jewelry.

Short and sweet, like making the scones....
Prepped and ready for Downton Abbey!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Harry Potter Treats

When I previously stated that I have a deep love for pop culture and the royal family, I think I should have expanded that to just be pop culture and British things. Harry Potter, the royal family, Downton Abbey, I guess I just feel very spiritually connected to my ancestors, even if they didn't and formed their own nation (America!). Britain is a great country, home of Harry Potter, the Beatles, David Beckham's left foot, David Beckham's right foot (awesome quote/scene in 'Love Actually', watch it). Did I mention Harry Potter?

This is hilarious, if you disagree then clearly your soul has been split into 7 pieces. And you have no sense of humor.
I am of the age that Harry Potter books started coming out when I was around 10 or 11, primo Hogwarts admittance age. And also the age where we had to wait for not only the movies to premiere but also the actual books. How's that for old fashioned? An actual tangible book, not an e-reader version or out on Blu-Ray (seriously, I have a tv with a built-in VCR) but an actual book with pages. At any rate, Harry Potter holds a very large and special place in my heart. If Rupert Grint asked me to marry him tomorrow, I would say "Bloody hell, you bet your 'arse I will! But we should have a long engagement so I can learn your middle name". This is all leading up to a point, I promise.

My obsession is apparent in my constant reference to and quoting of the books/movies and my purchasing the complete set of DVD's this year and posting a picture on Facebook. As such, my coworkers were smart enough to give me the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (Benoffi pie is real! Again, go watch 'Love Actually') and a mold for chocolate frogs. Where do you find a mold for chocolate frogs?? I don't know, I just got it in a secret Santa swap.

What is one to do with these gems? Coincidentally, attend a Harry Potter Yule party. Note: I said attend, not host which implies/means there are other people who love HP as much as I do and invited me to a party with Harry Potter Scene-It, party favors and treats. Luckily, I have no less than five pins on Pinterest with Harry Potter treats for such an occasion as this.

Just a liiiiittle messy....
The first item is clear: chocolate frogs. Nothing exciting here kids, you melt chocolate and pour it into the mold (I did spray it with non-stick spray just in case though). Item number two: a gloriously genius and possibly disastrous decision to make golden snitch truffles. This is awesome because they're truffles, they look like snitches and I actually get to use edible gold dust.
Mmm, truffles.
The recipe seemed simple enough, it was clear that truffles are awesome and easy if not messy to make. The issue would come when trying to make and attach wings. But let's take it one step at a time. After making the truffles (oh what do you know, I now own a hand mixer courtesy of Christmas) and letting them chill for a little bit, I dutifully dabbled gold dust all over them. I also had gold spray because the wings required it and the blog suggested I spray the truffles to set the dust. You're intelligent people, what happens when you spray air onto dirt? It goes everywhere. The same is true of edible gold dust. Literally gold dust went everywhere, like fairies had a New Year's rave in my kitchen. Days later, I was cleaning pixie dust off the top of my fridge. In fact, my computer screen still sparkles ever so slightly. Fortunately for my floor, I happened to drop a vase the next day which shattered spectacularly across the entire kitchen so I meticulously swept the floor on my hands and knees...and socks.

Mmm, shiny truffles...
I digress, yes, gold dust everywhere. Making the wings was challenging because I cut too big of a slit in the bag so chocolate oozed everywhere. There are, however, 4 corners to this bag so I cut a smaller one and then drizzling wing patterns wasn't so bad. I kept the wings small because I thought they would be less likely to break in transit. I didn't really count the wings though, I had already resigned myself to "it's the thought that counts" and knew some truffles would just be golden snitches curled up.
Snitches have flesh memory: you touch a truffle, you have to eat it.
At this point, I was late to the party and just decided to assemble some and go. I had already changed three times because honestly, what matches a Ron t-shirt from seven years ago? Not much but this is why I kept it, I knew one day I would say "why did I get rid of my Ron shirt? It would have been perfect!". This is how hoarding starts.

I'm not sure what's worse: that I own this t-shirt or that I took this photo 1.5 years ago and just had it around.
When attaching the wings, I tried to press them into the truffle dough but they sort of melted in my finger tips. Whoops. I did get some to attach and I only broke a couple. My point was made, my snitches were golden and glorious! The frogs also looked delicious, solid chocolate cannot fail.

Upon arriving at the party, I was happy to find other favorite Harry Potter treats: pumpkin pasties, treacle tart, licorice wands etc. My friend told me that in making the treacle tarts, she realized she only had Panko bread crumbs, not regular ones but decided that if it were me, I would just use the Panko and say it was okay. Sooomebody listens to my stories OR reads my blog (hiiiii!). I'm glad my impromptu and experimental ways are reaching you out there in the interwebs.

Chocolate frogs on their lily pad plate.
That was a long and somewhat rambling post but I hope it relays my happiness and excitement to check "Grown up Harry Potter party" off of my bucket list.

Mischief Managed.