Sunday, July 26, 2009

Martha's Alphabet Soup in 3 easy steps

Martha's Alphabet Soup6
You've probably seen the PBS Kids show Martha Speaks, but in case you haven't check it out! My kids are crazy about Martha!
And as I mentioned before in my previous posts they love to eat whatever people( or else) are eating in the movies they watch.
So, here is my Martha's alphabet soup, the soup that made the dog talk

* You take full responsibility if feeding it to your dog! All of the consequences if it does or doesn't start speaking are your responsibility too, because the soup is intended for dog loving humans only. :-)

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You will need:

4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 tbsp finely chopped carrots
2 tbsp finely chopped green peppers
1 cup alphabet noodles

1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
3 quarts water
salt, black pepper to taste

1/2 cup milk
4 eggs ( for 4 servings)
fresh dill ( for decoration)


Preparation:

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the onions, carrots and green peppers.
When the onions are golden in color, add the alphabet noodles. Stir well at all times.

2. When the alphabet noodles look "glossy" on the surface, add the tomato paste,crushed tomatoes and water. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Stir well.

3. When the alphabet noodles are ready, add the 1/2 cup of milk while stirring constantly with a large spoon. Take the soup off the stove, place a lid on it and let is stand for 5-10 min.
Serve hot!

Optional: boil the eggs and decorate the plate. Chop the dill and add to the soup if you like it.


Enjoy!

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

For the cast iron fans- Chicken with pearl onions

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I've told you before I fell in love with my cast iron pan the first time I used it, but I haven't posted new things made with it. It so happened I could never take pictures of the things I made in it, until today!

We had an awesomely flavorful chicken for dinner!

You will need:

1 lbs boneless chicken tights (fillet)
1 small bag pearl onions ( around 3 cups)
1 cup very small baby carrots
2 cups baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup lemon thyme ( it has unbelievable flavor, very light an lemon-y)
black pepper
salt
olive oil

Preparation:

Preheat the oven at 375 F.

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Place your cast iron pan on the stove and heat it gradually ( as I explained before),then add the olive oil. When hot enough, place the chicken skin down and sprinkle the top with salt and black pepper.

Turn the chicken in the pan( skin up) and then sprinkle with salt and black pepper again.Wash, don't cut and add the onions and carrots.

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Wash and cut the mushrooms , then add them with the lemon thyme.

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Bake in the oven for 20 min ( or until the meat is 185F), covered with aluminum foil. When ready serve hot.

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As a side dish I've used redskin potatoes baked with beer and herbs and with sprinkled Parmesan on top. I'll post the recipe if somebody is interested.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sour cherry compote

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If you are like most people in the US and you you don't have an idea what a compote is, here is the definition from Wiki for you. :-)
Basically, it's a fruit preserve that you make similar to jelly, but it's liquid and you can drink it afterwards as a juice.

It so happens that my all time favorite compote is sour cherry. Remember how in the previous post I told you about the farm and the cherries that we picked?
Well, the same place had sour cherry trees and I just couldn't resist! It was funny, because nobody was picking wild cherries ( you know how sour are they when they are fresh) and people were looking at us like we are crazy, because we got 2 large bags :-).

Anywho, I love cherries
and I hope you do too...
as dr. Seus says.

You will need:
2 lbs sour cherries
10 empty jars ( the tall ones, I think they are 16oz)
70 tbsp sugar ( 7 tbsp for each jar)
water

First of all, wash thoroughly the sour cherries with water. Don't take the pits out, the compote tastes better if you leave them in the cherry.

Then wash the jars with warm water and soap. Divide the cherries equally between the jars, then add 7 tbsp of sugar to each jar. Fill up the jars with cold water ( not to close to the lid) and place the lids on. Make sure you've secured the lids tightly!

In a large pot place the jars with the lid up and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and count 20 min from the moment the water starts boiling.

When the 20 min are up, take out the jars very carefully and place them in a towel bottom side up. Leave them like that overnight.

The next morning check the lids and if some are not closed, you can open and eat it right away, or you can store them in the refrigerator for a week. Otherwise you can store them for 8 months. I recommend opening the first jar not earlier than a week after you make them, they taste better as time goes by.

When you open a jar you can combine with a seltzer or with regular water if it's too sweet for you, or you can drink it just like that.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Time for preserves- White cherry jam

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You are so lucky! Thanks to one of Alex's colleagues, we found this awesome farm that allows you to pick your own cherries, plums, apples, all kinds of berries, cucumbers, onions, zucchini etc.
We went last weekend and the kids had a blast! It was their first time picking up cucumbers and they loved it! :-)
My biggest surprise was that the farm had white cherries as well! I haven't seen them at the store since we left Bulgaria. One of my favorite jams ever is caramelized white cherries.I cannot but share this recipe with you.

You will need:
600 white cherries ( 2.6 lbs)
4 2/3 cup water
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. citric acid


In a large pot caramelize the sugar until the caramel is very light amber color.
Add the water and bring to a boil until the syrup is as thick as heavy cream.

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While the syrup is thickening, grab the cherry pitter and have fun ;-)
If you are looking for a good one, try this one:



If a 3 year old and a 6 year old can use it, it's good. I am so lucky they did almost all the cherry pitting for me. :-)

After the syrup is ready, add the cherry and boil until the color is medium amber. Don't forget to stir often, but be careful not to squish the cherries, because they are supposed to hold their shape.


* You can check if the the jam is ready when you place a drop in a dry plate. The drop is not supposed to separate on thick jam and watery substance, it should be homogeneous.


10 min before the jam is ready, add one teaspoon citric acid and stir well.
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Fill the jars with jam and turn them to stay on their lid couple of hours. When the jars are completely cold, bring a pot full of water to a boil and boil them for 10 min each, then place them again on their lids until completely cold.

Although you can eat the jam right away, it tastes better in a couple of days.
Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a sin to confess!
I have NEVER EVER baked chocolate chip cookies before!
Yep, that's right!
Not that I don't like them, I LOVE THEM! But in my country they are not popular and I thought of them as something extremely hard to make.
Since I got this AMAZING book ( "The Dessert Bible" by Christopher Kimbal) for my birthday though, I decided I will give it a try, and guess what!
THEY ARE PURELY G-E-N-I-U-S!!!

The recipe that's in the book claims to be the fruit of a long and thorough research and testing ( more than 50 variations) and I have to tell you, I believe it! This is not just any cookie, that's the BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE I've ever tried and believe me, I've tried a lot! :-) Don't be fooled that just because I didn't bake them, I didn't eat them! My weight scale can confirm that! :-)

So, I just couldn't but give you the recipe, because it's a life-saving miracle for moms in this sugar-induced-coma season!
The recipe is for 20 large cookies ( I doubled that the first time, because I was sure that there wouldn't be any left for me to test bake on different temperature).
We liked them so much that I had to make 6 rolls with cookie dough in a plastic wrap and put them in the freezer to store!
Basically, from one dose you can have 20 large ( 30 small) cookies or 3 plastic wrap rolls for storage.

Please, be sure to follow the EXACT instructions for best results!
Ingredients:
1/4 Cup Crisco
8 tablespoons ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but still firm, I will tell you more about this later)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 ounces chocolate chips ( chunks are preferred over chips though)

Now the author explains wonderfully how you should find out if your butter is the right temperature - use a thermometer! :-) But if you don't have one, you can take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it stay for 2 hours outside The author says it is enough time to reach the right temperature- 65F degrees.
There is a whole scientific explanation of the process about butter creaming( as pretty much about everything in this book, it's just unbelievable!) but basically the butter stick has to be able to bend, but not to be soft.
Be sure to use wooden spoon to mix the batter, since the mixer is gonna turn it into soup.

1. Take out your butter at lest 2 hours before mixing the dough.
2. One hour before mixing, take the eggs out of the refrigerator too.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.
4. Beat the Crisco and butter in a medium bowl until pretty smooth but with a few harder pieces( about 1 minute)
5. Add the sugars and stir until well blended.
6. Add the egg, egg white and vanilla and beat until smooth.
7. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt ( I have to tell you I didn't do this, since I've always mixed the baking powder and salt with the batter before I add the flour and it worked for me)
8. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix together.
9. Add the chocolate chips and fold in ( it's better with chocolate chunks, but if you don't have, chips is OK.)

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. In the original recipe the author says that if you want large cookies you have to place heaping tablespoons dough on the paper with 1 1/2 inches between the outer edges of the balls of dough. What I did was, I placed the dough on plastic wrap and rolled it in it. then I left it in the freezer to harden up a little bit and then cut in circular pieces.
In the original recipe the cooking time is 12 minutes or until tops are lightly browned ( and you have to rotate the pan front to back halfway trough baking). I found that 12 min baking and 1 min broiling works just fine for me, but all ovens are different so I recommend you do some testing on your and find out the best timing. I baked different batches, so I can see the difference in the timing and the way the cookies tasted afterwards.
DO NOT overcook!
They are going to be crispy and that's not the point!
The good cookie is crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside!
Remove the cookies from the baking sheet immediately. Let them to cool down.
If you cooked the cookies properly, they would stay chewy for at least 2 days!
Enjoy and don't forget to check out the book!

Tanita's Pumpkin Cookies


2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg( powdered)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup melted butter( 8 tablespoons=1 stick)
1 cup mashed pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

First mix the dry ingredients together - the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, the cinnamon, the nutmeg and the salt. Next mix the butter and sugar in a big pan and add the mashed pumpkin, the egg ant the vanilla. Stir until well blended. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Stir thoroughly until well blended.

* Now my personal experience shows that if you are using freshly mashed (baked or boiled) pumpkin there is a difference in the cookie dough afterwards. If you are going to use canned pumpkin I would recommend using 2 cups of flower instead of 2 and 1/2 cups.
Preheat the oven at 350F and place the dough with a teaspoon on parchment paper in a pan. Bake 15 min at the same temperature. When you take the cookies out of the oven , leave them 2 minutes in the pan and then put them on a rack ( or parchment paper) to cool down.
My friend's original recipe is with a glaze, but I used chocolate instead. You can make different cookies- with glaze, dipped in chocolate and then roll on chopped walnuts ( see the picture), covered in chocolate and with a pecan on top ( see the picture).
This recipe makes around 40 cookies.

The icing glaze recipe:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all the ingredients together ( I recommend sifting the powdered sugar beforehand). If the glaze is ticker so you can't spread it- continue to add milk one teaspoon at a time and see if the mixture is spreadable.

The chocolate glaze recipe:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped chocolate( chocolate chips also works)
1 teaspoon butter

Mix in a pan and melt on the stove on warm. Stir thoroughly. When well blended and dark brown on color, take the cool cookies and either dip half of them and then roll over chopped walnuts, or cover them with chocolate on a rack and place a pecan on top.
Leave them on the rack until the chocolate is completely cool.

For people speaking Bulgarian, here is Tannita's recipe website:
http://www.gotvetesmen.com/forum/index.php?topic=307.0

Enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pudding "Day&Night" with raspberries

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When I was very little ( 6-7 years old) we lived closer to one of the first big super stores in my city.
The store had a small cafe, that was selling also puddings in plastic cups. My mom, as good as cook as she is was so against me buying anything that can be made at home, but she just didn't understand how this simple pudding in plastic cups looked in my eyes.

The bottom layer was yelow-ish white, the top was chocolate brown and on top of that there always were 3 raspberries. The pudding was sitting in the cups for so long, that it shrunk a little, the raspberries began to look mushy and their juices were leaking on top of the pudding, but to me, it looked like the best thing ever. :-)
This is one of the things that reminds me of how life was when I was little, when simply, ordinary things like the good old pudding were enough to make me happy for a day.

Later, when I grew up I started making this kind of pudding at home, and it's still one of my favorite combinations between pudding and fruit, although my puddings are million years better tasting than the one from my childhood.
This year I made it for the first time for my kids and they loved it!
I hope you enjoy this delish as much as I do! It's not only wonderfully tasting, but it's easy to make, cheap as you can get and fast to make( the whole thing takes no more than 15 min)!

You will need:

1 package Jell-O vanilla pudding


1 package Jell-O chocolate pudding

*Note:the prices in the link are for 24 boxes, you get 4 servings from 1 box, just look for it in your local store, it's $2-$3 a box
4 cups milk( or water, or heavy whipping cream, it depends on how light you want the pudding)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
5 tablespoons sugar

* Makes 4 ( large!) servings

Preparation:

Place the fresh raspberries in a cup and sprinkle the sugar over the top and leave them in the refrigerator until the sugar is dissolved.

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In a large mixing bowl prepare the vanilla pudding according to the instructions on the back of the package ( just mix with milk or watter and beat for 5 min with a hand or stand mixer).
Pour in tall glasses and let it stand for 5 min in the refrigerator.
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Repeat the preparation process with the chocolate pudding, then with a spoon transfer it in the same glasses over the vanilla pudding. Be gentle, so they don't mix!

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Before you serve, add a tablespoon ( or 2) of raspberries on top of the pudding.
You can garnish with whipped cream and cocoa beans. Serve cold!
Enjoy!


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Friday, July 10, 2009

The cookies with a lot of names

RussianTeaCakes8

You might know them as Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian tea cookies, Snow balls etc, but no matter how you call them, they are still the same unbelievably delicious treat, that seduces your over and over again.
No matter how many I make, they are never enough and I would be eternally grateful to my friend Tanita, that introduced me to the recipe 2 years ago.

Not only they are delicious, but they are one of the most foolproof, effortless and easy cookies I ever made. I just cannot not share with you! :-)

You will need:

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
more powdered sugar to roll the cookies in

Makes 30 pc.

* I usually make at least 3 times the recipe because they GO really fast!

RussianTeaCakes1

Preheat the oven at 400F.

In a stand mixer beat the butter until light and fluffy, then gradually add the powdered sugar. Beat on medium ( to low) until the sugar is Incorporated, then switch to high for a minute or so.

Add the salt, vanilla and beat with the mixer again. When you have smooth batter, add the sifted flour and then add the walnuts.

Divide the dough in 30 pieces.
Bake for 12-13 minutes ( 400F) on a piece of parchment paper ( ungreased!).
When the cookies are ready, take them out and while they are still hot, roll them over in the powdered sugar.
Have in mind that these cookies are supposed to be very light color, do not overbake them!
Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Puff pastry breakfast rolls

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This is one of the easiest ways you can have a warm, delicious and cheep breakfast. My kids just adore these rolls and I always keep a sheet of puff pastry in my freezer for the mornings I am in a hurry but want to feed them something delicious.

You will need:

1 pkg. Pepperidge Farm Puff pastry

1 egg

1 cup feta cheese( you can use goat cheese or fresh farmer's cheese instead)

1/2 cup shredded cheddar ( yellow)

sesame seeds for sprinkling on top

* Of course if you like homemade puff pastry, go ahead and make it yourself.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a large mixing bowl mix together the egg, the feta cheese and the cheddar.

Take the 1st sheet puff pastry out of the box and spread half of the filling on top of it. Make it as even as possible, then roll the sheet inwards lengthwise.

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Now, I know that on the box of the puff pastry it states you are supposed to bake it on an UNgreased cookie sheet, but my experience have thought me that if you are not using parchment paper underneath, the dough will stick enough, so when you try to take it out, because it's very crispy and light, it will start falling apart in your hands.
So, either lightly grease the cookie sheet, or place a piece of parchment paper underneath.

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With a very sharp kitchen knife cut 1 inch thick rolls. Place on the cookie sheet, sprinkle with sesame and bake 15 min ( or until golden on top) on 375F.
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Serve warm!

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