web analytics

Archive for How To

::indulgence:: Whipped Cream

pumpkin_9172

I am honestly ashamed of how long it has been since I have last posted. I admit, I haven’t cooked much in the past couple months. Life got the best of me and completely took over. At least I had time for a bit of baking over the holidays.

We’re now settling into our new home and the adventures of ownership have begun. Today we were supposed to have a new refrigerator delivered. As I am sure you can assume from the supposed to…it did not happen. Luckily, my new dishwasher arrived in perfect condition last week, so maybe now the time spent hand washing dishes can go back into blogging?

The saddest part for me of the new fridge not arriving? In an attempt to make leftovers tonight, I discovered the old fridge has progressed from inconveniently sucky to ruining food. The leftovers I had intended to heat were apparently in the line of fire for an ice melt, and they were full of yucky water.

What better way of making a bad day go away than a slice of homemade pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream on top.

I have to thank photographer Joy Moody for my newest obsession. Not just whipped cream, but whipped cream with confectioner’s sugar. And using the leftovers in my coffee. I don’t have a specific recipe for you. Whipped cream for 2-4 is about 1/3 cup heavy cream, a big spoonful of sugar, and a pour of vanilla extract. I use my Bamix to make it in a flash with no mess. And then I happily lick the blender clean while PTB thinks I am still slaving away making real whipped cream.

I would tell you my new year’s resolution is to get back onto posting everyday, but seriously… I am having a baby in two months. I am not going to let myself down. But I am going to try and get back into the swing of things.

::how to:: Cut a Butternut Squash

squash_8826
I’ve been slow getting back into things. Everything in life is changing so rapidly. We’re moving soon, so that will put a whole new spin on things. I will have an entirely different kitchen to get used to. I am beyond excited about most of the kitchen, I have just become quite spoiled by my current one and will be sad to leave my ceramic-top stove behind (I am a MESSY cook, I need easy cleanup).

While life seems to be spinning around and I can’t catch up, we have still managed to fit in cooking a few times in the past week. Getting pulled away for paperwork constantly is a reminder that life may not be so easy when a baby comes, so I am doing my best to adjust. The best part of my first trip back to the grocery store was the reminder that just because Summer is ending, doesn’t mean there won’t be anymore fresh fruits and veggies. Autumn is the harvest season for a reason, and it brings with it a whole new menu!

It’s getting to be that time of year where I want to make soup all the time. If I ever needed any kind of surgery that required a liquid diet after, I would need it to happen during the winter. I am a soup fanatic. First soup of the Fall this year was Roasted Butternut Squash. Typically, I would be buying the precut, save myself some time, package of squash. But the lack of this package at the grocery store, the pile of gorgeous squash, and the goal of trimming the grocery bill, led me to pick one up. It’s soup time. But first I needed to learn how to cut it into those perfect cubes.

Things to keep in mind – If you are roasting the squash, the skin will soften. Peeling it is entirely unnecessary in that case. But, I’ve included it to cover my bases.

Use a sturdy vegetable peeler if you are going to peel the squash. Top to bottom is easiest. And don’t worry about bits you miss, if you need to, you can slice them off easily once you cut up the squash.

Once peeled, cut off the top and bottom of the squash. The main reason I cute the bottom as well is to have a completely flat bottom for stability when I slice through. You need a good knife to slice through, right down the middle.

Scoop the pulp and seeds. If you want, remove the pulp from the seeds and roast the seeds. Otherwise, toss all that stuff. Slice the halves of the squash to your desired thickness.

Cube and enjoy. Feel free to take care of this step for recipes a day or two ahead of time. Just be sure to store the squash in an airtight container in the fridge.

::super snack:: Quick & Easy Guacamole

guac7772

So you are still debating about what to take to the July 4th picnics this weekend? You are already taking sweet mango salsa on Saturday and want to change it up in case you see the same people Sunday? Of course! That must be the problem!

Good guacamole is expensive. Buying some to take isn’t the most cost effective thing. And with the unemployment rate out of control, everyone wants to impress for less. The bright side, is good guacamole is also cheap to make! Think under $4 for ~2-3 cups of guacamole cheap. And you get to brag that you made it.

The other bright side… tweak it to be exactly what you want. This is for a single batch (perfect snack size for 2-4 people, but feel free to double or triple to take to your picnic!)

What You Need:
1 avocado
1 small-med tomato
1 jalapeno
1/2 lime
bit of cilanto

Scoop avocado into bowl. Peel, seed and chop tomato and add to bowl. Core and seed jalapeno and mince. Add to bowl. This is obviously a discretionary amount depending on your tastes. We like about $.12 worth of jalepeno for a bit of kick. 🙂 Juice the 1/2 lime into the bowl (also discretionary, feel free to start with a quarter lime and test from there). Chop however much cilantro you want 🙂

Mush everything up with a fork. Keeping the pit in the bowl helps the avocado from browning. If you aren’t using it right away, cover it tightly with saran wrap and store in the fridge.

Yields: ~1-1.5 cups

::super snack:: Vietnamese Salad Rolls

saladroll7260

One of my favorite things from PeiWei is the salad rolls.  The problem is, we are never picking up just a snack from there, and if I order them for dinner it is not enough.  If I order them with dinner, I end up with too much.  I saw a picture of un-fried spring rolls somewhere along my food blog journeys and of course immediately started craving salad rolls. The learning had to begin!

I set out to the grocery store to pick up just a “few things”.  I ended up buying all the supplies for the salsa I was making PLUS all the supplies to make salad rolls. But really the best part of these is that you can put in whatever you want.  I am planning to try a dessert version soon.  I made this first batch for lunch and kept them fairly simple. Since the stuffing can really be anything, and there are a ton of wrappers in the package, these are definitely a new “make anytime snack” for me.

Necessities: Rice Stick Noodles and Spring Roll Wrappers.

Stuffing: I used lettuce, 1 carrot (shredded), 1/2 cucumber (seeded & shredded), and ~1 cup bean sprouts.  A bit of cilantro would have been great too, but I was ravenous and it slipped my mind.

The rice noodles and rice paper were the learning experience for me.  I had tried rice noodles before and failed miserably.  I only used about 20% of the 6oz package of noodles.  I had to cut them apart with scissors. I brought a small pot of water to a boil, put in the noodles and immediately turned the heat down to low.  They were in the pan for maybe 4 minutes, and I took them out with tongs, placing them on a plate.

Next, I poured the cooking water into a large baking dish (something big enough for the wrapper).  You want the water to be hot, but you want to be able to stick your hands in it.  Using tongs for this part was a little trickier.  I had a much easier time with my hands.  Unfortunately though, this means no pictures.

In the baking dish, one at a time, place the wrapper into the water.  I found it easier to use my hands to make sure the wrapper didn’t curl on the edges. My best rolls were the ones I kept flat the whole time. It does not need to stay in the water long, just long enough to become pliable.

Place on a working surface, and fill with whatever you like.  Just like a burrito, fold over, tuck in the sides, and then finish the roll.  The rice paper is sticky, so it will seal itself shut.

To keep them from drying out or sticking to a plate, put them onto a damp paper towel.  These are best eaten immediately, but I wanted to save one for PTB so I simply wrapped it in a damp paper towel, stuck it in the fridge, and it was still perfect 8 hours later 🙂

I like the salad rolls with peanut sauce. Next time I might try it with a ginger miso dressing PTB and I really enjoy!

YUM! One carrot and 1/2 cucumber was the perfect amount to fill 4 good size rolls.

::how to:: Cut a Mango

mango7261

I am determined to use mango more. Since I wanted to make a salsa with mango and fennel (coming soon!), I had to figure out how to buy and cut a mango.  It was something I had never done myself. I took advantage of my iPhone and Googled how to buy a mango while I was at the store. If that’s what you came here looking for, look for one that is more of a football shape than flat.  A yellow-red color indicates a ripe mango.  It should smell sweet, but not to sweet.  Not too bad.  If it is still green, you can pick it up and let it ripen on your counter until you need it.

As for cutting it. I got home. I stared at the mango. I had no idea what to do. I had to call on the help of Google again. A mango has a flat pit in the middle. It makes it the most ridiculous fruit to cut.

Lay it on one of the flatter sides and slice the mango lengthwise along the side.

If I wanted to cube the mango (which I did for the salsa), treat it sort of like an avocado.  Cut into the mango, without slicing through the skin. You can simply flip it inside out and slice off the pieces.

Congratulations! You just sliced your first mango 🙂