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Archive for Cooking

::buy this:: Jalfrezi Simmer Sauce

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The first few months of pregnancy I was lucky enough to not get too sick. And really my cravings weren’t out of control. I like to think I was just really good at listening to my body. For the first few weeks I lived on pizza and curry take out. It was an expensive month. In my first few attempts to go to the grocery store, I wondered the prepared foods aisle and came across a curry simmer sauce I had not noticed before.

We have been crazy about the Chicken Korma from our favorite Indian place Tiffin. Eventually I will try to make some myself, but theirs is just so good. And driving to go get it makes it so easy. In the meantime, while my laziness is getting the best of me and the takeout bills are getting too high, I have been experimenting with anything Korma I can find in the grocery store. Let me just tell you right now, nothing has come close to Tiffin’s.

The Seeds of Change Korma sauce is a great starter curry. If you want to introduce someone to curry and their fears of it being too spicy or smelly or just gross in general… this may be the way to go. It is a sweet curry and very coconut-y. Not at all what I was looking for in my curry. For me it wasn’t the one. PTB still enjoyed it, but since we both have to eat, that may be a no-buy for us in the future.

Despite the unsucessful night with the Korma simmer sauce, I was willing to give Seeds of Change another chance. They had a Jalfrezi simmer sauce calling my name. With no promises to be sweet or mild this “Medium-Hot” sauce lived up to its description. Was it as good as making a jalfrezi dish from scratch… that could be arguable. It has been a while since I made jalfrezi. Was it beyond easy and so worth it? Yes.

When I poured the sauce into the pan, I was expecting a smooth liquidy sauce to come out. I was thinking, maybe next time I will pick up some peppers to throw in. Unnecessary. Peppers and Onions were in the sauce. It was incredible. My only recommendation would be to skip the sautéing the chicken first. Just let it cook in the sauce so it absorbs all the flavors.It oonly makes preparing this dish easier.

Now I need to find a store that carries their Madras and Tikka Masala simmer sauces and I will be set. Or I could just buy it on Amazon and have it shipped to me. Oh Amazon Prime, I adore you.

::savory soup:: Roasted Butternut Squash

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I like to think that the weather has officially changed. The few 90+ degree days we had last week have passed, and it hasn’t stopped raining in a few days. Oddly enough, except for the horrible drivers it seems to bring out, this is one of my favorite things about Fall. When things seem to really transition. Rain is no longer cooling you off and welcome. Everyone thinks it is dreary, and yes, it is a bit gray, but the air feels so clean and crisp. It is irresistible. I know sunny days with crisp air are right around the corner, so I will take the rain. Make those pumpkins grow!

Speaking of pumpkins… did you know that the butternut squash is referred to as the butternut pumpkin in New Zealand? Fun fact of the day ūüôā I don’t know that I was exposed to squash of any sort enough as a child. I was hesitant to eat anything that involved it except pumpkin pie. Oddly enough, I’m not that crazy about pumpkin pie as an adult. Now it is a different story. PTB may go crazy with the amount of squash-related recipes I have hopes for this fall.

This soup was perfect for a lazy night. There is so little work involved, but you do need to be around while the oven goes for almost an hour.

What You Need
Step One

~ 4 cups cubed butternut squash (my whole squash was 3lbs)
4 large shallots, peeled and halved
1″ piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt
Step Two
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use veggie brother for a vegan soup)
Step Three
fresh chives
cracked black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Combine all step one ingredients in a foil lined baking dish. Roast for approximately 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes. If you have an immersion blender, combine roasted veggies and stock in a large pan. Blend away until you have your desired consistency.

If you do not have an immersion blender, go buy one. Or, you can combine the veggies and stock in a blender in batches, and pour into a pan.

Cover and heat through over a medium heat. Serve topped with cracked pepper and chives.

Are you warm and cozy yet?

Serves: 4-6   Cost: ~$2/serving (4 servings)

::kitschy kitchen:: Not Just Plain Vanilla

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Last week I finally made the lavender cupcakes I have been dying to try. I don’t know why I was so excited about the idea of cooking with lavender. I had never thought of it as something edible, but it just sounded perfect. I found the Silver Cloud Estates Lavender Extract and I was on my way. Their extract is amazing. The flavor does not cook off or freeze away. This makes it perfect for baked treats or frozen delights (I can’t wait to have an ice cream maker!) Just opening the bottle is like filling your kitchen with a little bit of heaven. My favorite part of the cupcakes was that they were a huge hit, but no one knew quite what is what that they liked about them. Since it was such a different flavor, they couldn’t pick it out. The best was that it wasn’t overly obvious either. PTB was convinced the floral flavoring was from the purple icing. My sister-in-law thought the same thing, and thought the green ones tasted different ūüôā

Anyway, enough about those cupcakes! Have I said enough to make you want to try them yet?

Today, I returned to Village Spices and sought out more fun extracts. I narrowed down the choices to almond, coconut, and rosewater (the company sells cardamom extract too! but the store did not have any). Eventually I will have them all of course ūüôā I just wish I could test them more easily. These 4 oz. bottles will last forever!

So today I bought the rosewater extract. I am envisioning a summer of Rosewater Lemonades and a variety of other new experiments. I am excited to make some cookies using the rosewater extract and some cardamom (PTB’s favorite spice). Rosewater is popular in Middle-Eastern cooking and in Europe for flavoring marzipan. I’m not sure why it isn’t a huge hit here. We seem addicted to vanilla extract. I’ll admit, I use vanilla in almost all my baking, but with my discovery of Silver Cloud Estates, that may be changing. For a simple recipe, just substitute the vanilla extract with any extract you like. Be creative, be daring, and share what you come up with.

If you have used rosewater extract before, and have suggestions, I am completely open to it. I can’t wait to get started! I just need to buy some lemons first ūüôā

::super snack:: Vietnamese Salad Rolls

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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 ūüôā

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.

::summer love:: Red Pepper Pesto for Two

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You would think in the Summertime when it is super hot out, the last thing someone would want to be doing is working in the kitchen. I don’t quite get this though. ¬†Summer is one of the best times to be in the kitchen. Think of all the fresh produce! You have to have that oven up pretty high to bake fresh fruit pies!

It’s odd though, I do understand it when it comes to dinner. ¬†I am willing to spend hours in the kitchen for a fresh baked pie. ¬†Slaving away in the heat, sun shining in. ¬†It makes that summer night so much better! ¬†Oh! ¬†Speaking of pies! ¬†Cherries are a one day deal today at Whole Foods for Cherryfest! ¬†$1.99/lb!! I am on my way there right after this is finished! ¬†Yummm! ¬†So yes, I will let my oven sit on for an hour to have a perfect cherry pie…. but dinner time… that’s a different story. ¬†For some reason, by dinner time, the kitchen is the last place I want to be. ¬†This may explain my recent Summer slump. ¬†I need a grill slash a place to live where we can have a grill. Oh! And a nice place to eat dinner outside while we’re at it. ūüôā

This meal is perfect for those nights. It only takes as long as the pasta takes to boil, and the rest of the time you are pulling ingredients out of the fridge. Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two.

What You Need
Step One
1/2lb pasta (I like using a pasta that will hold the sauce)
Step Two
3 cloves of toasted garlic, minced
2-3 large jarred roasted red peppers, patted dry
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme (stems discarded)

This is going to go really fast.  Pay attention.  Start the pasta in salted water.  Blend all step two ingredients in a small food processor until smooth.

Reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.  Stir sauce into pasta, using cooking water to adjust consistency.

Yup.  You are already done.  Homemade sauce, in less time than the pasta took.