Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lemon Curd

I was always under the impression that making lemon curd was really difficult and that there was no way I could make it myself. Luckily, I decided to give homemade lemon curd a try. Turns out it's not that hard to make and it tasted so good that I actually ate a couple spoonfuls out of the jar. If you're not sure what to do with lemon curd, just think of it as a spread that can be used like jam. It's great on scones, spread in between cake layers or meringues, or used as the basis of a lemony dessert (like the LA Times' lemon curd pecan bars). This homemade version can be stored in your fridge up to a week. It does make a lot, so I like to give some away. I've found that my friends love getting a little jar of lemon curd, especially since it's not something most people have stashed in their kitchens.

When I was looking for recipes, I realized a lot required more egg yolks than egg whites (generally speaking, I have enough egg whites in my freezer, so I try using whole eggs where possible). This one uses the entire egg and doesn't leave your kitchen full of half used items. I am also a fan of most recipe I find at She presents all her desserts in ways that seem doable, even if the end result looks like it was made by a pro. When making this, make sure you use fresh lemon juice. The bottle stuff won't cut it for lemon curd. Also, zest the lemons before you juice them so you don't end up needing as many lemons.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Salmon with Lemon, Capers, and Rosemary

My local grocery store has finally started selling fish! This is a pretty exciting moment for me since I love fish and haven't had any in months. I grabbed a couple pieces of salmon and started looking for a recipe that I could make with ingredients I had at home. Last time I tried a salmon recipe from Giada De Laurentiis I was really happy with the result, so I looked through some of her other ones. I found this one and got started.

This recipe is one of those easy salmon recipes most people will enjoy. You pretty much season the salmon, top it with the ingredients, and wrap it in foil. You could change some of the ingredients if they don't appeal to you. I might also add some chopped kalamata olives on top of my salmon next time I make this. I didn't have Marsala wine at home when I made this and used whatever was open in the fridge (which was nothing too fancy). I also did not grill my fish, tanks to an afternoon rain shower. Instead I just baked the foil-wrapped fish in the oven.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Zucchini and Carrot Muffins

When it comes to baking, I don't usually make an effort to use "healthy" ingredients (at most I'll mix in some whole wheat flour with my white flour). I stick with butter and sugar and am usually please with the results. Sometimes, though, I really want to have a breakfast muffin that doesn't make me feel guilty for having consumed something so unhealthy at 9 am (and lets face it, I usually have at least 2). I actually came across this recipe on accident and was really, really skeptical about the ingredients. I thought I would give it a try since, oddly enough, I had everything required at home. I was not expecting to like these. I was hoping that they would be good enough for an on-the-go type of snack or a quick breakfast option, but didn't think I would love them. I was so very wrong. Turns out these muffins were so good that the first batch of 20 were gone within 2 days and I made another batch a week later. I even made a third batch to put in the freezer so I could just snack on these when I wanted.

Now to clarify a few things. These muffins are probably not considered healthy by people who bake with alternative ingredients and count their calorie intake. They do contain sugar and white flour, but they require much less of both ingredients than many muffins do. There are also tons of healthy ingredients baked into the muffins, like zucchini, carrots, almonds, and apple. I also cut down the amount of oil required in half and added some apple sauce to the mix to keep things slightly healthier. They are unbelievably moist and stay that way even a few days after you bake them. I stored mine in an airtight container and they were still great on day 3.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Earlier this week I had a sack of potatoes sitting in my cupboard and decided it was time to roast some veggies (and yes, it's raining again, which is why I am in roasting mode). I had 3 different baking sheets in the oven, one with broccoli, one with cauliflower, and one with these potatoes. The kept the broccoli simple and just tossed it with salt, pepper, and olive oil. I did the same with the cauliflower, but topped it with some grated Parmesan cheese when it was done. These potatoes were just as simple, but really flavorful. Ina Garten puts some chopped parsley on the roasted potatoes, which adds a nice color splash and taste.

I used small white raclette potatoes (which are sort of like a boiling potato crossed with a fingerling potato), but you could probably used any type of potato with a soft skin that doesn't require peeling. I'm sure Yukon gold potatoes would be delicious in this recipe. If you don't have any parsley at home, these would still state great without it. I served these with some salmon, but really, they could accompany almost any meal.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stir Fried Beef with Bell Peppers and Snow Peas

I remember when I was visiting my sister this past Spring and found this recipe in her collection of Fine Cooking Magazines. OK, it's not really a collection, but I had never heard of Fine Cooking Magazine and I decided to go through about 6 months worth of recipes. Even after reading tons of recipes, this one stuck out. Based on the ingredients, I knew I'd love it, but I wasn't so sure about the other people I was cooking for. My grandma tends to prefer basic comfort foods and my sister is not crazy about spicy food, but I made it anyway. As it turns out, everyone loved it.

Ever since making this stir fry, I have been dreaming about it. As usual, I cannot find some of the key ingredients in my little village (nor in the nearby larger town). I'm getting hungry as I am writing this post, and realize that I cannot wait to go back to the States and live off of various homemade Asian dishes during my first week there. This one will definitely be high on the list. The leftovers taste great too, so I may even add a bit more of everything when I make this next. If you don't eat beef, this would taste great with tofu or just a mix of various veggies. The sauce is delicious, so try not to skip those ingredients. If you don't have flank steak, use what you have on hand. I used a pack of sliced rump steak and found that it worked well, though the meat would probably be even more tender from a different cut.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bahama Mama

It's been a while since I've made a fruity cocktail. Lately I've been helping out in the local bar and have had to learn a few of the drinks on their menu. I'm not one of those natural bartenders who can create a new drink ever minute, but I do know what tastes good. While working, I decided to make some fun "drink of the day" cocktail for those sunny days when people enjoy coming by for a drink. Since rum seems to be one of the better alcohols for making fruity drinks, I started looking around. I needed a drink I could make quickly and with limited supplies. The bar here is small: no blenders and only one beer tap and the maximum capacity behind the bar is 2 people.

This drink seemed like it could be made with what I had on hand and I also didn't need to special order any ingredients. The original recipe mixes all the ingredients in a blender, which I agree would probably be even better, but the flavor combination it delicious. It's one of those dangerous drinks, like a piña colada, where you could drink one after the other and forget you're consuming alcohol, so consider yourself warned. 

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gratinéed Tomatoes with Herbs

I somehow ended up with lots of tomatoes in my fridge. Every time I went to the grocery store, I forgot I already had some at home and bought more. I made lots of salads and managed to make a dent in the tomato stash, but I needed to find a dish that would use up a majority of them. I didn't have quite enough to make scalloped tomatoes, so this recipe looked like the perfect solution to my tomato problem. When I made this dish, I made 2 dishes with the nicely cut slices of tomatoes and a couple personal sized ones with the reject bits and pieces. The both turned out great, but the personal ones weren't as nicely laid out. You could definitely make individual ramekins of this dish if you prefer that look.

The original recipe calls for Asiago cheese, which I could not find in my teeny, tiny grocery store. I substituted freshly grated Parmesan cheese and was really pleased with the result. Use whichever cheese you prefer or can find in your local grocery store. I also used less tomatoes but the same amount of cheese and breadcrumb topping since I love having a thick layer of it on my tomatoes. I'll post the recipe as intended, but feel free to increase the amount of topping on your tomatoes if you're also obsessed with it. I also did not use beefsteak tomatoes since I didn't have any in my stockpile. Instead I used 6 vine-ripe tomatoes. As you can see, you can really play around with this recipe and end up with a great side dish.

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