Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spicy Curried Carrot Soup

I realized I had about 3 pounds of carrots in my fridge that I needed to start using up. Since the weather has been cold, a carrot soup seemed like the perfect plan. I found this recipe and was excited by the ingredients and flavor combinations. This soup is delicious, but you need to like curry. I love spicy soups, but feel free to remove or cut back on the chili.

This soup is really filling and is a meal in itself. Serve with some crusty bread and a small salad and you're set. This is only a soup of 2, so you most likely won't have leftovers, but the recipe can easily be doubled.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hoisin Chicken Stir Fry

The other day I realized I had 2 bell peppers sitting in the fridge next to a jar of hoisin sauce and realized it was time for a stir fry. This recipe is pretty easy and doesn't require too much effort. If you want more sauce, add a little bit of water towards the end of cooking, or proportionally increase the ingredients in the hoisin sauce mixture.

Serve this with plain rice and you have a complete meal. You can use different vegetables if desired or make this vegetarian as well. The recipe can be easily adjusted to your liking.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mushroom Risotto

Since recently realizing I can make good risotto at home, I have spent more than a few evening standing over my stove and stirring. Though the process of making risotto is a little time consuming, it is actually really easy to make.

This recipe is simple and doesn't require any particular kitchen skill except patience. You can use almost any kind of mushroom in the recipe such as shiitake, chanterelle, or even simple button mushrooms. The flavor will be more intense with a more flavorsome mushroom like shiitake, but button mushrooms will be tasty as well. Since you can never say exactly how much stock will be needed for making risotto, err on the side of caution and prepare 7 cups (though I only used 5).

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homemade Spelt Pasta

I have recently discovered spelt flour and am a fan. The taste of spelt flour is not too different from wheat flour, so it's a pretty good substitute. After reading a traditional Italian pasta cookbook the other day, I really wanted to experiment with making fresh pasta, but wanted to try out my recently purchased spelt flour. I found this spelt pasta recipe and was really happy with the end result.

I made ravioli the first time I used this recipe. I don't have a pasta machine, so rolling and re-rolling the dough was the best way for me to get the dough thin enough. It would be a lot easier with a pasta machine, but it is doable by hand. The result is not as delicate, but I was happy with the end result. The one thing to look out for is to make sure the pasta does not dry out since it can become brittle, so work as quickly as you can. Use this pasta for any shape or form.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thai Sweet Potato Soup

As the snow is falling, I'm going into hibernation mode. My immersion blender has been getting lots of use since I seem to constantly be in soup moods. I've been trying to keep my soups healthy and avoid using cream to create a smooth texture. Coconut milk is a great way to add this silkiness to a curry soup.

You can make this soup with a variety of vegetables. You can use pumpkin, butternut squash or anything similar. I had a mixture of sweet potatoes and regular potatoes at home, so that's what I used. This soup is pretty thick, which I love, but feel free to add more stock if you want a thinner soup. I made this soup fairly spicy, so adjust the amount of chili and curry paste to your liking. I sometimes top this soup with finely chopped cilantro if I have it around.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Carrot and Green Onion Salad

My local grocery store has been stocking really great organic carrots lately. They are much sweeter than the normal carrots in the shop and make a great salad on their own. I feel like a kid lately, snacking on carrot sticks and dunking them into all sorts of dips, but they are so good. If you have a mandoline, this salad comes together really quickly. What I also love about carrot salads is that they don't get soggy, so if you have leftovers you can still eat them (and actually enjoy them) on the second day.

You can definitely play around with this salad. I sometimes add a bell pepper or some cucumber if I have other veggies to use up. You can also use different vinegar, such as white wine vinegar, and if you don't have a mandoline or kitchen gadget for slicing carrots, you can just grate them with the large holes on a box grater.
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Monday, October 28, 2013

Hoisin Cocktail Meatballs

I sometime find it really hard to come up with appetizer ideas. I think I rotate the same few ideas and realized that lately I'm tired of those. Recently one of my friends just moved and had a housewarming party where everybody brought an appetizer/finger food. I wanted to make something new and began looking around. I knew I wanted to make meatballs of some sort, but didn't want your classic Italian style option.

I came across this recipe after looking through many, many Asian meatball ideas. I knew I wanted to serve them with a sauce, which surprisingly is not included in many recipes. I also knew that I didn't want to do anything too complicated or with too many ingredients I didn't already have. All I can say is that these meatballs are pretty amazing. This was one of the first dishes to be eaten at the party. Some people didn't even notice the sauce next to them and still loved them. I personally find that the sauce makes these meatballs. It would also make a great marinade if you have some leftover (which I did). If you want, you could even chop in come hot peppers or Thai chilis for an added kick.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Spanish Rice

I was sitting at home one lazy Sunday evening really, really not in the mood to cook. So instead of cooking, I started looking at recipes online. I stumbled upon a recipe for Spanish rice, then I found a few more. None of them were exactly what I was looking for, so I combined a couple recipes and came up wit this one.

Many Spanish rice recipes don't use bell peppers, but I prefer adding one. I also found that many recipes were either way too unhealthy (1/4 cup of butter was used in one of them) and some sounded too bland. This recipe is actually really easy to make and is a perfect side dish for any Tex Mex of Mexican inspired meal. I served this with fajitas for a really, really filling meal.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Kzizot (Israeli Chicken Patties)

When I was a kid, kzizot were our ultimate picnic food. I remember stuffing them into pitas and smothering them with hummus and israeli salad. Not much has changed since I still love kzizot and would gladly eat them like that any day. You can serve this with all kinds of middle eastern dips, or you if don't have access to those, they are great on their own as well. I made a greek yogurt dip with garlic and chives the last time I served these.

What makes these patties so great is the grated potato. It keeps the meat really moist, even on the second day if you have leftovers. The recipe is fairly simple and is really hard to mess up. As with all red bell peppers, you could use yellow or orange bell pepper instead.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Lately, I've been making my own taco seasoning. You can surprisingly find it in Swiss grocery stores (even in a small town), but making it is really simple, and doesn't contain mystery ingredients. I came across this recipe when I was going to make tacos one Sunday and realized I forgot to get taco seasoning. There aren't many shops open here on Sundays, so good ol' Google came to the rescue (again). Luckily I had all the spices except for the onion powder on hand, and even without that this recipe was perfect.

This seasoning tastes just like the packets you buy in the grocery store, but you know exactly what goes into it. Use it the same way you would the usual seasoning packets. I use one batch of this mix per 3 pounds of meat. If you like spicier food, add more chili flakes or some cayenne pepper to the mix.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Grilled Corn with Herb Butter

I was looking for a way to make corn-on-the-cob a more exciting side dish. I love fresh sweet corn, and generally just salt and/or butter it. I was looking around for an herb butter recipe to spice up my usual salt and butter combo when I came across this recipe from Land O Lakes. It's very easy and adds a nice, subtle flavor to your corn.

I ended up adding more herb butter on top of my grilled corn since I was a big fan. You could probably switch the thyme for another herb if you prefer, but I wouldn't omit the garlic. I sliced the leftover corn off the cob and had a sort of corn salad the next day, which was very tasty (with a dab of extra herb butter of course).

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Green Bean and Mushroom Risotto

For a while now I've been staring at a box of risotto on my shelf and I've finally decided to use it. I had a pound of green beans sitting in my fridge, needing to be used, so I figured I'd make a green bean risotto. I also had some mushrooms, so I used those as well, but if you don't have have mushrooms on hand, you'll still enjoy this risotto without them. Same goes for the green beans. This is pretty much your basic risotto recipe with green beans and mushrooms, which means you can swap them out for any other veggies you love.

Try using a white wine that you'd actually enjoy drinking on its own, not just a cooking wine that makes you cringe when you smell it. Sometime wine quality seems to make no difference at all, but with risotto you need to stick with something a little better. Dry white wine is best, but I've used others as well and they've done the job. Play around with this recipe to use up any veggies you have in your fridge or herbs that need eating.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Italian Style Pasta Salad

Last summer, I began looking for a good pasta salad recipe. I wanted one without any mayo and with and Italian dressing, but most I came across used bottles dressing. I wasn't looking for anything new and exciting, just classic American/Italian pasta salad. Even though I rarely have pasta salad when I visit my family in the U.S., I seem to want it now and then over here.

I found a recipe for homemade Italian salad dressing that sounded close to what I was looking for. I added what I enjoy to the pasta salad itself, but feel free to add any veggies, cheese, or meat you like to have in yours. I would normally add some black olives, but I made this for a dinner where there was more than one olive-hater invited.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

French Apple Cake

I recently ended up with a handful of apples that were not looking too appetizing. Seeing as how it's summer, I've been eating tons of nectarines and cherries, but have pretty much avoided the good ol' apple. Since I hate throwing away food, I figured I'd bake with them. I found this cake recipe and thought I'd give it a try since I had everything at home.

This recipe calls for a mixture of apples. Since the apple is the star of this cake, it's nice having chunks of sweet apples next to tart apples. Dave Lebovitz suggests that if you must exclude the rum (which adds a really great flavor to the cake), triple the vanilla amount. This cake is filled with apples, which I love since each bite is has almost more apple than cake. In reviews, some people had trouble with the butter seeping out of the springform. I did not, but to be safe, I baked the cake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Green Bean and Tomato Sauté

When I was younger, I remember eating green beans in a tomato sauce at friends and families homes. I loved the dish, but then forgot about it for years. Out of the blue, and after running across the recipe accidentally, I decided to try finding a recipe that sounded similar to what I remembered. This one was the closest bet, and the result was pretty perfect.

This recipe is really simple, but takes a little while to cook. It's a good one to put together when you get home and then get started on the rest of your meal. This makes a great side dish to just about anything. I served this with grilled chicken and fresh bread and ended up with leftovers. It will still be great the next day as well, so you could either prepare it ahead of time or have some delicious leftovers.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Steak with Mushroom, Sherry, and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

I was looking for a recipe to spice up a standard steak. I was making a birthday meal for a friend and wanted it to be a little nicer than your average grill dinner. I found this recipe and gave it a whirl. The sauce is full of great flavors without being too heavy or rich (often the case with mushroom sauces). It's super easy to make and can withstand a bit of compromising. It's not a thick sauce, but rather a thinner sauce with mushroom chunks.

Gordon Ramsay suggests serving this over a t-bone steak, and since I'm not a steak specialist, I'd take his word on it. Of course t-bone steaks aren't available in my part of Switzerland, so I made this sauce for a sirloin. I imagine the sauce would also be great with chicken if you prefer not to eat red meat.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Herbed Rice

Rice is one of my favorite side dishes. More often than not, I choose to make rice as opposed to pasta or potatoes. I grew up on basmati rice and don't particularly like your standard, Uncle Ben's type of rice. I also keep a stash of jasmine rice since I find it to be a great rice option as well. This recipe is a really easy way to add a twist to plain rice. I love that flavor that the herbs give the rice and it takes vary little effort to get this effect.

My mom has been making rice like this for years. In her house we call it green rice since it's flecked with green herbs. We often eat this with Indian Cilantro Chicken or Spicy Indian Chicken. You could also serves it with almost any other fish or meat dish.


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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken

I hope everyone is preparing for a fun 4th of July tomorrow. If you still need some food inspiration, here's a really easy main course idea. Where I am, it's raining, so I love that this is not an actual grill recipe. But if you're lucky enough to be enjoying real summer weather, you could grill the marinated meat as well. This recipe requires mostly simple pantry ingredients and can be made with chicken thighs or breast.

I made this with chicken breast as that is what I had on hand and was amazed that the meat didn't dry out under the broiler. In fact, it was some of the juiciest chicken I've had in a while, so I'm now a big fan of this cooking method. If you have leftovers the next day, this makes an amazing, delicious, mouth-watering chicken quesadilla.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fruit Tart

I've attempted several fruit tarts in the past and never really found a great recipe. Generally speaking, the crusts have all been fine, but I've never found a cream filling that I loved. I've tried (and failed) making pastry cream from scratch. I've made cream cheese fillings, but the flavor was never quite right. With this tart, I combined 2 fruit tart recipes and ended up with an amazing result.

The cream filling for this tart is the cheaters way of making a delicious and really easy fruit tart. It tastes amazing and the texture is great, but it only takes minutes to whip it up. I made this version of a fruit tart as a birthday cake and it was a huge success. Not only do fruit tarts look stunning, but people tend to love them. If you need to make this recipe ahead of time, prepare all the elements individually and only cut fruits and assemble when you need it.

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