During a casual conversation with coworkers, someone let slip that they had a deep-fryer at home. I felt my mind snatching this slip of information from mid-air and filing it away for future intentions. Seasons later, I realized I was going to be going through yet another Chicago rainy fall and winter and that this former Texan needed something stronger than hot tea and wooley socks to get out the door and to work. I needed doughnuts to go nuts for.
Because doughnuts are becoming a popular item to buy in both intimate corner bakeries and restaurants offering fine dining experiences, or perhaps through kismet, I ran across a doughnut cookbook in the library that turned out to be excellent for its base recipe and new ideas. ‘ Glazed Filled Sugared & Dipped’ by Collucci.
Joann and I flipped through the book, throwing out a rabble of doughnut ideas…whatever popped into our heads. We quickly decided to use the same cake doughnut recipe to learn and experiment with two different flavor variations, Roasted Coconut Sugar doughnuts for her, Rosemary-Blueberry for me.
*At this point, I added my variation to my half of the dough. ½ tsp of chopped rosemary and chopped blueberries
A basic glaze was very simple and quick. 1 cup of confectioners/powdered sugar mixed with two tablespoons of milk or water until the lumps are gone.
I made a topping station so I could quickly dunk the tops of the doughnuts in bowls of garnish after first dunking them half-way into the glaze. My rosemary was ¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary and 2/3 cup sugar.
Joann’s roasted coconut topping was a mix of ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, roasted golden brown in the oven, 2/3 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. This made a cup and was enough to use on all of her doughnuts.
A plain doughnut from this recipe had a stronger lemon taste than I had expected, but it actually worked well and brightened the flavors we added. It worked especially well with the blueberry and rosemary.
Relaxing with my niece was a nice way to finish the day. And having a little hill of fried doughnuts to eat the next chilly-blue morning was worth all our effort.
Oh, how time has flown the last few months. I’ve been behind on logging my cooking projects, largely due to the fact that the sight of food wasn’t very pleasing for the first half of my pregnancy. Now that I’m over that hurdle, I’m raring to eat.
Fried foods are great for a recovering stomach, but I felt I could use something healthier than the usual deep frying method. I first fell in love with hushpuppies when I was eight years old and living in Fort Polk, Louisiana. My dad would order a six-inch high plate of crawfish when we went out to eat. Being a vegetarian in the making, I refused to eat any fish or seafood. I would instead order a tower of hushpuppies and ketchup. I remember always leaving two hushpuppies on the plate, resolving myself to eating every one of them the next time. No hushpuppy should be left behind.
Everyone in the household, vegetarian and carnivore, tried this and thought it was pretty tasty, especially considering the hushpuppies were baked and the “fish” was really tempeh. Next time I may brown the tempeh before coating it in batter to give it a little more complexity, but other than that, this hit the spot. Here’s hoping you can create a healthier version of an old favorite recipe of your own.
Every winter in Chicago I find a new favorite food that gets me through my vitamin D withdrawal. Last year it was XOCO , Rick Bayless’s take on upscale Mexican street food. This year, it’s all about Asian food. Dustin and I have been to Slurping Turtle, a local trendy Japanese noodle shop, at least five times in the last month. That’s a lot for us since I usually cook at home. The first time we went, it was still very new and only a few people had heard of it. Now, my favorite noodle dish comes with a 45 minute wait. It only made sense for me to make my own noodles for my impatient days.
The most important part of this dish, the part which also has the most ingredients, is the sauce. Your sauce has to be flavorful otherwise you’ll be eating a bowl of dry noodles and veggies (lame). Once you gather all the ingredients, it’s easy to make.
I’ve had a tough time cooking with tofu in the past. It would break into egg-like pieces that would stick to the pan. Now that I have a cast iron skillet and use firm tofu, the chunks keep their shape and brown perfectly. My veggies are mixed and matched and based on what I have available in my fridge. I do recommend using a green veggie, such as Brussels sprouts or bok choy, for a nice crunchy texture. These are my personal favorites.
I used regular soba noodles, but added shredded zucchini and beets to my final dish to make it a little healthier. In the summertime, I could easily just eat this dish with veggie noodles, but I like my carbs in the winter. The beets are also a bright and beautiful visual touch.
Once everything was prepared, I started assembling: soba noodles first, followed by the zucchini and beet noodles, then veggies, my desired amount of sauce drizzled on top, and my optional toppings.
This dish is full of flavor and beautiful textures. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Every Sunday, Dustin will make a breakfast creation. He takes this role very seriously. Even though New Years Day was technically on a Tuesday this year, it felt like a Sunday to us so he wanted to cook again. This breakfast was especially important because it was our first meal of the new year. Dustin measured each ingredient to a tee.
The first time he made a dutch baby for me (odd statement, I know), I thought it looked very peculiar. It was monstrously huge and a bit eggy, not the usual sweet American breakfast I knew. This recipe has a little more sweetness to it, which I like.
The cast iron has to be preheated for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30 or so. Deviating from the directions slightly, Dustin dropped room temperature butter into the pan while the batter was mixing in the food processor, a few minutes before pouring the batter into the pan. The butter will definitely burn if you add it to the pan too soon. Just be sure it’s not still cold when you do so, or you’ll cool the pan unnecessarily.
Carefully pour the batter into your preheated cast iron and quickly transfer it to the oven. Better yet, try to pour the batter with the pan still in the oven so the pan doesn’t cool as much. I threw in a few raspberries at the last minute, mostly as an experiment to see what would happen. The pastry quickly starts to grow, so the pan you choose should leave a little room for this. When Dustin poured the batter, it was a bit more than 1/4 inch deep across the bottom of the pan.
He opted to top our dutch baby with a easy to make raspberry sauce. He heated apple cider, cornstarch, sugar, raspberries and cold water together in a pan. You can also use orange juice in place of apple cider. We just had some cider left over from the Christmas holiday. Here’s a link to the full recipe.
After 4-5 minutes of simmering, the raspberries quickly break down. After letting the sauce cool, Dustin transferred it to the food processor, where he pureed it for about 20 seconds and then strained the puree to remove the seeds.
Our dutch baby was based on a recipe from Alton Brown.
The last time I had a sloppy joe, I was still watching the television series Alf, playing with GI Joes, and riding my bike without shoes out on the gravel trails of Fort Polk, Louisiana. I was such a picky eater growing up and, as the doctor’s growth charts alerted my mother, slightly underweight. Eating wasn’t my favorite pastime. I would much rather have ridden my bike or played in the fields.
My parents used many tricks to get me to eat. Some of them were bribes, which I think every parent tries. A lot of them were disguising my food as something else. My dad tried the “Close your eyes and you’ll get a big surprise” approach, but that only worked a few times. Sometimes they just flat out gave me what I wanted. I had the metabolism of a gazelle at that point in my life, so why not let me eat a Manwich Sloppy Joe?
Fast forward, many, many years and I am a vegetarian and no longer have the gazelle metabolism. My rendition of a sloppy joe uses tempeh, which is very hearty and has a nice grain like texture, savory veggies and toppings, a sweet tomato drizzle, and a sliced pita bread. Enjoy!
FILLING: 8 oz (1 package) chopped tempeh, half an onion, 1 large pepper or two small peppers, 4 minced garlic cloves, handful of cherry tomatoes, and a pinch of salt.
1. Put a skillet/frying pan over medium heat. Add olive olive oil and peppers. Sauté and let them soften for 5 minutes.
2. Add the chopped tempeh to the skillet (a trick to get the tempeh extra brown is to add a little soy sauce while sautéeing).
3. After the tempeh has started to brown, add the garlic, tomatoes, onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until everything is wilted.
SAUCE: 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper & 1/2 cup water.
1. In a sauce pan, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, salt, chili powder, black pepper & water.
2. After the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat. Let it reduce for 5 minutes and remove from the burner.
OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: Chopped scallions, olives, sour cream & pita bread.
Toast the pita bread and carefully cut it in half from the side. You can add whatever toppings you like. If you want it more traditional, you can stick with cheddar cheese and just the sauce. I, on the other hand, enjoy savory, so I topped mine with the sweet tomato sauce mixture, olives, scallions, and sour cream.
I prefer to have the tomato sauce as a drizzle and not completely submerge the tempeh and veggies. That way I get to see all the healthy veggies I am about to eat.
Looking at all these pictures makes me want to get a second helping. I think I will.
I’ve only seen figs in passing, but have had an admiration for this seemingly passé fruit with alien like insides. Figs alone are not very sweet… at least for someone with a major sweet tooth like myself, but I was certain I could make a sweet treat using them.
I knew I wanted to make some sort of pastry to accompany a fig sauce and I’ve always liked profiteroles. On one of my visits to Nebraska as a young child, my grandmother served me this fluffy pasty with ice cream. Even better, I learned that they ate dessert at both lunch and dinner. I was in heaven.
First preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Gather all your ingredients for the profiteroles. That’s 1/2 cup water, 1/2 stick butter, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 3 eggs.
In a saucepan, combine the water, butter and salt and bring to a boil.
After it starts to boil, reduce the heat and add the flour. Stir the mixture with a good amount of force.
Once the mixture has combined completely and forms into a ball, remove the pan from heat.
Let the mixture sit for 2-3 minutes and then add the eggs one by one, mixing each egg fully into the batter before adding the next one.
Edna (my sister and helper), has strong arms from working as a cook, so she was able to stir the batter sufficiently vigorously. If you aren’t that hardcore, there is nothing wrong with using an electric mixer. Not everyone has a sister with a culinary arts degree at their disposal!
I just bought a non-stick silicone baking sheet which works great, but regular parchment paper would also have worked just fine. After filling a pastry bag with all of the batter, we took turns squeezing out little dollop shapes. You can also roll the batter into balls if you don’t want to worry about making the shapes perfectly. The dollops grow rather large once you bake them, so keep some space between each one.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they are fluffy. Make sure they don’t burn. Cool on a rack or place the pastries on a room temperature plate to cool.
For the sauce, all you need is a handful of peeled figs, 1/4 cup of white sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 cup water, and one tablespoon of butter.
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer or a very light boil. I didn’t want the sauce to reduce too much, so I only cooked it for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
My goal was to create a lighter and brighter alternative to the chocolate-doused profiteroles I love. My fig sauce didn’t have the sweetness I usually get with a chocolate sauce, which was a problem for a moment, but adding a small scoop of vanilla ice cream brought everything together nicely, so that’s the way we ate them. While doing so, we talked about what to call this little project. Dustin had a good idea. Pro”fig”eroles.
I have been craving bread pudding for a while and a recent trip to a local farmers market created the perfect opportunity to get all the necessary ingredients. I have only had bread pudding a couple of times throughout my years, but I really like the moist french toast texture and the not-too-sweet flavor. While roaming about the market, Edna (my sister) and I brainstormed how to make our own bread pudding, while Dustin ignored our sisterly rambles and giggles and tried not to get heatstroke.
This was our first time at a farmers market, so everything looked especially appealing. I was sure I wanted to use a fruit of some sort on the bread pudding to add a bit more texture and visual appeal, but with so many choices the decision was tough. I settled on wild blackberries because I still have memories of picking and eating wild berries as a child with my dad in Germany. The berries from the market seemed less tart than I remember.
Edna and I came across the most beautiful pretzel bread and started talking about different ways to use it. We weren’t a hundred percent sure how it would work out, but we wanted to try using the outer crust of the bread as an edible bowl for our pudding. We ended up buying eggs, jam, and an array of veggies and fruits. Our rule after we got home was to eat at least three fruits and veggies a day so nothing went to waste.
The recipe is pretty simple: 4 small breads, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 eggs (beaten), 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup milk, and a handful of blackberries.
The outer crust was just tough enough to keep it’s shape after we carefully tore out the soft, fluffy bread inside. In a bowl we mixed the melted butter, beaten eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and milk together with the pieces of left over bread. Then we let it sit for 5 minutes. We placed the moist bread mixture back into it’s original bread shell and tossed in some of the wild blackberries. Edna poured some of the left over liquid from the bowl on the pretzel bread shell, along with some sugar to make it a little softer and sweeter. Then we put our stuffed pretzel bowls in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Dustin lucked out this weekend and was tasked only with making the whipped cream. Everything came together perfectly and was fairly simple to make. Using the outer shell of the bread as a bowl made for easy cleanup and created another little tasty treat. Who wouldn’t love that? Who?!
Full recipe follows.
What a busy few weeks. There have been work and personal engagements, planning for a wedding, and my sister just moved in with us for a month or two. I have still been cooking as usual, but haven’t had time to document as much as I’d like. I also need to add getting in shape to my list, because it’s crunch time (pun intended, love puns) with only a month and a half to go until our big day. I just signed up for CrossFit and a few boxing classes. I let you know how all that goes. I think I have fairly healthy eating habits, but Dustin and I both have trouble resisting our sweet tooth. Last week I was really craving something decadent, but didn’t want the guilt afterwards, so I decided to make a raw chocolate cake with raspberries.
A lot of raw recipes use nuts of some type as a base. You start this recipe by grinding 1/2 cup of almonds in a food processor. In our pre-processor days, I would grind the almonds in a plastic bag by hitting them with a blunt object. I do not recommend that method!
I combined the ground almonds with 2 Tablespoons Cacao, 1 Tablespoon agave, and 1 Tablespoon coconut oil. As you mix all the ingredients, the agave and coconut oil help the mixture stick together. For that reason, agave and coconut oil are staple ingredients in many raw desserts.
Pat this mixture into a 2 -3 inch mold to make a perfect circle. Make sure to apply some pressure so it creates a solid base. This will be the crust for the cake. I used a little coconut oil on the metal molds so the crust wouldn’t stick. Keep the crust in the mold for now so the next ingredients layer up nicely.
Place fresh raspberries on top of the crust.
Next is the most important part, the chocolate topping. Whisk 1/2 cup cacao powder, 1/2 cup agave and 1/4 cup coconut oil. The mixture isn’t terribly fluffy, but will firm up once it’s in the refrigerator. Drizzle the chocolate on top of the raspberries. It creates a very pretty mid layer.
Then top with a few more raspberries finish things off.
With the cakes still in the mold, put everything in the refrigerator for around 20-30 minutes. If they are still a little soft, then give them a bit more time.
Dustin and I straight up devoured every single bite. Part of me wondered how something so good could still be (mostly!) healthy for me, but there is no disputing the ingredient list. With our sweet tooth completely satisfied and our bellies full, we decided to reward ourselves again with a Sunday afternoon nap. It was a good day.
I usually save my trips home to Texas for the major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this year I have a wedding to plan so an extra trip was required. My family and I spent a day in Austin shopping for dresses for my mom and sister and a suit for my dad. He was raring to leave the minute he set foot in the first store, so we were fortunate to find the perfect suit in record time.
After all our shopping was done, we drove back to Killeen and my dad was eager to show me his flourishing garden. I usually don’t get to see it since I typically visit in the winter, so I was quite impressed with the variety, health, and size of all the vegetables he was growing. I decided to make a dish that only had veggies that came from his garden. I wasn’t planning on doing a blog entry over my vacation, so all the photos were taken on my iPhone.
I get a lot of things from my dad. My love of cartoons, my sarcastic sense of humor, my taste for spicy/flavorful foods, and just a hint of stubbornness (Dustin says it can be more than a hint). One thing I did not get, however, was his green thumb. My poor money tree at home has about three leaves left which could also say something about my shopping habits at this time. I found out on this visit that my dad made a compost to create natural and healthy fertilizer and places buckets in multiple locations to catch rain water for his plants and a family of birds that live in his nearby bird house. That probably helps to explain how his garden is so healthy, even with temperatures already in the high 90’s and strict Texas water restrictions in force.
With my family’s help, we picked radishes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, and beets. It was the middle of the hot afternoon so we worked quickly. It was pleasant work though, as everything was so brightly colored and ready for the picking.
I washed all the veggies, while my sister finely chopped. I secretly watched her chopping technique to see what I could learn since she is a culinary school grad.
I had an idea to use the stems of the onions as a tie for the wraps and the cucumber flowers as edible decorations. The ties kept everything together and looked like a little bow on top of a gift. We finished off with a very easy peanut sauce by mixing 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 3 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp warm water and 5 tbsp peanut butter. It was a perfect match to the wraps.
My mom and sister left the peppers and radish out of their wraps, but I like most vegetables so used a bit of everything. It’s all about what tickles your fancy.
After lunch, my sister and I were feeling a bit silly, so we took the old wagon out for a joy ride. My mom even let us take her for a spin, but she would surely kill me if I showed the photo evidence. It was a good weekend and it isn’t ending just yet. As I write this on my plane back to Chicago, I am smuggling veggies in my suitcase.