Monday, November 24, 2008

Italian/Mexican/Russian Wedding Cookies

The other day, Jeff and I were at Wal-greens, combing the aisles for those giant paper binders to clip together storyboards, when I spotted a small tin of those buttery, delicious danish cookies that come out this time of the year. 'Tis finally the season! I got very excited, but couldn't find a tin with my favourite cookie in it (the spirals, the deliciously spiraled yummy shortbreads, sometimes sprinkled with sugar on top). Yes, yes, I know they all taste the same, mostly, in the end... but those hold a special place in my heart.

While on the topic of danish cookies, I got around to thinking about what truly IS a Christmas cookie to me, more than sugar cookies, more than danish cookies-- these beautiful and delicious wedding cookies. Their lineage seems to be global, with the only real difference often coming to be... pecans.. or almonds?

Since I was on a Mexican themed dinner (sort of), with the carne asada quiche, I decided to follow with these Mexican wedding cookies. Not only was I theme-ing it up, but their buttery, slightly sweet, slightly salty, always nutty flavour just hits me as festive. Their crunch and their dusting of snow. No, these cookies can do no wrong.

And what else is better for this season, so close to the Holidays, than festive little drops of joy?

A quick google search found me a recipe on one of my favourite sites, AllRecipes. I altered it a little, but really, these morsels are super easy to make-- they only contain the basics. Butter. Sugar. Flour. Salt. Nuts. They're delectable and easy. All it takes is creaming and setting onto a baking dish.

Wedding Cookies
Adapted from Bernie's All Recipe's Recipe


1 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons milk
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped almonds

Confectioners sugar to coat.

In a medium mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add in the sugar in a steady pour, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Mix in the extracts and milk, followed by the flour and almonds. Once mixed thoroughly, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour to 3 hours.

Heat the oven to 325 Degrees Fahrenheit and spray a cookie sheet.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and form into small balls. Place evenly on the cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and evenly cooked. Allow to cool completely.

Pour the powder sugar into a bowl and roll each of the balls/cookies in it, patting down until silky and smooth. Do a final dusting of powder sugar and serve.

Carne Asada Quiche

Since I made my pumpkin pie quite a few weeks ago in which I made a pie crust which I forgot at work and couldn't use for that pie, I'd been dying to make quiche with it. I stuck it in the freezer, and thought of a tasty idea.

Then I searched and searched for Poblano Chili peppers to no avail. I replaced them with pasilla, and used anaheims as well in this delicious Carne Asada Quiche. I recognize that in traditional carne asada, it's customary to cook it over a (mesquite) charcoal grill. Since I have to cook indoors (sigh), I just used my indoor grill. I thought later it might be nice to add some liquid smoke to the marinade to at least sort of give it that cooked outdoor feel. Perhaps next time!

Carne Asada Quiche

Carne Asada Marinade


1 pounds flank or skirt steak
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeƱo chile pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small handful fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped (great flavor in the stems)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a baking dish or bowl deep enough to hold the marinade and steak comfortably. Rub the salt and pepper into the steak, place in marinade and turn to well coat. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Make sure to go back and flip the steak and redistribute the marinade every so often.

To Cook:
Heat an indoor grill (which is what I had to use) to 400 Degrees. Grill each side until obvious grill marks are indented and inside is cooked, medium-well. About 7 minutes each side (for how thick my flank steak was, which is weird).



1/2 pasilla chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 anaheim chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 large sweet onion, julienned
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/2 avacado, chopped
1/2 pound of carne asada, cut into strips
1/4 cup oxaca cheese, grated
1/4 cup asadero cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
a pinch of nutmeg
a couple drops of hot sauce
salt and pepper
1 unbaked pie crust(10")

Oven at 400 Degrees Farenheit

Whisk together the eggs, milk, nutmeg, and hot sauce in a small bowl. Combine all ingredients in the pie pan, briefly fold together and stick in the oven.
Cook for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350. Cook for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let cool slightly, cut into slices, and serve.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Red Kuri Squash Soup with Garlic Whipping Cream, and Crispy Ham

The other day at Whole Foods when I bought my insane 23 pounds of sugar pumpkin, I also saw and purchased this yummy looking thing called Red Kuri Squash. It was described as having a 'chestnut' flavour, and that's what sold me. I love chestnuts, I love squash, and I decided... man, this would make the most excellent soup.

You might notice a change in my photographs-- I got a new camera. And, you know, I keep trying. Practice makes perfect!

In any case, I winged this soup completely. I really liked the idea of making a whipped cream, like normal whipped cream, but making it savory instead of sweet. I was thinking this would be perfect for this kind of soup-- I wanted the soup to be creamy, and knew the squash would do that naturally, but if I added a dollop of whipped cream on top to melt in and eat, like a latte (which it ended up looking like in the end), that would be delicious. Also, the idea of ham and chestnuts, like on Christmas, really enlightened me.

So yes. Try this soup, it's got the most amazing combination of fall flavours. Served with bread and warmed apple slices is quite, quite excellent.

Recipe for Red Kuri Squash Soup, Garlic Whipping Cream, and Crispy Ham

1 tablespoon hazlenut oil
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 shallots, diced
2 garli cloves, minced
1 red kuri squash, seeded (seeds set aside), peeled and cubed
1 celery stick, cut in half
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
small handful fresh sage leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cup chicken stock

In a medium pot, heat the hazlenut and olive oils. Sautee the garlic and shallots in the oil until just sweating. Add the squash and season with salt, nutmeg, and mace. After 5 minutes, pour in the chicken stock and add herbs and celery. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
When the squash is completely tender and the flavours have melded, remove the celery, thyme, rosemary, sage, and bay leaf. Using a blender or hand emulsifier, puree the soup until creamy. Strain through a strainer to remove any lumps. Top with a large dollop of whipped garlic cream and sliced, sauteed ham strips and a few toasted kuri squash seeds.

Whipped Garlic Cream

2 cloves garlic, smashed to release juices
1 sprig thyme
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
dash of salt

Soak the garlic and thyme in the whipping cream for 15 minutes. Remove the thyme and garlic and mince the garlic. Begin whipping the cream until thicker. Add half the minced garlic and salt. Whip until smooth and creamy and stiff.

Crispy Ham

4 oz Slices of ham steak
1 sprig Fresh Thyme, chopped

In a small saucepan, cook the ham steak slices and thyme together until cooked well and slightly crispy.

Toasted Kuri seeds

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle kuri seeds with olive oil and salt, toast for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls!

Amazing! The Whole Foods down the street from where I live was having sale on pumpkins not so long ago, and thus I somehow managed to buy 23 pounds of pumpkin to roast and then use. That's a lot of pumpkin, an absurd amount. Because of that, I've been investingating various recipes to use all of this pumpkin on (besides my pumpkin bread, coming soon. And pumpkin cookies/pancakes/waffles, all... probably coming soon).

The last episode of the South Park season was this last Wednesday. This marks not only the return of Jeff to me, but also brings forth every reason to have an amazing last party. I wanted to make something super yummy, and I had eyed some Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls that were up on Tastespotting. The idea was amazing... cinnamon rolls, which I'm obsessed with (my love for cinnamon is unparallel), and pumpkin, which I also obsess over.

Thus decided, I moved on to make them. I was very much inspired by the recipe from Fullblown Technicolor, but used also the old cinnamon roll recipe that I had come up with last year. I mixed the two recipes to create what I wanted-- my uber sweet, soft, succulent cinnamon rolls with a huge hit of pumpkin flavour.

I had great success. I love. Love. LOVE these cinnamon rolls. Everyone enjoyed them, and I managed to keep a second one to myself to have this morning for breakfast.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Inspired from Fullblown Technicolor

1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 package active yeast (a little over)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon clove
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 tsp molasses
1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 teaspoon syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
confectioners sugar until awesome

Oven at 400 Degrees Farenheit.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and milk. Heat until warm, then set aside to cool for a few minutes. Add the yeast to the mixture and let sit for ten minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flours, salt, and spices. Check the yeast for foam, then proceed.
Mix in the sugar and vanilla, stirring into the yeast, then the egg and pumpkin. Mix in the flour, when completely combined, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes, until sort and supple. Allow the dough to rest for at least fifteen minutes, or until it's noticably risen.
Mix the filling ingredients in a small bowl, allowing the softened butter to melt into the other ingredients.
Roll the dough out until it's 1/4" thick, spread the dough with the filling, and roll into a long cylinder.
Cut into 18 pieces. Grease a baking dish large enough to fit all the rolls, or two 9" cake pans. Place the cinnamon rolls evenly throughout the baking dish and set aside. Allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour or until doubled in size.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Mix together the frosting ingredients, checking while adding sugar for desired texture and sweetness. Once the rolls have cooled somewhat, top with the frosting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Sage

My office held a potluck for Thanksgiving yesterday, in which various people brought things. I decided to make a recipe I found on Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate for butternut squash risotto. However, it's not risotto like I usually make, so I sort of altered it.

It was really, really yummy. But I just love risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Recipe altered from Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate

3 - 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
20 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice, unwashed
2 1/2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut roughly into 1/4" pieces.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
kosher salt

In a small pot heat the chicken broth until it's simmering, just before the boiling point.

In a separate, medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil and butter until melted. Add the onions and allow them to sweat, stirring until just translucent. Add the garlic and stir for one minuted. Add the sage leaves and rice, cooking and stirring until the grains are well coated with the fats and the other layers are slightly translucent.
Pour the wine over the rice mixture and stir with a silicone spatula until the wine is fully absorbed.
Pour 1/2 cup of the chicken stop into the rice mixture, stirring until the broth is absorbed.
Add another 1/2 cup of broth and the butternut squash cubes. Continue adding 1/2 cup of the broth at a time when the rice gets to a point that it's just barely surrounded by a creamy residue, until the rice is el dente and the squash is tender. As the squash gets tender, mash some of it into the side of side of the pot and mix into the creamy residue.
When rice is el dente, stir in the butter and parmesan cheese, adding salt to taste.

Top with Crispy Sage.

Crispy Sage
Recipe from Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate

A dozen large, nice looking sage leaves.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil until until well distributed. Add the sage leaves and cook on both sides until crispy.

Place on paper towel to dry, and use as garnish.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Curry Chicken and Donut Muffins, mmmm!

I'm still not very good at food photography. :) But I think with more practice and a new camera I'll improve. I know the route to go would, technically, be a SLR, but I really, really am wary of it. I don't consider myself a photographer in any real sense of the word, and as much as I admire (love) food photography on other blogs, I don't feel like I wanna shell out that much on a camera just to take pictures of that. I'm considering a higher end point-and-shoot with cool features.

In any case.

This week is me making lots and lots of things. Curry chicken salad and donut muffins, thus far.
I was hungry at lunch time last weekend and just made a quick chicken salad. Apples, celery, peas, and cooked chicken combined with apple cider vinegar, mayo (fat free, all I had on hand), and curry powder. I had cooked the chicken in some curriness too.

It was pretty good. Made two lunches! (See what I mean about the photos?)

Yesterday morning I also made donut muffins, which I got from Bread & Honey, a blog I've kind of gotten obsessed over because those ladies are lovely, lovely bakers. And I admire Portland greatly.

(This photo turned out well, I think)

However, I realized when looking over the recipe for these muffins, they're actually made like little cakes, which, with their resemblance to cake donuts, makes a lot of sense... but my muffins aren't cakes. I wanted them muffiny. So I made a hybrid.

Instead of creaming the sugar and butter completely, I only creamed the sugar with half the butter. The other half I melted and mixed in with the milk, vinegar, and vanilla extract I added.
I then added all the liquids in, all together, followed by the dries.

The result was delicious. I really like these muffins! They're a little dry, and so next time, I'm going to I think make them a bit more moist. But they were still very, very delicious. I still have four left, and I don't even know how I'll eat them with all the other things I'm making coming up.

Donut Muffins; adapted from Bread & Honey who adapted it from Orangette who adapted it from...


For muffins:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs

For topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a standard-size muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg, and whisk to mix it thoroughly.

Combine the milk, vinegar, and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set aside. Melt the half stick of butter and mix into the milk mixture.

In a large bowl, place the remaining stick of butter. With an electric mixer, beat on medium until the butter is creamy and no longer stick-like. Slowly add the sugar, beating until the mixture fluffs up, increasing in volume and becomes a pale yellow. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined. Mix in the milk mixture. Slowly, in batches, mix in the dries until half of the dry is mixed in with the wet. Remove the beaters and switch to a rubber spatula, mix in the rest of the dough and combine well.

Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin tin and bake until the muffins are firm to the touch and the center's come out clean-- about 20-30 minutes.

Allow the muffins to cool. When they have cooled melt the remaining butter and brush the muffin tops and sides with it. Roll or dust the tops with powder sugar and serve.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hangover Cure I

I'm not a heavy drinker. I can't say I drink weekly, but on occasion there will be a few weeks where every Friday or so I'll go out and get a drink. On those Friday's where I get more than one drink, like last night, I tend to get something more like five.

That's my limit. Five. Depending on the drink, of course, but I usually can handle them like a champ. Last night was the same story, with drinking and dancing and fun times in Culver City. I should have taken a picture of my shot that was on fire, but I didn't.

Anywho, I digress. Mornings after rarely wake me with a headache, but a deep craving for eggs. Either over medium with toast, thus scooping up all the delicious yolk, or scrambled. This morning was a scrambled kind... but I have to, have to when I wake up from drinking, include tons of things in my scramble. The most important? Avocado.

This is this morning's scramble.

A quick mixture of two scrambled eggs, made fluffy with milk and water and seasoned with sriracha. Then mixed with tomatoes, spinach, avocado, bacon, onions cooked in the bacon drippings, colby-jack, and a little bit of havarti dill for pizazz.
Then topped with colby-jack, of course, and a bit of hot sauce. It was the perfect cure. And delicious (though nothing exciting at all)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shepherd's Pie, take 1.

Last night was my first chance to really make something new and interesting in my new kitchen. For the last few months I haven't really done much cooking-- really, it's been boxes of macaroni and cheese and ramen. And couscous with grilled chicken.

But newly inspired, I went out and got some ingredients to make a few things. A quiche, coming up (hopefully this weekend if I can find some darn pablano peppers), and a few types of cupcakes and cookies. I need a food processor. And a new digital camera. Currently I'm using someone else's and it's not doing so hot.

That said! Last night I gathered ingredients for a home cooked yummy meal, Shepherd's Pie. Now I've had the shepherd's pie at Cheesecake Factory and it's -amazing-. Seriously. At least the time I had it, it was.... I could taste all the fresh components in it, the herbs were seriously super fresh, like picked from the valley. I wanted to recreate a feeling like that, but with my own personal twist.

My shepherd's pie contains ground lamb, I went and grabbed a pound at my Whole Food's... now, in America usually it's ground beef, but upon research I've determined that beef + mashed potato crust = cottage pie. Lamb makes it shepherd's pie, it makes sense, considering the sheperd to his flock.

Basically shepherd's pie is a combination of leftover ingredients. It's meat, vegetables, gravy, with a mashed potato crust. My pie was all of the above, with twists on some recipes I glanced at. I used a variety of vegetables which I sauteed with the lamb and some herbs. I then let it all simmer in its own juicyness, and added Worcestershire sauce and diced tomato. After more simmering I added a squirt of ketchup to replace the 'tomato sauce' usually used... ketchup, to me, has that vinegary edge that just brings out so much flavour. It's not quite as fresh as a tomato sauce, of course, but I really have a love affair with it.

I then added some red wine to deepen the flavours, then some wheat flour to thicken the sauce into a gravy. The mashed potatoes I covered it with I wanted to be uber creamy, I added butter and milk and a little bit of Parmesan cheese to give them some of their own flavour, then topped the entire thing with some grated colbyjack. After I let it roast for awhile, I removed it and topped with some caramelized onions.

I was reading another foodblog which was talking about how caramelized onions bring forth the flavors of fall. I quite agree with that, I crave them in fall more than any other time... and shepherd's pie, being a fairly simple hearty treat, seems like it would go super well with it.

I plated it with some crusty spelt bread I toasted and smeared with garlic and sprinkled with salt.

The approximate recipe for this shepherd's pie, as I didn't really write it down (shame on me).

Shepherd's Pie I

2 medium white rose potatoes, cubed
2 medium red potatoes, cubed
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk (or until smooth)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 large, sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tomato. chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1/8 cup frozen green beans
1/8 cup frozen green peas
1/8 cup frozen corn
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon wheat flour
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/8 cup red wine
1/8 cup grated cheese
caramelized onions

Oven at 400 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Boil the cubed potatoes until tender. Drain, then mash well, mixing in the butter, milk, Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Make sure to mix in enough milk to make the potatoes extremely creamy, and smooth enough to spread.

In a large skillet, drizzle some olive oil and two teaspoons of butter. Add all the vegetables but the tomatoes and start to cook. Add the ground lamb and herbs, and cook until the lamb is browned and it's juices have seeped. Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes. Allow to simmer together for five minutes, then add the ketchup. Stir and fold to mix all together and allow to simmer until the tomatoes break down slightly. Add the red wine and continue to stir and simmer for another five minutes. Add the flour and whisk into the sauces, then remove from heat.

Pour the meat mixture into an oven safe casserole dish, spread to form an even surface. Top with the mashed potatoes, and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until brown. Broil for the last few minutes if necessary.

Remove from oven and topped with caramelized onions.


When I was out getting ingredients, I completely forgot to get herbs... I'm nearly out since moving into my new apartment and I have no rosemary, so it didn't have that fresh pop I was looking for. That being said, it was quite delicious. There's a few things I plan to change in this recipe, one including writing it down and using some more fresh ingredients, but it was really, really tasty as is. The wine gave it a super richness that was both delicate and bold.

Again, my apologies that I haven't uber photograpphed anything. I will. I promise. I will.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pumpkin Pie and South Park!

So my boyfriend works over at South Park Studios doing crazy awesome animations. During a run, he'll work pretty much every day all the time. Since that's the case, we all get together on Wednesday night's (as I think I've explained before) to watch South Park and eat yummies.

A few weeks ago, to celebrate the coming of fall and everything, I made pumpkin pie. This is the recipe that I created last year for Thanksgiving, which is ultimately one of my favourite holidays because I get to cook so much for so many people. I use a few nontraditional ingredients with a few traditional methods. I roast my own pumpkin to get the puree (though, this time, my boyfriend did it for me as I was working!). It's something I look forward to.

I forgot to take pictures until pretty much everyone had eaten the pie. As I was chowing down on my slice, I took one lonely picture, and luckily it turned out pretty good.

I made a crust for this pie which I took to work with me so I could have it ready at the boyfriend's house.... and then I promptly forgot it at work. We had to run out and buy premade Marie Callender frozen pie crusts for this pie. I've decided I'll make a quiche with the pie crust I was going to make this out of... and so you'll see that later.

It took me awhile to get the courage to put recipes up here. I have it in mind to make a cookbook someday, but recipes are meant to be shared.
That said, here is the recipe for my personal pumpkin pie.


2 eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pie crust

Preheat the oven to 450 Degrees. In a large mixing bowl, slowly mix the sugar into the pumpkin puree. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and spices. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin puree, then mix in the syrup. Beat the ingredients well. In another separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla extract, then add them into the pumpkin mixture. Slowly mix in the evaporated and cream, combining until well blended. Pour the batter into an unbaked pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 325 Degrees. Continue baking the pie for an additional 30-45 minutes or until a knife is inserted into the mixture and comes out clean. If the mixture doesn't seem to want to set and starts to brown, remove from the oven and allow to sit and cool for a few minutes, then test with the knife again.

Be sure to strain your pumpkin puree. This time I didn't have time, and so the pie came out a little soft... but if you happen to not strain, I'd cut back a bit on the evaporated milk.