I Resolve to Cook

I’m a list maker.  An obsessive list maker.  At work, I even color code my to-do lists. My coworkers probably think I’m nuts.  But I’m really just a disorganized person striving for order.  All of which is to say that I have nothing against list-making.  Actually, I adore it.

So it should come as no surprise that I have habitually written down my New Years Resolutions. Some years it’s just one or two goals, other years it’s a whole pile of them.  But this year is different.  This year, I’m content to be just the way I am.  So while I would love to lose those last 10 pounds, spend more time volunteering,  reconnect with old friends, and start to compost, none of those things are as important as being grateful for my life just as it is.

So in the absence of New Years Resolutions, my list-making self will just share with you my latest to-do list.  It’s really a to-make list.  It’s a list of those recipes I’ve been meaning to prepare, the ones I’ve bookmarked and remembered and forgotten and remembered again. My to-make list is actually miles long, but since my neurotic color-coding methodology would probably make your head spin, I’ll just share with you my top ten must-make totally-craving have-to-try recipes for the new year.

I’ve always loved Muhammara, a zesty, rich pepper-filled spread. This version from Taste of Beirut has been on my to-make list far too long. I just adore the idea of scooping it up with french fries like ketchup!

I’ve never baked with avocados, but I’m so drawn to the simplicity of this green-tinged Avocado Pound Cake  from Joy the Baker.

I know that Hanukkah is over, but I’m still in brisket mode. I love brisket. And I love rhubarb. But Brisket with Rhubarb and Honey?  Why not? Sounds like a brilliant pairing from Sassy Radish. And luckily, I still have a whole bag of rhubarb in my freezer from when I went on a rhubarb picking binge in June.

Sriracha Popcorn  from A Nutritionist Eats.  Simple. Spicy. Brilliant. ‘Nuff said.

I am addicted to Brussels sprouts and can’t wait to make these Roasted Brussels Spouts with Grapes and Thyme  from Weave a Thousand Flavors.  Earthy veggie, sweet fruit, fragrant herbs – sounds fantastic!

Sometimes indulgent needs to meet healthy, like with Scandi Foodie’s Brown Rice and Fig Tartlets

Rambling Tart’s Danish Puff  looks so indulgent and homey.  I can’t wait to enjoy with a cup of hot coffee!

I’ve been on the lookout for fun ways to use my slow cooker and this Slow Cooked Apple Butter from SkinnyTaste looks wonderful, and probably makes the house smell even better.

Aren’t these Spaghetti Nests from Angie’s Recipes adorable?

I love soda bread and have been eying this Oat Soda Bread from 101Cookbooks for months. I’ve been into herb butters lately, and this bread seems like the perfect vehicle for a big old pat of lovely butter.

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm  Comments (9)  
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Chai Concentrate: Super Last Minute Gift Recipe

chai latte recipe

Christmas still baffles me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  Decorating the tree, munching on sugar cookies, hanging out with the family. But not having grown up celebrating Christmas, I will never understand why a day-long holiday manages to last a whole season.  Or why perfectly normal radio stations play painfully festive music nonstop.  Or why some people wait until December 24th to shop for presents.

Elbowing and shoving my way through the mall does not sound like fun to me.  I’d much rather make chai. 

chai tea recipe

I saw this idea last week at The Kitchn and have been playing with spice variations since.  This recipe is quite flexible, so you can adjust it to your taste. The recipe below is the version I’m enjoying now, but it would be nice with a bit of ground ginger, or some cloves too. The basic idea is so simple, and the ingredients are so common you may even have them in your kitchen right now. Just stir together sweetened condensed milk and spices, and you have chai concentrate.  I was surprised at how a spoonful of this concentrate can transform an ordinary cup of tea into something creamy and fragrant.  Just spoon into a jar, tie with a ribbon, and you have an instant holiday gift.

There is really nothing authentic about this recipe, but it certainly is innovative.  And delicious.  I’ve always been a chai tea fan, but being able to enjoy a decadent, cozy cup of spiced tea anytime is fantastic.  I even brought a little jar of chai concentrate to work this week to stir into my black tea.  I like Darjeeling tea best, but use what you enjoy.  And it’s actually pretty wonderful stirred into coffee too!

chai tea recipe

Chai Concentrate

14 oz sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Stir all ingredients together and transfer to an attractive jar.  Store in the refrigerator (it will last a few months).  To serve, stir a spoonful (or more to taste) into a cup of brewed black tea.

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm  Comments (8)  
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Meyer Lemon Marmalade

marmalade

I did a little happy dance this week when I found meyer lemons on sale at Whole Foods.  I’m not kidding, I really did jump around and wiggle a bit – until I realized that my husband was pretending not to know me. 

When I got home with a few dozen meyer lemons, it occurred to me that I had no plan for what to DO with them.  I made a lovely, simple arugula and pine nut salad dressed with meyer lemon juice and olive oil.  I added a hefty sprinkle of meyer lemon zest to a bowl of wild rice. Then I thought about making sorbet, but realized I had no room in my freezer. And yesterday, I suggested lemon chiffon pie, to which my husband turned up his nose.  

citrus

So this afternoon, with a pile of meyer lemons, and a desperate desire to avoid the mall, I decided to experiment with making meyer lemon marmalade as a Hanukkah gift for my step-dad.  My step-dad has a thing for lemons in any form, and at any given time may have three or four open jars of marmalade in the fridge.   A match made in heaven! 

I’ve never had much luck with marmalade before.  Typically, marmalade requires boiling the peel of the fruit and discarding the boiling liquid multiple times before combining the pre-boiled peel with the juice, pulp, water and sugar to cook.  This process is, frankly, a pain in the butt.  I get impatient.  I skip a boiling step.  My marmalade tastes so bitter you may as well spread some soap on your toast.

But meyer lemons are different.  These bright yellow beauties are sweeter and have a thinner peel than your typical grocery store lemons, thinner, in fact, than most citrus fruits.  With minimal pith, the meyer lemon as a whole is less bitter.  Plus, that thin peel cooks quickly, making the extra boiling steps unnecessary in this marmalade.  That’s not to say that this marmalade is all sweetness and no bitterness.  Not at all.  I think the balance here is quite lovely.  But be warned; this is a true marmalade, as bitter as it is sweet.

meyer lemons

This marmalade makes a pretty gift for the lemon-lovers in your life.  It’s a great holiday hostess gift, and would be a wonderful addition to a holiday brunch spread.  I happen to like it best with whipped cream cheese on pumpernickel toast.  It would also be nice as a topping for buttermilk pancakes, or stirred into oatmeal along with some sweetened dried cranberries.  Or, if you want to get all fancy, serve it with clotted cream and fresh baked scones.

marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Makes about 2 cups

6 meyer lemons

2 cups water

1 1/2  cups sugar

Rinse the lemons.  Slice them very thinly with a sharp knife, and discard any seeds.  Very thinly slice the 12 end pieces and then quarter each of the center slices. Transfer the sliced lemons and any accumulated juices to a medium saucepan.  Add the water and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Stir in the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves, about a minute.  Then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring every so often, for about 30 minutes.  Toward the end of the cooking time, keep a close watch on the marmalade.  It is done when a dollop placed on a very cold plate (stick a plate in the freezer for this) gels and holds its shape.  If it is runny, continue to cook for a minute or two more and try the cold plate test again.  Spoon the marmalade into jars and either refrigerate or process in boiling water for 10 minutes to preserve.

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm  Comments (12)  
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Miso Pork Chops

miso marinated pork chops

You know what’s wrong with pork chops?  Well, for most people, absolutely nothing.  They are juicy, tasty, and quick to cook.  What could be wrong? 

Here’s what’s wrong: they are ugly. You’ve probably never noticed, but pork chops aren’t the most photogenic subjects.  So I’m attempting to distract you with some beautifully bright green veggies – look at the shiny emerald objects! Is it working? Probably not.  And that’s fine, because ugly or not, these pork chops are fantastic. 

These quick and flavorful pork chops are a perfect weeknight dinner, but they are exciting enough to serve to company, and also make for fantastic leftovers.  Reheated, sliced and tossed with some rice and steamed veggies, they may be even be better the next day. Of course, they are awfully tasty straight from the oven, served alongside some sauteed sesame-sprinkled green beans.

If you haven’t use it before, don’t let miso paste scare you.  It is lovely, salty, earthy, and intense – not to mention healthy! Miso is fermented soybeans (sometimes with rice or barley as well), and generally sold as a paste.  There are many varieties of miso, but I’ve found white and red miso paste are most common in my local grocery stores. In general, the deeper the color, the more intense the flavor of the miso paste.  I threw together this recipe to use up the remnants of a tub of miso paste, and have used up another tub of miso paste making it again and again. But if you find yourself with some extra miso and need some inspiration, check out this recipe for saucy soba noodles with ground pork: Pork Noodles

Japanese miso pork chop

Miso Pork Chops

Serves 4

3 tablespoons red miso paste

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons sriracha (chili sauce)

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

4  boneless center cut pork chops (each about 1 inch thick)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Wisk together the miso paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, ginger, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of oil.  Arrange the pork chops in a shallow dish and drizzle with the marinade, turning to coat both sides.  Cover and  marinate for 20-30 minutes. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with the remaining oil. Arrange the pork chops on the baking sheet (they should be well coated with marinade; discard any excess marinade) and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook, but do cook to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.  Serve right away.

Published in: on December 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm  Comments (13)  
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