Category Archives: We Cook

Warm up with a Bourbon Furnace

furnace

This winter has been relatively mild in Seattle, nonetheless, I always love a good warm drink.  Warm drink with alcohol, even better!  I recently discovered the bourbon furnace and it’s become my 2012 winter cocktail.  You could dress it up with cloves and cinnamon, but I prefer the simplicity of lemon.  When it comes to bourbon, most people think of Maker’s Mark. While I do like Maker’s Mark, I’ve become a big a fan of Woodford Reserve Craft Bourbon. Yum.

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What is your favorite winter cocktail?

Bourbon Furnace

  • Apple Cider
  • 1 shot bourbon per serving
  • 1 lemon wedge per serving

Heat apple cider on stove or in microwave. Pour into coffee mugs, add bourbon and garnish with lemon. Enjoy by the fire.

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Thanksgiving for Three

Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for less than 6 people is a challenge but this year it is just us three- my Mom, Matt, and I. Mom is hosting at her place, but we all worked on the menu together. An added challenge this year was to make dinner “relatively” healthy and to not be overwhelmed with leftovers.

The bird (Mom)

Source

The smallest turkey we could buy fresh was 12 lbs. I would have liked a 10 lbs or less bird but oh well.  Mom is making our traditional family recipe- minus the dressing.  In 1977 (my first thanksgiving) my Grandma tried a new turkey recipe from Bon Appetite which called for the turkey to be cooked upside down in a brown paper bag.  I don’t think my Grandma (or anyone in my family for that matter) ever tried another recipe again.  This recipe (from the article Talking Turkey: How to Buy, Marinade, Stuff, and Roast the Perfect Bird by Rita Leinwand) has been reprinted in Bon Appetite several times for good reason.  My family has photocopied the original recipe and passed it on numerous times.  Just a day ago I got an email from my dad who is celebrating Thanksgiving with his sisters looking for a copy of our turkey recipe. I finally got smart and scanned it to a google document. I suggest giving it a try next year.

The stuffing (Mom)

In an effort to be healthy this turkey day we are giving a new stuffing a try.  We’ll be incorporating whole grains and I mean whole grains! Wheatberries are uncracked wheat- can’t get much more whole grain than that.

Wheatberries Source

I found a recipe for Wheat Berry Stuffing with Pearl Onions on Epicurious in the healthy section (love the healthy and the quick meal sections).  Cannot wait to give it a try.

The Starch (Amy)

I love sweet potatoes (sans brown sugar/marshmallow/etc)  but I don’t want to give up my regular old potatoes. Instead of doubling up on starches I found a recipe that uses both.

Bon Appetit November 2009

Roasted Sweet Potato, Potato & Sage. In addition to Yukon Gold ‘taters this recipe also uses red-skinned and tan-skinned sweet potatos. Yum, Yum, Yum.

The Veggies (Amy)

Green beans are a must for us on the Thanksgiving table, although I don’t like green bean casserole *gasp*.  I did make green bean casserole completely from scratch once -i.e. no cream of mushroom soup- and it was bomb a$$.  It was a lot of work and a lot of calories but amazing. I am not 100% on the veggie recipe yet but here are the top contenders:

Green Beans with Ginger Butter

Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

Haricots Verts, Roasted Fennel, and Shallot

Cranberries (Mom)

Yeah, I am funny about my cranberries too.  I am in the raw relish camp rather than the cooked sauce camp.  The absolute worst? Canned cranberry sauce.  The can shaped log kills me.  Matt thinks this is funny and now I am the proud owner of this shirt:

Lets Get Sauced – Woot.com

Our recipe for cranberry relish is super complicated and top secret… ok, really it has 3 ingredients and comes from the back of the ocean spray cranberry package.  Love.

Dessert (Matt)

Even though he will likely help me with the side dishes Matt is 100% in charge of dessert. He is the house baker/ice cream maker after all!

Pumpkin Gingersnap Ice Cream  Sunset Magazine October 2011

We have some extra pumpkin sitting around and we’ve been toying with this healthy dessert.  Most likely we’ll make it next week and just serve the ice cream for Thanksgiving dinner.

Pumpkin-Pear Crips Bon Appetit November 2011

There you have it! A simple, *healthy-ish* Thanksgiving menu for 3.  Left overs shouldn’t be overwhelming and I think the menu has balance.

Do you have any *healthy-ish* turkey day suggestions?  What is the smallest group you’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for? Which green bean recipe would you choose?

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Guilt-Free Salsa

I mentioned before that salsa is a great volumetric food.  On average salsa has 10 calories per 32 grams. Remember our energy density formula?

 Calories/Grams= Energy Density (ED).

So salsa is weighing in at an ED of about 0.31.  In theory I could eat salsa until satisfied and not feel an ounce of guilt.  Not so much, you see there is a culprit in the salsa situation… the tortilla chip.  Most tortilla chips have 150 calories per serving (28 g). That means tortilla chips have an energy density of 5.35.

WHAT?!  Volumetric principles say that anything over an energy density of 2 should be eaten sparingly. So while salsa has an energy density of less than 1 the chips that deliver it to my mouth have a 5+ ED.   This leaves salsa with chips (1 serving =11 chips) as snack to be enjoyed in moderation. *sad face*.

salsa

After my inquiry about non-energy dense salsa delivery methods a friend emailed me a fantastic idea.  Cucumbers!

Simply leave the skin on (I prefer them that way, plus it makes them more sturdy for scooping) and cut into medium thickness slices. The cucumber has a wonderful fresh taste and a satisfying crunch. Oh and since cucumbers are almost entirely water you aren’t adding any real calories and can eat as much as you so desire.  *cue heavenly  music*

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Now there are times when nothing will replace a tortilla chip.  Matt and I searched the grocery for a healthier alternative to your normal chip. We were pleasantly surprised by the Guiltless Gourmet Blue Corn Chips.  In general, blue corn tortilla chips are better for you than regular chips because they have more protein and a lower glycemic index.  The Guiltless Gourmet chips are baked and have less fat than normal chips. I was fully prepared for them to taste like cardboard but they were surprisingly good.  As far as energy density goes they have 120 calories per 28 grams so an ED of 4.28.  Not fabulous, so I would try to stick to 1 serving (18 chips) as a snack.

What is your favorite guilt-free snack?

PS My sister-in-law suggest zucchini as a chip alternative.  We’ll have to try that soon.

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Promoted to Iron Chef

Matt and I are a bit competitive in the kitchen.  Both good cooks I feel that he gets to showcase his cooking skills more frequently and thus is dubbed “the chef” in the family.  We have a friend, Veekit, who is from Thailand.  Iron chef is one of his favorite shows and he and Matt are always bringing food to each other to show off their skills.  My husband has earned the nickname”Iron Chef Morimoto” from Veekit.

My nickname is “Sous Chef”.

*sigh*  It’s not that Veekit has tasted my cooking (Matt doesn’t bring him my cooking to sample) and deemed it “Sous” worthy, it’s that he figures my skills must pale in comparison to Matt’s that only one of us could be a great cook.  Oh well, it is what it is.

I’m happy to report that in the last 48 hrs I have made three dishes that have promoted me to “Iron Chef” from “Sous Chef.

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On the Left: Fresh Tomatillo Salsa On the right:Salsa Mexicana Classica.

Both recipes came from Epicurious.  Thanks to our CSA we had Tomatillos, garlic, onion, and some Fresno peppers.  I replaced the peppers called for in the recipes with the Fresno chiles.  Fresno peppers tend to be hotter than jalapeno peppers and as a result both salsas have the perfect amount of burn. Yum.  Unknown to me, Matt took some of the Tomatillo salsa to Veekit for tasting today.  He dubbed it Iron Chef worthy. YAY, out of the Sous ranks I come!

I am not kidding when I say that my love of Pho is legendary.  Veekit thinks its funny how often I eat Pho and has been known to chant “Pho, Pho, Pho” under his breath when he sees me.  Makes me smile every time!  On Friday I reported that my earlier attempt at Pho bordered on Faux Pho.

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I’m happy to report that my second attempt was a success!  After standing over a hot stove for 3 hrs I am MUCH closer to getting the broth just right.  The bowl pictured above wasn’t necessarily “iron chef” worthy but it was close.  Matt and I agreed that if we had been served the Pho I made in a restaurant we would have been satisfied with our meal and that I am definitely on the right track.  The secret to good Pho is the broth and while we are still in search of the perfect broth recipe, the rest of the soup is pretty well nailed down now.  Look for it to be featured in a post soon.

It’s nice to get a little recognition from friends and Matt for my cooking skills.  The lesson here? There is room for two Iron Chefs in this family!

In your relationship is one of you considered “the chef” or “the cook”?

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Things I am Excited About This Weekend

I’m excited about all kinds of things these days!
1) I started a new job this week. I big puffy heart love it  and the best part is that I get to work from home 3-4 days a week.  We’re working out the logistics of desks (I’ve temporarily booted Matt out of the office entirely but that isn’t a good longterm solution) and will be doing a bit of an office revamp soon. YAY!

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2) My friend fell in love with this photo that I took of her daughter.  I offered to get a nice print of it for her to hang and on a whim I suggested doing a mini-photo  shoot with the two of them this weekend.  It’s a chance for me to practice with my camera more and hopefully get some great photos for her. Seriously can’t wait!  Any last-minute photo tips would be much appreciated!

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3) We’re making Pho* stock this weekend!  A couple of weeks ago I proclaimed to the Facebook world that Matt and I were making Pho. My love of Pho is well know and I even gave it up for lent last year (hardest thing ever!).  I was so excited and  it ended up being a big fat Pho fail.  The stock recipe that we used was a “cheat” or “faux pho” and it was disappointing, but it looked pretty. Shame on me for taking shortcuts. We’re making Pho stock the right way this weekend (i.e. the 3 hr way) and we’ll have some Pho for dinner next week. WOOT!
What is making you excited these days?
*Pho (pronounced fa) is aVietnamese rice noodle soup.  It has a complex (and yummy) clear beef broth and is usually served with thin slices of meat although I prefer fried tofu and vegetables in my Pho.

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Easy Gin Punch

Whenever I need a recipe for entertaining I go to my Grandma. My grandparents threw amazing parties 1950’s/1960’s and my grandmother was the consummate hostess and cook. When I was in my 20s I would call her and tell her about the party I was planning. She would ask me questions and then get back to me in a day or so with some ideas for a menu and recipes. Its been 5-6 years since I could call her for help though. She has advanced Alzheimer’s. I miss those phone calls dearly but in their place I have her recipes.

Although we had the food catered for our House (re)Warming, Matt and I both wanted to serve an alcoholic punch. Grandma’s recipes to the rescue. When we were looking for a signature drink recipe for our wedding, we used a family recipe that she made for my parent’s wedding. Our guests loved the drink and we toyed with the idea of making it again for our party but we decided to go with something new.  I think the sheer volume of hard punch recipes that we had to choose from is a testament to how much the entertaining that she and my grandfather did.  We selected the Easy Punch recipe because it was in a word: Easy… and tasty- whoops that is two words.

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I purchased double the ingredients to I could make a second batch of “Virgin Punch” for our non-drinking friends, plus I didn’t easily find 6 oz juice concentrate containers. I remember them as a kid but the grocery store seems to only sell 12 oz containers now. Oh well… at least that made doubling the recipe easy.

EasyPunch

The strawberries help to keep the punch cool and don’t dilute like ice would.  Plus they are yummy.  A half mason jar is more than enough to sip on. It’s pretty strong so you won’t want to pour yourself a huge glass.

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To make a virgin version simply replace the gin with sparkling water. We used Talking Rain Tangerine.

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This was definitely a keeper recipe.  I’m excited to see alcoholic punches coming back into vogue, mainly because it gives me an excuse to go digging through my grandma’s recipes.

Do you like a hard punch?  What is your favorite alcoholic party beverage (non-beer/wine)?

Easy Punch

1 package frozen strawberries

1 lg can pineapple juice

6 oz frozen lemonade concentrate

6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate

Juice from one lime

1/4 cup sugar

1 liter Club Soda

1 liter Ginger Ale

1 fifth of Gin (or Vodka)

Mix in a large punch bowl. Float frozen strawberries on top when ready to serve.

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The Way to His Heart…

… is with chicken pot pie; a least in the Parker Haus.  When I met Matt he was already an awesome chef and baker but his lazy go-to comfort food was Marie Calendars Chicken Pot Pie.  His freezer was stocked with boxes.  One night when he had made one for each of us I happened to glance at the nutrition information.

Source

Holy Crap-ola!  520 calories per serving… what this image doesn’t show is that there are 2 servings per pie – which he regularly ate.  I affectionately started calling these his 1000 calorie bombs.  Needless to say we started sharing a pot pie when we had them.

MC Pot Pies have lost their luster for Matt.  But never fear, good wife that I am, I found an alternative with just 60% of the calories.  I told him what we were going to make and he quickly blurted out “I love you.”  See, its as simple as pot pie.

You start by cooking up bacon, but then again don’t all good recipes start this way? Whenever instructions tell me to cook bacon and then chop I have a nifty shortcut.  Using kitchen shears I cut the uncooked bacon strips before cooking.  Be sure to put those shears into the dishwasher. Oh so much more simple than chopping cooked bacon.

Next, you saute onions in the bacon drippings and saute.  Then comes the veggies! I really liked this recipe because of the large amount of vegetables.

While the veggies cook in chicken broth we shredded the store-bought roasted chicken.

Add the crème fraîche, chicken and bacon.  Bring to a simmer.

Divide among 4 soufflé dishes. We were able to fill 4 Fiesta individual oval casserole dishes + 2 Pampered Chef  1 cup prep bowls.

We used puff pastry shells instead of the puff pastry sheets that the recipe calls for because we couldn’t find the sheets at our grocery.

Bake until crust is golden brown. Ohhh yum…

At this point I think I had to beat Matt off with a rolling pin to let them cool off a little bit.  When we finally dug in it was bliss.  Move over Marie, I think this recipe just ousted you from Matt’s heart.  The veggies are crisp and for the most part fresh.  They lack the standard drowned in gravy pot pie characteristic but the crème fraîche gives it the right amount of richness.  When I asked Matt to describe the taste all he can say is “It tastes like I love you.”  Needless to say I am going to be making this Monday night for Valentine’s day.

Oh and the calories? 624 per serving.

What food goes straight to your SO’s heart?

 

 

 

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Bacon and Marjoram

Adapted from Bon Appétit October 2007 via Epicurious

  • 5 slices pepper bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 12 ounces carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 8-ounce package trimmed green beans
  • 1/2 cup corse chopped celery
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon crème fraîche
  • 3 cups coarsely shredded chicken from 1 small purchased roasted chicken (skin removed)
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry thawed (we used Campbells Pepperidge Farm Dough Puff Pastry Shells)

Preheat oven to 450F. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Chop bacon. Add onion to drippings in skillet; sauté until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add next 3 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Add broth; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium high and boil until vegetables are almost tender and some liquid is reduced, about 8 minutes. Stir in 2/3 cup crème fraîche, chicken, and bacon. Bring to simmer. Divide among four 2-cup soufflé dishes.

Top filling in soufflé dishes one pastry shell. Brush top of crusts (not edges) with remaining 1 tablespoon crème fraîche. Bake until crusts are golden brown and filling is heated through, about 22 minutes.

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