Friday, April 29, 2011

Anchovy-Garlic Carbonara Pasta

I love simple and tasty pasta recipes. I try to include one in every week's meal plan. This recipe is from Food & Wine magazine ("Spaghetti with Anchovy Carbonara"). I liked both, the texture and flavor of this dish. I liked the creaminess of the egg-yolk-and-cooking-water sauce. That's definitely something to use in other pasta dishes as well.

12 ounces spaghetti
8-10 anchovy fillets with oil
2 tbsp olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
3-4 dashes crushed red pepper
finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 fresh parsley, chopped
2 large egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta al dente in salted water, drain, and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil and anchovy fillets over low heat until anchovies have dissolved, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and fry until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add the red pepper, zest, oregano, parsley, and black pepper. Then add pasta and toss to coat. Whisk together egg yolks with the reserved cooking water and add to the pasta. Cook over low heat, tossing until the pasta is coated in a creamy sauce, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stir-Fried Steak and Potatoes

This is a nice quick & easy recipe. I have to admit that it never would have occurred to me to mix French Fries into a stir-fry....and I didn't. I thought they might get too soggy if I mixed them into the meat, so I made fries-shaped home fries instead. If you want to try the original version with the French Fries from Food & Wine click here ("Peruvian Steak and Potato Stir-Fry").

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick strips
5-6 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2-3 dashes crushed red pepper
1 pound skirt steak
1 red onion, halved and slivered
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cilantro

Heat 2-3 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and fry for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Reduce heat to low-medium and fry until potatoes are soft and browned from all sides, about 15-20 minutes longer, seasoning to taste with salt. Remove potatoes from skillet. In the meantime, whist together 3-4 tbsp oil with cumin, coriander, garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper, and 1 tsp salt. Cut meat into 1/2 inch thick and 4 inch long slices. Add meat and onion to spice mix. Let marinate for 10 minutes. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and onions and stir-fry until both are cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato and cook until softened, 1-2 minutes. Add potatoes and cilantro and toss carefully. Serve with hot sauce if desired.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pizza Day is Here Again, the Skies Above are Clear Again.....

Today was pizza night again at our house. I recently started to prepare two 3-inch pizzas along with the two big ones. LittleGrouch is at an age now where he loves to put tomato sauce and cheese on his own small pizzas and relish them when they are done.

You can find the pizza recipe here. This time, I added some ham cubes to the Feta-Olive-Rosemary Pizza.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baked Potatoes with Chicken and Pesto-Yogurt

Today we had a super simple, if not very quick dish. Baking the potato takes some time, of course, but the rest is prepared in a jiffy.

2 large baking potatoes, pricked
2-3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
salt, pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tbsp pesto
tomato salad for serving

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake potatoes for 1 1/4 hours until soft. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry chicken for 6-8 minutes, turning 2-3 times. Mix yogurt with pesto. For serving, cut potatoes in half and top with chicken and yogurt sauce, and serve with tomato salad.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Quick Pad Thai with Shrimp and Eggs

Pad Thai s is one of HubbyGrouch's favorite Asian dishes. I have made different varieties with combinations of chicken, pork, shrimps, egg. This one is based on a recipe in the current issue of Food & Wine magazine (Quick Shrimp Pad Thai).

10-12 oz Thai style noodles
2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
24 shelled and deveined large shrimp
1 cup minced shallots
3 large garlic cloves, minced
8 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp chopped walnuts
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare the noodles as directed. Drain in a colander, shaking and tossing once or twice. Whisk together fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and red pepper. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium skillet. Add eggs and let set over low heat, stirring once or twice to break up large pieces. Transfer to a bowl. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Add shrimp and fry until they turn pink, 2-3 minutes, turning once or twice. Set aside. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet. Add shallots and garlic. Cook until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add noodles and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, shrimp, lime juice mixture, scallions, walnuts, and cilantro. Mix well and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Omelettes (with Cheese and Ham)

This is not the classic way of preparing an omelette. However, it is quick, easy and tasty. I spread the toppings immediately over the egg mixture, just after pouring it into the pan. That way, the cheese melts nicely. It's the way I like to eat my omelette in the morning.

Feta and Ham Omelette
Cheddar and Ham Omelette

for 1 omelette
2 large eggs
2 tsp cold water
vegetable oil or butter
1-2 oz cheese (Feta, cheddar, mozzarella, etc.)
1-2 tbsp ham cubes

Whisk together eggs, water and salt. Heat oil in 9-inch skillet over low heat. Pour egg mixture into pan and immediately spread ham and cheese over egg. Let eggs set, fold over with a spatula and serve with the bread of your choice.

Feta and Ham Omelette

Cheddar and Ham Omelette

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomato Soup with Bell Pepper, Spinach, and Chickpeas

I have prepared this recipe several times in slightly different versions. It's quick, easy, and very tasty. The basis for the soup can either be made from diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes in combination with tomato sauce and broth (chicken, beef, vegetable etc.). I have enriched the soup with potato cubes, kielbasa, (pepper) salami, ham cubes. I usually serve the soup with sliced baguette. My son loves to dip the bread into this thick tomato soup.

1 tbsp olive oil
8 scallions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, in 1/2 inch cubes
2-3 garlic cloves, minced (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 tsp cumin
3 14-oz cans diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
1 8.5-oz can tomato sauce
1 tbsp chicken (or vegetable) broth powder
1 15-oz can chickpeas
5-6 oz fresh baby spinach
1 tsp sugar
2-3 tsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil over medium heat. Add scallions and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add bell pepper, garlic, and cumin and stir for 1 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, tomato sauce, broth powder, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Carefully mix in spinach. Simmer, stirring, until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and season to taste with sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Serve with baguette slices.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chili con Carne

When I started this blog, I wanted to combine my cooking with my experiences in this part of the world. Alas, lately I have been so tired at the end of the day that I barely had the energy to type out my recipes. I did take notes though and jotted down a lot of ideas for remarks to be included in my blog in the near future. So here is one of them. Just the other day at a department store, I had one of these annoying occurrences. After spending some time in the mall, with my 3-year-old running a lot and everybody getting tired, I was at the checkout with my purchase, ready to pay and leave. I was in the middle of paying and the person at the checkout just kept going through their annoying routine of "Don't you want to register for a rewards card", "You get x percent discount at this at that store", blah blah blah. I am kind of used to that by now, although every time I have to hold myself back from saying "Shut up! I just want to pay and leave!". But this time, my son was standing next to me fussing and squealing and wanting his jacket put on. And this stupid robot-cashier just kept on with her routine. Well, I guess it wasn't as bad as when I went to a maternity store with my then 2.5 year old son and me 7 months pregnant. After the cashier had asked me if I wanted to join and sign up and register for about 7 or 8 different things and my son playing hide-and-seek in the store all that time, I finally had to tell her rather annoyed and directly that I please just wanted to pay and NOT JOIN ANYTHING!

This chili recipe is based on my Chili con Turkey. I really liked the "setting" for that chili. The combination of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce along with the spices makes a nice basis for the meat and veggies you would like to have in a chili. Which makes this a super flexible recipe. Just chose the meat and veggies you would like and  voilà, there is your own special chili dish.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Local Take-outs and Dining

HubbyGrouch is still more or less immobilized with his chip-fractured ankle. So, until things normalize a bit, I decided to change my meal plan strategy. For now, I prepare double portions every other day and save meal preparation time. Only one day we actually did take-out food. There are not that many possibilities near by anyway. We settled on a local pizza place, which has been there for only about 3 months. It's called "La Trattoria" here in Belchertown. We were very positively surprised. The pizza was crusty and had just the right amount (for our taste) of tomato sauce and cheese. We will definitely go there again!
That got me thinking about which area restaurants I have been to so far. Not a lot I must say. Another place I like here is Chubby Checkers. I like to there for a Bacon Cheeseburger or Turkey Club Sandwich. They are really good.
A great breakfast place here is the Roadhouse Café. We've been there a few times and enjoyed the nice food.

Places we've been to and liked in Amherst include:
Judie's Restaurant
Monkey Bar / Bistro 63
Chez Albert
Mango Mango
Lone Wolf

Places we've been to and liked in Northampton:
The Sierra Grille
Mama Iguana's
Pizzeria Paradiso
Café Lhasa
Paradise City Tavern
Amanouz Cafe

Not a very impressive list for 4 years in this area (I don't think it's complete so I might have to add to it from time to time). Even before the kids we didn't go out much for eating. I just prefer home cooked food and I love to preparing it. On the other hand, I do like to try out new foods and have restaurant experience from time to time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

This seems to be a rather ubiquitous dish in Chinese restaurants and take-outs. I don't think I have ever had it but I know I've seen it lots of times on menus. I found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine. It sounded good and not complicated, so I gave it a try. It turned out really nice. I only used half the sugar of the original recipe, though. I don't like my food too sweet.

1-2 tsp sesame oil
1 large egg white
5 tbsp soy sauce
7 tbsp cornstarch
1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp Sesame Garlic sauce (Iron Chef)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
vegetable oil for frying
2 tbsp very finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp dried minced garlic
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Rice and broccoli for serving

Combine sesame oil, egg white, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 6 tbsp cornstarch. Add chicken, stirring to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the chicken broth with the sesame-garlic sauce, sugar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tbsp cornstarch, and garlic. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add the ginger and cook over high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir the broth mixture and add to the skillet. Cook until thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Keep warm over low heat. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch  of oil until shimmering. Carefully add the chicken, one piece at a time, and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until very browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain the chicken on paper towels and immediately add to the sauce along with the scallions. Cook just until coated, about 30 seconds. Serve right away with rice and broccoli.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Braised Chicken Legs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

 This is a great, easy chicken dish. It is full of flavor and reminded me of both, Indian curries and Northern African dishes. The recipe is from the current issue of Food & Wine, and called Spice-Braised Chicken Legs with Red Wine and Tomato. I only used half the amount of chicken from the recipe but prepared all the sauce. I'm just a sauce junkie - I think I had already mentioned that.

2 tablespoons canola oil
6 chicken drumsticks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp garlic powder
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon powder
3-4 dashes crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and to the skillet. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the cumin seeds and cook over moderately high heat for about 10 seconds, until fragrant. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon, crushed red pepper and bay leaves and wine, and simmer over moderately low heat for 5 minutes. Add the stock and the tomatoes with their juices and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chicken to the sauce along with any accumulated juices and simmer over low heat, turning a few times, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is flavorful, about 50 minutes. Discard the bay leaves, season with salt and pepper and serve with rice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beef Fajitas with Olives and Feta

Fajitas are always a nice quick dinner. In this recipe from Bon Appetit, ("Steak Picadillo Soft Tacos"), they are given a Mediterranean twist by adding olives and feta cheese. The original recipe has raisins in it, which I don't particularly like in savory food. So I just left them out. Also, I replaced skirt steak by tenderloin tips, which are more tender and juicy.

1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 beef tenderloin tips
1/2 cup of 1/4 inch cubes of green bell pepper
3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
3-4 slices of pickles jalapeno chiles, minced
1/3 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, cut lengthwise into quarters
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
3/4 tsp dried cilantro
8 tortillas
Feta cheese for serving

Heat oil in a large enough skillet. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Fry over medium heat about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside. In the same skillet, sauté bell pepper for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, chiles, olives, tomato paste, cumin, allspice, and cilantro. Simmer until sauce is this, 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and olive brine. Cut meat into 1/3 inch thick slices, add to skillet an mix. Divide filling among tortillas, sprinkle with feat cheese, and roll the tortillas. Cut in half and serve.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pasta-Bake with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch

This is another great vegetarian recipe. It's easy to prepare, though not quick, but you get at least two dinners worth of food out of it. The pine nut crunch is yummy! The original recipe is from Bon Appetit and called "Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch".

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1-2 eggplants (1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch squares
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp garlic powder
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups (firmly packed) fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts
1  28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pound elbow maccaroni
1 pound whole-milk mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, mix egglant, bell pepper, tomatoes, 1 tsp garlic powder and oil. Spread vegetables on baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Combine half the basil, 1 cup parmesan, pine nuts and 1/2 tsp garlic powder in a food processor. Blend until crumbly. Blend tomatoes with juice, cream, remaining basil, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Drain and return to pot. Toss with vegetables, sauce, and 1/2 cup parmesan. Transfer to a suitable baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella and pine nut topping. Bake pasta until heated through and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Greek-Style Lamb Chops and Roasted Potatoes

As I have already mentioned, I love Greek food. So, I was very happy when I saw a whole Greek Easter menu in the current issue of Bon Appetit magazine. I prepared Lamb Chops with Lemon and Lemon-Roasted Potatoes. (Not exactly according to the recipes, as usual.) I used mainly dried ingredients instead of fresh herbs. I normally wouldn't but HubbyGrouch chip-fractured his ankle today so I had to cut back on the preparation time to fight the looming chaos in our house. I decided to call this simplification of the recipe "mommy-rization", which I often do depending on what's going on at the house during dinner preparation. No doubt you'll notice that if you compare other source recipes to the version I typed up for the blog.

Ingredients: (for 2 people)
Lamb Chops
5 lamb chops
onion powder
dried oregano
garlic powder
fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
extra olive oil for frying

1 pound fingerling potatoes, rinsed and halved lenghtwise
2-3 tbsp olive oil
black pepper
juice of one lemon
1-2 tsp dried dill weed
1-2 tsp garlic powder

Sprinkle lamb chops with onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, a dash of sugar, and mint. Place in one layer in a flat dish, seasoned side down. Season the other side. Cover dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Whisk olive oil with lemon juice, a little bit of salt, and a generous amount of pepper. Spoon half of oil mixture over meat, turn chops over and spoon remaining oil mixture over them. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry chops 3-5 minutes pre side. In the meantime, prepare the potatoes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss potatoes with olive oil and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Spread on baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes. Whisk lemon juice with dill weed and garlic powder. Sprinkle over potatoes and roast for 15 minutes longer. Serve meat with potatoes and tomato salad.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Special Request: Pizza

On a special request by HubbyGrouch and LittleGrouch, we are having pizza again. We had Salami-Mozzarella Pizza and Feta-Olive-Rosemary Pizza. The recipes for these pizzas can be found here, so I don't have to type them again.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bacon Cheese Burgers with Tarragon Russian Dressing

I am not a particular fan of fast food. But if you prepare burgers at home and use good quality buns, they can be super delicious. Like these. I have prepared this recipe several times and we always enjoy it. It is my version of a Food & Wine magazine recipe for "Cheddar BLT Burgers with Tarragon Russian Dressing".

1 preparation of ground beef for meat patties
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp grated onion
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tbsp dried tarragon
1/2 tbsp Worcester sauce
6 slices bacon, halved
6 slices sharp cheddar
6 Kaiser rolls
lettuce and tomato slices for assembly

Whisk mayonnaise, ketchup, onion, parsley, tarragon, and Worcester sauce together. Cover and refrigerate. Prepare ground beef as instructed in the recipe for meat patties. In a skillet, cook the bacon of medium heat until crisp, turning once or twice. Drain on paper towels. Reserve bacon fat. Form 6 burgers. Heat 1-2 tsp of bacon fat over medium heat and fry burgers 4-5 minutes. Turn burgers, place a slice of cheese on top of each and fry until cooked through, another 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut rolls horizontally and brown, cut side up, under the broiler in the oven until lightly browned. Serve burgers on bottom halves of rolls and assemble with dressing, bacon, lettuce and tomato slices.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pasta with Zucchini

I try to put one simple pasta dish on each week's meal plan. This is my version of Food & Wine magazine's "Fried-Zucchini Spaghetti". The cheeses and zucchini are a nice flavor combination.

1/2 pound small zucchini, very thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 pound small yellow squashes, very thinly sliced crosswise
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 pound farfalle pasta
3 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
freshly ground pepper

Toss the zucchini with the lemon juice, flour, and a pinch of salt. In a very large skillet, heat half the oil until shimmering. Add half the zucchini and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the zucchini to a paper towel-lined wire rack and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining oil and zucchini. In the meantime, cook the pasta in al dente and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Return pasta to the pot and toss with the cheeses, basil and pepper. Add the pasta water a little at a time, tossing well to coat. Serve pasta right away with zucchini and additional cheese.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gouda-and-Prosciutto-Stuffed Chicken Breast

Another simple and delicious dinner for week nights. The cheese and prosciutto stuffing gives a great flavor to the chicken. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit's "Chicken Breast with Fontina and Prosciutto". The only thing I changed is the use of Gouda instead of Fontina cheese, and I replaced Marsala wine with Port wine. HubbyGrouch immediately requested to have this recipe repeated because it was so good.

1/2 cup coarsely grated Gouda cheese
1/3 cup garlic-herb cream cheese
1/3 cup (packed) chopped prosciutto
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
black pepper
4 large boneless chicken breast halves with skin
2 tbsp chilled butter
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup Port wine

Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine the cheese, prosciutto, and basil. Season with black pepper. Run fingers under skin of chicken breasts to loosen. Spread stuffing under skin. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low-medium, cover, and cook until chicken is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Wrap chicken breasts in aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven. Add broth and wine to skillet. Bring to a boil and cook until sauce is reduced to 1/2 cup, scraping up browned bits, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in remaining butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chicken with sauce, rice and a simple tomato salad (coarsely chopped tomatoes, scallions, salt and pepper).

Germany: Bavarian-Style Soft Pretzels with Cheese & Bacon (Laugenbrezeln mit Käse & Schinken)

When I spent two months in Munich for an internship during my time as a student, the huge pretzels sold everywhere were one of my favorite snacks. They are crunchy on the outside and, if fresh, super soft and a little warm on the inside. I haven't found really great ones here, so when I found a recipe for "German-Style Pretzels" in Food & Wine magazine, I decided to give it a try. I also remembered that I had a recipe for pretzels with bacon from another cook book. Pretzel dough baked with some cheese is another favorite snack of mine, so I combined all these influences and made the following recipe. The pretzels were simply delicious, though I say so myself.

14 oz bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup warm water
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/3 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup baking soda
10 thin slices bacon
6 slices sharp cheddar cheese or cheese of your choice (e.g. swiss, american, gruyere, gouda....)
coarse pretzel salt for sprinkling

If using a bread machine, place warm water, salt, butter, flour, and yeast into bowl. Use kneading program and let dough knead for about 20 minutes. Switch off machine and let dough rest for about 10 minutes. If you don't have a bread machine, you can use an electric mixer with a dough hook for kneading, or your hands. Cut cheese into 1/4 inch wide strips and divide into 10 parts. Divide dough into five equal parts. Roll each part of dough into an 18-20 inch long rope that tapers at the ends, thereby enclosing 1/10 of the cheese into each roll. Form a U shape, then cross ends twice to make the twist. Bring the ends to the bottom of the U and gently press down. Put pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes until volume is increased a bit. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Preheat oven to 400°F. With a sharp knife, make an incision along the whole length of the pretzel (spare the crossed part). Carefully dissolve baking soda in the boiling water (add in several steps as it will boil violently). Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds, then put onto a wire rack. Stuff the remaining cheese into the incision of each pretzel. Wrap two slices of bacon around the cheese-stuffed part of the pretzel. Sprinkle the non-cheese&bacon part of the pretzels with salt. Put pretzels back on the baking sheet and bake for about 15-18 minutes until they are shiny-brown and risen.

(This post is linked to

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tuna Steaks with Lemon Soy Sauce

Another tasty quick & easy dinner. We love tuna steaks and the sauce has a very intense taste. This recipe is from Food & Wine Magazine and is originally called "Seared Tuna with Citrusy Soy Sauce".

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sherry
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 dash cayenne pepper
2 tbsp orange juice
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 tsp olive oil
4 tuna steaks
salt and pepper

Combine the soy sauce, sherry, shallot, cayenne pepper, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar and coriander in a small sauce pan. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Season tuna with salt and pepper, and cook covered over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve with broccoli and rice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Favorite Chocolate Bundt Cake

Today we were having leftovers, so I thought I'd make a nice dessert. I have baked this cake before and I simply love it. Instead of butter or margarine, the recipe calls for sour cream or creme fraiche, and vegetable oil. It works just fine with low-fat sour cream - a good way to reduce calories in the cake! The original recipe is in the metric system, so I am giving both measures here.

9/29/2011: This recipe is now linked to Tastetastic Thursdays over at A Little Nosh. Head over and check out shared recipes from other participants.

200 g (1 cup) sugar
170 ml (3/4 cup) water
60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
185 g (about 3/4 cup) sour cream
215 g (8 oz or about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
85 g (3 oz or about 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp) cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 360°F. Butter a bundt cake form. Mix the wet ingredients together, then slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix quickly but well. Pour batter into bundt form and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the form for 10 minutes, then inverse onto a cooling rack. Optional: Spread melted chocolate on cake and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.