December 24, 2010

Twas the night before Christmas...

and all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse 
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.

(ps Jarrod is going to hate me when he sees this)
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday! -J
Looks like a furry orange cat has been chewing on this one.

December 22, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Mice

Do you want a ridiculously easy and adorable holiday dessert idea? Here it is! Round yourself up a 4 ounce semi-sweet chocolate bar, 30 Hershey's kisses, a small jar of maraschino cherries with stems, and sliced almonds. Got it? Okay here's the how-to if you need it.  
First, chop your chocolate bar into small pieces. 
Heat it over a double boiler in a metal or glass mixing bowl until just melted.**
Meanwhile, drain your cherries and set them on a paper towel to get rid of any wetness. 
Once the chocolate is melted but not too hot, dip your cherries and cover them completely. 
Place them on a silicone mat or piece of parchment with the stems perpendicular to the mat(so they don't stick when you take them off). Grab a chocolate kiss and place it up against the wet chocolate. 
Once the chocolate has cooled slightly, add your sliced almonds for the ears(we ended up dipping the ends in the melted chocolate before placing them on the mice). 
With the leftover chocolate, pop it into a piping bag with a small round tip or a ziplock bag with a teeny tiny cut to the corner. Pipe little noses and eyes to give the mice a bit more life-like features. 
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with sweet treats like these! 

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

What does one do when she finds out her roommate has a barely used Kitchenaid mixer sitting in the closet? She hosts a cookie making party! Now to defend myself here, I do have one of my own(inherited from my grandmother in fact) but who wants to haul a forty pound pure steel mixer 500 miles from San Diego to San Francisco? Not me. Especially since I don't know where I'll be 6 months from now. Whew.
         I've found many excuses to use the mixer already but ever since I found out Comcast has a yule log on demand--which plays musical Christmas classics--I knew a cookie party was necessary. I pulled out our two folding tables and lined them up in my tiny yellow kitchen to lend some much needed(although VERY wobbly) counter space. As the mixer mixed, the tables danced and we all had a jolly good time with mulled wine in hand. 
I contributed these chocolate crinkle cookies from a recipe at Baker's Royale. Dense, chewy, chocolaty cookies that look as though a fresh winter snow has fallen upon them. I used my favorite high quality Scharffen Berger chocolate to lend some great flavor. Feel free to use a darker percentage of chocolate for more richness but I like to use semi-sweet when baking for the right balance of sweetness. 

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies adapted from Bakers Royale
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided(see directions)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, beat together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
Melt the chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together 2 1/2 cups of the sugar, the oil, butter, and corn syrup to blend. Beat in the eggs one by one, then the egg yolk, and vanilla extract. 
On low, beat in the melted chocolate. Add the flour misture and beat on low speed until just combined. 
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. 
Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. 
Pour the rest of the sugar(1/2 cup) into a small bowl and the powdered sugar into another bowl.

Roll the dough into 2 inch balls.
Roll each ball lightly in the granulated sugar then heavily in the powdered sugar(by rolling in the plain sugar first, the powdered sugar does not soak into the dough and will stay on the surface of the cookie).
Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on your baking sheet. Press with your palm very lightly to make the cookies flatten out a bit while they cook. No need to smash them, just barely squish so they have a flat top. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Enjoy!

December 19, 2010

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

In my book, the holidays are the best excuse to splurge a little. When it comes to food, why not indulge and make something extravagant but comforting? This is one of those recipes. I could see this next to a roast with a glass of bubbly prosecco. This cheese sauce is basically the food version of a bear hug. I could bathe in it really...too far? 
 This ain't your typical blue boxed artificial mac n cheese. Have you tasted that crap lately? I used to love it as a kid but after trying it as an adult, I was left disgusted and unfulfilled. Mushy pasta, chock full of artificial flavoring and chemicals. Yikes.
Make sure you buy some cheese with a little age on it. They provide more flavor and depth to this version of grown up mac and cheese. 

Grown Up Mac(or Fusilli) and Cheese 
1 pound shaped pasta of your choice, I used fusilli corkscrews
kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard or mustard powder(but who has this on hand?)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 oz aged cheddar cheese, shredded, 2 tablespoons reserved for topping
8 oz swiss or Gruy√®re cheese, shredded
For Topping:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup sourdough bread, cut into tiny chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat over to 375 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions with a good heaping teaspoon of kosher salt. Once al dente, drain well and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and half and half together in a small sauce pan, making sure to not let it boil.

Melt 4 Tbs. butter in a large pan over medium heat and add the flour. Whisk until smooth. Cook over low heat, whisking, for a minute or two to get the flour taste mellowed.
While whisking, add the heated milk slowly and stir until all the lumps are out and the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.

Add the grated nutmeg, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, making sure to reserve 2 tablespoons of cheddar for the topping. Stir until all is melted and mix in your cooked pasta. Pour into a 3 quart baking dish.
For the topping, melt the butter in the microwave and add the rest of the ingredients to combine. Sprinkle over the pasta mixture.

Put the dish on a baking sheet(just in case it bubbles over). Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the top is golden brown.
 I served this at a small cookie baking/decorating party with some mulled wine. Stay tuned on how that went in the next post. :)

December 17, 2010

Curried Potatoes and Chickpeas

This cold weather that has me craving warm spices, especially in Indian food form. I've also been looking for cheap and healthy meals to tide me over while the holidays bring big bills and tons of sweets!  Filling from the high protein chickpeas and dense potatoes, this recipe is a new favorite of mine. Comfort in a bowl on these cold, rainy nights. 

Curried Potatoes and Chickpeas Adapted from Food Network Magazine
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for topping
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
For garnish(optional):
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or enough to come up 1/2 inch in a small sauce pan)
2 green onions, sliced into thin strips(see pictures)
DirectionsPut the potatoes, 2 teaspoons salt and enough cold water to cover in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are almost tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the potatoes. 

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
Add the chickpeas and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water; cook, mashing the potatoes with a spoon, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add more cooking water, if needed. Toss in the green onion and season with salt.
Mix the yogurt, chopped cilantro, lime juice and 2 tablespoons water in a bowl. For the garnish, heat the oil in a small sauce pan and fry the confetti onion strips until just golden and crispy. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve the potato and chickpea mixture in bowls topped with the yogurt sauce, green onion confetti and a few cilantro leaves. 

Earthy, filling and delicious. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a date with some fire engine red rain boots and a vigorous storm.  :)

Christmas in San Francisco

Tree lighting festival in Golden Gate Park.

Remember when the Giants won the World Series? 

Off the Grid food carts for dinner. Blue crab & cream cheese wontons, chicken sisig tacos, and....

CUPCAKES from Cupkate. Salted caramel and chocolate peppermint. 

Union Square ice rink all decked out for the holidays.

Macy's classic decorations.   

 The SPCA's window displays with live puppies and kittens up for adoption!

December 5, 2010

Reliving Paris: Goat Cheese Tartine

One of my most favorite lunches in Paris was also the most simple. Some people may think of French food as only complicated recipes and fancy sauces. But generally, the French pride themselves and their cuisine on fresh, seasonal ingredients with minimal adulterations. 
A tartine is essentially the French version of an open-faced sandwich. There are no real rules about what you can or can't put on them but all start with a long slice of toasted French country bread. My absolute favorite combination was a good smear of chevre cheese topped with a fried egg and a basic salad.  
 When making it at home, it's easiest for me(not to mention most delicious) to find a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. First, I turn the oven to broil and throw the slice of bread in until it's very lightly toasted. If you want to be really bad and make it extra amazing, toast the bread in a skillet with a tablespoon or two of butter until it's crisp.
 Next, spread about 2 tablespoons of creamy goat cheese on top and put it back into the oven for a couple minutes to lightly toast the cheese. Heat up a non-stick skillet with a good amount of butter and begin to fry your egg slowly. You will want to cook the white all the way through without flipping (if you want to keep that beautiful yellow-orange yolk presentation). Make sure to keep that yolk runny, it's the best part! 
 Top the cheese toast with your egg and a crack of black pepper. I served mine with a simply dressed baby spinach salad with extra vigin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It'd also be awesome topped with smoked salmon or trout and a big slice of tomato. 
 There's no better way to relive your travel experiences than through food. With a little imagination and a plate full of delicious food, even I can make my own living room feel like my favorite Parisian cafe.