Garlic Brussels Sprouts with Shallots

November 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

Sarah:

Made these amazing brussels sprouts again tonight… my four year-old ate more than my husband or I could!

Originally posted on The Crafty Fork:

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I’m pretty sure I’ve stumbled upon the richest, most decadent, most delicious way to serve brussels sprouts EVER! Buttery, tender brussel sprouts – part of an experimental crust-less quiche I made that didn’t turn out so well. I was working from a recipe I found on food52.com called “Parisian Breakfast: Quiche with Brussels Sprouts, Shallots, and Dill.” While my adaptation of the quiche was a flop (quite literally), I will be making these sprouts again as a main course for my small family, or as a side with a pot roast the next time we’re entertaining.

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Use fresh brussels sprouts, not the frozen par-cooked kind. If you’ve never had fresh brussels sprouts before, you’re in for a treat. They are amazingly tasty and, if prepared properly, not mushy at all.

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RECIPE:
Garlic Brussels Sprouts with Shallots
(from SharonP of food52.com)

15 brussels sprouts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2…

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December 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Originally posted on The Crafty Fork:

Easy Rustic Matzo Ball Soup recipe photo

The first time I saw a matzo ball was when I moved to Brooklyn 11 years ago, at age 23. I was intrigued by the pale color and the little pool of broth it rested in, with bitty flecks of carrot and onion. I did not want to eat it. Growing up in Maine I had zero exposure to Jewish food. Not that there isn’t Jewish food served in Maine, it just wasn’t part of my family’s rotation. If you’re eager to get to the recipe you can scroll to the bottom of this post.

A year later, I was in love with a guy whose father’s family was Jewish. He fell ill with a nasty East-Coast head cold and asked for Matzo Ball Soup. I wanted him to feel better, but I was clueless. “My mom makes it, and she’s a goy,” he joked. “You can make it,” He…

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Three Minute Basil Pesto, From Scratch!

April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

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The old adage says, “when life hands you too much basil, add lemon and make pesto.” Or maybe not, but that’s what I do when I’ve got lots of basil. I’m not sure if this is a true pesto, but it is a Crafty Fork version I whipped up in the blender in three minutes and it is equally delicious and versatile.
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Basil is one of my favorite herbs. I like to try to use it the day I buy it. When I bring it home, I trim the ends of stems and stick it in a glass of water like flowers in a vase. Tent with a plastic bag and refrigerate to keep (use the plastic! The gases from other fruits and veggies can make basil go bad, and fast). When I’m ready to use the herb, I soak the basil leaves in water with a cap full of white vinegar for 2 minutes or so, then drain and give it a few twirls in the salad spinner. Often I tear the leaves and use it as a fresh pizza topping, or even throw a few torn leaves into a regular green salad to jazz it up.
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It is impossible for me to use an entire bunch of basil without having to freeze some of it. It just turns so fast!  I received a giant bundle of organic basil from my CSA this Wednesday, but haven’t had the time to cook anything until today (Sunday). It was starting to get a bit wilty so the thought hit me: pesto! I could puree in the blender and get some major use out of it right away. I’m using half the batch on a whole wheat flax pizza crust with fresh tomatoes and artichoke hearts this evening, and the other half I’ll freeze in my covered ice cube try (from back in the day when I was making baby food) and use as I want.

RECIPE:
Three Minute Fresh Basil Pesto

1 large bunch fresh basil, washed, dried, and torn
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aka Parmesan cheese)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place basil, garlic, pine nuts, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in the blender. Blend (chop, puree, whatever) on a medium-style setting, while drizzling the rest of the olive oil through the lid, approximately 45 seconds.

Remove lid and add “dry ingredients” (cheese, salt, pepper) and then lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

Add more olive oil and pulse to combine if you want a runnier sauce, or leave as is. I like to leave the pesto on the thick side, then thin with additional olive oil in cooking as called for by the individual recipes.

Happy nibbling
Sarah

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Grammie Sue’s Perfect Frosted Sugar Cookies

April 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

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These cookies really are perfect. The flavor of this sugar cookie plus this frosting strikes the perfect balance between sweet and salty. Something about the delicate texture of the cookie calls for the lightest tint to the icing, which I think gives them a whimsical quality, making them a wonderful cookie for Easter. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe. Her cookies have the softest bite to them, which I have been unable to duplicate. One theory is that the elevation and lack of humidity in her high desert Pacific Northwest kitchen is so different from my sea-level, damp-ish Bay Area kitchen. Either way, super-soft or almost crisp, these cookies are amazingly delicious and never linger long.
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I mix the cookie dough right in the bowl, using my rubber spatula. I don’t actually own a flour sifter but manage to get the same effect with my mesh strainer. I use all organic, unbleached ingredients so the color of the cookie is a little more golden than if you used the traditionally highly refined and bleached varieties. The shortening I use is Spectrum organic all-vegetable, non-hydrogenated shortening, which seems to be a little less “whipped” seeming than Crisco or other standard brands. It doesn’t seem to affect the flavor of the cookie at all.
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When the dough is mostly mixed, it might still seem a little dry and crumbly. Use your hands to gently pat it into a ball, but don’t overwork it. You will get a tough cookie if the dough is overworked.

While the dough is chilling in the fridge, I turn my oven on to preheat and get to work on the icing. I normally recommend butter over margarine for most cooking or baking, but here is one case where it just has to be margarine. I’ve tried butter, and it just isn’t the same in this icing. I use Earth Balance organic margarine because it is non-hydrogenated.
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The only beef I have with organic powdered sugar is that it is so darned crumby… literally! You’ve got to sift it, or at least run it through a metal strainer like I do.
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One trick I learned with this icing by watching my mother-in-law over the years: do not be afraid to apply heat in order to mix and or spread the icing properly. If I find the consistency of the icing is just wrong, or it is getting crumbly, I zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds and try again. I have seen Grammie Sue do this multiple times with the same batch of icing.
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See, above, the difference between icing mixed before heating and adding two tablespoons of half and half (left), and after (right). That is a substantial difference in texture and spreadability.
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To get the frosting right for these Easter Egg shaped cookies, I used the microwave many times: once to pull the initial batch together, then again with each mini-batch in order to smoothly blend the color, then again with each mini-batch just before icing the cookies. As I mentioned, I like a delicate blushy color for my icing, so I only use one drop of coloring, adding a second if it seems necessary. Once your icing is tinted, you can set it aside and get back to making your cookies. If preferred, stop here and put the icing in the fridge, then make your cookies and ice them tomorrow, or even the next day, if you want.

But for now, back to the cookies…
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The chilled cookie dough is easy to roll. I roll it out just like you would roll pie crust, but instead of using flour to prevent the pin from sticking, I use powdered sugar. Just a little trick I’ve learned over the years. My other secret weapon? Parchment paper. I will never bake cookies (or cake, or brownies, or other items) without parchment paper ever again. Well, as long as I have parchment paper in the house.
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You can see there is little difference in the color of the dough before baking, and the color of the fully baked cookies after. The texture changes, clearly the cookies bake, but you do not want to brown the cookies. That will change the look, the texture, and the flavor.

When cookies are cooled, it is time to ice them. You can get fancy or keep it simple with just one color. I kind of like the simplicity of these pastel Easter eggs. I initially thought I’d at least make some chevron-style zigzags or stripes with some candy pearls, but ended up leaving them as is. Aren’t they gorgeous?
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RECIPE:
Grammie Sue’s Perfect Frosted Sugar Cookies
with only the slightest changes

Cookies

Mix well:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift and stir in:
1 1 /2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Chill dough at least 30 minutes; roll out on flat, floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Bake on (parchment-lined) cookie sheet 8 to 10 minutes at 325° Do NOT brown. Cool cookies on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: This recipe can be doubled (and usually is)

Frosting

3/4 stick margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons half and half
gel food coloring

Add vanilla to melted butter and stir in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Once all sugar has been added, microwave mix for 30 seconds, then add the half and half and stir until smooth. Add more half and half or sugar until frosting is the consistency you want it to be. See my notes regarding coloring, applying heat, and stirring icing before use (earlier in this post).

Once iced, the cookies should be refrigerated until you’re ready to serve them. Cookies can also be frozen for up to a month or so.

Happy nibbling,
Sarah

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Ultra-Orange Cake (it’s Vegan, too!)

March 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

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This is a great cake, all-around. It’s got a complex sweetness to it, much like most of my vegan friends. It is very moist but crumby too, in a good way.  The orange flavor isn’t overpowering, rather, it lends itself to being a more “adult” style cake, though I’d imagine it would make a divine birthday cake for kids of any age if it were smothered in chocolate icing. I should mention that I’ve already test-driven this cake on my kid so I assure you it can be considered a “toddler-style” cake as well.  If you’re eager to get to the recipe, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this post.
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This cake had been calling to me for years, as I’d leaf through my trusty copy of The Joy of Cooking. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered it is possible to make cake from scratch without going through multiple, seemingly endless steps (sift, sift together, then sift some more? No thanks.) We had some orange juice that had been hanging out in the fridge for a while so I decided to give it the Ultra-Orange Cake a shot for an afternoon coffee treat.
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The Ultra-Orange Cake is relatively low in fat compared to some, due to the fact that there are not any eggs in the batter. Rather than butter, this recipe calls for canola oil, and only 1/3 cup of it.

I used my 8″ x 8″ baking pan, and cut the cake into 9 even and quite large squares. I promptly froze 7 of them in individual containers and the hubby, daughter, and I shared 2 pieces. While I usually like my baked goods warm and fresh from the oven, I’ve got to say that one of those frozen pieces, thawed on the counter for 30 minutes or so, makes an excellent treat on its own.
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RECIPE
Ultra-Orange (Vegan) Cake
from the updated edition of The Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar (J.O.C. says white, but I prefer brown)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly grease the inside of an 8 x 8″ baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, whisk to combine: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt.

To dry ingredients, add remaining ingredients (OJ, oil, zest, vinegar, vanilla) and stir until mostly smooth. Do not over-stir as this would result in a chewy cake.

Pour batter into lined pan and gently shake to level. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Happy nibbling,
Sarah
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Strata with Ham, Gruyere, Asparagus, and Dijon

March 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

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Eggs. They’re affordable, loaded with protein and valuable nutrients, and have a long shelf-life. In addition to being high-nutrition for low-cost, it is possible to buy cruelty-free eggs. Look for “free-range organic” on the label; if you can purchase eggs straight from the farm and see “happy chickens,” that would be the best way to go.
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Recently I partook in a fun food-blogger challenge called Kitchen Bootcamp, for which I invented my Inside Out Egg Sandwich. Jen, the woman who hosted the challenge and writes My Kitchen Addiction, made a Ham and Asparagus Strata for the challenge. It looked so good, I had to try it, making a few Crafty tweaks here and there. I didn’t stray far from her recipe though.  This strata (or casserole if you prefer) is hearty, covers all basic food groups in one dish, and keeps well in the fridge.  The three of us ate off of this one dish for about a week, sometimes breakfast, sometimes lunch, and sometimes dinner.
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As mentioned, I use organic, free-range eggs.  I also only buy nitrate-free ham (and other meats) from ethical companies, organic milk from pasture cows, and organic bread and vegetables.  If you’re really interested in learning more on why you should consider cruelty-free, environmentally friendly animal products, I highly recommend you read nearly anything by Peter Singer.  Although the truth is that might persuade you to consider becoming vegan.
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RECIPE:
Strata with Ham, Gruyere, Asparagus, and Dijon
adapted from My Kitchen Addiction

8 egg whites
5 eggs
1/2 cup milk, any type
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, cubed
7 ounces cooked ham, cut into chunks
1 1/2 pound asparagus spears, washed and very lightly steamed, trimmed to fit casserole dish
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (approximately 1 heaping cup full)
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
pinch garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9″ x 13″ baking dish (I use my favorite 3 qt. Pyrex casserole for this).

Combine egg whites, eggs, milk, dijon, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Whisk until well blended.

Spread bread evenly on bottom of casserole. Layer ham evenly on top of bread. Slowly, evenly pour egg mixture on top of bread and ham, being careful to evenly distribute egg mixture. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.

Next, layer asparagus on top. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.

Bake for about one hour, or until egg is fully cooked and top is golden brown. Run butter knife around edges to prevent strata from sticking to casserole dish. Cool for 30 minutes.

Serve warm with Dijon mustard as condiment. Can be stored in fridge and re-heated for up to five days.

Happy nibbling,
Sarah

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Classic Irish American Boiled Dinner (aka Corned Beef and Cabbage, plus)

March 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

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This is the quintessential Saint Patrick’s Day “Corned Beef and Cabbage” meal served in New England. My paternal grandparents were 2nd generation Irish.  Scotch Irish to be exact (and those from New England know there is a difference).  I don’t think Gram used wine in her broth for this dish, although she sure did serve and enjoy with beer in celebration of the Irish holiday.

This dish is a family favorite, and really could feed up to 8 people if you stretched it with appetizers, beer, and served with biscuits or a hearty soda bread. This version is heavy on the veggies because that is how my family likes it. If you are planning on entertaining a group or have a lot of meat-eaters in your clan, you could double the meat, wet ingredients, and spices and the results would be as good or maybe even better. If you’re eager to get the recipe, you can scroll to the bottom of this post.
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Potatoes, rutabaga (or yellow turnip), carrots, and onion are added to the expected corned beef and cabbage, rounding out the meal and making it more family-friendly. You can also add parsnips to the mix if you’d like.
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RECIPE:
Classic Irish American Boiled Dinner

1 corned beef brisket (up to 4 lbs), with excess fat trimmed
3/4 cup dry white wine; I use Chardonnay
32 ounces chicken stock or broth
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
2 large yellow onions, quartered then cut into eighths
6 large white potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 large rutabaga (also known as yellow turnip) peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch chunks
5-6 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 large head green cabbage, core removed and quartered (you can halve the quarters into eighths if you wish)

In large stock pot, place corned beef in bottom. Add 1 onion, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic. Pour in white wine, and then enough broth, just enough to cover the meat. If you need to add water to cover the meat that is fine. Simmer, covered, until “fork tender” and fork inserted in the middle glides in easily. This usually takes about 3 1/2 hours, but begin checking after 2 1/2 hours.

When meat is done cooking, remove to a platter and cover with foil. Add potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, and remaining onion to broth and bring up to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook covered until potatoes are still slightly firm, about 20-25 minutes or so.

Add cabbage, replace cover, and simmer until cabbage is tender but still green. Do not overcook the cabbage.

Remove from heat. Slice meat across the grain when ready to serve. My mom used to cut the meat into large (4 inch) chunks and put back into the broth with the veggies. This is an excellent way to serve.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
Sarah

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