Saturday, January 29, 2011


My new second-favorite incarnation of the egg: poached. I love my eggs over-easy, and there are no egg dishes in the same league as those with slightly-crispy edges of egg white cooked in a little salted butter. So that's why poached eggs are only my second-favorite. But that still makes them my approximately fourth favorite food in the world, so they have nothing to cry over.

Poached Eggs

Equipment: small bowl or measuring cup, slotted spoon or spatula, plate, paper towel

Eggs (as many as you want)
A pot of water
A glug of white vinegar (maybe a tablespoon or two)
Salt and pepper. And chewy whole wheat toast, if you're worth anything.

Bring your pot of water to a very gentle boil, then turn down the heat. You don't want you water active, but you do want bubbles to form at the bottom and occasionally escape to the surface. It may take a minute or two of tweaking to reach this balance.

Break an egg into your small bowl or measuring cup. Using the handle of your spoon/spatula, swirl the water in the pot to achieve a whirlpool effect. As soon as you pull the handle out of the water, gently slip the egg into the center of the whirlpool. Some of the white will feather off and possibly detatch from the egg; that's okay. The whirlpool effect helps hold the egg together, and the vinegar sets the egg white quickly.

Let the egg cook for approximately 3 minutes. If it sticks to the bottom of the pot, gently dislodge it with your spoon/spatula. Remove it to your paper-towel-lined plate, then repeat with remaining eggs.

Then devour them.

Poached eggs keep well in the fridge in water; just slip them into barely-simmering water for a minute to reheat.

And if you're REALLY good, you can do several whirlpools in the same big pot and cook several eggs at once. I was too chicken to try.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sausage and Peppers with Orzo and White Beans

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
5-6 mild or sweet Italian sausages
3-4 red/yellow/orange bell peppers, seeded, ribs removed, and sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 14 oz. can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups orzo pasta
3-4 chicken bouillon cubes (or 5 cups chicken stock.. I ran out)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
¼ cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet with high sides over medium high heat. Brown the sausages on all sides (don’t bother cooking them through). Remove sausages from pan, set aside, and reduce heat to medium.

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil; add peppers, garlic, onion, and oregano. Sweat gently over medium heat, allowing veggies to release liquid. Stir in beans and tomatoes; place sausages back into pan and prick each one several times with a fork; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil water or stock for orzo (if using water, add bouillon cubes). Cook orzo until done, about 10 minutes. Add between 1-2 cups of the pasta water to the pepper mixture; stir and simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese.

Drain orzo. Place in serving dish and stir in remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Top orzo with pepper mixture and sausages. Sprinkle with basil. If desired, slice sausages before serving.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pumpkin Caramel Cupcakes

My friend asked for a chocolate, pumpkin, caramel cake for his birthday. This is what I came up with. It is perfect. The chips give it some extra texture and the cream cheese frosting keeps it from being too sweet.


* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 4 large eggs
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* pinch of ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups pumpkin puree or cooked mashed pumpkin
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions for pumpkin cake
Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl; stir into oil mixture, beating well. Stir in pumpkin puree and vanilla. Add chocolate chips

bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean..

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
2 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
9 oz powdered sugar, sifted (2 cups)

Combine cream cheese and butter on medium speed until blended. Add vanilla and beat until combined. On low add powdered sugar in 4 batches and beat until smooth between each batch.

Caramel sauce

* 1 cup of sugar
* ½ cup water (optional)
* 6 Tbsp butter
* 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan.optional: add a half cup of water to the sugar, this will help the sugar to cook more evenly, though it will take longer as the water will need to evaporate before the sugar will caramelize.

2. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want, from this point on.

3 As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.

4 Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. Note than when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably. This is why you must use a pan that is at least 2-quarts (preferably 3-quarts) big. (Check here for an explanation of why adding the cream makes the mixture bubble up so much.)

5 Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. (Remember to use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce.) Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.
Makes a little over one cup of sauce.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brown Sugar Body Scrub

I loooove this body scrub. It leaves your skin ridiculously soft and doesn't leave an oily residue.

Brown Sugar Body Scrub, originally uploaded by queenofthemoodswingset2.

Brown Sugar Body Scrub
(I got this recipe online somewhere, but can't remember where)

--Use instead of salt scrubs, which can be drying or irritating to the skin if it is dry and/or sensitive.


2 cups brown sugar
1 cup honey
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. cinnamon (or ginger)

Take into the shower with you and apply handfuls at a time to polish the skin.

* Note: Should keep for several days in the refrigerator in a closed plastic container.

Baked Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Baked Chicken Stew with Biscuits

¼ cup butter
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp. fresh chopped rosemary (or ¼ tsp. dried)
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 large onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped (or 8ish baby carrots, chopped)
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup flour
5 cups chicken stock
½ cup white wine (optional)
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. turmeric (optional)
3 cups chopped cooked chicken

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt butter and oil over medium heat. Add rosemary, thyme, onion, celery, and carrot; cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; cook for a minute, then stir in flour and cook for another minute. Stir in everything else except the chicken; increase heat to medium high and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in chicken. Pour into a 9x13 or similar baking pan. Slide it into the oven while you make the biscuits (it doesn’t have to cook; you just want it hot when the biscuits go on top).

Make your biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk or half and half

Combine dry ingredients. Cut shortening into dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs. Gently stir in the milk. Turn out onto floured surface and barely knead the dough 2-3 times. Pat the dough out into a 1-inch thick layer. Cut rounds, then get your stew out of the oven. Place biscuits on top of chicken stew.

Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until biscuits are golden.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Apricot Plum Chicken

Apricot Plum Chicken

Assemble the ingredients:

Apricot Plum chicken ingredients (color was off in the last upload), originally uploaded by queenofthemoodswingset2.

Add the brown sugar

Add the wine (or beer if you don't have wine)

And devour:

I got this recipe from Betsy, it also works with whole chicken breasts. (I added 1/2 an onion and I didn't have any olives)

Plum Apricot Chicken

2 lbs chicken
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1/4 cup oregano Fresh from garden
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup prunes, pitted
1/4 cup apricots, dried
1/4 cup green olives, pitted
2 tbsp capers (plus a bit of the juice)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white wine, dry (I used beer this time)
1 tbsp italian parsley (chopped)


In a large bowl, combine chicken, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper,
vinegar, oil, prunes, apricots, olives, capers (with juice) and bay
leaves. Cover and refrigerate 1 hr to marinate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

put in roasting pan. Spoon all the marinade over the chicken. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and pour wine around them. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting frequently, until golden.
Transfer chicken, fruit, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with drippings. You can serve with rice, pasta or potatoes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

chocolate orange mousse (grand marnier)

This actually did take only 5 minutes. Next time I might try a more milk chocolate version, but this was delicious.

Chocolate Mousse

Makes 4 X 4-ounce servings

* 265 grams (9.35 ounces) good quality bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
* 240 ml (1 cup) water
* 4 tablespoons caster (superfine granules) sugar, optional
* 1 tablespoon liqueur (Grand Marnier, Baileys, Frangelico), optional (reduce water by 1 tablespoon if using)

1. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Set a slightly larger bowl on top of this water and ice filled bowl. The bottom of the larger bowl should touch the iced water, set aside.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan combine together the chocolate, water, sugar (if using) and liqueur (if using). Set the saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.
3. Pour the chocolate mixture into the top bowl. Whisk with a wire whisk or an electric hand-held mixer until thick. Keep an eye on the texture of the mixture as you’re whipping (do not over mix), if you whisk too much you run the risk of the mousse becoming grainy. If the mixture becomes grainy, transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and place back over the heat. Heat the mixture until half of the mixture has melted and then transfer back to bowl and whisk again briefly.
4. Divide evenly among serving cups and enjoy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hoppy Poppy Almond Loaf

You have to say it in a dumb voice, because it's a dumb name. I know it is. But it was in my head all day, so I guess the loaf chose its own name.

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond baking emulsion (it’s what I had; I think you might want to start with half that amount of almond extract and add it to taste)
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk

Beer syrup:
¼ cup beer, slightly heated
2 tsp. sugar, stirred in until dissolved

Beer glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. beer, stirred in until smooth

(I know it sounds like a lot of beer, between the syrup and the glaze, but it’s really not.)

Grease and flour a standard loaf pan. Seriously, don’t just spray it – grease and flour the sucker to high heaven. Otherwise, this happens:

Beat the butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat mixture for about 3-4 minutes. Add extracts and poppy seeds. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with flour.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. When loaf is done, pour beer glaze evenly over. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes in pan, then run a knife around the edges, unmold, and cool completely on a cooling rack. After cooling completely, drizzle glaze over loaf. Let set for about an hour, if desired.

(If you'd rather avoid the beer, you can omit the beer syrup, and substitute milk for the beer in the glaze. It'll still be yummy.)

The most delicious way I can imagine to flunk a variety of abused-substances tests.

bad kitty.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Once upon a time, there was a girl, and she was housesitting, and the homeowners had lots of leftover mashed potatoes in their fridge, and the girl got some really awesome cookbooks for Christmas, and the girl has nothing but time until January 11 when school starts, so the girl made pierogies. She followed (most of) the instructions, assembled, boiled, and froze them, and she left half of the pierogies for the absentee homeowners.

And the girl told her friend, “You know, I’m not sure they’re worth the effort; I tasted one after boiling, and it wasn't any better than the storebought ones. Oh well.”

But then, a week or so later, the girl pulled them out of the freezer and fried them in butter. And LORD HELP IT, they’re better than storebought. So if you get a wild hair, make them.

The end.

Adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent, Dave McLean, and Kelly Gorham
(makes 60-70 pierogies)

Dough (can’t wait to use this for ravioli – I think it’ll be perfect!):
4 cups flour
1 1/3 cup warm water
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

2 lbs. mashed potatoes
Cheese (see note below)

In a small bowl, combine water, yolks, oil, and salt. Place flour in a large bowl, and make a well in the center. Pour the liquid into the center and, using a fork, gradually bring dry ingredients into the wet. Turn out onto a lightly-floured countertop and knead 4-6 minutes. Place the bowl upside down on the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine mashed potatoes and cheese.

When dough has rested, check the texture – shouldn’t be sticky, but shouldn’t be dry. Ambiguous, I know. Add a little flour if you have to.

Divide the dough in half, and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut in 3-5 inch rounds. Place a scant tablespoon of filling in each round, and pinch the ends together. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet for storage until all pierogies are assembled.

Bring a huge pot of water to a boil. Boil the pierogies 6-8 at a time; they’ll sink to the bottom, and then they’ll float. Starting when they float, boil them for 3 minutes, then remove to a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Freeze them until you’re ready to fry.

To fry:
Heat a stick of butter in a huge skillet until foamy. Add pierogies in a single layer, cook until browned, then flip them to brown on the other side. Serve with sour cream for dipping, applesauce, or like we eat them – with caramelized, almost-crunchy onions. Mm.

Filling note: You can do pretty much whatever you want to these. The traditional cheese for pierogi filling is farmer’s cheese, but I didn’t feel like buying any, so I just raided the fridge and used little bits of like five different cheeses. I also used a tiny, tiny bit of onion, grated with a Microplane.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Coconut Curry Chicken Stew, and I wish I could make gulab jamun.

Indian food on a cloudy day makes me feel like it should be cold outside. And then I open the door to let the cat in and remember I'm in Florida. Sigh.

If you love Indian food, but are intimidated by huge lists of weirdo ingredients, don’t be, for several reasons: 1) Most urban areas have at least one Indian grocery store; 2) Many of the ingredients in that long list are just spices, some of which you probably already have on hand; and 3) generally, Indian groceries are dirt cheap. For example, when I purchased ghee, cardamom pods, tamarind concentrate, and red lentils this afternoon, I spent $11. It’s worth at least visiting an Indian grocery store to explore a little, and as I experienced today, international people here in the States are often eager to help and share insight with someone learning about their culture.

There’s an Indian grocery store down the street from my mother’s house, and they have a nice selection of fresh produce, but no curry leaves. I asked the owner about it, and we stood there and chitchatted for a bit about Indian food, cooking, his mother’s cooking, his favorite foods. Even though I don’t know anything about Indian food other than that it’s delicious, it just tickled his fancy to be able to discuss it with someone who appreciated a fundamental part of his culture. It was a sweet, perfect example of people connecting and sharing over a table, taking moments to ask because someone wants to share, and to share because someone wants to know. He was so warmed that he gave me a big handful of curry leaves for free and invited me to bring samples of what I used them for, and he and his elderly father were reminiscing about his grandmother’s gulab jamun as I left; his father called after me haltingly, “You know make gulab jamun?” and grinned.

Community, nurture, learning, teaching. That’s why I wanna cook, right there.

Anyway. Back to the recipe.

Coconut Curry Chicken Stew, adapted from a bunch of different recipes

2 tbsp. ghee (or vegetable oil)
1 whole chicken, cut up (I removed the skin from the breasts and thighs, but left it on the drummies and wings, ‘cause I’m not getting into all that)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 inches ginger, grated with a microplane
4 cloves garlic, grated with a microplane
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and ribs completely removed (leave some of that crap in if you’re into pain; I am not), grated with a microplane
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. ground fenugreek
6 green cardamom pods
about 15 small fresh curry leaves (every time I've made Indian food, I've thought, "man, there's some kind of flavor I'm missing" - it's the curry leaves. Get them if you can!)
1 carrot, coarsley grated
1 apple, cored and coarsley grated
1 potato, peeled and coarsley grated
1 cup dry red lentils
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tsp. salt (or to taste)

Heat ghee or oil in a large dutch oven. Brown the chicken pieces, 2 or 3 at a time, for about 3 minutes per side or until golden. Remove and set aside.

Add onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom pods, and curry leaves to pot; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Pull out the curry leaves and cardamom pods, and set aside (keep them; you’ll need them in a minute).

Stir in carrot, apple, potato, lentils, and broth. Nestle chicken pieces down into the mixture, then top mixture with curry leaves and cardamom pods (you’ll have to discard them at the end, and this just makes it easier instead of having to rummage around the whole pot). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat; remove and discard cardamom pods and curry leaves. Stir in tamarind, coconut milk, cilantro, and salt (remove some or all of the chicken first, if that makes it easier). Serve either as a stew or as a curry over jasmine or basmati rice.
Note: This could easily be made as a vegan soup by using vegetable oil instead of ghee, omitting the chicken, and using vegetable broth instead of chicken.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Low(ish)-Fat Creamed Spinach with Bacon

Well, okay, I'm not sure you could call this "low fat," but it's definitely lower in fat than its delicious, heavy-cream-utilizing evil cousin. And it's really good.

2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. minced onion
3 tbsp. crumbled bacon
2 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 10 oz. boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt to taste
A few grates of fresh nutmeg
Cook the onion and bacon briefly in the butter, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook another 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir cheese and spinach into sauce. Season with salt and nutmeg.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Easy Chicken Rice Bake

I adapted this recipe from a Campbell's Soup/Rice-A-Roni recipe. I made the original recipe and, while it was pretty good, it was SO crazy salty that I could hardly eat it. I don't wanna sound like a food snob - processed foods have their place occasionally - but I prefer foods that aren't super-salted, and if a recipe has few ingredients and most of them are processed, the salt factor is usually way more than I can deal with.

I wanted to tweak it while still keeping the easy pantry-staple factor, and this is what happened. I'll post my recipe here, then post the original recipe in the comments section. (I would post a link, but the recipe was printed on the box.)

1 pouch boil-in-bag rice
about 2/3 capful Mrs. Dash seasoning
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom)
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups veggies, fresh, frozen, or leftover (I used leftover chopped cooked broccoli)
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
5-7 raw chicken tenders (or 2-3 breasts)

Combine all ingredients except chicken and paprika in an 8x8 pan. Lay chicken on top of rice mixture and sprinkle lightly with paprika. (Don't you love how paprika makes pale, orphan-child cooked chicken look like you spent some time on it? even though you totally didn't, because you're a bad chicken mother?)

Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. (You can also use frozen chicken in this; just add 10-20 minutes to the cooking time.)

New Years dinner: Pork and sauerkraut, collard greens, black eyed peas, corn bread

Pork and Sauerkraut

4 lb pork butt roast (I used boston butt roast)
2 cans of sauerkraut)
1 cup water

Put the roast in a roaster (with a lid) and cover with the sauerkraut and water.

Bake at 325 for 2 hrs or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone

Black Eyed Peas with Bacon

I bought pre-soaked beans to avoid boiling for an hour. You can just prepare the beans according to their instructions.

1 Package of black eyed peas
1/2 lb of bacon
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken broth

Boil Black eyed peas in water for 10 minutes. Drain.

while peas are boiling, brown bacon, onion and garlic in a cast iron skillet. Once they have browned, remove bacon to paper towels to drain.

pour 2 cups of chicken broth in pan and scrape the pan to get the browned bits into the broth. Add peas to the broth and boil for another 2 or 3 minutes. Pour bacon back into the beans and serve.

Collard Greens

1 lb collard greens (hard stems removed and leaves chopped)
1/2 lb of bacon (reserve 2-3 tsp bacon grease)
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
a few pinches of salt
a few pinches of sugar

Brown bacon, onion and garlic in a cast iron skillet. Once they have browned, remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 2-3 teaspoons of bacon grease.

Heat bacon grease and olive oil; add the collards, salt, and sugar. Put a tight fitting lid on the pot and let the collards wilt for about 10 minutes (or until tender). Add the bacon to the collards and serve.