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Recipes and food musings for the global home cook.

Beans and squash can be combined in countless ways, including atop tostados garnished with sour cream, avocado, and cilantro. (Beyond The Peel)

Meatless Monday: Squash and black bean tostados

By Beyond The Peel / 02.04.13

One can never have too many healthy and easy dinner ideas. As you may also know, I love flexible dinner solutions and recipes. This one uses up some leftovers from previous meals, but the variations are almost endless.

I had made this delicious soup created by Joanne Eats Well with Others (but I added roasted squash to the mix) and had beans and squash leftover that I wanted to use up. Not that I mind. There are a-million-and-one things a person can do with those beans and squash and having them cooked and ready to go is a big bonus.

Don’t worry though, if you don’t like squash or black beans or you simply don’t have them on hand, you can make this recipe with just about anything. (See below for suggested options.) The version you see in the photo is made by simply warming up the squash and beans in a frying pan, adding a few spices … and magic happens. Delicious magic!

As for my love of substituting, this recipe does not disappoint.

-Don’t have squash: Try it with roasted sweet potato or kale and sauteed onions.
-Don’t have black beans: Try it with white beans or any other kind of bean for that matter.
-Beet Bruschetta, though very nontraditional, would make a great topping on these crispy tostadas.
-Want to make it dairy free? Leave out the sour cream garnish.
-Love lots of cheese? Add feta or goat cheese.
-Don’t have sprouts: Sub in arugula or spinach.
-Do you know someone who couldn’t bare to eat these without meat? Add in pulled pork, chicken or seared Ahi Tuna.

The possibilities are endless. I’ve even made these with sautéed kale, onions, and paprika spiced crispy potatoes and lots of yummy salsa.

Squash and black bean tostadas
Makes 2 tostadas

1 cup roasted squash, cubed (pumpkin, butternut, acorn or even cubed sweet potato)

1 cup cooked black beans

1/2 tablespoon oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

salt to taste

1 teaspoon lemon juice or 1/4 of a lemon

2 tostadas

Optional Ingredients

1 green onion, finely sliced

sprouts

1/2 avocado, sliced or make into guacamole

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

salsa and sour cream to serve

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, squash and beans. Sprinkle on the cumin and chili powder. Stir the beans and squash, being careful not to mash them up, until they are heated through and the spices have been mixed throughout. Season with salt. Squeeze a 1/4 of a lemon wedge over the bean mixture right before serving.

To serve, add sprouts or greens on the tostada and top with the squash and bean mixture. Add sliced avocado, half the cilantro, and half the green onions. Serve salsa and sour cream along side.

Homemade baked tostadas: I don’t like the kind we have available at the store so we make our own by simply baking organic corn tortillas on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes at 425 degrees F. I’ve even found some yummy organic sprouted corn tortillas that crisp up great in the oven. If your tortillas want to curl up (as they sometimes do), place a weight on them while they bake. I use a metal jar lid filled with beans.

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A perfect addition to any Super Bowl menu, Asian sticky wings are broiled until crispy golden brown and then tossed in a sweet and sticky glaze. (The Gourmand Mom)

Super Bowl recipe: Baked Asian sticky wings

By The Gourmand Mom / 02.01.13

Teaching children to make good choices is one of the greatest responsibilities and most intense challenges of being a parent. Young children are clever, creative, and sneaky; oh so sneaky. Succeeding at this task requires the snooping skills of Sherlock Holmes, the vigilance of an air traffic controller, and the patience of Mother Teresa.

You must watch, wait, anticipate, and react. You must act quickly to intervene before irreversible damage is done and you must sniff out clues like Scooby Doo to unravel mysteries. And most importantly, you must maintain a straight face; calm, but firm and consistent; in the face of discipline. But kids are devious and unpredictable. Don’t be fooled by their sweet little button noses and soft, furry backs. They are constantly testing their limits and devising new methods for mischief. Stay sharp, captain.

My husband and I should have known something was up when we noticed that the stack of plastic kid plates was diminishing. We knew it was peculiar. And yet we just shrugged our shoulders in puzzled confusion and moved on. But all misdeeds come to light eventually, as did the mystery of the missing plates.

It started when I was changing the baby’s diaper. I laid him down on the carpet which sits in the center of our living room. In the center of that carpet is a large trunk-style coffee table, with legs that raise it about three inches off the floor; just high enough for toys and things to slip beneath, but not tall enough to easily vacuum under. In the position I was in, sitting on the carpet with the baby, I saw what had previously been hidden.

Peeking out from the edge of the table were the two plates I’d served the boys breakfast on, which they ate at their snack tables in front of the aforementioned coffee table. A small pile of discarded scrambled eggs sat on one of the plates. I scolded the boys for their lazy behavior and asked them if they thought we lived in a barn (’cause that’s what you’re supposed to say, right??). They hung their heads in appropriate shame and brought their plates to the sink.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t put the pieces together at that point. I should have peeked under the table, but I didn’t. We moved on with our day. Then dinner time came along and I served the boys some of my new Asian sticky wings. Chicken wings don’t make frequent appearances on our menu, so I’d anticipated some normal apprehension. When serving something unfamiliar, I make a practice of always including something known and loved on the boys’ plates, so everyone has a chance to fill their bellies with something they like, while also having the opportunity to try something new.

I don’t make a big deal about finishing everything on their plates or eating big portions of food they don’t enjoy. I only ask that they take a small taste of each new item, with the idea that over time, as their taste buds mature, they will enjoy a wide variety of foods. No pressure. So, what happened next never should have happened.

Liam stood up with his dinner plate, proud to show me that he’d eaten everything on it and making a point that he was going to put it properly in the sink. The rice, the sugar snap peas, the yogurt, and the chicken wings were all gone. You catch that?? The chicken wings were all gone. “Where are the bones?” I asked. “Huh…the bones?” came his innocent reply. “Yes, the bones. Where are the bones?” And then he proceeded to explain that he’d eaten the bones. 

Clever lady that I am, I knew this could not be the case. I had a hard time keeping that ever-important straight face by this point. I knelt by the edge of the table to find the discarded chicken wings before the dog did. I found those wings under the table. I also found five of the kids’ plates. Another mystery solved, Scooby.

But the wings…the wings are delicious, even if Liam wasn’t interested in them. I’ve been watching what I eat in the new year, but whereas in the past I’ve messed up by going all-in from the start, then losing steam, I’m trying to take a more long-term balanced approach this time. I’m making smart choices most of the time, but not denying myself the opportunity to enjoy some good food and drinks when the opportunity is ripe, like during a girls’ night out with my besties. On our most recent girls’ night out, at one of our favorite local joints, we ordered the Asian sticky wings, which became the inspiration for this recipe.

Healthy goals in mind, these wings are baked, rather than fried. I tried two different techniques in search of the crispiest result. While the resulting crispiness of the winning technique doesn’t quite match what you’d get from a fryer, they come pretty darn close. The secret is baking the wings on top of a rack, so that the excess juices drip below the wings, allowing the skin to become firm. A final few minutes under the broiler seals the deal with a golden brown exterior. Once cooked, the wings are tossed in a sweet Asian-style sauce, which has been reduced into a sticky, delicious glaze. They’d make a perfect addition to any Super Bowl menu!!

Focus on technique – reductions

Cooking a flavored liquid by reduction is a method used in order to thicken the liquid and intensify flavors. It is typically used to prepare glazes and full-flavored sauces. To reduce a liquid, simply bring it to a boil in an uncovered pan. As the liquid evaporates, the remaining sauce will become thicker and more flavorful. It’s a wonderful technique for elevating the flavor-profile of a sauce. Using a pan with a wider base will spread the liquid over a greater surface area and increase the rate at which a liquid reduces.

Baked Asian sticky wings

Ingredients

Approximately 2 dozen chicken wings and legs

Juice from 1 orange (approximately 1/3 cup)

Zest from 1 orange

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1/3 cup soy sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or crushed red pepper, to taste)

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1-inch ginger root, grated (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)

Sliced green onions and sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Set a rack on top of a baking sheet. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on top of the rack. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 40 minutes, then turn on the broiler. With the chicken several inches below the broiler, cook for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the exterior is golden brown and crisp.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the glaze. Combine the orange juice, zest, honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sambal oelek in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a bubbling boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Allow the mixture to bubble away, uncovered, for approximately 10 minutes until the mixture has thickened to a glazy consistency. Taste and adjust flavor with additional honey, if a sweeter result is desired.

Toss the cooked wings in the warm glaze, then garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Serve with rice and/or steamed sugar snap peas.

Related post on The Gourmand Mom: Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini

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These cookies are made with Milky Way caramels, in honor of the San Francisco 49ers. (The Pastry Chef's Baking)

Super Bowl recipe: Black gold 49ers cookies

By The Pastry Chef's Baking / 01.31.13

I had decided on these cookies the day before the NFC Championship game. I adapted them from Hugs & Cookies but added Milky Way Caramels and am re-naming them Black Gold Cookies in honor of the NFC Champs, the San Francisco 49ers.

I've been a 49er fan since the 1982 NFC Championship game, 49ers vs the Cowboys, when Joe Montana threw the winning touchdown to Dwight Clark, aka The Catch. I've hung in there with the Niners over the years through thick (Montana, Clark, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, Coach Bill Walsh) and thin.... and thin and emaciation (we won't name names for these periods). We're getting back into "thick" territory again with a trip to the Super Bowl this weekend! So cookies in their honor seem apropos.

Why black gold? Because that's what chocolate is, of course. At least to me. But to make it more color literal, I added the Milky Way caramels and you can just see liquid gold peeking out from this cookie. This is a pretty rich cookie – we're talking 5-mile-run-afterward kind of cookie. As with most chocolate cookies, I actually prefer these at room temperature when the chocolate has a chance to set. 

Try to cover the caramels with the cookie dough as much as feasible so the caramel doesn't leak out too much during baking. A little peeking out looks pretty, a lot makes for overly chewy caramel once it's baked. The dough is rather soft but does become more firm as the melted chocolate chips cool in the batter. You want to scoop these out fairly soon after mixing the dough so it doesn't become too difficult to portion them out into dough balls.

Black gold 49ers cookies

1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup Milky Way caramels, chopped

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Melt the 8 ounces of chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler over hot water until smooth. Let cool slightly.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla. Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about one minute. Beat in the sugars. 

4. Mix in the beaten egg and vanilla until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients on slow speed. Fold in the chocolate chips and Milky Way caramels.

5. Scoop into dough balls and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

6. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies have just begun to set with the centers still appearing very soft. They will firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for at least five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Vanilla Pudding Snickerdoodle Cookies

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Made from pantry staples, this recipe is easy to make, and hits the sweet spot. (Beyond The Peel)

Coconut rice pudding with caramelized banana

By Beyond The Peel / 01.30.13

I fell in love with this easy to make and “hits the sweet spot just perfectly” coconut rice pudding about 5 years ago. It’s almost a fool proof recipe, made from pantry staples. Before this website ever existed and before my whole food journey began, there was this rice pudding. The only change I’ve made to it since is the type of sweetener I use. I like that I can make endless versions of this based on my mood and what I have on hand.

If you’re new to whole foods, trying to limit the amount of pastries, cakes or chocolates you eat may be challenging. And eliminating all treats may have you doing a bakery drive by like some crazy person. If you’re just starting to reduce the amount of processed foods or sugar in your diet, this type of craving can hit hard. And you know what else? It happens to most decent people. It really does. At least in the beginning.

In fact, I had a moment like this, the day I discovered this rice pudding. The only thing was, there was no bakery or pastry shop in sight. In fact, no store of any kind. I was living at a fire tower in Northern Alberta, over an hour's drive away from anything store-like and unable to leave the tower (on call almost 24 hours a day), I needed to think fast. I had run out of eggs, had no milk, or dairy for that matter, no chocolate and I really needed a “sweet fix.”

This is the dessert that saved me. It now makes a regular appearance and in fact, I make a big batch and freeze individual portions for quick easy dessert solutions when, and if, a sweet tooth decides to hit. Now I know it’s no slice of triple layer chocolate cake iced with chocolate ganache. That’s kind of the point. It’s mildly sweet, slightly nutty and won’t leave you feeling that “post sugar binge regret.” In fact, I’ve even had this for breakfast!

Notes on sugar or rice substitutions, including adding some lovely spices, will follow in the recipe notes. Also there’s a recipe for caramelized bananas. I buy my sprouted brown rice from Costco. Sprouted rice has higher nutritional values due to the fact that it is sprouted, meaning alive, before it is dried and packaged.  In fact all my baking flour is sprouted and we also enjoy a sprouted bean mixture.

Here’s a good post if you’re interested in learning more about sprouted brown rice.

Coconut rice pudding

 2 cups sprouted brown rice

2-1/2 cups water

1-1/2 cups coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup palm sugar (also known as coconut sugar)

Add all the ingredients to a large pot. Bring the rice to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce heat to gentle simmer for 45 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes during the last 10 minutes of cooking process. Add water if the rice is beginning to dry out or begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, adding 1/2 cup of water at a time.

Recipe Notes: If you choose to use a different type of rice, you will probably need to adjust the ratio of liquid to rice. Sprouted rice requires less water to cook. Just keep your eye on it during the simmering process and add more as needed. When you first make this, you want it to be slightly runny, like warm pudding. The rice will absorb a lot of the moisture if it is allowed to cool overnight. Reheating the rice pudding the next day will most likely require you to add more water. I added a cup of water the next day during the reheating process. Different types of rice also have different cooking times. Adjust accordingly.

Sugar Substitute: Use any amount of sweetener you need to make it taste good to you. If you’re new to whole foods you may require more sugar. That’s OK. You can adjust it over time as your need for sugar decreases. I love using honey in this recipe as well. Any sweetener can be used here and add a little bit at a time until you get the desired result. Each type of sweetener will also give a slightly different flavor.

Spices: Cinnamon is a lovely addition, as is cardamom. A 1/2 teaspoon of each or of just one makes for a nice change.

Other Yummy Additions: One of my favorite additions is coconut or cranberries. Both can be added during the cooking process. Don’t underestimate adding roasted cashews, pistachios or coconut ribbons as a garnish which are all completely delicious. Nuts and seeds of any kind are delightful as well. It helps add diversity in the textures which lends to a pleasant mouth feel.

Fruit or yogurt: Serve this with fresh or roasted fruit and/or yogurt.

Caramelized bananas

1/2 banana per person

honey (use maple syrup if vegan)

Preheat the oven to broil. Cut the banana in half and again in half lengthwise. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the banana cut side up on baking sheet. Brush with warm honey or maple syrup. Broil until golden brown on top. About 5 minutes.

Related post on Tastes Like Home: Apple Blackberry Crumble With Hazelnut Topping

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There's nothing like home-cooked food. Make a better version of the chowmein you find in Chinese restaurants with this recipe. (Tastes Like Home)

Guyanese-style chicken chowmein

By Tastes Like Home / 01.29.13

I rarely cook chowmein. It's not because I don't like it but it is one of those dishes that when you do make it, it should be for more than one person. While there are many other dishes that fall into that same category, chowmein is one of those things that I don't particularly like reheated. I prefer it made hot and fresh!

The other thing about eating chowmein is that I prefer to have it from a restaurant. Eaten right there as it comes to the table with smoke still rising from the wok hay.

A couple of weeks ago I had this craving for chowmein. If I were in Guyana I'd know exactly where to go. Though there are many Chinese restaurants here in Barbados, the food leaves a lot to be desired. I am not kidding. I know that people tend to adapt the food to suit the palates of the population, after all, it is about making money. But honestly, does it have to be dumbed-down to the extent that all it becomes is a filler and void of taste?

I went to one of Barbados' newer Chinese restaurants (yes, I have visited the others) hoping to get my chowmein fix. The roast pork was tasty as was the chicken but the noodles did not even have salt! Salt! Don't bother about any other flavor. What was worse for me is that I was not interested in any of the meat, I was there for the noodles!

My dining companions pushed the food around their plates. I couldn't take it anymore and blurted out how tasteless the food was. A collective sigh erupted around the table and then one of my friends said, "Thank God you said it! We didn't want to say anything because we knew how much you really wanted to eat chowmein – we didn't want to spoil it for you by saying anything."

There is this thing about me. I don't know if it is bad. If I crave something and go out to eat it and it ends up disappointing, I get really obsessive about making it, even if it is a distant version of the original thing, just as long as it tastes good. And that is how I ended up cooking this chicken chowmein two days after that awful tasting "thing" from the restaurant.

Guyanese chicken chowmein
Feeds 4

Ingredients

For Chicken:

Boneless thighs or breasts cut into 2-inch strips (I used bone-in chicken wings)

2 tablespoons Green seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon light soy sauce (lighter in color and used for seasoning; contains more salt)

2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (thick, darker in color; sweet)

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 teaspoons grated garlic

If you have some on hand, add some oyster sauce

For Chowmein:

1-lb of your favorite brand of dried chowmein noodles

Water

Salt and pepper to taste

5 tablespoons oil, divided (2 and 3 tablespoons)

2 tablespoon chopped root ginger

Minced hot pepper to taste

2 cups of bora (snake beans)

2 cups julienned carrots

1 heaped teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder

3 to 4 whole green onions, cut into 2-inch length pieces

Directions
For Chicken:

Mix all the ingredients together and let marinate for 1/2 an hour.

For Chowmein:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large karahi or any deep wide-mouthed frying pan.

2. Add seasoned chicken, toss and let brown. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and let cook until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has significantly reduced and thickened. The cooking time will vary depending on the cut of meat (breasts will cook faster than thighs) and if the meat is bone-in. For the wings, I added 1 1/2 cups water. If you are using breast meat, no need to add water.

3. While the chicken is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water to taste, add chowmein and cook according to package instructions. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cool tap water. Drain well.

4. Remove the chicken and whatever thickened sauce is there from the pan and set aside. 

5. Wipe pan clean and heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil on high heat.

6. Add ginger and pepper and fry for 1 minute.

7. Add bora & carrots along with salt and pepper to taste. Stir fry for  3-4 minutes.

8. Add chicken and drippings and toss to mix.

9. Add noodles, 5-spice powder, and green onions and toss everything to mix. Let cook together for 3-4 minutes, toss again then serve hot.

Related post on Tastes Like Home: A one-of-a-kind Chicken Curry

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Garlicky kielbasa, creamy Gouda, and fresh dill jazz up a simple potato chowder, the perfect hearty meal for a winter night. (The Runaway Spoon)

Potato kielbasa chowder and yogurt biscuit bites

By The Runaway Spoon / 01.28.13

Sometimes, good recipes don’t make good photos. They are just hard to make pretty. This is one of those recipes. I have tried for a while now to photograph this soup, to make it look like a magazine spread, to make it so perfect, your mouth-waters just looking at it. But I can’t. My meager skills are not up to it.

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a delicious recipe – I assure you it is – just that its humble whole is not picture-perfect. But get past the simple surface and you will find a hearty, comforting soup perfect for chilly winter evenings, nights in front of the fire, or a hearty meal for football fans. Garlicky kielbasa, creamy Gouda, and fresh dill jazz up a simple potato chowder, the perfect hearty meal with a big chunk of warm, crusty bread (or, of course, a biscuit).

Potato kielbasa chowder with Gouda and dill
Serves 4 – 6 

1 pound kielbasa

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus more for topping

1 teaspoon mustard powder

6 cups chicken broth

3 medium red-skinned potatoes

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups grated Gouda cheese, plus more for topping

Cut the kielbasa into small cubes and place in a Dutch oven with the olive oil. Remember, you’ll be eating this with a spoon, so size the kielbasa pieces accordingly. Sauté over high heat until the kielbasa begins to brown. Finely chop the onion and add to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and golden and the kielbasa is nicely browned. 

Add the minced garlic, the dill and the mustard powder and cook for two minutes more. Stir in the chicken broth, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and bring to a boil.

While the soup is heating, cut the potato into bite-sized cubes. When the soup is boiling, add the potatoes, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.  Cook for 15- 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. 

Cut the cream cheese into eight even cubes, increase the heat to medium high and stir in cubes of cream cheese, one at a time, stirring until each one is melted before adding the next. At times the soup may look curdled, but it will melt evenly with gentle stirring. Don’t knock it around too much or the potatoes will disintegrate. Stir in the grated Gouda a handful at a time until it is melted.

Serve immediately, with a little chopped dill and grated Gouda sprinkled on top.

Yogurt biscuit bites
Makes 9 biscuit bites 

During the winter soup season, it’s always nice to have a little bread-y bite next to your bowl. And I don’t think there can be an easy recipe than this one. Just a few ingredients and a thousand possible combinations and you have a nice, tangy little treat.

I generally make these plain, then roll them in seasoned butter, but you can add seasonings or even a little bit of grated cheese to the dough. Suit the seasoning to the soup you’re serving them with.

1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided

Seasoning of your choice: 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning with 1/4 teaspoon paprika or garlic salt. A 1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning or Old Bay. 1/2 teaspoon herbes de provence.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl with a fork. Stir in the yogurt and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Mix until thoroughly combined and you have a dough you can roll into balls with your hands.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a shallow bowl. If you’d like, add some seasoning to the butter and stir well. Roll the dough into golf ball size biscuits, then roll each biscuit in the butter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10–12 minutes until the biscuits are cooked through.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Boxty (Irish Potato Cakes)

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Roast butternut squash with flavorful cumin for a side dish. Toss any leftovers the next day with greens, quinoa, nuts, dried fruit of your choice, and a citrus dressing. (Beyond The Peel)

Meatless Monday: Roasted squash and quinoa salad

By Beyond The Peel / 01.27.13

I’m a big fan of doubling my efforts to get two meals in one. Today’s recipe is one of those. Actually, I find all roasted veggies really have that potential. Like the Roasted Carrot recipe I shared a while back, or roast beets to make this soup today and use the rest to make this Roasted Beet Bruschetta tomorrow.

I mean really, isn’t it nice to not have to always cook every night?

Isn’t having a night off from time to time such a great feeling?

I love cooking but even I need a night “off” once or twice a week. In case you were wondering, I don’t consider making a salad cooking, or chopping up vegetables to eat on toasted bread as cooking either, nor is heating up leftovers (one of my favorite cooking experiences). To me that’s just getting ready to eat.

With squash being plentiful and very inexpensive it makes a great side dish with dinner tonight and a fabulous salad or soup tomorrow. I recommend making quinoa and roasted squash as a side dish one night, then using the leftovers, you can make this salad for a fabulous lunch or even a delightful dinner salad that won’t taste like you’re eating last nights leftovers.

That’s always a good thing.

Roasted Cumin Spiced Squash

2 lbs. of cubed butternut squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and remove the seeds from the squash. Cube the squash into bite sized pieces and put in a large bowl. Toss the squash with the oil, cumin and paprika. Place the squash on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 35-45 minutes or until squash is tender.

Roasted Squash and Quinoa Salad

2 cups roasted squash

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups baby kale and baby chard (or greens of choice)

1/2 cup dried cranberries ( or raisins)

1/2 crushed pistachios (or nuts of choice)

crumbled feta to garnish (optional)

Cumin Dressing (below) or dressing of choice

In a large bowl, add the cooked squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add the quinoa, greens, cranberries and pistachios. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Note: This salad will hold up nicely to the dressing, minus the greens. You can always add the salad greens at a later time if you’d like to add the dressing now and allow the flavors to marry. Also a good idea if you’re bringing this to someone house for dinner.

Cumin Dressing

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon honey (vegans use agave or sweetener of choice)

In a small frying pan over high heat, add the cumin seeds and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin seeds. Combine the lemon juice, oil, cumin and honey. Whisk until well combined.

Note: If the salad won’t be eaten all at once, add the dressing to each serving individually to preserve the freshness of the greens.

Related post on Beyond The Peel: Kamut Herb Salad with Feta and Hazelnuts

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Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day on Jan. 27 with this tried-and-true dense and moist chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. (Kitchen Report)

Chocolate cake with buttercream frosting

By Kitchen Report / 01.26.13

There’s not a lot to say here except that this will be the best chocolate cake you ever bake. Ever. It has stood the test of time, fads, and the convenience of box cake mixes. This chocolate cake recipe first appeared in The Christian Science Monitor in the 1930s or ’40s. It was reintroduced to readers a few years ago in this essay.

When my mom gave me cake tools for Christmas this year, an eight-layer cakemaker complete with a plastic wand with interchangeable parts for carving pretty patterns in the icing, I decided to put them to the test for a friend's New Year’s Eve birthday bash.

I don’t think I had even made a double-layer cake before attempting this towering masterpiece.

I layered the cake with alternating buttercream frosting and raspberry preserves that I heated in the microwave for about 10 seconds to get it to a spreadable texture. I covered the sides and top with a chocolate buttercream frosting. I adapted the frosting recipe a bit from the original recipe, made it less sweet, which I think works just fine – because this is a really moist, dense cake.

On a whim I decided to use a few fresh flowers for a decorative touch, since I don't quite trust my skills yet to make frosting flowers.

It’s delicious either as a simple sheet cake or dressed up into a multilayer celebration cake.

There was just enough to give our revelers a nice big piece each – and left the Birthday Girl with a giant piece to eat the next day, which she did for breakfast. While sweet endings are nice, sweet beginnings are even better.

Chocolate cake

2 cups sugar

1-1/2 sticks butter

1-1/2 cup boiling water

2 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9- x 13-inch pan or two 9-inch round cake pans. If you are using round pans, it is recommend that you cut out a piece of parchment paper and line each pan, since this cake tends to stick.

Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add boiling water and stir until the butter and sugar are dissolved.

Sift the dry ingredients into the batter and combine. Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix well.

Pour into prepared pan(s) and bake about 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Note: Homecooks who have used this recipe find that the cake rises higher in the middle.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

1/2 stick butter, room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1-2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter until fluffy, gradually add powdered sugar. Stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you achieve the consistency you want. Add vanilla. This is a thick, rich icing.

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, soda, salt) into the batter. Mix well. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1-1/2 sticks butter, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

3 egg yolks, unbeaten

6 1-ounce squares unsweetened baker’s chocolate

In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate completely. Remove from heat, allow to cool.

Cream butter until fluffy, gradually add powdered sugar. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Add in chocolate, beat until desired consistency.

Related post on Kitchen Report: Molten lava cake

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These homemade granola bars couldn't be simpler. Use cranberries and white chocolate, or any mix of dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate. (Whipped, The Blog)

Cranberry white chocolate granola bars

By Whipped, The Blog / 01.25.13

I first made these granola bars when I signed up to deliver a school snack. The preschoolers were venturing out on a field trip and needed something to eat on the bus. True to form, I skipped the simple solution of buying something from the store (which the majority of the kids would have preferred) and instead, I stubbornly created a time consuming project. Fortunately, it was a joint venture with Mini Whipped who perfected the art of the parchment wrap and twist.

Since the school outing, I have experimented with a few different recipes. I like the combination of tart cranberries with sweet, white chocolate. And, we’ve all voted that chewier, soft granola bars are the way to go for our family. I found that if wrapped in plastic wrap, the bars freeze well. So, consider doubling the batch and keeping extras on hand.

Feel free to get creative and mix up the sweet stuff inside. If cranberries and white chocolate aren’t your thing, add nuts, chocolate chips or other goodies.

Cranberry white chocolate granola bars
Makes about 14 bars
Adapted from Mom’s Big Book of Baking

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup canola oil

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup white chocolate chips

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish. Spread the oats and sunflower seeds on a cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes until slightly toasted, stirring once. Remove the pan and let oats cool completely.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the oil and brown sugar and stir until smooth. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the oat mixture until combined.

Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate chips. Press the mixture into the greased baking pan. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Remove the bars from oven and let them cool completely. Cut the bars and use a sharp spatula to remove them. Wrap in plastic wrap or keep in a Ziploc bag or airtight container for up to 5 days. Or, wrap individually in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer.

Related post on Whipped, The Blog: Everyday Granola

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Korean short ribs are not all that different from the short ribs you find at the supermarket. Slow cooked, they are tender and chewy, and with this recipe, flavorful but not overly spicy. (Blue Kitchen)

Korean oven-braised short ribs

By Blue Kitchen / 01.24.13

One of the best things about exploring other countries’ cuisines is shopping. Saturday found us at H Mart in suburban Chicago, conveniently at lunchtime. We headed straight to the food court, where we ordered generous, steaming bowls of pork and kimchi dumpling soup. H Mart is an Asian-inspired supermarket chain that started in Queens, New York.

The name is short for “Han Ah Reum,” Korean for “One Arm Full of Groceries.” You’re lucky if you can get out of this sprawling treasure trove of all things Asian carrying just one armful of groceries. The vast produce section has beautiful examples of all the usual suspects as well as things hard to find elsewhere – lotus root, enoki mushrooms, turmeric (not the powder, but the actual gnarly little rhizomes), tiny, speckled fresh quail eggs, and so on. The specific ingredient I’d gone in search of was Korean-style beef short ribs. We left, of course, with our arms more than full.

Korean-style short ribs actually come in a few different cuts. One is also known as the flanken cut, in which the ribs are sliced thinly across the bone, with three or more bones in each slice. What I was looking for were more like the standard short ribs you see in the supermarket, only shorter – they’re cut into two-inch (or so) sections. H Mart had both these cuts as well as others.

As winter seriously settles in, we’re looking for excuses to turn on the oven and fill the apartment with meaty cooking smells. There’s a dazzling array of variations on Galbi Jjim, traditional Korean braised short ribs, out there. One thing virtually all of them share is cooking them on the stovetop. I chose to oven braise them. Besides the reason stated above, oven braising wraps the whole pan in even, moderate heat instead of concentrating all of it on the bottom of the pan. However you cook them, the results are satisfyingly chewy/tender and delicious, flavorful but not spicy.

Korean braised short ribs (Galbi Jjim)
Serves 4

2-1/2 pounds Korean style short ribs

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 Asian or Bosc pear, peeled and grated on box grater

3/4-cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup dry white wine (may substitute cooking wine)

2 cups water

4 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons sugar

freshly ground black pepper

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into a large dice

1/2 pound piece of daikon (Japanese radish), peeled and cut into large dice (see Kitchen Notes)

1/2 cup chopped scallions

salt

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted (see Kitchen Notes)

cooked white rice

special equipment: parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Score ribs on the meaty side with 1/2-inch slices across the grain; this will allow the meat to absorb more flavor from the braising liquid. Put short ribs in a large pot and cover with lots of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You can spoon off the scum that forms or not – you’re going to discard this water anyway. Remove the ribs with tongs and rinse under cold running water. This step gets rid of some of the blood and excess fat.

While the meat is simmering, combine ginger, garlic, pear, soy sauce, wine, water, sesame oil and sugar in a large bowl. Season with a generous grind of black pepper.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium flame and sweat the onion until translucent and softening, three to five minutes. Add the braising liquid mixture to the Dutch oven and nestle the ribs, meaty side down, into the sauce. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Press a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside the Dutch oven down on top of the ribs. Cover the Dutch oven with lid and transfer to oven.

Braise ribs for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and add carrots, daikon and scallions, pressing down into the braising liquid. Replace the parchment paper and lid and return to oven. Braise for another 30 minutes.

Using tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer ribs and vegetables to a large bowl and tent with foil. Bring braising liquid to a boil over medium high flame and reduce slightly to a sauce, about five minutes.

Plate cooked rice in individual shallow bowls or rimmed plates. Top with ribs and vegetables and spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Kitchen Notes

Daikon. In Japanese, daikon means “large root.” While you can find it in most Asian markets, the trick may be finding a non-giant piece. But find it if you can; it adds a tangy, sweet, crunchy bite to this dish. If not, some suggested substitutes include turnips, jicama, or water chestnuts. I can’t vouch for these, because I haven’t tried them.

Toasting sesame seeds. Crazy easy. Spread them in a single layer in a cold, dry nonstick skillet. Toast over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until slightly golden and fragrant, three to five minutes.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Miso Braised Pork Shoulder

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