Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pasta Primavera with Halloumi

Have I mentioned how much I like Halloumi?  I had it for a the first time a few years ago and was amazed at how salty and crispy it is.  I had no idea it was a cheese made with goat and sheep milk, and I probably wouldn't have tried it if I did.  (I thought I hated cheese made with goat or sheep milk.)

We had some Halloumi in the fridge that was a little over date.  I didn't want to waste it but knew I had to use it pretty quickly.  The last time I cooked Halloumi that had gone out of date it made the house smell so horribly that no one could stand it.  My mom left and went to the gym.  When I went to the gym a little later later, I opened the door (it was a massive space) and heard her yell, "I can still smell you!"

The Halloumi pasta dish was fairly easy and tasted/smelled fine.  I like it served hot.  The recipe makes enough for about six servings.


1/2 onion
225 grams Halloumi
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 head of broccoli
3 carrots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, minced
400 grams penne pasta
2 large roma tomatoes
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet.  Cut the Halloumi into 1/4 inch thick slices.  When the skillet is hot, place the Halloumi in the pan.  (If it's not hot enough, the Halloumi has a tendency to melt before it browns.)  Brown the Halloumi on one side, then flip over and heat on the other.  Remove the skillet from the heat and take the cheese out of the pan.

Bring a saucepan of water to boil, add salt and the pasta.  Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes and use a strainer to drain the pasta.

Wash the broccoli and carrots.  Cut the carrots and broccoli into bite size pieces.  Steam the vegetables, or throw them in with the pasta.

Wash and dice the tomatoes.  In a large bowl, combine the pasta, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes.  Cut the Halloumi into small pieces and add to the bowl as well.

Dice the onion into small pieces.  Wash and cut the mushrooms, and mince the garlic.  In a skillet (I used the one from the Halloumi) heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and allow to saute until the onions become translucent (about three minutes.)  Then add the mushrooms.  Allow the mushrooms to reduce, releasing liquid (three to four minutes.)  Then add the butter and the garlic and cook for another few minutes.

Add the mushroom sauce to the pasta, mix well, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sugar Cookies

Look at what Alisa (aka Mother Teresa on speed) sent!  Metropolitan cookie cutters!  Big Ben, Sydney Opera House, Pyramids, Statue of Liberty, Leaning Tower of Pisa and Eiffel Tower.  Seems like the perfect time to try two sugar cookies recipes.

The recipes?  Grandma Clark's (an old standby) and a copy cat recipe from Granny B's  (Our cute friend, Heather, brought us Valentine cookies made with the recipe and it was delicious.  Niall was out of town so he didn't get any.)

I halved both recipes and used pink frosting.  (I love pink frosted sugar cookies.) 

Grandma Clark's Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening (Grandma used Crisco, I use butter)
1/4 cup milk
1 well-beaten egg
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups flour or enough to form a soft dough

Cream sugar, shortening and eggs together.  Mix in milk.  Add lemon and vanilla.  Add baking powder and flour.  Here's a photo of the dough.  I don't always refrigerate it, but did refrigerate it this time.

Roll dough out, cut in shapes.  I love the cookie cutters!  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned (I cooked about 12 minutes).  Cool.  

Frost and decorate.  If the kids help, you know you'll have to clean the whole house later.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sour cream

Cream Butter and sugar together, then slowly add eggs, and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients together, then add dry mixture to the butter and sugar.  Add the sour cream, mix until smooth.
Chill: 2 to 3 hours.  Roll out to 1/4 inch thick cut into shapes.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 6 to 8 minutes (I baked for 8) or until golden brown on bottom.  Remove and cool.

Here's the dough from Heather's recipe.

And here are the cookies side by side.  (Grandma Clark's recipe on the left, Heather's on the right.)  They look pretty similar, but Niall did a taste test and said he preferred Heather's.  I'm happy with either.

For the frosting I used an old standby. (4 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 pound powdered/icing sugar, 1 teaspoon almond extract.)   I frosted about half the cookies.  Too bad I'm not good at decorating because Alisa's cookie cutters would make darling cookies in the right hands.  The rest of the cooks I left unfrosted and put in the freezer for later.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Burnt Almond Fudge Ice Cream

Oh, my grandparents used to keep a gallon container of Burnt Almond Fudge ice cream in their freezer. They would make us ice cream cones on Sunday nights.  I'm not a big chocolate fan, but I love Burnt Almond Fudge ice cream.  It's probably the almond extract.  I saw a recipe with raw eggs for the ice cream which reminded me how much I wanted some.  I searched around and found a recipe with cooked eggs from Nielsen Family Recipes, but I ended up taking several liberties on the directions.  Partly because I was confused (about the baking powder??) and partly because I forgot to use egg yolks only and used the whole egg.  And by that time it hardly seemed worth trying to follow the recipe.  So here is the result:


1 cup single cream (half and half)
1 cup double cream (whipping cream)
1 1/2 cups milk (2 %)
1.5 ounces baking chocolate
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup toasted almonds

In a saucepan, heat the baking chocolate and single cream.  Ideally bring it to a simmer.  (I forgot about and brought it to a rolling boil.)

While the chocolate is melting, beat the eggs and sugar together.  (I took this to extremes and beat the eggs for about five minutes on the stand mixer.  The eggs go so frothy it was like mousse.)

Add the double cream to the chocolate on then stove.  Then pour in the egg and sugar mixture and mix well.

Since I'm paranoid about raw eggs, I went way past the recommended 170 degree mark and brought the whole mixture to a gentle boil.  After about two minutes of it boiling I removed the pot from the stove.

Allow the mixture to settle and stir in the milk to further cool the mixture, stirring well.

Pour the contents of the pan into a bowl and refrigerate.  (I left it in the fridge overnight.)

When the mixture has cooled, pour it into the ice cream maker to freeze.

While the ice cream is churning, prepare the almonds.  (I had whole almonds, so I broke them up and toasted them in the oven for about five minutes.)

When the ice cream has almost finished freezing, add the almonds so they are stirred well.

If your ice cream maker is like mine (and doesn't freeze all the way) transfer the ice cream to a freezer proof container, seal, and freeze until firm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grandma's Applesauce Cookies

These cookies are my favorite.  They are a family tradition.  The recipe makes a lot of cookies (maybe about 80).  I have fond memories of my grandma making these cookies.  They're moist and cake-like and they are amazing frozen.  My mom sometimes makes these just for me and packs them in her suitcase before coming to visit.  They're good the day they're made, but even better with a little time.

These cookies are not a crowd pleaser.  I once took them to a party and was told they were "grandma cookies."  (It wasn't meant as a compliment.)  Niall doesn't like them (he'll only eat them if I don't add raisins.)  I am rather protective of these cookies, and I think some other family members are as well.  I made them without nuts and my uncle was pretty upset.  He pointed out that the recipe doesn't have nuts as optional.  And he's right.  (The recipe's pictured below.  But I still sometimes skip the nuts.)


1 cup shortening (this means butter)
2 teaspoons soda
2 cups raisins
2 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 package chocolate chips (if desired)
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 cups applesauce
1 cup nuts (pecans are best)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs.  Separately, combine the applesauce and the soda.  I love how the applesauce foams.

Add the applesauce and soda to the creamed butter/sugar/eggs.  Sift the spices, salt and flour together and add to the mixture.

Stir in the raisins, chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop the dough onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes (I usually bake for about 12, but I like them brown.)  Remove from the oven and cool.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Homemade Wheat Rolls

If we had Rhodes Bake-N-Serv rolls, I would use those.  But I haven't been able to find any frozen roll dough, so I used the recipe from Worldwide Ward Cookbook.  I modified it a bit (made a few adjustments, halved the recipe, used wheat flour.)


1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk, scalded and cooled (I used 2% milk)
1 egg
Just under 1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
2 cups wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour, plus flour for kneading

Pour the warm water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top.  (I added a pinch of sugar to help with the activation and then sprinkled the yeast.)

Set it aside for five minutes and allow the yeast to activate.

Scald the milk and allow it to cool.  (In a mug, I heated the milk in the microwave on high for about two minutes, which isn't exactly scalding. To cool, I placed the milk in the fridge for a few minutes and then added the butter.  It didn't cool it very much but it worked okay.)

Mix together the milk, butter, egg, and salt at a high speed.

Pour in the yeast mixture and continue mixing.  (I used the stand mixer and used the whisk attachment.  When adding the flour, I changed to the dough hook.)  Gradually mix in the flour.  (I added the wheat flour first and then the white flour.)  Knead for about five minutes.  The dough will be sticky.

Flour a surface and put the dough on it.  Knead the dough into the flour until it is no longer sticky.

Grease a bowl and place the dough in it.  Allow the dough to rise until it doubles.  (It took about an hour on my stovetop.)

When the dough has doubled, punch it down.

Grease a 9x13 pan and palm the dough into roll sized portions.  (I had enough dough for 15 rolls, plus four more in a smaller greased pan.)

Allow the rolls to rise (it took about an hour) and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Remove and serve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Roasted Chicken

Once my friend Burke gave me a fantastic article on making roasted chicken.  I've looked all over for it (I was sure I put it in my DO NOT DELETE email folder) but can't find it.  So I'll try to retell it as best I can.

Whole chicken
Olive oil
sea salt
spices (I used basil and sage)
orange (or lemon)

I think the basic rule of thumb is to have about 1/2 pound of meat for each guest.  (We're supposed to have somewhere between six and eight meat eaters over for dinner, so I got a whole chicken at the grocery store that weighed about five pounds.)

Preparing the chicken before roasting does not take that long, but I do find I wash my hand a lot.  (I get a little freaked out with the raw meat and hate the idea of unscrewing spice lids, etc. with raw chicken hands.)

Remove the chicken from the packaging.  Rinse with cold water and check for any unplucked feathers.  I never had this feather problem in the US, but sometimes do in the UK.  If I find any feathers I pull them out.  Check the cavity (you may need to untie the legs) of the chicken and remove any giblets or any other "parts" that may be inside.  I think you're supposed to pat the chicken dry after rinsing it, but I don't.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the chicken in the roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt.  Rub the salt and oil into the chicken, making sure to work it into the the breast, wings and legs.  Turn the chicken over and rub the oil and salt on the underside.  You can work your way under the skin and rub salt there as well.  I usually don't bother.

Flip the chicken so the legs are on top.  Depending how large the cavity is, use a combination of citrus (orange or lemon), onion and garlic to stuff it.  For the five pound bird I used 1/2 a yellow onion (with skin still on), one whole lemon (cut in half) and half a head of garlic (I did not peel it.)  Stuff in the onion, squeezed the lemon (or orange) over the chicken and then stuff it in and then add the garlic.

Sprinkle additional spices over the top of the chicken, coating it well.  I used cracked black pepper, dried basil and ground sage.  If possible, tie the legs together (using string or the original tie provided when the bird was purchased).  I didn't tie the legs very tightly on this one.

Place the chicken uncovered in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Cooking it at a high temperature and uncovered browns the skin and makes it crispy.  Here's the bird after roasting for 30 minutes uncovered.

Turn the oven down to 200 degrees F and cover the chicken.  Cooking it covered and a low temperature makes the chicken really moist. Cook for 2-3 hours until the chicken is fully cooked.  (If the chicken were smaller, I would transfer it to a crock pot and cook it for at least 2-3 hours, but sometimes for four or more, depending on the timing of the meal.)  If I was thorough I would use a meat thermometer.   But I don't.  I do stick a knife in where the thigh meets the leg and make sure the juices run clear.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan and allow it to sit for a few minutes.  Using a large carving knife, carve the chicken.  I know there's an art to carving a chicken, but I don't know it.  I just cut it and eat!

Chicken Stock

I think homemade chicken stock is amazing.  So, after roasting a chicken, if I get around to it, I make a stock and freeze it for later.

Chicken carcass
Vegetables (carrot, onion, etc.)
Leftover gravy

In a large pot, combine the carcass of a roasted chicken, water (maybe about five cups?) and vegetables. (I usually add the onion and garlic used to stuff the chicken when roasting and perhaps a few carrots or celery.)

Bring the pot to a simmer and let it cook for about 30 minutes.  (To be honest, I probably leave it for about an hour just because I get lazy.)

When the chicken has simmered, place another pot (or heat safe bowl) under a strainer and pour everything into the strainer.  The bottom pot will collect the stock.  If there is meat left on the carcass and you want to save it, allow the chicken in the strainer to cool before handling. (I usually allow at least 15 minutes.)

Pick through the carcass and remove any usable meat.  Discard the bones, cartilage, vegetables, etc.  I usually combine the chicken stock and usable meat, along with any leftover gravy, in a plastic bag.  (Make sure the stock has cooled enough for the plastic bag.)  I freeze the stock and use it later, typically to make soup.