2012 Culinary Resolutions

Better late than never…

I don’t like resolutions  (who does?), and we weren’t going to do one of these posts, but if any resolutions can be kept, it’s culinary resolutions. So here goes…our 2012 culinary resolutions!

1. Take a cooking class.

2.  Perfect our crepe-making skills. Last Christmas J gave me a crepe cookbook and this Christmas he gave me a crepe pan. Yet we’re still not very good at actually making them:(

3. Eat at one of DC’s Ethiopian restaurants. We ate at Dukem last year…want to add Etete or Ethiopic this year.

Cooking in the Moment

4. Make at least one recipe from Andrea Reusing’s Cooking in the Moment cookbook. My brother gave me this for Christmas, and it’s a gorgeous cookbook, but maybe not one I will cook from frequently.

5. Make a delicious tofu dish…we’ve never cooked with tofu so it may take a few tries to find a recipe that we really enjoy.

6. Develop low-cal everyday dinner recipes.

7. Bake something at least once a week. I think I’ve accomplished this so far, so we’ll see if I can keep it up.

8. Make sushi. J has done this, but I haven’t. J would like to perfect his sushi-making.

9. Host a dinner party. With at least 8 people attending (including ourselves). I added the 8 person caveat because we fairly frequently have 3 or 4 people for dinner. I’d like to expand our circle a little more.

Chateau Morrisette Wines http://www.thedogs.com

10. Visit a Virginia winery. We’ll be fulfilling this next month when we go to Chateau Morrisette. I’ve been there before, but I was under 21 at the time (who takes their kids to a winery?).

11. Cook a moist and delicious turkey. This is J’s.

12. Make a gingerbread house.

What are your culinary resolutions for 2012?

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Christmas Baking Part II

Whew. Just like that Christmas has come and gone. Each year it seems to go by even quicker than the last. Luckily, I packed in as much baking as possible when I was home in North Carolina.

Every year, my next-door neighbors hold a Christmas Eve Open House with lots of delightful brunch foods and Bloody Marys to wash everything down.

Cheddar Biscuits

Since I didn’t have much time to cook for this, I went with an old stand-by: cheddar biscuits from the How to Cook everything app. The recipe was actually for cheese straws, but it saves a lot of time if you just form them into small round biscuits.

For a family function Christmas Eve afternoon, I used a family recipe for  vegetable dip. Basically I use 16 ounces of cream cheese (softened), a shredded carrot, 1/2 small onion (chopped), a few strips of chopped green pepper, and hot sauce to taste. So simple, but so delicious!

Since my friend’s cookie exchange several weeks ago, I’ve been looking for a reason to bake candy cane biscotti that someone brought. Christmas Eve sounded like as good an excuse as any. Unfortunately, I forgot to read the last line of the directions and I didn’t put the candy cane pieces in at the right time. I ended up crushing them into the dough once I had formed the logs on the cookie sheet. They ended up okay, but not as sweet and pepperminty as I would have liked. Also, I used white chocolate chips since my Podunk grocery store didn’t have bar chocolate, and they worked fine for me, although they did harden towards the end.

Candy Cane Biscotti

Christmas Day is spent at my grandma’s house, usually at breakfast time, but it being on a Sunday this year, we headed there after church. My grandma takes care of most of the cooking (oyster stew, sausage and egg casserole, homemade ham biscuits!), but I like to bring one dish.

Last year I didn’t get a chance to go to the grocery store, so I used what we had in the fridge and I ended up with a delicious overnight eggnog french toast casserole. This year I just went with milk instead of eggnog, but the casserole turned out fantastic! I used croissants instead of brioche (see: Podunk grocery store), making it extra caloric and delicious!  My aunt also brought a crème brûlée french toast casserole, but we had so many hungry relatives, only one serving remained uneaten at the end of the day. What can I say, we love to eat!

What did you bake for this holiday season?

Christmas Baking

One of my favorite things about Christmas time is it gives me an excuse to bake. Between parties, cookie exchanges, hungry friends and co-workers, there’s always a way to use a new recipe or revisit a favorite. I think I did more baking than ever this year, and Christmas is still days away.

Here are a few of the delicious treats I baked this year.

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Treats

I tested out this recipe for triple chocolate peppermint treats on a baking day with friends a couple of weeks ago. White chocolate is not one of my favorite things (heck, it’s not even really chocolate!), but it was subtle enough in this rich chocolatey cookie.

Although they were delicious, I decided against making those for baking day. I felt there were too many steps and too many supplies needed to make them when sharing a kitchen with several other bakers.

Instead the Washington Post cookie guide came out just in the nick of time, and I ended up making salty chocolate nutella thumbprints from the ladies of Whisked! My cookies spread out (I suppose my oven or ingredients were too warm), so I resorted to spreading the nutella on top. While they may not have looked as perfect as the WaPo photo, they were the perfect mix of salty-sweet and easy to make.

My nutella thumbprints are in there somewhere

I took the cookies to a cookie exchange, and hopefully they were enjoyed by all the chocolate lovers!

A good friend gave me Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook for my birthday, so I decided to make one of the recipes for her tacky sweater party last weekend. Initially I wanted to make a chocolate spice cupcake, but ultimately I baked gingerbread cupcakes since they were more Christmasy.

The recipe suggested white frosting, but I thought brown sugar cream cheese frosting would go nicely with the cupcake. I am so glad I made the substitution! The cupcakes themselves were some of the moistest cupcakes I’ve ever tasted (possibly because I used extra-large eggs). The frosting paired perfectly with the flavors in the cupcake. I didn’t have time to type up the recipe from the cookbook, but this looks basically like the one I used.  The frosting recipe, also from Martha Stewart, is as follows:

Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar (I used dark because that’s what I had)

I also added cinnamon, vanilla, and a touch of nutmeg to bring a little more flavor to the frosting.  Just beat everything together with an electric mixer until it’s the desired consistency. You’ll probably also have some leftover.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

I’m looking forward to doing a little more baking when I’m home in NC, so I’ll try to do a Christmas Baking: Part II in the coming weeks! Happy holidays, y’all!

Halloween!

I say! Quite a wintery night for a Halloween!

I say! Quite a wintery night for a Halloween!

Fall has fast become one of my favorite times of the year, especially right around Halloween. Last weekend, J & I spent an afternoon carving our pumpkin, and of course I had to make the most of the seeds. Last year I tried sweet seeds and spicy seeds, but this year I wanted to try something different. Particularly because our pumpkin did not yield many seeds.

I searched through one of my favorite cookbooks which I received last Christmas from my brother. I’ve become so depend on the internets to find recipes, but every once in a while I like to search my small library of cookbooks. The recipe for pumpkin muffins with candied pepitas looked fairly simple and quick (some of the recipes in the book do take up a fair amount of time and technique). One setback was that the pumpkin seeds needed to dry overnight, but I wasn’t bothered too much since I could just make this in the morning in time for a late breakfast.

I laid the seeds out to dry precisely as the author instructed, but in the morning, I did not find the seeds to be much drier. I proceeded to continue with the baking despite this.  The directions were easy to follow and it took me about 40 minutes (give or take 10 minutes) to prepare the batter. Another plus was that the canned pumpkin and seeds were the only ingredients I don’t normally have on-hand. The book says they take 25-35 minutes, but mine came out perfectly at 20 minutes. I somehow managed to resist them for the 20-minutes instructed to cool.

Muffins

The muffins came out perfectly moist with just the right amount of sweetness. The seeds, however, did not provide the candied crunchiness I hoped for. In fact, I removed them from my muffin and suggested J do the same. He did not seem to  have the same distaste for them as I did. I’m sure it was a matter of time or the temperature and moisture in my kitchen that prevented the seeds from achieving that crunchiness the book promised.  I do however think these muffins are worth baking again with the seeds, and I’m looking forward to baking a few tonight with the leftover batter.

Check out pics of our other Halloween treats!

Mummy Dogs

Wrap hot dogs (cut in 1/2) in croissant dough and add peppercorns for eyes. Bake for about 15-17 minutes.

Also check out this super simple, but oh-so-tasty recipe for Spider Web dip. I used my ‘famous’ homemade guacamole rather than store-bought guac. I don’t have a recipe per say but here are the basics:

Spiderweb Taco Dip!

Ingredients
4 ripe avocados
1/2 large red onion, diced
cilantro
minced garlic
paprika
chile powder
1/2 lime
salt

Add lime juice and avocados to a small bowl and mash avocados until the large chunks are gone. Add seasonings, onions, and cilantro and mix well. Taste test with a tortilla chip and keep taste testing until the taste is to your desire:)

I also made these delicious pumpkin gingersnap cookies, but they were eaten before I could take a picture. I think I will have to bake them again this week & dedicate a post to them because they were that good.
Happy Halloween!

Weekend Eats

This past weekend was full of delicious meals in and out of our kitchen.  Our weekend o’ eating started in earnest on Thursday with a birthday celebration for my roommate at Dukem Ethiopian.

The seven of us had all eaten Ethiopian before, but most of us had never eaten at this U Street eatery.  Although we all knew we liked Ethiopian we found the menu to be slightly intimidating and overwhelming with many unfamiliar dishes and a lack of adequate descriptions.

This didn’t stop us though. J and I each ordered a glass of honey wine and split the Dukem Special Tips (beef marinated in a special sauce) and a vegetable platter with lentils, collards, yellow peas and tomato salad. Both dishes came on a large platter of injera with a generous extra portion of the moist bread.

Food Platter at Dukem Courtesy: Katy Pitkin

The beef was tender and spicy, but the vegetables were the real winners of the meal. Overall, everyone at the table enjoyed their choices, but service was a little lacking.

We finished off our meal with these delightful mint chocolate chip cupcakes I made for the birthday girl.

Friday night we stayed in to recover from Thursday’s post-dinner wine and sangria drinking at Vinoteca. We revisited a recipe we tried recently for fish tacos, this time leaving out the mayo and using only plain yogurt.  I ignored the measurements and simply added the amount of yogurt to produce the consistency I prefer in slaw. We also breaded the tilapia and topped the tacos with homemade guac because why the hell not? Once again, this proved to be a quick, easy and delicious meal.

Saturday morning we took advantage of the gorgeous autumn weather and walked down to Georgetown for brunch at one of our favorite brunch places- Cafe Bonaparte. It doesn’t open until 10am on Saturdays and if you don’t get there soon after it opens, you’ll be waiting for a table because it really is a tiny and popular place. We chose to sit at the bar and converse with the bartenders/baristas. I started my morning off right with a nutella espresso, and J had a coffee.

We took a different route than we normally do at Bonaparte, each ordering a savory crepe. I had the Budapest (ground beef, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, cilantro sour cream) and J had the Marseille (chicken, red bell peppers, sour cream and onions), both served with a small side salad with a light vinaigrette. Essentially we ordered a burrito and an enchilada, but they were quite delicious. Just not the typical French crepes.

Moving on to Sunday…after a gorgeous walk to and around Roosevelt Island, we stopped at Wisey’s– often my go-to for a quick meal after a day of shopping in Georgetown.  J ordered a strawberry smoothie with added protein, and I ordered the Chantilly (smoked turkey, brie, & light cranberry mayo on multigrain bread).

The sandwich didn’t disappoint despite J’s apprehension about the mayo, and prompted him to order the California (chicken, avocado, havarti cheese, tomato and honey mustard on whole wheat). The honey mustard was a little much for me, but still a solid sandwich.

We capped off the weekend later that night with a to-go order of Surfside’s Martinique burrito to share- shrimp, guac, red beans & rice, zucchini. Splitting a burrito is usually how we do it at Surfside, but I always find that one half is better than the other. Remember to choice wisely when picking your half!

Next weekend we’re headed to NC for a good friend’s wedding, so there’s sure to be some bbq, Bojangles’ sweet tea and other good ole’ southern cooking. Stay tuned!