Thursday, February 26, 2015

How To Freeze Fresh Basil

Basil Cubes=Delcious!
This recipe is as easy as they come.  These frozen basil "cubes" are packed with flavor.  I am using them to make Basil Vinaigrette for my favorite salad.  You can add these to soups and stews or put several together to have fresh basil pesto in just a couple of minutes.  LOVE this recipe and don't know why I didn't think to do this years ago.

How to freeze fresh Basil

Any amount of fresh basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
juice of half a lemon

Put fresh basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor.  Pour 1-2 tablespoons of oil over leaves.  Turn machine on and add a little more oil through feed tube as needed to make a thick paste.  Squeeze half a lemon over and process again.
Using a spatula, transfer contents of food processor bowl to a measuring cup --to make it easy to pour into your ice cube tray.  Pour basil mixture into each of the wells of an ice cube tray, using spatula to smooth the top.  Cover tray with plastic wrap and put into the freezer.  Once basil cubes are frozen store cubes in a freezer safe container for easy access.  They cubes come right out of the trays with a little help from an offset spatula or butter knife!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Cookie Lovers

Hearty Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies have become my most favorite type of Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I am always searching for a chocolate chip cookie that is mostly crunchy but slightly chewy at the same time.  Ideally I want it to be filled with chocolate chunks of various sizes and would like the overall cookie consistency to be "hearty".  My kids adore my go-to recipe that is filled with lots of chocolate chips and made using traditional white flour.  This cookie is made with 100% whole wheat flour.  The overall flavor and texture is unmatched by a white flour cookie.  This cookie is the perfect combination of hearty, crunchy, chewy, & chocolate.  I have tried a few different brands of whole wheat flour and did not like this cookie nearly as much with the other brands.  The Daisy brand is my top choice for 100% Whole Wheat Flour.  I found it at My Organic Market.  The original recipe says that the cookie tastes best warm and best eaten the same day.  I agree that it tastes great warm but just as good if not better when cooled ---and these are just as good the day after.  Oh, another great thing about these cookies is the easy clean up!  You need to line your pan with parchment because there is lots of chocolate that might stick otherwise.  Then when cookies are done you just slide the parchment off  the pan and allow cookies to cool on parchment on the counter.  No need for cookie cooling racks  --no clean up!  I love that soooo much.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
slightly adapted from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain

3 cups Daisy Brand 100% whole-wheat all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces
Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.  Put flour, soda, salt into a bowl and stir together with a fork.
Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is just combined, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to fully mix all the ingredients.

Scoop dough (I used a large size 20 scoop) onto the baking sheet, 6 scoops to a sheet.  Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Easy Carrot Soup: My new favorite recipe!

Topped with toasted almonds & fresh cilantro - wow!

Topped with homemade tomatillo salsa, toasted almonds, and squeeze of lime - super WOW!
I usually check a few of my favorite food blogs at least once per week.  One that always inspires me is 101 Cookbooks.  Everything she makes is incredibly healthy and always has layers of flavor and texture.  When searching for a new recipe I think about the ingredients that appeal to me and also the layers of flavor and texture in the dish.  The recipe needs to be easy, too!  This one caught my eye and I had to make it right is as easy as can be and I already had everything I needed to make it without a trip to the store.  This recipe only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish and it is delicious.  Easy, fast, healthy, and delicious - that spells perfect in my book.  :)

Easy & Delicious Carrot Soup
Adapted from a 101 Cookbooks recipe

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, halved and sliced
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped - 1/2-inch chunks
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (not Lite)
1 ½ cups water (just fill empty coconut can with water stir to catch any coconut left on inside of can)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1 lime (cut into slices for serving)

In a large sauce pan over medium heat add the butter and leek. Sauté leek for a few minutes, until they start to turn translucent and golden brown around edges. Stir in the carrots. Allow to cook another minute or two, and then add the coconut milk, salt, and water. Allow to simmer until the carrots are tender, 10 - 15 minutes, and then puree using a blender or hand blender until the soup is completely silky smooth. This next part is important (with any soup) - make any needed adjustments. Add more water if the consistency needs to be thinned out a bit. After that taste for salt, adding more if needed. Squeeze  a slice of  lime over individual servings and serve topped with whatever greens and nuts you like best.  I like the following:  chopped cilantro, homemade tomatillo salsa, toasted almonds, and a squeeze of lime is a MUST!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Quiche Lorraine

Classic Quiche Lorraine Ingredients: Onion, Bacon, & Emmentaler Cheese - ooh la la!

Everyone loves quiche at our house.  It is a delicious meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Quiche can be served hot, warm, or cold  - I prefer warm.  It's the perfect make-ahead recipe.  This is the best quiche recipe I have ever made and it will be the one I use from now on.   It is really thick (2 inches in height) and both the custard and crust are stars in this dish.  If you don't like the quiche lorraine ingredients then fill your quiche with items you prefer --any type of cheese or vegetable will do.  This recipe comes from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio.  Fitzy purchased this cookbook for me so I think it is only fair that the next quiche I make be delivered to her door. Thanks, Fitzy! 

Quiche Lorraine
adapted from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio (pp. 202-203)

For the crust:
  • 12 ounces flour 
  • 8 ounces butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces, cold or even frozen
  • 2 to 4 ounces ice water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the quiche:
  • 2 large Spanish (or any other type you prefer) onions, chopped 
  • olive oil as needed
  • 1 pound slab bacon or sliced bacon cooked and cut into 1/4-inch pieces *
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • nutmeg to taste (about 4-6 gratings)
  • 1/2 cup grated Comté or Emmentaler cheese
 *I cook the bacon in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Line a sheet pan with foil and put bacon slices on foil - not overlapping if possible.  I check after about 5 minutes, use tongs to turn over the slices, cook for 5 or so minutes more - until brown and crispy.  Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to catch the grease.  This can be done days in advance - store the cooked bacon in the refrigerator until ready to make quiche!
To make the crust:
Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a mixing bowl and rub the butter between your fingers until you have small beads of fat and plenty of pea-sized chunks. You may use a pastry blender instead of your fingers. Add the ice water gradually and mix gently using your hands or a large fork, just until combined—if you work the dough too hard it will become tough. Shape into two equal discs and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to roll.
To make the quiche:
Sauté the onions over medium heat in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cover them for the first 10-15 minutes then uncover, reduce the heat to medium low, and continue cooking them until they are cooked down but not overly brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set them aside.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Place a 9-inch cake pan on a baking sheet (line the baking sheet with parchment). Lightly butter the cake pan and line with parchment. Lay the dough into the pan—leaving plenty of dough overhanging the edges to help it maintain its shape.
Reserve a small piece of dough to fill any cracks that might open in the dough as it bakes. Line the dough with parchment or foil and fill it with dried beans or pie weights so that the crust bakes flat. After a half hour, remove the weights and parchment or foil. Gently patch any cracks that may have formed with the reserved dough, and continue baking until the bottom of the crust is golden and cooked, about 15 more minutes. Remove it from the oven and patch any cracks that may have opened.  The shell should be anywhere between cold and warm when you add the batter, not piping hot from the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Combine chopped bacon with the onions.
In large bowl, combine the milk, cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and, using a hand blender, blend until frothy. This can be done in a standing blender as well or you can whisk the batter in a large bowl. The idea is to add the ingredients in two layers, using the froth to help keep the ingredients suspended.
Layer half of the onion-bacon mixture into the shell. Pour half of the frothy custard over the mixture. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Layer with the remaining onion-bacon mixture. Refroth the batter and pour the rest into the shell. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. You can let it overflow to make sure it’s up to the very top. Bake for about an hour and a half, or until the center is just set -there should still be some jiggle in the center.
According to Ruhlman you should allow the quiche to cool, then refrigerate it until it’s completely chilled, at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.  We couldn't wait so we let it cool for a few minutes and ate a few slices.  We did refrigerate the remainder and it was just as delicious two and three days after when ate it cold and also re-heated it to enjoy warm.
Best to reheat slices for 10 minutes in a 375°F on parchment-lined sheet pan.  (You may also use the microwave to reheat but the crust will not be as crispy.)




Not perfect but didn't matter!

I made it again with chopped rather than the sliced onions (as shown above) family liked the onions chopped!