Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Steak Scampi

Yes, I said it: STEAK scampi.

The recipe had been brewing in my head ever since a friend came over and I made shrimp scampi for her. I had leftover pasta, parsley, and lemons, but no shrimp, so I sauteed off my leftover London Broil and decided to add it in instead. The result was excellent and, I have to say, a nice change of pace from my usual bean-as-protein meals.

I boiled off some spaghetti and tossed it in about 4 cloves of diced garlic, 2 Tbs fresh parsley, a squirt of lemon, and 2 Tbs of olive oil. A sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste and a few a pieces of seasoned beef and you're done. It takes all of about 5 minutes once your pasta is boiled. Definitely a good week-night meal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Happy early Thanksgiving!!!!!!

This year I was lucky enough to attend a Thanksgiving Potluck right before classes ended for the break. I had it in my head to make some yummy pumpkin cheesecake bars and set off to the Interwebs to find a recipe. But, to my amazement, there were NONE for cheesecake bars. None that looked good, anyway. So I decided to just make my own. This recipe is extremely loosely based on this one by Williams Sonoma. Their recipe is for an actually circular cheesecake, and I made mine into bars which cut the cooking time in more than half!

Graham Cracker Crust

2 packages graham cracker, finely crushed
1 stick butter
2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all this together and pack into a 9 x 13 inch pan that you've greased nicely. Push it into the corners and the bottom (but not up the sides because those bits will burn). You can use the bottom of a cup to help with this. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until it is golden brown.

For the Filling

2 packages cream cheese, at room temperature!!!!
3/4 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar + 4Tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Cream together the cream cheese and the 3/4 sugar. Add the sour cream and eggs. Throw in a pinch of salt.

Take a little over 2/3 of the mixture and put it in a second bowl. To this, add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 4 Tbs sugar. Taste the first and second mix for sugar and adjust according to your tastes.

After the crust is completely cooled, pour the pumpkin mixture into the bottom. Then spoon over the white mixture (drizzle it around or make a pretty arrangement). You can take a knife and drag it through the pumpkin so the white forms a pumpkin trail behind them. You can kind of see this in the picture below - but basically you want to make a swirl between the two.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Start checking it and wait until it just springs back to the touch. It make be a little wiggly in the middle, but that's fine. I didn't have that issue, but it's better to underbake it a little than overbake and burn the cheese.

Make this a day ahead of time because it does need to sit for a while - or start early in the morning. Also, as I said before - get that cream cheese to room temp early! Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.

The bars were a huge hit at the party...and at my group meeting the next day. I got the compliment of my life when a friend from class asked me to post the recipe ASAP so she could make it for her family. I hope she does and tells me all about it :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jam Thumbprints - The Elegant Cookie

The other day I had a practical on amalgam carving and...well, let's just say it started off slightly traumatic. I lost my practical tooth and you don't get a second one, so I was freaking out when this super nice faculty member found it for me. I wanted to thank him, and a few other faculty members, so I decided to make some jam thumbprints on my study break from Hell Week #2 (one week, 2 practicals, 3 exams). It also happened to be Rini's birthday and since I knew she loved coconut, these cookies would be perfect.

I used my tried and true Ina Garten recipe, which I've included below. I must say, these take a lot longer when you make them by yourself - and you have to really watch the coconut so it doesn't burn on the bottom. I forgot I had that problem last time and it repeated itself...luckily it wasn't too bad and I learned for the second cookie tray.

Making these again, I would only dip the top half of the dough ball in coconut - so no burning risk on the bottom. Also, these cookies are great for people who are lactose intolerant (as one of my profs is) - I was doing research and found that butter is usually ok, but check first since I am sure each case is different. My last tip is to use good jam and I don't mean that in a pretentious sort of way. I really think these cookies are super classy and since you're using so little jam, why not make it a nice flavorful one? I usually find awesome jams at great prices at Home Goods or Marshalls in their little foodie aisle.

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

What you need:
3 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
3 1/2 cups flour

To roll you need: 1 bag of sweetened shredded coconut (use sweetened because the batter is actually not too sweet), and 1 egg mixed with 1 Tbs water for an egg wash

What you do:
3 hours/1 day ahead of time, set out your butter. I never did this before and honestly, nuking it in the microwave isn't a huge problem, but if you know you're making cookies, set out the butter before heading off to work. That way it's the perfect temp for mixing when you are ready for it.

Cream together the butter and sugar until it's fluffy. Add the vanilla.

Add the flour about a cup at a time and mix until the batter just comes together - there is a lot of butter in here so if it looks like little crumbles, don't worry - it'll turn into a nice ball as soon as you pack it between your fingers.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and make one giant ball. Cut this in half and form 2 discs. Wrap these in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Make your egg wash and set out the coconut and jam.

Take the dough out and form it into little balls.

Roll each in the egg wash and then in the coconut (here is where I would just roll and dip half to avoid burning).

Place on a cookie sheet and make a little indentation in the dough, forming a nice little cup for the jam. Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of jam into the cookies. You can put these fairly close together on the tray since there is nothing in the dough to help them rise.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before serving (hot jam HURTS).

I made about 36 cookies with this recipe, but I made them kind of small so they'd cook faster. It was getting close to midnight and I was getting sleepy ;) These make a super gift and I think everyone enjoyed them - I think I'll be making another batch come holiday season when my aunt and I get together to do our Annual Cookie Bake Day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Craving Something Cheesy-Gooey?

You'll thank me for this spin off of my previous "Sausage Biscuit Things" - it's super easy to make and totally hits the spot when you need some comfort food - fast. This is also a great entertaining Game Day meal, come to think of it. Can't wait to make this for my honey over Winter Break.

So watcha need is a can of Pillsbury Grands Rolls - I was debating buying the Reduced Fat, but they only had 10 less calories, so I opted for the real deal. I am glad I did, too, because I found them to be more flaky than the Reduced Fat ones typically are.

I formed the rolls into cups and smooshed them into a muffin tin, then filled them with a couple chunks of mozzarella cheese - fresh moz is best if you want that gooey pull. I topped each with about 1 Tbs of tomato sauce - whatever you have on hand, and baked them in a 375 degree oven until the rolls were cooked through - about 15 minutes.

Serve hot and watch the smiles as people pop them into their mouths.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Three "Ps:" Pizza, Party, Perio

I wanted to give y'all a little update on homemade pizza-making:

The other night some friends and I got together to go over some information for an upcoming Periodontics exam...and hey! the girls gotta eat so we got some Whole Foods dough, a giant 12oz chunk of fresh mozzarella, and a jar of pasta sauce (because I find marinara to be a little too bland at times and didn't have enough time to doctor it up). Nishal brought some olives and mushrooms for toppings and in about 40 minutes we had a delish dinner.

Here's what you do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Dust your rolling area with flour

Cut the dough in half and roll each into a rectangle using more flour so the dough doesn't stick

Lay each half onto a baking sheet and poke holes with a fork

Blind bake (as in, throw the dough into the oven with no sauce yet) until they have almost cooked through - about 15 minutes. The crust will clearly be cooked on the outside - it'll be hard, like crust should be) and a light brown color - you'll also be able to slide it around when you shake the pan. Just don't go too crazy with this step or you're dinner will end up on the floor.

Take the crusts out and spoon over the sauce, layer on the fresh cheese, and sprinkle the toppings.

Bake until the cheese is melted - about 10 more minutes. When you take it out, throw on some chopped fresh herbs - we used oregano - but basil would also be nice. This adds a great freshness and POP.

Let rest for a while, then cut into squares and serve!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hearty Beef and Barley Stew

Time to make a recipe which has been sitting in the back of my mind for over a month. I saw it in my Martha Stewart Magazine in the "Healthy Living" section back in October but didn't get a chance to make it because I had neither beef nor barley. But after my last trip to Whole Foods I stocked up on some goodies and spent the week anxious for the weekend when I could make this beauty. My good friend Jeremy, came over for a night of "comfort" (plus a little awkward/hilarious/slightly sketchy trip to Blockbuster).

Beef and Barley Stew - modified from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

2 Tbs olive oil plus 2 Tbs butter
1 pound London Broil, 3/4 inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
2 Tablespoons minced garlic (4-5 cloves)
2 Tbs tomato paste
1/2 cup sherry
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 cup pearl barley
pinch of nutmeg
1-2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Heat 1 Tbs plus 1 tsp oil in a large pot over medium-high heat
Season beef with salt and pepper and brown on all sides
Transfer to a plate

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining oil and the butter

Cook the onion, carrot, and mushrooms until golden - stir occasionally so they stick to the bottom of the pan (15 minutes)

Add garlic and tomato paste and cook until caramelized, about 2 minutes

Remove from heat and add sherry

Return to heat, bring to a boil and scrape up the brown goodies from the bottom o the pan

Continue to cook down until the liquid has reduced by about half - 5 minutes-ish

Add the beef and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Add more water if it gets too dry.

Add barley and cook covered for 10 minutes, then uncover the pit and cook until the barley and beef are tender. This takes about 20-30 minutes. Stir in the spinach.

Serve in a big bowl curled up in bed with a good book, a cute movie...or your bacteriology notes.

Jeremy brought pumpkin muffins, by the by...which he baked in handmade parchment cups (just take a square of parchment and tuck it into the baking cup).

I had some homemade cream cheese frosting in the fridge which we spread over top. Best combo EVER.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Carter Mountain

Every year I try and make it to Spicer's Orchard close to my home in Michigan. I love this orchard. Ever since I was a tiny tot my mama would bring me there. I really think those experiences shaped my love of food - actually seeing it grow, then picking it to bring home, then using it in special recipes...these are the things I loved. For me, picking my own fruit is an extremely calming experience, which might make me weird, but what else is new? I'm a summer baby, so the tradition in my family is to pick blueberries in August- but what I really get excited about is fall, when the apples are hanging from the trees, gorgeous as ever, sweet and fresh.

In Michigan I think we only grow a few varieties - Macintosh being the most famous - but here in Virginia there are many more and I was kinda excited about that, too. I love love love walking through the orchard, plucking an apple off a tree, and sinking my teeth in. Maybe you're not supposed to do that until the end, but I can help it. It's a feeling I look forward too every year.

That... and donuts. Spicer's has the BEST donuts - we get there in the morning so they are hot and fresh. I was anxious to see if Carter Mountain were as good.

Yesterday, after meeting with my friend Emilija at Chicken Fiesta (if you don't remember, we suffered through the CERT program together and she got into the medical school here), she mentioned offhand going to Carter Mountain. I was in. So in. So off we went.

It was a gorgeous trip to Cville where we drove up a windy mountain to the orchard - and vineyards. It was really cool to see the trees surrounding us and overlooking the town below. After browsing through the Country Store we got a half dozen of their famous Apple Cider Donuts and a couple pumpkin ones as well. I couldn't pick my favorite because they were both very good. The pumpkin donuts were more dense and I liked the spices they added.

We then looked over the bins of apples - they must have had 6 varieties - and I got one of each to sample. I had never seen these little guys, but they were Thomas Jefferson's favorite. When in Rome...

The Pink Lady and Fuji apples were "pickable" this weekend, so we went down the hill to the Pink Ladies and picked us a few of those. I was pretty excited to use the weird bag-on-a-pole picker thing.

Also, I was a little annoyed that people had allowed these babies to fall off the tree and didn't even pick them up - so wasteful... I hope they use these as compost or something.

Before leaving we visited Wayside Deli for some of their famous Fried Chicken. It was pretty amazing, considering I've never really had fried chicken (please, close those dropped jaws...I'm from Michigan). The side of Mac and Cheese was also yummy.

It was a great feeling leaving RVA for a day and getting lost in the mountains. I don't think I spend enough time out of the city and it's days like today that remind me how beautiful this state is - especially in the fall. Now...what to do with all these apples?

Friday, November 4, 2011


A couple weekends ago a group of friends and I got together for a potluck - everyone was assigned a dish (entree or dessert... or wine) and some wonderful recipes were born. I was able to collect a few of them and thought I should share. Since everyone's cultural and geographic background was different, it showed in the cuisine which made for some "Good Eats", as Alton Brown would say.

The Spread

Zohra made Thai Curry - nice and spicy served alongside perfectly cooked short-grained rice.

A picture of the gang (minus a few latecomers)

Reem needed to buy this little guy at the store AND she made a Syrian rice dish which was THE BOMB!!! Rice and peas with nutmeg and seasoning salt on top. Then she sprinkled over some toasted nuts (almonds) and served it with a mix of Greek yogurt, mint, and cucumber. Once she teaches me to make it, it's going to be a staple.

Rachel represented Georgian style with 2 cobblers - one apple, one peach - it was such a treat to taste something with a little Southern love. All I know is a lot of butter was used in the crumb topping. But it's all good...we ate it with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.

Rini and I made these dishes: Spinach Egg Feta Bake and Asian Noodles

For the Spinach Egg Feta Bake, we used Stephanie's recipe off her blog, but left out the pesto and increased the egg count to 10, the spinach to about 4 packages, and the feta to 1 cup. We also sprinkled over some cheddar before baking in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Just until the eggs set so they stay nice and tender.

Then I made my Asian Noodles - which turned out to be a hit, so I knew I had to post the recipe

In a bowl, chop about 6 cloves of garlic and slice a whole red bell pepper really thin (see above)

Take 5 or 6 carrots and peel the outer layer. Then, using the same tool (the peeler, that is)continue to peel them, making ribbons of carrot.

Chop 1 bunch of scallions into 1/2 inch pieces on the diagonal

Boil 1 pound of spaghetti noodles

In a separate bowl, mix 1/4 cup oyster sauce, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp red chili flakes, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 4 Tbs sesame oil, 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup water. This is your yummy sauce. Taste to see what it needs and season accordingly.

Drain your noodles once they are al dente, and pour over the sauce. Ideally, let this sit for about a half hour so the flavors meld. Serve with a final drizzle of sesame or olive oil and toasted sesame seeds if you have them.

Finally, Konstantine made a Greek salad - nice and fresh and crunchy. I think he added lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, feta, and a special ingredient...dried oregano picked on a hike he went on in some foreign land I can't remember at the moment. He dressed it simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which I loved. He also brought along a nice big chunk of Asiago cheese.

It was a blast to cook and be cooked for by such awesome chefs. I hope we get to do something similar soon because I kind of want to introduce everyone to Persian food.
I left the party full and happy. And with leftovers.