Monday, November 28, 2011

Apple Cider: Spiced, Served Hot!

Hot Spiced Cider

Well, It's Fall, the weather is cold and getting colder, with snow fall in some places. The holidays are near and apples are in season. I enjoy many types of hot beverages myself- i am a fan of tea, coffee, warm sake, but a nice spiced cider is a wonderful treat- especially at a holiday table.
    One of the best things about Spiced Apple Cider is how easy it is to prepare. Here are some little tricks to know before you start to help you spice with success!

  • Never use Ground Cinnamon- ground cinnamon turns slimy when heated with liquid. Your cider will have clumpy, slimy brown boogers in it. Always use stick cinnamon. 
  • Do you best to find the best "juice" possible. With just pressed apples as an ingredient. This will have the best lightest flavor, and ensure that your beverage isn't overbearingly sweet.
Bring a jug to your next party. It's family friendly!

1/2 gallon of fresh pressed pure apple "juice" or "cider" be sure to read the label, it should only say       "apples".
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 TBS fresh ginger
1 TBS orange zest
    Pour juice into a large pot over medium-low heat. Add spices and zest. Heat to just below boiling, and steep over low heat for an hour. Remove form heat, strain (optional) and serve. Keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
SERVING SIZE: Makes 1/2 gallon.

OTHER FLAVORS: Of course you can put any spices you like, and adjust the amounts of these here. You can try adding a touch of orange juice, lemon zest (try a meyer lemon!), or your favorite sweetener, though i find it best just as is.

FASTER: well, easier: place all ingredients in a crock pot. heat on low all day.

HEALTHIER: So healthy if you use natural, pure, fresh apple juice. Easy to find at your local farmer's market, or at your local health food store. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: An iliea's Kitchen Marathon

Thanksgiving Dinner

    Yay! This is the First Thanksgiving meal i've cooked in a while! I love my new, large kitchen! This is a simple menu i had put together with Michael's help with prep and photos. We ate this by ourselves, but the portions were definitely enough to feed about 4, maybe 5 people.  Here's What was on the menu:

  • Pear Brined Roast Turkey ( 1 Bone in Split Breast, and one drumstick, total of 4 lbs)
  • Carrot Glazed Ham
  • Scratch-Made Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes (but don't worry, i won't bore you with a recipe for that)
  • Green Beans with Cippolini Onions and Almonds
  • Fresh-made Cranberry Sauce
  • Gravy

    So in the following days I plan to create a post for each recipe, Plus the usual tips and suggestions. Many people I know are intimidated by holiday cooking... I Hope you can follow along, and see how simple most of this is to put together. The only thing you really need is time and space, and a good plan.
Here are some tips to consider before you jump: 
  • Make sure you have all your ingredients before you begin cooking. Nothing is less convenient than having to run to the crowded grocery store for a last minute forgotten item. 
  • Layout your menu. Look at all the items and think about how each one will need to be cooked and prepared. Make sure you have enough of the right pots, pans, and mixing bowls for the job. Also consider what could be made in advance and start there. I then use this list to plan what to make first when i start cooking and schedule times. I keep a timer handy, this helps me to stay focused when multiple dishes are being juggled simultaneously. 
  • Clean your kitchen. If you start clean it will be easier to get back to clean once everything is done. Having some help with dishes along the way is a great way to keep massive cooking messes under control. I wash each dish as i work, which helps to keep all the prep space clear as well. 
  • Have fun! Have a glass of wine while you cook, listen to music or your favorite podcasts, enlist friends to help. This will help you to stay relaxed and in control. 
Well, stay tuned! and Happy Holidays from iliea's Kitchen!

Next Time In iliea's Kitchen:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shortbread: Part 2- Chocolate Shortbread

Chocolate Shortbread

I love shortbread cookies. I especially love a really nice chocolate shortbread cookie. This is an original recipe (invented by me!). Drool over the pictures, but bake up a batch and eat some too!

1/2 Cup Flour
2 Tbs Cocoa Powder
1 ounce Dark Chocolate, Chopped
3 TBS water
1 Tbs sugar + 2Tbs coarse Sugar

Set an oven proof bowl over a pan of boiling water. Add chopped chocolate, and melt, stirring constantly. Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and 1 Tbs Sugar. Whisk in butter, as shown. Whisk in chocolate, as shown. form dough into a ball. Roll out to 1/2" thickness, Press Coarse sugar into dough, cut as desired.

Makes 1 dozen 3" cookies

OTHER FLAVORS: You can use these cookie for ganache sandwiches, ice cream sandwiches, crumbled into pie crust, or press dough into a tart pan for an easy and delicious crust. Form dough into small balls, press with thumb to flatten- fill with Jam or a chocolate kiss.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shortbread: Part 1- Traditional Shortbread

My Favorite Traditional Shortbread

Vesratile Cookie Recipe Great for the Holidays!

With The Holidays So Close...

You may be looking for some simple no fuss recipe to help you to get the WOW you want with out too much work or brainpower... right?

This simple and tasty cookie recipe might be just the thing you were looking for.

In the past, this shortbread/ butter cookie recipe has worked well and can be used in a few different ways. it is great plain or topped with "sanding sugar" or formed into jam filled thumbprints. You can add Flavors to the dough, such as nuts, or chocolate, or even herbs (i like lavender a lot). See "Other Flavors" section below for more ideas. I have also used this recipe as a tart crust for a delicious and easy tart.

1 1/4 Cup Flour
3 Tbs Sugar
1/2 Cup butter

Whisk together flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut cold butter into flour till well combined, Should resemble wet sand. Form Dough into a ball, knead till smooth, about 1 minute. Form a square log shape and roll into 1/2" thickness. Cut into even pieces. Press coarse sugar onto dough. Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake at 300* till golden, about 30 minutes.

 OTHER FLAVORS: Once you have this dough made, you can shape and bake it in almost any for you like. use cookie cutters, mini tart pans, etc. One nice way to use this dough is to make thumbprint cookies; just shape the dough into small balls, and flatten with your thumb, this will leave an impression, which you can then fill with your favorite jam, like raspberry, or a chocolate kiss. You can also combine your creative additions to this such as ground nuts (1/4 cup), or Herbs (2 TBS). 

Tune in Tomorrow for another variation of this recipe!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pie: A Thanksgiving Tradition, From A Real Pumpkin!

Pumpkin Pie

First You Take a Real Pumpkin...

Then you make a pie!

    So, when i was growing up, i absolutely HATED pumpkin pie. i could never figure out why so many people liked it so much! It was heavy, way too sweet, and always gave me a stomach ache. After i grew and started making Thanksgiving dinners myself, I decided to try making pie with a fresh pumpkin. They are so cute in the store, irresistible not to buy. So i tried it and i discovered that i love Pumpkin pie. I think it was the awful can all along that i hated.
    This is my recipe for pumpkin pie. No refined sugar, no harsh flavors, just a gently spiced, naturally sweetened pumpkin pie. It took a lot of experimenting over many holidays to get this recipe just the way i like it. I hope you like it too.

Pumpkin Pie From Scratch
For Crust: (slideshow recipe shows 1 crust proportions)
1 1/2 Cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs cold butter
5 tbs ice water
     whisk flour and salt together. add in cold butter. cut together with a knife, pastry cutter, or food processor. add water, gently stir together with a fork. form a ball and refridgerate till ready to use.

For Pumpkin Pie Filling:
1  small pumpkin pureed
1 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup half and half
3 eggs
3 tbs grade b maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
    Prep pumpkin and puree as shown. put puree into large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Mix in all ingredients and heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Roll out dough as shown. Pour puree into prepared pie crust and bake at 375* for about 30-40 minutes or until set. cool, serve

SERVING SIZE: Makes 2 Pumpkin pies.

Tune in tomorrow!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apple Cake: What to Do with Apples That Hang Around Too Long

Apple Cake

An Easy Take-Along For The Holidays!

   It happens to me every fall, i buy more apples than i can eat, and then i end up with a couple of apples that are too soft to eat or make pie out of, but too pretty to throw out. It took me a lot of searching, and then some experimenting, but i have developed this cake recipe as a solution to the "old apple" problem.
   This recipe stars whole wheat as the only flour in the recipe, but your friends will never know it. i have also included my recipe for my special Cinnamon Caramel Glaze that makes a great warm topping for this cake.
   Please give this easy recipe a shot, impress your friends! This would be a super recipe to take to a holiday party or family gathering!

Apple Cake:

3/4 whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup sugar
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs

2 apples, ripe and diced into very small dices (peeled if you prefer, but it doesn't matter)
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

    Prepare an 8"X8" pan with butter and flour, as shown. Preheat oven to 350*. In a bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together, set aside. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and eggs. Add butter, beat at medium speed till fluffy like frosting. Gently add in flour mixture using a spoon or low mixing speed, just till combined. Gently fold in apples and nuts till coated. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake about 25-30 minutes, or till golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cool at least 20 minutes before cutting or glazing.

Cinnamon Caramel Glaze
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tb butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk

Heat all ingredients together in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Heat to boil. Boil 1 minute, continuing to stir. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Spread over finished cake.

SERVING SIZE:  Makes one glazed 8"X8" Square cake, suitable for 9 servings.

OTHER FLAVORS:  The addition of vanilla to the cake batter is optional. This would also turn out fine with out nuts, with pecans, or with all purpose flour (change amount to 1 cup). If you are short on butter, you can substitute half the butter in the batter for oil.

CHEAPER: Skip the glaze. Make into Muffins (fill cups 3/4 full) for portioned breakfast or snack to-go treats.

FASTER: This cake is pretty fast, the most time consuming part is the chopping of the apples. perhaps a food processor would help.

HEALTHIER: substitute any healthful oil for butter in the batter. Skip the glaze. This cake is a treat, so its not really gonna be all too healthy, but it's not the worst thing you could have either. :p

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fresh Salsa: Pico De Gallo

Salsa: Pico De Gallo

One Hot Habanero

    Hello everyone! Boy, it's been a while hasn't it? My apologies! Here is a recipe oft requested.... Fresh Salsa. This is a recipe i learned from my grandma. In the summer months where i grew up, she would have a garden of tomatoes ripe and ready- and she would pull out her old heavy stone molcajete to grind it together.  She said that her mother gave it to her when she got married, along with a traditional terra cotta bean pot, rolling pin, and cast iron Colmal (flat pan for cooking tortillas) Anyway, This is a family recipe that i'm delighted to share with you all.
    The photos came about for this post after i moved. I live in a strange place where authentic foods are seemingly hard to find. I tried a salsa here that may have been one of the worst i ever had. So i decided to make my own. This recipe can be a tiny bit time consuming, so i don't make it as often as i would like to. it's not complicated, just a lot of chopping. You can use a food processor if you have one, but try to mince or dice rather than liquify the ingredients for a hearty texture.

     What to use salsa for?
    Well, I sorta doubt anyone would really ask this question, but I wanted to share some of my favorite uses for salsa anyway. Of course you can serve salsa with your favorite tortilla chips. I love to have my morning omelette rolled with salsa inside. I have also really liked making corn quesadillas with a dab of salsa inside. You can top your tostadas with it, as shown in the blog post here.  A favorite snack of mine lately has been homemade nachos, which is simply chips with grated cheddar, a bit of salsa, tucked under the broiler for a few minutes. So many more uses! 
    An additional note: I made this batch using one very hot habanero pepper. Please take care when chopping spicy peppers! The hot oils could penetrate delicate skin and cause intense burning for some people. I've seen this happen once and it was rather traumatic. If you feel your skin may be delicate, wear gloves. Also, if your knife isn't incredibly sharp you also risk squirting pepper juices into your eyes. Please be careful if this is the case. 

1 lb Roma tomatoes, peeled or 1.25 lbs of your favorite seasonal tomatoes
1/2 of a large yellow onion
1/4 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 large cloves of garlic
1 Habanero pepper*
1 lime or 1/2 lemon Juiced; or 1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste

Chop all ingredients as shown.Add lime juice and salt.  Mix together well. Move to an airtight container and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Enjoy with chips or on your favorite foods.
SERVING SIZE: Makes One Pint, Lasts in the fridge for about 2  weeks.  

 *OTHER FLAVORS: You can make this recipe as hot or mild as you like. If you feel timid about spiciness, Try starting with a jalapeno without seeds. Always taste and adjust after you have allowed the salsa to sit for at least 4 hours. Medium Hot spicy- try jalapeno with seeds, or substitute a serrano, a slightly hotter pepper. All peppers have a different flavor and personality. Experiment to find what you like!
ALSO: If you chop an avocado into a bowl and add a few tablespoons of salsa, you have fresh, easy guacamole!

FASTER: Like i have stated above, You can make this recipe faster if you use a food processor. I don't really like using- but have a go at it if you want.

HEALTHIER: This recipe is pretty darn healthy. All fresh ingredients, raw, vegetables, etc. Just watch the foods you put it on!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Crepes: I like Mine Fresh and Fruity!


So, i was watching Julia Child's show on DVD, and i came across this recipe she uses to make tasty-looking dessert crepes. i also read about crepes in cooks illustrated recently, and i really wanted to try it.
so this is what came up with, i used julia's basic recipe, but i tailored it to fit two servings.  i want to experiment with  a whole wheat flour version, and maybe a creme friache batter.

i know from previous experiences at Crepe Restaurants in SF that i love Crepes with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, Fresh Strawberries and Blueberries. i made these with a side of oven roasted potatoes and omelets, and it made a tasty breakfast as well as a memorable breakfast-for-dinner.

Makes about four 5" crepes, enough for 2 servings.
1 egg yolk
1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Milk
1 1/2 TBS melted butter Plus more butter for cooking (Approx 1tbs)
Plus 1 TBS Melted Butter and 2 tsp sugar
3 TBS Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (Such as Nutella)
4 Med/Lrg Fresh Strawberries, Sliced
1/4 Fresh blueberries

Whisk flour and salt together. Mix in egg, water, and milk till you get a smooth batter. You can do this in a food processor too, but i don;t like dirtying a lot of dishes, and it is very easy to mix by hand. Set aside. prepare filling ingredients, and heat pan. Put enough butter in the hot pan to make a thin coating. pour batter in pan to make a thin layer, as shown in slideshow. cook about 2minutes, or until loose from pan when shaken. flip carefully. Cook on second side about 1-2 minutes. turn onto a plate. repeat till you use up your batter. Carefully spread chocolate spread onto crepe, fill, and roll, as shown. repeat, lining crepes up on an oven proof plate or dish, folded side down. drizzle or paint melted butter over tops of rolled crepes and sprinkle with sugar. Place under broiler and heat till sugar is caramelized, watching carefully, about 3-5 minutes. Served topped with creme friache or whipped cream.

Wow! there are hundreds of things you could do with crepes once you have a pile on a plate to play with. The first time i tested this recipe, i did not have berries, and i used sliced bananas and chopped nuts as a filling, which came out really nice. if you try something and you love it, lemme know!

You can substitute peanut butter for nutella. it's definately a bit cheaper and more handy for most folks. you can also use frozen rather than fresh berries. for the batter, it is pretty basic, so it's very inexpensive.

You can make the batter a few hours in advance to save time. You may have to thin it again with a splash of water to get a nice pourable consistency. This will depend on the flour in your batter. Julia suggests making them ahead and freezing them, i have not tried this, and since i am not a fan of freezing food really, i probably won't.

as i said at the top of the post, i am hoping to someday work out a whole wheat version of this recipe. i will post again when i do. Till then, you can use egg white rather than yolk, skim milk, and olive oil (or other healthful oil) rather than melted butter. substitute unsweetened nut butter such as almond or peanut for nutella, omit sugar topping step, and top with yogurt.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bunuelos: Fried Sugary Fun!


Crispy, addicting, sweet, and comforting- Bunuelos, pronounced "boon-whey-Lows" are traditionally made and served on New Year's. The dough is similar to flour tortilla dough, which is rolled out super thin, fried, and then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. i used to make these every year with my grandma when i was a kid. She would always call me specially to help her out, because it can be tricky to fry and sugar bunuelos all at once.

1/2 cup +2 TBS Flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 TBS Shortening (or coconut oil)
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 egg white
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    plus additional flour for rolling dough
    plus oil for frying, such as vegetable, peanut, or coconut

Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Add shortening and water, mix slightly, till water has cooled a bit. Add egg and mix well till it comes together into a dough ball. turn out to a lightly floured board and knead a few times to make a smooth cohesive dough. Press dough into a flat even disk, cut in half. Cut one of the halves in half, then cut each of those pieces into even thirds. Repeat with other Half of dough, forming 12 evenly sized pieces of dough. Now is a good time to get everything ready for cooking. Heat your pan with oil, medium high heat. Get cooling rack and place it over a plate this will drain off excess oil and catch excess sugar (You can also use a plate with paper towels). Mix you sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and put a small spoon in it. Okay, now your ready to roll. Knead a piece of dough into a small ball. Flour rolling surface lightly and rolling pin. Roll out as thin as possible. If i am doing these with out help, i like to roll out 2 or 3 before i begin cooking to give myself a head start. Fry till brown and crispy on both sides. Remove from oil, place on rack. Allow oil to drain a few seconds ( Place next round into oil), then sprinkle with sugar on both sides. Shake off excess sugar, and place on a plate. Roll another round, and continue. Keep in an airtight container for 3-5 days, though i doubt they will sit around longer than 1 day.

SERVING SIZE:  Two 4"disks. Serves 3.

OTHER FLAVORS: Though it is not something my grandma ever did, these are also traditionally served with a drizzle of honey. Which sounds good, i'll let you know when i try it.

CHEAPER: This is as cheap as it gets, folks. 

FASTER: hmmm. i am not sure there is a Quick way to fry a bunch of bunuelos. Sorry.

HEALTHIER: Fried foods are NOT health foods. This is a special treat!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spicy Ramen: Ramen With Intensity!

Today's Feature is....

Spicy Ramen!


We are back in action with my new camera i got for my birthday! i hope you all are excited! i have so many new things to share with you! I will be cooking from my "Mock Kitchen" i set up in my cabin in Sequoia National Park, which is complete with a Mini Fridge, Double Burner Hot Plate and a Kick ass Deluxe sized Toaster Oven! (i know it's not an ideal setting, but i still make magic happen!).

Anyhow, about the recipe:
     This is a recipe i came up with after having a lot of trouble finding "Ramen" Packages That did not contain MSG and suited my taste. This recipe is inspired by a Korean Soup i like a lot called Yuk Gae Jang, Which is a spicy beef broth with shredded beef and mung bean sprouts. I did not have sprouts on the day i shot this, so it is missing that, but it still tasted fantastic.

Feel free to change this recipe in any way you like. 

1 quart (4 cups) water
4 cloves fresh garlic or 2tsp granulated
Spice Mix:
1/2 tsp Cayanne
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 TBS Soy sauce + more to taste (Soy is used rather than salt in this recipe)
2 tsp vinegar (Cider vinegar shown, but you can also use rice or white.)
1 TBS sake or Mirin
2 Tsp Chicken Paste or enough Bouillon for 2 cups

1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup cubed tofu
1 cup Mung Bean Sprouts

1 block Ramen

Set pot on stove and heat to high. Pour in water. Press or slice garlic (Slice for milder garlic flavor, press for stronger flavor) and add to water. Measure out spices and add to soup. Add Mushrooms and spouts. Allow to simmer 1 minute. add cubed tofu and ramen. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, till ramen is soft. (other brands of ramen noodle may require less cooking time. start with 3 minutes and taste every minute if you are not sure.) Serve hot! Top with Sliced Green onion if you like.

1 Bowl, This recipe serves 2.5 or so.

This recipe is easy to modify how ever you like. here are some ideas that i have tested.

Milder Ramen:
Substitute you favorite chili powder for cayanne.

Chicken Ramen:
Substitute Black pepper for Cayanne and leave out chili flakes.
for veggies, use 1/2 Cup Canned or frozen corn (if using can, add water from can to enhance flavor of broth) and 1/4 cup frozen peas.

Japanese Style recipe:
Substitute 1 1/2 tsp Bonito Dashi Powder for Chicken paste, omit cayanne. Top with Saute'd shrimp or fried egg.

CHEAPER: Dude, this recipe is cheap already, but if you must, you can make just soup with ramen and top with a fried egg instead of cooking veggies and tofu.

FASTER: if you like this recipe and want to make it all the time, you can double or triple the spice mix and mix it into a paste, and stir it into hot water with ramen later on to save time. i have not tried this, but i thought about it, this recipe is fast enough for me as is. if you try it, lemme know how long that lasts.

HEALTHIER: This soup is super healthy, it can be a tad high in sodium, so that would be the only thing i would cut back on. ( think soy sauce and chicken paste.)

Omit chicken paste, and this is the perfect vegetarian lunch.

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