Friday, December 24, 2004

Pumpkin Bisque

Our Christmas Eve tradition....

1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 sm. onion, chopped
1 C pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
1 1/4 C chicken broth
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 C heavy cream or 1 C half-n-half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In medium saucepan saute onion in butter until translucent, not brown. Add pumpkin, chicken broth, 2 cups water (or 1-1/2 C if you are using half-n-half), cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add cream/half-n-half. Gently heat bisque until hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 2-4.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Martha Goes to India

These are recipes shared with me by Leah Z. I've been meaning to post them after I make them but decided to get them posted soon. I have eaten many of them when Leah made them. Yum!! Oh, Leah's dad is Indian, so these are some of their family's favorites. I hope Baby Focht survives this post as I believe Rose favors Indian as do I. (Warning: Ben and I got very sick when he was in utero and it took me a while to try it again. It was the American tummy, I'm sure.)

Puchatti (Cucumbers and Tomato in Yogurt)

2 Medium cucumbers
2 green onions (w/ tops) chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 tomatoes chopped
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp snipped coriander (cilantro)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup plain yogurt

Cut cucumbers lengthwise into halves. Scoop out seeds, chop cucumbers into small pieces. Mix cucumbers green onions and slat; let stand 10 minutes. Add tomatoes. Mix remaining ingredients except yogurt, toss with cucumber mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Drain thoroughly. Just before serving, fold in yogurt.

Pulao (it goes great with the puchatti)

1 cup uncooked regular rice
1 med onion chopped
1/2 cup ghee (you can use butter or margarine)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 tsp instant chicken bouillon
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

Cook and stir rice and onion into ghee until rice is yellow and onion is tender. Stir in raisins, bouillon, curry powder and salt. Pour into ungreased 1 1/2 quart casserole pan. stir in water. Cover and cook in 350 degree oven until liquid is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in almonds.

Carrot Halva ( sort of like pudding - one of my favorite desserts)
6 med carrots (about 1 lb) finely shredded
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins (normal ones work just fine :)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios or slivered almonds

Heat carrots and half and half to boiling in 2 qt saucepan, reduce heat. Over and simmer, stirring frequently, until half and half is absorbed (about 1 - 1 1/2 hours).

Stir in brown sugar, raisins, butter, cardamom and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until brown sugar is dissolved and mixture is desired consistency, about 15 minutes. Garnish with almonds or pistachios.

Cauliflower Masala (required a few spices that you need from an Indian store)
1 med onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 head cauliflower
8 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 med tomato
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Blend onion, garlic, ginger with 1 tbsp water into paste. Heat oil, add paste and turmeric, add rest of ingredients. Cover and summer until cauliflower is tender. Add water if necessary.

Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Peas (serve w/ bread, at home we just warm tortillas)

1 med onion - sliced
1/2 - 1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen green peas, thawed and drained
8 oz whole mushrooms
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 salt
2 med tomatoes, cut into wedges

Cook and stir in onion, turmeric and ginger in ghee in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in peas, mushrooms, lemon juice and salt. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, heat just until hot.

Potato & Pea Curry (again, serve with bread)
1/4 cup oil
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 t turmeric
3 med tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped
20 oz pkg frozen peas, thawed
1 large potatoes, chopped
1 cup water
1 tsp garam masala

Mix together and cook until potatoes are cooked :) (my mom didn't write any directions)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Anguish-free Lasagne

I love lasagne. DOB loves lasagne. I hate making lasagne, as no matter how laboriously I stack the ingredients, it makes a goopy mess. But I promised DOB lasagne this week, a promise I was regretting yesterday evening when I looked at the recipe and realized it expected me to have three hours waiting between me and dinner time, which even if I had had there were lots of other things to do with them than wrestle with lasagne noodles.

Then it occurred to me that DOB was neither a chef nor an artist, and had never been known to complain about presentation of food. It also struck me that I had read somewhere a concept for making an unlayered sort of lasagne. So I did, as follows:

Brown 1 lb. hamburger, 1/2 medium onion, chopped, 1 clove garlic. Toss in crockpot with a medium can of tomato sauce and a large can of chunky tomatoes, a teaspoon or so of oregano and all the basil that was left in the jar (maybe 1/2 teaspoon? I would have added more if I'd had it.) Add 8 oz. lasagne noodles, broken into 2 inch lengths. Cook on high for about two hours, stirring occasionally, until noodles are cooked.

Add 2 cups cottage cheese and one cup mozarella, stir well, and cook another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is nice and stringy.

It was a goopy pile, but not much more so than when I generally try to make lasagne. I bet you could also do it even quicker in a pot on the stove by cooking the noodles separately, it would just require more attention and stirring. DOB actually liked it better, because he doesn't like the crunchy spots that form on regular lasagne, or cleaning a regular lasagne pan. I'll still stack the layers for company, but for family meals this one is a keeper.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pasta with Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Sauce

This is a very tasty dish and it makes yummy leftovers. We don't like mushrooms so I included them here but I leave them out. Oh, and when having the Mehrens over (which I'm sure you ALL do,) leave a little set aside for Nathan without the onions.

1 lb pennette (small penne) or other small pasta
1 T olive oil
5 C thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 3/4 lb whole mushrooms)
4 C vertically sliced onions (I never quite make it to this much--I'm crying at 2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T chopped fresh sage (you could use dried too)
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1-1/2 T cornstarch
1-1/2 T cold water
1/2 C crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 C canned pumpkin
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/8 t nutmeg

Cook pasta according to pasta directions, omitting any salt and fat. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic; cover and cook 3 minutes. Uncover, cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Combine chopped sage and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Combine cornstarch and water, stirring iwth a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture and cheese to milk mixture, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes or until thick and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in pumpkin, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Mix all three things (onion mixture, pasta and pumpkin mixture) together. Toss well to combine. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, if you would like.

Breakfast Idea: Peanut Butter Parfait

My former roommate used to fix yogurt parfaits for breakfast at least once a week, usually with frozen raspberries. They were good, but out here in Ohio I encountered two problems with the concept: a) berries are more expensive out here; b) a yogurt parfait does not have enough protein for me to make it through the morning even when I'm not feeding someone else, too. I switched to banana parfaits (with homemade granola) which were much cheaper, but they were still a tad low on protein. This morning I got an idea from my favorite sandwich and created:

Peanut Butter & Banana Parfaits
1/2 c. vanilla yogurt (I can't find one with fructose sweetner out here, so I add a spoonful of honey and a dash of vanilla to plain yogurt.)
1-2 T. peanut butter

Mix together; then if you want to be fancy you can layer the mixture in an elegant glass dish with 1 chopped banana and 1 cup of granola, or if you just want to eat breakfast you dump the banana and the granola in on top and mix it all up. If you do it that way, it's not much harder than a bowl of cereal for those who like bananas in their cereal. In slightly smaller quantities, it would be a great snack or maybe even dessert. Amounts are very approximate, except for the banana.

I survived until 11:45 before I was ready to kill for lunch, so I think it had adequate staying power. Now to convince DOB that he likes it, which might be hard because he thinks peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches are gross.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Tortellini Salad

While rummaging through my cookbooks for an idea for what to take to our church dinner yesterday I rediscovered this recipe. It is very simple to fix. I know this is the wrong time of year to mention this, but I especially like this as a simple dinner on a hot summer day.

Tortellini Salad

1 pkg. (8 oz. usually) frozen cheese tortellini
1 cucumber, chopped
2-3 roma tomatoes, chopped
several green onions, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup Italian dressing

Note: I take the veggie amounts as a guideline and sort of eyeball it until I think I have enough to balance out the pasta. You could be creative and add other veggies as well.

Cook cheese tortellini according to directions on the package. When finished cooking rinse with cold water. In separate bowl, toss veggies and dressing. Add tortellini last. Gently mix. Serve immediately or chilled.


Thursday, December 09, 2004


We just got back home from Oklahoma at 2am this morning so my brain is still a bit foggy. Please help! :-)

We're going to a friend's house for a Christmas get together tomorrow night right after work and I'm supposed to bring some kind of finger food. Any ideas for quick and easy snack food that doesn't take long to fix?

On Sunday our couples class is having a pot luck after church and Sunday school. I'm completely drawing a blank as to what to bring for a main dish and/or side dish that can be cooked before church and still taste good sitting around until lunch time. I'm not for sure if there is a place to plug in crock pots or any way to heat things up before eating. . . .

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Two-Potato Salad

This one is easy and a nice change from greasy mayonaise-saturated potato salad.

1-1/2 lbs small red potatoes, halved
1-1/2 lbs peeled sweet potatoes or yams, cut into 1-in pieces
3 T white vinegar
3/4 C creme fraiche (or sour cream, which is what I normally use)
1/4 C chopped fresh chives (or green onions, which are much cheaper)
3/4 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large Dutch oven; cover with water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 18 minutes or until tender. Drain. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinegar; toss gently to coat. Let cool to room temperature.

Combine creme fraiche (or sour cream) and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Add to potatoes, tossing gently to coat. Makes 6-8 servings.

Friday, December 03, 2004

A Cake for All Seasons

The following chocolate cake recipe has many virtues. 1) It's delicious: rich, moist, very chocolatey. 2) It's super easy and fast. It's as easy and fast as making a mix; easier if you factor in how hard it is to get those stupid plastic bags open. 3) It's cheap: it doesn't use butter or eggs or expensive chocolate. It's perfect for "oh, let's have something chocolate" or "we need to plan a cake for the party."

Mrs. C's Cake
3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
2 t. soda
6 T. cocoa

Mix dry ingredients. Add:
3/4 c. oil
2 t. vanilla
2 T. vinegar
2 cups water

Mix well; bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

It handles well and tastes good with buttercream icing, which is handy if you need to do fancy decorations for some purpose. (I'm making one for my brother-in-law's graduation tomorrow.) But for the ultimate chocolate cake experience, you leave the cake in the pan and make

Chocolate Skillet Icing
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. cocoa
1/2 c. milk

Mix in a skillet and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute; remove from heat. Add 2 t. vanilla. Stir until lukewarm, then pour on cake.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

WDIDWT? Leftover Ice Cream

I know, I know, that's such an oxymoron - who on earth heard of such a thing? But the situation can arise if, say, you have someone over who wants to bring something, so you tell them to bring ice cream to go along with your dessert, and you use it just as a topping to your brownie, so you have almost a whole carton left in the freezer, and then you get hit with the early-pregnancy blahs and don't want sweets for a few weeks, and by the time you're back in the market for ice cream, it's turned all icy and freezer-burnt....well, anyway, the scenario is possible. I expect it would also be an excellent way to use up leftover cheap store-brand vanilla ice cream that you wouldn't really want to eat straight but which would lend itself beautifully to a little clever disguise.

This is the second time in a week that I've pulled this off, so I think it's an official recipe by now:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshakes

(The proportions are a little shaky - I just tossed the ingredients in without measuring until it looked right)

1/4 cup milk (or less - the more milk, the runnier the shake)
A few Tbl. cocoa
An equal amount of powdered sugar (maybe less - Michael thought it a bit rich the 2nd time)
1-2 Tbl. creamy peanut butter
1 Tbl. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Several scoops of vanilla ice cream

Melt peanut butter and butter in microwave. Stir until smooth and add a dollop of ice cream to cool it. (The first time I did this, I didn't add this step, and the shake was very runny.) Set aside.

Put milk, cocoa, and sugar in blender. Blend until smooth. Add vanilla and ice cream; blend until thoroughly mixed. Add peanut butter mixture and blend very briefly. Serves 2, with small second helpings all around.

Very quick, rich, smooth, creamy, and delicious.

With Thanks to Martha

Just wanted to show how the Martha blog is improving my life. DOB wanted to cook my birthday dinner but he wanted a recipe, of all things! Then I remembered Amy's recipe for alfredo sauce that sounded good. Sure enough, it was quite elegant and delicious, and manageable for someone who hasn't cooked a meal in seven years.