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I am tired of you. It seems that every time I try to send you pretty pictures from my phone, you completely freak out and kill yourself. You are buggy and undependable, and I am tired of your shenanigans. So I’m leaving you. Future posts will go to blogger.

I’m sorry, but you don’t deserve my love anymore.

Call me when you’ve grown up enough to handle me.

Slugs and fishes,

The Cookymunchkin

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Last night, I was stuck in a stairwell at work, waiting for a tornado to rip the roof off the building.

So instead of cowering in a corner and crying, I decided to be a bit more constructive with my time…  So here is a recipe for a little something I whipped up that morning.  And let me tell you, it was GOOD.

Vegetable Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1-3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • A handful of golden raisins
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp Garam masala
  • 1-2 tbsp cardamom
  • 1/4 c white wine or vodka
  • Salt, pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup couscous, uncooked
  • 2 c vegetable stock
  • zest and juice from 1 orange

Directions:

  1. Sauté onion, garlic, and other chopped vegetables in olive oil for 5 minutes.
  2. Add garbanzos, tomatoes, tomato paste, raisins, and spices.
  3. Add alcoholic beverage of your choice.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the orange juice.
  6. In another cooking vessel, boil vegetable stock. If you want to get all fancypants, you can even add a small pinch of saffron… Add a bit of olive oil, then add couscous. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.
  7. Serve veggies over couscous.
  8. Garnish with orange zest.
  9. And feel the Yum.

(If you would like a more traditional recipe for 7 vegetable couscous, you can find it HERE.)

In the spirit of trying to lose that last 20 lbs. or so of stubborn belly fat from the holidays, let’s make something healthy today!  Sort of!  In a faux-healthy, Japanese way, at least…

Today we will be making a lovely seared teriyaki tuna steak and serving it over a salad that is dressed with a sesame-ginger vinaigrette.  And to keep it super classy, we’re even adding pineapples!  Yeah!

So here is what you need:

For the tuna steaks:

  • 2-4 tuna steaks (You can cut them in half if the steaks are huge.)
  • 1 small can pineapple rings, drained
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs mirin
  • 1 tsp superfine sugar
  • OPTIONAL:  1-2 Tbs sake

For the salad:

  • Bag-O-Salad, and/or salad mixture of your choice
  • 4 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger, or 1 tsp dried ground ginger (ginger keeps in the freezer really, REALLY well…)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar

Directions – tuna:

  1. Mix together the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake.
  2. Marinate the tuna steaks for at least an hour.
  3. Remove the tuna from the marinade, and reserve the marinade.
  4. In an oiled skillet over medium-high heat, sear the tuna, about 2 minutes on each side.
  5. Remove the tuna when done, and add pineapple rings to the pan.
  6. Pour in the rest of the marinade, and reduce.
  7. Turn over pineapples to caramelize each side.  Yum!

Directions – salad:

  1. Mix together the salad dressing ingredients listed above.  Whisk or shake well to emulsify.
  2. Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss.
  3. Divide into individual servings.
  4. Top with tuna and pineapple rings.
  5. Drizzle with leftover marinade from pan.
  6. Enjoy!

Last weekend, The JohnnyCakes and I went outlet mall shopping.  And he made the mistake of letting me go into the Le Creuset store…

And after some heavy wheeling, dealing, and discounting, I left the store with THIS:

Squee!!!!

 

So for my inaugural dish in this puppy, I knew I had to do something extra super special and yumtastically tasty!

So, what could I cook that required a huge pan and was a huge pain in the butt to make…???

Arroz Con Pollo!

Yay!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1- 3 1/2-4 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or 3 1/2 lbs chicken parts of your choosing)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes.  (Yes, mine is in a packet from a pizza place.  What, you don’t collect these too?  Why not?)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/4 cup dry white wine*
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth*
  • 3/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped

*The liquid in this dish should total 3 cups.  So you can use 3 cups chicken broth, or alter the quantities of wine and broth to total 3 cups.  One recipe I saw even used beer for the liquid part!  So the choice is yours…

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350.
  • Rinse your chicken really, really well.
  • If necessary, cut up your whole chicken into 8 pieces….  Oh, you don’t know how?  Well here’s a video just for you!

Now, wasn’t that easy?

  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in the pan, and add the chicken.

  • Cook the chicken until it is golden brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes total.

Your chicken should be browner than this. Just remember that it's not going to get any browner in the oven, and cook accordingly.

  • When the chicken is browned to your liking, transfer it to a plate for later.
  • Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper to the pan.

  • Reduce heat to medium and saute for about 5 minutes.
  • Add paprika and wine.  Boil for 2 minutes.

  • Add saffron and rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

  • Stir in the broth, white pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, and oregano and bring to a simmer.

  • Return the chicken and any juices to the pan.

Your chicken should probably be browner than mine, but after 45 minutes in the oven, it will no longer be hazardous to your health. I promise!

  • Cover the pan, put in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 minutes, remove from the oven, and stir in the tomatoes, olives, and frozen peas.  (My olives were left whole.  BIG mistake.  If you chop them up a bit, the flavor will be more subtle in the dish and not quite so, um…shocking? when you eat them.)

  • After stirring in those ingredients, return the pan to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.  (If you take out the pan and the liquid has already been absorbed, you can add another 1/2 cup or so of liquid if you want.)
  • After 15 minutes, you should get something like THIS:

Enjoy!

Today we’re going to make more comfort food!  Yay!

This is a pretty basic recipe for macaroni and cheese, zhoozhed up a bit courtesy of Alton Brown and Williams-Sonoma…

On with the show…

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni.  (Use Dreamfield’s if you’re feeling low-carby.)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • nutmeg, to taste
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded  (use white cheddar if you’re feeling saucy.  Or you can throw in some Fontina, smoked gouda, Gruyere, or any other interesting cheese that haz a flavor.)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • White pepper

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup (panko) bread crumbs  (If you don’t have panko, you can grind up some stale white bread in your food processor.)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to one minute less than the directions say.  (It will finish cooking in the oven.)

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, nutmeg, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes, stirring constantly, then remove the bay leaf.  (The bay leaf is optional, BTW.)

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and white pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

It’s Christmas time again!

For this post, I thought I’d give you a few of my favorite recipes.  These are great for giving as Christmas gifts, and they’re super easy to make, too!

Today we’ll be making Peppermint Bark, Chocolate-covered Apricots, and Rum/Bourbon balls!

Peppermint Bark

This stuff is so easy that I’d trust any of my sister’s kids to make it.  At my house, even.  Seriously.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided (Optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided (Optional)
  • 8 ounces high-quality white chocolate chips
  • crushed peppermint candy

Directions:

  1. Roll out parchment paper or aluminum foil and place into a sheet pan.
  2. Place the semisweet chocolate (and 1 teaspoon of the canola oil) into a microwave-safe bowl and nuke at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted.  (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler.)
  3. OPTIONAL:  When the chocolate is melted, stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the peppermint extract.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan, and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, until chocolate hardens.
  5. Place the white chocolate (and the remaining 1 teaspoon canola oil) into a microwave-safe bowl and nuke at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted.  (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler.)
  6. OPTIONAL:  When the chocolate is melted, stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract.
  7. Pour the white chocolate directly over the semisweet chocolate layer, and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crushed candy over the top and gently press in. Refrigerate until completely hardened. Remove from pan. and break into small pieces to serve.
  8. Store, tightly sealed,  in the refrigerator.  (Sorry, Chocolate Sacrilege, I know…  but the chocolate isn’t tempered, so it needs to stay refrigerated.)

Chocolate Covered Apricots

These are super fun to make.  And you can be all artsy with the dipping!  Express  yourself through apricots!

Ingredients:

  • Dried apricots
  • white chocolate chips
  • semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Melt each kind of chocolate, separately, in a double boiler or microwave.  (If microwaving, cook in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval.)
  • Dip half of the apricots in white chocolate and place onto waxed paper or parchment paper to cool
  • Dip the other half of the apricots in the semisweet chocolate and place onto waxed/parchment paper to cool.
  • Dip a fork or spoon into the leftover white chocolate, and use it to drizzle streaks onto the dark-chocolate-covered apricots.
  • Dip a fork or spoon into the leftover dark chocolate, and use it to drizzle streaks onto the white-chocolate-covered apricots.
  • When chocolate hardens, store the apricots in a tightly sealed container in a cool place.

Rum/Bourbon Balls

These are seriously everyone’s favorite thing at Christmas.  Make a batch for your Granny and watch her get tipsy!  (That’s when the really interesting stories come out!)  Yay!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, or 1/2 cup rum
  • additional confectioner’s sugar (or nuts, or shredded coconut or cocoa powder)

Directions:

  • Pulverize the vanilla wafers in your food processor.  Or use a rolling pin.
  • Mix crushed wafers, confectioner’s sugar, nuts, cocoa powder, corn syrup, and liquor together until well-blended
  • Mixture should be moist, not soggy.
  • Roll dough by approximate teaspoonfuls into small balls
  • Roll in additional confectioner’s sugar (or nuts or coconut or cocoa powder)
  • Store in tightly covered container in a cool place.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

This Thanksgiving, the JohnnyCakes and I decided to skip all the Whose-Family-Gets-To-Feed-Us-First drama, so we went to New Orleans!

For our Thanksgiving dinner, we ate at the fantabulous M Bistro  at the Ritz Carlton in new Orleans.  I took pictures.  It was AMAZING!

Amouse Bouche:

Escargot Croquet Madame

with organic quail egg and gruyere cheese

It was DIVINE.  It was like a tiny little escargot lasagna…  Made with toast instead of pasta.  But totally yumtastic.

First course:

Acorn Squash Bisque

with sultana marshmallow and pumpkin toast

This is seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long, long time.  It had MARSHMALLOWS!!!!  How can you not like anything that has marshmallows in it???   This soup was sweet, creamy, marshmallowy, and the pumpkin toast croutons gave it a nice kick of texture.  I’ve asked the chef for the recipe.  Crossing my fingers in hopes that he provides…

Second Course:

Shrimp stuffed Mirliton

with warm andouille remoulade

 

My first question for the waiter was, “What the heck is a mirliton???”  And you know what?  He didn’t know either!  (That’s why he gave me the food and drink manager’s business card!  So that I could get the recipe from him!  Ha!)

So thanks to dictionary.com, I have found out what a mirliton is.  Ready?

   
   

(It’s a chayote squash.)

So anyway, this was basically a peeled, cooked half of a chayote squash, stuffed with chopped shrimp and something resembling mayonnaise, covered with panko (I think) and browned on top.

It was pretty good.  A little too mayonaissey, but not unlike your average shrimp salad stuffed into a squash shell.

Note to Waitstaff: KNOW YOUR FOOD.  Ugh.

Third Course:

Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib

with twice-baked potato, shiitake-green bean casserole, and bone marrow espagnole

Yeah.

Johnny opted for the standard turkey breast dinner with the standard accoutrements, but I decided to get something a little different.

The prime rib was perfectly cooked, the potatoes were light and airy, and the green bean casserole was KILLER.  I’m SO glad I didn’t get the turkey!

Fourth Course:

White Chocolate Spiced Apple Mousse

with carmelized bourbon apples and chocolate-hazelnut sorbet


I didn’t much care for the dessert, honestly.  The mousse was more like stale pudding, and although the crust added some interesting flavor and texture (it was like a soft granola bar with bourbon), the chocolate sorbet kind of ruined it.  It was WAY too chocolatey, and it didn’t really complement the apple flavors at all.

Fifth Course:

Seasonal chocolate truffles


There were six of these suckers.  And in other fine dining establishments that I’ve visited, the waiter at least TELLS you what flavors the truffles are when he puts them on your table.  At Stephan Pyles, there was a lavender one, a peanut butter (I think) one, and “the chef’s take on an Oreo cookie.”  See?  I still remember!

So waitstaff, when you hurl a plate of random truffles at a customer, PLEASE tell them what the flavors are supposed to be!

Johnny and I resorted to biting into each one and leaving a bunch of uneaten truffle halves on the plate.

Just sayin’.

But all in all, this was an AMAZING dinner, and if you are ever in New Orleans, go to M Bistro!  It’s well worth the trip!

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