Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka MasalaEatin’ like a Grown Up
We’ve reached a major milestone in my household! Well, I think it’s major. To be clear, I am not talking about the real major milestones like getting your driver’s license, or being accepted into college, or even the elusive doing the things I ask you to do, when I ask you to do them, not when I am foaming-at-the-mouth-mad milestones. No, the milestone I am talking about is the spicy hot food one.

My husband and I like our food spicy. For the longest time, I have had to dial it back when cooking, because I wanted my kids to actually eat. My kids are pretty adventurous when it comes to food as far as ingredients and cuisine go. But if I made it too spicy hot they would start reaching for the fall-back banana. Lately, it’s as if the clouds have parted and the sun is shining down in my kitchen…because my kids are asking for their food to be more spicy. Yee Haw!! Bring on the harissa and chilies!

We eat Mexican food it seems like, daily. So, when I noticed a lot more salsa use I was intrigued. The other night I made blackened salmon with a fire breathing spice rub, and they kids all loved it. I started getting excited. When we went for Indian food last week, and my son said he wanted to swim in a vat of the sauce armed with a straw, I knew we had turned a corner.

Their Indian dish of choice is Chicken Tikka Masala, which ranges from medium to spicy. The good news is that you can find it on basically every Indian restaurant menu. So, you have the opportunity to taste and compare. Frankly, I’m just looking forward to a little more spice and dinner choices in our lives…

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Yields 6 Servings
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French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and ParsnipsRainy Days and Mondays…

When the weather is as rainy as it has been the last week, I look to the things that warm me up. Usually, it’s something slow roasted or slow cooked in the crock pot. It could be pot roast or it could be a turkey breast but whatever the ingredients, it is a bowl full of warmth and comfort.

Last Sunday, while we contemplated lining the animals up two by two, I threw some beef chuck in the crock pot and made some tasty beef stew. And, it was the perfect answer to the wind and rain, especially served with warm crusty bread to sop it all up. Yum.

There is a multitude of recipes for beef stew you just have to decide which one is your favorite. That’s the hard part for me. Sometimes I want straight up stew with all that beef flavor. (Like my Batchelor Beef Stew.) Other times I like French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips and some red wine. And then there are the times when dark beer and onions make a great combo too. (Check out my Beef and Guinness Stew.) Depends on my mood…

So, this is the one I made this weekend. If you wish, it is easily done in the slow cooker. Just follow these directions. But instead of cooking in the Dutch oven, you put it all in a large crock pot on low for about 8 hours, or until the beef is falling apart tender.

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips
Serves 6 Read more…

Chicken with Tarragon and Mustard

Chicken with Tarragon and MustardJanuary, the good and the bad.
Well, we made it. We survived the holidays. Now it’s back to normal life—which is in some ways good and some ways bad.

I don’t think I could have kept up with the eating and drinking (at least not the way I was doing it), so to be back to normal is good. However, there is the post-holiday let down. The excitement, the parties and good cheer are gone. It’s just the daily routine. It’s kinda boring.

January can also be what I call the food doldrums. The cold winter months can be less than exciting ingredient wise. Sure there are plenty of good soups to battle the cold air and rain, but I get bored with that after a while. Yes, you can always throw together a roast dinner but again, meh. The produce offerings are tasty but limited. This is the time of year to get creative with your dried beans but even then, for me, there is just not that much excitement. On top of all that is the need to lighten things up and eat better…

January is definitely when my slow cooker gets the most use, mainly because I am worn out from all of the holiday cooking. So, I go looking for new ideas for the slow cooker. A few years ago I stumbled on a series of slow cooker cookbooks that are not the usual pot roast or pork shoulder. Each book is devoted to a particular cuisine. There is the French version, the Italian, the Mexican, Mediterranean and even the Indian.

I have tried recipes from them all, but I tend to reach for The French Slow Cooker the most. One of my favorite recipes is Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard and Cream because it’s uncomplicated and tres French. The original recipe calls for heavy cream (and it is good that way), but I usually lighten it up with 2% milk instead. And, just be aware that the sauce won’t be as rich, which is good…and bad.

Chicken with Tarragon and Mustard
Adapted from The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
Serve 4 to 6
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Moussaka

MoussakaThe Kickasserole

I gotta say, it was a good Christmas this year. Not one clunker gift could be found amongst the massive pile of paper and cardboard. We were all spoiled rotten. One of my favorite gifts has my thoughts spinning…

At Christmas time each year it’s a pretty safe bet that I will receive something that is at the very least related to cooking. This could be a cookbook, or a subscription to my favorite cooking magazine, or even some bizarre ingredient. But more often than not, it is a tool to be used in the preparation of food. This year was no different. What was different however was the personalization on the side. I received a gratin dish with “Amy’s Kickasserole” engraved on the side. It is a thing of beauty, and beyond awesome! But it is also as if a challenge has been issued.

One does not simply cook any old thing in a dish that says Kickasserole. No my friends, leave the mac & cheese or the baked ziti to the plain white earthenware. The Kickasserole is destined for much more interesting and grander fare, which is why my mind has been spinning. What would be the perfect recipe for the maiden voyage of the Kickasserole?

I have come to the conclusion that I can’t make anything that I have made before. That would be boring. It needs to be an event. So here’s the plan. One of the other gifts I got was a Greek cookbook. My daughter and I have decided we are going to cook from it for New Year’s Eve. And one of the recipes we will be making is one of my favorite dishes, Moussaka. I have never made it before. Ever. So I think it is the perfect choice to ring in the New Year and to begin the new era of the Kickasserole…

Moussaka
Adapted from Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors
This is the cookbook from Kokkari Estiatorio, my absolute favorite Greek restaurant in San Francisco. If you have not had a chance to eat there, I highly recommend you make reservations! Read more…

Amy’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

Amy’s Spaghetti and MeatballsSmiling Is My Favorite
Because it is the week before Christmas, you will have no problem finding Christmas-themed shows or movies available on your television. In some cases, they are streaming 24/7. Some folks are not a fan of this annual occurrence. Personally, I am okay with it.

There are a lot of good holiday movies out there (some not so good ones too…), and everyone has their favorite. People like my brother-in-law, are fans of the classics. For him, it’s not Christmas unless he is schnuggy on the sofa with warm Gingies watching It’s A Wonderful Life. For others it’s not Christmas unless Hans Gruber is falling off of Nakatomi Tower in Die Hard. Nothing says the holidays like blowing stuff up. Although, lately it seems that nothing says the holidays like StarWars.

For my father, nothing says the holidays like mischief. My dad loves little kids, and this time of year it is turned up a notch. Dad just gets a kick out of kids. It makes no difference if he is related to the child or not. If there is a little kid within range, Dad is going to interact with them. And, if said child is “up to something” so much the better, in his eyes. For that reason, while it may not be his actual favorite holiday movie, I always associate the movie Home Alone with my Dad. Here’s why.

Years ago, my parents were in town to pick me up from college, and for whatever reason Home Alone was the only thing on TV. (Don’t ask me why it was on in June, but it was.) While watching the movie, Dad was laughing so hard he had tears rolling down his face, and we were concerned about his oxygen intake. It got so out of hand that my mother and I were more entertained watching him watch the movie, than actually watching the movie. So, right or wrong, I will always think of Home Alone and Dad when I think of holiday movies.

If I had to choose my favorite, it would be Elf. Though I do enjoy a good A Christmas Story marathon, Elf is a must-watch to get into the Christmas spirit (other than singing loud for all to hear, and having a tickle fight). I have seen this movie hundreds of times and it never fails to make me laugh. The one-liners sustain me through the year.

Last night some friends of ours had a Buddy The Elf themed party, and it was great. While we didn’t make snow angels or snuggle, we did manage to eat the four basic food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn and maple syrup. And, of course, there was spaghetti…

Amy’s Spaghetti and Meatballs
Yield 6  servings
I usually double the recipe for the meatballs when I make them, because I like my meatballs the size of tennis balls. If you prefer to make them smaller than that, just go with a single recipe. Read more…

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt PorkSpanish Feast

A couple of weekends ago we had our cookbook club dinner and I have to say it was one of the best dinners we have had in a while. It may have been the subject matter. You can’t go wrong with Spanish fare…

The book was Curate by Katie Button, and I don’t think there was anything that we made that wasn’t fantastic. Everything was good. Even the octopus—and I am not a huge fan of octopus. The very best part? The book is intended for American kitchens, which means the ingredients aren’t hard to find and the recipes aren’t too involved.

One of the recipes I made was Stewed Chickpeas with Collard Greens and Salt Pork. Because of schedule overload I had to make this the night before, and it was so good that my husband and I couldn’t keep ourselves from having a bowl. This stew is more like a hearty soup, but it makes for a super (see what I did there? ) satisfying bowl that hits the spot on a cold night.

I would definitely recommend using the Edison Grainery Garbanzo Beans that we have here at the store, as they seemed to re-hydrate better than others I have tried. And, I choose to use kale rather than collards.

Serve this with some warm crusty bread and a nice Spanish Rioja….

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork
Adapted from Curate by Katie Button
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course
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Molded Gingerbread Cookies

Molded Gingerbread CookiesProject Cookies

Let’s face it, the world would be a much darker place if we didn’t have cookies. There are thousands of different cookies in the world, and I am on a mission to try them all. A cookie Bucket List, if you will…

I have found that in general, cookies tend to fall into three different categories: Everyday, Holiday, and Project.

Everyday cookies are the ones you can whip up fairly quickly and easily when that cookie craving kicks in and you must have cookies now! These would be your chocolate chip, oatmeal, snickerdoodle, peanut butter (you know, the classics).

Holiday cookies are just that. These are the cookies you make for Christmas, Hannukah, Easter, etc. They are the family favorites or the recipes that are only taken out to be used at special times of the year. These can be drop cookies, bars, biscotti, rugelach, thumbprints, shortbread, press cookies…the list goes on.

Last but not least is the category I call Project Cookies. These cookies are the high maintenance diva cookies. While most of these recipes can generally be found under the holiday heading, these require a heck of a lot more planning and time to make them turn out right, and can have difficult to find ingredients, or they are just fussy to make.

Hence, they have their own category. Examples include springerle cookies, molded shortbread, French macaroons, Swedish Rosettes, any sugar cookie using royal icing and lastly, Gingerbread in molded cookie, house or man form. These are the cookies that take two days to make.

Don’t get me wrong, they are worth it. And I am planning to do little project baking this weekend to get in the holiday mood. I seem to not be there quite yet. However, a batch of Molded Gingerbread Cookies should help me transform into Mrs Claus.

This past November, I gave my sister a springerle rolling pin for her birthday and I will admit I had a hard time giving it away. (I am hoping she will let me borrow it!) While you can obviously use it for springerle cookies it is also fun, and the ingredients are easier to find, to use it for Gingerbread.

Molded Gingerbread Cookies
Yield is dependent upon the size of the mold.
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Preserved Lemons

Preserved LemonsLemon Scented

Okay, I officially overate last week. (It was the pie that put me over the top.) I know I am not alone, and am sure there are equal numbers of people who will agree with me…if I see any more turkey I will lose my mind.

Besides the copious turkey leftovers, my mother-in-law sent me home with a huge bag of beautiful Meyer lemons from her tree. The smell of lemon filled the car the whole ride. Heaven.

The sheer size of my lemon haul means I have been thinking about different ways to use them up. You can only drink so much tea and lemon after all…

This Lemon Chicken is a family favorite, as is lemon curd—a request from the kids.

By far, my favorite way to use a lot of lemons though is preserving them. Preserved lemons have a terrific, bright flavor and can be used in so many different ways. I use them mostly in Moroccan food, but they are also great in salad dressings or bruschetta. I have even seen a recipe for Preserved Lemon Ice Cream, though I’m a bit hesitant.

I have looked all over the internet for preserved lemon recipes, and this method remains my favorite. I was taught it by Kitty Morse while taking her Moroccan Cooking class.

FYI, these also make a great gift for the Holidays…

Preserved Lemons
Adapted from Cooking At The Kasbah by Kitty Morse
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Hearty White Sandwich Bread

Hearty White Sandwich BreadThe Left Overs

I think it’s safe to say that we all have our favorites for Thanksgiving. For some it’s the sweet potatoes or the pecan pie. For others, it’s the stuffing or the turkey. For me, the best part comes afterwards. (Well, after the pie anyway.)

The most anticipated part of Thanksgiving in my world is the leftover turkey sandwich. And there is no question that I am an unapologetic turkey sandwich snob. My husband would prefer to have the entire meal over and over again. Not me. I want a turkey sandwich. (Okay. Let’s not get crazy. I still want some more pie.)

The Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is a thing of beauty. and has taken me years to perfect. Now, I am not saying there is a right way or a wrong way but there is my way.

Here’s how it stacks up:
You gotta start with good bread. The concept of good bread is always a hot debate in my family. There are those misguided souls that prefer super-fluffy white bread with questionable nutritional value, but excellent moisture content. Other, more enlightened sandwich veterans, prefer honey wheat for its nutty flavor and ability to stand up to the fillings. Then there are the black sheep who opt for the tortilla wrap or even the rogue croissant. I shudder…

Next come the condiments.
I am using the word condiments loosely here. Because for my turkey sandwich, the condiments consist of the following: Mayo, a very healthy smear of left over gravy, and a smidgen of cranberry sauce. (Now you see why I may want a more substantial piece of bread!) These three combine to provide a whole lot of flavor, and some much needed moisture—because the stuffing and the turkey get piled on top. (Yes. You read that right. Stuffing on bread. Just go with it…)

With that, you now have perfection on a plate.

Because of my sandwich psychosis, I usually make a couple of loaves of bread for the day after Thanksgiving. I always make Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread. But I have been known to compromise with the white bread lovers by making this Potato flour version as well.

Not only does this loaf of Hearty White Sandwich Bread make fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it also works well with your leftover turkey.

Hearty White Sandwich Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
This recipe works well in a bread machine. Read more…