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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quick Winter Tomato and Corn Chowder

This is a simple, satisfying soup that is really easy to put together. We made it the night after our long drive back from Thanksgiving because it was much easier than even grabbing fast food. Since this soup uses mostly canned ingredients, it's good for when you want something that is healthy and tastes fresh but your fridge is bare. I love the scallions on top, but if you don't have them the soup is still good without.

Tomato and Corn Chowder

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 (15 oz) can corn with liquid
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup skim milk
3 to 4 chopped scallions for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent and they start to color. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more. If you have a couple extra minutes, you can drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid and then brown the tomatoes as well for some extra flavor. Then add the brown sugar and corn with liquid. If you're in a rush, just add the tomatoes and juice at the same time along with the brown sugar and can of corn with liquid. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the flavors meld well together. Add the crushed red pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper. Take the soup off heat and stir in the milk. Check the seasoning again before serving. Top with chopped scallions and enjoy alone or with good bread or grilled cheese!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cookie Advent 2012: Swedish Dream Cookies, Snickerdoodles, and Pecan Chocolate Chip

I tried to do a cookie advent last year which I ended up giving up on for a few reasons. First, it got kind of crazy. Second, I was trying to follow someone else's list of cookies, which didn't always line up with my tastes. This year we decided to try again, but this time choosing all the cookie recipes ourselves! So far, it's going much better. We'll see if we can keep it up! If you invite us over in the next month, expect a plate of cookies when we show up :)

Here's our progress so far:

My favorites so far are a repeat from last year: Swedish Dream Cookies from Saveur. These are a light crispy cookie flavored with vanilla bean. They really do melt in your mouth! And they're the easiest cookies I've ever made. We didn't have vanilla sugar, so we substituted a vanilla bean and a tablespoon of sugar and they turned out great!

We also tried a new snickerdoodle recipe from Saveur. They were had a great intense cinnamon flavor since the batter was flavored as well, but I like Kyle's family's recipe better. I should probably post that someday.

Our third cookie so far was David Lebovitz's chocolate chip cookie recipe. I was a fan of the addition of chopped toasted nuts, but I wish we'd have used better chocolate since that's a main component of the recipe. I think I'll give it a go with some Valrhona or Scharffen-Berger next time! We did sprinkle some sea salt on them (a la another David's recipe) which was a good addition.

I'll keep you updated on our cookie adventures! Maybe they'll last this time :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TWD: Best Ever Brownies

I love many kinds of brownies, but my favorites are my grandma's with marshmallows and frosting. Even though these don't quite beat those, they are still pretty awesome! I especially liked them with sea salt sprinkled on top. They're supposed to be a fudgy brownie, which I like, but after the recommended time they were a little too gooey for my taste. So, we cooked them a little longer and they turned out great! This is my favorite recipe so far from Tuesdays with Dorrie. Check out A Beautiful Mess for the recipe and here to see how it turned out for others

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Pies

We've been tasked with helping with pies for Thanksgiving, so we've been busy practicing lately! Here are a few of the results, in case you still need some ideas for Thanksgiving, or want some good pies for Christmas too!

Pear Cranberry Pie

This was my favorite new recipe we tried! The tartness of the cranberries was perfectly balanced by the sweet pears. We'll be making this for Thanksgiving and probably for Christmas too because it's so pretty! We followed this recipe from Serious Eats for Pear and Concord Grape Pie, but substituted cranberries for grapes. 

Apple Pie

This was from another Serious Eats recipe. We like more spice, so we used 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. The flavor and crust were fantastic! The only problem we had with this one was the apples and crust puffed up while baking and then fell after cooling, even with par-cooking. The flavor and crust were excellent though, so it still made the cut. If you have any suggestions to prevent puffing or falling filling, let me know!

Chocolate Pecan Chess Pie

This is my favorite pie! I just love the combo of flaky crust and dense chocolate filling! I used the same recipe we did last year. I've found that since then, my taste for crusts has shifted toward more well done ones, so if you're in that camp I'd add an extra 10 minutes onto the blind baking time. But otherwise, this is perfect. If you like fudgy brownies, or dense chocolate pudding then this is your pie!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Maple Syrup Snow

We had a ton of snow last night! I'm usually not a fan, but this time we were excited for a special treat. I'd had my eye on this maple syrup snow from Leite's Culinaria since last year. It reminded me of the maple syrup snow candy from Little House on the Prairie.  I loved that book when I was a little girl, so I was really excited to make some! It was coming down pretty heavy last night, so we set out a half sheet pan to catch some snow. 

We ended up with 6 inches! So we had more than enough to make some maple syrup toffee and sprinkle it over the snow for breakfast today! We quartered the recipe and it made for than enough for us and our upstairs neighbors. There's plenty of winter left, so have fun!

Maple Syrup Snow

6.9 oz (5/8 cup) maple syrup
0.7 oz (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter

Set a container out to collect fresh snow. After you have enough, heat the maple syrup and butter to the early softball stage at 235° F (subtract 1° for every 500 feet above sea level), stirring occasionally to combine. Let cool a bit and then drizzle over fresh snow. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Buttermilk crumb muffins

These turned out all right. I baked them 5 minutes less than suggested, but they still burnt. Oh well, at least the insides tasted good. I was reading from my fellow bakers that these muffins were lacking in flavor, so I made a couple changes. I used butter instead of shortening, dark brown sugar instead of light, and I used milk with lemon juice for the buttermilk. Also, I added extra cinnamon, some vanilla and some lemon zest, so the flavor was good. I'm not sure if I'd make them again though because I've had other muffins I've liked better. If you want to try them, our host was the birthday girl Alisa from down home desserts. You can check out how other did here