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Posts Tagged ‘easy’

A few weeks ago, I went on an Iron Chef-style mission to empty my fridge by cooking creatively.  With plans to leave town for the next 15 days, I did not want to come home to any nasty (green, fuzzy, smelly) surprises.  And I hate to waste food.

When I found a pint of buttermilk lurking in the fridge, I thought chocolate buttermilk cake might be the answer.  This recipe sounded promising but needed to be scaled down.  Although I was a little nervous about the success of my sketchy mathematics, I forged ahead.

I shouldn’t have worried.  As my husband took his first bite, I asked, “Is it as good as the Guinness Chocolate Cake?”

“Better,” he said with a smile.

Iron Chef: 1; Waste: 0

This buttermilk chocolate cake is moist, dark, and moderately sweet.  Sweet-tart raspberry sauce and a bit of whipped cream are the perfect accompaniments.

(Adapted from “P@perseed)

For the cake:

-1 c. all-purpose flour
-3/4 c. sugar
-1 1/3 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch-process)
-1/3 c. + 1 Tbsp. oil
-1/2 c. buttermilk
-1 large egg
-1/2 c. strong, hot coffee
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (more…)

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I started taking French cooking classes at my local community college, and it’s been the calorie-rich highlight of my weeks. Because the course is conducted in German, I not only get to learn the finer points of butter and egg yolks, I can also practice my umlauts. It’s been a great experience, and I wanted to share the highlights with you here. Think of this as French cooking class light: all of the good stuff, none of the overcooked chicken livers.

So far, the dish that has impressed me most was one of the easiest.  I mean, really, who gets excited about lentil soup? Sometimes I feel like despite the massive number of ingredients and herbs I throw in, it’s just uninspiring.

Leave it to the French to elevate the humble brown lentil.

Well, this French lentil soup has taught me the wisdom in keeping it simple. Its flavor is practically the inverse of the time and ingredients involved.  Not only is it easy to make and flavorful, I like it enough that I’d serve it to company. The French must be on to something.  They know a) how to extract the most flavor from a few key ingredients, and b) not to muddle up dishes with too many herbs and competing flavors.

Simple, non?

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I’d love to keep talking it up, but it’s a rare sunny day in Berlin, and the sidewalks are calling my name!  I’ll report back with more French hits soon.

-3/4 c. brown lentils (or French green “du Puy” lentils; I’ve made it both ways), rinsed and picked over
-1 sm. onion, chopped
-2 strips bacon, chopped
-2 Tbsp. butter, divided
-2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, divided
-3 1/3 c. vegetable broth, warm
-1/2 bunch fresh parsley
-3 sprigs fresh thyme
-handful of celery tops, optional
-scant 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
-freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium pot on medium-low heat, sauté the chopped bacon to render some of the fat, about 2 min. Keep the heat low so that the bacon does not get crispy. Add the chopped onion and 1/2 tablespoon butter and sweat until translucent.

2. Add the broth, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and the lentils to the pot. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

3. Add the parsley (whole), thyme sprigs, and celery tops to the pot. Simmer covered 10-15 minutes more, or just until the lentils are tender. Check doneness occasionally to prevent overcooking.

4. In a small saucepan or skillet, brown the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter. Set aside.  It should be a deep golden brown, but not black. (more…)

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What in the world makes these “Avatar” muffins,  you ask?

Let’s just say that if James Cameron’s blue characters were looking for the perfect camouflage muffins to eat on the go, they needn’t look further.   Oh, alright, fine: I made these muffins with weepy frozen blueberries, which dyed the batter a swirly blue.

Image via thefilmtalk.com

But I like to think these blueberry muffins are lovable in their imperfection.  Just like your best friend or that favorite chipped coffee cup you refuse to toss out. You know which one I mean.  Simple, straightforward, and good.

These blueberry muffins are homey and comfortable—ideal for savoring over a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper. They’re moist, fluffy, and just sweet enough without veering into dessert territory.  Plus, they’re loaded with lots of bright fruit (you know how I feel about getting color into our diets).  If you want to ramp up the nutrition even more, you could substitute whole wheat pastry flour or quick-cook oats for a bit of the white flour.  Should you prefer non-Pandoran muffins, just use fresh blueberries, which bleed less than frozen.

(Adapted from Alton Brown via Thyme for Food)

-11 oz (2 1/4 c.) all-purpose flour
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/8 tsp. salt
-3/4 c. sugar (I used demerera/raw)
-1/2 c. vegetable oil
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk
-1 c. plain yogurt (approx. 1 3/4 containers)
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp. almond extract, optional
-2 c. blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 12-count muffin tin.  Alternately, you could fill the muffin tin with liners and then spray those with baking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Remove 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture and toss with the blueberries in a separate bowl.  (This reduces sinking while baking.)

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg and yolk, yogurt, and extracts.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until barely combined. Do not mix completely, or your muffins will be tough and flat.

Stop stirring!

5. Fold in the blueberries and any residual flour just until evenly dispersed. Do not overmix.

6. Drop the batter into the 12 muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake 17-20 min., or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

(more…)

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I discovered a green deficiency in my wardrobe this morning and decided to make an Irish-themed cake to avoid the St. Patty’s pinching-vigilantes.  A couple friends were coming over for tea shortly, so I selected the cake on my friend Katty’s blog, which looked easy and festive.

After a quick mix in one bowl (love that!), my kitchen filled with the best aroma in the world: baking chocolate.  As the cake cooled, I whipped up an addictive batch of Bailey’s-spiked cream cheese glaze (which I was sorely tempted to dye bright green).  The deep chocolate cake baked up fluffy and boxed-mix-perfect, while the Bailey’s icing pushed it over the edge into venial sin.

If you’re looking for a delicious way to commemorate the holiday, you can hardly do better than combining Guinness, chocolate, Bailey’s, coffee, and cream cheese. Granted, binge-drinking frat boys would probably contend otherwise.

In any case, happy St. Patrick’s Day!

(Adapted from Katty’s Kitchen)

Guinness Chocolate Cake

-1/2 c. raw (demerera) sugar (or sub. white sugar)
-1/2 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed
-scant 1 c. all-purpose flour
-scant 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
-3/4 tsp. baking powder
-3/4 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. instant coffee or instant espresso granules, optional (or sub. 1/4 c. strong brewed coffee for 1/4 c. of the milk)
-1 egg
-1/2 c. milk
-1/4 c. vegetable oil
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-2 tsp. Bailey’s liqueur
-1/2 c. Guinness (full disclosure: I successfully substituted dark German beer,  because I couldn’t find Guinness at my local market.  St. Patty promptly rolled in his grave.)

1. Grease and flour (or use cocoa powder) an 8×8-in. square or 8-in. round pan. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (except for the instant coffee).

3. Pour the Guinness into a small saucepan and add the instant coffee granules, if using. Bring just to a boil.

4. Stir the egg, milk, oil, Bailey’s, and vanilla extract into the dry mixture. Gradually whisk in the Guinness-coffee mixture.  The batter will be somewhat thin.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan (I used a springform) and bake on the middle rack for 30-35 min., or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.

(more…)

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People, particularly people of Hungarian origin, have very strong feelings about goulash.  Things you should know:

1) It’s one of Hungary’s national dishes;

2) It does not contain ground beef, spaghetti sauce, chili sauce, tomato soup, or Velveeta, you Midwestern heretic 😉

And most importantly…

3) That ultra-thick, beefy stew with onions and paprika you love so much? That’s not goulash!

That is pörkölt.

If you take pörkölt and add potatoes and vegetables and thin it out with water or broth, then you have goulash.  At least, that’s what the fellow in this video claims.  And as a matter of principle, I tend to believe guys who speak Magyar and cook over open fires.

What else do you need to know?  Not Goulash, AKA, pörkölt, is incredibly delicious.  It’s intensely beefy, richly spiced (but not hot—unless you want), and simple to make.  Mashed potatoes are a match made in heaven (and probably totally inauthentic. Parsley potatoes or Spätzle, however, might pass muster with the correctness police.)

In short: make this, and for goodness’ sake, please don’t call it “goulash.”

(Adapted from ifood.tv)

-2 lbs. beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 2-in. cubes (I actually used venison)
-1/2-3/4 c. red wine
-pinch tarragon, optional
-1 sm. onion, finely diced (not too much onion, please, it overwhelms the dish)
-1/2 Hungarian or red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
-1 Tbsp. butter + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, or the equivalent amount of lard/bacon grease
-2 Tbsp. tomato paste
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 c. broth (I used vegetable)
-2 (heaping) tsp. good quality sweet Hungarian paprika
-1 tsp. dried marjoram
-1/2 tsp. caraway seed, preferably ground
-8 whole juniper berries, optional
-salt and pepper, to taste (I added a little smoked salt for that “cooked-over-an-open-fire” flavor)
-dash of cayenne pepper or hot Hungarian paprika (more…)

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These crispy fish fillets* are much more than the sum of their parts. After posting several fairly involved recipes, I thought it time for a quick, easy recipe that’s simply delicious.  I was skeptical making this the first time, but one bite confirmed it.  Potato chips, tartar sauce, and white fish?  Like Martha says, “It’s a good thing.”

Still not sure?  Take 15 minutes:

-2 white fish fillets (such as cod, turbot, tilapia, etc.)
-2 Tbsp. prepared tartar sauce (or make your own)
-1 oz. ridged potato chips (e.g., Ruffles…or their German equivalent, Riffels!), crumbled
-2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
-salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a glass/ceramic baking dish or lay some chopped vegetables on the bottom (e.g., celery, fennel stalks, carrots).

2. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Spread 1 Tbsp. tartar sauce on top of each fillet. Press a few tablespoons of potato chip crumbs on top. (more…)

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Guess how these cookies got their name?

First, I started making them at 10PM, only to realize that I was out of eggs and short on chocolate, thus requiring a run to the corner store.  Second, I’d forgotten to factor in the one-hour chilling time for the dough.  They were finally done around 12:30AM.  But hey, I’d waited six months to finally make these—what was a few hours?

Americans ex-pats typically crave strange, hard-to-find things like Kraft Blue Box, chipotle peppers, cream of mushroom soup, and Saltines. Chocolate chip cookies are another doozy. Good luck finding any of the essential ingredients in Germany: brown sugar, chocolate chips, or vanilla extract.  I hadn’t had much luck.

brown gold…

But then my friend, Liza, brought me back a bag of fancy chocolate chips from her last trip to the U.S.  A plan was hatched. My dad good-naturedly agreed to haul a 2-lb. bag of brown sugar in his luggage at Christmastime.  And the vanilla extract problem I solved by macerating a vanilla bean in a mini bottle of vodka:

Finally, it was cookie time! I started with a recipe billed as no less than “The Best Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Entire World.”  Although I might not go quite that far, if you like a chewy cookie…these were totally worth the wait!

(Makes 22-23 medium cookies)

-1 1/2 c. flour
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2  tsp. salt
-1/2 c.  (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly colder than room temperature
-1/2 c. sugar
-3/4 c. tightly packed light brown sugar (I used dark but recommend light)
-1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
-7 oz. bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
-1/3 c. chopped walnuts, toasted (optional) (more…)

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