Curried Lentils

Another Julia Tershen delight.

This turned out absolutely flavorful and delicious. I think it’s the ginger plus toasting the spice in the beginning. It also comes together pretty fast, you just have to let the lentils cook for a while but that’s hands off.

I made a huge batch with a mix of red and green lentils and threw in all of the veggies in my fridge since I’m about to leave on a trip. Having it with yogurt is worth it. Yum!

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Braised Chicken and Leeks

Julia Turshen, Small Victories.

This chicken was juicy delicious and the recipe is super versatile (with suggestions for alterations in the book). I would make it again for sure.

But, it did take forever–butchering, seasoning, and browning the chicken probably took a good 45 minutes (brown in 2 batches with 8 minutes for each side = 32 mins of browning), then you have to cook for another 30 minutes. I might try just using skin on breast or thighs next time to skip the butchering part. Though there is something satisfying about using a whole chicken.

It also suuuuper smoked up my apartment, I had to open a bunch of windows. Make sure to close the bedroom door to cut down on your clothes smelling like chicken the next morning:)

Finally, it all comes out a bit brown since the chicken is brown and the leeks go from green to brown during the cooking process. I added in some carrots, but some more color would be nice. Something to think about.

Eggplant Involtini

These were a bit time consuming, but the end result is both beautiful and delicious! Also, as always I’m sure it would take less time the second time around. A few tips for next time:

1. Cutting the eggplant into strips: this recipe is pretty forgiving. Some of my strips were a little wonky and misshapened, but they still roasted and rolled up beautifully. That being said, cut them a little thicker next time, as they get pretty soft and easy to roll in the oven.

2. Breadcrumbs: Skip them if they’re not fresh. The filling should turn out fine, not worth putting them in if they don’t add any flavor.

3. Baking pan space! I used every single baking dish in my home to fit all of the eggplant. Cutting the strips a little more thickly (see 1) and using the whole large cookie sheet plus my half sheet pan should hopefully work next time. I was worried that the eggplant juices would drip off the sides of the large cookie sheet without sides, but I don’t think this is much of a concern. Just don’t put the eggplant right up against the sides.

ALSO if you do end up having overflow to any nonstick baking dishes, make sure to grease them first. The eggplant got stuck to these guys and was difficult to pry off.

4. As usual in the winter, I didn’t have fresh basil, so I didn’t use it. I substituted dried thyme for the oregano and it turned out great.

5. The sauce turned out too acidic for my taste. Apparently adding baking soda a little bit at a time (1 tsp) can help cut the acidity (it’s science). It may up the salt content a bit so maybe hold off on the final salting until after adding the baking soda. Also, though slightly contradictory re acidity, I’d add a splash of wine at the very beginning of cooking to add a bit more depth of flavor. Adding at the beginning and just a touch should be fine.

6. I left the whole shebang in my cast iron skillet for over an hour and the skillet didn’t get damaged, despite the acidic tomato sauce.

http://www.cupcakesandhammers.com/eggplant-involtini/

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-rescue-what-to-do-when-131736

Turkey Bolognese

Wow, this was divine. So easy and so very cheap with ground turkey at less than $2.00 per pound. Would definitely make again!

Update: You can totally make this with 2.5 week old red wine. Just give it the sniff test to make sure it hasn’t turned (you’ll know). I had a dinner party on two weekends after Thanksgiving and used wine leftover from Thanksgiving dinner and it smelled fine. I did have a brief moment of panic when the sauce smelled like alcohol for longer than I thought it should, but it all turned out fine. Also, make sure to add enough vinegar at the end, especially if you end up simmering it for a long time, or hat it up after making it ahead of time. It could have used a little more depth.

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-spaghetti-with-turkey-bolognese-recipes-from-the-kitchn-219426

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Had another blizzard craving:) This is more of a wing it and taste as you go situation. I’ve made homemade cocoa before, but this one really hit the spot. I think it was the salt and almond extract that really made it happen.

I filled my big mug with 2% milk, dumped it in a little saucepan, let it warm up a bit. Added cocoa powder by the rounded tablespoon, sugar by the teaspoon. Pinch or two of salt, tiny bit of almond extract, delicious. Topped with mini marshmallows. I like my cocoa on the slightly less sweet side, especially if I’m topping with marshmallows. This was right on point.

It was satisfying and I didn’t crave any more sweet after, which is surprising since I tend to want to binge eat marshmallows after my first helping (throwover from childhood sneaking marshmallows before Mom got home).

It was ever so slightly thin. Next time I might try a splash of cream or half and half. Will make again!

Peanut Butter Cookies

I had a craving for these during the blizzard, and this recipe delivered.

I followed the commenters’ suggestions and used butter instead of shortening and used 3/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup white sugar. I also added a little more salt because sweet and salty is my shit. They by no means turned out salty, but I like the little extra kick that a pinch more salt gives.

This recipe makes around 20 small/medium cookies. Check after 6 minutes, ended up baking for 8 overall. Also freezed these and baked some more later to great success.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/10373/dads-favorite-peanut-butter-cookies/

Easy Chickpea Curry

Wow, I’m amazed at how simple and fast this is for how delicious it turns out. I’ve tried many a curry recipe, and most of them are much more complicated and don’t turn out nearly as good. The only thing different that I did was I substituted some frozen green peas for one of the cans of chickpeas to make this a more well-rounded dish. It turned out fabulous and I’d even add a few more green peas next time.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/chickpea-curry/

Mexican Wedding Cookies

My dad loves these, and I made them for him for Christmas. I didn’t have 3 hours to chill the dough, so I froze it, put it in the fridge, then let it thaw a bit on the counter. Worked perfectly.

Also toasted the nuts before adding them in and rolled the cookies in a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon. Might experiment with some of the variations in the comments, like adding a mix of almond and vanilla extract and adding some spices directly to the dough.

Update: Toasting the nuts ahead of time didn’t make much of a difference. The oven does that job pretty well haha. This time I replaced the water and vanilla extract with bourbon and added a little cinnamon to the dough. Kept the powdered sugar plain with no spices. These turned out better than last time. I can’t taste the bourbon outright, but there is some depth of flavor that wasn’t there before. Yum!

Also, these seem to spread out more than I remember. When you roll them in sugar while they are still a little warm (per the comments), handle with care. They are still a little soft. But they will cool down.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/15542/mexican-wedding-cookies/

Mashed Potatoes

The tips from The Kitchn were spot on. I used a mix of russet and yukon gold, salted the water, started with cold water and didn’t overmash. I mashed with just a fork and it was super easy. Left it pretty chunky, then added cream cheese, a bit of heavy cream and milk, some butter, chives and plenty of salt. Absolutely delicious.

http://www.thekitchn.com/5-common-mistakes-to-avoid-when-making-mashed-potatoes-tips-from-the-kitchn-212271