Monthly Archives: November 2009

Hot Butterscotch Latte

My apartment is already prepared for the season of lights, the smell of pine, and some serious cold- even if that last part seems to come a little later, and with a few less snowflakes every year. The halls here aren’t decked with holly, Walmart was out, but there are gold, blue, red, and green spheres of light strung throughout my small space. The orange bowl of candy corn has been replaced by a cheesy plastic snowman filled with minty Hershey kisses.

Normally, I take on the role of Autumn Crusader, dutifully lavishing in the red, orange and yellow decorations until Thanksgiving has passed. This year however I was burdened with a particularly large amount of work before break finally came around, so the transition between seasons seemed liked a good distraction.

While my roommate and I were getting festive, I enjoyed a small glass of eggnog and it got me thinking about holiday drinks. Hot chocolate is a favorite of course but I wanted to make something different. Butterscotch is a flavor that’s often used for alcoholic drinks but I basically used it in a white hot chocolate recipe for more of a hot drink.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup half and half (I guess you could just use 2 cups of 1 or 2 percent or something)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch morsels
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • one cinnamon stick

Directions

  • melt the butterscotch chips and heavy cream over low heat
  • add the milk, half and half, vanilla, and cinnamon stick and simmer for 5 minutes or so consistently whisking it all
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Salads Galore!

Since it will soon be The Day of gluttony where pies and their fattening counterparts get the spotlight, today’s post will feature a menu item less inspired by Santa’s portly figure and more oriented towards a pre-holiday stocking up on nutrition. Salads really don’t get enough credit for taste and its probably due to the fact that most often, a house salad at a restaurant is made up of several large chunks of iceberg lettuce sailing on a river of ranch dressing with a few shreds of dried out cheddar cheese floating along beside them. Now I’m not saying I don’t enjoy an occasional dunk in the proverbial Ranch River but generally, it’s just as easy to make a healthier and better tasting salad as it is to throw together a sub par one.

Dewey’s Pizza has a really delicious salad that I get every time I go called a Candied Walnut and Grape Salad. I don’t know how they make their dressing unfortunately but sometimes I try to replicate the salad. The recipe below is just what I use, but substitutions are always fun.

Salad!

  • mixed baby greens
  • Gorgonzola cheese (a rather fattening cheese, I know. Just use a tablespoon or so)
  • halved purple grapes (you can use green ones but purple and red grapes are sweeter and pair well with the tartness of the Gorgonzola)
  • candied walnuts (recipe below)
  • dressing

Candied Walnuts

The recipe I use is Laura Werlin’s and I think it’s magnificent:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces walnuts (about one heaping cup; don’t use pieces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugar, cayenne and salt.

Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add the walnuts and blanch them for 3 minutes. Drain well and then immediately roll the walnuts in the sugar mixture until thoroughly coated. The sugar will melt slightly. Transfer the walnuts to a baking sheet or pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Watch carefully because the sugar can burn easily. Let cool completely before serving.

Dressing

1 tablespoon apple butter

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar if you don’t have red)

olive oil

Whisk the apple butter and vinegar together and as your doing that, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. I think I used a few tablespoons but a taste test every few seconds would be your best bet. If you don’t have apple butter, jelly or jam is a decent substitute.

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Homemade Spinach and Asparagus Pizza

pizzaI came across little rounded bundles of potential culinary creativity in the form of frozen pizza dough at Kroger. Somehow these had escaped my notice before, which is shocking since I spend upwards of two hours in the grocery store once a week, glancing over the bright, unpackaged glory of the produce section and sometimes, the red, marbled variety in the meat area. Unfortunately, the two or three portions of the frozen isles dedicated to Cincinnati’s best contribution to the world (Graeter’s ice cream), often get priority. Anyways, the pizza dough got me thinking that I haven’t tried making a homemade pizza. If DiGiorno’s can do it, so can I. The best thing about making your own pizza is that it’s a blank slate. Pretty much anything goes but I decided to use asparagus and spinach. Here’s my recipe.

Pizza Sauce:

Half of a medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

olive oil

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon dried basil

2 teaspoons honey

raw ginger

12 oz crushed tomatoes (i think? it was about the size of a can of soup)

Once again, I feel like it’s necessary for me to start this out by saying that I never go by a recipe. I’m trying my best to remember the basics, but use your own judgment.  Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for one or two minutes. Zest some ginger in, probably half a teaspoon, and let that a saute for half a minute more. Add the crushed tomatoes, rosemary, basil and honey and let it all simmer for 15 minutes or so.

The Pizza

Take your thawed out pizza dough and flour the outside. Flatten it out to the desired size and dust off any extra flour. Put the pizza sauce on top and then top it off with (in my case) rinsed off, chopped pieces of asparagus and roughly chopped spinach. For the cheese, I bought good, fresh Parmesan (a pricey, but worth it investment)  and a ball of smoked mozzarella. Grate some Parmesan on first and then slice thin slices of the mozzarella and place on top. Depending on the pizza size, it should take about 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

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Sweet Spiced Pumpkin Soup

pumpkin soupHalloween is officially over. Somehow without noticing, the pumpkins my friends and I carved decided to be festive a little too late, if being a pumpkin isn’t festive enough, and leaked their fermented fall-colored juices (mostly a neon-ish yellow with a slight red tinge where it stained the table) all over our designated spots for them in the apartment.

I can only assume it was some form of revenge for our early enthusiasm at the beginning of the month. The premature butchery we took so much joy in has now effectively created a permanent reminder of the gourd’s sacrifice in the form of a hard, immovable spot on the carpet. I hope our land lady doesn’t notice.  Ironically, the transparent, somewhat fragrant pumpkin innards reminded me that I hadn’t yet attempted a pumpkin soup. As Ina Garten says, “how bad can that be?”

Cutting the pumpkin in half that I had designated to turn into my dinner probably looked, appropriately, like a scene from some scary movie with a cleaver as the deadly weapon. Raised high above my head, my little paring knife did little damage as in collided with the orange flesh that seems more like rock. Apparently, pumpkins of smaller size have tougher exteriors. The thing had short man’s syndrome. I finally just got a pumpkin carving knife to cut out the stem, and then did my best to slice it into two separate halves. Once you get past that part, the rest is easy.

Roasting the Pumpkin

Before we continue… Pumpkins might be hard to find by now if you don’t frequent the farmer’s market. If you can’t find a little 2 1/2 pound pumpkin at the grocery, a butternut squash of equivalent size will work just fine.  With either one, you’ll need to split it open vertically, and scoop out all of the seeds. Drizzle some olive oil on the inside, salt and pepper it, and put it flesh side down in the oven, covered with foil, at 400 degrees for around 45 minutes. Butternut squash won’t take that long. To check it for doneness, poke a fork in the flesh. When it’s tender, it’s ready. Scoop out the pumpkin with a spoon and set aside. If you have a food processor, put the pumpkin in and pulse a few times until blended.

Make a Spice Pouch

Put the following into a pouch made of cheesecloth (which you can find at hardware stores. I just used a longer strand of the cloth to use as a tie, but you can use string as well).

2 cinnamon sticks, 1 bay leaf, 6 allspice berries (whole, not ground), and three cloves. Set that aside.

Soup!

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a medium sized pot.
  2. Add one small to medium chopped yellow onion and two cloves of minced garlic in to the butter. Salt and pepper those and cook for two or three minutes, until transparent.
  3. Add one tablespoon grated ginger and one tablespoon fresh chopped mint. Cook for another minute or so.
  4. Add the cooked pumpkin, and immediately add two cups of chicken broth. You can add more if your soup is too thick. Mix it all together so that it has a relatively smooth consistency.
  5. Add the spice pack, and let is all simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. If there’s foam on top, try to remove that as best you can.
  6. Remove the spice pack and transfer to a food processor if you have one. If not, use a hand held blender or a regular blender to create a smooth consistency.
  7. Finally, add 1/3 cup pineapple juice into the blender and blend one last time. Strain through a fine sieve for extra smooth soup.
  8. Cut a crusty baguette into slices for dipping. Just a recommendation.

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