Thai coconut soup

After so many congested days I thought I would try my hand at making a Thai coconut soup. I’ve always loved those at restaurants. This recipe from Real Simple was great. It seemed to need a little something extra, so I would probably add some fish sauce and maybe some sriracha or other spicy seasoning next time. Otherwise I did a very rare thing: stuck to the recipe.

Easy peasy pizza

Believe it or not, I have never made pizza from scratch. Mike is the head pizza baker in our house, so I have never been motivated to try it out. But I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for “Lazy Pizza Dough” and that sounded right up my alley!


Dough before rising.

I tried it last week, and it turned out really well. The crust was delicious, and cooked all the way through. I followed her advice for draining the extra liquid off the whole peeled tomatoes before I blended them for the sauce, and that really helped. But the best part is that it really was easy. I followed the instructions for a 6-hour rise. And even though the dogs ruined my first batch of dough while I was out running an errand, I managed to make a second dough and let it rise enough to still have pizza at dinnertime. That’s a forgiving dough!


Dough after rising.

Since the dough recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas, I decided to make them different styles. One with traditional red sauce (whole peeled tomatoes blended up with garlic and basil), plus mozzarella cheese, Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and spinach.

For the second one I mixed up some leftover shredded chicken with barbecue sauce. I used more barbecue sauce in place of the red sauce and then topped it with the chicken, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese mixed in with the mozzarella.

They were both really good. Mike preferred the sausage one and I liked the chicken one, so it worked out well.


Not the most beautiful pizza, but it tasted good!

I did have to add a little extra water to my dough, something she mentions in an edit of her original post. And I had a hard time stretching it out on the pans, but that might have been because the dough did not rise long enough.

I think in the future I will try an overnight rise, and I might also use some whole wheat flour and maybe a little honey. I’m glad to know that I can actually make pizza from scratch, and I will definitely be making this again.

Buttermilk biscuits + sausage gravy

If you’re a new parent with barely any time to cook, but you’re craving a home-baked goodie, biscuits are perfect. They are ridiculously easy to make, especially if you take a couple of shortcuts like I do. If you have a little more time, sausage gravy is not a bad way to turn your biscuits into a meal. We like them as a breakfast for dinner.

My recipe makes a lot of gravy, perhaps too much for this amount of biscuits. But since Sadie jumped up on the counter and ate some off the tray, I’m not really sure. I guess she is back to her old self again.

One other note about milk. It really pays to use whole milk in recipes like this. You get a nice creamy sauce that thickens quickly. I used to think whole milk was so gross. Now it’s skim that seems totally wrong to me. Plus I can always say I need the extra fat for breastfeeding. 😉

Aaaand, one last thing. I did make the biscuits one time with half whole-wheat flour. They were still good, but a little drier. If you go that route, maybe add in a little more buttermilk.

Buttermilk biscuits
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes 12 medium or 8 large biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute half whole-wheat flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk
Melted butter or buttermilk to brush on top (optional)

Whisk your dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Then add in the butter cubes and start mashing them with a pastry cutter. (I prefer that over a food processor because it works really well and doesn’t require nearly as many dishes to be washed.) You can also just use a fork or your fingers. You want to work until you have about pea-sized butter pieces.

Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk.

Work the dough together with your fingers. At first it looks kind of like shreds. But eventually it will come together into a ball.

Spread out some flour on a flat surface and dump out the dough. Here’s shortcut #2: just press it out with your fingers until it’s about 3/4-inch thick. No need for a rolling pin.

Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. I got 12 with the standard size. You could also use a glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter.

When you get down to the last one, you can press the dough inside the cutter so it becomes the right shape.

Lay out the biscuits and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on top.

When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter or buttermilk.

Sausage gravy

1 pound mild Italian sausage (you could also substitute veggie sausage)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it browns. I like to use a potato masher to separate the pieces.

Remove the cooked sausage to a bowl, leaving any pan drippings behind. I didn’t get many, so I added 3 tablespoons of butter.

While your pan’s still hot, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour and keep whisking until it starts to turn light brown.

Whisk in your milk and stir occasionally until the gravy starts to thicken and bubble, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausage back in. At this point, season with salt and pepper. I don’t specify an amount because your sausage will be seasoned differently.

Serve over those fluffy biscuits.

Buttermilk biscuits
Yields 12
Flaky biscuits that pair perfectly with sausage gravy.
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute half whole-wheat flour)
  2. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon sugar
  6. 6 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  7. 3/4 cup buttermilk
  8. Melted butter or buttermilk to brush on top (optional)
Instructions
  1. Whisk your dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Then add in the butter cubes and start mashing them with a pastry cutter. You can also just use a fork or your fingers. You want to work until you have about pea-sized butter pieces.
  2. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk.
  3. Work the dough together with your fingers. At first it looks kind of like shreds. But eventually it will come together into a ball.
  4. Spread out some flour on a flat surface and dump out the dough. Press it out with your fingers until it’s about 3/4-inch thick. No need for a rolling pin.
  5. Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. You could also use a glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter. When you get down to the last one, you can press the dough inside the cutter so it becomes the right shape.
  6. Lay out the biscuits and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on top.
  7. When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter or buttermilk.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
Sausage gravy
This creamy gravy is the perfect companion for buttermilk breakfasts.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound mild Italian sausage (you could also substitute veggie sausage)
  2. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 4 cups whole milk
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it browns. I like to use a potato masher to separate the pieces.
  2. Remove the cooked sausage to a bowl, leaving any pan drippings behind. If you don't have any fat left, add 3 tablespoons of butter.
  3. While your pan’s still hot, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour and keep whisking until it starts to turn light brown.
  4. Whisk in your milk and stir occasionally until the gravy starts to thicken and bubble, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the sausage back in. At this point, season with salt and pepper. The amount depends on how salty your sausage is to begin with.
  6. Serve over buttermilk biscuits.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Sole Meuniere

Sole Meuniere sounds fancy, but it could not be easier to make. Mike bought sole at the grocery store last week because it was on sale, so I went looking for a recipe and found this one.

You dredge the fillets in flour, salt, and pepper, then pan fry them in butter and lemon juice. The key part is definitely the butter, which gets browned and more flavorful after a few minutes in the pan.

Sole fillets are huge, but they are also very thin, so they cook quickly.

I can see us making this again next time sole is on sale. It’s not something I would usually look for, but I may have to start.

Chicken with peanut sauce

This was another successful recipe I thought I should mention. The chicken cooks quickly and the peanut sauce would be great for a lot of applications — a dipping sauce for kabobs this summer, perhaps?

I had to make some adaptations for the ingredients I had on hand and because I didn’t need quite so much chicken for two people. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

Chicken with peanut sauce
adapted from Nectar

chicken:
1.5 pounds chicken tenderloins, or boneless chicken breasts cut into tenderloin-sized pieces

marinade:
2 tablespoons grapeseed or safflower oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
1/4 cup brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon coriander

sauce:
3/4 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, crunchy works too)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sliced scallions would make a great garnish!

rice (or just plain rice works too):
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup jasmine rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced

At least 2 hours ahead:
Prepare the marinade by whisking all the ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Coat all the chicken pieces in the marinade and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

You can also make the sauce anytime. The recipe says to mix it up in a food processor, but I think I just did it in a bowl with a spoon. Whatever floats your boat.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, start boiling the water for your rice. Add all of the ingredients and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. While that’s cooking you can grill or saute your chicken. I used my favorite nonstick pan and cooked the chicken with the marinade on the stovetop.

Put everything together and you’re done!

Fettucine with chicken and leeks

I just wanted to share this great recipe I tried the other day that is so perfect for someone who doesn’t have much time to cook anymore. It calls for rotisserie chicken, so one night we roasted a chicken and then used the leftovers to make this another night. A grocery store chicken would work just as well.

The next day I used the bones to make stock.

I don’t cook a lot with leeks, but they are such a spring-ish ingredient I thought they sounded good this week. I loved them in this recipe. The full recipe is on Real Simple. The only thing I changed was to use lemon juice instead of zest. Next time I think I might add a second leek.

Basically you just boil some fettucine and while that’s cooking make a cream sauce with sauteed leeks. It could not be easier.

Mix in the noodles and voila, dinner.

Yummy Thai noodles

I just finished reading “Garlic and Sapphires,” Ruth Reichl’s book about being the restaurant critic for the New York Times. It’s a great read, but the book is made even better by the fact that it also contains recipes. And one of them is her take on Thai noodles.

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to make Pad Thai before, so I was excited to give it a go.

Here is the complete recipe, which I followed pretty closely.

You start by chopping up your scallions, garlic and peanuts and squeezing some fresh lime juice.

Then you heat some water until it’s just about boiling and then turn off the heat. Your rice noodles soften up in here for about 20 minutes.

I couldn’t find ground pork at the store, and I was too lazy to pull out the mixer and grinder attachment to grind my own So I ended up cutting a pound of boneless pork chops into strips. I also skipped the shrimp. But if I made this again, I might go with the original pork/shrimp combo. Or tofu strips would be a yummy vegetarian substitute.

So the meat goes in to saute with some scallions and garlic. Then you add in the noodles and a fish sauce mixture. After the liquid has cooked down, you scramble in some eggs and add the rest of the ingredients.

I had half a package of Trader Joe’s potstickers in the freezer, so I cooked those to go with our dinner.

Serve your noodles with an extra squeeze of lime and a few drops of Sriracha.

Honestly, by appearance alone I was not sure the noodles would turn out great. But they are really tasty. Probably just as good as what I’ve had in restaurants. Thanks, Ruth!

Ham and cheese puff pastry

One of our favorite things to do on the weekends is pick up breakfast pastries at La Farine. It’s this lovely French bakery that has all kinds of beautiful baked goods like chocolate croissants and morning buns. But our absolute favorite treat to get is the ham and cheese pastry. We take them home and warm them up in the oven. They’re made with puff pastry so they’re flaky and buttery, and then in addition to the salty ham and cheese there is also a creamy bechamel sauce inside.


La Farine goodies. 

So when I saw a recipe for a very similar ham and cheese pastry on Joy’s blog, I had to try it. I ended up changing the recipe a little to incorporate the bechamel sauce, which seemed essential. And although my tart was quite a bit uglier than Joy’s, I liked how it turned out. It’s also really easy to make, and goes well with the salad I have been obsessed with lately (spinach and bibb lettuce with tomatoes and hard boiled egg).

Ham and cheese puff pastry
adapted from Joy the Baker

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted but still cold
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup brown or whole grain mustard
1/2 pound thinly sliced Black Forest Ham
1/4 pound Gruyere cheese, sliced into strips (plus a few shavings for the sauce)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you make the bechamel sauce. In a medium-sized skillet or saucepan, heat the butter over medium. When it melts, whisk in the flour. Then whisk in the milk and continue to cook until the sauce becomes thick and bubbly (5 minutes or so). Season with salt. Mix in a few shavings of cheese just to boost the flavor.

Now you can roll out the bottom sheet of puff pastry on a lined cookie sheet. You just want it large enough that you’ll be able to roll up the edges. Brush the bottom of the pastry with the mustard. I was going for a circular tart, but it ended up more squarish — go for whatever shape you like.

Pour the sauce on top of the mustard and spread it evenly. Then layer on the ham and the cheese slices.

Place the second layer of pastry on top, then crimp the edges of the bottom piece over the top, using a fork to press them together. You may need to remove the corners of dough if you’re going for a round pastry. Then brush the top with the beaten egg and cut three slices in the dough for venting.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. When my pastry first came out of the oven it had puffed up huge, but it eventually sank down.

Cut your pastry into slices, just like a pizza and enjoy!

Feta couscous salad & more goodies

This week has been one of those weeks when a bunch of stupid stuff happens that just stresses me out. Thank goodness for the election and newborn babies. Otherwise I think I might have gone nuts.

I have had some luck with recipes, though, and I wanted to share some of them with you. The first is a super easy side dish that goes great with boxed falafel mix, if you need a quick dinner.

Feta couscous salad
adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup water
2/3 cup dry couscous
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (or you could use pine nuts)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light balsamic dressing (I like Newman’s Own)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, cut into ribbons

Bring the water to boil in a small saucepan. Then add the couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Move the couscous to a big bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.
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I also really enjoyed these salmon tacos I saw on a Cup of Jo. I got some colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes, which made a gorgeous salsa.

I followed the recipe exactly. The only thing I had to change was cooking the salmon an extra 10 minutes because I had thick fillets. I will definitely be making this again.

But the best recipe of all was this chicken pot pie with cream cheese and chive biscuits from Joy the Baker. Wow, was it good. This picture does not do it justice.

The biscuits alone are fantastic. Using cream cheese in place of some of the butter is genius, and really does add another element of flavor to them. They were also super easy to roll out. I still like Heidi Swanson’s yogurt biscuits, but they take a little more time.

For the filling I used 2% milk instead of whole and got a soupier consistency than I would have liked. But it was still great. Maybe it’s not a true pot pie if it has biscuits rather than a baked-on top, but I have to say I like this recipe even better than Ina’s veggie pot pie, which is damn good.

Bacon corn hash

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a recipe on Smitten Kitchen and been like ohmigodihavetomakethatrightnow! But this definitely fell into that category. You’ve got to love a 5-ingredient recipe, and especially one that involves bacon and an oozy egg yolk on top.

I pretty much followed her instructions to the letter. The only thing I changed was to add about half a chopped onion — it seemed wrong to make a hash without onion — and a chopped, seeded jalapeno.

I was very excited to finally use this technique for scraping corn off the cob.

The corn I got at the grocery store was surprisingly good. It costs a little more here than it does in Iowa, but it was worth it. Since we’re having what’s close to a real summer here, weatherwise, I was craving corn on the cob even before this recipe came along.

Mike and I both loved how this recipe turned out. It’s great for those breakfast-for-dinner nights. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.