December 20, 2008

Fine by me.

I’m hoping to get to the gym today, though it might not happen because this is the official 2008 Manning-Call holiday baking weekend.

What’s on tap? Well, Dan made his oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies last night. If I can get him to dictate the recipe, I will post it. He’s been making them since he was a kid.

Two from the December issue of Food & Wine:

Sugar-Crusted Chocolate Cookies


Butterscotch-Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars

Finally, we’ll use up leftover egg whites (from all the times we made mayo and froze the whites) in meringues. I’m not sure what recipe I’ll use, but if you have one that yields a crisp exterior and still-a-bit-marshmallowy-and-soft interior, please tell me. I hate a rock hard meringue.


Happy Hour at Home

December 19, 2008

I can’t lie: I like going out for happy hour. But it is fun to do it at home from time to time (like today when Dan got home early on a Friday.)

What’s happy hour without a killer snack? Since election night, I’ve been on a gougeres tear, making these happy little cheese puffs by the three-dozen and stashing them in the freezer for when it’s unexpectantly necessary to celebrate. Here’s the recipe:

1 cup water

1/2 stick butter (unsalted, please)

2 heavy pinches kosher salt (divided)

1 cup flour (All purpose, of course)

4 large eggs

1 cup grated cheddar, packed (like as much as you can squish in your cup)

1 cup grated Romano, packed (ditto–unless you don’t like cheese)

Preheat the over to 425.

Prepare two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. (Actually, never mind, if you don’t have silpats, buy them, silly. If you are contemplating making gougeres you know you need them.)

Over medium high heat, bring the water, butter and one heavy pinch salt to a boil. Turn the heat low, add the flour, and mix–vigorously–until it looks shiny like a dough and you see no raw-looking flour patches. Less than five minutes.

Unless you are very strong, break out your stand mixer. Spoon the dough in the mixer, turn it on low, and beat the eggs in one at a time until it’s all pretty well incorporated. (Chef friends: Is it supposed to get perfectly smooth? Because for me, it’s pretty lumpy.)

Turn mixer to low, and stir in your cheeses just until combined.Plus, another good pinch of salt. And pepper, if you are Dan. I don’t really like pepper in these.

Now, what you really should do at this point is call my sister. She makes these incredibly perfect (yet not compressed) rounds using the quenelle-two spoons method, which I somehow taught her not knowing how to do it myself.

You don’t know Jill? OK, try to make reasonably round teaspoon-sized shapes and drop them onto your silpats. And don’t compress them.

Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and delicious. Please don’t eat more than three. (Unless Obama is in the middle of winning the election.) That wouldn’t be healthy. These freeze really well for at-home happy hours whenever you want you.

Motivated by Cabbage

December 19, 2008

Really, what situation can not be improved by going to the gym? Earlier today, my productivity outlook seemed bleak. But then I read this little article/recipe in the NY Times and motivation seized me. Since I’m out picking up a head a cabbage, might as well go to the gym anyway, right? Now–cabbage in hand, workout done–I feel like a new person.

I like these Recipes for Health that run in the Times, though I typically devise a way to make them more delcious and a little less healthy. I plan to turn this vegan lentil/potato/cabbage stew into a lentil/chorizo/extra potato/cabbage stew that even my cabbage-hating husband will like.

Stay tuned … my version of this dish is likely to become next week’s Meat Lite recipe on Serious Eats.com.

Nutty Pasta

December 18, 2008

When I eat dinner at home, I usually have a pretty small serving of something and feel completely satisfied. Last night’s dinner had some fattenting ingredients (oil, nuts, pasta) but I just had a small plate’s worth. It was hearty and really good, so here’s the recipe:

1/2 pound whole wheat pasta (I like the Bionaturae Organic 100 percent whole wheat chiocciole. Honestly, it tastes really good, not like when whole wheat pasta first came out. And the nutty wheat flavor complements the nut-based sauce.)

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup walnuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, minced.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Put the nuts in a food processor and chop them very fine. Set aside. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat; add the nuts, garlic and a heavy pinch of salt, stirring frequently. Take it off the heat when you can smell the garlic get fragrant and the nuts get toasty, about five minutes.

Boil the pasta according to the package instructions and save about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before you drain it.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the nut sauce and parsley. Stir, adding the cooking liquid 1 tablespoon at a time until it looks saucy and creamy. You probably won’t use it all.

For me and Dan, this is a 3-serving recipe. We both ate it for dinner, and he has it for lunch today. I just crunched the numbers. That’s 487 calories per serving. When you add in my one glass of malbec (150) and and mug of 2 percent hot chocolate (about 200), it’s an 837 calorie meal. Perhaps that hot chocolate wasn’t that great of an idea.

312 Calorie Lunch

December 16, 2008

I’m always trying to come up with easy lunches that I can make just for myself. I’ve been whipping up soccas–flatbreads made of chickepea flour, water, salt and olive oil–since reading this Bitten blog back in May. The blog offers substitutions for the chickpea flour, saying that its a little hard to find. It might be; I don’t know. I’ve just been throwing a cup of plain dried chickpeas into my  blender and letting it rip until the chickpeas have turned into a floury dust. Then I mix it up with a cup and a half of water, salt to taste (yes, I stick my finger in the batter and taste it for salt). In the meantime, I put a 12-inch cast iron skillet in an oven preheating to 450. I also thinly slice a shallot if I have one. When the oven is  ready, I put two tablespoons of olive oil in the smoking hot pan, then the sliced shallot, and then I pour the batter in and bake it for about 40 minutes. I pull it out of the oven and eat half.

I’ve always been afraid this was a super high calorie lunch, but to my huge relief a whole cup of chickpea flour has only 356 calories. (It also contains 20 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber.) Two and half tablespoons of olive oil clocks in at 239 calories. A shallot? Only 29 calories. So the whole flatbread has 625 calories and I only eat half–that’s 312. Less than a lot of “diet” frozens meals, this flatbread is full of good healthy stuff and really filling. Not to mention, delicious. And dirt cheap.