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Don’t Stop the Party

Today’s second 12 Days of Oscar post is the first of this year’s nominated films.  It is also the only one of this year’s nominees with a script I know by heart.  Despicable Me 2 is nominated this year for two Oscars, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.  I was actually pretty miffed when Despicable Me got snubbed, so I was so glad to see the sequel get an Oscar nod.  Despicable Me 2 shows us what Gru’s post-supervillain life is like as he parents Edith, Margo, and Agnes and takes on a jelly making endeavor with Dr. Nefario and the minions.  He meets Lucy Wilde of the Anti-Villain League and shenanigans ensue.

As soon as I saw Despicable Me 2, I knew I had to try to recreate the tortilla chip hat full of guacamole that Gru wears at El Macho’s party.  It was easier than I thought to make the tortilla hat, and guacamole is the easiest dip to make as long as the avocados are ripe.  Everything about this guacamole from the presentation to the flavor was a huge hit at our house.

guacamole

 

 

guacamole tortilla hat

Guacamole (with Optional Tortilla Chip Hat)

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 C. finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, minced (add more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 C. chopped cilantro leaves
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • juice of one lime

Directions:

Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit (carefully whack the pit with a knife then turn to easily remove the pit).

Scrape the flesh out of the avocado with a spoon, into a mixing bowl or a mortar and pestle.

Mash the avocado slightly.

Add the onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and salt and stir gently to combine.

Add the lime juice and stir gently again to combine.

To make the chip hat, heat the oven to 400 degrees.  For the rim of the hat drape a 10″ or larger tortilla over an inverted pie plate.  Make the center of the hat by draping a tortilla over a small bowl or custard cup and trimming the excess.  Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until browned and crisp.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before filling with guacamole.

Source: guacamole recipe, The Kitchn

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The Games That We Deserved

On the final day of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Canadian men’s ice hockey team defeated Sweden 3-0 to win gold.  Host country Russia topped the medal standings at these games, with 33 total medals- 13 of them gold.  The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Today’s recipe is more Georgian than Russian per se, but it did top many lists of must-try foods for visitors to Sochi.  Like many of the recipes in this series, there are plenty of variations.  This one is essentially a loaf of bread baked with a cheese center, while others are a kind of bread boat filled with cheese and topped with an egg.  While a cheese boat seemed pretty interesting, this recipe appealed to me because of its inclusion of coriander and paprika.  I wasn’t disappointed.

khachpuri

Khachapuri

Ingredients:

for the dough:

  • 1 C. milk, scalded
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 C. unbleached flour

for the filling:

  • 2 C. Muenster cheese (or Monterrey Jack)
  • 1 C. ricotta, cottage cheese, or goat cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, if needed
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika

Directions:

Heat the butter and milk together in a small saucepan until the butter has melts.

Combine the sugar, coriander, and salt in a medium-sized bowl then pour the hot milk over the mixture.

Stir to combine and to dissolve the sugar, then set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flour to the milk mixture and stir until a rough dough forms.

Set aside for 30 minutes.

Knead the dough until it’s smooth, about 6-8 minutes by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, turn the dough to coat, and then cover the bowl.

Let the dough rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it increases in size by at least 1/3.

To make the filling, cube the Muenster and place it into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add the ricotta and process until well-combined but some chunks remain.

Add the eggs, flour, salt (if needed- taste to check as cheese can be salty enough already), pepper and paprika then pulse to mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

Divide the dough in half and cut a roughly 1 oz. piece of dough from each half.

Shape all 4 pieces into round balls and let them rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Roll out each of the large pieces into a 10-12 inch circle.

Place one circle into a lightly greased pie tin or 8-9 inch round cake pan.

Put half of the cheese mixture into the middle of the circle.

Pull the dough up around the cheese mixture, pleating and pinching into a topknot.

Leave a hole in the center of the topknot and place the small round ball of dough into this hole.

Repeat the process using the other two pieces of dough.

Cover and let rise for 45 minutes- they will be puffy but won’t double in size.

If the pleats open, pinch them shut.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes.  If you find that the bread is browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Slice the bread into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Winter Flame

In Sochi yesterday, U.S. skier David Wise won the gold medal in men’s halfpipe, an event that is making its debut as an Olympic sport at these Winter Games.  Tina Maze of Slovenia won her second gold medal of the 2014 Olympics in the women’s giant slalom.  For the first time in seventy-eight years, Norway won silver and gold medals in the men’s Nordic combined event.

The 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics are the next in the Winter Olympics series.  This year, NHL players were allowed to play on the men’s ice hockey team due to a three-week suspension of the NHL season.  Women’s ice hockey was an Olympic event for the first time in Nagano, along with curling and snowboarding.

Oyaki are a popular street food in Nagano.  These dumplings start out with a simple dough that can be stuffed with just about any filling imaginable.  They are then fried, or steamed, or baked (or some combination of the three).  Red bean paste is one popular filling, as is a seasoned ground meat.  I also saw a pumpkin and a sweet potato variation that look fantastic.  I should have plenty of opportunity to try them all because we are hooked on these things.  I made these with a simple apple filling because Nagano is also famous for its apple crops and it was like wrapping the best apple pie you’ve ever had in a soft fried dough.  I can easily see why these things are so popular- as soon as you have one, you want another.

apple oyaki

Apple Oyaki

Ingredients:

for the dough:

  • 200 g. all-purpose flour (1 1/2 C. to 1 3/4 C.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 C. water
  • oil, for cooking

for the filling:

  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, and water in a mixing bowl.

Knead with your hands until a soft dough forms, adding more flour as necessary.  The dough will have a consistency similar to pizza dough when it is right.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest refrigerated or at room temperature for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine all of the filling ingredients in a small saucepan.

Stir to combine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved, and the apple has softened.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten the ball into a circle 3-4″ in diameter.

Divide the apple filling evenly among the 8 dough circles.

Stretch the dough to wrap it around the filling and pinch to seal up the dumpling.

Pour enough oil (canola is suggested) into a skillet to just cover the bottom, and heat over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, place the dumplings into the skillet, seam-side down.

Cook for 1-2 minutes until the bottom browns, then flip over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to brown the other side.

Pour 1/4 C. water into the skillet and place a lid over the top, allowing the water to steam the dumplings.

If the dough isn’t cooked through by the time the water has evaporated, add more water and continue to steam until cooked through.

Remove the dumplings from the skillet and serve warm.

Makes 8 dumplings.

Source: dough adapted from Macrobiotic Kitchen

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Fire in Your Heart

In Olympics news yesterday, Steven Holcomb and Steven Langston won the U.S. its first two-man bobsleigh medal since 1952, a bronze.  Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first-ever U.S. gold medal in Olympic ice dancing.  The U.S. women’s ice hockey team beat Sweden 6-1 and will face Canada for the gold medal.

Day twelve of the Sochi Olympics brings us to the thirteenth installment of our Winter Olympics feature.  Today we look at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.  These Winter Games were the first to not be held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, and the first to be held just two years after the previous Winter Olympics.  U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won a silver medal in the ladies single skate, just seven weeks after an incident in which she was clubbed in the knee by an associate of her rival Tonya Harding (who finished eighth in the event).

Today, to celebrate Norway, we have skoleboller.  Skoleboller are a bun, filled with vanilla custard, then frosted and sprinkled with coconut.  Apparently, you can find skoleboller (or “school buns”) at school cafeterias, coffee hours, grocery stores, and birthday parties all over Norway.  After making them, it’s not hard to see why.  These are as fun to eat as it is to say “school-ah-bowl-air.”

skolleboller

Skoleboller

Ingredients:

for the buns:

  • 2 C. milk (preferably whole), lukewarm
  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast.
  • 1/2 C. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 6-7 C. all-purpose flour

for the custard:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 3/4 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

to finish:

  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 C. shredded coconut for topping

Directions:

In a large bowl, or the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk.

Add the melted cooled butter, sugar, cardamom, and 5 C. of the flour to the milk and mix well.

Slowly add more of the flour until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes until a smooth soft dough is formed.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, make the custard.

To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly.

Whisk in the vanilla.

While the custard mixture is at a simmer, add the cornstarch a little at a time, whisking briskly as you add it.

Allow the cornstarch to dissolve and for the custard to thicken, stirring constantly.

Let the mixture simmer and thicken for 3-5 minutes.

Pour the custard mixture into a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice water bath to cool completely.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 12-14 evenly sized balls of dough.

Form each dough ball into an evenly round and flat bun.

Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking sheet with at least 1 inch of space between them.

Cover the buns with a clean dish towel and allow them to rise again for 20 minutes.

While the buns are rising, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the final rise, use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the center of each bun.  A soup spoon is a good size, and press down almost all the way to the bottom of the bun but do not press all the way through.

Place a generous spoonful of the custard into the center of each indentation.

Bake the buns for 10-12 minutes until they are slightly brown on the top and the egg custard is just starting to set.

Allow the buns to cool on a wire rack.  The custard will set as the buns cool.

Once the buns are cool, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar and water together.  The glaze should be white and should drizzle on but not be runny.  Add more sugar or water as needed to reach the correct consistency.

Spoon glaze around the bun, avoiding the custard center.

Sprinkle on or dip the bun into the coconut, being careful not to ruin the custard center.

Source:  The Transplanted Baker

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Just a Dream Away

In Olympics news yesterday, Yuzuru Hanyu won gold in the men’s figure skating competition winning Japan’s first men’s figure skating gold medal.  In the women’s skeleton event Noelle Pikus-Pace of the U.S. won silver, ending an incredibly emotional career on a high note.  The U.S. men’s curling team beat Germany 8-5, but was defeated by Russia who won by one point.

Today is day seven of our Winter Games feature, and that brings us to the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics.  These were the first Winter Olympics held in a Communist state.  At these Olympics, British figure skating pair Torvill and Dean earned perfect scores for artistic expression in the free dance portion of the ice dancing competition.  This has not been accomplished since.  U.S. skier Bill Johnson became the first American man to win a downhill skiing event when he won gold in the downhill competition, and he was also the first skier from outside the Alps to win an Olympic downhill event.

sarajevo burek

Depending on where you get it, burek goes by many variations of the name.  In Sarajevo, it’s called burek and it’s pretty popular.  Burek is essentially a flaky pastry (such as filo or yufka dough) surrounding a meat, cheese, or vegetable filling (or some combination of the three).  These are tasty as a meal or a snack, and incredibly easy to make.  To make these, you can use packaged filo dough or make your own dough.  Either method is equally time-consuming, but to make the dough yourself you will need a very large work space (think kitchen table sized) so you can stretch the dough out as thin as you need to.

sarajevo burek open

Meat Burek

Ingredients:

for the dough (or use store-bought filo dough):

  • 3 C. instant blending flour (such as Wondra)
  • 1 1/3 C. warm water
  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. vinegar
  • pinch of salt

for the filling:

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • chili powder, to taste (optional)

Directions:

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, water, oil and vinegar in a mixing bowl, using your hands to knead the ingredients together.

Knead for a few minutes until the dough begins to form, adding a small amount of flour if necessary.

When the dough has formed, remove it from the bowl and slap it against the counter about 25-30 times to break down the gluten and make the dough more elastic.

Return the dough to the bowl and continue to knead it normally for about 10 minutes, until you see little air bubbles starting to form or until it stops sticking to the dish.

Sprinkle flour over the dough, cover with a clean towel, and let it sit for about an hour.

Put a clean table cloth (I suggest either a vinyl one that can be easily wiped down/ washed/ parted with or a cheap plastic disposable one) onto your table and sprinkle flour over it.

When the dough is ready, flip it out of the bowl onto your hands and use the back of your hands to gently stretch the dough slightly. Be very careful not to snag the dough on any jewelry (I suggest removing it first) or your nails- it will tear very easily.

Place the dough onto the table and coat it with a generous layer of oil, spreading the oil with your fingertips.   Let the oil absorb for 5-10 minutes.

Use your fingertips to gently stretch the dough toward you, lifting one side of the dough with your palms.  Do this to stretch the dough until you can nearly see through it.  Continue around the table until all of the dough has been evenly stretched this thin.  If your table isn’t big enough, see if you can get the dough to drape over the edges.

*If you are using store-bought dough, you can skip to here.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare the meat filling by mixing together the meat, onion, and spices.

If you have made your own dough, you will distribute the meat mixture evenly around the edge of the dough, around the table.  Leave a gap a few inches wide without any meat mixture on it.  Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the dough from the center to the edge where you have left a gap.  Eventually you will have one very long thin roll that circles the edge of the table.  If you are using store-bought filo you will make individual size portions.  Start by spreading the meat mixture evenly down the long end of 10 sheets of filo dough.

If you are using the homemade dough, work your way around the table gently rolling the edges in toward the center (like you are rolling a giant circular jelly roll).  As you go, you will need to continue cutting the dough until you eventually have two long rolls.  If you are using filo dough, roll each sheet up starting from the long edge where you put the meat mixture.

Spread oil on a baking sheet.

If you are using homemade dough, cut the long piece evenly into 8 pieces and coil them up like snakes.  Coil them up in the same fashion if you are using filo dough.  Place the coils on the prepared baking sheet and brush them with oil.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the outside is golden brown and the meat mixture is cooked.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: adapted from  The Domesticated Feminist

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Cheese In The Face

I’m a spectator for all seasons.  Football takes me from fall through the winter.  Hockey gets me from winter to spring.  Baseball gets me from spring to fall.  We just caught a game at Yankee Stadium with friends last weekend, and we have tickets to see the New Britain Rock Cats play baseball this weekend.  The Connecticut Whale are fun to watch, and we love that tickets to see our local college’s women’s hockey team are a bargain at two dollars a game.  No matter what sporting event we take the kids to see, I suspect they’re not really there for the on-field or on-ice action.  Last summer after five innings of baseball, the thing that most excited O was a controversial race between mascots dressed as a doughnut and an iced coffee. The iced coffee knocked over the doughnut, Tonya Harding style, and O’s account was akin to something you’d see on CNN.  Then there are the concession requests.  The kiddos become bottomless pits when there are vendors milling about yelling “Peanuts! Popcorn!”  We do try to limit the amount of junk food we buy when we’re at these sporting events but a guilty pleasure here and there always makes it to our seats.  O gravitates toward popcorn, which he shovels in by the handful like he’ll never have popcorn again.  M’s number one request at any sporting event (or pretty much on a daily basis) is nachos.  She is like a moth to a flame when she sees that  neon orange cheese product squirted all over tortilla chips.  Even better when the cheese is on the side for dipping, but she doesn’t get fussy about presentation.  It’s not a sporting event for M unless there’s a boat of nachos.

I wondered if nacho cheese sauce at home could possibly compare to a stadium’s neon orange liquid cheese product, and if I could make it without a ton of work or resorting to that popular “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”  Turns out, the answer is “yes.”  This won’t help when we’re out at a ballgame this summer, but when a nacho craving hits while we’re at home we have an easy solution.  Five ingredients, a little stirring, and you have a smooth and delicious topping for pretty much anything.  I don’t recommend low or reduced fat cheese for this, because it doesn’t melt like its full-fat counterpart.  I also recommend shredding or grating the cheese yourself (as I do for any recipe calling for grated or shredded cheese) because pre-shredded cheese has stabilizers in it that keep it from melting the same way as when you shred your own.  The original recipe calls for pepper Jack cheese, but I used just cheddar to keep it as close to that bright orange stuff M stares at wide-eyed as they pour it onto her chips.  I used some corn tortillas that I had after making chicken taquitos and baked them into tortilla chips for dipping.  It could also be used to top a baked potato, poured over hot dogs, or to kill a craving for some cheese fries.  I may have created a monster . . . .

nacho cheese sauce

Nacho Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (or 4 oz. cheddar and 4 oz. pepper Jack)
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk, divided (I used 2% and it worked great)
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce (more or less to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine the shredded cheese and cornstarch, tossing to evenly coat.

Stir in 1 C. of the evaporated milk and turn the heat to medium-low.

Stir in the salt and hot sauce.

Cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened, smooth, and bubbling.

Stir in additional evaporated milk as desired for a thinner consistency.

Makes about 2 cups.

Source: slightly adapted from Kitchen Simplicity, originally from Serious Eats

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