Saturday, December 31

Mushroom and herb couscous

Couscous, is one of the best side dishes. It is fast, easy, and can be flavored however you want. I like to accompany fish with couscous, the two pair beautifully.

This is a simple recipe, but you can try mixing your favorite vegetables in or using parmesan cheese with herbs for a great flavor.

Serves 4
Full time: 25 minutes
You will need:

1 small onion, diced fine
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups couscous
1 cups chicken stock, substitue vegetable for vegertarian recipe
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried parsely
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt

Let us begin;

In a medium pot, melt butter over medium/high heat. Add in onion and garlic

Cook for 5 minutes or until soft.

Add in mushrooms and cook for additional 10 minutes

Add in all herbs, seasoning, cook for 2 minutes

Remove from pot to a bowl

Into the pot add stock and couscous

Couscous will swell almost instantly and absorb stock. Lower heat to medium low and stir for a few minutes to cook

 Blend in mushroom mixture, cover and set aside until ready to serve, or minimum 5 mintues. Fluff with fork and enjoy

Thursday, December 29

Crab Ragoon

Crab Ragoons have always been a favorite of mine. In recent years, more and more take away restaurants are including them on their menu. Although, I do love a good take away night, I do not love the excess oil that tends to accompany it. Easy to make, easy to bake, oil free ragoons are just as yummy as their take away counterparts.

I learned to make these when in China, the mother of the family I was living with had this ability to stuff with one hand and fold with one hand. Seriously, she literally would fold and tuck the wonton wrapper with one hand while holding it. The other hand was always on the spoon she stuffed it with. I have tried this several times, never successfully, maybe you'll have better luck. If not do as I do, put the spoon down in order to close up the wrapper.

This will make 24 ragoons
Full time: 25 minutes
You will need:

24 wonton wrappers
6oz canned crab meat, drained (yes canned, it works better for the texture)
4oz neufchatel cheese
1 green onion, diced extra fine green part only
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 350

Spray 24 muffin tins with cooking spray
In a mixing bowl place neufchatel cheese and microwave for 20 sec, this will help it blend better but don't over do it.

Mix in crab, onion, mayonnaise, pepper, and salt. Whisk well to completely combine

Now, lets build a ragoon. Get a small bowl with a little water in it ready, you will need this to dip your fingers in to seal

First hold a wonton wrapper in your hand in a slight cup shape, fill with a small dollop (roughly 1-2 tsp) of cheese mixture. Don't over fill or it will leak. It will seam like a super small amount but, trust me.

Dipping your fingers into the water, moisten the corners at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. Gently move them together and press firmly

Now, moisten 3 o'clock and pull into the center and push onto previous connection

Finally, moisten 9 o'clock and bring it into the middle, press it onto original fold be careful to connect it to opposite side of 3 o'clock connection

Place finished ragoon into muffin tin

Repeat process with remaining wonton wrappers, until you have 24 ragoons ready to go

Place in oven and bake 15-18 minutes or until golden tipped and wonton feels firm.

You may have a little mixture sneak up and out, it will brown up. You can just trim it off, or leave it for the handmade "oops" too much filling look.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 28

BAKE IT: Italian Panatone

Panatone is a classic Italian Holiday favorite, it is a light and air filled bread/cake. It is filled with candied fruit bits, raisins, and holiday spirit. Classically baked in cleaned out metal coffee cans, you can easily substitute 2 large loafs pans or 4 small loaf pans. It will change your baking time slightly, but a close eye will help.

Seriously-Why go out and buy this when it is easy to make? Coming from an Italian family, panatone was always around during the holidays. I love it and so will you...

Makes 4 small panatone or 2 large
Full time: 5 hours (includes double rising times)
You will need:

3 cup flour
1/2 cup milk, set at room temp
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied fruit
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter soften , set aside 2 tbsp
1 tsp dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, set at room temp
2 egg yolks

Let us begin:

Begin by sifting all flour and salt into a large bowl. Set aside for now.

Whisk the milk and eggs together, whisk in yeast. It is very important that your milk/eggs are room temp or slightly warmer or yeast will not activate.

Add in 1/4 cup of the sifted flour, and let stand for 30 minutes.
(Photo after rest period when yeast has foamed and made mixture firm)

Add the butter (except the 2 reserved tbsp), egg yolks, and sugar into the rested mixture. Blend well

Pour in the sifted flour. Blend well. Form into a ball. Knead for 5 minutes

Let ball stand in a warm but not hot place for 2 hrs. It should double in size
Lightly grease and flour pans

Pour raisins and dried candied fruit on top, gently knead the dough and divided into pans.

Let stand covered with damp cloth in pans for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350

Melt reserved butter and brush tops of loaves
Bake for 40-50 minutes until light and fluffy inside and golden outside. If using pans other than coffee tins, watch for bread to begin to get golden on the outside and spring back when touched.

Monday, December 26

Chyches: Roasted Garbonze Beans

Chyches are a favorite of mine. I love the texture and tang of these lightly toasted and roasted garbanzo beans. Seasoned just right and enjoyed a hand full at a time, I consider these a yummy winter treat.

You can flavor them with your own seasoning blend, or a favorite seasoning blend of your families. I recommend one with a slight spice to it, the flavor will hold up better during roasting and fully seep into the garbanzo beans nicely.

Makes 2 cups Chyches
Full time: 1 hour 20 minutes (includes cooling time)
You will need:

15oz can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
2 tbsp spice blend, I use a creole blend
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 400

Drain and rinse garbanzo beans in a colander in a sink. They foam up slightly under the water, I find the best way to ensure full rinsing is to rinse until the foam stops

Once fully rinsed, lay beans out on paper towels and dry completely

Once dry, move beans to a parchment lined baking sheet

Sprinkle the spice blend over the top of the beans

Place beans into oven and set a timer for 15 minutes

When timer goes off, shake the pan to turn the beans around and spread out

Return to oven for another 15 minutes and reset timer.

Check for done-ness, they should be a nice golden brown color and firm to the squeeze. If they do not appear done return to oven and keep a close eye on them. Bake additional 5 minutes and recheck

Once done, sprinkle beans with olive oil and salt, shake pan gently to fully coat.

Let sit on sheet for 30 minutes to cool and harden slightly

Transfer to bowl and allow to fully cool, do not cover until fully cooled

Saturday, December 24

BAKE IT: Roti-Indian Style Flatbread

There are several types of flatbread throughout India, this one is my favorite ones. It is easy and simple to make. It took several bad attempts for me to figure this out, but in the end it came out perfect!

I use a flattend panini grill to make these, but it you want a more traditional cooking methond. Throw these directly on a fire for a few moments after they grill off.

This will make 6-8 flatbreads
Full time: 50-60 minutes (includes multiple cooking batches)
You will need:

4 cups rice flour, non-glutinous
1 cup water* (you may need less, see below)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Let us begin:

In a large glass bowl mix oil, salt, and garlic until they dissolve into oil

Add in flour and stir just to pull the oil off the bottom.

Now begin to add in water, start with 1/2 cup of water first. You want to add in a small amount of water then build up to the full amount, once a dough forms stop adding water. It should ball up and be easily kneadable.

Let it set aside and rest with a tea towel covering it, for anout 30 minutes

Once rested, give this a quick knead and divide into pieces the size of a clementine, keep the ones your not working with covered with the tea towel.

On a flat board spread out a very thin layer of rice flour, roll out one piece into a flat bread about 1/8" thick.

Get you griddle pan heated to 350 and add a little oil, to prevent burning.

Gently move flatbread to the griddle surface.

Close and bake for5-8 minutes or until it is golden brown

Remove to a plate and keep covered with tea towel until all are cooked. Allow to come to a complete cool before packaging. You want to prevent any excess moisture from building up during storage

Thursday, December 22

Gyung Dan: Korean Sweet Rice Balls

Gyung Dan are also known as Sweet Rice Balls from Korea. These yummy little balls are firm on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. They are extremely easy to make, using only 3 ingredients. 4 if you choose to color them. I like making mine in bright colours that match the season, event, or the meal.

Traditionally they are rolled in a coating after cooking such as sesame seeds, soybean powder, but I like mine plain. however, it is full to use sugar to coat the outside.

This will make 16 balls ( or 8 of 2 colors. Instructions in brackets)
Full time: 25-30 minutes (includes cooking in two batches and cool time)
You will need:

1 cup sweet rice flour ( For 2: 1/2 cup each)
1/2 cup boiling water (For 2: 1/4 cup each)
8 drops food coloring (For 2: 6 drops each)
1/4 tsp salt (For 2: 1/8 tsp each)

Let us begin:

In a bowl place rice flour and salt

Add in food coloring, it will not mix fully but, will make coloring easier later

Carefully add in the boiling water, a stir with spoon for a few moments until it is cool enough to touch. Then knead with your hands

It will most likely be very flaky for awhile, but keep working with it, it will soon become a smooth dough

Once dough has come together, shape into 16 (8) balls of equal size. Set on a plate to rest briefly

While these rest, bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. In a bowl place ice water alongside your cooking area

Once water is boiling, drop the balls in a few at a time until they are all in the pot

They will sink to bottom, a rise when cooked. Once they rise allow them to continue to cook for a few minutes. This should take a total of 8-10 minutes

Using a slotted spoon, remove from pot

Drop striaght into the ice water to prevent any further cooking

Let sit for 5 minutes, them remove to a lined plate to dry until you serve them. If you wish to top or coat them do so now before they dry too much

Tuesday, December 20

No Bake Milk Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Balls

No Bake Milk Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Balls, are a great cookie for the holidays. The come together rather easy, require no baking, look fancy, and can be made the same day you need them.

These great little cookie balls can easily be garnished with your favorite topping instead of crushed candy, you can use, sprinkle, or candy shots. However, I like having the garnish mimic the inside

This will make 36-48 cookies
Full time: 2 hours (includes cooling/harden time)

You will need:

8 oz cream cheese, soften at room temp
8 oz bakers semi-sweet chocolate
40 chocolate sandwich cookies
12 candy canes

Let us begin:

In a large zip top bag, place sandwich cookies. I recommend that you do this step twice, working with half the cookies at a time.

With a rolling pin, or meat tenderizer, beat the bag until the cookies are finely crushed

Repeat this with the candy canes, you want two bags of candy canes when done

In a large bowl place the room temperature cream cheese and add in the cookies

Mix until a dough forms, this is easier by hand, but a little warning-it is very sticky at first

Now blend in the first half of crushed candy canes

Line a baking sheet with wax paper and begin to form cookies.

To form cookies, roll small amounts of dough into balls. Balls should be one or two bites in size

Once all dough is used, move sheet to refrigerator for 30 minutes. This will allow the cookies to firm up slightly, the cream cheese becomes softer with handling so you really don't want to skip this step. if your short on time, pop them in the freezer for 10 minutes instead

When rest period has ended. Remove cookies from refrigerator. And set up you coating station.

In a bowl: Melt chocolate per package instructions until smooth.

On a plate: Place the second half of crushed candy canes

Drop cookies in, one at a time and roll around to fully coat. Move cookie back to sheet and sprinkle with a bit of candy cane

Once all cookies are coated, move back to refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour to fully set. (I usually do mine the day before and let set overnight.)