Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spanish Tortilla
















I have a special love for leftovers because they give you so much inspiration to make something new.  The other night I made some roasted red and purple potatoes and I made too many. Since I hate wasting food and I don't usually like recooked potatoes, I had to find the right way to repurpose them. Looking around the fridge, I found 6 eggs and so I grabbed an onion and made a Spanish Tortilla, which is really more like a Fritata. It is not what you make into a taco shell as that is a Mexican Tortilla. Anyway, it's one of the dishes I enjoyed most in the Tapas bars in Spain and I usually ate it lukewarm.  I've made it many  times since. However, I usually use raw potatoes and they take a lot longer to cook and if you decide to start off making this with raw potatoes, cook them first in olive oil and add the onions only when the potatoes are nearly done or the onions will burn. Using already cooked potatoes makes this dish extremely fast. It's a very comforting food and makes a lovely brunch offering or can be part of a light lunch and is especially good when served with a salad - I made a kale one with red peppers.


Spanish Tortilla


3 cups cooked potatoes, diced
3  Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion minced
6 eggs, beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional:  1 cup diced ham or Spanish Chorizo sausage

Heat oil in a 10 inch (non stick) frying pan.  Add the onions and cook until just translucent. Add the potatoes and cook until they brown slightly. Add the chorizo and ham (if using). Pat the potato mixture flat and pour over the egg mixture.  Cook until top is just set. Season with salt and pepper. Using a large plate, invert the pan so that the Tortilla is upside down on the plate. Then slide the Tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side until it is brown. Slide onto a plate and season with salt and pepper again. The Tortilla can cut into wedges and can be served hot or lukewarm.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes belong to the Earth Element so that element is fully represented. Eggs bring in the Water Element and the ham or sausage would add even more.  The onion adds the Metal Element. For a balanced meal, you need to add a Wood and Fire food, which is why my salad was made with kale and red peppers.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dark Chocolate Mint Crinkles
















This is the other cookie recipe I promised you that is one of the kinds of cookies that I make every Christmas. I used to make them with vanilla extract, but then realized that mint would make it into a cookie I would like even more and I like dark chocolate better than the traditional bittersweet chocolate that is usually used.  So I have made it that way for many years now and it is always a big success. This is the first cookie that gets cleaned out on the cookie plate, so if you have some chocolate lovers in your family, you need to make this cookie!


Dark Chocolate Mint Crinkles

8 ounces of Dark Chocolate (use your favorite candy bar) melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup Dutch process Cocoa Powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) butter
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed tight
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Peppermint Extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup Powdered Sugar for rolling cookies in

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop the Dark Chocolate into little pieces and melt in a heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler).  Set aside to cool.

Mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in one bowl. In a larger bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs and Peppermint extract and beat until mixed thoroughly.  Add melted chocolate.  Add dry ingredients in with milk until just mixed. Refrigerate for two hours or even overnight.  When ready to bake, use a spoon to scoop up dough to make walnut sized balls rolling between your hands.  Roll in powdered sugar and place 2 inches apart on a Silpat or Parchment lined baking pan.  Cook until the sugar splits and the cookies have flattened slightly - about 12 - 15 minutes. 

Five Element Analysis

Chocolate belongs to the Fire Element so that element is clearly represented.  The wheat flour adds in the Wood Element. The eggs contribute the Water Element and the Peppermint Extract and milk bring in the Metal Element.  The Earth Element is found in the brown sugar and powdered sugar.  So, this is actually considered a balanced cookie!  Now that doesn't mean that you should eat them instead of a meal, but how delightful to find balance in a dessert!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Russian Tea Cakes



















My sons told me that it wouldn't be Christmas without the cookies that I always make and they have requested that I post this recipes on my blog as this is one of their absolute favorite cookies and they actually want to know how to make them. The other cookies that I usually make are already on this blog and were posted in years past and there is another one I will post tomorrow. And next year, I plan on trying some new recipes too.

These Russian Tea Cakes are made with finely chopped walnuts. If you used Hazelnuts and made them into crescent shapes, they would then claim to be from Austria, Switzerland or Germany and be called Vanillakipferle. Then, if you use pecans, they would suddenly become Mexican Wedding Cakes.  Funny how one recipe with one exchange can be called so many different names. There are also so many recipes and frankly, they are all really similar.  In any case, they are all really good with whatever kind of nuts you choose to use!

Russian Tea Cakes

1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup additional powdered sugar (for rolling)

Cream together butter and powdered sugar.  Add vanilla extract and mix well.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and walnuts.  Combine with the butter mixture and stir with your fingers until combined and they dough holds together.  Push into a ball and cover and refrigerate until cold - about 1/2 hour.  Then make walnut sized balls and place on Silpat or Parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until bottom edge is lightly browned. Take out of oven and cool slightly.  Roll in powdered sugar and put on a plate.  Before storing and serving, roll in powdered sugar again.

Five Element Analysis

I think these are actually some of the healthier cookies to make as the finely chopped nuts are really nutritious and they belong to the Water Element so that element is covered and the butter and vanilla extract adds even more. The wheat flour brings in the Wood Element and the powdered sugar adds the Earth Element. The only element that is missing is the Fire Element so for a good Five Element Cookie break, serve these with a Fire beverage like coffee or tea, which are the perfect accompaniment for these not too sweet cookies.   

                               

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Danish Sugar Potatoes





















I love different traditional holiday foods and one that I found particularly fascinating this year was Danish Sugar Potatoes. When I first read about them, I didn't think I'd like them, but I found I really loved them after I ate them alongside an amazing Danish Roast Pork with very crispy skin, delicious Roast Duck and a delightfully sweet and sour Red Cabbage dish that were all served for Christmas Eve. Can you tell how much I loved this meal?  And the big surprise was how much I enjoyed this dish.  One taste and I was sold! These potatoes were so good and they were really easy to make. This recipe can certainly be doubled or triple for a group. I really think you should try this dish as you will be surprised by how much you like them too!

Danish Sugar Potatoes

15 small new potatoes
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons Salted Butter
2 Tablespoons Water

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender (check with a sharp knife) for about 20 minutes.  Remove and drain and allow to cool slightly and then peel them.

Put sugar in a large frying pan and cook, without stirring - just swirling until the sugar melts and gets caramelized and golden brown.  Stir in the butter and water and add potatoes.  Cook until the potatoes brown, which will take about 5 minutes.

Five Element Analysis


This is really a completely Earthy dish, which is why it is a good choice as a side for Roast Pork, which is a Water Element food and Duck, which is also a Water meat. Potatoes are a very grounding Earth food and they strengthen the yin of the body, which often gets depleted during the craziness of the holidays. However, in order to have a balanced meal, be sure to serve a Wood vegetable and bring in some more Fire and Metal foods too.  But this is a really good side dish when you need to add more Earth to a meal and I think you will enjoy eating it and enhancing your yin too!



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Armenian Dolmades














This is one of those recipes that I forgot to post. I had some friends over a few weeks ago for dinner and made Middle Eastern foods. One of the dishes that was featured was stuffed grape leaves in the Armenian style that I learned years ago from my part Armenian Mother-in-law. I never really got the exact recipe because that wasn't the way she cooked, but I watched and helped many times until I figured out how to make it myself. There are a couple of differences in this kind of stuffed grape leaves.  First of all, it has lamb and rice and it is cooked in a tomato sauce. The predominant seasoning is Allspice and the Dolmades are made pretty fat. Forget about making those beautiful little cigarillo shapes that are so well done by the Turkish. This is hearty food and comes from Gaziantap. Also, the grape leaves sold in the store never put enough in one jar, so you will have to buy two. You will only use part of the second jar so be sure to reserve the liquid so you can put the leftover grapes leaves back in. And, a good use for them is to wrap fish and cook it or to stuff it with rice and serve with a lemon sauce. 

In any case, this dish can certainly be doubled, which is why it is so good for a party, but then I usually cook it in a baking dish in the oven so that the dolmades don't get unwrapped when you stir.  It is very likely that some of the bottom Dolmades will stick so don't be alarmed if they do or if they even break apart in the sauce. This is a very rustic dish! This is a favorite food of my son Stephen and it became a good teaching experience as he helped me get them ready to cook. It is actually a simple recipe and the only secret is using Uncle Ben's Converted Rice. I've tried regular rice and the cooking time required and the texture of the rice just wasn't as good. The other tip  It is one of those dishes that can be cooked ahead and reheated which makes it wonderful for a party.

Armenian Dolmades

1 lb ground lamb
1 1/2 cups Uncle Ben's Converted Rice
1 small onion, grated
2 teaspoons ground Allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 jars of grape leaves, leaves removed, separated and the extra bit of stem trimmed off each leaf
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large can whole tomatoes
1 14 1/2 can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
Additional 2 teaspoons Allspice
1 - 2 teaspoons additional salt
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar

In a large bowl, mix together the ground lamb, rice, onion, Allspice, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Then on a large cutting board, lay out one grape leaf at a time and put in about 2 Tablespoons of the lamb mixture in the middle. Pull in the sides of the grape leaves and put over the lamb and then roll tightly from the bottom to make a fat half cigar shape. Put aside and continue until all of the lamb mixture is used up.

In a large pot, heat olive oil and put in garlic and stir until you can smell the garlic fragrance.  Put in canned tomatoes and chop up with the spatula. Then add the tomato sauce and chicken broth, Allspice, sugar and a small amount of salt. Taste and adjust salt and sugar. Gently place all the grape leaves in the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. Cut one open and taste the rice (don't worry the meat will already be cooked). If the rice is still crunchy, stir the pot very gently with a spatula around the sides of the Dolmades and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Serve in a big wide bowl and with additional steamed, buttered rice if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Lamb and tomatoes belong to the Fire Element so this is considered a Fiery dish.  The rice, onion and Allspice contribute the Metal Element. The grape leaves and the olive oil represent the Wood Element so that element is covered too. The only elements not present are the Water Element and the Earth Element so make sure that you serve this with a Watery food - we served an eggplant dip to start and also an Earthy food - we also served a sweet dessert to create a Five Element balance.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sea Salt Caramel Sauce














You know those times when you make something that usually turns out wonderfully and perfectly, but all of a sudden it doesn't?  And then, if you hate wasting food like I do, you find an entirely new way of using it?  Well, that's how I came up with this Caramel Sauce for Brownies.  I was in the mood to make some Salted Caramels. I had even visited Michael's to buy some special precut Christmas foil to wrap them in. I've made Caramels dozens of times from an Epicurious recipe and they always turn out perfectly, but this time they simply did not!  I blame this malfunction on an old candy thermometer that just couldn't get the temperature right, but I'm so happy that this recipe didn't turn out the way it was supposed to because I got something else that may be more wonderful instead. But, if you want to make this recipe into candy, just double it and get it to 248 degrees - then cool, cut and wrap in 4" waxed paper pieces. But I loved it just the way it turned out and next time I make it, I think it would make a divine dessert dip for fruit like apples or strawberries.



I love Caramels and sometimes indulge in buying Fran's, which are President Obama's favorite candies, but they cost a lot and Caramels are really simple to make at home.  The only hard part is waiting until they get to the right temperature and if you don't go high enough, they will be too soft as it happened with this recipe.  Being an adaptive person, I discovered another way to use this batch of Caramels that became a thick sauce rather than a candy and I had just baked a batch of brownies.  I am currently very fond of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free brand, which has won a lot of taste tests even over regular brownie mixes and that's what I made. of course you can make your own, but it is one of those things that I never make from scratch.  And, I think that this Caramel Sauce made them the best brownies ever!  You've got to try this recipe if you love Caramels and I think it would be great as a sandwich cookie filling too.

Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

1 cups heavy cream
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons high quality sea salt – I used Maldon's
1 ½ cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Butter the bottom of an 9x9 inch square baking pan. Bring cream, butter and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring and gently swirling the pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Carefully stir in cream mixture - it will bubble up a lot. Then simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 240°F on a candy thermometer. It will take from 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours.  Spread on cooled brownies.

Five Element Analysis

This is clearly an Earth food as it is so sweet, but the cream does add the Metal Element and the Butter contributes a bit of Water. This sauce, when put on top of Brownies gets the addition of more sweetness so it is still a very Earthy food! But, the chocolate in the Brownies brings in the Fire Element and the wheat flour (if using a normal brownie recipe) would make this an almost balanced dessert. Since I was using a mix that was made of rice and tapioca flours, it added more metal and I needed to make sure that I added the Wood Element somewhere else. And if you use this sauce with fruit, you are also adding the Fire Element with apples and strawberries.  This is a wonderful dessert sauce that adds Earth to your meal with its' wonderful creamy and rich sweetness.  


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Carrot Ginger Soup














I've been cooking some lately, but I haven't been posting at all. Now that my travel schedule has ended for the year, I will post some of the things I did cook and some of the new things when I cook them - I promise! Last week in Seattle, while I was there for just a few days, it was stormy and bitterly cold and I just couldn't get warm. So, I did what I always do in cold weather - I made soup!  I have to admit that I was also very short on groceries as I hadn't shopped yet after returning from Vancouver.  So, it was time to scrounge in the vegetable bin to find something - frankly I was willing to use anything that could be thrown into a pot with some broth.  I decided to make a Carrot Ginger Soup as I had lots of carrots and used Coconut Milk and Chicken Broth from the cupboard.  I always have ginger on hand as it keeps well for a long time.  I put in a lot of ginger and I would tone that ingredient down if you are not as big a fan as me. But, ginger has a very warming effect on the body as it is very pungent and it is an incredibly good food for digestion. Along with that, carrots are very grounding and soup just makes your spleen and kidneys happy, which is just the organs I needed to help as they were suffering from too much traveling. I added just a bit of sugar because the carrots were not very sweet and I thought the soup needed it. This soup took just minutes to make and I was really pleased about how it turned out.  It was creamy and soothing and nurturing and energizing all at once -  I definitely became warm from the inside out!


Carrot Ginger Soup

1 - 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 small onion, minced
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in small pieces
2 Tablespoons Butter
2  cups Diluted Chicken Broth (1/2 chicken broth and 1/2 water) or Vegetable Stock
1 can Coconut Milk
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt butter in a soup pot, add in onion, ginger and carrots and cook until you can start smelling the fragrance of the ginger and the onions are softened. Add in chicken broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add in sugar if necessary and salt and pepper. Take off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree.  

Five Element Analysis

As a soup, this is automatically a Water Food, but it is made mostly of carrots and they belong to the Earth family of foods, so that element is covered. Onions, ginger and coconut milk come from the Metal Element so that element is strongly represented too. The broth is made of chicken so that adds just a bit of the Wood Element and that element needs support and the Fire Element is missing except for the tiny amount of pepper. So, to make this a balanced meal, serve it with some Wood and Fire foods.  We served it with a spicy cucumber salad and Chinese onion pancakes to create that balance.