Don’t sweat it, it’s cucumber soup!

After that long, brutal winter here on the East coast, summer is almost, almost, upon us, friends. As much as I hate the cold, I love winter foods. There’s simply nothing as soothing as stewed meats, and soups. Heck, I’d have a big bowl of beef noodle soup in the middle of August in DC, with or without air conditioning. But. There’s really no need to sweat it. (Sorry,)

Several years ago I discovered cold cucumber soups. There’s several varieties with more or less the same ingredients of cucumber, herbs and plain Greek yogurt. It’s one of the few things I make that takes almost no time at all, and tastes like I’ve spent hours preparing. The flavors are refreshing yet complex, especially if you add a few pepper flakes.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

Ingredients:

4 cups of diced cucumbers, seed removed

1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt. (For the keto-conscious I recommend Fage’s 5%)

⅓ cup fresh dill

⅓ cup parsley or cilantro

A pinch of thyme

3-4 cloves of garlic

A few red pepper flakes (optional)

⅓ cup olive oil

Enough truffle oil to drizzle on later

Salt and pepper

Equipment:

1 large mixing bowl

1 immersion blender

Instructions:

Take all your ingredients, except truffle oil, salt and pepper. Blend in large mixing bowl until smooth. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a tiny drizzle of truffle oil on top. Use whatever leftover herbs as a garnish.

That’s it. Promise.

Enjoy!

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A simple, little bone broth

I started life in mainland China back in the late 70s.  Luckily, I was born after the major hard times of famine and strife.  Food was still rationed, though.  Meat was especially scarce.  Therefore, every bit of meat was precious, down to the bones.  So my family, and everyone else like us, learned to cook to ensure nothing was wasted, and every thing tasted good. 

Bone broth was a staple in our diet.  Who knew we were ahead of the food trend by, like, decades.  

I still cook using a lot of those old customs. For example, I prefer meats with bones.  It doesn’t matter if I’m preparing chicken, beef, pork or venison.  Bones impart natural flavor to any roast or stew.  After hours of slow roasting, those bones slides right off the meat to be tossed into a pot of cold water for a nice broth.  

Add anise, garlic, slices of onion (green and/or white), and a few slices of ginger to the pot of water and bring the whole thing to a boil.  Then immediately lower the heat and let it simmer for a few hours until it turns a golden brown.  The longer it cooks, the richer the broth.  I’ve cooked broth for a whole day using this method, so the time really depends on how intense you like your broth.  But the stovetop method should yield broth after 2-3 hours.

Once that golden color is achieved, pour the finished product through a strainer into a clean bowl before serving.  

I don’t mind the oil at the top of the broth, but it can be easily skimmed off the top once the broth boils.  Or you can wait till the broth is done, strain it into a container, and let the whole thing chill in the fridge. Remove the layer of white solids from on the top before using the broth however you’d like.

Yes, you can use a slow cooker to make broth.  It may take a day or two, but should yield similar results.  

What happened if you just have a piece of raw bone with very little meat?  First of all, don’t worry about any bits of meat and gristle.  I bake the entire bone on a foiled cookie sheet, with a light drizzle of oil, at 350 F for about 30 minutes.  Then, toss it into the pot of cold water with seasoning as recommended above.  

I just think the flavor is deeper and more robust when the bone is roasted a bit first. 

Bone broth can be enjoyed as is. Or it can be stored, frozen, to be used in soups.

This is how I store frozen soups and broths, to be used later. I’m obviously not the most organized.

It happens to be my favorite braising liquid. 

It takes a few steps to get a great broth, but I love the flavor more than store bought.  I think you will too.

Enjoy!

New kitchen toy!

Hi friends! 

What a better way to get back into food blogging than with an entry on my new kitchen gadget.  

Now many of you have had a stand mixer for decades.  So it would seem after talking to all my fellow home chef friends. I’m simply someone who got use to cooking a certain way, without gadgets and gizmos. But we must all embrace the future.

Two year ago I got a food processor.  As of yesterday I’m the proud owner of this 30 ton beauty:

So shiny!

I’ve read somewhere that the bowl and attachment must first be cleaned with a baking soda paste that simple dish soap will not remove.  That was the first thing I did.  Luckily.

Notice how the baking soda turned grey.

Then, I strapped on a weight belt and some lifting gloves to move the thing into place.  Yes, it’s heavy!  With a 575 watt motor, I pray it will withstand the torture I’m about to put it through.  Should I give it a name?

I decided to ease into it with a simple bread roll recipe.

I’m loving the gentle purring of its motor as we went for our first spin.

Pretty effortless!


In conclusion: I should have gotten one sooner.  

A very easy lemon bar recipe

A fan favorite amongst my friends are lemon bars.  They’re ridiculously easy to make.

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened but not melted
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar


Filling:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Additional confectioners’ sugar


DIRECTION:

In a bowl, combine the flour, butter and confectioners’ sugar.  With your fingers, press into an even layer in an ungreased 8 x 8 in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.


While the crust is baking, beat eggs in a small bowl. Add the sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon juice and peel. Continue to beat until frothy.

Pour over the freshly baked crust and bake 25 minutes longer or until the top is a light golden brown. 

Let it cool for 2 hours on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before cutting.  

Now you may double the ingredients to bake into a 9 x 12 sheet, but I’m personally a fan of the crispy and crusty edges.  So I’d bake in two separate 8 x 8 pans.  Baker’s choice!  Enjoy!

Failure is eminent.

I don’t think its fair to only talk about successes in the kitchen. Recently, I had a series of failures as I tried new recipes.  Sometimes, even a tried and true recipe won’t come together for some reason or other.  I know I’ve felt discouraged by a series of failures.  Giving up just feels so tempting. Nothing anyone can say will make it less tempting if you can’t convince yourself to keep going.

This post was inspired by this dulce de leche chocolate brownie I recently attempted.  The dulce de leche came out very thin, but I insisted on using it in this brownie anyway.  I took it out of the oven after an hour and still it did not set.  One mistake followed another.  I managed to salvage the flavor of it at least.  

This brownie disaster made me think back to all my other kitchen failures and I wish I  had taken photos of each and every one of them.  It may seem trite, but I did learn so much from my mistakes that it feels a bit disingenuous not to share with you.  It ought to serve as a reminder that you may not always love your own cooking, but you’ll keep trying .  

Christmas baking challenge

I got a message from my dessert-loving friend, Lucia:

“…I have a challenge for you too… My office holiday party is on Thursday morning, and I will be coming back from travel late on Wednesday afternoon – what can I make this weekend that can freeze or keep well in the refrigerator that I can just pop in the oven Wednesday night and bring to the party Thursday morning? Chocolate chip cookies is one for sure, I’ll make the dough and have the balls ready… anything else you can think of?…”

Lucia’s right that chocolate chip cookies are the easiest treats to make ahead, freeze and bake as you need them. There’s a lot you can do with the original chocolate chip recipe to vary up the flavor and texture too.  

Here are some of my favorite make-ahead desserts:


Chocolate Chips Cookies

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1.5 cup  chocolate chips or chocolate chunks. (I sometimes combine chocolate chips with crumbled heath bar fora more interesting cookie)

**ADD additional flavoring and/or food colors for a more exciting chocolate chip cookie.  I sometimes add few tbsp cocoa powder and 1/4 tsp mint extract for a mint chocolate chip cookie. Yum!

Directions:
Mix the flour, baking soda, and cornstarch in a large bowl. (Some may add 1/2 tsp of salt.  I leave the salt out for a mildly sweet cookie)  Set aside.


In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the egg, then the egg yolk. Finally, whisk in the vanilla, along with 1/4 tsp additional flavoring, if desired. (I’ve made mint chocolate chip cookies with a bit of mint extract.)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula. Mix completely before folding in the chocolate chips. Cover or bag the dough and chill for at least 3-4 hours. You can even shape the dough into balls and freeze them in an airtight don’t for future bakin.


Take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow to slightly soften at room temperature for a few minutes.


Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.


Roll the dough into balls.  Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet until cool to the touch. Then, move them to a wire rack to cool completely.





Lemon bars


CRUST
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar


FILLING:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (you’ll taste the difference)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Additional confectioners’ sugar


Directions
In a bowl, combine the flour, butter and confectioners’ sugar. Pat into an ungreased 8-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.


For filling, in a small bowl, beat eggs. Add the sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon juice and zest.  Beat well. Pour over the crust and bake for another 25 minutes. Cool on wife rack or stove top. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before cutting.  Will keep up to a week in the fridge.





Blondies

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
**Feel free to add a half cup of chocolate chips, walnuts and/or other ingredients to make more interesting blondie.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir melted butter and brown sugar until blended. Add the egg, vanilla, almond extract (optional) and salt then stir vigorously until smooth. When the batter looks well blended, add the flour and stir until no more streaks of flour remain. Stir in chocolate chip, nuts or dried fruit (if using).

Spread the batter evenly in lined pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool then cut into 16 squares.