Lychee Syrup

29 03 2008

Just a quick ice cream topping I whipped up the other day after buying canned lychees from my favorite Asian store.  I love the flavor of lychees, and if something has lychees in it, I will usually order it (ie. lychee martinis, lychee iced tea…).  I bought a 16-oz can of lychees for a little over a dollar, and decided to make a syrup to drizzle over my vanilla ice cream.  The results were pleasant – the fruity lychee flavor was complimented by the mellow vanilla.  Yum.

  • 16-oz can of lychees
  • sugar
  • water

In a saucepan, combine lychees, and a ratio of 2:1 of sugar to water.  Gently heat mixture until sugar has dissolved and continue to heat until slightly thickened.  The results will not be super thick, but you can add cornstarch if you want a thicker syrup.  Remove from heat and cool in refrigerator until ready to serve.

In other news, I am the slowest cleaner known to man.  I will say that I am trying to get rid of a lot of clothes/books/junk I don’t use anymore, which is slightly slowing me down.  I have started a couple of crafting projects, hopefully to be posted soon.

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Coming Soon…

14 03 2008

Really, I do have crafts in the works.  In fact, I have several crafts in the works.  Unfortunately, “the works” is currently buried under 3 tons of crap in my room.  I’ve been avoiding cleaning by crafting, but now that has backfired and I can’t find any of my crafting stuff, let alone have room to work on it.

So before I begin again, I am going to clean, which is always a huge endeavor with me.  I may need to enlist the help of the boyfriend or a hazmat team, whichever is cheaper.  I also hope to find the cable for my digital camera so I can finally post the pictures of the food I’ve been making lately, in addition to the crafts.

But hopefully, I will soon be able to post about my WIPs:

  • the slouchy hat in the correct proportions and a new color
  • a crocheted necklace plus tutorial
  • mini hand-bound journals
  • fabric silhouettes
  • handmade cards

Hopefully this will help me get my butt in motion and allow me to discover the floor in my room.





Italian Night

14 03 2008

A couple of days ago, I decided I wanted to have a dinner party, and wanted to make a lot of food for not a lot of money.  I decided to make my grandmother’s red sauce and pasta, which takes a few hours to make, but not a lot of work.  I spent more money on the meatballs and braciole than I usually would, but in the end, I fed eight people for about $40, so I figure a good Italian meal for $5 a person is pretty good.  The great thing about this meal, especially for those who rarely cook or are just starting to be home chefs, is that it doesn’t take too much skill to pull off, just time and the ability to watch a pot.

Red Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 c. chopped onions 
  • 3 15-oz can tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large stock pot, cover bottom with olive oil.  Saute garlic, onions, and mushrooms until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato puree and one full can of water.  (You can add another half can full of water to get the consistency you want.)  Mix well.
  3. Add the tomato paste and one full can of water.  Mix well.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for at least two hours, with the meatballs and braciole.
  5. About a half an hour before serving, add the butter to the sauce and stir until melted.

 Serves: 12 (8 hungry adults with seconds)  Total prep time: 2-4 hours (The longer you let simmer, the more flavorful.)   Calories: 123  Total Fat: 6.6g  Saturated Fat: 2.3 g  Cholesterol: 7.8 mg  Sodium: 676.4 mg  Carbohydrates: 15.8 g  Fiber: 3.4 g  Protein: 3.1 g

Meatballs

  • 2/3 lb ground beef
  • 2/3 lb ground pork
  • 2/3 lb ground veal
  • 1 c. seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Mix ground meats together in large bowl.  Add the breadcrumbs and cheese and mix well.
  2. Form meatballs from mixture.  Brown on all sides in a skillet.
  3. When the meatballs have been browned on the outside, add to sauce and cook all the way through.

Serves:12 (2 medium-sized meatballs per serving) Total prep time: 15 minutes (plus cooking time)  Calories: 206  Total Fat: 12.5g  Saturated Fat: 4.8 g Cholesterol: 57 mg  Sodium: 331.8 mg  Carbohydrates: 7.1 g  Fiber: .4 g  Protein: 15.1 g

Braciole

  • Pre-cut braciole pieces (found in Italian markets) or flank steak pounded thinly
  • 1/4 c. seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Fresh oregano to taste
  1. Rinse and dry meat with paper towels.
  2. Spread breadcrumbs, cheese and oregano on braciole.  Roll meat up like a jelly roll and tie with twine every couple of inches.
  3. Cut meat into 2 inch sections between twine.  Brown on all sides in a skillet.  Add to sauce and cook all the way through.

Serves: 12  Total prep time: 15 minute (plus cooking time)  Calories: 133  Total Fat: 7.4 g  Saturated Fat: 3.2 g  Cholesterol: 34.8 mg  Sodium: 142.7 mg  Carbohydrates: 2.1 g  Fiber: .3 g  Protein: 13.704 g

I ended up serving this with some rosemary bread I got from my local grocery store and specialty olive oil for an appetizer, then made a quick salad with baby lettuces, tomatoes, and a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.  Friends brought over more bread (a very carbo-licious meal) and a lemon cake for dessert.

Oh yeah, and of course multitudes of wine and beer.

This is a really easy meal to make, and you can make the sauce in smaller quantities, or you can make a lot and freeze it for later dates.  This is a great basic red sauce recipe and it allows you to play around with extra ingredients to make it your own. 





Mediterranean Feast

10 03 2008

The boyfriend and I decided to cook dinner for his parents yesterday, so of course I wanted to impress them just a teeny-tiny bit.  However, since we were to be cooking at their house, I didn’t want to put on a whole, messy production, so I needed to find something relatively simple but delicious.  We decided on a Mediterranean themed meal, which ended up not taking long at all, but I thought it turned out quite well.

We had a few appetizers, including chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, some fresh vegetable side dishes, like homemade tabbouleh, and feasted on the balsamic lamb kabobs on rosemary skewers. 

Chorizo-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon

  • 1 lb bacon (I like the applewood smoked bacon)
  • smoked chorizo sausage
  • 12 fresh dates
  1. Slice the dates half-way lengthwise and remove the pits.  Cut the chorizo in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again.  Cut the chorizo into pieces that will fit into the dates and stuff them.
  2. Cut the bacon strips in half.  Wrap the bacon around the dates.
  3. In a small skillet over med-high heat, cook until the bacon is crispy.  Serve immeditately.

 Serves 4-6.  Total prep time: 20 minutes.  Calories: 193 Total Fat: 16.4 g Saturated Fat: 6.1 g Cholesterol: 25 mg Sodium: 313.5 mg Carbohydrates: 6.4 g Fiber: .6 g Protein: 5.2 g

Oven Grilled Vegetables

  • 3 mini eggplants (or 1 large)
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Slice vegetables lengthwise into thin slices.  Place in bowl with remaining ingredients.  Mix well and let marinate for 15 – 30 minutes.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Lay marinated vegetables in one layer on sheet and broil under high heat until veggies are softened and browned.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.   Total prep time: 40 minute.  Calrories: 56.6  Total Fat: 3.5 g Saturated Fat: .5 g  Cholesterol: 0  Sodium: 99.4 mg  Carbohydrates: 6 g  Fiber: 1.9 g  Protein: .9 g

Tabbouleh

  • 1/2 c. dry bulgur wheat
  • Juice from 1 1/2 lemons (separate 1 Tbsp)
  • 3/4 c. boiling water
  • 3 c. finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 scallions finely chopped, both white and green parts
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed, finely chopped
  • 2  Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a small bowl, combine dry bulgur, 1 Tbsp lemon juice and boiling water.  Mix well, then let sit for 15-20 minutes.  Taste bulgur – if not soft enough, add a bit more boiling water until softened.
  2. While the bulgur is softening, in a serving bowl, combine the parsley, mint, scallions,  and tomatoes.
  3. Drain excess water from the bulgur and add to serving bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil, the remaining lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Let sit for 10 minutes, then taste.  Add what you think is missing – usually more lemon juice or oil. 

Serves 4-6.  Total prep time: 30 minutes  Calories: 105.6  Total Fat: 5 g  Saturated Fat: .7 g Cholesterol: 0 Sodium: 121 mg  Carbohydrates: 14.5 g  Fiber: 4 g  Protein: 2.9 g

Balsamic Marinated Lamb on Rosemary Skewers

  • 1 1/2 lbs. lamb loin, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
  • 5 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Several sprigs of rosemary to use as skewers
  1. Combine all ingredients, except rosemary, in bowl, mix well, and let marinate 30 minutes.  (Obviously, the longer you marinate the meat, the more intense the flavor will be.  I wanted just a hint of vinegar, so I marinated for a short time.)
  2. Thread the lamb onto the rosemary by pushing the thick, twig-like end into the meat.  To aid this process, I first pushed a toothpick through the lamb to create a path, then I pushed it onto the rosemary.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the skewered lamb on the sheet and broil until browned on all sides, but still pink in the middle.

Serves 4-6.  Total prep time: 40 minutes  Calories: 375.7  Total Fat: 25.8 g  Saturated Fat: 12 g  Cholesterol: 80 mg  Sodium: 262.2 mg  Carbohydrates: 2.1 g  Fiber: .08 g  Protein: 19.6 g

 Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 8-oz container plain yogurt
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. minced mint leaves

Combine ingredients and mix well.  Serve with lamb skewers.

Serves 4-6.  Total prep time: 5 minutes  Calories: 25  Total fat: 1.2 g  Saturated Fat: .8g  Cholesterol: 5 mg  Sodium: 17.5 mg  Carbohydrates: 2.2 g  Fiber: .07 g  Protein: 1.3 g

The whole meal took about an hour and 15 minutes to make, especially with the help of the boyfriend, my own personal sous-chef.  It turned out pretty well, and definitely something I would make again.

I found this meal to be especially good because I ventured out into the snow the day before to the public market and got amazing deals on fresh produce.  I had never been in the winter before, but it was well worth the cold and snow.  Especially when I got my favorite guava cheese bread from the Hispanic bakery.  I may have to figure out how to make those someday…





Reuben Sandwich Recipe

6 03 2008

This past weekend I went home to Syracuse for my sister’s birthday and took her out for lunch.  After a slight mishap at the restaurant she wanted to go to, we ended up at Danzer’s, mostly for the peanut butter pie.  But I am in love with their gigantic reubens, and happily inhaled the Big Red Reuben.  I decided to try and recreate this sandwich in a homemade way.  Obviously, the easiest way to make this sandwich is to buy the rye bread and Russian dressing, but I wanted to try my hand at baking rye bread, and instead of buying a whole bottle of dressing, I simply made the amount I needed.

Rye Bread

I used the recipe found at Simply Recipes, but only made it for one loaf, and without the caraway seeds.  I found that after I had mixed all the ingredients together, the dough was still extremely sticky, and I added more white flour.  I continued to add about 3/4 c. flour while I was kneading the dough, so you may find you’ll need to add more than you had expected.  Here are the measurements I used:

  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 c. warm water
  • 1/3 c. molasses
  • 3 to 3 1/2 c. white flour
  • 1 c. rye flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/8 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/8 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

After the bread was done baking, I sliced the loaf the long way to create very wide slices.  Each of these sliced were then cut in half to make the two sides of the sandwiches.  On each half of the bread I spread a layer of dressing.

Dressing

  • 4 Tbsp. mayonaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet relish
  • 1 Tbsp minced onion

Sandwich

  • Thinly sliced corned beef
  • Swiss cheese
  • 1 1/2 c. sauerkraut cooked with 1/2 bottle of beer, until reduced
  • pickled red cabbage

On one slice, place 1 to 2 ounces of the corned beef and top with a slice of Swiss cheese.  On the other slice, put 3 to 4 Tbsp. of either the cooked sauerkraut or the red cabbage and also top with a slice of Swiss cheese.  The sauerkraut will make the tradtional reuben, but I like the red cabbage from time to time for a sweeter sandwich.

Place the slices open-faced on a broiler pan or foil-lined cookie sheet and broil on high for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is melted and is bubbling.  The sandwich can than be eaten open-faced or with the two sides placed together.

Makes 4 sandwiches.  Total prep time: 4 1/2 hrs (about 4 hrs for bread, about 20 minutes for sandwich assembly)  Calories: 432.9 Total Fat: 19.5 g Saturated Fat: 6.3 g Cholesterol: 58.5 mg Sodium: 5096.3 mg   Total Carbohydrates: 48.2 g Fiber: 2.9 g Protein: 16 g

This is a fairly simple sandwich to make, but is far more interesting than your typical meat and cheese sandwich.  While the bread takes several hours to make, due to the time it take the dough to rise, I found it well worth it and a good experience.  Of course, if you are short on time, store-bought rye bread is still good.  I do recommend making the dressing, as it is easy to do and won’t leave you with a lot of left overs.





Slouchy Hat

3 03 2008

So I had learned to crochet way back in the day, and had started on a blanket that will never be finished. When I was trying to organize my craft area in my room I came across all of my yarn and the abandoned blanket, and instead of getting rid of everything, I decided to try to crochet one more time. I looked around for a pattern that wouldn’t take forever to make, but made sure I made something I would use. I decided on Crafty Pants!’s pattern. There are times when I wish I could throw my hair into something fashionable even when it’s not looking its best.

The results were not atrocious, and actually pretty encouraging. I messed up along the lines somewhere, creating a somewhat lopsided and larger hat than the pattern actually makes. But for someone who hasn’t crocheted in six or seven years, I was satisfied.  I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease Worsted Weight in Chestnut Heather.  The color ended up looking much nicer on my sister.

slouchy side view

slouchy back view

I ended up giving this to my sister for her birthday, and she seemed to enjoy it.

tess slouchy hat

I’m definitely making another one this week, and making sure I don’t add any extra stitches. Hopefully it will look more pulled together. My hair is in desperate need of a slouchy coverup.