azriona: (Mr Morton)
Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookies (simiilar to the ones sold at Marks & Sparks)
(click the link for the recipe)

So, why I made these....

So a few days ago, I was on the Nano website and realized there's a write-in this afternoon (Sunday) being sponsored by my region about half an hour's drive away.  I haven't attended a write-in in years - probably since before Andrew was born, though I'm not entirely sure.  Definitely when we were still in NoVa, anyway.

I asked Bill if he'd mind watching both boys on Sunday afternoon, so I could go, and he said yes.  This is sort of a big thing, because he doesn't usually have both boys at once.  Maybe once every couple of weeks, for an hour or two, and he did have both of them for the entire weekend I was in Gridlock - but that's not typical.  It's not that I don't trust him - or that he doesn't trust himself, it's clear he's totally capable of everyone coming through the experience, limbs intact.

Of course, morning of, I'm having second thoughts about going.  Well, going to the write-in, that is.  It is awfully tempting to ditch the write-in, keep the cookies, and go hang at the local coffee shop for the five hours instead.

Part of this is the cookies, sure... but not all.  For one thing: I don't know anyone at the write-in.  Not that it's a big deal, I don't mind meeting new people.  But I don't know if they're going to be more of the talky sort, or of the writing sort.  I'd rather have a write-in that is actually... well, a write-in.  And I admit... the idea of having to explain Omegaverse to people who primarily live in a super conservative vote-Republican-or-go-home district sort of makes me a bit nervous.

Then there's the boys.  Charlie's nose has been running the last couple of days, but we've been chalking that up to teeth, because it's been clear and he hasn't had a fever.  Except now, Andrew's coughing and has a runny nose and his disposition has been somewhat sour, and now there seems to be something going around.  He's already got Wednesday off from school this week (Veteren's Day), so now I'm worried that he's going to end up having another day because he's sick, which means I'd have even less time to get writing done.

So it's entirely possible that in addition to being one of the first chances I've had in months to have a really nice chunk of time to which I can write (more than an hour or so) - my writing time this week is already under threat of being cut.

In short... I might really, really need these 4-5 hours to write, not to make friends.

Anyway, thoughts.  And about an hour and a half to decide.  And Charlie just woke up from a monster morning nap, which he needed.  Poor runny-nose baby.
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
So every night, as soon as the boys are down, I start having these chocolate cravings.  I wander into the kitchen, where I do not typically store chocolate things, because I am fully aware of my chocolate cravings and also my waistline.  And I’m not about to make anything super huge at 9pm because cravings wait for no bake time.  (Also, I don’t want to wake the kids, because that would defeat the purpose.)

One day, completely unrelated, I was looking for recipes on what to do with some leftover ricotta cheese.  And I found half a dozen recipes for a chocolate ricotta pudding.  “Aha,” I thought to myself.  “I know what I’m doing this evening after the boys are in bed.”

Most of the chocolate ricotta pudding recipes I found were… interesting.  Some were complicated, where you had to melt the chocolate and cook stuff, and then chill it again.  Some were a bit too crazy in the super-healthy-who-said-this-was-indulgent path.  Some were reportedly “easy”, and then called for a bunch of crazy stuff I don’t keep in my pantry anyway.

I read them all, and then did something different.

What I discovered is that Chocolate Ricotta Pudding is totally forgiving.  I tried about six or seven different combinations of ingredients, which ranged from a total of four items to seven.  I made multiple substitutions – coconut milk instead of cream, Bailey’s instead of coconut milk, chocolate syrup instead of cocoa powder, an overripe banana instead of some of the sugar.  Everything worked, with varying levels of richness, texture, and creaminess.  Basically, you can’t really screw this up, though you can certainly end up with a pudding you’ll want to continue tweaking until it meets what you expect.

So I’m going to give you the basic recipe, and then follow it up with a list of recommended suggestions and why you might want to use them.  The trick is to know what you like in a pudding, and then make the substitutions necessary to achieve it – and be prepared to continue tweaking until you’re happy.  The good thing about this pudding is that it’s fast, easy, and doesn’t require a lot of setting – if it’s runny when you’re done mixing, it’s gonna be runny after a few hours in the fridge, and the flavor won’t really change much, so you might as well continue tweaking on the spot.
Chocolate Ricotta Pudding )

Tumblr post is here.
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
I've been liveblogging my cooking on Tumblr.  It's been interesting to do, but it's a bit tricky to offer up recipes there, so I've been trying to figure out new ways of doing it that don't rely on LJ, because (a) it's hard for me to keep track of the LJ recipes so I can find them again faster later, and (b) it's also tricky to print a recipe off LJ.

<lj user=ladyprydian> suggested Google Docs, so I've been using that, and so far I like it.  But I don't have many recipes on there yet.  And of course, that means I'm not posting the recipes here, which I admit is a little sad, because my Tumblr audience is not the same as my LJ audience, so you guys are missing out on the deliciousness.

In an effort to be better about that, I give you the pie I made this afternoon for our dinner-time company: S'mores Pie

Recipe under the cut )
azriona: (cat in a box)

Strawberry Soup
Salmon Pate in Cucumber Boats

Main Courses and Sides:
Wine-Braised Pot Roast
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes with Red Onion
Garlic-Roasted Carrots
Gujarati-Style Green Beans
**Some other fresh green veggie, whatever's on sale and/or looks yummy when I do the shopping

Chocolate Mousse
Pear Vanilla Sorbet
Gingered Figs

(A lot of the recipes are from books, so I don't have links. I swear I've typed up that carrot recipe before; I just can't find it at the moment. I really wanted to make the Strawberry Mousse recipe from the latest Cooks Illustrated magazine but it involves gelatin which I think is not actually kosher for anything, much less Passover. Not like I follow strict kosher rules - note that I shall be adding milk and cream to things when I've also got meat on the table. Bad me.)

Sooooo...who's coming to dinner on Tuesday?
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
So Andrew goes through a lot of bread. A LOT of bread – he was getting through a loaf a week at one point, and since I’m picky about what I buy, it was getting ridiculously expensive. Then I found a recipe that claimed I could turn out a good sandwich bread in two hours.

Well, I do like outrageous claims, so sure, I gave it a try.

And you know? It worked!

I’ve done the recipe three times now, and it’s worked every time – even the first time, when I messed it up a little and ended up with bread that had more air pockets than sandwich bread really should have. (And even then, it just made for a really pretty grilled cheese and slightly soggier toast.)

Easy Sandwich Bread )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
I made a Boston Cream Pie this weekend for my neighbor’s birthday – it was her choice, but I was happy to oblige since it’s one of my favorites, and I haven’t had a chance/excuse to make one before. (I made Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes once, but they’re terrible fiddly and I wasn’t overly impressed with the recipe except as inspiration.)

The pie itself was pretty good – if you’re not familiar, it’s a sponge cake that’s been split in two, and then filled with a vanilla custard or cream. It’s topped with a thin layer of chocolate ganache or glaze. Utterly, completely, fantastically delicious.

But the best part of the pie was the custard, by far. The cake itself is basically a sponge cake that’s split in two – you can use any recipe you like and can make properly. (I ended up making two, because the first one required so many eggs that it came out smelling like an omelet. Tasted vaguely like one, too. The second was much better, but still nothing super special.) The topping is a bittersweet chocolate, but you can really use any chocolate frosting recipe you like, as long as you make sure the chocolate flavor is strong and spread it thin.

But the custard…mess up the custard, and there’s just no point to the pie, if you ask me.

I’m giving you two recipes for the custard – the original vanilla, baked in a 9” pie plate, and a chocolate version, which I baked in individual ramekins, because I’ll be honest and say I overbaked the vanilla, and wanted to try it again. (Bill vastly prefers chocolate over any other flavor, and I wanted to see if the basic recipe was versatile enough to switch it up a bit.)

The second chocolate version came out like a dream. But even overbaked – it was awesome stuff. It’s thick and creamy and has the consistency of clotted cream. I may have licked the bowl and the spoon after assembling the pie. Just saying.

Vanilla Custard for a Boston Cream Pie )

Chocolate Cream Custards )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
I’ve recently bought a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated, which is the magazine from America’s Test Kitchen – you know, the show on PBS where they strive to make The Perfect Whatever. After a few years of Food Network Magazine, it’s almost an entirely different world. Don’t get me wrong – my go-to source for recipes is still Food Network’s website, because I’ll find at least four different versions of whatever it is I’m looking to make, but right now, I’m really appreciated the attention to detail in Cook’s Illustrated.

(Basically, if Sherlock Holmes really was a cook, he might work for America’s Test Kitchen, or the British counterpart, if one exists. (And if one does, someone better tell me about it.) It’s totally his kind of science.)

I’ve made today’s recipe twice now, different variations, and both times with excellent results. I like fish, and Bill doesn’t, so I’m always trying to find a new way of cooking it where the flavors are strong enough to overpower the fishiness of whatever is actually on the plate. (So far, salmon and tuna are his favorites. Tilapia bores us both silly.)

Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Orange and Chipotle )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
So I'm trying to cut out as much bread and grain as I can, because apparently I am a slave to fad diet things and I heard that cutting out carbs is an easy way to lose weight (in conjunction with an otherwise healthy diet and regular exercise, yadda yadda yadda; I'm also upping my intake of fruit and veggies and trying to get to Zumba at least three times a week, if not four).

Anyway. Dinner's easy, I just don't have the rice or potatoes or whatever the starch of choice is. Breakfast took a bit of doing; I'm going through an awful lot of eggs and cottage cheese at the moment. Lunch is way trickier, because my default anything is a peanut butter sandwich. (Salad, just by itself, gets boring really fast, no matter how you dress it up.)

But I made a particularly pretty breakfast yesterday, and it seems to be my breakfast of choice most days, so here it is.

Baked Eggs )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
So I have a standing rule with Bill’s workplace that I take requests. I love requests. A few weeks ago, Bill came home with the request for snickerdoodles.

I love snickerdoodles; they were my cookie back in high school, and I made them so often I had the recipe memorized. That was twenty years ago. I don’t have the recipe memorized anymore, and when I went to look one up, I found that none of the recipes quite matched what I remembered. Not only that, the recipes were wildly different, with different ratios of butter to eggs to cream of tartar (which is a key ingredient to a snickerdoodle).

“Aha,” I thought to myself, “this is my golden opportunity to do a taste test!”

So…instead of trying to decide which one of two recipes I’d bake….I did both, hoping for two wildly different but still edible cookies. And that’s exactly what I got.

Snickerdoodle #1 (on the left) is flat and wide, but stayed soft when it cooled. It’s not very sweet and has a strong cinnamon flavor, probably because it has more cinnamon in the cinnamon sugar coating. It’s also got a higher amount of cream of tartar and a lot more butter.

Snickerdoodle #2 (on the right) is puffy and looks more like I remember – but it became very crisp when it cooled, despite its shape. It’s also much sweeter – almost too sweet to me – and has a very light cinnamon taste. I thought there was an odd aftertaste as well, which is probably attributable to the vanilla, which wasn’t present in the first cookie. But I was the only one who thought so.

I followed each recipe to the letter – well, apart from making sure the butter in #2 was softened first, which wasn’t specified but I assumed – and kept with the suggested baking times instead of shortening by a minute or two to encourage softness. Neither cookie is quite the way I remember them from high school, but they’re good nonetheless.

(Note that I'm not a scientist by any stretch: I just like baking. I'm sure someone much smarter than me is going to look at this recipes and instantly know what they'll get. That's lovely. Me, I just want it to taste good, and for me, the fun is in actually baking them.)

In the end, the workplace taste test was interesting – early in the day, most testers reported that Cookie #2 (the sweeter version) was their favorite. But by the end of the day, it was Cookie #1 that disappeared first – and keep in mind, there were more of Cookie #1 to go around. My husband’s theory is that it’s a bit like the Pepsi-Coke Challenge – in a blind taste-test, the sweeter option is almost always going to win, even if it’s the one people like on its own least.

Anyway, here are two cookies for you to try. Pick your poison, and happy baking!

Snickerdoodle #1 - Flat and Wide )

Snickerdoodle #2 = Puffy and Crisp )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
I've been making these scones for so long I have no idea where I found the recipe. I know it included poppy seeds originally; I omitted the because I don't much care for poppy seeds.

If there's such a thing as an American scone, these are it. While British scones are basically a vehicle for that delicious concoction known as clotted cream (nom nom nom), these scones have their own flavoring and are very moist - they're basically big cookies. (Especially the version I make with coconut milk and chocolate chips.)

Lemon )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
Meant to post this last night and got distracted. So I bought pineapple juice a few weeks ago, because I like pineapple juice and for a while, it was one of the few juices Andrew would drink when sick. (With a shot of honey, it seemed to be a super-good cure for cough.)

Anyway, we're all much better now, but I still have a ton of pineapple juice and we're all a bit tired of drinking it. (Also, pineapple juice in the States is never as good as pineapple juice overseas, and I have no idea why that is.) So I went trolling for recipes, and landed on one for a pineapple marinade.

Now, as a marinade, it's not all that fantastic. The chicken was fine, nice and moist, and probably would have done better on the grill than under the broiler. But because I had a lot of marinade and the chicken was lacking a bit in the color department, I decided to reduce the marinade into a glaze.

And that, friends, was fantastic.

Pineapple Marinade/Glaze )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
I have a thing for tabouleh. A very specific sort of tabouleh which I have trouble finding in the States for some reason. It's not tricky - it's just I like tabouleh that has considerably more parsley than bulgar, and apparently this is an issue. There's exactly two places where I've found good tabouleh - one is in Rockville, Maryland, and the other is in Cairo, Egypt.

(The Cairo location is actually pretty cool, right next to the Pyramids with a balcony and a fantastic view of the Sphinx, and it looks like it's straight out of Indiana Jones. Very good lentil soup, too.)

Anyway. My New Year's Resolution is to eat less bread (*snicker*) so I'm trying to be better about having good snacks in the house that don't require lots of bread and crackers and cookies and whatnot. Thus, I finally went and looked up a recipe for tabouleh, with the theory that since it's not cooked, it can't possibly be that hard.

(The theory, incidentally, was correct.)

Tabouleh )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
Me: I'm in a baking mood. What should I bake?
Bill: Oatmeal raisin.
Me: No.
Bill: Chocolate chip?
Me: No.
Bill: Snickerdoodles.
Me: Hmm, haven't made those in a while.

So what do I end up making?

Someday, I will follow directions. That day is not today.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies )
azriona: (cat in a box)
I found this recipe while browsing English desserts. It sounded like fun, and I haven’t played with puff pastry often but wanted an excuse to try. Plus, I had to provide goodies for an upcoming Writer’s Group.

It was while I was making the cakes that the scene where Molly makes them popped into my head. Normally I write in chronological order, and at this point in my writing, Sherlock hadn’t absconded for London yet. But that afternoon, I wrote the scene where John tells Molly about the Empire closing as she makes the cakes, and that’s the scene that appears this week, with very minor changes (mostly because I didn’t quite know what John was going to explain just yet!)

Eccles Cakes )
azriona: (cat in a box)
If you start off a recipe with “chocolate”, you guarantee I listen.

If the recipe concludes: “light chocolate flavor”, you guarantee I will tinker.

Mocha Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

The original recipe was meant to be a light chocolate shortbread, perfect with tea. My original plan was to emphasize the chocolate by mixing in mini chocolate chips. And then I started to cream the butter, and thought to myself, “Self, why stop there?”

Why, indeed?

The Recipe )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
Special request, so I'm typing up a new version of the recipe.

Chicken/Turkey Pot Pies )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
At some point I need to post the Thanksgiving Day dinner menu, if only because I find them very useful to return to in later years to find the recipes we liked.

In the meantime, though, I made sugar cookies for tomorrow's neighborhood Christmas party.

Sugar Crinkle Cookies )
azriona: (cat in a box)
This was one of the first recipes I found to try – and upon making it, I knew it could be better. The original recipe requires cooking the chicken. And then cooking the chicken. And then cooking the chicken. Great for a restaurant, I suppose, but it results in a dish that has no flavor and no color, which is just really boring to eat. And seriously? Ginger, garlic, and tomatoes should not result in a boring dish.

So I played. I don’t usually turn a recipe inside out the way I did this one, and I think it still needs tinkering (which, as usual, I just don’t have time to do), so I leave it to you guys to finish.

Sherlock’s Chicken with Tomatoes and Saffron Rice )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
I don’t know about you, but I always look longingly at the appetizer and dessert sections of a menu when I’m at a restaurant, and very seldom order from either. Which is a shame, because often the most interesting bits of a menu are located there. (Also the most fattening – think of all the appetizers that are fried!)

The two recipes today are from those sections. I wanted a good wintery soup for the Empire’s menu – something classic with a bit of an unexpected twist, and the Carrot Ginger soup fit the bill. Carrots are easily found in the middle of winter, and the ginger adds a nice fiery kick to it.

Dessert was a bit trickier. Because while I wanted a recipe that sounded delicious – the story dictated that it should be something easily derailed. And what’s more classically prone to disaster than a soufflé? Well, as it turns out, it’s harder to destroy a soufflé than you might think – Molly is either lucky or seriously unlucky – and this one is fiddly, but totally worth it. The “Mexican” spices add a fun twist that is quickly becoming the hallmark of the new and improved Empire.


Carrot Ginger Soup )

An interesting note: this recipe is based on one of Gordon Ramsay’s. Well, I couldn’t go an entire crossover and not include a recipe of his, could I?!?

Mexican Chocolate Souffles )
azriona: (Azri's pantry)
First, I apologize for the lack of photos here. I really did take photos of all three dishes, and actually posted the last one on Tumblr a few days ago. But I am have spectacular photo failure this morning, and cannot manage to get any of those photos on my computer to include with this post. If I find them, I will add them; if you make anything and don't mind sharing, I'd love to post your photos here instead. Certainly you would do a better job of plating a dish nicely than me!

Just about every country in Central Asia has a version of this dish, which is basically rice, carrots, and fruit – often raisins, sometimes oranges. It can be super super sweet, or completely savory. It can have chicken or beef or lamb or mutton. It goes by various names, depending on the country: pilau, pilaw, plov, pilaf. You will never find two recipes alike – and therein was my problem, because I’ve been lucky enough to have some truly outstanding pilau in the past, made by people for whom it’s part of their heritage and not just a passing fancy, and for the life of me, I couldn’t recreate any of it.

So here, I’m going to give you three different version of pilau to try. All three are unique in flavor, so if you try one, don’t automatically rule out the others. And definitely give at least one a try – pilau is really easy to do, and tastes twenty times better on the second day.

Three Kinds of Pilau )

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