Friday, December 13, 2013

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies


As I was browsing cookie recipes on the Better Homes and Garden's website (how I got there, I have no idea!) I saw this recipe and knew it would be perfect for my dad. His favorite cookies tend to be shortbread or my un-iced gingerbread men/sugar cookies. His favorite nut is the pistachio, and these suggest dipping the cookie in either sprinkles or pistachios. I did make two versions, one with sprinkles and one with pistachios. 

The red velvet aspect makes it more festive and the subtle hint of cocoa powder makes them taste just like red velvet cake. If you don't have time to make them for Christmas, they'd also be perfect for Valentine's Day! (I doubled this recipe the first time, then tripled it the second, you will get about 15-18 cookies per single recipe below)

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies
directions rewritten, recipe from Better Homes and Gardens

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1 tbsp. red food coloring
3 oz. white chocolate, chips or chopped
Finely chopped pistachios (about 1/2 c.) or nonpareils (about 2 tbsp.)

Cream butter and sugar, add salt cocoa powder and red food coloring, mix well.
Gently fold in flour until it is absorbed. 
Lay a piece of plastic wrap out and form dough into a log, tightly wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325*
Line a cookie sheet with parchment.
Slice cookies 1/4" wide and place 2" apart on cookie sheet.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until puffed and set, cool on a wire rack to room temperature. 
Melt white chocolate in a small dish, dip cookies in chocolate and then sprinkle with nuts or nonpaerils, lay on plastic wrap to dry, about an hour. 
Place in an airtight container for up to a week.

Black and White Cookies



For a few years I've been wanting to make black and white cookies but they seemed intimidating. They're the kind of thing that if you screw it up, people will notice. They have such a distinct flavor and look and when they're good, they're GOOD. They're more of a cake-cookie than a hard, sturdy cookie and the secret getting the perfectly flat top is flipping them over and icing the bottom!

My older sister is a big black and white cookie fan so I decided to bite the bullet and try out black and whites for her Christmas cookie package. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe and steps exactly so I would not mess up a single step. I'm not going to rewrite them because they're long and involved, I'll just give you a link to the recipe. Make these! Make them now! Smitten Kitchen's Black and White Cookies

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fruitcake Cookies



Starting in late October, I create a document where I copy and paste Christmas cookie ideas for the year. I generally try to make about 6-8 of the old favorites and 6-8 new cookies. Since my Kitchenaid mixer didn't make it to Boise, along with my rolling pin, silpat, cookie cutters and a few other baking essentials, I had to rethink the list. While I normally make Gingerbread men cut outs, sugar cookie Christmas trees, chocolate sugar cookie snowflakes and spritz cookies, they weren't an option this year.

As I was noting recipes I thought to myself how it would be fun to make a certain cookie that each member of my family would really like. So over the next few days you'll see different cookies that I made hoping to make each family member feel extra special!

First up is my husband! He is one of the only people I know who love fruitcake. Seriously... So when I saw these Ina cookies I knew they'd be a hit with him. I made a few small changes to the original recipe. First, I couldn't get dried figs at the store and I didn't feel like trying another so I used dates. Turns out my husband prefers dates! Next, I soaked the fruit/nuts in Bourbon rather than sherry. Lastly I left out the candied cherries and used dried cherries instead. Do not be afraid of these cookies, yes Fruitcake is a polarizing thing, but they're so good! They plethora of dried fruit and nuts is just lightly held together with a brown sugary dough, totally delicious!

Fruitcake Cookies
loosely based on Ina Garten's recipe 

1 c. diced dried dates
1 c. diced dried apricots
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. dried cherries, chopped
1/2 c. dried cranberries
3 tbsp. Bourbon
1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
3/4 c. chopped pecans
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2/3 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 2/3 c. all purpose flour

Toss dried fruit and pecans in a bowl, drizzle with bourbon, lemon juice and zest, add a pinch of kosher salt.
Cover and let fruit sit overnight at room temperature.
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Add egg and cloves, mix well.
Add flour and mix until it is just combined, do not overmix.
Add fruit mixture and gently fold to distribute evenly.
Chill dough for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350*
Scoop dough by heaping tablespoons full into palms, roll into a ball then gently flatten into a disc, place 2" apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on a metal rack and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pasta with Mushrooms and Artichokes


The night before Thanksgiving I knew I had to make a pasta dish for carbo loading purposes. While we weren't with the whole family at the Cincinnati Thanksgiving 10k, we did run the 5k in Boise (plus I added another 3.1 around the block to get the true T-day 10k feeling). It was my first time pushing Violet in the jogging stroller during a race and we had so much fun together. The Boise race was dog friendly so she was entertained as we ran past them and they ran past us.

While I'm a marinara lover through and through, I didn't want something so acidic before the race. I found this pasta dish from Giada DeLaurentiis that included mushrooms, artichokes AND marsala, three of my absolute favorites. The only changes I made were reducing the cream/using half and half and I used marinated grilled artichokes for a bit more flavor in the sauce. If you haven't tried these artichokes, I highly recommend you do, they were amazing!

Pasta with Mushrooms and Artichokes
slightly adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

3 tbsp.. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
Kosher salt
1 c. dry Marsala wine
1 lb. short cut pasta
1 jar of grilled artichokes in marinade
3/4 c. grated parmesan
1/2 c. half and half
chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp. fresh black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, if desired

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and drop in pasta, cook to al dente, drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.
Add onion and cook for a minute, add mushrooms and saute' until water has evaporated and mushrooms have cooked down, about 10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, add Marsala and continue cooking until half the wine has evaporated.
Add pasta, artichokes, half of the parmesan and half and half to the skillet, toss with the mushrooms to mix and heat through.
Top with remaining parmesan, parsley and crushed red pepper flakes.

***Stop back every day until Christmas Eve for 12 new cookie recipes!***

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

White Cheddar Beer Mac and Cheese

(from my Instagram: ashmelzorn)

Back in October when my family took a trip to Oregon we visited Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. We began our meal with their Beer Cheese and pretzel dip which was insanely memorable. The cheese was a melted white cheddar laced with beer and there was coarse stone ground mustard rimming the bowl. When you swiped the pretzel through the mustard and into the cheese it was phenomenal. When it came time to make our Thanksgiving menu, I mentioned turning the beer cheese dip into a mac and cheese. I've had mac and cheese with mustard powder as an ingredient in the past, so I knew if I kept it subtle we'd have a winning dish.  

(Thanksgiving plate, mac and cheese is at twelve o'clock)

I used somewhat local Tillamook White Cheddar, which is delicious. We chose the Fat Tire Amber Ale because I'm not a fan of IPAs, which the dip used (we bought a 6-pack so I didn't want to get shorted out of the leftover beer!) This mac and cheese got better with each plate of leftovers! The beer taste was a little stronger and we declared it the best mac and cheese I've ever made!

White Cheddar Beer Mac and Cheese
Veggie by Season original

12 oz. short cut pasta (we used shells)
Kosher salt
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 large or 1 small yellow onion, minced
Black pepper
3 tbsp. flour
1 c. beer of choice
1 c. 2% milk
2 tbsp. coarse ground mustard (I like inglehoffer from World Market)
12 oz. fresh grated sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 400*
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add pasta, cook to al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
Heat a shallow skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter and add onions
Saute' onions for 2-3 minutes, until translucent, season with salt and black pepper.
Add flour, whisk to cook for a minute then turn heat up to medium-high.
Add beer, whisk flour clumps into beer and reduce liquid by half.
Add milk and bring mixture to a simmer, turn heat off.
Add mustard and cheese, use a spatula and stir using a figure-eight motion.
Taste cheese sauce and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Drain pasta and pour into a baking dish, add cheese sauce and stir well to combine.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until desired brownness and crunch.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whiskey Apple Soda


'Twas the week of Thanksgiving and I'm not with my family...so I'm drinking to dull the pain. Just kidding! I was browsing the Williams-Sonoma website for Thanksgiving recipe ideas and came across the Whiskey Apple Cider recipe. It included Bourbon (JJ's favorite) and Ginger Beer (my favorite) so I declared it the Official Cocktail of Thanksgiving 2013. Of course I had to test it out first just to be sure, and it's a winner! The bourbon is a bit strong but I always find bourbon to be strong. I diluted mine a bit with the ginger beer and loved it. I think this would also be a nice punch option if diluted a bit as well for a Fall party.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving. If you want to follow my cooking you can get updates on twitter (@veggieash) and instagram (@ashmelzorn) where I've been posting some recipe trials as well as my NaNoWriMo updates - I won!

Whisky Apple Soda

 Ice as needed
2 oz. bourbon
3/4 oz apple juice/cider
1/2 oz. ginger beer
1 oz. soda water

Fill a shaker with ice, add bourbon, apple juice and ginger beer.
Shake well for 5 seconds, strain into a glass.
Top with soda water and serve immediately. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rosti Casserole with Baked Eggs


When I looked in the Thanksgiving grocery store circular there was an ad on the front page - 10lb. bags of Idaho Potatoes for $.99! It took everything in me to not buy ten bags, I can't pass up a good deal! I'm usually one to spend a bit more on Yukon Golds (my favorite) or small red potatoes but I've been trying to give the Russet some love. I've been reading more and more about the benefits of potatoes, even white potatoes. While we still love and eat sweet potatoes/yams often, I'm trying to incorporate more regular potatoes into our diet.

I stumbled across this recipe on the Cooking Light website and thought it would be a nice lighter meal as we gear up for Thanksgiving. The recipe calls for frozen shredded potatoes but that's not happening! I also skipped on the turnip just because I had so many potatoes to use. I cooked the eggs almost entirely through as we're not drippy yolk fans but other than that made the recipe as written. The only change I would make is to use a larger, more shallow pan to maximize crisp crust.

Rosti Casserole with Baked Eggs

10 oz. low-fat Greek yogurt (I use Fage 2% plain)
2 tbsp. unbleached all purpose flour
5 oz. grated Gruyere cheese
1 tbsp melted butter
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
2.5 lbs. fresh shredded potatoes (I shredded them directly into a colander, added a pinch of salt, tossed and squeezed out the moisture) or 1 30 oz. package of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
8 large eggs
1-2 tsp Fresh or dried chives

Preheat oven to 400*
Combine yogurt and flour in a large mixing bowl, whisk well. 
Add Gruyere, butter, chives, salt, black pepper and nutmeg, whisk well. 
Add potatoes and fold until they are well coated in the yogurt mixture.
Spread evenly into a 13x9 baking dish (or larger if you want more crisp edges).
Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubble.
Remove from oven, use a spoon to create 8 divots and crack an egg into each divot.
Return to oven and bake for another 10-20 minutes, until eggs are cooked to desired doneness.
Sprinkle with fresh pepper and more chives.
Serve immediately. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Baked Samosas



I love Indian food but hate paying for take out. I've been trying more and more to make it at home but it never tastes quite as authentic. Sometimes I think my 'make your own take-out' meals aren't *as* good because I don't use butter/oil/sugar with reckless abandon the way restaurants do. My absolute favorite Indian appetizer is the Samosa. Generally they're fried dough pockets full of curried potatoes, peas and onion and they're served with a chutney of some sort. These are of course healthified by using wonton wrappers and baking rather than frying the samosas. However they still have the same delicious flavor and crunch of their less-healthy original version. 
I
 made a simple pear-raisin chutney and would have preferred something not so chunky. A sweet chutney condiment definitely lessens the heat and saltiness of these and adds a nice balance. I used large wonton wrappers but you could also make these bite-sized for appetizers and go with the small squares.  

Baked Samosas
adapted from Foodtv

2 large Idaho Russet potatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, medium dice 
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. frozen peas
1" square nub of fresh grated ginger root
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. spicy curry powder
1/4 c. cilantro leaves, minced
1 package wonton wrappers

Mango, Date, Pear or Tamarind Chutney, if desired

Preheat oven to 400*
Wash and dry potatoes, pierce with a fork and wrap in aluminum foil.
Bake until cooked through, about 60 minutes.
Cool, peel and discard skins, then dice potatoes (they'll crumble some, it's ok), add to a large mixing bowl
Heat a skillet over medium, add oil, onions and garlic. 
Saute for 5 minutes, until softened, add cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, curry powder and peas.
Pour into mixing bowl with potatoes and gently toss to combine. 
Lay wonton wrappers out on a dry surface, keep a small bowl of water closeby
Add 1/4 c. spoonfuls to the wonton, then use finger to paint water around the edges, fold over and close.
Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
When you're finished with all samosas, place in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. 
Serve immediately. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pimento Cheese Layered Cornbread



After recently making the Mexican Layered Cornbread I've been playing around with the method to make a few varieties. One of my favorite easy weeknight dinners is black-eyed peas in the crock pot with cornbread and a vegetable. To give this cornbread recipe a southern flair, I came up with a pimento cheese type filling. This cornbread was so delicious, we devoured it. I can't wait to come up with many more!

Pimento Cheese Layered Cornbread
adapted from Food Network

1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 tbsp. baking powder
2/3 c. milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. honey
1 14 oz. can creamed corn
1/2 c. corn kernels (defrosted, if frozen)
1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c. grated Monterrey cheese
1 c. pimentos or minced roasted red peppers
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 350*
Grease a 8"x8" square or 10" round pan, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, salt, yogurt and honey.
Add flour, cornmeal and baking powder.
Fold in creamed corn and corn kernels.
Pour 2/3 of the mixture into the pan, spread in an even layer.
Toss pimentos with cayenne and lemon juice.
Top with the cheddar and pimento mixture, then add remaining batter, spread evenly over top.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve warmed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Curried Pumpkin Soup


This November marks my third attempt at NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month). The goal is to write 50,000 words of nonfiction during the month of November. That averages out to 1,666 words a day. I am up to 34,000 words right now with 20 days to go so I'm in great shape. This is why I am able to blog. It's been quiet since November started around here and that's my reason! I did "win" in 2010 and got to about 20,000 words last year before I fizzled out. 

It's an interesting concept to write a novel alongside 200,000 strangers. Many of them become virtual friends when it's over (or real friends if you go to a city write-in event). I just hope and pray that when November ends and my novel is ready for my first revision the nightly dreams about my characters end. I thought pregnancy dreams were vivid and non-stop - they were nothing compared to this! I'm happy to share my writing with anyone who'd like to constructively criticize, so shoot me an email if you're interested :) 

This soup powered me through a solid two hours of writing, it's so simple but full of flavor with some delicious spice and heat. It's also light and healthy so I didn't feel so guilty dunking my cheesy cornbread into it (recipe will be up next!). An option to make this a velvety smooth soup is to puree it, but I liked the little bits of texture and color. I added to this as I went along so I encourage you to do the same, start cautiously with the spices and add more as you please. 

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Veggie by Season original

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 c. vegetable stock
1 28 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/4 c. split red lentils
Kosher salt 
Black pepper
1-3 tsp. curry powder (I use the spicy kind of World Market)
1/2-1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I use Trader Joe's)
1/4 c. roasted pumpkin seeds toasted with a sprinkle of curry powder

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. 
Add olive oil, onion, carrots and garlic. 
Season with kosher salt and black pepper, stir and cook for 5 minutes.
Add vegetable stock, pumpkin, lentils, 1 tsp. curry powder and 1/2 tsp. pie spice, stir and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, taste and add more curry, pie spice and salt/pepper as needed.
Ladle into a bowl and top with roasted pumpkin seeds.