Food Finds: (Jousting) Marshmallow Peeps

{ Wednesday, March 24, 2010 }
Let me preface this by saying I do not like eating Peeps.  There's just something about them - the texture, the odd colors, the beady little eyes - that doesn't appeal to my taste buds.

This does not mean, however, that I do not enjoy Peeps.  My cousin's husband introduced me to the miracle of Peeps in a microwave several Easters ago.  Pop the candy confection in the microwave and within seconds their bodies have swollen to the size of softballs, the heads remaining comically small, until they implode.  It's a mess - and I love it.

I thought Peeps in a microwave couldn't get any better until I saw this article on the HuffingtonPost website. Yes, there is such a thing as "Peep Jousting," where someone inserts toothpicks into two Peeps, sets them in a microwave, and nukes them.  The winning Peep successfully pierces its opponent, releasing a billowing puff of sugar and steam.

I might just have to buy a pack of Peeps tomorrow and see this for myself.  After all, I'm all for cheap thrills.

Turkey Meatballs

{ Saturday, March 20, 2010 }

When I was little I was an omnivore. I had a grill-master, chocolate-devouring father and a vegetable worshipping, lobster loving mother, so my taste buds enjoyed broccoli as much as they did steak. In fact, beef was one of my favorite things to eat. My mom still talks about the family trip to Yellowstone when I was 12; I ate prime rib every night for a week, except for the one night when the restaurant had run out and I had to settle for spaghetti.

Not long after that (or at least that's how the timeframe goes in my admittedly shoddy memory), there was the mad cow outbreak. My mother, the nurse, declared that all beef would be banned from the house. In fact, no one in the house was be allowed to eat beef, even if it was at a restaurant. Eventually mad cow disappeared from the newspaper headlines and the months passed, but I never felt the urge to bite into a hamburger to slice into a steak. I eventually segued into the vegetarian stage of my adolescence, and although vegetarianism is a bandwagon I have since fallen off of, I never have returned to eating certain meats.

I do, however, love meatballs. I make mine with ground turkey, which is just as satisfying and as full as flavor as beef. Even better, they're quick to make and freeze easily. I was in a time crunch making this batch (I have to do all my cooking in the morning before heading off to work), so I plated them over al dente pasta with Newman's Own Marinara sauce. It made for an extremely simple and tasty meal, although next time I will definitely attempt making my own pasta sauce.

Turkey Meatballs (serves 4-6)
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1 pound ground turkey
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
pinch salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
your choice of sauce and pasta

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add onion and garlic and cook until lightly browned.

In a separate bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, and onion and garlic mixture. Mix well. Form mixture into balls (you choose the size; I made mine slightly larger than a ping pong ball). Place meatballs in a pan heated with the remaining two tablespoons of oil. Be careful not to crowd the meatballs.

Cook meatballs over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until browned, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking.

Serve meatballs with sauce and pasta.

Old School Chocolate Chip Cookies

{ Wednesday, March 17, 2010 }

Making these cookies reminded me that everything in life can relate to a Friends episode (or Seinfeld, but in this case it's Friends). For example, chocolate chip cookies remind me of "The One With Phoebe's Cookies," in which Monica really wants Phoebe's late grandmother's super-secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, but it burned up in a house fire. So, Monica must use one frozen cookie to reverse engineer the recipe, and tries out all these variations with different spices and ingredients and taste testing. In the end, the super secret recipe turns out to be from Nestle Tollhouse (or, "Ness-LAY Toll-HOOS"). Haha what a waste of time. It's funny because it's true; everyone wants the unique, definitive version of a classic, but the simplest cookie recipe is probably the best. Whatever's on the back of the chocolate chip bag you happen to buy is just fine. Use it as a base, then modify to your taste. I use all brown sugar so they are extra chewy, and the "optional" walnuts are a must. They cut down on too much sweetness and add a satisfying crunch.

This recipe is adapted from the back of a Nestle Tollhouse bag and it makes a lot of cookies (4-5 dozen).

1 cup Earth Balance shortening
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon egg replacer powder mixed in 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

Soften shortening in a large bowl (either let stand at room temperature or microwave for about 30 seconds), then use a wooden spoon to beat in brown sugar. Add egg replacer mixed with water and vanilla and continue to beat mixture until light and fluffy. Work those arm muscles!

Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir a few times then add chocolate chips and walnuts and stir until combined. Over-mixing is not your friend.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Let cool a few minutes on the sheet to keep them from falling apart, then transfer to sheets of old newspaper to cool completely.

Morning Glory Muffins

{ Tuesday, March 9, 2010 }

Muffins have held a special place in my heart ever since I saw the Seinfeld episode where Kramer tries to give away  muffin stumps to the homeless after Mr. Lipman opens "Top of the Muffin to You!"  Now, as a lover of all carbs, it's a travesty in my mind to let a perfectly good muffin stump go to waste - especially if it's from a Morning Glory Muffin.

These muffins are exceedingly moist and tender, and the crunch of the walnuts gives a delicious contrast to its cake-like texture.  Even better, with the combination of carrot, walnut, and raisins, Morning Glory Muffins are as close as you'll come to eating carrot cake for breakfast without eating the cake itself (although I do suspect these babies would be delicious with a dollop of cream cheese frosting).

My version of Morning Glory Muffins includes apple, carrot, coconut, raisins, and walnuts.  Feel free to omit or swap ingredients according to your taste.  Substituting part of the regular flour for whole wheat in the recipe would make a heartier version of this muffin.  I ended up replacing part of the oil for applesauce to make a slightly "healthier" a.k.a. less fatty muffin, since I knew I would end up scarfing them down.


Morning Glory Muffins (yields 12)
Adapted from Whole Foods

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil (I ended up using 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/3 cup canola oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Fuji apple, cored, peeled, and diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dried, flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.  Break up any lumps of brown sugar.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla (and applesauce, if you're using it).  Stir into flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in apple, raisins, carrots, walnuts, and 1/4 cup of the coconut  until combined.

Spoon batter into a muffin tin lined that is lightly greased or lined with paper wrappers.  Each cup should be about 2/3 full.  Top with remaining coconut and bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through.

Mission Burritos

{ Friday, March 5, 2010 }
Before I spent four months in San Francisco last year, I didn't know burritos were a thing. I mean, I knew what a burrito was, but I never really ate them. I always thought the only place one could get a burrito would be Taco Time, and Mexican fast food made by Canadian children scares me. But now I want burritos are the time! They are to San Francisco what poutine is to Montreal — the perfect meal available at all hours of the night to drunk twenty-somethings after too much PBR. I discovered this food fact one magical evening in the Mission District, a neighbourhood in San Francisco that is equal parts hipster and Hispanic. Which means there are lots of dive bars and taquerias, a winning combination.

Burritos in Northern California are truly an institution that must be experienced, but if you don't see yourself in the Mission at 3 am anytime soon, conjure up this worthy substitute. Burritos are very versatile, so you can use whatever filling you fancy, but I like this easy vegan version. It's what I would always order in the Mission, and sometimes simple is better (and cheaper). Plus, they are extra San-Fran-hipster this way, and isn't it nice when food has an identity? (And a Wikipedia page, apparently. Check it.)

Mission Burritos (serves 4)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup brown rice
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 small can tomato sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
4 large flour tortillas
1 (14 ounce) can black beans or kidney beans, drained, rinsed, and set aside
1 ripe avocado, sliced
chips and salsa
tin foil

First, make some Spanish rice. In a saucepan over medium heat, saute rice, onion, and green pepper in oil until the rice is toasted and the vegetables are tender crisp (about 5 minutes).

Add sauce, broth, and spices and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to medium-low, and cook 40-50 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand an additional 10 minutes without lifting the lid.

When the rice is cooked and slightly cool, get tortillas hot and wet (dirty!). The easiest way is to wrap them individually in very damp paper towels, stack them, and microwave on high for 30-45 seconds.

Take a prepared tortilla and place about 1/3 cup of rice on one side, then top with beans and avocado slices.

Fold the sides of the tortilla over the filling, then roll up the burrito.

Wrap the burrito in tin foil. (This step is important for authenticity purposes.)

Serve with chips and salsa —burritos always come with chips and salsa—throw on some wayfarers, and enjoy!

Food Finds: Spotted Dick Pudding

{ Thursday, March 4, 2010 }

There's nothing like opening your cupboard in the morning to grab a bottle of vitamins and finding a tin of pudding that your roommate has just bought.  It 's not just any pudding, it's Spotted Dick Pudding.

Now even though my high school days are well behind me, and I really should be more mature, I laughed out loud.  More of my mornings should start out like this.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

{ Tuesday, March 2, 2010 }
When my week is particularly busy (and that seems to be most of my weeks), I love the idea of being able to spend one morning preparing a meal that will carry me through the next couple of days. I don’t want to have to turn on an oven or even boil water, I just want to be able to open the fridge, make a trip to the microwave, then feast!

Quiche is a great option for hectic weeks. It's simple, relatively inexpensive to make, and provides at least four meals (that is, if you’re not sharing it with friends or roommates, which may be hard to do). It also freezes remarkably well.

I found this quiche recipe in Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. I opted for this recipe for my first foray into cooking quiche because of the crust. Unlike others that need to be blind baked, this one is just rolled out and then filled with eggy goodness. Even better, you can make it by hand, which is a godsend for a girl who doesn’t own a food processor. Of course, you could always skip making the crust altogether and opt for a store-bought one, but what’s the fun in that?

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche (serves 4 to 6)
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

For the Crust
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cold water or milk
1/4 tsp salt

For the Quiche
1 teaspoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cups fresh spinach
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste

Making the Crust
Using a pastry cutter or two forks (or a food processor, if you’re lucky enough to have one), cut together the butter, salt, and flour until the mixture is blended. Add water or milk until the dough holds together. Roll out the dough and place in a 9- or 10-inch pie pan.

Making the Quiche
Preheat the oven to 375.

Melt the butter in a small pan. Add onions and sauté until they begin to soften. Then add mushrooms, spinach, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking for about five minutes, until the spinach wilts.

Combine the eggs and milk in a bowl, beating well. Stir in the shredded cheese.

Spoon the onion, spinach, and mushroom mixture into the crust. Pour over the egg and cheese mixture.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until solid in the center.