Monday, November 28, 2011

Green Bean Casserole Do-Over

A few Thanksgivings ago I made a simple (basically prefabricated) green bean casserole. This year, I took a little extra time to make one from scratch using fresh ingredients, and it paid off. I followed this Alton Brown recipe, replacing the chicken broth with veggie broth. To save a little time on the big day, I went ahead and cooked the beans a day ahead - then put them in the refrigerator in the dish I planned to use. 

Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from food network
  • 1 lb / 500 grams fresh green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
Bring water and salt to a boil. If you're using table salt, you'll want to use less than this! (oops.) Cook beans to your preference (Alton blanches for 5 minutes, I boil for 8-10), drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. 

Onion Topping
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or about 1/2 t. table salt)
  • Nonstick spray
Preheat oven to 475F / 245C. Combine onions, flour, breadcrumbs and salt (may want to use seasoning salt) and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick spray and evenly spread onions on pan. I sprayed a light layer of oil on top of the onions also. Bake until golden brown, tossing every 10 minutes, for about 30 minutes. 

Mushroom Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 12 ounces / 350 grams mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or less table salt!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup half and half (or combination of half milk, half cream)
Saute mushrooms in butter with salt and pepper until they begin to lose some liquid, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and nutmeg and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and simmer for 1 minute. Add half and half and cook until mixture thickens - 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the beans. Pour into casserole dish (I used a deep round one - I thought 9x13 would be too big), top with remaining onions and bake at 400F / 200C until bubbly, about 15 minutes. 

Many commenters had issues with the onions burning, but I didn't have any problems. Just keep an eye on them in that hot oven and flip them whenever they're looking browned on bottom. I think this version is better than the one I grew up with and I'll never have to open a can of congealed cream of mushroom soup again...woohoo!

Last year I made a cherry chutney that a lot of people liked, but I hated it after pitting all those cherries and cooking them in vinegar for an hour. Ugh, the smell of warm vinegar! For those of you who enjoyed it, here's the recipe.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Very Modern Art Halloween

Can you guess what we were last year for Halloween? Does this help?
From MoMA
 The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí! I'm even signed!

Because I'm a sucker for details I added a pocket watch with ants, an ant ring, one false eyelash and another melting clock hanging over a stick in my hair. Guille, as Dalí, made himself an evil eye cane and funky mustache and then practiced his crazy face.

This year, we reversed roles...
from akgmag
I was Andy Warhol, Bucket was Edie Sedgwick...

...and Guille got to be pop art. Here's The Factory family:

Can you see the resemblance?

They don't exactly look thrilled but I had a blast!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Occupy Wall Street Rant

from here  

My anti-corporation rant focuses on the blatant use of toxic chemicals in health and beauty products. I'm also highly concerned about the same for food, but there's already a documentary about that. In fact, I'm surprised that there wasn't a revolution and mass protests when Food, Inc. came out. I mean, didn't that just make you so mad?

Anyway, I'm super upset about corporations getting away with killing us slowly. I feel that science and the government has failed us here. Just because a chemical is perceived (and given legality) to be safe in low doses and hasn't YET been proven to cause cancer, doesn't mean that it's ok to put them in products that I put on my body every day. Products that are absorbed by my skin - the largest body organ. Once you think about it, it really just comes down to common sense.

I don't know if this fits in with the Occupy Wall Street revolution. Honestly, the movement is disjointed and difficult to understand. I assume that it's largely fueled by anger over financial institutions and government complacency, but it also seems to be an outlet for expressing disapproval of corporate irresponsibility. So, I thought I would do that and invite you to join me.

From Crain's New York
Here's what I'm mad about. I recently came across GoodGuide, a consumer informational website that lets me determine how safe a product is for health, and how good or bad a company is in terms of environmental and community impact. You search for a product and view it's rating for each of these 3 elements on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best, 1 being the worst). Sadly, I found out that my favorite hair gel (Biolage) received a 4 health rating for its use of propylene glycol - suspected of causing immunotoxicity, respiratory toxicity, and skin or sense organ toxicity. Aw boo. Worse yet, my favorite hair cream (John Frieda Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon) received a 3 health rating for propylene glycol, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol, and propyl paraben (the latter two being of low concern).  And you don't even want to know the rating for Kiehl's Creme de Corps (ok, I'll tell you - it's a 1!). Holy crap, corporations, why are you doing this to me? With all of the advances in science (particularly biology) and technology, and increasing consumer support for green products, how can you still be using questionable chemicals? So, I asked some of them. Frizz-Ease was nice enough to respond and here's their main point:

In summary, our marketed products meet the safety expectations outlined by the European Union, US Food and Drug Administration, and Health Canada legislation as well as other country regulations.

Hmm, wait a minute. The same government that is currently being protested for lack of corporate oversight? Uh-oh. Your response doesn't make me feel any better and, frankly, I'm afraid of using your product and I'm also concerned about how to properly dispose of it! In a world with a finite water supply, I'm surely not satisfied to wash my hands of this situation, lest I later drink in this toxic waste.

I'm not trying to single these companies out - it's just that I researched them because I've been using their products the longest. And the original Frizz-Ease serum actually has a 10 health rating - so good for them for that. Too bad I didn't know to stock up on that product instead of the nasty one I brought with me. And too bad that crappy products are on the market. It seems that it's up to the consumer to research every product we buy and make safe choices.

Yes, I know that I should have realized this years ago. But I grew up in a consumer society that was content to ignore confusing, lengthy ingredients and just assume that all products for sale in the US are safe. I know that for the baby boomer generation, these products offered a convenience and experience that had never been offered before. But today's corporations must now deal with a consumer group that grew up watching FernGully and Captain Planet. So watch your backs, health and beauty corporations trying to overload me with toxins to placate my ego. Sure, I want to be beautiful and you've made enough money playing off of that vulnerability. But now I want to live. And I've got my eye on you.

from The Captain Planet Foundation

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sweet Noodle Kugel with Membrillo Jam

Whenever I describe my husband's Jewishness (or lack thereof) I say that he's Jewish, but the wrong half. This is incorrect, of course, because you're either in or you're out - based on your mother. My mother-in-law is not Jewish (well, actually, she is in the same 'wrong-half' way, as her father was Jewish) but my father-in-law is. This means that there is a long history of Jewish culture in the family, but no Jewish mothers with sacred recipes. Too bad, but at least Smitten Kitchen features an array of Jewish food. Celebrating the New Year with my great-uncle-in-law inspired me to figure something out so I cooked up a proper feast for Rosh Hashanah, I think.

There was challah, zucchini latkes, two kugels and an apple cake (and a chicken - not of my doing). Having no real experiences to go off of, I'd say it featured some traditional dishes but I have no idea how they compare amongst many other versions. It was mostly Smitten Kitchen recipes, since I trust her and I don't think she's trying to trick me. ahem.

So here's the most interesting part of it all - sweet noodle kugel (which my autocorrect seems to want to change to bugle). Really, I think this is a brunch food. It's super sweet and soufflé-like but it has freaking noodles in it. Still, it's almost like eating cake. I can't explain it, as it confuses me, but I keep eating it just to see if I can figure it out. I can't, but that's alright.

I replaced the cottage cheese with ricotta (based on availability) and I subbed-in some casan crem (sour cream). My recipe is also for half a batch - which was plenty because everyone else at dinner was just as confused as I was and ate small pieces of this sweet casserole. I added membrillo because our uncle remembered long ago eating a kugel his mother would make with layers of membrillo. I had no idea how to do that, so I swirled in some jam.

Sweet Noodle Kugel with Membrillo Jam
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
  • 225 grams (1/2 pound) wide egg noodles
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I would probably reduce this by a Tablespoon or 2)
  • 300 grams ricotta cheese
  • 150 grams sour cream
  • 85 grams (or 1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup membrillo jam
Cook the noodles al dente, drain. In a large bowl, beat eggs until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, then the ricotta cheese, sour cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Stir in the drained noodles. Drop blobs of jam into the mixture and swirl with a knife. Pour into a greased 9x9 pan and bake at 350F/180C until kugel is set - mine took about 50 minutes but my oven runs hot.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No-Chicken Noodle Soup

As we shake off the last chill of winter, I'm finally getting around to cooking up some comfort food. Here's a vegetarian version of chicken noodle soup to see you through these last days of cold and flu season. Of course you could throw in some tofu in place of chicken, but I thought the simplicity of this recipe was its greatest strength. Well, that and the homemade noodles. 

No-Chicken Noodle Soup
adapted from Food Network with inspiration from The Pioneer Woman
(Double this recipe if you prefer more soup than noodles)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 ribs celery (I used 2), diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed (and diced)
  • 1 small onion (or 1/4 medium onion - 1/2 cup), diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock (or water and vegetable powder)
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pepper to taste
  • handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, toss in all the veggies and season with salt and cook until tender (6-10 minutes, depending on the size of recipe you're making). Toss in thyme and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock or water+veggie powder, turmeric and pepper. Simmer for a little while (maybe 10 minutes) then bring to a boil before adding noodles.

Pasta Noodles
(Serves 2)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
In a medium bowl, make a well in the center of the flour and crack in eggs. Slowly mix together with your hands. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until dough becomes smooth, adding flour as necessary (see Ree's photos for the perfect consistency). Let dough rest for a bit before rolling out. Roll onto a floured surface as thin as you can get it - the thinner the better. Cut thin noodles with a sharp knife or pizza wheel.

Add noodles to your boiling soup and cook for 2-5 minutes (depending on thickness) until noodles are cooked. Toss in some pepper and parsley. Add a squirt of lemon if you like. Of course, this is even better as leftovers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sprinkle Doughnut Cupcakes

I found this recipe for gorgeous glazed doughnut muffins on MyBakingAddiction and just couldn't leave well enough alone. Not only did I dip them in the glaze, I also dunked them in sprinkles. It was my birthday week. The batter seemed more cakey than muffin-like so I'm calling them cupcakes. I was expecting something more dense, like a cake doughnut, but was pleasantly surprised by their lightness. Of course, the flavor is closer to a cake doughnut than a yeast doughnut and it's slightly reminiscent of spice cake. It would make a delicious take on a cider doughnut if you added cider to the batter and/or the glaze. Although, I think the best combination would be with a maple glaze and a glass of cider. aww, now I miss apple cider. a lot.

Anyway, have you noticed that cupcake shops are springing up all over town? Well, maybe not cupcake-only shops but definitely bakeries with a strong focus on cupcakes. But what the hell are they putting on top?! Is that merengue? Damn it. Whip up a freakin' buttercream for crying out loud.

Doughnut Cupcakes
  • 1/4 cup / 57 grams butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
Cream together butter, oil and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs, beating to combine. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt and vanilla. Stir flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined. Spoon batter into 12 cupcake liners (sprayed with oil to ensure they don't stick) filling the cups nearly full. Bake at 220C/425F for 15 to 17 minutes or until they're a pale brown a cake tester comes out clean.

  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or maple, if that's something that exists in your country)
  • 2 Tablespoons hot water
Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. 

Plus, don't forget that you need a crapload of sprinkles. Like, more than 100 grams.

When cupcakes have cooled slightly, dip the crown into the glaze and allow glaze to harden. Cool on a rack with something underneath to catch the glaze drippings. (ps - these will make a mess on your liners) Let chill in the refrigerator before the applying second coat of glaze. I brushed on a thin second coat because I didn't want it to be too runny or thick, as the sprinkles would quickly ooze off. Immediately dunk the cupcake into a bowl of sprinkles and allow to set in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. (seriously, they will end up in a multi-color puddle otherwise)

Don't forget to share these with Twink and Starlite and all the slaves your friends in Rainbow Land!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Starbucks? Yes, Starbucks!

In case you missed it on Facebook, I'm all smiles this weekend because we finally got a Starbucks in Rosario and I'm well-caffinated. The prices are as ridiculous as you'd imagine: 14-20 pesos for lattes and cappuccinos. But, if you think about it, a tall is way bigger than most coffee drinks you'll find around town and you might just wonder who in Rosario can even fathom finishing a venti. I ordered a latte and was shocked that it came with whipped cream -- which I'd nearly forgotten about -- and I didn't even have to say 'with whip.' Hmm. I wonder how I order it without whip. Sin crema? And just in case you're afraid that you won't get your money's worth, this Starbucks experience comes complete with fake American niceties...Have a Nice Day! :) Oh, how I missed that.

They've got most of what you'd expect to find in their pastry case (including bagels and muffins) and they've somehow managed to import bottled tazo teas and Altoids. Maybe you think that Starbucks is over-rated or the epitome of capitalism, but if you've spent the last few years drinking the exact same coffee in every "cafe" by the thimbleful, you're likely as excited as I am. This is better than Christmas.

Starbucks is now open at Alto Rosario, and I heard a rumor that they're opening two other stores soon - one on Orono and another on Cordoba.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Because after a season full of patriotic holidays and fatty foods, I need a break. Nutrísimo is a vegetarian take out/delivery joint with nutrient rich meals and snacks, and they're pretty yummy. Above is a big alfajor (7 pesos), with an amazing strawberry filling, that's covered in a thin layer of white chocolate and a sprinkling of semillas de lino (I forget what they're called in English but they're super good for you). And below is half of a serving of leek and tofu pie (14 pesos) and a piece of soy milanesa roll (30 pesos), which comes with brown rice and beets.

They also sell whole grain pastas, risottos, waffles, medialunas, empanadas, and some amazing looking multigrain bread that I've been meaning to try.

9 de Julio 1451

Monday, June 27, 2011

Alfajores Santafesinos: Take 2

Yep, this was my second attempt at making the official alfajor of Santa Fe province. The first attempt, well, it taught me a lesson on meringues. I crossed a lot of lines with this recipe. First, I made a completely Argentine concoction, which is pretty much in opposition with almost all of my posted recipes. I usually try to replicate the tastes of home with what is available to us down here. Second, I had to get over my fear of raw eggs -- which, it turns out, isn't too hard when they taste like fresh marshmallow. So, thanks to Katie's challenge and encouragement, here I am embracing a taste of our current homeland.

The defining characteristics of alfajores santafesinos are (thick!) layers of dulce de leche sandwiched between thin crispy cookies and a sugary, egg white glaze that slightly crackles on your tongue as it dissolves. As a vegetarian, my challenge was creating a thin, crispy cookie without using lard. In my first attempt, I followed a recipe that called for melted butter - these shrank up hopelessly in the oven and weren't at all flaky.

The baked cookie inside of the cookie cutter - Just look at that shrinkage!
So, I asked around for suggestions - but nobody had any clue. Seriously, no one I know in Santa Fe could help me out with a recipe. But everyone could describe the perfect alfajor, and warned me not to screw it up. Hmmm. No pressure. I did, however, get a Sandra Lee-like suggestion to use pre-made empanada dough instead and, in my desperation, I did so. I will get to that later.

In the end I settled on this recipe from La Majuluta, and swapped out lard for an equal amount of vegetable shortening. Also, I translated it all by myself so there's another big girl victory. I tried it her way (still shrinkage problems), but also switched it up with my knowledge of pie crust makings and that worked way better for me.
Top: Pre-made dough, Bottom Left: Made with cold shortening, Bottom Right: Made with melted shortening 
300 grams all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt (that's a direct translation, so get to pinching)
60 grams vegetable shortening
2 egg yolks
100 ml warm water (do you know that American measuring cups actually list ml? nice.)
1 Tablespoon booze (some recipes call for anise liquor, but I used vanilla vodka)
A few drops of lemon extract (which I didn't use, but suggest)

400 grams dulce de leche repostero (specifically for baking)

200 grams sugar (superfine if you've got it)
80 ml water
1 egg white, room temperature

Whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to blend in the chilled shortening (see, here's my pie crust expertise at work). Stir in the yolks, water, booze, and extract to form a crumbly dough - try not to over mix, just get it to stick together. Form a ball and flatten slightly, to create a disc shape (to make rolling out easier). If you have limited counter space, you may want to divide the dough into two discs. Cover and put in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, or until you're ready to roll it out (if you leave it longer, let it sit out for 10-15 minutes before rolling). Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1.5 mm thickness (thinness!). Use a 7 or 8 cm cookie cutter to cut into circles and prick them with a fork to prevent puffing (I got 39 cookies out of it, after re-rolling the scraps.) Bake at 200C/400F for 10 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden. Let cool. Assemble a three-cookie-layer sandwich using nearly one full tablespoon of dulce de leche between each layer.

Make the glaze by bringing the sugar and water to a boil until the mixture reaches 112C - I got a candy thermometer to ensure success this time around. Start beating the egg white shortly before the sugar hits 112 (beat on low speed for maybe 1 minute). Let the syrup cool briefly, like 20-30 seconds or when the needle on the thermometer starts to drop. Slowly add it to the egg while you continue to beat it (no one wants to be defeated). It shouldn't take more than 30 seconds to combine them and get a nice shiny white glaze - like thin marshmallow fluff. Use a pastry brush to immediately brush the sandwiches with the glaze - this is super tricky and I found it impossible to get all of the sides covered, but work fast and at least spread a thin layer on top. Let them drip and dry (which takes about 2-3 hours) on a cooling rack.

Immediately after adding the glaze
Now, as I mentioned above, you can use pre-made empanada dough for the cookies. I tried it with La Saltena's small rounds (8cm) - poking them and baking for 10 minutes. This, however, resulted in a giant alfajor that disturbingly resembled a combination of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and a BK Stacker, and was too chewy to qualify as a cookie.

Alfajor Sandraleesino
I'm glad that I added a classic Argentine dessert to my recipe box, and I'm especially glad that I wrote it out in English - that's one less hurdle for the next round.

For more delicious alfajor recipes from all over Argentina, please stop by these blogs!

Alfajores Marplatenses: Seashells and Sunflowers
Alfajores Cordobeses: From Argentina to the Netherlands, For Love!
Alfajores Mendocinos: From Argentina With Love
Alfajores de Maizena: Ana Travels
Alfajores Salteños: Buenos Aires Foodies, Bee My Chef

Friday, June 17, 2011

¡¿Cabina Fotográfica?!

Well, we couldn't very well call it a photobooth, now could we? Cotillón (party props and attire - you know, funny hats and such) is a very important part of Argentine weddings and parties. You usually bust it out on the dance floor around 3am. But what if your party doesn't include dancing? Enter the photobooth: so popular that it's almost cliché at home, but soon to be all the rage here.

What do you need? 
1) Any cotillón that you have stolen from weddings
2) Funny mustaches and glasses on sticks
3) Additional props, as needed (a feather boa is pretty much a necessity and a small blackboard is nice)
4) An empty picture frame

5) A sign that says "cabina fotográfica"- you know, since it's such an odd concept

6) I would also say that you need some sort of background but large groups are likely to rush the booth and you would need a wall full of fabric for that so don't beat yourself up over it.


Links to printable mustaches:

7) A puppy to try your props on

Links to printable glasses and more:
Photobooth Props (play with the size)

I traced the staches onto black goma eva and the glasses/bow tie/lips onto card stock paper, then cut them out and super glued them onto some kebob sticks.

Here are some of the resulting photos (but not the professional ones - those I'll post later):

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In celebration of 25 de Mayo this year, we fried dessert. Sure, last year it was soup. This year it was serious. Last weekend at my father in law's birthday party we ate the most delicious pastelitos, aka warm, fried dough sprinkled with sugar and oozing with something sweet. Here's a photo of them in all their fried glory by Diego Llarrull.

Photo by Diego Llarrull
A post on From Argentina With Love convinced me that these are quite simple to make...just in time for 25 de Mayo! Instead of a recipe, I'm just going to say that we used pre-made empanada dough rounds (Yuli), some filling, and some sugar, along with oil for frying and almibar. To be more specific, we placed a square of filling - either dulce de membrillo, chocolate, or a spoonful of dulce de leche - in the center of one dough round, wet the area around the filling and then topped with another dough round, sealing the dough around the filling. 

To make this lovely flower shape, place your forefingers under the dough on opposite sides of the circle, pull up slightly and pinch the dough together using your middle finger and thumb. Repeat on the other side of the circle. We didn't moisten and and seal the edges so that we could have more fried dough surface area. However, it is advisable to do so if you use dulce de leche as a filling.

Dulce de membrillo is a traditional filling for pastelitos.

Chocolate is not.

This is not a science project, it's a jar of homemade (by the afore mentioned father in law - he's a real Renaissance man!) dulce de membrillo. The syrup (which results from boiling membrillo with sugar) is called almibar - we'll use this later.

So we take our little dough creations...whoops, some membrillo is poking out. But, no worries.

And we fry them in some hot oil (over medium heat) - this is sunflower oil.

They take about 1-2 minutes each to turn golden, and then should be removed to a paper towel where they will be immediately drizzled with a spoonful of almibar or sprinkled with sugar, or both!

Not long afterwards (because they should be eaten warm) they will be taken to the table to be consumed immediately with patriotic gusto.

Oooh, melty chocolate. (I'm warning you, this is not a traditional filling and may cause funny looks from locals)

Ooozing dulce de leche (also not traditional for pastelitos, watch yourselves)

Here's a familiar taste. Happy 25 de Mayo, Argentina. Sorry if I have displayed unpatriotic behavior by changing up the fillings, but they're delicious.