Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oh-So-Easy Pie Crust

*Update 9/7/11: See an updated version of this pie crust HERE (better photos...promise)

When I first knew that I really loved to cook, one of the first things I learned to make was pie crust. I wanted to make the pies to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner. This recipe for pie crust has never gone wrong for me. It's super easy and works every time. This crust is pretty basic and will work for most pies. It ends up being super-flaky and tender when you take a bite.

 I may post some other types of crust in the future, but this is my good 'ole standby!



Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tortilla Soup

*Update 8/22/11: please see my new and improved Tortilla Soup post (recipe remains the same) HERE

I love soup. I love making it. I love eating it. Love it, love it, love it. One of my absolute favorites is Tortilla Soup and my favorite way to make it is adapted from Rick Bayless. Of course, I am a major fan of all things Mexican...the food, the culture, the beautiful beaches. Also a major fan of Rick Bayless! He is an absolute genius.

Many Mexican recipes that I make are his recipes...or evolved from his recipes...thanks Rick! It's simple, yet delicious...like the best things in life.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Restorative Broth

Restorative Broth | www.girlichef.com
Tis the season for colds and flu. We've been battling it in our household for the last few days now...so I decided it was past time to make a big batch of my warming Restorative Broth. Okay, so it's basically an uber concentrated stock...but it works for clearing your head and bringing you back to life. I put in a good dose of garlic and most importantly...ginger (both of which have fabulous medicinal qualities)!

The Cherokee used garlic as an expectorant and to prevent and fight the common cold. Ginger has also been a long-standing folk remedy for colds...and it is oh, so warming. A good dose of these two plants along with a chicken, some common vegetables and some herbs simmering away on the stove will fill your home with such a comforting scent that you may start to feel better already.

Other than the fact that we really needed it, I knew I was supposed to make the broth when I went to the market and found whole chickens for .88 cents per pound! A sign...I bought two...chickens, not pounds. I always make a big batch of this broth because other than being a powerhouse on its own, it is also great used to make chicken noodle soup...or any other recipe you would use broth or stock in.


FAT TUESDAY!

It's Fat Tuesday....Mardi Gras....Hooray for Pączki's!
Pączki for Fat Tuesday | www.girlichef.com
Have you had your Pączki yet? Do you know what a Pączki is? It's pronounced "poonch-key" or "punch-key". It is a yeast-raised Polish pastry eaten on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday...it marks "Fat Tuesday" (which is the translation of Mardi Gras)! One last indulgence before Lent (and a way to use up all the eggs, cream, sugar and other foods forbidden during Lent)...hence one last indulgence before fasting. Fasting...Fasting?! Yikes, not for me, but then again, I'm not Catholic...or Polish. What I am is a supporter of my local bakery...they make the softest, richest Paczki's around.



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bacon w/ Cabbage

Bacon w/ Cabbage | www.girlichef.com
I'm not claiming this is an "authentic" Irish bacon & cabbage...but it is good, and it is simple. I had about a half a head of cabbage sitting in the fridge that I really needed to use, and of course, I had bacon. Mmmmmm....BACON. St. Paddy's day is coming up soon, so I figure I'm just getting warmed up.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Heather eats Almond Butter...and so does Heather.

Homemade Almond Butter | www.girlichef.com
store-bought on the left, homemade on the right...
I was recently "tagged" on one of those Facebook chain-type notes. The title of it was My Life according to Google. For those of you who don't have a Facebook account (there are still some people who don't, right), it basically works like a chain email letter. Once you've been tagged, you copy the note, open up a new note and paste it in, then erase the first person's answers and insert your own. Then of course, you "tag" your friends and hope they'll tag you back, etc etc...

In this particular note, you enter your first name in the Google search bar followed by another word (given) and your answer is the first response that scrolls up automatically, or if nothing pops up, then you click I feel lucky and use what shows up there. Most of these made me laugh or were pretty cute. Some of my answers were:

Heather needs a childhood.....Heather looks like Hollywood actresses.....Heather will say if you're a pain in the butt.....Heather says vote...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

That's a hushpuppy...really?

Basic Hushpuppies | www.girlichef.com
I made homemade hushpuppies for the first time today. Now, sadly what I expected was a dense ball of seasoned, fried cornmeal. What I got were airy puffs with a slightly crisp outer shell. Also, they weren't round. I expected them to be round. Apparently I've only ever eaten hushpuppies from fast food restaurants...is this true?

I'm waiting for a rebuke to come tumbling out of my memory stores, but it's not happening. Huh. Really? Wow. The recipe I made was sent to me by CooksCountry/America's Test Kitchen. A while back I signed up to be a home recipe tester...this is the latest one to try.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hummus

Hummus | www.girlichef.com
Yeah, big fan! Before tonight, it had been some time since I last made hummus, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. I suppose it's probably because when I'm at the market, I stroll down the aisle with the tahini...wince...and keep on moving. But in all honesty, if you can spring for it, then buy it; it is so worth it! I like my hummus nice and garlicky...that heat, that punch of flavor that spreads pleasantly and territorially over your tongue...and lingers, even after you've brushed your teeth. Twice.

My recipe calls for dried chickpeas, but if you have canned ones in your pantry already, then you might as well use them...you will be done making this in no time at all! If you're not as big a fan of garlic as I am (gasp!) or if you are taking this to a get-together where people don't want that big garlic smell, then just decrease the number of garlic cloves. You can even substitute roasted garlic in place of the raw garlic for a milder garlic flavor. And I know, I know...how much juice "exactly" is in a lemon? It varies...some are juicy, some are not...so, buy an extra lemon and taste it as you make it (always important anyway). The lemon brightens up that earthy flavor of the chickpeas and cuts that pungent garlic.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons...

...make lemon tart cookies!? 

I have to admit that I can't make a lemon tart to save my life. I've tried and tried. I've tried all sorts of recipes. These recipes are from tried & true sources...yet, I cannot get them to turn out! I make a Coconut tart every Easter, so it's not that I can't make a tart. It's that I can't make a Lemon tart.

I've been wanting to add some sort of lemon dessert to my annual Easter menu for a few years now, but I'm ready to throw my arms in the air & wave them around like a crazy lady...accept my fate- no homemade lemon tarts for me (well, made by me at least). I was inspired to give it another go after seeing a beautiful lemon tart on one of my favorite food blogs...Smitten Kitchen. It looked beautiful and had my face puckering just thinking about it. She used a recipe from Dorie Greenspan (again, tried & true!!!) so I jumped in with gusto.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Flautas de Pollo....with Salsa Verde

Flautas de Pollo | www.girlichef.com
If there is one meal that I have a long-running love affair with, it's this one. I've always craved Mexican food...it's a long-running joke (or fact, depending on who you are) that since my first solid food as a baby was refried beans, therefore I fell in love with all Mexican food at an early age. I'm of the school that sees it as fact. About 8 or 9 years ago, a (then) friend of mine taught me how to make flautas. His mother made them this way in her restaurant in Mexico...of which, unfortunately, I don't remember the name or location.

I have been making this the way he taught me ever since. It is very simple, yet a little time consuming. I have never met a person who didn't LOVE it! Certain persons, who shall remain unnamed, have been known to hold off eating for an entire day leading up to the meal, just so they can eat more. There is something strangely addicting about this dish...especially if assembled as I am going to show/tell you. All of the ingredients meld together so perfectly to build a mouthwatering, habit-forming, finger-licking mess of deliciousness.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Manhattan Clam Chowder....yum

My Manhattan Clam Chowder | www.girlichef.com

Soup, soup, soup....I love soup! I've been feeling the need for some clam chowder lately, so I finally got myself together and made some early this afternoon. It was so incredibly satisfying...I was swooning in my kitchen. I mopped it up with a loaf of french bread and washed it down with some red wine...