Sunday, December 30, 2012

Super simple Tzatziki

With the holidays, lots of rich or fatty food is eaten. So the 23rd, we decided to eat something simple and healthy. Hummus, tzatziki, pita and veggies. I will post the hummus recipe later on, but here is my version of the dip. Great for kids too!

What you need
2 containers of natural Greek yogurts (300 g)
1-2 finely minced garlic cloves
1 Tbsp of dried dill, or a bit less if using fresh
1 cucumber, peeled and grated

Some recipes call for adding water, but If you don't remove the seeds from the cucumber, you have plenty of water.

Put the yogurt in a large bowl.

Mince the garlic and add one clove, reserve the second.

Using the large side of a cheese grater, grateful the cucumber over the bowl. Mix well.

Add the dill and mix again. Take a bite, and if you like it, you are done. Or you can slowly add the second clove. You may need a little more dill to suit your taste.

Enjoy on pita, maybe add some feta. Or use as a dressing. Also great with gyros.

Homemade Peppermint Patties

As many of you know, sometimes it is hard to find a treat or snack from your home country for a reasonable price.  My husband loves peppermint patties, and the only time he really gets them anymore are from my mom on Christmas.  While browsing Pinterest (for the billionth time), I came across a recipe for a homemade version.  I did try it, but although I liked the idea, there was something not quite right for us, so I tried again, and we loved these.  My super picky eater also loved them..and that is saying a lot because he barely eats anything.

The ingredients are simple

380 g of powdered sugar
90 g of plain cream cheese
1/4 - 1/2 tsp peppermint extract (depending on your love of the flavor)
500 g (or a bit more) of melting chocolate..either the chips or the block
20-30 g powdered sugar, reserved

You will need something to melt the chocolate in. A double boiler, a microwave, a fondue pot...just don`t get any water in with the melting chocolate or it will not work. 

Leave the cream cheese out for about a half hour before starting to soften it. Put it in a bowl and add a little of the sugar. Mix and continue to add.  When you get to 350 g of sugar added, start feeling the texture.  You do not want it to be super sticky, nor do you want it to be super hard.  I was actually able to roll the mixture in my hands without creating a sticky mess.  

Once you have reached the desired consistency, add the peppermint. mix well to incorporate it throughout the mixture. 

The blog post I looked at, said that you could only do about 3 or 4 at a time and that you needed to keep the bowl covered constantly. I did not have any trouble with this.  I ended up making 40 without covering. Of course, she was making indentations in the `patty`and I was not, so that may be the reason. In any case, if you find things drying out, cover your extra mixture with a damp towel. 

Get a hard surface that will fit in the fridge and put some baking paper (parchment paper) on top. Put your dollops of patty mixture on top so they don`t stick. Using your reserved powdered sugar, put it in a bowl and get a small flat bottomed glass.  Dip the glass in the sugar and lightly press down. You want it to be about 1/4 of an inch thick. Any thinner and it will deform while adding the chocolate. 

If you roll the patty mixture into a ball first, you will have a more round circle at the end. I used a teaspoon like for cookies. 

Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours. More is fine. 

Melt your chocolate

With a fork, or small spatula, drop the patty in the melted chocolate and then flip it to coat. Place on a clean sheet of parchment paper.  When done, put back in the fridge to harden.  You need to coat the patties quickly or they will deform. 

And there you have it, super easy peppermint patties.  I think I made 40, but I am not sure as a few of them went `missing`before counting time. :-)

If you would like to check out the other recipe, here is the link

Basically, once you have put your patties on the paper, using the back of a spoon or finger, dipped in sugar, press gently to make a depression.  Refrigerate for a few hours and then melt your chocolate.  Using a spoon, or bag with the corner snipped off, fill the depressions with chocolate and then refrigerate once again.  

afoodave or americanmarket should have peppermint extract if you do not have any. Otherwise, it is very simple to make your just need vodka and fresh peppermint (and a bit of time, so start now to have it for later!)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Queso (Tex-Mex cheese dip)

We went to the US for a visit and  had to have all of our old favorites.  One of them (well a few of them) was going to a Mexican Restaurant that we had been to a few years before. We had an incredible queso dip for an appetizer, and of course I had to try and recreate it.

I actually spent quite a bit of time researching this one.  There are a few mays to make queso, and almost all of them involve cheeses that are not readily available here. I started off with the desire to find a good monterry jack substitute.  While researching, I did learn that the Cheese Man occasionally carries it, but that you need to contact him. He is at the Zürich HB and the Viadukt. I then took all the suggestions of cheeses that were available in the supermarkets and tried them with a cheddar base.  I tried both the British yellow-white cheddar and the more Americanized orange cheddar (available from Migros Brunaupark or Jelmoli on the Bahnhofstrasse).

Here are the types of cheese that I tried:
St Paulin
Cheddar - Cathedral City
Cheddar - rot

I thought about trying the Iberico as well, but didn`t quite get around to it. The cheeses that work in the best combination to make a creamy, tasty queso are the Manchego, Asiago and Cathedral City Cheddar.

The main thing you need to do when making the queso, is have a good base. If you have a recipe for cream sauce that you love, you are basically there and just need the cheese and a few other things to make a fabulous queso.

Feel free to use whatever kind of peppers you prefer. I used the skinny, long red ones available at Migros as I did not want to use the jarred jalapenos, or travel to El Maiz (though they do ship, and it is fairly quick). My husband and I disagree on spiciness, so the first time I made this, I used one pepper, and this time (the better version of the recipe), I used 3. He thought it was perfect, and I think 2 would be. So take into consideration how spicy you want it to be. If it ends up too hot, add some more cheese.

The one other important piece of information you need to know, is make sure you do this on a low heat. I have a range from 1-9, and I stayed at about a 3. Depending on your range, you may need to adjust as we have one burner that gets super hot. I avoided that one. Also, you need to whisk constantly towards the end.

What you need:
2 Tbls butter
1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour
250 ml of whole milk.

With the following, feel free to add a bit more, or a bit less depending on your likes and dislikes, but keep in mind, if you add too much, it will be like salsa cheese, or too little and it will be cheese soup :-)

1/2 cup of diced onion
2 or more hot peppers (I used one the first time, for a very mild flavor and 3 this time for a stronger flavor. I think at least 2 should be added to get at least a hint of spice).
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup or more of cilantro, depending on how much you like it (I used an entire bag from Migros)
2 large diced tomatoes, or a drained can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of sour cream, optional (this does thin it out a little bit, creme fraiche would be a little thicker)
200g of Manchego cheese
200g of Asiago cheese
200g of Cathedral City Cheddar cheese (the cheeses all came in packages really close to that amount).

First, put your butter in a large pan and start to melt it over low heat. Add the diced onions and peppers and cook for about 5-10 minutes. I used this time to grate my cheese.  You do not want to buy pre-shredded as I read that there is something added to it that makes it not melt as well (I don`t know for sure as I haven`t tried it, but thought I would throw that out there for you).

Add the garlic and stir.

Add the flour and then whisk the mixture till the flour is evenly mixed in.

Add the milk and whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened. Probably another 5 minutes.

Roughly chop the cilantro, and add it, along with the diced tomatoes.

Very slowly, add the cheese. About 1/4 cup at a time, and mix until it has melted before adding more.  This can take another 10-15 minutes.  After adding all your cheese, if you feel that it is too runny, slowly add flour a teaspoon at a time and wait about 3 minutes in between adding more, or you may find you have something to eat with a fork.

Add the sour cream last. (the photo with sour cream looks more orange as that was my first batch and I added a can of diced tomatoes. If you use fresh, the queso is a lot lighter)

Don`t forget the chips.  I have yet to find decent tortilla chips (or at least something without seasoning on them already), so you have a few options.
Buy the really good ones from El Maiz or Jelmoli
Buy a box of the crunchy taco shells and break them up, or
Make your own.

Making your own is very simple. All you need are flour tortillas and some vegetable oil. Heat the oil in a pan until it is very hot. Cut your tortillas into triangles (like a pizza) and put them in the pan. If you have let the oil get very very hot, you only need to cook them on one side. After they brown and bubble up, lay them on a paper towel to blot some of the grease. Sprinkle with sea salt, as desired.

These are the homemade tortillas, which taste a lot better than store bought if you have the time (see flour tortilla link above)

These are with tortillas I had found in France

Your final option is just to heat up flour tortillas and dip them in the hot queso. Simple and yummy.

I hope you enjoy, and feel free to try your own cheese combinations. Let me know if you come up with something fantastic!

The only thing that could have made this better would be a frozen Swirl or Margarita, but until I get a blender, I guess I will have to pass...

Adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuna Sandwich

This is a fairly easy, low fat recipe that you can make at the beginning of the week and have for lunch for a few days.  I may have mentioned that I`m not a seafood fan, but hubby is and he asked me to make this for him. Surprisingly I had everything I needed as well so it was quite simple. This is from a WW book that I have altered a bit.

 What you need:
Crusty bread - either a loaf or 4 rolls
3 small cans of tuna, packed in water
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and diced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
4 olives, diced (feel free to add more, hubby isn`t a big fan)
1 tsp of capers, diced (again, feel free to add more if you like)
Thinly sliced tomato
Fresh basil for garnish

For the dressing:
2 Tbls red wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
dash of black pepper

First, set your egg to boil. Put enough water in a pot to cover the egg and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and let the egg sit (covered) for 10 minutes.

If you have a lot of bread in your roll, remove some so that you can pack it with the tuna mixture easily. Leave at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch of bread.

Coat the bread with your dressing. I found it easiest to use a silicone brush.

Lay some of your tomato slices and basil on one side.

To make the tuna mixture:
Drain the tuna and put in a bowl. Mash up with a fork. Add the egg, scallions, olives and capers

Scoop some into your hollowed out bread.

The original recipe says to wrap tightly in foil and put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. As I made this right at lunch time I obviously didn`t want to tell hubby he`d have to wait 2 more hours, so served it right away. He really enjoyed it. So take your pick, this sandwich can be made ahead of time, or just when you are ready to eat. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pepper Venison Escalope with Split Grilled Brocolli - AKA "Thow stuff on grill"

Hi everyone, I'm out of town with the kiddos so poor hubby has to make his own dinner. Before you feel too sorry for him though, I did completely stock the fridge with both homemade and ready meals for him, along with all the sides.  Of course, with the fridges we all have, it didn't last very long, but I gave him a kick start anyway :)
So here is the hubby, with enough time on his hands to post a great sounding recipe (hopefully he cleaned up the kitchen too!) :p
Here is the scenario: the wife is away with the kids and you are going to need to cook something for dinner. You want something manly. What do you do?

Usually when one thinks of manly culinary arts, the barbecue comes to mind. A vision of hamburgers and hot dogs grilled at a party is easy to conjure.

What a disapointment! These processed foods are the metrosexuals of the manly culinary repertoire! Repeat after me - real men eat wild game.

For those just coming around to the ideas, it helps to get into the spirit. Try saying "Wild Game" to yourself to pump yourself up. It sounds better when you yell it sort of like Duran Duran* in Wild Boys. WILD GAME! WILD GAME! WILD GAME!

Ted Nugent isn't returning my calls so I was forced to restrict my hunt to the local Coop grocery store. It is apparently hunting season in Switzerland and on offer were venison. The packaging helpfully allows you to identify which meat is from Stags and which from Does. I wanted to avoid having Sound of Music songs in my head while grilling so I thoughtfully chose a Stag escalope. The package clearly informs the consumer that it is indeed wild game. WILD GAME!

Nobody is exactly sure what the supply chain is like that gets wild game prepackaged into the fridge at our local Coop (some sort of hunting co-op?) but do not dwell on this. Keep your eye on the prize - WILD GAME!

This meal was planned as a "throw stuff on grill and cook until done" which is a great way to avoid recipe cards and other womanly pursuits. Despite what you may have heard, real men DO eat vegetables so make sure some sort of vegetable is included in the stuff that you throw on the grill. Don't think about it - just grab something at random while walking through the produce section. I grabbed a big head of broccoli since the stalk makes a nice handle which is easy to grab.

For those who need a recipe to operate, here ya go:

  • 250g venison escalope - Stag or Doe (a deer, a female deer...)
  • Venison Marinade
    • Lemon Juice - 1 gs (gs = good squirt, approximately a tablespoon)
    • Worchestestestestchire Sauce - 1 tbsp
    • Soy Sauce - 1 tbsp (I use low sodium)
    • Freshly ground pepper - 1/2 tbsp
    • Vegetable Oil (canola or sunflower oil) - 3 tbsp
  • A vegetable too big to fall through the grate of the grill (I chose broccoli)
  • Vegetable dressing (this basically works with all vegetables)
    • Olive Oil
    • Cracked Pepper
    • a dash of salt

1. Mix together venison marinade ingredients in a shallow bowl
2. Add venison
3. Put in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
4. Watch sports
5. Watch more sports
6. Light grill.
7. Prep veggie - If vegetable is large and thick like a head of cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli - cut it in half.
8. Coat veggie with olive oil
9. Add cracked pepper to veggie
10. Optional - Wrap vegetable in aluminum foil
11. Throw vegetable on grill with medium heat and close the lid
12. After 5 minutes or so throw on venison
13. Cook until done
14. Serve

Do real men drink wine? If you are the kind of real man that drinks wine, let me suggest a wine pairing - Azabache Reserva 2008. It's a Spanish red with a fruity as opposed to overpowering taste. It goes well with this dish by both being full bodied, but also sweet and subtle to complement the rich and flavorful WILD GAME!

Serve with a salad and enjoy!
Well, thank you to my husband for writing up and taking pictures of that delicious looking dinner (the wine looks especially good right now with the little one hanging on me and crying!).
I'm glad I didn't have to type out the W. sauce as my spelling is probably even worse :p but it is easy to find. All the Coops I have been in seem to carry it in their international sections, but you can also order online from Coop or Migros fairly cheaply.  Sunflower oil is very easy to find and what I use the majority of the time. 
I have never had brocolli cooked on the grill like that...actually, I don't think I've had it any way on the grill, so I'm looking forward to trying it when I come home...maybe with a nice T-bone! :-D
What do you think? Should we have more 'mancooking' posts? (Personally, I think it's a fabulous idea as it means less cooking for me....and I know he's got a fantastic onion cake (dinner, not dessert) recipe, hummous, and a few others that I would love to share...
Until next time, Guten Appetit!  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Simple Tomato and Olive bread

Tired of the same old garlic bread with your pasta?
  I went to Mulhouse with my MIL while she was here and left her to pick out some `good looking bread` for us.  I was planning on stopping at the little sandwich shop in the mall for lunch, but it is either gone, or closed for renovations.  So, we were left with the bread to eat in the car on the way home.  I hadn`t realized she`d picked anything other than a plain loaf of bread, so I wasn`t that excited, but wow, was it good.  It had the flavors of tomato, black olive, onion and cheese in it.  All baked on to the top. It was delicious.  I made mine with it baked into the middle as well as my loaf of bread was a bit thicker than the one we had in France.

What you need:
 Bread, the flatter the loaf the better
black olives, sliced
1 onion, very thinly sliced
tomato sauce, chunky, creamy, whichever you prefer (I used a blended sun dried tomato)
cheese: I used a blend of gruyere and emmantaler

Slice your bread in half, and spread some of the tomato across it.  Add olives and onions.  I did half and half. Close the bread, spread more tomato on top and then top with the cheese.  Bake at 150 C for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Result: Really good. Will make this instead of garlic bread for the next few times. My only problem was getting the cheese to stay on top of the bread. It wanted to come off like little cheese cracker pieces. Maybe cross hatch the top of the bread with a knife and stick some cheese down in the bread a little bit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Exciting Enchiladas

So while I love Mexican food, I am very particular about it as well. I am not a fan of super spicy things. Unfortunately my and my husband`s definition of spicy is completely different.  About 10 years ago, I thought the Taco Bell cheese sauce was on the spicy side.  I`m doing a lot better, but jalapenos still scare me.

 When my friend made this dish for me, she made it sound so incredible...I could not wait to try it.  She had forgotten one thing though. To mention that it involved jalapenos.  Fast forward a bit, and she brings this large casserole over to be cooked. All you can see is the cheese on top, and of course it looks wonderful. It goes in the oven and the smells are divine. Someone else asks what is in it, and she goes through the list. Jalapenos included. My jaw dropped. I was so sad, but she said she`d only put 1 in, and that I wouldn`t taste it.  I put the fate of my mouth and all the milk in the fridge in her and took a bite. It was delicious!
If you aren`t a fan of spice, you can leave it out, or if you are, add even more. Either way, it will turn out great.  Just don`t forget the cilantro, as it makes all the difference!

What you need:
500 g shredded chicken
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
8-10 flour tortillas
1/2 - 1 cup grated cheese, Manchego or Iberico
3 cups tomatillo sauce (recipe below)

sour cream

For the sauce:
500 g can tomatillos (available for about 8 chf at El Maiz)
1-2 jalapenos (optional)
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup cilantro, leaves and stems (or one package from Coop/Migros)
1/4 tsp salt

1. Prepare your chicken.  I have made this twice now, once with the sour cream option for the sauce and once without. The first time, I used store bought pre cooked chicken and shredded it. The second, I roasted my own chicken and thought that was the better way to go.  Another option is to poach the chicken by placing it in a pot with water just covering it. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for another 10 minutes.

2. Prepare your sauce.  If using the canned tomatillos, open and drain. I used my immersion blender attachment to chop everything. Put in a bowl (blender or mixer) and then add the cilantro, garlic, salt and jalapenos.

Thinly slice the onion and cook it until it begins to brown and soften. Add to your mix. Blend until you reach a consistency you like.

3.  Spread some of the sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. You will use it to coat the tortillas.

There are 2 options for the tortillas: sprinkle a little water on them and put them in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or (my preference), quickly fry each side.  If you choose this option, heat up the pan first, then put some oil in it once it is hot.  Fry one side then the other. Make sure to blot the tortillas on a paper towel when done.

Lay in the baking dish and then flip so each side is coated with the sauce.  Add a heaping tablespoon of chicken and some cheese to the tortilla and then roll. Place at one end of the dish. Repeat until you have no more room or no more chicken.  When the dish starts to fill up, you may need to use a brush to spread on the sauce to both sides.

Once your dish is full, add the remaining sauce to the top. If you like, before doing this, add in 1/2 a cup of sour cream. Add the sprinkled cheese and bake at 180 C for about 15 minutes. 

 with sour cream sauce
out of the oven,  no sour cream sauce
Ready to enjoy

The cilantro gives it a very good flavor. Don`t forget to add it like I did the first time! :)
Oh, and it is fantastic as leftovers the next day...cold and reheated.