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 Z├╝rich 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!