Saturday, December 29, 2012

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

It must have been some party!  I love the look on the man of the house's face as he contemplates doing the dishes at a quarter to three....

The good people at Whole Foods invited me to sample their new Whole Foods Market™ line  of appetizers, entrees and desserts.   So my family sat down the other night for a pre NYE taste off of some of their new products.     Compared to similar offerings at Whole Foods, their house brand was well priced.  Also, they have no artificial flavors, bleached flours, hydrogenated fats or high-fructose corn syrup in these new products.   Our favorites were their "6 Ingredient" Ice Cream - which is a lot like the Haagen Dazs but cheaper and their Wood Fired Stracchino Cheese with Arugula pizza.    They'd like readers of my blog to try them out, too, so drop a comment below letting me know what your food plans are for New Year's Eve, and a winner of a $25 Whole Foods Gift Card will be selected at random.   All comments must be received by midnight, December 31, 2012 for the drawing.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lubiyeh - Green Beans and Tomatoes with Garlic

Yesterday, we celebrated Christmas No. 3 at my brother's house in Warren.   My sister in law Becky assigned me the vegetable for the dinner, in addition to the kapusta I was already planning on bringing.   We are already out of the kraut I fermented myself earlier in the season, so I picked up a gallon of kraut at Copernicus Deli in Ann Arbor, our very own Polish food emporium.  I also got some beet horseradish to go along with the kielbasa.   But I was stumped about what to make for my much as I love the Campbell's Soup green bean casserole, I had just had it the other day at my sister in law's house and I didn't have a can of the Durkee Fried Onions laying about in the pantry, which are critical.   I looked in my veggie drawer and all I had languishing in there was carrots, celery and some mixes salad greens.  I didn't want to go to the store....what to make?

Looking again at the pantry, I saw tons of canned green beans and canned tomatoes.   True confession time:  I love the taste of canned green beans....frozen green beans are like cardboard, and I like to buy my produce seasonally, if possible.  So unless it is summertime, we eat canned green beans.  There.  I said it.   Hopefully no one takes away my food snob credentials.   There's something homey about canned green beans, plus I think the canning process concentrates the beans flavor.   It's what I grew up with.     I also had lots of cans of diced tomatoes....confession #2: I don't can my own tomatoes.   It's a hassle, and I can't preserve them as cheaply as I can buy my favorite local brand Red Gold.  When I can tomatoes, it's always in condiment form: salsa, ketchup, barbecue sauce.   But I leave plain canned tomatoes to the Red Gold people.    So then I decided to make a dish my fellow Michigan Lady Food Blogger Joan made a few years ago at one of our get togethers.   She called it Maan's Beans.  The recipe originally came from her Lebanese neighbor Maan who lived by her back when she lived next to Frog Holler Farm.   Evidently Maan's beans are famous there, too, because a recipe shows up for them on their website as well. That's how I found the Arabic name for them - Lubiyeh.  They are so delicious! 

The trick to making these beans is to not skimp on the garlic.  My version calls for 2 heads (not cloves) of garlic.   Also, they take a long time to cook - the long, slow cooking mellows the garlic and will make your house smell wonderful.   They can be made on the stove top, but I found that it works best to make them in a lidded pot in a slow oven - no stirring required.  The best part about this recipe is that it's essentially zero Weight Watchers points, if you are counting them. 


olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 15 oz.  cans French cut green beans, drained
4 15 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 small cans tomato paste
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a dutch oven or other lidded heavy pan, sauté onion in olive oil until soft.  Add all ingredients (except salt and pepper) and cook in a 250 F oven for 5 hours or until the garlic is soft.  Add salt and pepper to taste.    This can be served on pita bread as a dip, or over rice for a meal.

There were no leftovers to bring home - everyone kept eating helping after helping with our holiday ham.   Sure, it wasn't traditional, but it was great to have a vegetable to eat that wasn't laden with cream sauce but still tasted rich and flavorful.   I need to make this more often....thanks to Joan for the inspiration!  I don't get to see her anymore now that she has moved to Japan, but we still consider her a Michigan Lady Food Blogger

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

I am thoroughly enjoying my holiday break from work - everyone at my work gets from December 22 until January 2 off, but I decided to take some vacation days early in 2013 so I can be off the first week of January, too.  My goal is to take a nap every day that I am off, and so far, that has been working out great!  Sure, I've got some other things planned - I need to sew 3 costumes for the Dexter High School musical, and     I really need to get our family room cleaned up, but I am not going to let those things get in the way of my naps.   A girl needs to have priorities...

Yesterday, after my nap, we were supposed to bowling as a family, but my son was feeling a little under the weather, so my hubby and I decided to treat ourselves to happy hour instead.   One of our favorite holiday traditions is to sneak out for a holiday cocktail together.    I can remember when we first moved to Ann Arbor, we sat together in the famous hippy bar Del Rio (long closed) and enjoyed our Christmas cocktail while the snow fell in the twilight.   We had to run into Dexter to pick up a last minute gift, and the town was pretty much empty, so we stopped at the pub for our cocktail this year.   It should be my New Year's Resolution to take advantage of my programmable oven often - it has a feature where you can set the start time, the cooking time and the temperature, and the food will cook later on, as directed.  It's a great way to cook frozen dishes like casseroles on a work day - just pop it frozen in the oven, program it, and it will be ready when you arrive home.  

I used the feature yesterday to try out this recipe I saw on the Barefoot Contessa.   A couple weekends ago, I was on a ladies weekend with my friend Ann, and she doesn't have a TV in her house.  So whenever we are at a hotel together, we watch the Food Network.  During the day, they actually show cooking shows instead of the stupid faux reality cooking competitions they have at night.    I've always liked Ina Garten's recipes - in fact, her original cookbook...

is one of my favorites - every recipe I have ever made from that book is stellar.   So we watched Ina whip up a meal for her husband Jeffery - it seems that Ina leads a charmed life, where all she does is cook up a fabulous meal for her husband that she only sees on weekends, when he pops in for a visit.   Otherwise, her days are spent shopping and cooking for any guests from the Hamptons that might drop in.  Ina said that she used to make these potatoes by the truckload to sell in her food shop....


I love the idea of mustard mixed with potatoes - I had just bought a big jar of Polish style mustard for Christmas.   The bonus of this potato recipe is that the mustard coats the raw potatoes and prevents them from discoloring.   So, they can sit in the oven for a while, waiting to be cooked.   I decided to try it out and it worked great - while we ran our errands and enjoyed our cocktails, the potatoes waited in the oven until it was time for them to cook.   Delicious!

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds small potatoes
2 yellow onions
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (or, set your oven for 425 to cook later)

Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters, depending on their size, and place them on a sheet pan. Remove the ends of the onions, peel them, and cut them in half. Slice them crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick slices to make half-rounds. Toss the onions and potatoes together on the sheet pan. Add the olive oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper and toss them together. Bake for  1 hour, until the potatoes are lightly browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Toss the potatoes from time to time with a metal spatula so they brown evenly, if there's someone home to do it.

Serve hot sprinkled with chopped parsley and a little extra salt.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies

It's already been a long December for me.   Work gets frenetic as people are trying to get everything done they said they would in 2012, way back last January.  Then, others are trying to get their last vacation days in before they lose them at the end of the year, so it's difficult to make things happen.  Of course, there is holiday lunches and potlucks to attend, too.   On Thursday, it took all my resolve to go into the office instead of staying home and baking cookies.   Specifically, gingerbread cookies.....

Michigan, my Michigan

Gingerbread Cookies
3 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1 T ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup robust  molasses
2 tablespoons milk

In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined. Add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened.   Scrape dough onto work surface and divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 20-25 minutes. (You could also refrigerate the dough 2 hours or overnight.)
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into desired shapes and transfer the shapes to your parchment-lined cookie sheets. Space them at least an inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. For crispier cookies, let them bake for a little longer and roll them thinner.  Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.   Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.

These can be decorated with fancy royal friend Olivia makes the most beautiful Christmas cookies...

Olivia's cookies

and every year, I try to make ones as nice as she does, but I rarely succeed.  Maybe this year will be the year!  To make cookies like this, it requires a lot of stuff....

sprinkles and sugars

...and it also requires cake decorating tools and really good food coloring.   The best way to learn how to do it is this website, which I found, thanks to Olivia.   Over the years, I've also used squeeze bottles instead of icing bags and tips.    I use this Royal Icing recipe - there are tons out there, but I've had good luck with this one.   The key is to make sure that the icing is the right consistency.  

Royal Icing Recipe


3/4 cup warm water
5 T meringue powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2.25 lbs powdered sugar


In mixer bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened…about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more. Pour in all the icing sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.  Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for a full 10 minutes. Icing will get thick and creamy. Add just drops of water at a time to make the icing runnier.  If you add too much water at a time it’s more difficult to thicken it with icing sugar than it is to add water to it.  To make sure the icing is the right consistency for flooding, try the “10 second rule”.  Drag a butter knife through the surface of the icing and count to 10.  If the icing surface becomes smooth in anywhere between 5-10 seconds, then the icing is ready to use.  If it takes longer than approximately 10 seconds, the icing is too thick.  Slowly add more water.  If the icing surface smooths over in less than 5-10 seconds, it is too runny.  Mix the icing longer or slowly add more sifted icing sugar to thicken it.

Cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel to prevent crusting and drying.

Tint with food coloring of your choice.   This is always hard for me to figure out, because I really don't have a good eye for color.   I need a theme this year, too.   Maybe I will make all snowflakes, or Christmas trees, or mittens.   I have a million cookie cutters....more than any one person should have.   I'm not sure when I am going to bake some cookies this season.  Maybe today will be the day!