March 6, 2012

Chocolate Chunk Muffins

I have a confession to make.  This recipe was created because of a mistake.  I accidentally doubled the amount of butter.  Yes, doubled.  There were other aspects of this recipe that I intended to change (I hadn't been to the grocery store in a while, I was craving chocolate, and, so, I had to improvise).  But, I definitely did not mean to double the amount of butter.

Needless to say, that did not hurt this recipe.  They turned out pretty amazingly, I have to say.  You definitely should not take my word for it, though!
These will satiate any chocolate cravings you might be having today... or any day!

You'll need:
1 1/2 cups (300 g) flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup (35 g) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1 cup (200 g) chocolate chips
1/3 cup (50 g) chopped nuts (optional)
1 egg
1/2 cup (125 g) butter, melted
1 1/4 cup (300 ml) milk

PREP: Preheat oven to 390 F (200 C).  Grease muffin tin or prepare paper liners.  If your nuts are not pre-chopped, go ahead and chop them.

DRY INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl, place flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and sugar.
Whisk lightly until uniform.  Add chocolate chips and nuts.

LIQUID INGREDIENTS: In a large bowl, beat the egg.  Whisk in butter and milk.

COMBINE: Gradually stir dry mixture into the liquid mixture until integrated.

BAKE: Place 1/3 cup of batter into each muffin tin.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

YIELD: 12 muffins

I love muffins, in general, because they're super easy to give away.  That's a big help when you love baking and you don't want to have to eat the whole batch :)

So, if you were to drop by our place today, you'd get a warm cup of tea and a chocolate chunk muffin!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

February 29, 2012

Winter Squash Risotto

We have a guest here, at A Pinch of Fabric!  My Aunt has graciously disclosed one of her favorite winter recipes.  And, people, she's collected recipes her whole life.

And, this one is perfect because I am awful with side dishes.  I simply forget about them!  Anyway, I'm starting a collection with this one: Winter Squash Risotto.  My mouth is watering already.

You'll need:
4 Tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped 
1 1/2 cups (680 g) butternut or orange squash, peeled & diced
5 cups (1.2 L) chicken stock
1 1/2 cups (225 g) medium grain rice
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine
1/4 cup (25 g) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until soft and light brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the squash and 1/2 cup of the chicken stock.  Cover pan and cook until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.  Mix in rice.  Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring occassionally.  Add 4 cups of the chicken stock and simmer uncovered until completely absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 30 min.  Add the final 1/2 cup stock and stir until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, adding more stock if too thick.  Mix in remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in parsley and serve.   Bon Appetit Magazine 10/1992.

Fine Cooking adds bacon and sage.  And, if there are leftovers, you can make great risotto cakes.  Just press cold risotto into a pancake shape (any size), fry in butter or oil in a hot skillet.  And, Cooks Illustrated has you dip the cakes in egg, then in fresh or dry breadcrumbs before frying.  Mmm!

I can't wait to try this recipe.  Also, I can't wait to visit my Aunt again!

Happy Wednesday, folks!

February 24, 2012

Fresh Salsa

Coming from two very Mexican-food-permeated regions in the US, salsa has always taken up a large section of our refrigerator.  And, in Bulgaria, it's no different.  However, I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for the store-bought kind (I'm still amazed that Bulgaria has it!).  So, as soon as we got settled in Plovdiv this past summer, I went searching.

That's when my Peace Corps buddy gave me the best, simplest salsa recipe.  It's chunky.  It's fresh.  It's so flavorful, you won't even need chips!  Just a spoon.

You'll need:
2 med. tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)
2 large green bell peppers, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 sprig of cilantro, finely chopped
1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt

Basically, throw all the veggies in a large bowl, sprinkle the salt over it, squeeze the lemon over that, and mix well!  My picture doesn't have cilantro included, as I still have to work on getting my herb garden going.  My mother-in-law brought us seeds when they came for Christmas, and I can't wait!

Anyway, this particular recipe makes one Gladware Deep Dish full of salsa (I'll have to measure it next time I make it!).  You can easily halve it.  I use a lot of it for preparing Mexican dishes, so this amount is perfect for us!  Be sure to store in the fridge.  It keeps for about a week.

Ok, my mouth is watering and it's too late to do anything about it.  I better stop writing!

You guys have a great weekend!

February 23, 2012

Banana Walnut Muffins

One of my best buddies coming to visit + pile of really ripe bananas = excuse to bake muffins!

Not just any muffins.  The best banana walnut muffins you've ever had.  And, you'vs gotta have something to serve your guests that'll make 'em want to come back, right?

I found this recipe on a while ago and have been in love ever since.  This time, however, I added walnuts, since I've been given an abundance of them by a colleague.  I love Bulgaria.

You'll need:
1 1/2 cups (190 g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup (75 g) butter, melted
1/4 cup (28 g) walnuts, chopped

PREP:  Pre-heat oven to 350 F (175 C).  Grease muffin tin(s).  Mash the bananas lightly inside the peel.

MIX:  Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.  Mix bananas, sugar, egg, and butter in a large bowl.  Fold in flour mixture just until smooth.  Then, fold in walnuts.

SCOOP:  Scoop 1/8 cup of batter into each muffin tin.

BAKE:  Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Stick a toothpick in the center, spin, and if it comes out clean, they are done!

YIELD: 18-20 muffins

Sorry not so many pictures this time.  I'm eager to spend some time outside.  The sun is shining today!

Oh, and I'm a huge muffin fan.  If any of you have muffin recipes to pass on, please do!

Happy Thursday!

February 22, 2012

Sweet Basil Tomato Quiche

Today starts a 4-day weekend for me.  So excited. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do, and I'm trying not to get too over-eager with my to-do list. But, I hope to post something my sewing machine and I have been up to, lately.

Meanwhile, we still gotta eat, right?  So, here's what we're having for dinner tonight.  It's one of my favorite recipes from More-with-less, a gift from my wonderful mother-in-law!  And, as usual, it's modified, Euro-style!

I call it "Sweet Basil Tomato Quiche."  And, I make it crust-less.  It's so flavorful, you won't even miss it.

You'll need:
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (55 g) yellow cheese, shredded
1/2 cup (55 g) goat cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup (175 ml) milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) plain yogurt

PREP: Pre-heat oven to 375 F (190 C).  Dice your tomatoes and onion, and toss them into your pie plate (or round casserole dish). Shred your yellow cheese, crumble your goat cheese, and beat your eggs (in a medium bowl).

SPRINKLE: Sprinkle the basil, sugar, salt, and cheeses over the tomatoes and onions. Toss with a fork to mix together.

DAIRY: In the medium bowl with the beaten eggs, add the flour, milk, and yogurt.  Whisk together and pour over tomato mixture.  Shake the dish a little bit to spread the egg mixture out.

BAKE: Bake for 40-45 minutes or until egg is set. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve!

YIELD: 4 servings

This is another really healthy, filling meal.  It's approximately 227 calories per serving and vegetarian.

This would go swimmingly with garlic bread and a garden salad.

Dig in!

February 20, 2012

Zucchini Lasagna

Melts in your mouth.





Yep, all of those words have one dish in common: Zucchini Lasagna.  Ok, stay with me.

Lately, we've been trying to add healthier foods (a.k.a. veggies) into our diet.  So, I found and modified a lasagna recipe that uses zucchini instead of noodles.  Worth a try, right?  Amazing, it turns out.  It serves 6 and, is approximately 362 calories per serving.

You up for it?

You'll need:
28 oz. (800 g) tomato sauce
2 small zucchini, sliced length-wise (1/4-in.)
8 oz. (230 g) ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (55 g) Parmesan cheese, crumbled or grated
1 egg
4 oz. (115 g) Edam cheese, shredded
1/4 cup (55 g) Parmesan cheese, crumbled or grated (to sprinkle on top of lasagna)

PREP: Heat oven to 350 F (176 C).  Grease a 9x9 baking dish (I used a round casserole dish).  If you haven't already pre-made the tomato sauce, go ahead and make it (it can be simmering while you prepare the remaining ingredients).

Slice zucchini into 1/4-inch slices, length-wise.  I found this easier if I sliced a little off of one side of each zucchini, laid it down on that flat side, and then started slicing.

In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup (55 g) Parmesan cheese, and egg.  Shred the Edam cheese.

LAYERS: Spread 1/3 of tomato sauce in bottom of dish.  Then, cover sauce with 1/2 of the zucchini slices, 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, and 1/2 of the Edam, in that order.

Repeat with another 1/3 of tomato sauce and the rest of the zucchini slices, ricotta mixture, and the Edam.  Top with the last 1/3 of tomato sauce and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup (55 g) Parmesan cheese on top of that.

Tip: If you end up with more zucchini than you need, you can cut them up into chip-sized pieces for dipping or just by themselves for an appetizer.

BAKE: Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and Parmesan is slightly brown.

Believe it or not, this recipe is gluten-free and, if you make the meatless version of my tomato sauce, it can be vegetarian, too.

I'm betting you can sneak veggies into your kids' (and spouse's) diet with this recipe!

Bon app├ętit!

February 19, 2012

Basic Tomato Sauce

This stuff works as a great base for many Italian dishes.  Mmm!  And, I hope you love garlic, because I love garlic, and this stuff has a lot of it.  Here, you have a meat-based sauce, though it's very easy to go meatless*.  So, do as you please!

You'll need:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 lb. (500 g**) minced meat - mine's a mix of beef and pork
28-oz. (800 g) can tomatoes (crushed or diced)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 torn bay leaves

GARLIC: Heat a large skillet on med-low and add the olive oil to skillet. Add garlic to the skillet and cook until fragrant and lightly browned (approx. 1 minute), stirring constantly. Add the crushed red pepper, if desired.

MEAT: Add meat. Continuously break up meat into small bits and fry until no longer pink. Add a small amount of the tomatoes to the pan and loosen the drippings from the skillet with the spatula.

TOMATOES + SPICES: Add the rest of the tomatoes, oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, salt, and sugar. Stir to combine. Add bay leaves.

SIMMER: Bring to a boil, lower temperature, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

USE: Remove and discard bay leaves, store in your refrigerator (up to 2 days) for a later day, or incorporate into your current dish, like I'm doing (soon-to-come: Zucchini Lasagna!).

*Meatless: Simply substitute the meat with 1 large yellow onion, diced, and fry it for 2-3 minutes before adding the garlic and crushed red pepper.

**500 grams is not 1 pound.  However, I buy meat by the kilo and I just halve it for my recipes.  It's really 453 g/lb.  So, if you visit me in Europe you get more meat in your dishes!

I would love knowing what you use this for! Spaghetti? Classic Lasagna? Do tell.

Also, any other variations?

Off to make Zucchini Lasagna...

February 18, 2012

Domestic Kool-Aid

Hi there.

I live in Bulgaria and I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I am a wife to Randall.

I am a dog fanatic.  Liza is proof of that.

I have slightly more time on my hands than I did in the US.

That's part of the reason why we're Peace Corps Volunteers.

Less stress.  More life.

I was caught off guard, though.

I now love to sew, bake, and cook.

My love for sewing and baking has been brewing for a while.

Who doesn't love a good cookie and a new purse?

But, I love to cook?  Me?  Yeah, right. 

Seriously.  My cutting board, mixing bowl, chef's knife, lemon juicer, spatula, and apron have never been so busy.

On top of that, my sewing machine needs re-oiling, and there's nothing more I'd love out of storage in the US than my Kitchen Aid.


So, I want this blog to be a recipe book.

A sewing-pattern collection.

My creativity.

My domestic aspirations.

Like, I want to successfully make bread by hand.

I want to make a tasty cheesecake.  Randall loves cheesecake.

I want to grow my own herb garden.  Hello?  They're free.

And, I want to sew a piece of clothing.  Not just straight lines.

Randall says it takes about 10 years to master a trade.

So, start the countdown timer.

Bottoms up!  I've drunk the domestic kool-aid.