Thanks to our recent Tahoe trip, I now have at least 3 dozen eggs sitting in our refrigerator.  No one else wanted them and I couldn’t bear to see them go to waste since eggs are so versatile.  But I can only eat so many eggs and make so many boatloads of ice cream, so quick quick quick – what are some great ways to use up eggs?

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Why hello there, meyer lemons.

These little guys have been showing up in the stores lately and I cannot wait to make something fantastic with them!  I already have a meyer lemon curd planned for tomorrow to use up a couple of leftover egg yolks, which I plan to eat by the spoon like yogurt.  Hey, no judgement allowed!

But I’m kind of at a loss for other ideas so if you have any favorite lemon-y recipes, please share.  🙂

By the way, I wanted to say a quick shout out to our super talented and creative friend Lily who made the bowl that our lemons are in, made it with her own two hands!  Isn’t it amazing?

So I kind of feel like I took a wrong turn somewhere.  I set out to make this:

And I ended up making this:

I think we can all agree which one looks more appealing.  I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have a clue when I dumped the mixed pasta into my casserole dish but I think I was hoping closing my eyes and wishing real hard would make it magically transform in the oven.  It did not.

Sadly, I think I under-salted so the whole dish was so very bland.  Bland and carb-y and heavy.  Not a very good combination.  But the almonds were a nice crunch.  And I’ve never had almonds on top of a casserole, so that was a new and interesting experience.

Seriously, is there any way to make casseroles look attractive after plating?  Will bake for photography tips!  My dutch oven for a horse!  Help, I need somebody!

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I was writing up this blog post and a thought occurred to me.  A terrible, terrible thought and I just scared the bejeesus out of Martin by making the weirdest sound ever.  I will re-enact said thought:

(Melanie skims the blog post)  Wow, this post is really depressing.  I should really – ohmygod, isn’t Chinese New Years soon?  Chinese New Years is soon!  Did I freaking miss Chinese New Years?!!? (googles “Chinese New Year 2011”)  Okay, lots of crap about the traditions behind Chinese New Years … where’s the date?  GIVE ME THE DATE.  February 3rd … are you serious?  That’s THURSDAY!  * unintelligible sound of frustration and disbelief**

Then I think I said “oh sh*t” a lot, actually aloud, thinking about how I am totally not ready for CNY.  First, I felt like a bad Chinese person and then I felt like a chicken with no head.  Then I irrationally had the thought that if I were a chicken with no head, I would at least be prepared for CNY, except you’re supposed to eat chicken with the head still attached so actually I’m in the same place I was five minutes ago.  Actually, maybe in a worse place, because now I’m a chicken with no head.  😦  It’s been a long day.

When Ashley and Jordo / Little J served the cracker-crusted tuna, they served it with bok choy mixed with a little garlic and sesame oil.  I didn’t have any bok choy, but I did have some corn and edamame in the freezer and this delicious-looking recipe.  The recipe, conveniently, even adds a dash of sesame oil for flavor!  The only things missing (besides bok choy) were Ashley and Jordan!

I cringe a little because I think there is (wait for it) too much yellow in this dish. I know, right!?  Can you believe I said that?  Was that a flying pig that just went past your window?  But it’s true.  When I was at the grocery store, the red cherry tomatoes were looking really sad, all pale and washed out looking, so I opted for the yellow cherry tomatoes.  My taste buds thank me but my eyes are a little bit sad.

Overall, a great and refreshing side that I could see being used multiple ways.  The sesame oil adds an interesting flavor. We omitted the cilantro because we are not cilantro fans.  The recipe also notes that it should be served hot or warm, but I thought it tasted pretty good cold the next day, too.

So really, this is Serious Eats’ Cracker-Crusted Fish, but Serious Eats didn’t make this delicious meal for me over the holiday break or host me and Martin at a fun dinner so forever more, I dub this “Jordo’s Cracker-Crusted Fish.” To be completely accurate, it should say Ashley, as she did the majority of the cooking, but I have literally been waiting on pins and needles for a chance to throw the nickname Jordo around and this might be his only chance!

When Jordan and Ashley made this dish for us, they used ahi tuna and it was amaaaaazing. Seriously, it blew my mind and as I was eating it, I kept wishing I had a bigger stomach so I could eat more. Martin is a fan of yellowtail, however, so I thought I would try that instead and I think the results were just as tasty (in a different, non ahi tuna way).

The nice crunch from the crackers and the tender fish is rounded out with a creamy dipping sauce. The sauce is a bit tangy from the citrus and has a little kick from the Sriracha. I used olive oil because I grabbed it by accident and the olive oil flavor does come through, but I didn’t mind too much. I do think that the canola oil would have made the citrus flavors a bit brighter.


Cracker Crusted Yellowtail
Adapted from the Serious Eats recipe

1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. tangerine juice
2 tsp. Sriracha
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 egg whites
2 tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup finely crushed flatbread cracker crumbs
10 oz. sashimi-grade yellowtail

1- Combine egg yolk, salt, lime juice, tangerine juice and Sriracha in food processor or with immersion blender. Slowly drizzle in oil until well blended. Mix in green onions.

2- Whisk egg whites until foamy. Add cornstarch in small increments, whisking between, until egg whites are foamy.

3- Cut yellowtail filet into 2 relatively-square-ish portions. Dip fish into egg whites, then coat with cracker crumbs.

4- Heat a thick layer of oil (about 1/4″) in the bottom of a high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Cook fish on skillet for approximately 30 seconds on each side or until crust is dark brown.

5- Serve sliced.

Servings
: 2

For 2011, my friend Kyle made the resolution to try 365 new recipes in 365 days.  She even made a Facebook group about it so that community members can track their progress and share recipes.  If this is something that interests you, you should definitely join!  It’s been really fun to write about my progress and read about everyone else’s, even though I am so seriously behind right now.

My first new recipe of the new year was Gourmet’s Butternut Squash Soup.  It was a cold, rainy, drizzly day – something warm and comforting seemed just what the doctor ordered.

Possibly unluckily for Martin, this was all I made for dinner.  I enjoyed two big bowl of it and was full, but I think Martin might have wanted something with a bit more filling power (re: protein).  I had cut out the bacon because we’re trying to cut back our consumption, so it was a strictly vegetarian soup.

I pureed all of the soup with an immersion blender (which I still haven’t gotten the hang of using).  The only other change I made was using sage rather than thyme and adding about 1/4 cup of cream for a little bit of extra richness.  I also cooked it down for awhile, because I like thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup.

I really enjoyed this soup topped with a handful of bread crumbs.  The texture was a bit on the grainy side (probably because I can’t figure out my immersion blender – or that is what I’ll tell myself!) but otherwise, very delicious.  I would definitely make this again.

Over the holidays, my friend Lisa gifted me a big bag of this amazing Chex Mix.  After the first couple of bites, I was hooked.  Martin and I could not stop eating it and pretty soon, the entire bag was gone (to our extreme sadness).  I immediately emailed Lisa, asking for this wonderful recipe, and she nicely obliged.

Since Martin and I obviously cannot exercise restraint around this Chex Mix, I decided not to go crazy and wait to make it for the next party I went to.  I made a recipe and a half, filling a big bowl, thinking there would be no way everyone would eat all of it and I’d be left with some portion to eat all by myself the next day.  Well, this just goes to show how delicious Lisa’s Chex Mix is, because at the end of the night, there was absolutely none left. None!

Note:  This is not the big bowl.  This is actually a very tiny bowl, so you can see what the Chex Mix looked like.  And maybe so you could see what is probably a normal-sized portion.

I think there are a lot of reasons this Chex Mix is so appealing.  There is a nice subtle spicy burn that you detect after eating a few pieces.  Everything is a snack food in its own right so they’re all nicely bite-sized.  And (well, maybe this applies only to me) I like everything that goes into the mix, so I’m not left with a lonely pile of rye chips at the end of the night.  Not that there’s anything wrong with rye chips.

The only change I made to Lisa’s recipe was swapping out pretzel sticks for mini pretzels.  This is partly because I have a really irrational dislike of pretzel sticks (I just don’t like them, okay?) and partly because I thought mini pretzels matched the shape of the mix better.  Yes, I think about these things.  What can I say?  I’m weird like that.

So here’s the recipe (thank you again, Lisa, for sharing it!).  It is so easy that in making it once, I can type it from memory already.  So, go ahead, get your snack on!  You’ll be glad you did!

Lisa’s Chex Mix

2 cups Cheez-Its
2 cups pretzels (sticks / minis)
2 cups  Bugles
1 cup unsweetened shredded wheat
1 cup corn Chex
1 cup pecans
1 stick butter
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 250-degrees F.

Combine the first six ingredients (Cheez-Its, pretzels, Bugles, shredded wheat, corn Chex and pecans) in a large bowl.

Combine the next five ingredients (butter, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper) in a small saucepan.  Melt butter and mix everything until well combined.

Drizzle over dry mixture, then toss to coat.  Spread out on an ungreased baking pan and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Yield:  A lot!  But maybe not enough for a party of 8.  Okay, about 7.5 cups.

So there was Pie Showdown 2009 and the tradition continues with Pie Showdown 2010.  Don’t worry, only one post for this year’s, just a quick recounting of what was entered. This year’s categories were Sweet and Savory and, boy, did we have some great entries.  I think I never got around to taking pictures so these are courtesy of Mark (thanks, Mark!).

Savory Pies

(l-r)

Tommy:  You learn something new everyday.  This was a Pissaladière Niçoise and it had caramelized onions, black olives and anchovies.  I actually loved this pie, but I am already a huge fan of anchovies and caramelized onions, which I think helped.  I hate olives but they’re easy to pick around so this was a win in my book.  I can’t help but wonder what this would taste like warm – even better?  Is that possible?

Brian:  The Bojangles Pie.  It was Bojangles mashed potatoes, dirty rice, spicy chicken fillets and chopped biscuits topped with a layer of cheddar and a bacon / homemade pie crust lattice.  It sounds kind of crazy but it tasted pretty darn good.  All of the Bojangles food sort of glommed together into a spicy goodness with the consistency of stuffing (and my love of stuffing is well-documented).  Bottom line:  it wasn’t as horrifying as Brian made it out that it would be.  It was actually kind of awesome.

Sweet Pies

(l-r)

Melanie:  I made key lime pie.  I have already talked at length about this pie.  Just a few other notes:  a doubled filling fits nicely in a standard 9″ pie dish (no deep dish pie pan needed).  Also, zesting without a microplane is omg painful.

Chris and Michele:  Check out this beautifully decorated cherry pie.  It tasted just what you’d hoped cherry pie would taste like:  a bit tart, a bit sweet, all enclosed in a wonderfully flaky crust.  I normally don’t like fruit pies but I liked this one.  I can only imagine how it would have tasted slightly warm with vanilla ice cream – yum!

Penney:  One amazing pear pistachio tart.  I loved the visual contrast of the green pistachio to the wine-poached pears and they paired well on my taste buds too.  There was also a wine reduction sauce that was not used for this pie but Penney has told me is an absolute must.  This was Martin’s favorite by far.

Winners
Savory:  Pissaladière Niçoise
Sweet:  Key Lime Pie

I just wanted to say, I love our annual post-Christmas party (kindly hosted by Rachel and Mike for the third year running!) and I am glad that I have friends who want to participate in light-hearted competitions like this and friends who don’t mind being guinea pigs for our latest culinary (and sometimes crazy) ideas.  So blessed, I am!

For many years, I have enjoyed Martin’s mother’s lussekatter around Christmas, which is why I knew I had to talk about these here.  I have fond memories of staying cozy under a blanket, drinking dainty cups of glögg heaped chock-a-bock full of raisins and slivered almonds and nibbling on these tasty saffron-infused buns.  This year, I finally tackled them on my own and got to use our kickass Sweden 2010 souvenirs.  Double win!

There are many, many recipes out there but I picked the one featured by the Scandinavian and Nordic Cultural Association.  For that extra level of authenticity, you know?  I ended up having to tweak it slightly because some of the measurements seemed slightly off, so I’ve included it below.

I looked at many recipes first and each one always listed a saffron measurement in weight and volume, which usually followed a ratio of 1g to 1/2 tsp.  However, I diligently bought 1g of saffron from the spice store and it was probably 1 tbsp in volume.  The store associates also told me that the saffron was quite potent, so for my recipe, I took a teaspoon of saffron threads and crumbled it between my fingers.  I had a devil of a time getting the yellow to come out of my fingers afterwards!

While I was mixing the dough, I fretted about the saffron measurements and continually ask Martin to gauge the Swedishness of my bread.  He assured me that it would be fine, even if it ended up as a worthy entry for But I Suck At Cooking.

Here they are, shaped and formed.  This was my favorite part, as it involved rolling the dough out in long ropes and then curling the ends up on each other. At first, they seemed too small but the dough puffed up beautifully right before I shoved them into the oven.  Martin even had a hand in these, dabbing the egg whites on there to help with the browning.

Here they are, fresh out of the oven.  I am not sure if they are supposed to be this fluffy, but I firmly believe you can never go wrong with soft, fluffy bread.  I have never eaten a bad lussekatter and Martin’s mom makes truly great ones, but fresh out of the oven is a completely different experience.  They are slightly warm and so amazingly soft and fluffy!  I had to restrain myself from eating at least four right then and there.

The ultimate test came the next day, when we took the lussekatter to a Swedish Christmas party.  I am normally quite shy and critical about the results of my food, but I can’t help but share that two Swedish-born women came up to me at the party and told me that my lussekatter was delicious.  I thought that the ultimate of compliments.

Lussekatter
Adapted from the Scandinavian and Nordic Cultural Association Recipe

1kg white flour at least (more will be needed) (approx. 4.5 cups)
5 dL milk (2 cups)
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp saffron threads (uncrushed)
175g butter
2dL sugar (approx. 3/4 cup)
Raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten

Dissolve 1 tbsp. yeast and 1 tbsp. sugar in enough water to cover and dissolve the yeast and sugar.

Melt butter in a pot, then add milk.  Heat to 110-degrees F or until lukewarm.

Crumble saffron between fingers (or grind in a mortar and pestle) and add to milk mixture.

Pour the liquid into the bowl of a stand mixer and gntly stir in the 1kg of flour in half cup increments until a soft, sticky dough has formed.

Add the yeast mixture, 2dL of sugar and egg.  Mix to combine.

Snap the bowl into the mixer and put the dough hook in.  Slowly keep adding dough (I lost count here but probably at least another 2 cups) until dough is soft, thick and pliable.  The dough will still be fairly sticky to the touch and will not remain firm like other breads when shaped, but if you stretch it into a boule, it will keep its smooth outside shape.

Oil a bowl, place bowl in, flip to coat and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out and break into small pieces, about 40g in weight.

Roll into long ropes, about 10″ in length.  Coil each end in to make compact S-shapes.  Place on parchment covered baking sheets and press a raisin into the center of each spiral.

Cover and let buns rise until approximately doubled in size again.  Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.

Gently brush a beaten egg onto the buns and pop into oven.

Bake until golden in color and puffy.  Let buns cool and serve.

Yield: Makes approx. 50 buns (if each rope of rolled dough is approximately 35 – 40g in weight)

These refrigerate and freeze well.  Take them out of the freezer the day before you need them and let them thaw in the refrigerator.

I’m sitting here, a little bummed, because I tried to make saffron bread and after giving the dough about an hour to rise, it has not budged an inch, let alone doubled in size.  That’s what I get for trying to rush the dough-making process!  When will I learn?  I made some rolls for a potluck recently and I rushed then too and so the end result was not as soft and fluffy as I felt they should have been.

It’s been getting a little nippy here in California … and by nippy, I mean in the 60s.  Which is apparently only cold to me.  But I’m a wuss and when I’m cold, there’s nothing I like more than a warm bowl of soup and some hot sandwiches.  After mucking around in the rain, I came home and wanted tomato soup and grilled cheese but didn’t feel like making a trek out to the grocery store.  So I tried to see if I could make it just based on what I had in my apartment.

 

I was lucky and had some leftover fresh basil on hand from another recipe (so you don’t think I’m crazy and consider fresh basil a pantry staple).  🙂  I kept adding leaves until I could distinctly taste the basil and the tomato flavors.  Then I dropped in some butter and cream for richness.  Served with a very unhealthy grilled cheese sandwich, this totally hit the spot.

Tomato Basil Soup

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 oz.) can tomato sauce
20 – 25 fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp. butter
Salt
Pepper

Combine diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and amount of water equivalent to amount of tomato sauce in a large saucepan.  Stir together to combine and simmer at least 1 hour.

Add fresh basil leaves and puree mixture with an immersion blender.  Simmer for another half hour or so.

Stir in heavy whipping cream, butter and plenty of salt and pepper to taste.

Servings:  8