Weeknight Wonders: A review of Ellie Krieger’s newest cookbook

WARNING: This post of full of pictures of really awesome food. Proceed at your own risk

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a bit of a fan of Ellie Krieger and her recipes. They are usually very straightforward, easy to make and well balanced nutritionally. My only gripe is that occasionally they are a bit under seasoned for me. I like things to be pretty “in your face” but when you are writing a cookbook for the masses, I can see why seasoning may need to stay a more middle of the road.

We have every Ellie cookbook there is.. well… we did until she released Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less. I was really interested in this book because it seemed to focus on meals that could be quickly  made, but if they stayed true to Ellie form, they would still be exciting.

LB pointed out that Ellie was running a contest to win the book and all you had to do was to make one of the four recipes she was posting on her website that week.

I made the Parmesan chicken and tweeted it..

And HOLY CRAP, this happened.

I so rarely win anything so when I do it’s like WOOHOO…

I got my very own copy in the mail a few weeks later.. autographed.

Weeknight Wonders by Ellie Krieger

And because I’m a dork, I asked it to be made out to “Pirate Jeni”. Yep, I’m THAT person

LB and I have not been disappointed. So far we’ve made the Parmesan chicken three times. It’s super tasty because you stick the Parmesan to the chicken with dijon mustard. LB doesn’t even like mustard and she enjoys this.

We’ve also made the Orange Sesame Chicken – Verdict: DELICIOUS

The Lamb Chops with Minted Pea Sauce – Verdict: Pretty ok. but probably won’t make again. I smoked up the house like WOAH. Maybe when I can dig the grill out. There was a bit too much mint for me.

The Spinach and Goat Cheese Fritata- Verdict: Meh. Needs something. Maybe I need to use more goat cheese.. or something. It was fine but I would tweek it to my palate. I think I ended up putting sriracha sauce on it.

The Taco Pizzas (I used pork.. sorry Ellie, I’m just not that down with ground turkey)- Verdict: AMAZEBALLS

The chicken florentine that exploded and I had made a side dish for but I burnt it. (yes, I burnt it.. shit happens)- Verdict: Noms. Be sure to smash your chicken flat enough. I got lazy and I think that’s why it exploded.

And the Steak Fajitas- Verdict: very tasty! I would totes use this seasoning on other things too. Also I made them sort of like tacos and used homemade corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas

All of these recipes INCLUDING PREP TIME came together in 30 minutes of less.. they really truly did. That alone, is wonderful.

And in case you doubt my dedication to Ellie’s books, here is a pic of the shiny new Weeknight Wonders book crammed on the bookshelf with it’s new friends
bookshelf

Rhubarb soda.. and a True Brews Giveaway!

I’ve said it beforeTrue Brews is a totally fun book.  I’m looking forward to exploring more recipes, like the hard lemonade and the hard cider… maybe even some of the beers but for right now, I’m obsessed with soda.

Last weekend, I got a pound and a half of rhubarb in my CSA and immediately thought SODA!  Rhubarb is tart and we really do enjoy a less sweet soda so I thought it was perfect.

But how does one juice a rhubarb.  Emma to the rescue again!

cooking-rhubarb

I do wish my rhubarb was more pink so that I would have a prettier juice.  I actually contemplated putting some red food coloring in there. But I didn’t.
rhubarb-juice

The juice sat in the fridge for a few days so the bits that didn’t filter out would settle to the bottom. Which totally worked. I just poured it out into a big bowl and let the sludge stay in the jar.   I added lime juice, sugar and pitched the yeast.. then bottled it up!
Soda-Bottles

Two days later, I had lovely fizzy, tart rhubarb soda!

5 from 1 reviews
Rhubarb soda
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Two liters
 
Developed from the Master Soda Recipe from True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home. I modified the method to suit my preferences. You wanna know how Emma does it? You gotta get the book!
Ingredients
  • 8 cups of rhubarb juice
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup of cane sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • the juice of three limes
  • ⅛ tsp dry champagne yeast
  • One clean two liter soda bottle or clean 20 ounce soda bottle and three flip top beer bottles.
Instructions
  1. Boil the 1 cup of water and stir in the sugar and salt to dissolve
  2. Let cool.
  3. Add the sugar water and lime juice to the rhubarb juice and stir to combine.
  4. Taste. Too tart? add sugar. Too sweet? I doubt it, but add lime juice.
  5. Combine the yeast and the remaining cup of water and stir to combine.
  6. Add the yeast mixture to the juice mixture and stir very well.
  7. Bottle, leaving 1 inch of head space and set in a safe place at room temperature.
  8. When the plastic soda bottle is firm and you can hardly make a dent when you push on it, refrigerate the soda overnight. (Do NOT store at room temperature after the original fermentation)

Win a copy of True Brews!

What you are most excited about making from True Brews. Not sure what’s in there? Look inside True Brews at Amazon

No purchase necessary.  This book is NOT donated by the publisher or author (I’m buying it myself.)

To enter:

  1. Leave me a comment letting me know what you want to try making out of True Brews or why you want this book!  Please be sure to fill in the email address field when you comment.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm East Coast time on Monday July 15th, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog by Saturday, July 20, 2013. (Probably sooner but a gal gets busy, yanno)
  3. Anyone can enter, but please enter only once.
  4. You will receive the hard copy of the book, shipped from Amazon.com.

All your fizz are belong to us

Soda.  The current scapegoat in the “war on obesity”.

I like soda… I like soda a lot.  But I gave it up a while ago.. newsflash! Still fat.  Take that you people who say “just cut out soda and you’ll lose 10 pounds!”.

I used to drink so much Mountain Dew that my “going away gift” when I left a previous employer was a case of Mountain Dew and a giant bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Clearly, my food choices needed improvement.

Really, my reason for ditching the fizzy stuff was all of the crap that goes in it.  Even thought I pretty much quit the sweet stuff well before reading about  what was happening with John over at Epbot, I was  still horrified by that post. Seems like John is doing pretty ok now.

But I’ve missed the fizz.  Sure, seltzer.. okay…  seltzer with fruit juice.. fine.. whatever. Home made syrups added to seltzer? tasty… but I cannot be trusted with it.. I’ll just drink it straight.  Sugah Bomb!   Soda Stream? no thanks.

Let’s face it… I wanted soda…  sticky sweet soda.

Once day recently I was stalking Alana Chernila’s Instagram Feed and she posted a picture of a new book called “True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home” by Emma Christensen.  FYI: Emma also writes for the Kitchn.

I had expected that, like every other “soda” recipe I’d seen around, these would be “make this syrup, add it to seltzer”.. meh.. but NO! The soda is made in a sealed bottle with yeast!

I started laughing my ass off..  because this brought up this memory about this one time at band camp when I lived with my parents 20 years or so ago, I found a recipe somewhere (probably NOT the internet.. probably a magazine or something) to make “apple ginger beer”.  The idea was you took apple cider, grated ginger and bakers yeast and mixed it in a glass bottle with a cork. Then every day, twice a day, you popped the cork so that you released the gasses that were building up.  The cider turns to hard cider or  “apple beer” if you will.

I knew about airlocks.. I did.  But the recipe said to just release the gasses.

Let me tell you a little something about yeast.  In my experience, yeast kinda of reach a point where they are just eating like little pigs and their carbon dioxide production increases rapidly.   You know what else can happen?

A cork can shoot itself up 8 feet and embed itself in a drop tile ceiling.    That, my friends was my first experience in brewing.  It was not pretty.

But! I was willing to give it another shot. I decided to make the watermelon mint.
watermelonMint
After a quick jaunt to the Homebrew Emporium to pick up some champagne yeast for less than a buck (oh and I may have ended up with some campden tablets and possibly a goat cheese kit and maybe another book on soda making..don’t you just LOVE a good Emporium?) and asking around for an empty two liter soda bottle, I was ready to brew up a batch of soda.

I wasn’t taking any chances at a messy clean up. That bottle was gonna hang out in the bathtub
in-the-tub
After about 18 hours (pretty short.. but it was warm in the house) the soda bottle was rock hard. So into the fridge it went to slow the fermentation.

The next day, I poured.
finished-fizzy-watermelon-m

You guys, this was amazing.. so refreshing! LOOKIT ALL THE BUBBLES!  Very soda like without being full of chemicals! I did make another batch of Strawberry Lime soda recently. LB thought the watermelon was too sweet.

UPDATE:  The Fabulous Marisa from Food in Jars has posted about this book with the recipe for Watermelon Mint Soda (as well as a Blackberry Kombucha) over on Table Matters. GO GO GO!

That’s the really awesome thing about True Brews… every section has a master recipe so you can design your own! (More on that later)

Oh and remember, there is a hella lot more in this book than just soda… kefir, kombucha, cider, sake, beer.. if it ferments, she’s got a recipe for it.

Get with the Grains

For a long time now, we have been eating more whole grains. Because the processed grains (like white flour) tend to really spike our blood sugar and cause super huge cravings and general inappropriate eating habits, we have been avoiding them more often than not.

To tell the truth, I don’t personally eat a lot of wheat anyway. Wheat is now a treat and makes up a small portion of my diet. I’ve pretty much replaced wheat products like pasta and bread with beans or veggies. My body does better that way.

I don’t have an allergy, really.. neither of us in this house do, but I do get what I like to call “Bread Rage”. Too many wheat products and I am one miserable bitch. Also, my joints ache and I can’t think. I used to spend my life like that.

Also, Flatulence… flatulence of DOOM.. horrific, embarrassing, eye watering flatulence… not kidding.

So, when the From Scratch Club Virtual Book Club said that this was the book we were reading….

image

… my initial response was less than stellar..

in fact, I was afraid of this.

Everybody Farts

Everybody Farts

But I bought the book anyway, because when I do eat grains, I try to make them as whole as possible. I seem to do better with the slowly digesting grains.

So I started flipping through.. there are a bazillion things in here using grains OTHER THAN WHEAT. Teff, Amaranth, Quinoa (which is a seed but I’m not gonna be nitpicky here), Spelt Berries, etc etc…. Yowser.. I’m going to be spending a lot of time at Honest Weight Food Coop, I think.

I’m super excited now.. I mean really.. I can’t want to bust into this thing and start cooking.

The book club starts February 1st over at GoodReads. The author has actually joined the book club which is totally awesome too!

Come cook and read with us.. it’s gonna be a hoot.. and if you want to follow along, be sure to “like” The FSC Book Club on Facebook or follow on Twitter

In an effort to blog more, I hope to post my experience with this book on this blog as well as in the GoodReads group. I totally unfucked my desk (please don’t judge this clutterbug.. mmmkay?) so I’m hoping this will inspire me to blog more and maybe do my taxes on time this year.

Good to the Grain: A review.. mostly.

I was planning on going to karate last night when something hit an emotional trigger.  I’m pretty sure I figured out what it was, but while I was in the throws of it, things were pretty ugly in my brain. Despite the fact that LB bought me a surprise, (more on that later) I was miserable.

I was vacillating between anger and fear and overwhelming sadness. It wasn’t pretty.

A long time ago, I learned that when I feel like someone snuck a dose of “instant depression” in my drink, it does me no good to mope around. It makes me more miserable and the longer I sit and stew, the more I feel like a powder keg.

Not surprisingly, it makes it not fun to be around me. I grew up with that kind of bottled anger and I don’t like subjecting my loved ones to it.

So I put my laundry away… and I cleaned off my desk.. and I looked around for things to do.

None of these things worked.

So, I did what makes me happy. I baked. Despite the fact that I’m working hard to keep the sweets out of the house, what I wanted to was to bake cookies. I’m sure that this inspiration came from the surprise that LB had waiting for me when I got home.

Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce


Evidently this book won a James Beard Award, which is how she found it.

I have always loved baking and since we’ve been eating healthier, I’ve been making whole wheat bread and really learning to enjoy it again.    You get an entirely different flavor with whole grains and honestly, white bread doesn’t taste good to me anymore.

After a quick perusal of the meager staples in my baking pantry, I realized that I had ingredients for the chocolate chip cookies.  I had just 9 ounces of chocolate chips on hand.  We keep them for when we want a little bit of chocolate..  a few chips and some walnuts and we are good to go. ..   I had butter in the freezer because we use it for fried eggs.

The chocolate chip cookie recipe in here is straight forward.. it’s pretty much like any other recipe.. butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt.  Toss in some chocolate chips and   Poof.. cookies.

What I did not anticipate was how wonderful these cookies are. They are about the size of your palm and they are the right proportion of sweet to salty, they are crunchy at the edges and chewy in the middle.. the butter adds a beautiful richness and the whole wheat flour?  it adds a subtle nutty flavor that will make every other cookie made from white flour pale in comparison (pun intended)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie

But enough about the cookie.. what about the book?

Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce covers grains that I’ve only heard about in passing.  Initially, I assumed that there would be your basic wheat and rye recipes, but I was pleasantly surprised… although I suspect that I’m going to have to special order a few of these.  Kim Boyce has 5 or 6 recipes for each of the following flours:

  • Whole Wheat
  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Kamut
  • Multigrain (she gives you her multigrain blend recipe which you can make yourself)
  • Oat
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Teff

She also has a few recipes for jams and compotes to go with your creations.

I do think a few of these recipes are kind of a “cheat” or filler.  I mean, one of the recipes for the “oat flour” is Steel cut oats.. uh..  the only difference between what’s on the box is that she has you toast the oats first… intriguing.. but I don’t think I’d call that “baking”.  The tagline for the book is “Baking with Whole Grain Flours”. Steel cut oats are not “flour”, either.  There is also a section on kitchen tools and pantry basics (eggs, butter, etc etc), that for anyone who knows their way around a kitchen, will find less than useful.

But, to be fair, there are some inspired recipes in here that aren’t really baking either.. I mean I’m so ready to try the pear and buckwheat pancakes.  Doods, you GRATE the pears into the batter.. I’m all over that.  And Strawberry Barley scones?  Yes please.

Overall, the book is well written and the instructions are clear and easy to follow.  I wish there was a recipe index however.. recipes are broken down by “flour”.. which is cool considering the goal of the book is probably to get you looking at new flour types.

If you are interested in finding new grains to bake with and don’t mind trying things are a little unusual, I say pick up a copy. If you just want to make whole wheat stuff, this is not the book for you.