Peppermint Snowballs

Posted by on Monday Dec 15th, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just ice cream, peppermint, and coconut. Today’s wintry dessert is dressy and fun: snowballs! Don’t miss Natalie’s recent recipe for cashew-cranberry turtles, which make a sweet Christmas gift.

I love Christmas traditions, both old and new. These peppermint ice cream snowballs are a tradition for my boyfriend’s family on Christmas Eve, and one I am more than happy to adopt! I’m a huge fan of peppermint ice cream with hot fudge; it just tastes like Christmas. Add in some coconut “snow” to make things even more festive and who could resist? Combined with the fact that these are probably the easiest dessert you’ll make all holiday season, there’s really no reason not to get the ice cream scoop out right now.

You’re going to want to get a little bit hands-on to make these. I’d recommend lining the counter with some waxed paper to help you work. Use a scoop to gather the ice cream, then use your hands to shape, working quickly to minimize melting. Covering the ice cream in coconut helps the scoops become more stable. Serve in a pool of hot fudge and/or pour it over the top. Old-fashioned ribbon candies make a beautiful accompaniment (available at most grocery stores), but crushed candy canes will look lovely, too.

Update: this giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering! -C, 12/22/14 

Confession: A funny thing happens when I shop for gifts. I wind up wanting a whole lot more for me.

So, this year, instead of a gift guide, I’m taking a moment to share five recent purchases that have quickly turned into BGSK small kitchen classics. You can follow suit and treat yourself to something practical, in the midst of shopping for others. Or, maybe you’ll find a good gift idea below.

Even better, you can enter to win the ultimate in practical indulgences, thanks to Food52′s Provisions: one Able Kone Brewing System.

Here’s why I love the Kone. After tiring of a single-cup reusable coffee filter that put hot water into contact with plastic, I searched high and low for a coffee brewing set that met two requirements: no plastic in contact with boiling water and no paper filters to buy and then toss. It wasn’t easy. But when I discovered the beautiful ceramic pitcher and stainless steal reusable pitcher at Able, I bought one immediately. I love it. Scroll down to see how to enter to win your own!

Before you do that, check out five more lovable, practical kitchen gizmos. They all reduce kitchen waste, because in a productive kitchen, the garbage can fill up really quickly–even if you pickle your chard stems.

Five Reusable Kitchen Gifts for You & Others

1. Flour Sack Towels

Absorbent dish towels save the day! You’d think they wouldn’t be so hard to find, but they are. These gems clean up spills and dry super quickly, reducing paper towel usage.

2. Kone Brewing System

See above for why I love this. It solved my coffee woes, no paper filters needed. You can make coffee for one or coffee for two.

3. Bee’s Wrap

Reusable wax covers wrap tightly around bread, half-eaten apples, and lemon wedges that didn’t make it into dinner. I still use plastic wrap on onions and other extremely scented foods, but I love that these have limited how much plastic we use.

4. Cute Cloth Napkins & Napkin Ring

We use cloth napkins at most meals–same as I did while I was growing up. But (and I hope you don’t find this gross), I reuse my own napkin a few times. In between meals, I push it into a napkin ring to remember that it’s mine.

5. Sap Buckets

Because you’ll still have the paper and plastic/metal recycling, so store it in nice-looking pails until you take it out to the sidewalk or basement. I’ve got two of these in our kitchen now.

Able Kone Brewing System Giveaway!

I’m giving away one Able Kone Brewing System (a $160 value) from Food52, so you can reduce your coffee filter waste while enjoying the best cups of coffee EVER. Here’s how to enter:

  • {one} Leave a comment below telling me your most beloved kitchen possession.
  • {two} Be a subscriber to the Big Girls, Small Kitchen newsletter and leave a second comment letting me know you’ve subscribed.
  • {three} Tell your facebook friends and/or twitter fans about the contest – post the link and tag @Big Girls Small Kitchen (facebook) or @BGSK twitter). Leave a third comment letting me know you’ve done so.
I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, December 20.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links that help support Big Girls, Small Kitchen.

This time of year, holiday parties ferry us out of our apartments and away from our kitchens–at the moment when we need home-cooked food the most, to balance out the frosted cookies and chocolate gelt. It can be wildly fun to be out at restaurants and bars, sipping themed cocktails and standing by the kitchen door in order to capture the first edition of each hors d’oeuvres. But, as a cook, I sometimes wish that some of the festive food came from our pots.

We do turn on the oven, of course, to bake (and there are lots of cookie, candy, and cake coming your way really soon). So far this December, I have been trying to come home to the kitchen when I can, to make chicken stock weekly, to eat some greens, and to pack carrots sticks with lunch. We’ll see how long into cookie season that lasts.

Those aren’t the only two options. Another thing entirely is to host some version of a holiday celebration yourself. This isn’t necessarily competition with the office party or the, er, FriendsMas/Friendsmakkuh fest, but a quieter affair, maybe with a few family members or friends from the neighborhood who can help you put ornaments on your tree. Serve them a garlicky roasted pork loin and a side of seasoned cauliflower that picks up the roast’s simple Italian vibe–and then end things with a contrastingly creamy maple creme brulee, potentially.

Or, keep this for yourself and save remaining portions as leftovers. The double roast–pork and vegetable–is a simple weeknight dinner at heart, even though it has the soul of a holiday meal.

How to Make a Cheesesteak

Posted by on Monday Dec 8th, 2014

As I’ve worked on this recent series about recreating restaurant favorites at home, I’ve landed some delicious victories. The mission of making great burritos or pizza from scratch appeals to my perfectionist side, and the tweaking needed to get to the best recipes excites my inner nerd. The best recipes, in turn, taste great. But that doesn’t mean that every formula I’ve deduced in the process is ideal for cooking right here, right now. Many are better as weekend projects.

But when I went to master the cheesesteak, I found a triumph of another nature: a meal that requires four ingredients and fewer than 15 minutes to make. In retrospect, that clicks: the cheesesteak is a sandwich invented by Philadelphia street vendors, who can grill you a fresh sandwich without a kitchen and in almost no time. That means if you’re not in Philly, you can delight in a homemade cheesesteak that’s no big deal to recreate – so long as you’re not too righteous about the right type of hoagie roll. Read the full piece over at First We Feast.

I got prematurely sick of roasted vegetables this season. Every food lover lauds the almost-black, crispy exterior and sweet interior of roasted broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes, all while not-so-quietly demeaning the taste and texture of vegetables boiled or steamed. I’m back on the roasted ones by now, don’t worry, it was a temporary case of over-it-ness, but in the couple weeks when I didn’t want to turn on the oven and arrange little pieces in one layer on a baking sheet, I rediscovered two techniques that I’d pushed to the side: steaming and stir-frying. In today’s dish, we’re going to do both.

First, steaming, the happiest and longest lost rediscovery. Vegetables get sweeter and somehow become more themselves after some time in the sauna. If you’re aching for a post-Thanksgiving healthy snack, I’d say look no further than a cup of steamed broccoli, cooked 5 minutes past the point of crunch, and maybe dressed with some thinned-out tahini. For squash, steaming makes cooking time quicker, and especially with delicata–which you don’t have to peel–sets you up for a fast stir-fry after, because the squash is already almost done.

You even get to do the rest of the prep work while the squash steams. Then comes the stir-fry action, when the thin slices of squash absorb the warmth of garlic, ginger, hot pepper, and scallions, becoming a sweet and spicy mess of vegetables that turns into a seriously good bowl lunch or dinner with some help from brown rice and toasted cashews.

Just so you know, this dish isn’t a super saucy one, because I wanted to taste the squash and the ginger and the heat, rather than the soy sauce. So this is a dry fry. Feel free to add much more wine or drizzle soy sauce at the end if you want something to moisten your rice.

Tadka-Topped Roasted Root Soup

Posted by on Monday Dec 1st, 2014

A tadka is a seared Indian spice mix that lends aroma and flavor to a dish. More a technique than a recipe, tadkas caught my attention because of the way they invert the culinary formulas I usually follow, where you sauté aromatics and sear meat at the beginning of cooking, then end with lower heat and a cold garnish, like a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of sesame seeds. With a tadka, you turn up the flame just before you’re done.

In Indian cooking, which has serious layers of flavor, you’ll also start with sautéing, you’ll just end with it too. But in this leftover-inspired soup, you rely on the takda one hundred percent to save your puréed soup from tasting like (really good) baby food.

When I made this, I had two excellent containers in the fridge: one held mixed roasted root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, yellow beets, and sweet potatoes), the other homemade chicken stock. I was thinking that maybe after Thanksgiving you have similar leftovers? If not, roasting a sheet of vegetables and simmering chicken stock is a great activity if you want to eat semi-healthfully in between holiday meals. So, yeah, when I went to make lunch I had both these things, and I decided to combine and conquer. Into the pot went a scoop of my already roasted vegetables and some stock, and while they were heating up together, I took out the blender for puréeing, but I also thought: maybe I’m going to need a little more here to feel satisfied.

 

So that’s when the tadka idea happened. I’ve been stocking ghee at home, the nutty clarified butter that heats up really hot without smoking and is perfect for crackling whole mustard and cumin seeds, crumbled red chilies, and garlic, bringing out the spices’ aromas as a good tadka should. I ladled the soup, made the tadka, then poured the contents of my frying pan, ghee and all, into the mug, and, as I’d hoped, the topping gave new life to each spoonful.

You can make this pureed soup with any kind of vegetables you have around (even if they’re not roasted). Having one kind of starchy vegetable in the combo will give the soup a little extra body–almost a creamy texture–but it’s not necessary. The real necessity is to examine your color choices, choosing roots that won’t combine to make an unappealing brownish-green color. If you use reds, skip greens, for example. For this soup’s hue, I stuck to whites (parsnip, turnip), yellows (the beets), and oranges (sweet potato).

How Expert Cooks Do Easy

Posted by on Friday Nov 28th, 2014

The Thanksgiving feast is hard to execute and tastes delicious. But that doesn’t mean that all delicious meals are hard, welcome news on this weekend after the biggest cooking event of the year.

A few weeks ago, I asked an assortment of my favorite chefs, cookbook authors, and bloggers for the dishes they make that are deceptively simple yet outrageously delicious. The ones that require little effort but deliver a huge payoff. I wanted to point you to it today, because once I’m done gorging on leftovers, that’s the kind of food I’ll want to make. See the dishes, from salt-crusted fish to crispy fried eggs, over on First We Feast.