Author: Alyssa Janco

I like theatre, sewing, and most importantly, FOOD.

Grown-Up Go-To Pasta

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Well, it ain’t too pretty.  But it is tasty, and made with plenty of things you probably already have at hand.  Apologies for the lack of precise measurements.  I kind of just threw things into the pan.

Grown-Up Go-To Pasta

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 Servings Fettuccine

2 -3 Tbsp. Butter

1/2 -1 tsp. Dried Rosemary

2-3 Cloves Garlic, sliced thin or minced

1 Package Button Mushrooms, sliced

1/2 c. -ish Red Wine (mine was a cheap Cabernet Sauvignon)

1/4 c. -ish Heavy Cream

1/4 c. Parmesan, grated

Salt & Pepper

Method:

Boil pasta in salty water until al dente.

Melt butter in a large sautee pan, adding rosemary and garlic.  Once pan is hot, add mushrooms and sautee until soft. Add wine and heavy cream to the pan, let boil to reduce.

Drain pasta and add to sautee pan, tossing to coat with sauce.  Continue to reduce until it is a glossy consistency.  Grate Parmesan over pasta, incorporating into the sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Vegan Crème Brûlée

Sacrilege, I know.

But anyway, I recently watched the hippiest of hippy documentaries: Cowspiracy.   Contrary to what I expected, it was not about PETA coming for your soul… but rather it was (mostly) about how modern livestock—-between fields of crops to grow its food, farmland to raise it, water to keep it hydrated, and the waste it generates—is apparently THE main cause behind global warming.  Too many people eat too much meat (that’s not pointing a finger at your Sunday Pot Roast, it’s looking at that $1 hamburger you get from the gas station).  But no one wants to say that it’s the reason behind climate change, because Americans have this thing with eating meat… thus the “cowspriacy”.

What was the most shocking to me, however, was that dairy and eggs take more resources than meat.  For instance, one pound of cheese takes a cumulative 700 gallons of water to make, according to the EPA’s blog.  To get to the point of the documentary, they suggest that instead of shaving a few minutes off of your shower, if you really want to help the environment, you ought to cut out animal products.

Now, I’m a (not born but yes raised) Wisconsinite.  Certain places would have to freeze over before I stop eating dairy.  So don’t worry, family, I know you’re reading this. I’m not about to become vegan…especially since it is my lifelong crusade to prove that butter makes the best pie crust. So I’ll stop getting political on you, because that’s not why I’m here.  I AM HERE to add some quality recipes to the veg world, and to accept this new challenge that is baking sans eggs.

I had many qualifications that this recipe needed to meet, and some of these will probably be the norm for any vegan adventure of mine:

1) It must include normal ingredients that the average human has access to.  No nutritional yeast, no agar agar, no…molecular gastronomy.  Alright? If you want people to join in, you can’t make them restock their whole pantry.

2) NO COCONUT MILK.  Nearly every vegan creme brulee recipe that I saw required canned coconut milk.  Cool, if tropical is what you’re going for.  But you can’t pretend that’s a flavor profile you’d experience in a traditional mainland-French dessert.  Especially not if you have family members who can sniff out coconut from a mile away.

3) It must be tasty in its own right.  One of the things that irks me about the veg world is the way that it seems to find “replacements” for animal products.  VEGAN CHEESE, TOFU MEAT REPLACEMENT.  How about instead of marketing things that are clearly NOT MEAT as “meat”, you market them as just another food to add to your repertoire.  Waffles are not Pancake Replacements, after all. [Now watch me be a hypocrite as I make a creme brulee replacement]

I also learned many things on my first vegan baking experience…none of which really have to do with vegan cooking:

1) Do not let soy milk boil over.  The smell of burning soy will stay in your nose for eternity, and even longer on your stove top.  Not that I would know…

2) Do not let turmeric loose, unless you are prepared for your whole life to be the color of movie-theater popcorn.

3) Do not make creme brulee if you do not have access to a kitchen torch.  Broilers are a non-substitute, and Medieval-style internet suggestions just make you feel like an idiot.  That said, Medieval-style it is for me, until I have the means to buy a kitchen torch on a whim.

4) Cornstarch is an emulsifier, if used appropriately.  Yay!

This creme brulee could really pass as the real thing, if you didn’t know about its vegetable beginnings.  It is sweet, caramelized, silky, delicately flavored, just rich enough, and has that toasted-marshmallow thing going on.  Winner.

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(This picture is not from this recipe.  Shh.  It is my own, though)

Vegan Crème Brûlée 

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients: 

2 c. Unsweetened Plain Soy Milk (pretty sure even the gas stations carry soy milk these days)

2 T. Palm Oil/Non-Coconutty Coconut Oil/probably Shortening would work too

Pinch Turmeric for color (optional, but the illusion is pretty darn cool)

Large Pinch Salt

1/2 c. Sugar (plus more for torching)

1/4c. Corn Starch

2 t. Vanilla Extract

Method:

Place soy milk, oil, turmeric, and salt into a saucepan and heat over medium-high.

In a bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together.  The grittiness of the sugar will help break up any clumps in the cornstarch, giving you a smoother end product.

When the liquid reaches a simmer, whisk it well to help emulsify the fat, then add the sugar mixture.  Cook until cornstarch activates (which I just learned is up to 205 degrees F).  Immediately remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour into ramekins.  Refrigerate until cool and set, then sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar on each.  Proceed to brulee, which you will do with a real kitchen torch if you love yourself.

Enjoy immediately.

 

Butternut Sage Lasagna

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been on here.  Hello again, friends.

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Even when it’s cold it looks pretty good!

About three years ago, my friend Lindsay and I discovered Emeril Lagasse’s butternut squash ravioli recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/roasted-butternut-squash-ravioli-with-a-sage-brown-butter-sauce-recipe.html).  We fell in love with it, though we added a few more garlic-y things to make it tastier to our preferences.  Since then, I’ve made it on occasion, but do you know how long it takes to make ravioli?  Even if you use ready-made wonton wrappers in place of homemade pasta?  Forever.

“Turn it into lasagna,” I said.  “It’ll go faster,” I said.  HOLY MAN, was I wrong.  This was quite the labor-intensive hunk of noodles. That said, it was worth it.  It would have gone loads faster if I had been able to find butternut squash puree…but instead I had to peel and roast and mash the squash in addition to normal lasagna things.  Feel free to do some math and figure out the appropriate substitution of frozen puree.  Not that I always advise store-bought shortcuts…but…have you ever peeled a raw squash? Just let the factory do it for you.

So here is a part-Martha-Stewart, part-Emeril, part-Janco take on Butternut Squash Lasagna.  Maybe next time I make it, I’ll be able to use puree, in which case I will update this post accordingly.  Cheers.  Here’s the link to Martha’s contribution:  (http://www.marthastewart.com/314642/butternut-squash-and-sage-lasagna)

Butternut Sage Lasagna

Yield: One 13×9 pan

Ingredients:

1.5 Butternut Squashes (if you’re using two full-sized. I myself used a full-sized one and then a tiny one)

Olive Oil

Salt

1 Package Lasagna Noodles

1 c. Salted Butter

12-14 Sage Leaves (one package from the grocery store, generally)

About 1/2 c. Vegetable Stock

1 Shallot, minced

1 1/4 t. Black Pepper, divided

3 Large Cloves Garlic, minced and divided

3/4 c. Ricotta (for the love of Moses, use the good stuff)

1 ball Fresh Mozzarella

1/2 c. Heavy Cream

Dash Nutmeg

2 Egg Yolks

Parmesan (I used one wedge.  How descriptive of me)

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Peel and seed (de-seed?) the squash; cut into one-inch cubes.  Toss squash with a liberal amount of olive oil and some salt.  Roast for approximately 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender when poked with a fork.

While the squash is roasting, prepare sage brown butter.  Place nearly all of the whole sage leaves (reserving a couple) into a saucepan with all of the butter.  Cook over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter gets a nutty scent, the sage looks crispy, and it turns a golden brown.  Immediately remove from the heat, lest it burn.  Remove sage leaves and discard.

Begin to cook the pasta–al dente in salty water.  Pour approximately half of the brown butter mixture into a large bowl or other dish standing by.  When the  the noodles finish cooking, toss them in the bowl with the brown butter to keep them from sticking together.  Set aside.

When the squash finishes roasting, transfer it to a large pot.  Mash with whatever utensil seems to do the job.  Place pot over medium heat.  Add shallot, 1 t. of the black pepper, 2 of the cloves of garlic, and remaining sage leaves (chopped finely).  Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes–we’re trying to get the garlic and shallot to cook a bit so they don’t have as much of a bite.  Pour the remaining brown butter into a measuring cup.  Add enough vegetable stock so that the liquid reaches 1 1/4 c.  Add to squash mash and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

In another bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella (shredding it by hand worked better than I thought it would), heavy cream, remaining 1/4 t. black pepper, remaining garlic, the nutmeg, and the egg yolks.  Whip together with a fork.

Now we can (finally) start building the thing.  Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Grab your 13×9″ pan, and spread a thin layer of the squash mixture on the bottom.  Add a layer of buttery noodles.  Then a layer of the eggy dairy mixture.  Next, grate or shave or otherwise disperse Parmesan over the pan.  Add another layer of noodles.  Then a healthy helping of squash, more noodles, more eggy dairy, more parm, etc, etc.  Theoretically you will end with the dairy mixture, which you should top off with twice as much Parmesan as usual.  There will probably be some brown butter hanging out in the bowl where the noodles were–I poured it on top of the parm, because I don’t want to waste sage brown butter!  Bake for about a half hour until the cheese starts to get some color.

Let cool for a bit, then enjoy!

Rum Spritzer to Malibae

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Named by two of the best girly ladies I know, the Malibae is a sweeter version of a Rum Spritzer I had made for myself earlier in the evening.  In the end we had made three different cocktails–one Rum Spritzer, one in-between, and one Malibae.  I have them all here so you can mix and match to your liking.

 

Rum Spritzer

Yield: One Drink

Place about a teaspoon of raw sugar and a thin wheel of lime in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass.  Muddle the citrus with the sugar, then add ice.  Top with 1.5 oz. Captain Morgan and seltzer, stir, and enjoy.

 

The In-Between

Yield: One Drink

Place about a teaspoon of raw sugar and a thin wheel of lime in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass.  Muddle the citrus with the sugar, then add ice.  Top with 1.5 oz. original Malibu Coconut Rum and seltzer, stir, and enjoy.

 

The Malibae

Yield: One Drink

Place about a teaspoon of raw sugar and a thin slice of orange in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass.  Muddle the citrus with the sugar, then add ice.  Top with 1.5 oz. Malibu Pineapple Rum and seltzer, stir, and enjoy.

Peppermint Pie (Birthday 2015)

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It is my yearly fun to make my own birthday “cake”.  Sometimes it’s a real live cake, sometimes it’s brownies or pie.  This year’s was a homemade take on the old peppermint pie we used to get from Market Day back in elementary school.  I tried to make white chocolate whipped cream, but it rather failed.  I’ll perhaps look up a recipe for it next time, but this one was fine with regular old whipped cream!  The only thing I would consider if I make it again is using an Oreo crust instead of a normal pie crust.

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Peppermint Pie

Yield: One 9-inch Pie

Ingredients: 

1/2 recipe Favorite Pie Crust

Egg Wash (1 egg plus a few tablespoons water)

36 Round Peppermints, unwrapped

1/2 c. Water

16 oz. Cream Cheese

1.5 c. Whipping Cream, Divided

3-4 drops Peppermint Extract

6 oz. White Chocolate

2 T sugar

Method:

Prepare pie crust, place in pie pan, dock, and refrigerate about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Egg wash the rim of the crust, and put pie beans/weights in the cavity.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes.  Remove pie weights, then continue to bake until the crust is browned.  Let cool completely.

Crush the peppermints, and pick out the nicest pieces to be the garnish.  Put the rest in a small saucepan with the water, and place over medium-low heat.  Stirring often, melt the candy in the water to create a peppermint syrup.  Add a few drops of food color if desired.  Let cool completely.

Soften cream cheese, and beat until fluffy.  Whip 1 c. of the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold whipping cream into the cream cheese.  Add a few drops of peppermint extract.  Melt the white chocolate, let cool briefly, then incorporate into the mixture.  Add peppermint syrup to taste.

Fill shell with peppermint filling.  Chill–I chilled it overnight with plastic wrap over the top.  To finish, smooth the top with the back of a spoon.  Whip the remaining 1/2 c. of whipping cream with the 2 T. sugar.  Pipe whipping cream in a decorative pattern on top.  Drizzle with leftover peppermint syrup, and sprinkle reserved crushed peppermints over the top.

Enjoy!

 

Drinks Round 1: Fall 2015

 

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Voila, the first collection of drinks I have created this year.  Apologies if the names confuse you or weird you out–they were named by theatre kids!

 

The Bi

Somewhat sweet, somewhat smokey.

Yield: One Shot

1/2 oz. Whiskey

1/4 oz. Amaretto

1/4 oz. Seltzer

2 Maraschino Cherries

If you have a two-part shot glass, put the whiskey in one side, and the Amaretto and Seltzer in the other.  Garnish with two cherries on a toothpick.

 

 

The D

Named after my good friend Deidre, or “D”, who loves gin.

Yield: One Drink

1.5 oz. Gin

1 oz. Sour Mix (check out my homemade!)

Dry Cucumber Soda

Combine first two ingredients in a glass with ice.  Top with cucumber soda.

 

 

Sexy Mexi

Named by D, after my good friend Élán.

Yield: One Drink

1.5 oz. Silver Tequila

1 oz. Kahlua

Pinch of Cinnamon

1 oz. Bailey’s

Combine tequila and Kahlua in a glass with ice.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, stir to integrate it.  Add Bailey’s, do not stir.

 

 

Amie’s Lemonade

One day my friend Amie asked for a Vodka Lemonade.  I didn’t have lemonade.

Yield: One Drink

1.5 oz. Vodka

1 oz. Sour Mix

Seltzer

Combine vodka and sour mix in a glass with ice.  Top with seltzer, stir to combine.

 

 

The 10 out of 12 Days of Christmas

For all those theatre people stuck in 10/12’s during the holidays.

Yield: One Drink

1 oz. Kahlua

1.5 oz. Spiced Rum

Eggnog

Combine Kahlua and rum in a chilled glass (ice optional).  Top with eggnog, stir.

Sour Mix

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A well-stocked refrigerator bar needs sour mix.  My friends really like amaretto sours.

This recipe is pretty much exactly like the one from Serious Eats: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/02/homemade-fresh-sour-mix-for-cocktails-easy-recipe.html

Sour Mix

Yield: About 3 cups

Ingredients:

1 c. Freshly-squeezed Lemon Juice (about 5 lemons)

1/2 c. Freshly-squeezed Lime Juice (about 4 limes)

1 c. Sugar

1 c. Water

1/4 c. Vodka

Method:

Squeeze lemons and limes through a fine strainer to get juice but not seeds or pulp.

Put sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

Combine juices, sugar syrup, and vodka in a storage container.  Keep refrigerated.  The internet says it will last a few weeks–and the vodka extends its life to about a month.

Tyler Florence’s Flan

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http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/flan-recipe.html

Here we have Tyler Florence’s Flan.  Since I have all but given up at the technical aspects of this blog, above you have the link if you wish to see the thing itself.  Apologies, you may have to go through the effort of copying and pasting.  How dare I.

Anyway, it’s sweet, custardy, and slightly lemony.  Altogether, lovely. And it uses some whole eggs, so you don’t have a ton of whites sitting around wondering what you should do with them.  Flan; it’s easier than you’d expect.

Tyler Florence’s Flan

Yield: One Flan

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. Sugar, divided

2 T. Water

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

2 c. Heavy Cream

1 Cinnamon Stick

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

3 Eggs

2 Egg Yolks

Pinch Salt

Method:

Find a deep, smooth, flat-bottomed pan.  I used a circular casserole dish.  Apparently “flan molds” exist, but…who has room in the cabinet for that?  Also find a “roasting pan”, which for me meant a 13×9″ cake pan.

Stir 1c. sugar in a sautee pan with the water.  Melt over medium-high heat, and swirl as it turns an amber color.  Tyler likes to say you shouldn’t stir it, but that ended in the sugar forming a crust on top that never fully incorporated into the caramel.  I’d probably stir it as it caramelizes next time.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.  Stir or swirl to combine, then pour it into the baking dish.  Quickly swirl it so that it completely covers the bottom and goes about an inch up the sides–before it seizes up!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and bring some water to a boil for the waterbath later.

Bring the cream and cinnamon to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Meanwhile, combine the eggs, yolks, remaining sugar, and salt in a bowl, whisking until lighter in color.

Remove cream from heat, discard cinnamon stick, and add vanilla.  Slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs.  Strain the mixture, then pour it into the baking dish.

Carefully pour the hot (not boiling) water into the pan around the baking dish, coming halfway up the sides.  Bake on the middle rack for a while… Tyler said 30-45 minutes, but as I recall it ended up staying in there over an hour.  A clean knife and jiggly custard will tell you when.

Refrigerate in the baking dish at least 4 hours.  Run a knife along the edges to loosen the custard, place a serving plate over the baking dish, and flip over.  Enjoy your beauty.

Firewhiskey

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More Harry Potter themed drinks.  This is a pretty prominent spirit in the series, only for those witches and wizards who are of-age.  Its only real description is that it burns and leaves you warm.  Well, this certainly does that!  You who have remotely seen the state of the modern spirits business might be saying, “Isn’t that just Fireball?”  No.  No it is not.   Fireball tastes like Red-Hots candies.  This is quite literally whiskey with a cinnamon flavor.  There is no sugar.  This is not for the faint of heart.

I used Seagram’s 7 whiskey and Penzey’s cinnamon sticks (most likely China cinnamon).  They smelled the best together.  However, use whatever you’ve got on hand.

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To the left, the whiskey used to create Firewhiskey, before the process.  To the right, the finished product, under the same light.  No artificial colors, that is the work of the cinnamon and chili alone!

 

Firewhiskey

Yield: About 4 cups

Ingredients:

4 c. Whiskey, divided

3 Cinnamon Sticks

1/2 t. Chili Flakes

Method:

Combine 2c. whiskey and cinnamon sticks in a lidded jar.  Shake, and set some where cool and dark.  Let steep for three days, shaking each day.

Add the chili flakes, and let steep for no longer than another day.

Add the last of the whiskey, stir to combine, and pour into your bottle.

Enjoy… with caution ; )

The 2015 Cherry Pie

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Door County, Wisconsin is known for cherries.  We went there this past summer just before the tart ones were in season.  There were only sweet ones or sweet-tart ones.  I picked a bucket of the sweet-tart ones–for the life of us, no one remembers the name of them.

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And so we made pie!  And jam, of course.  This pie recipe is based off of one I found on the Food Network website.

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2015 Cherry Pie

Yield: 1 Pie

Ingredients:

1 recipe Favorite Pie Crust (top and bottom crust)

4 c. Semi-Sweet Cherries

3/4 c. Sugar + 1 T. to sprinkle

1/4 c. Cornstarch

1 1/2 T. Butter

Method:

Place cherries in a medium pot and heat until juices come out of the cherries.  Mix together the 3/4 c. sugar and cornstarch, then add to the pot.  Stir together, and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool.

Roll out both pie crusts.  Place the bottom crust in a 9-inch pie pan, and add cherry filling.  Cut the top crust into strips and form a lattice pattern over the top, and crimp the edges of the top and bottom crusts together.  Dot the top with butter, sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes.