Monday, December 19, 2011

Walnut Butter Cut-outs

This cookie recipe goes back to my childhood.  Where my Mom got the recipe I don't know, but I can remember decorating them as a little kid back when we lived in the UP of Michigan.

They are buttery and nutty at the same time due to the finely ground walnuts.  The walnut flavors intensify during the baking making them even tastier.

A couple of caveats with this one.  First the walnuts really do need to be finely ground or you will have difficulty getting clean cuts with the cookie cutters. Secondly, don't try to skip the chilling process...if you do you will have too loose a dough and it won't roll out will just stick to everything in a gloppy mess.  Learned that one the hard way.

A few drops of food coloring can be added after you have the butter and sugar creamed together.  Its a fun way to have green trees and wreaths or red hearts etc.,.

Walnut Butter Cut-outs 

  • 1 C Butter 
  • 1 t vanilla 
  • 3/4 c sugar 
  • 1/4 t salt 
  • 1 egg 
  • 2 1/4 C flour 
  • 2 t baking powder 
  • 1 c fine ground walnuts 

 Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. When fluffy beat in egg.
 Sift together flour and baking powder. Work into butter mixture in small batches. 
 Fold in ground walnuts.
 Divide dough and pat into rounds. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour. 
 On floured board roll to about 1/8 inch thickness. 
 Cut with cutters and decorate. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400F until cookies edges just start to brown, about 8 minutes.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Banana Nut Bread

I'm sure if you do a google search for banana bread or banana nut bread you'll get a bajillion hits.  Now this one will be among the bajillion.  Its my version of the classic and quite tasty as I use butter instead of oil for the lipid in the batter.  That buttery flavor plays well with the bananas and vanilla.

Banana Nut Bread
Yield 2 - 9x5 inch loaves  

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup butter at room temp
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups mashed overripe bananas
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
Sift the flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter,salt and sugar until smooth. Stir in the bananas, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Carefully fold in dry ingredients into the wet in small batches.  
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted into the crown of the loaf comes out clean. Let the loaves cool in the pans for at least 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack, and cool completely. Wrap in aluminum foil to keep in the moisture.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Power restored...finally and a little EQ Kit raiding

By now most everyone has seen the news where the L.A. area was bludgeoned to within an inch of our life with one of the worst wind storms in recent memory.  My little corner of L.A. took the brunt of the wind storm and has something like 86,000 homes without power as I write this.

Day 1 of the power outage we didn't know how long power would be out so we resorted to canned goods and the EQ kit (earthquake) ready to eat meals that were coming up on their expiration date.

Among the items we dug into was the "Heater Meals" and it was our first time using them.  The principal behind it is pretty easy.  One simply takes out the heater package, adds water that is included in the packaging to activate the chemical reaction that creates the heat.  Once that is done you quickly fold the top over and place the heater on top of the food package.  10 minutes later it is done and you have a meal ready to eat.

Well sort of, in spite of all the steam your food is just warm.  The food is fine for an emergency but it is lacking seasoning.  The included "saltless seasoning pack" is mostly pepper which is to say the food is still a little bland even with it being used.

I doubt I will buy them again as they are a bit pricey even if found on sale.

As a side bar at the end of Day 1 when it was apparent it was going to be a few days without power we opted to open up the fridge and start cleaning it out. The neighborhood then proceeded to round up candles, cook up our perishables, break out the wine and have a giant "potluck by candlelight" party.  Hah, can't keep a good neighborhood down long.

By Saturday power was restored and I had a nice and clean fridge already for restocking.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Soup

Remember when I did the lobotomy to the jack-o-lanterns a few weeks ago?  Well I put up all the pumpkin in canning jars and have had it refrigerated waiting for just the perfect night for soup. Yes, soup.

It is stupid easy to work with your own or store bought pumpkin.  I prefer my own as I can control the salt better, but its still all good.

Adding in the ginger and cayenne build in a different layer of flavor and heat than just plain curry powder alone.  Worth the extra kick as far as I am concerned.

Pumpkin Curry Soup

  • 4 cups (32 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 can chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • olive oil

In large sauce pot add enough oil to lightly coat bottom of pot.  Over medium heat add carrot and onion until the onion is translucent.  Add garlic and stir one minute to cook out the raw taste.  Pour mixture into blender with the broth and puree.  Return to pan, add pumpkin and heat through.  Simmer about 15 minutes to let flavors blend.  Test for seasoning and add salt as needed.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving: its about sharing more than food

Thanksgiving this year was a first for me.  I didn't actually cook it all, but it was all my usual dishes for the day.  Why not cook you may ask?  Its because this year I coached my newly married daughter on how to cook up the Thanksgiving Feast and she did alright.  She's ready to solo next year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Best darn Bread Pudding I ever made...

The recipe isn't mine.  Its in this months Bon Appetit magazine.  It is Pecan, Bourbon and Butterscotch Bread Pudding. Allow me to hurl a few is the absolute best tasting, richest bread pudding I have ever had in my ENTIRE life.

My version I omitted the nuts and added them to those that like nuts when I served as a garnish.  Pesky people that are so picky make me batty.  Next time around this will be a made with pecan version for a dinner party.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Braciole, or Beef and Cheese sounds better in Italian

I've seen it done a dozen times over the years and never got around to trying it myself until last night.  Why?  I thought was a bit fussy for dinner on the fast and I was only partially correct.  It is a bit labor intensive with the prep of ingredients but once done it goes pretty fast.  The braise to completely tenderize the meat takes about an hour, but that is all hands free so its really not an issue...unless you need dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

This recipe is a blend of many from several sources.  I took meticulous notes of what I used to save you the guess work.  The end result is quite tasty with all but one in my house actually enjoying the final product which makes it a win in my book.  The lone dissenter is one who isn't a fan of cheese to start with.


  • 1 lb, about 4 thin cut round steaks
  • 1/2 lb Fontina cheese - shredded.
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 c panko bread crumbs
  • 1 small bunch parsley - chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic- minced
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1 can tomato puree
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 T parsley - chopped
  • 1 T basil -chopped

Combine Parmesan, panko, parsley and garlic, toss to combine.  Take a piece of meat and season with salt and pepper.  Add 1/4 of the bread crumb parsley mixture and spread evenly over the meat. Top with 1/4 of the shredded Fontina.  Roll up from widest end jelly roll style,  Secure with toothpicks.  Repeat with remaining slices of meat.

In large skillet add some olive oil and over medium high heat sear all sides of the beef rolls.  When seared remove meat from pan and set aside.  Stir in your beef broth to deglaze pan, then add in tomato puree and tomato sauce.  Return meat to pan.  Cover and put in a 325F oven for 1 hour.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

10 second garlic peel works!

Ok,a similar video went pretty viral on facebook with my friends and I decided to test it.  Yes, it works and it saves you from stinky hands.  File this under noisy kitchen tricks and use it as it is really a fast way to cleanly peel garlic.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A little jack-o-lantern lobotomy fun

 I have this silly tradition of each year using up the pumpkin from the jack-o-lanterns in the kitchen.  Some I'll steam and puree up for soup, pies and such later on.  Others get used fresh grated in Pumpkin Bread.  This version is from an old stand by for zucchini bread adapted to fit the needs of pumpkin.  Not much adaptation was needed as both are similar in texture and water content that its a pretty easy swap out.

Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 c oil
  • 2 1/2 c grated pumpkin
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 C all purpose flower
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c dried cranberry (I use craisin brand)

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease 2 loaf pans.

Beat eggs 3-4 minutes until light.  Add sugar and cream well.  Beat in oil.  Reduce speed and fold in grated pumpkin.  Sift together flower, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.  Fold into egg mixture until well blended.  Fold in nuts and cranberry.  Divide batter between the two loaf pans and bake 1 hour until tester comes out clean.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stupid Easy Potato Gratin

Some things seem way more daunting than they really are.  Some things like Potato Gratin Dauphinoise are much easier than one thinks they are to complete. Its the complicated name that gets to people.  They also make a great stupid easy side dish for things like Coq Au Vin or similar to get your starch portion of the dinner complete.

This recipe is microwave friendly...and couldn't begin to tell you with certainty how long to do it in a traditional oven or at what temp.  It was created years ago when I was an apartment dweller and had an oven so small that even a turkey couldn't fit so I HAD to come up with ways to move stuff to the micro.  Timing in the recipe is based on a 1200 watt microwave.

I have to admit I'm a gadget freak and love them all.  A while back I picked up small hand held mandolin at Surfas in Culver City.  Its great for perfectly thin slices that don't deviate in size...much better than I can accomplish with my knife skills.  It is the tool I go to for making gratins such as this.

Another tool that I use a lot in the kitchen is the microplane.  It is perfect for adding a dusting of nutmeg, chocolate, zesting a lemon or what have you.  Much better at the job than a box grater or similar tool.

Potato Gratin

  • 1 1/2 lbs baking potato
  • heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/8 t nutmeg, divided
  • salt
  • pepper

Butter your a 1.5 quart casserole dish.  Slice potatoes with the mandolin.  Put in layer of potatoes about 2-3 slices thick.  Salt, Pepper, dusting of nutmeg, and 1/4 of the Parmesan.  Repeat until all the potatoes are used and you are within an inch of the top.  Pour in heavy cream until it just reaches the top layer.  Put dish in microwave oven.  Microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes, then 20 Minutes at half power.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Butterscotch Pie

I have been a fan of butterscotch pudding, the cooked kind not that dreadful instant stuff, for as long as I can remember. Making your own from scratch is stupid easy and certainly worth the few minutes time it takes to cook the filling.

A couple of things to remember when making puddin' pies with meringue topping.  First and foremost make sure the eggs are at room temperature before you separate and try to whip the eggs.  They froth better if you have them warm as opposed to cold from the fridge.  Another thing to help them whip their best is invest a few bucks in a copper bowl.  The copper acts with the egg white to gain more volume.  Lastly, a bakers sugar also called caster sugar will dissolve easier in the egg white making a better final product.

Butterscotch Pie
9 inch baked pie shell - cooled to room temperature
1 1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c flour
1 12 oz can condensed milk (not sweetened)*
1/8 t salt
3 egg yolks beaten
1 t vanilla
2T butter
3 egg whites
1/4 t flour
6 T sugar

Bake 9" pie shell according to your recipe instructions for blind baking.  Cool

Mix sugar, flour, condensed milk, salt and egg yolks in a heavy sauce pan.  Whisk until dissolved.  Heat and whisk constantly over medium heat until it thickens and starts to bubble.  Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and butter.  Add to your baked pie shell.

For the meringue add egg whites and cream of tartar to bowl.  Beat until soft peaks form.  Increase speed and beat in sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.  (About 4 minutes total).  Spread over the hot filling pushing to edges to seal.  Bake in 350F oven until browned.  Cool completely before serving.  Refrigerate left overs.

*sometimes sold as evaporated milk.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Asian Spiced Pork Tenderloin

I am a fan of spicy food.  Living in the San Gabriel Valley of L.A. I am exposed to a lot of great Asian restaurants and more than a few dishes are uber spicy.

Yesterday I opted to go Asian flavors with the Pork Tenderloin and the results were pretty awesome if you like heat in your Asian food.  Garlic/Ginger/Soy round out the flavor profile.  Of course I cheated a bit and used "Chinese Chicken Salad" dressing for the base and got the heat from what we call "Korean Ketchup"...Sriracha. (Yes, I know its Thai in origin but Korean Ketchup as that whole alliteration thingy going for it).

Asian Spiced Pork Tenderloin

  • 2lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1/2 c Chinese chicken salad dressing
  • 2 T Sriracha Sauce
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 T grated ginger
  • 3T soy sauce

Combine salad dressing, Sriracha, garlic, ginger and soy sauce.  In large leak proof zip-lock bag add the pork and then the marinade.  Allow to sit in refrigerator for 3 hours.  Rotate the bag occasionally to ensure even distribution of the marinade.

Heat oven to 350F.  Put pork in roasting pan and roast about 35-45 minutes until it is 170F on an instant read thermometer.  Reserve marinade.

Take the reserved marinade, should measure about 1 cup.  Put in small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until reduced about 1/2.  Use the resulting sauce to pour over the sliced tenderloin when serving.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best cocoa powder ever...Black Onyx in a Devil's Food Cake

I can't take the credit for the recipe for this is purely a Martha Stewart creation.  You can get the recipe for her "Moist Devil's Food Cake" HERE.  It is a pretty easy from scratch recipe to make.  The cocoa I used is what takes the recipe over the top.

I know I've blogged it before here, but Black Onyx Cocoa Powder from Surfas in Culver City or online at Culinary is what really rocks.  Its a super rich and dark chocolate powder.  Because it has least cocoa fats than the lighter stuff you get at a groc you do need to compensate some with it.  They recommend mixing it 50/50 with the lighter stuff.  I suggest you experiment with it.  In the case of this cake recipe and in cookies that have a lot of butter in them to start with it really doesn't make a difference.  I've experimented with it in bread and found that I did need to add a bit more fat...butter or oil to compensate for the dryness factor.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chive n Cheddar Biscuits

Its Sunday and time for the big country style breakfast we like to do around here.  You know the kind...everyone sits together and shares everything that's going on good, bad or indifferent.  Its about bounding over food and not always so easy to do.

These biscuits are a fave and can be served at any meal....warm from the oven to melt the butter after you split them is the best.  But I digress...simple to make with more energy expended carrying out the Kitchen Aid and ingredients from the pantry than in the actual assembly.

Chive n Cheddar Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced 
  • 3/4 C whole milk
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh chives 
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 C shredded Cheddar Cheese 

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add cheese, chopped chives and parsley and give it a quick whirl to incorporate.  With the mixer on low, add the half-and-half and beat until just mixed. Add the chives and mix until just combined.

Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and knead lightly into a rectangle 3/4-inch thick. Cut out rounds with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are firm. Serve warm.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mushroom Lasagna...tastes way better than it looks

So today was one of those days where I tore through recipe books trying to figure out what to do for dinner.  I was in the mood for cooking so I wasn't too worried about it being fast nor easy.

This recipe is a combo of a few different recipes.  I included the thyme, as well, thyme plays so well with mushrooms and the inspiration recipe didn't include it for reasons I don't understand.  I'm glad I did include as that subtle grassy flavor of thyme plays well through out the dish.

I used cremini mushrooms also called "baby bella" or "baby portobello" mushrooms.  It really is just a tiny version of the huginormous portobella's out there.  Same 'shroom just a different size.  And if you can find the already sliced variety like I do at the market your work is even shortened a bit.

Mushroom Lasagna
12 lasagna noodle cooked according to package directions
1 c grated Parmesan
White Sauce
1 stick butter
4C whole milk
1/2 c all purpose flour
1T sea salt
1 t black pepper
1 t fresh grated nutmeg
Mushroom Filling
1 lb sliced cremini mushroom
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
2 T loose packed fresh thyme leaves (or 1 T dry)

Preheat oven to 375F
Cook noodles according to package directions.  Set aside.

To make white sauce heat milk over medium heat.  Melt butter in large sauce pan until melted.  Add flour and cook until dissolved.  Add hot milk all at once and whisk until smooth.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir constantly over medium high heat until  thick and starting to bubble, about 3-5 minutes.  Set aside off flame.

In large skillet add olive oil and 1T butter over medium high heat.  Add half the mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme.  Stir often until mushrooms have lost most of their moisture and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Pour out into bowl. Repeat with remaining mushrooms.

Constructing the Lasagna.  Lightly spray with Pam a 9X13 baking dish.  Place about 1 cup of white sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Add 3 noodles to the bottom of the pan.  Spread on 1/4 the white sauce on top of the noodles.  Add 1/3 mushrooms, 1/4 C Parmesan.  Repeat with next two layers.  The final layer will be noodles with white sauce and Parmesan.  Bake in oven until golden brown on top and bubbly at the edges about 30-45 minutes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chicken Garam Masala

Wow two posts in one day, but this is tonight's dinner and tasty it was.

I've seen a few of the TV Chefs cook with a spice called "Garam Masala" when making Indian cuisine and decided I had to give it a try myself since I am a fan of Indian food of late.  I tested the waters with Garam Masala by making simple rice dishes from the side of the bottle to get an understanding of the flavor profile it would bring to dishes.  Warm and slightly spicy with the key flavors being cinnamon and coriander with some others I can't quite identify.  (I read somewhere that there are probably as many versions of Garam Masala as there are grandmothers in northern India...go find a blend you like and stick with it).

Cost Plus Imports is a great source for finding hard to find or unusual spices.  Such is the place I found the Garam Masala I used for this recipe.

Garam Masala Chicken

  • 4 large chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 1 T + 1t Garam Masala
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 onion coarse chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper coarsely chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

Sprinkle 1 T Garam Masala over the chicken breasts.  Set aside in glass dish and cover with plastic wrap to marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat large oven proof skillet over med-high heat.  Add some vegetable oil to lightly coat bottom of pan.  add chicken breasts.  Sear for about 5 minutes then turn over to other side.  Add veggies and canned tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining 1t Garam Masala over the veggies.  Cover and put in a 375F oven for 30 minutes.  Serve the veggies over steamed rice on the side of your plated chicken breast.

Smokey Chili Mac...its all from the smoked spices

I'm a huge fan of smoked spices and salts.  Why? Its easy to add smokiness to the final product without having to resort to using "liquid smoke" which does leave a funky aftertaste at times.  The obsession started with simple smoked paprika for salmon a few years ago and has since grown to include other smoked spices in the pantry.  This recipe uses a few to bring about a complete change in a family standby.

In my pantry I have recently added ground dried chipotle.  That is a potent smoked and dried jalapeno that instead of being packed in a liquid adobo sauce it is simply ground to a powder.  Use it sparingly and you can always add a bit more if the final dish doesn't pack enough heat...its a lot easier than trying and failing to remove some if you add to much.

Another trick I use to punch up the flavor and give it an all day simmering taste is to use beef bouillon to the Chili Mac.  I do use the "Better than Bouillon" brand as it is much lower in salt than the cubes are.  If you use the cubes wait to season with salt until after you have dissolved in the cube to prevent over salting your dish.

Smokey Chili Mac

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5 oz can beans (I used basic kidney beans)
  • 1/4 t chipotle  chili powder
  • 1 t  smoked paprika
  • 2 t chili powder
  • 2 t Better than Bouillon beef flavor
  • 2 C water
  • 1 1/2 C macaroni
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Monterrey Jack/Cheddar shredded cheese blend.

Brown beef in large stock pot.  Add onion and cook until translucent.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add spices and cook an additional minute stirring the whole time until they are toasty.  Add tomatoes, water and bouillon.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes.  Add macaroni, increase heat and cook 12-15 minutes until tender.  Serve in large bowl with a sprinkle of the shredded cheese.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lemon Ginger Mousse made stupid easy

Yup...I can't take credit for the flavor profile or the invention of the original. It belongs to a chef Joann Chang who appeared on food network TV's new show "Sugar High" with Duff Goldman. The original recipe HERE.

It sounded so good and when we were invited over to some friends for wine and cheese tonight and challenged to come up with something for dessert I thought of this.

There were a couple of problems to this that prevented me from doing the actual recipe. First is that the REAL cream in the recipe needs to be heated and then cooled overnight with the ginger and I just don't have the time. The second issue is that one of our hosts for tonight is dieting so the use of REAL cream is kinda outta the question.

My solution was to use fresh ground ginger, fat free cool whip and ready made lemon curd. Yup...I cheated and came up with a stupid easy dessert that is cool, refreshing and quite tasty too with a drastic reduction in calories.

Lemon Ginger Mousse
1 8 0z container Fat Free Cool Whip
1 14.5 oz jar Dundee Lemon Curd
1/4 t ground ginger
2 ginger snap cookies crushed.

Thaw the Cool Whip. Fold in ground ginger and lemon curd. Spoon into serving dishes (I used a ramekin but any dessert dish would work). Garnish with crushed ginger snap cookies. Chill 1 hour before serving.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I can't claim credit for this Limoncello but it does rock the house down.

I can't claim this recipe as my own. What I do with it however is my own more or less. The recipe comes from celebrity chef Mario Batali and it can be found HERE.

So what have I done with it other than serve it straight up over ice as an apertif? A few things actually.

A trick or two...don't use plastic in the process of making the recipe. The lemon oils with the help of the vodka will permeate the plastic and ruin it for anything else. Learned this the hard way so pay heed to this little warning. Storing the final product I found that using the Efferve stoppered bottles makes for a tight seal as well nice presentation. (I'm totally fond of the Efferve lemonade and blood orangeade so having empty bottles around is not an issue...rather than recycle I reuse this time around).

Limoncello marinated fruit is awesome over icecream or pound cake. Take strawberries, peaches and whatever other fruit you like that is in season and cut up into bite sized pieces in a bowl. I use a ratio of about 1 part limoncello to 4 parts cut fruit. Let it marinate overnight or at least 6 hours for all of that boozy lemony goodness to soak into the fruit before serving.

Limoncello cocktails...light and refreshing. Use equal parts club soda and limoncello over ice and a sprig of mint.

Limoncello cake....make your basic yellow cake. When done baking and cooled to room temp remove the cake from the pan. On a wire rack place cake, poke it with a cake tester (toothpick will work too) all over the top. Carefully and slowly pour 1/4c limoncello over each layer of cake.
Take the cake layers and frost as usual. (I haven't made a limoncello glaze yet but imagine it can be done and its on my test agenda to take the lemon taste up one more level).


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mocha Cheesecake - or mini cheesecakes of you like

Cheesecake is really not that hard to make, this version falls into the stupid easy category. Why? I use eagle brand sweetened condensed milk rather than sugar as it yields a creamier texture without as much work trying to cream it all. All the sweetness without the risk of a grainy cheesecake.

A secret to keep the large cakes from cracking too much is to add 1 tablespoon of corn starch to the batter. The starch blends nicely with the fats in the cream cheese and creates just enough stabilization to keep the cake from cracking too badly in the center.

Melting the chocolate can be as easy as using a double boiler or if in a hurry a microwave. If using microwave heat on high for only 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each micro-blast. This will keep the chocolate for scorching. Total microwave time in a 1200 watt unit worked out to be about 30 seconds.

Mocha Cheesecake
  • 1 pkg graham crackers (8 crackers)
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/3 c melted butter

  • Filling
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 8 oz pkgs cream cheese
  • 2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 T instant coffee
  • 1 T corn starch

  • Ganache
  • 9 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 C heavy whipping cream

Combine crackers and sugar in food processor and pulse until fine crumbs. Pulse in melted butter until evenly blended. Press into 9 inch spring form pan.

Combine cream cheese, coffee, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Let sit about an hour until it comes to room temperature. In mixer beat until creamy and fluffy. Beat in corn starch. Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended.

Add the filling to the spring form pan. Put in preheated 300F oven and bake for about 65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature and then chill in fridge for at least 4 hours.

Make ganache by mixing chocolate chips and whipping cream. In microwave heat 1 minute on high then stir. Give it 1 more minute on high then stir until chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the cream. Cool to room temp then drizzle over the chilled cheesecake. (There will be leftover ganache that you can save to make truffles or even use as a frosting for cupcakes).

Mini Cheesecake variation. Line 24 cupcake pans with paper liners. Divide the graham cracker crumb mixture between all of the tins. Press lightly to compact. Divide the filling between the paper liners filling just until the top of the liner. Bake in 300F oven 25-30 minutes until the centers test clean with a toothpick. Chill and garnish with the ganache.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Yikes..Donut Summit

The usual stuff has kept me from this blog the last few weeks. Don't worry we've been eating, just not blogging a whole lot as I've not been experimenting much in the kitchen.

This weekend was the Donut Summit in Elysian Park here in Los Angeles. It was a meet up of donut fans bringing their favorite dozen with them to share and vote to determine who makes the best in all of LA. Donut Man in Glendora won for best filled for its "Peach filled" donut, yes big chunks of fresh peaches inside a donut. Stan's in West LA Won Judges favorite with their Peanut butter filled, chocolate glazed. Newcomer to town, Babycakes won Best Overall.

More pics of the silliness in my flickr set.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Curry along sweetie the heat will get you...

Yup turns out am a fan of curry after all these years. If you like spicy Mexican of Szechuan you'll love the deep rich spicy flavor of curry. Got hooked on the stuff when I tried a recipe a few months back, since then its been experimenting with curry.

This recipe has a jumble of flavors some Thai, some classic Indian but tasty none the less. It is spicy, but I suppose you could dial it back if you want by reducing the amount of chili peppers in it.

Thai chilis are so hard to find at my local grocery but I learned on the food channel you can swap out a couple of red jalapenos for them with great success. Which is what I do, can't justify spending a ton in gas tracking down just one chili and no need since red jalapeno are so easy to find at my local groc.

I have learned the hard way that it is best to crush your cardamom seed pods and just extract the seeds for your cooking. The pod itself is way too harsh a spice and if you bite into it you've ruined your mouth for the next few bites. Seriously take the couple of seconds required to bust open the pods and extract the seeds. A little of them go a long way but at least you don't have a big nasty mouthful of pod when you toss them after a seed extraction.

Thai Chicken Curry
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken - 1" dice
  • 1 bell pepper coarse diced
  • 2 red minced
  • 1 onion coarse diced
  • 1 bunch spring onion, diced, green tops reserved.
  • 1 T garlic
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 4 cardamom seed pod crushed and seeds removed
  • 2 T curry powder
  • 1 T cumin
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 c water
  • 2 T peanut butter
  • Chopped cilantro
  • green onion tops
  • salt to taste.

Heat oil over medium high flame until shimmering. Add the diced vegetables and stir fry until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from pan. Add chicken, curry powder, cumin and cardamom seeds and stir fry until well browned.

Return veggies to pan. Add coconut milk, water, soy sauce, fish sauce and peanut butter, stir until smooth. Test for salt and add some if needed. Bring to boil then reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Serve over rice with a sprinkle of green onion tops and cilantro.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cherry Preserves

Its that time of year. Fresh fruit galore is in season and I have once again bought more than we can eat...but who can resist all of the goodies rolling in? I bought cherries the other day and haven't touched them as there were other things too good to pass up for snacking. Fortunately they didn't "go bad" so I decided to turn them into preserves this morning.

Thank gawd I paid attention to my Mom and grandmothers making preserves over the years. I tend to go with the high sugar and no pectin way whenever I can. Not that pectin is bad for you, its just that its just not a pantry item I stock and don't feel like running out to the store for just that one its pectic free for me when I impulsively decide to make some preserves. Yes, you do cook a bit longer to get a gel but its still just as flavorful with the right consistency in the end.

Of course it means I got to use a new toy today. I picked up, on sale no less, a cherry pitter at Sur La Table the other day and this was the perfect excuse to break it out. Love cooking with cherries, just hated the old knife pitting method. This little "gun" makes it so easy just load, squeeze the trigger and out comes the pit! Worth the few bucks it cost.

Cherry Preserves
  • 2 lbs pitted fresh cherries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • juice of 1 lemon

In large, heavy (Thick bottom and side) pot add sugar and water. Bring to boil and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add cherries. With potato masher carefully mash down the fruit to release juice and break up fruit. Be careful not to over mash the fruit as you still want big chunks. Bring back to boil then reduce heat to low boil. Simmer at low boil 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice. Put into hot sterile canning jar(s). Makes about 2 cups preserves.

What a low boil looks like...more than a simmer but not much.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

day old baguette=croutons!

Its been a very hectic few weeks around here. So much so that I have little time for anything much less all my blogging. This morning however I have a few minutes freed up so here goes...

What does one do with a day old baguette that is starting to get just a little too hard? Make croutons off course. Using the microwave takes something that is easy into the fast and stupid easy. Plus you get that half eaten bread off your counter and use it for something other than feeding the black trash can instead of becoming a biology experiment.

Easy Croutons
  • day old baguette (or any bread)
  • dried parsley
  • garlic powder
  • cooking oil spray (I use olive oil kind for this)

Cut bread into 1/2" cubes. Spritz cubes and toss several times until all are lightly coated. Sprinkle on parsley and garlic to taste. Toss to evenly distribute. Microwave 5-7 minutes tossing at 2 minute intervals to evenly brown them up.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quinoa and veggies

Believe it or not sometimes the ancient grains and food stuff are the best for us. Take Quinoa (pronounced Kin-wa) that originated in South America eons ago and has been adopted by us 21st century folks. Its very high in proteins and essential amino acids yet is easy to prepare and is a great flavor transporter.

Quinoa cooks up fast. Use a 2 part liquid to 1 part quinoa and simmer for 15 minutes and voila it is ready.

I like it mixed with a huge veggie saute as a side with my main protein to help get my diet better balanced and live in a healthier way.

Quinoa Vegetable Saute
  • 2 C chicken broth
  • 1 C quinoa
  • 1 bell pepper coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms sliced
  • 1 zucchini halved and sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Combine your chicken broth and quinoa to sauce pan and bring to simmer. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Turn off heat and keep it covered until needed.

Coat a large skillet with olive oil. Add mushrooms and pepper to taste. Saute over medium high heat until mushrooms start to brown. Add bell pepper, zucchini, onion and salt to taste. Saute until onion is translucent and the pepper and zucchini have begun to brown...about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into cooked quinoa. Serve warm as side to meat, chicken or fish.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It was just chicken for crying out loud...

...and I didn't even bother to take a pic of it
Go figure, am not a fan of chicken and when I made this recipe the other day I didn't even bother to take a picture of it on the plate. Why? Because its chicken, not a fan of the stuff, I tend to think of it as just a flavor delivery mechanism. The Fam however loves the stuff but this particular recipe brought huge reviews. Actually they acted like they never had chicken before and just raved about how moist and good it was. So I'll add it to the repertoire of things to do with chicken as they liked it so much.

I use chicken breasts from know the kind, the multi-pack that sells for $2.99 lb and gives one enough to make many meals. Breasts do want to dry out faster than the dark meat does. This recipe however yielded a very moist breast and I think its because of the marinade I used more than anything else.

Ranch Marinated Chicken
  • 1/4 c ranch dressing (I use Hidden Valley)
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 2 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 .7oz Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix

Put chicken breast in a bowl. Add ranch dressing and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 30 minutes.

In another bowl add flour and dry salad dressing mix. Toss to combine well. In skillet heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the chicken breasts in flour and add to hot skillet. Cook a couple of minutes per side until browned and crispy. Put chicken pieces on a baking sheet and bake in a 400F oven for 20 minutes to cook through.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Stupid Easy Peach Cobbler...the Video

Its my first official video...appeared on the Snacky Shack, a youtube channel that takes artists, their food and shares it with their audience. It is run by two really cool guys here in Monrovia (suburban LA), artist Joseph R Davis and musician Tommy "Mac" MacCarthy.

The recipe that I did for the show was my Stupid Easy Peach Cobbler which I have blogged here in the past. To save you the look up here it is again.

The homemade vanilla extract in the video is stupid easy to do as well. Take a small jar and fill it with 1 c brandy or bourbon. Take two vanilla pods and split them lengthwise then cut in half to fit into the jar. Let it sit a couple of weeks and voila...your own homemade vanilla.

Stupid Easy Peach Cobbler
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 15 oz cans sliced peaches
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • 1/2 c butter (1 stick I use unsalted)

In mixer with whisk attachment add the flour, sugar, salt and . Crack egg into a small dish and beat lightly to break yolk. Add egg to dry ingredients and whiz in the mixer at medium speed until it resembles sand.

Drain 1 can of peaches and add to 8X8 baking dish. Add the contents of the entire can of remaining peaches. Stir in vanilla. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Sprinkle the flour mixture evenly over the top of the peaches. Do not stir to blend.

Melt butter and drizzle over the topping mixture. Bake in 375 oven until topping is browned and starting to crisp up...approx 55-65 minutes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Salsa Fresca (Fresh Salsa in case you need some help)

OK there are prolly as many recipes for salsa as there are Mexican grandmothers, but my base recipe didn't come from one of them, rather the basic idea came from the LA Times somewhere around 1989. Their recipe included a secret ingredient...a splash of acidity from citrus to brighten it up a bit without really changing up the idea of it being simple salsa. It reportedly came from the kitchens of El Torito (A big chain here in the SW) according to my now brown tinged recipe.

It does include cilantro. I use the full amount, 1 cup as my household loves the stuff. If your family isn't a big fan of the green herbage feel free to cut back on it, but don't eliminate as it really is there for flavor.

The other thing that it needs you attention is the use of a jalapeno. I use the red kind, even though they are a bit more expensive, as they have a fuller sweeter flavor than the green kind. By all means swap out the green if that is all you can find, the red is purely my flavor choice.

The other flavor choice comes with the tomatoes. Again you pay a bit more than the usual grocery store stuff, but its worth it. I use the small cherry tomatoes as they are so much more flavorful compared to the regular 'maters in the grocery store. By all means use the large ones if you are growing your own this summer.

This could take FOREVER to do if you don't have a food processor. I can only imagine how long it would take to fine dice all the tomatoes, onions etc.,. By all means break out the machine as you have salsa literally in a few pulses with it.

Salsa Fresca
  • 12 oz cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red jalapeno
  • 1 c cilantro - loosely packed
  • 1/4 t salt
  • juice of one lemon or lime (I use alternate depending upon if I have a huge crop or not)

Place ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until you have a fine dice.
Serve with chips, in tacos, or where ever, how ever you use salsa.

Chinese Style Chicken Stir Fry

Its all about presentation too sometimes.
Its all about the veggies around here and getting more into our diet without really going out of our way to do so. Chinese, actually Asian food in general use a lot of veggies and sparse on the meat so its an easy way to get more of them into your diet.

This is one of those dishes that is labor intensive in the prep, but the actual cooking takes just minutes. Seriously, you will have mush veggies if you try to cut and add them as you go. Just do the mis en place and get it over with. Chop them roughly the same size and you won't have any issues with them not cooking at the same pace. The exception is the jalapeno which you really want a fine dice on as there is nothing worse than biting into a big chunk of it...a little goes a long way.

Salt is purposely omitted from the seasonings on this as there is ample in the soy sauce. Seriously if you try to salt the chicken of veggie to taste as you are cooking them you will wind up with way over salted dinner when the soy is added. Been there done that and bloated for a good day after that mistake.

Another tip I'd add is to mix the chicken broth and corn starch together before adding to the pan. Reduces the effort needed to make a smooth sauce.

Chicken Stir Fry
  • 2 large chicken breasts - 1/2" dice
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno finely diced
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • crispy chow mien noodles.

Heat oils in large skillet over medium high heat. When oil begins to shimmer add chicken and black pepper. Stir fry the chicken until well browned 5-7 minutes. Move chicken to sides of pan and add veggies. Stir fry until tender crisp about 5 minutes longer.

Add soy sauce. Mix the corn starch and chicken broth until well blended. Add to skillet and stir until bubbly, thick and translucent about 1-2 minutes.

Serve hot over rice and garnish with crispy chow mien noodles

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pork Tenderloin Thai Curry

Curry is slowly becoming a favorite around here. Makes sense in a way since we are a big fan of Thai and other Asian cuisine that we drift towards curry and the food of India. Why may you ask? A lot of reasons, part of our eating in a healthier way mode it gives us another avenue of flavor and way to introduce some more veggies into our diet.

I think next time around I'll kick this up a notch in the veggie department by adding in some chopped red bell pepper...will help with the color aspect as well. Might even add a diced jalapeno or Thai red chili to kick the heat up a notch more...maybe. Stay tuned for a V2..this was plenty tasty, just see room for some improvement.

Pork Tenderloin Thai Curry

  • 1 - 1to 1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 2 t yellow curry powder
  • 3 cardamom seeds crushed
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
  • 2 T peanut butter
  • 1 c water
  • 1 t chicken flavor better than bouillon
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/4 c finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat oils in large lidded saute pan over medium high heat. Season pork tenderloin with salt and pepper. Add to the saute pan and sear all sides. Add onion and cook until tender and edges starting to brown.

Add spices, coconut milk, peanut butter, honey, water, bouillon and half of the fresh cilantro. Stir to blend. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 115-20 minutes until pork is cooked through.

Serve of rice or rice noodles and garnish with remaining cilantro.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Salmon en Croute...special stuff for special people

My neighbors are going through a major remodel and have been without a kitchen for nearly a month. We decided to treat them to a home cooked meal last night. Of course, as always I want to give my guests the best I can produce. A little wow factor is nice too.

Salmon en Croute..literally salmon in crust was the option I went for tonight. Its really simple, a little laborious but worth the results. Its actually pretty easy to do...wrap a par-cooked salmon portion in puff pastry much like one would wrap a Christmas gift using a little egg wash as glue to hold the seams together.

Presentation is everything and its the little things that elevate the wow factor of the final product. In this case not only did I glaze it with an egg wash, but I cut out little fish from the pastry scraps to make decorations for the top of the package to give a little visual interest as well as hint of what is inside.

When working with puff pastry dough one does need to keep it cool so you don't melt the butter separating the layers within the pastry. Working with one sheet at a time does help you keep from getting your dough to soft and ruining the layers. Simply put the sheet you don't need at the moment in the fridge to keep it cool while working with the other. Also, its very important that the dough be cool when put in the oven for maximum puff during baking so the resting period in the refrigerator is really important, but that's a good thing as it means you can have assembled in the afternoon before you even have to worry about your guests arriving. Do aheads are a good thing.

The puff pastry though loaded with butter can stick to a baking sheet. I use a silpat to prevent sticking and tearing of the salmon en Croute when removing it from the pan. If you don't have a silpat then do get yourself some parchment paper to put down on your baking sheet to prevent sticking. Nothing is worse than working hard to make a pretty looking dish only to have it ruined because of sticking. Easy fix.

Salmon en Croute
  • 1 pkg Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry
  • 4 4-6oz salmon fillets
  • onion salt
  • pepper
  • whole grain mustard
  • dill weed
  • Sea salt
  • 1 egg beaten

Trim salmon fillets into neat squared off edge pieces. Season both sides with onion salt and pepper. Add to microwave safe baking dish. Microwave on high for 4minutes. Let cool to room temp. Very important to cool to room temp as if its too warm it will melt the pastry and you will have a mess on your hands.

Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry. Cut in half. Take 1 salmon fillet. Sprinkle both sides with the dill weed to taste. On one side spread 1 t grainy mustard (I use grey poupon whole grain mustard) on one side of the salmon. Brush edges of puff pastry with egg wash. Place the fillet on a piece of puff pastry. Bring up one side and then the other, trimming off extra for making a surface a fish maybe? Take the open ends of the puff pastry and fold as if gift wrapping on a package, pressing lightly to seal. Make decoration with scrap and attach with egg wash to top of bundle. Repeat with remaining dough portions and fillets.

Place bundles in fridge and let rest a minimum of 1 hour.

Place salmon packages on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush egg wash all over the bundles and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 425F for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown all over.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cherry Almond Crumble

What does one do when one has guests and they don't eat chocolate? Out goes most of my recipes and I find out what they do like, in tonights case Bill really likes fruit cobblers and crumbles so off to the test kitchen I went for this recipe.

ITs not a complete test as the topping is pretty generic and all I had to do was get some backs of fresh frozen fruit from the grocery. I knew going into this that cherry and almond play together really well so it wasn't a giant leap into the unknown with this one. Turned out quite tasty.

Cherry Almond Crumble
  • 2 lbs frozen pitted dark cherries
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1 t almond extract.
  • Topping:
  • 1 1/2 old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 c butter melted

Lightly spray 13X9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Combine cherries, sugar, corn starch and almond extract. Toss lightly until evenly coated. Pour into a single layer into the baking dish.

In stand mixer add oats, flour, brown sugar and almonds. Turn mixer onto low speed and slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Mix until butter is well distributed and the mix resembles coarse sand. Sprinkle topping mixture over the fruit.

Bake 350F for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Swampberry Pie - not as bad as you think

Blueberry's and cranberry's love the swamp, grow in swamps, hence the name swampberry pie.

In this lovely little pie I use frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joe's. Well worth the extra buck over the domestic kind. You get a much more intense blueberry flavor with none of that gritty seed action when you opt for the wild blueberry. Of course I got spoiled on the real wild blueberry as a kid traipsing about the swamps around Ely, MN picking them for pies, muffins and pancakes with my grandmother.

Unlike my grandmother, I don't have a decent pie hand. But I do quite well with building the guts of a pie. Marie Calender's pie shells are the best by far that I have seen, and guess dough to have to get mad at and toss in the trash in a fit of anger when it starts shredding and falling apart. A total win for me. If you can make the pie dough from scratch and have it not fall apart when trying to get into the pie plate more power to you!

Swampberry Pie
  • 1 deep dish pie shell
  • 12 oz bag frozen wild blueberries
  • 2/3 C dried sweetened cranberries (I use craisans brand)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C butter - cubed
  • 1/2 t cinnamon

In bowl gently toss blueberry, cranberry, lemon juice, lemon zest and corn starch until blended. Pour into the prepared pie shell.

Pour flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a blow and stir to blend up evenly. Add cubed butter and with a pastry cutter or stand mixer with a whisk attachment blend in the butter to the flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand. Pour over fruit mixture in pie pan.

Bake 400F for 50-60 minutes until topping is golden brown.

Shell all nicely loaded waiting for topping

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Asian Pepper Steak

Wow...sorry for the delay in posting here, but I've been so busy with life and other blogs that I haven't had much time to devote to this one. Bad me.

During this hiatus I didn't stop cooking nor did I stop eating and living in a healthy way hasn't stopped.

Last night I made a favorite of mine that hits all the right Asian style cooking notes to make it a hit with a few around here. I love Asian for a lot of reasons, mostly because of all the stir fried crispy-ish veggies that go into it. I've made variations of this one dish over the years. Satisfies the urge for Asian as well as being nutritious.

It is really important for the flavor that you include the sesame oil. It imparts a lot of flavor to your stir fry and is one of the usual secret ingredients that make Asian taste so good. Its worth the splurge.

Asian Pepper Steak
  • 1 lb thin sliced sirloin or top round
  • 1/4 c + 2T low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1 onion
  • 2 T vegetable oil - divided
  • 2 T sesame oil - divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 t better than beef bullion (or a cube if you can't find this stuff)
  • 2 T corn starch.
  • Crispy Chow Mein Noodles (optional)

A couple of hours prior to making cut your beef into bite sized pieces, add to bowl. Add in 2T soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Marinate in fridge at least 2 hours.

Coarse chop onion and peppers. In large skillet over medium high heat add 1T each of vegetable and sesame oil. Heat until shimmering, add veggies. Stir fry until tender crisp, 4-5 minutes. Remove veggies from pan and put aside.

Add 1T each of the vegetable oil and sesame oil. Heat until shimmering and add beef mixture. Stir fry 5-6 minutes until browned and done. Add 1/3 cup soy sauce and reduce heat to simmer. Dissolve bullion and corn starch in the water. Add vegies back into the pan with the meat. Add the corn starch mixture and bring to boil. When thickened and clear remove from heat. Serve over rice with crispy chow mein noodles as garnish.

Veggies getting stir fried all on the own...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Smashed outta the park...Spanish Rice and Noodles

Geez, if I knew it was going to be this good I'd have done it a while back. Seriously, rarely do you get a new recipe that everyone raves over on the first try. But this is one.

I used a spanish noodle called "fiedo" and it is similar to 1 inch long pieces of angel hair pasta. Stuff is good and I had bought it to make chicken noodle soup, but still have half a package left. What to do, what to do...experimenting came to mind. If you can't find fideo on your supermarket shelf you could just bust up some angel hair pasta into 1 inch long pieces and move forward with the recipe.

The end result is something not unlike that boxed rice-a-roni (contrary to the ad jingle you can't get it in San Francisco) Spanish Rice. Only better, much moister and tastier.

Finally to make it even easier I used a microwave oven to cook the stuff.

Spanish Rice and Noodles
  • 3/4 c rice
  • 1/4 cup fideo noodles
  • 1/4 c diced onion
  • 1 14 oz can chicken broth
  • 1/2 c salsa (I used pace picante)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter

In a saute pan heat olive oil and butter over medium high heat. Add rice, fideo and onion. Cook until the fideo is deep golden brown and onion is translucent. Stir often so you don't burn the fideo and onion. Add to microwave safe baking dish, stir in salsa. Cover with a microwave safe lid or plastic wrap. Microwave 5 minutes on high, reduce power to 50% and cook 15 minutes longer.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Best Brownie I ever ate...

I can't take credit for this recipe at all, but will gladly share it. It showed up in this months Bon Appetite magazine in an article all about cocoa and cocoa recipes. This brownie is unusual in that it uses cocoa powder and browned butter. A little bit of work extra in making, but well worth the effort. Link HERE.

My only caution is to make sure you use a good heavy pan to brown the butter as too thin a pan you run the risk of scorching the butter before it is beautifully browned.

The recipe calls for a "natural unsweetened cocoa" but doesn't make a specific brand request. I used a dark chocolate cocoa from Surfas' Culinary District weg site. The brand I used is their "Black Onyx" cocoa which is an extra rich cocoa which I use in all recipes calling for "cocoa powder". The link to buy it yourself is HERE.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thai Noodles and Chicken

So my friend Janie sent me this recipe that looked good but would have served an army, calling for nearly double the ingredients this cut down version made. Even this version will serve a small platoon, and man is it good. Hat tip to Janie for the start of a wonderful recipe.

I will warn you in advance that the prep work is a bit tedious but well worth the results. Best to get it all prepped mis en place style as it stir fries up very quickly. If you try to just dice or julienne as you go you will wind up with something over cooked instead of tender crisp. Take the time to prep and have it ready to go all at once will make your life a lot stressful.

Thai Noodles and Chicken
  • 10 oz rice noodle cooked according to package directions.
  • 1 T light cooking oil
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 1 red chili pepper minced & seeded
  • 1 carrot - julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • zucchini julienned
  • 1 bunches scallions - sliced on the diagonal into 1/2" pieces, green tops reserved
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • 1 lb cooked chicken breast diced
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/2 t. yellow curry powder
  • 1 T lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 t lemon zest
  • 3/4 c chunky or creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 c hot water
  • 1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • reserved sliced green onion tops

Cook rice noodles and drain. Add oils to a 3 qt sauce pan and heat over medium high heat add vegetables, chicken and spices to hot oil and stir fry 3-4 minutes. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar and hot water, add to vegetable mixture. Add noodles, bring bring to a simmer. Add more water if it gets thick (I had to add about 1/4 c). Remove from heat and add garnish. Serve in bowls with crunchy chow mien noodles sprinkled on top for a little extra crunch.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Drunken Pulled Pork...the Crock Pot edition

My kids love pulled pork sammies, my wife will eat it without the bun...a carb counter amongst us. Regardless its stupid easy to do as all it needs is a long braise. Its a hit any day of the week, but on Sundays when its my day for basketball tournaments I need to rely on the Crock Pot to get Sunday dinner on the table.

This version isn't all that different from the oven braised version I blogged a while back. It simply takes the pork butt roast from being cut to fit into a braising pan to being whole to slow cook all day in a crock pot. Mine is older than I care to admit but still is a very handy tool to have in the kitchen for those busy days you either don't have the time to cook dinner or you don't want to heat up the entire house with an oven. Either way its a long slow braise and the results are fork tender ready to pull apart pork roast.

One thing I've discovered is that it is true that cooking bone in yields more flavor. When cooked until fork tender there is no butchering required to get around the simply pulls right out and you can go about using a pair of forks to pull your pork.

Even though I am using a bottled BBQ sauce for the sandwiches, I still pull a lot of spices into the mix to pick up the same flavor profile basted deep into the pork. Its just a more flavorful end result. Prolly why its a hit with the fam.

Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

  • 7 lb bone in pork roast
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 2 t Steak seasoning (I use Lawry's brand Montreal Seasoning Salt)
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T Liquid Smoke
  • 1 Bottle beer (I use a light amber wheat beer)
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce

Add ingredients in order listed to crock pot. Set on low and cook 8 hours. Remove pork roast from the braising liquid. Using a fork peal off pieces of meat. Using two forks, one to hold down the meat and another to shred pull your pork into bite sized shards. Add your favorite BBQ sauce to the shredded meat, heat and serve on hamburger buns.