Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mini Baked Brie and Jam

I really like to browse Tastespotting. I just love seeing all the beautiful pictures of food and sparking my mind for recipe ideas.  I put aside the fact that the people who run the site are super snooty about what pictures they accept and understand that I will never be a food photographer at that caliber. The thing is, if you're really cooking to eat, do you have time to take posed photos of all your food? The answer is no, no I do not have time to take pristine pictures of all my food.  But no matter, I still read the blogs of the people who do.

Last week I was perusing Tastespotting and saw a delicious looking recipe for Bite-sized Baked Brie appetizers. I happened to have a block of light brie cheese that loses something when eaten plain but was totally the same when melted.  I asked my family if I could bring the appetizer and they said yes!

On her blog, Joy the Baker puts sticks into her baked brie bites but I omitted the sticks. I also did something everyone was asking about--I made them early and froze them.  This worked just fine, I froze them first on trays and then threw them into a gallon sized ziploc once frozen so that they didn't freeze in a block.  Then we brought them on an hour and 20 minute car ride in a sub par cooler (standard defrosting).  The bites weren't completely defrosted but they cooked up fine in about 15 minutes in the oven at 375.  I forgot to put the salt on top but it wasn't necessary.  These appetizers were an absolute hit.  At times I felt I came across a pastry that didn't have enough filling so make sure to fill yours well.  Otherwise, make these.

Baked Bite-Sized Brie Bites Recipe

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Breakfast 2011 - Overnight Baked French Toast

As is our custom on Christmas morning since we got married, Joey & I hosted Christmas Breakfast for his immediate family and a few relations.  This year, I aimed for ease in preparation, aiming to please all the different palates but not spend every minute of the morning making individual portions of dishes.

So I checked online in late November and searched for recipes that might fit the bill. I was hoping for some kind of overnight sweet breakfast dish that could serve 7.  I stumbled upon overnight baked french toast--a recipe by Paula Dean with over 9,000 reviews and 5 stars.

I decided to make the "baked french toast" as a test weeks before Christmas and then ended up failing at that plan because I didn't realize it required overnight time.  So we went cold turkey on Christmas Eve/Morning with a new recipe.

I also made an error in my bread buying on the 23rd.  Paula called for French bread and I thought she meant those long thin loaves but it turned out after closer inspection that she meant the wider and flatter Italian French bread.  We decided to mix the bread choice from Giada's baked French toast recipe with the recipe for Paula's by using Challah bread that we cut into thick slices from two loaves.  We also used the Mario Batali Lasagna pan which is 9x13 but taller--3.25 instead of a traditional  9x13x(2inches?) which caused us to increase the ingredients a bit to make sure we had plenty of liquid.

The process was incredibly simple, the French Toast took about 15 minutes to assemble and slept in the refrigerator all night long. In the morning we took it out about a half hour before baking and then baked it for about 40 minutes with a topping making the FT soft in places and crispy in others--almost as perfect as the fried variety.

Paula Dean & Giada's Overnight Baked French Toast
adapted from The Food Network Recipe 1 & Recipe 2
Serves 10-12 (we served 7 and almost everyone had a second helping but there was enough for maybe 3 more)

1 1/2 loaves Challah bread, let the bread sit out for a few hours or longer so it dries out a bit in advance
9 Large Eggs
1 1/2 C Whole Milk
2 1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream
2 T sugar
2 t Cinnamon (or to taste, we liberally added cinnamon)
1 t nutmeg (or to taste, I wasn't watching the person adding this)
1 t vanilla extract
dash of salt
butter for greasing the pan

2 T sugar
1 T cinnamon

1. Grease a 9x13 pan, preferably with higher than 2" sides, but that will work fine in a pinch (I totally missed this step and it made a difference in the clean up)
2. Slice the Challah bread into 1 inch slices and line the pan with the bread close together slices on end (like a file cabinet).  If you have holes, slice smaller pieces to fit into the holes. The bread should be tight enough not to fall over but not too tight so you can't get in between the slices with your fingers
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs until all the yolks have broken.
4. Add all other ingredients and whisk to combine
5. Pour liquid evenly over the pan of bread and use a spoon to distribute in between the layers.  Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight
*The next Morning*
1. Remove the dish from the refrigerator when you get up
2. Preheat the oven to 350
3. Make the topping by combining 2 T sugar and 1 T cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove the cover on the dish and sprinkle the topping all over--this will make the top crisp
4. Bake 40 minutes or until toast is lightly golden brown and puffed and liquid is mostly set
5. Cut into squares and serve warm with syrup

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Bread Pudding

A couple of days ago we bought some Italian bread to take to an appetizer party along with our sourdough bread snowman and chimahurri sauce.  But then just before we were about to leave we found out that there would only be 20 people in attendance and we did not need to bring too much food. So the bread was left to waste away on the counter.

A day or so later I decided the bread needed to be made. So I searched recipes for bread pudding which is what one typically does with day-old bread. I wanted to make our recipe for pumpkin bread pudding that we did for Thanksgiving Testing 2011 but I didn't have pumpkin on hand and it wasn't time for shopping.

I ended up making a variety of Chocolate Bread Pudding from a recipe on Real Simple.  I had all the ingredients but I had to cheat a little on the types of chocolate I used--I didn't have enough squares of semi sweet available. I actually skimped on the chocolate and it was still enough.  I wish that this recipe had a dash of cinnamon or something to round out the flavor.

I also skimped on the soaking time and the weighing down the bread.  I did this because I decided to make the dish at 8pm and didn't really want it around the next day.  I brought the dish to work. It was completely gone by 5pm.  I think that's a sign of either a good dish or a compelling idea that people though sounded good, tasted, and threw away.  But I'll never know!

You should make this but follow the directions for soaking.  Since I didn't I found that the middle of the bread was still white (it should be brown and covered in chocolate).  I also found chocolate crusts on the top of the bread--as though I melted chocolate, let it harden, and spread it on top.  On the other hand, the dish was still good so do whatever you want if you make it.  I think I prefer bread pudding that isn't chocolate--believe it or not.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Product: Saffron Road Frozen Indian Food

Sometimes I want Indian food but the thing is, my husband doesn't eat Indian food so we don't go out to eat it ever.  I of course could go at lunch--but the problem there is that there is no good Indian restaurant in walking distance. And you know nobody drives at lunch.

Anyway, I was at Whole Foods the other day looking for hazelnuts and decided to buy two different frozen Indian dinners. I bought Amy's Paneer Saag which I have had before along with Saffron's Road Lamb Saag.  Nutrition wies the Paneer & Lamb Saag are pretty close and not incredibly terrible--but they aren't that filling either so fill up with lots of additional fruits and vegetables!

I was really impressed by the Lamb Saag.  The flavors were there, the lamb was incredibly tender and there was a good amount of lamb.  I think that this is a keeper.  Try it for yourself!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pizza Dough Breadsticks

As you know, Trader Joe's is not my favorite ever store. However, I was moved to go there last week to pick up some cookie butter.  I was hungry and picked up a whole slew of other ingredients including their world-famous pre-made pizza dough.

Little known fact: Joey and I have not once been successful at pizza making.  It's true, I know it's tough to even fathom being such cooks and bakers.  We can't believe it either.  Every time we try to roll out the dough it springs back into a small round.  When we finally have it so we think something else goes wrong and our pizzas aren't anything close to the likes of our favorite neighborhood shop.

So when I bought the pizza dough I was a little bit hesitant.  But I got it all the same. Then later in the week I picked up some toppings with every intention of making pizza.  By Monday night we still had no pizza and we decided to just order some because we'd been craving it for days!

With pizza already out for dinner (since we just had it), I knew I had to come up with something to use this pizza dough.  Tonight Joey had to work late so I didn't want to make anything to crazy-complicated for dinner. Plus, we really didn't have any food except the ingredients for pizza and canned goods.

As a result I decided on a light dinner of soup and breadsticks.  I would make breadsticks with the pizza dough.  Has anyone ever done this before I wondered?  I went to my old friend google and searched for "pizza dough breadsticks" nearly the first post was a favorite blog of mine "Playing House" with a recipe for pizza dough breadsticks using TJs dough!

After following the directions and letting the dough rest it was too sticky to roll so I added some flour.  Then I tried again.  I had the same terrible rolling results as usual. Luckily breadsticks are forgiving!  I rolled it to whatever I thought might be big enough, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled on some oregeno, garlic powder and a dash of salt.  I also added a quick shred of Parmesan.  I baked my whole-wheat sticks for 14 minutes and came up with a glorious warm side dish for my soup.  So delicious!  I highly recommend you skip the pizza next time and make these.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Salsa Marinated Chicken

I decided to marinate some chicken in salsa the other day in order to hopefully come out with a perfectly moist chicken with lots of flavor.  That..didn't happen.  The problem with the salsa lay in the inability for the marinade to soak into the meat.  It really just sat on top and flavored the top.  This marinade WOULD work if you added a little lime juice maybe a dash of oil--or you could just baste your chicken with salsa and serve it with salsa on the side.  But now you know if you're looking for a fast salsa-soaked dinner this is not the one.

The chicken was cooked perfectly though and had a nice light flavor--just not as much as I was imagining in my dreams.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Product: Cookie Butter

One of my friends pointed me to one of our daily reads today and an article describing the delectable products Trader Joe's brought out this year for the holiday season.

Sure there are lots of products in the article that call out to me but the most significant is Cookie Butter.  Cookie Butter?!  My friend and I couldn't imagine how it couldn't be wonderful combining two things we love most--butter and cookies into one delicious spread.
I knew I had to have it.  I don't like Trader Joe's.  I go there and have to deal with tight parking lots, tight aisles and can never find anything I want with their crazy store organization.  But I was resigned to give it a try anyway because I couldn't pass up a chance to try the famed Cookie Butter.  I went there after work and actually discovered a store with more than one open space in the parking lot and rather roomy aisles.  Hurrah!

As I was driving home after buying what one can only refer to as a grocery bag of the before-dinner munchies, my aforementioned friend texted me with a message that the cookie butter is amazing.  She encouraged me to crack the jar in the car.  Sadly it was stuffed in the back seat amongst boxes of un-needed snacks near the bottom of the bag. I counted down the minutes to the garage and rushed upstairs to prepare dinner and sample the butter.

Glorious! The texture of peanut butter the flavor of gingersnaps with a tiny bit of crunch from the smashed up cookies.  This butter is terrible for you with 9g of fat per every 1 T but it would be delicious in a myriad of holiday sweets.  For instance just today I saw a recipe for chocolate cookies stuffed with peanut butter--but they would be great with Cookie Butter instead.  Or spread on toast with maybe a tiny dash of sea salt. Or spread onto cupcakes as a frosting.

Will I eat the whole jar without making a recipe? Doubtful. Could I? Very possibly.  But I'll share instead!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Individual Shepherd's Pies

After Thanksgiving, we got to share in the wealth of the leftovers and they were delicious as is for a few days, but today I thought I'd love to use the potatoes in a new way.  Suddenly it came to me--Shepherd's Pie!  I knew that we didn't have that many potatoes, so I wanted to make just enough food to fit into our small individual serving sizes--which actually turned out to be plenty of food and quite satisfying!

I chose a recipe from the Epicurious Iphone App while at the store and then found I pretty much had all the ingredients already.  On a whole, the only things I had to pay for at this time for this meal was the ground beef and the peas.  I bought Organic beef that was vegetarian fed because it came in a smaller package, I didn't think there was  much of a taste difference if that's something you have always been wondering but were too afraid to try (I have).  This took about an hour to prepare from the chopping to the baking but I don't know why, I felt like I got home and dinner would be on the table in minutes but I guess I dilly-dallied more than I thought.

Ingredients (I changed the recipe to have less meat because I knew I had less potatoes but I kept the spices and liquid the same)
1 T canola oil (or similar)
1/2 one small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced (I don't peel carrots anymore, I can't taste the difference)
0.6lbs of lean ground beef (this would be good with lamb which the original recipe called for or even turkey)
6 T frozen peas
1 C+ leftover mashed potatoes, or make your own, or buy some already made
1 T tomato paste (I recently bought a tube of paste because recipes are always calling for too little of the can to keep around, it's really handy even though it initially seems like a bad value)
1 Cup broth (I used vegetable)
1 t Rosemary, crushed a little (I used dry)
1 clove garlic smashed
1/2 t Oregano (I used dry)
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a large skillet brown beef, onion and carrot over medium high heat--about ten minutes
3. When the meat has browned, drain and return to pan.
4. Add all other ingredients EXCEPT the peas
5. Bring to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes until mixture has thickened slightly (honestly my mixture didn't really thicken but I still removed it after 10 minutes
6. Divide mixture between two individual oven-proof dishes. Add 3 T peas (straight from the freezer is fine) to each dish
7. Top the dishes with leftover potatoes and try to cover as much surface as possible, as you can see I was a little short on potatoes but it still tasted good
8. Bake dishes at 375 for 30-35 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown on top
9. Dishes will be very hot right out of the oven.  If you can wait, hold off 5 minutes before eating.

A little bit of Giving

As the Holidays are upon us I like to do as much as I can to help the less fortunate.  My favorite thing to do is to buy a few canned goods and things at the grocery store and then donate them right there--it's rather convenient and most likely I'm going to each of those aisles they point to for something of my own.  This year, Toyota is promoting the huge cargo space in their new Prius V with a Toys for Tots campaign.  Each day you can click on their widget on Facebook or the one I post right here and give a toy to a child who needs one.  This is even easier than the grocery store--which I will still do, but this one I can do all month long or until the fill all these prius Vs.  And with this cargo space, it could literally be all month long and then some, so start giving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Apple Pear and Dried Cherry Pie

Apple Pie does not scream Thanksgiving to me. It screams 4th of July. But after years of celebrating with the Smith family I have come to understand that Apple Pie is as much a part of Thanksgiving as is the turkey.

But unlike most people, Joey and I like to make pies that have a little twist on the traditional. Joey is an expert and enthusiastic pie maker and we scrounge the web and recipe books for something new every year--even when we have found a winner.

This year was no different--even though we're attending the Peterson Family Thanksgiving instead of the Smith Family Thanksgiving. We searched high and low for an apple pie that met our fancy and then we decided to turn an apple crumble into a pie recipe--with our fail proof almond tart crust from last year's pear tart.

We taste tested this pie ourselves and then shared it with Joey's office and it was completely gone by 10am. This pie is paired with a maple syrup whipped cream which really adds a nice flavor, so don't skip this step even if you aren't accustomed to having whipped cream on apple pie (apple pie goes with ice cream).

We also tasted the juices inside the pie since we cut into it a little early before it really firmed up. Best cider ever! Now we know how to make cider...



1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 t almond extract


1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 4 cups)
2 large pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
1 cup dried cherries (about 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 T maple syrup (b quality if you can find it)


1. Blend powdered sugar, almonds, and salt in processor until nuts are finely ground. Add butter and blend until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Mix in egg yolk. Add flour. Using on/off turns, blend until dough comes together in clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

2. Roll out chilled dough and place in a buttered pie plate. Poke holes all over with a fork. Freeze for 5 minutes. Cover crust in buttered foil and weigh down with dried beans. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans and bake 10 minutes longer until golden brown. Set aside to cool.


1. Mix 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and nutmeg in large bowl. Add apples, pears, and dried cherries to bowl; sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to coat. Pour filling into slightly cooled pie crust

2. Using fingertips, mix butter, brown sugar, lemon peel, remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon in medium bowl until moist clumps form. (this is the best playdoh!)

3. Crumble the topping over the fruit and try to cover it completely but don't pack it down.

4. Heat the oven to 350. Bake about 1 hour until fruit bubbles and topping starts to brown. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving to help thicken the juices. If you don't want to wait taste the juices after you cut your first cider in the world

Whipped Cream

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer whip 1 C cream until peaks form. Add syrup gradually to sweeten.
2. Whipped cream can be made ahead but doesn't hold it's shape well into the second day and begins to separate.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Construction & Building Birthday Party

You know those blogs that show you these perfect birthday parties for kids? They rent furniture, they get a baker to bake something fancy and covered in fondant that shoots fireworks, they get a photographer and they go hog wild.  And then the kids look like they're having fun but they're not really paying attention to the decor?  Well this is not one of those birthday parties.

This is one of those birthday parties where kids & imagination reign.  It was a cardboard box city on a whole new level.  The idea was a construction/building party--it came together to be one of the most cost effective parties of all time and the kids loved it.

From the people who bring you Ignite Creative Learning Studio, a studio that embraces creativity and imagination in extracurricular academic classes, learn how to build the perfect construction party for your child's next party!

Materials (it looks like a lot but it's not so bad):
1 for every 2 kids large appliance boxes (we had 5)
Lots of assorted smaller boxes of all sizes
Your recycling; egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, soap boxes, shoe boxes, paper towel rolls, plastic tubs from cookies and things
Sidewalk Chalk for little hands
Washable paint in several colors
Paint roller pans
Paint rollers and brushes (smaller rollers for kids)
Safety Scissors
An exacto knife for an adult
Washable markers
Wood working center with wood pieces and an adult handyman and some special tools
Ride-ons that don't require helmets (have kids bring their own!)
Gold coins or pennies
Favors (1 per kid): - Label them with their names so everyone is sure to get one of each thing
Toolbelts (cheaper at Home Depot than Loews and you may be able to get them for free)
cut pieces of wood
sand paper squares
plastic hard hats
miniature tape measures
electrical tape
2 kinds of savory snacks like popcorn and veggie sticks
water, milk and or juice

The Setup:
1. Cut doors and windows in the boxes with an exacto knife.  If you want, you can label some of them like General Store, Snack Shack, and Bank.  The Bank played a part in our story so we needed to make sure it was there.
2. Get all your supplies together and set them aside for easy access
3. Start collecting interesting pieces of recycling and store in a safe place
4. On the day of the party, draw lines on your driveway or sidewalk for the ride on drivers.  Put in crosswalks, two lanes and different signs like "dead end" for the end of the driveway and "one way." Kids can help with this!
5. Setup the large boxes around the yard or driveway, remember, kids will be painting on these boxes so if you are worried about paint on the driveway you may want to put old sheets under them or something or extra cardboard
6. Put the assorted boxes, recycling and markers in an accessible area and label it as Building Supplies
7. Put the screwdrivers, tape measures and electrical tape in one of the large boxes and call it the general store.  If you have a cash register set it up nearby--adults can run the store but only kids can fit inside--if you have some kind of side opening it works well for adults to crawl in and find the tools with their name
8. Setup paint trays and rollers next to the large boxes and fill with paint colors right before the kids arrive or as they do
9. In the back yard or a neighbors (get permission first!) setup a coin hunt.  Hide coins at kid height in both harder and easier places. Concoct a story for later about a bank robbery (Our story was that there was a bank robbery in town but when he ran away through the back yard there was a hole in his bags and he dropped coins all over--who could find them?)

The Arrival & The Party:
1. As kids arrive, have a grownup at the front welcoming them (as workers) and giving them their supplies along with five coins with which to buy their tools at the general store and snacks at the snack shack (tell them how to use their coins).  Tell them about the town and the rules (really there are no rules but you can give suggestions about driving around or painting the buildings. If they seem nervous and there's not a big crowd give them a tour.
2. Have another adult stationed at the General Store to help with the purchasing of their tools
3. Let the kids do their thing, if they seem like they don't know what to do offer suggestions.  Try to get the braver kids to the woodshop area if possible
3a. The adults should carry safety scissors and a few other special materials (in their toolbelts!) in case the kids need something extra
3b. Have paper and pens available in case kids have another idea of what they need to make their town perfect
4. Midway through the party open up the snack shack and put an adult there to "sell the snacks" 1 coin for each bowl--some savvy kids may buy more than two snacks by dipping into the cash register...
5. Later in the party, when you are seeing a lull or just before you want to break for cake & presents, announce the robbery (at our party, some kids were building a police station so we got them involved in the robbery and had them announce it).  While the kids run around looking for coins setup the cake and move on to that.
6. At the end kids can use coins they found in the hunt to buy other favors if you have any others that you'd like to.
7. Let the kids play in the town a bit more until they have to leave


  • The Coin hunt was fun for us to work the story into the party but it was not necessary.  These kids did not bore of the cardboard box town and riding on the roads
  • The paint was a huge hit, if we had more rollers and colors it might have been nice. People also wanted to paint their creations at the woodshop
  • If you don't have a handyman in the family you could buy a few pre-made kits for woodworking and have those on hand to build or put together or you could skip this part altogether--although it was a big hit
  • The trick is to be hands off but filled with ideas. If someone asks for help or looks bored you can point them in the right direction
  • If someone wants new materials and you don't have them try to suggest something similar--or run in the house to find them

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dirt Cake

This year for Christopher's birthday party we decided on a construction/building theme.  We first thought that it would be more construction based and I begged Katie to let me make a dirt cake.  She wouldn't have it.

Finally after weeks of begging she decided that we could indeed have a dirt cake as long as there was also some regular cupcakes for people who might be scared to eat dirt, worms and ooey gooey pudding mixture.  Those people are missing out.

I basically followed the recipe over on Baked Bree.  Aunt Kathy's traditional recipe calls for vanilla pudding but when I saw Bree incorporating chocolate pudding instead (indecently those pudding boxes from trader joe's are awesome looking) I knew that that was for me.  Bree also used real homemade whipped cream which, I think is probably a great idea! However, I took the escape route and went for good old Cool Whip.  12 oz of Cool Whip is the replacement.  I also chose to just fill up  a regular 9x13 (actually this pan is bigger for lasagna) dish instead of flowerpots cause this is a party for boys.  I got two types of gummy worms--the regular and the neon.  Personally, I think the neon ones are delicious but the regular ones look rather cool slithering through the dirt and you can hide them more like real worms.  I hope these kids aren't too grossed out to try it!

I'll be serving the cake in these small, clear "crystal" style plastic cups.  I bought forks to eat with although spoons probably would've been the better option...oh well forks it is.

Let's Eat Dirt!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Tart

I love chocolate chip pumpkin muffins or bread. I think that chocolate adds a bit fun and everything is better with chocolate.

Well unfortunately, in the case of chocolate crusted pumpkin pie, I was one of the only people that thought it would be and then thought it was fantastic. Joey's work gave it only 1/2 a thumb up unfortunately. This means it is not a contender for Thanksgiving even though I thought it was delicious.

I was unable to find chocolate wafers at the store which was really annoying. I could've gone with oreos because I was buying them anyway but I ended up choosing chocolate animal crackers. These worked fine. I also may have used a little too much chocolate in the layer between the crust and pumpkin but I followed the directions. I liked the crunch the crust added and the texture of the chocolate layer. I really liked this tart no matter what you say!

The one thing I did differently from the recipe was that I used 2 eggs instead of 1 egg after reading the reviews that the pie didn't set up for others. With the two eggs I did have to bake for a bit longer but in the end it was still firm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Center Cut Pork Loin Roast and Vegetables

We have a store called Sprouts Farmer's Market near our house, previously called Henry's. It's kind of like Whole Foods in that it has a great produce section, lots of bulk pantry items, a glorious coffee section and really expensive packaged goods--but it's cheaper than Whole Foods.

I love Henry's except shopping there goes against one of my strongest arguments for not going to Trader Joe's--you can't always get everything you need for a recipe there or do all your shopping. But Henry's aka Sprouts is a good place to go sometimes and especially when you didn't go to the actual Farmer's Market.

So anyway, I was shopping at Sprouts this weekend and I noticed there was a sale on Center Cut Pork Loin Roasts. The other great thing was that the roasts were small--2 1/2 to 3 pounds at most. So I picked up a roast for $4. Then I added a couple of vegetables to my cart--a turnip, some carrots, an onion, some white sweet potatoes, some apples.

Tonight after work I thought it was high time to make the roast. The thing is I knew it would take about 25 minutes a pound to cook--so I was looking at dinner in an hour and a half. No big deal right? People eat latish dinners all the time...well it was ready at 9:30 and it was totally worth the wait! I made up this recipe almost entirely by myself--I only based the cooking time off another recipe and stuffing the middle with apples from something I read on Epicurious. Make this recipe! But maybe start earlier than 8pm.

Serves 4 with this size roast but you may want to increase the vegetables

Center Cut Pork Loin Roast, 2 1/2 lbs
1/2 C Apple Cider
1 Apples, chopped small
1/4 C craisins (or dried cherries!)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t cinnamon
English Prime Rib Rub, to taste
1 large white sweet potato, cut into medium chunks
1 large onion, cut into thick rings
1 turnip, cut into medium chunks
3 carrots, cut into rounds
1 apple, cut into medium chunks
1 t olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
2. In a small bowl mix the cinnamon, finely chopped apple, craisins, lemon juice and cider.
3. Cut a bit of an incision all the way through the pork and try to stuff in as much of the apple mixture inside
4. On a jelly roll pan toss vegetables with the olive oil and lay onions down flat as a sort of rack for the pork roast.
5. Salt the vegetables and pork and sprinkle with some English Prime Rib Rub or seasoning of your choice
6. Place the roast on the onions and move the vegetables to surround the onions. Pour the rest of the filling on top of the roast and vegetables
7. Roast for 25 minutes per pound--about 1 hour and 35 minutes in this case turning the pan midway through and tossing the vegetables at least once so they don't stick to the pan
8. When the pork reaches 150 degrees remove from oven and slice on a carving board with a mote as the juices will start to flow
9. Sneak a little of the crispy pork fat that has caramelized from the top of the roast. Don't tell anyone about it and eat it all yourself

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Pumpkin bread pudding was on the testing list for Thanksgiving this year. This is pretty much the easiest dessert you could make. It doesn't make the cut for the big event because I think it tastes best warm and it is really rich--richer than pie and therefore not the right thing after a big meal.

But if you're having a small autumn dinner party or you just want to make a weeknight dessert this is for you--assuming you like both pumpkin and bread pudding.

The biggest snag in this recipe is that you have to plan ahead a little bit and buy the bread a day before--or if your bread at your local grocery is as fresh as ours you might want to try two days. Or maybe you can toast your bread a little in the oven or in a dry pot on the stove before using it in the dessert. For us, our bread wasn't as crisp as we would have liked.

You only need 1 french baguette for this recipe. We didn't have allspice so we just substituted a bit of nutmeg.

1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, and spices in a bowl.
Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes

I read a recipe while perusing my regular blogs about roasted tomato soup. I thought maybe I'd make it since I had tons of tomatoes around and garlic and all the things in the soup. So one night while we were already doing a bunch of cooking I decided to roast up my tomatoes.

But I didn't re-read the recipe.

So I didn't make any soup.

Cause I didn't follow it at all. But I'm still interested in trying it sometime.

So I just roasted some tomatoes with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. But in the end they were really tart. Really really tart. I didn't like them that much actually which is really sad because I do love me some tomatoes.

So after they were cooked I added some sugar, and then they were okay, but not the best. But don't they look pretty?

Individual Apple Crisps

I really like warm desserts on cool fall and winter nights--but I don't want to make a huge thing that forces Joey & I to eat more than our fair share. So last night, I created individual apple crisps for the both of us. I was hoping that because these were smaller they'd cook faster but that was not the case actually. However, they were delicious and because they are already individually sized and they're made with oats and therefore less sugar they are not that bad for you either!

I loosely followed this recipe for a crumble and then just made it into two individual things and at about 1/4 of the recipe. Of course now that I'm writing about it I can't find the recipe, but I can give it a guess.

1/4 C oats
1/4 brown sugar, + a few sprinkles
1 T flour
2 apples
2 T cold butter
baking spice (optional)
pinch of ginger
dash of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350
1. Chop the apples into bite sized pieces--not slices, slices are weird in this dish
2. Toss the apples in each container with a few sprinkles of brown sugar (maybe 1 T each thing), lemon juice and all the spices to taste
3. In a small bowl mix the sugar, flour, butter and oats
4. Top the apple mixture with the oats mixture and bake at 350 for 45 or more minutes until it's bubbly and crispy and brown. Cool slightly before digging in

Friday, November 4, 2011


Carrots are one of my favorite versatile vegetables. They are good raw, they are good with a dash of salt, they are good with a bit of lime, they are good with their peel on or off, they are good roasted, they taste nice in butter sauce, they're great. The other great thing about carrots is that they're really cheap and they offer lots of nutritional benefits.

The other great thing about carrots is that they are sometimes found in desserts! How crazy is that am I right? Carrot Cake is so sweet you can't imagine that it has anything that could be good for you (although just to clarify, carrot cake is NOT good for you, just the carrots are)

Hungry for a little crunch? Carrots. Hungry for a little roasted flavor? Carrots.

Add Carrots to your next meal--weather roasted, steamed, pureed or plain they will add some color to your meat and potatoes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Autumn Salad with Pears (Apples)

For Halloween this year, we all decided to head over to my father in law's house since we get now trick or treaters in our neighborhood. Dinner was decided on and I offered to make salad. Around the same time, I was browsing some food blogs and found a salad I thought looked interesting. Of course, I had none of the ingredients. So we made an emergency trip to the store after dinner on Sunday night.

This is the original recipe. I kinda changed it a bit because, even though I went to the store particularly to get ingredients for this salad, I didn't get them all.

1. I didn't think the pears would ripen in time so I just used some apples I got at the farmer's market on Saturday
2. I thought I had red wine vinegar, I was wrong. Instead I used apple cider vinegar which I feel was a good replacement since I was using apples anyway
3. Craisins. I added some cause I thought that might be good. It was.

This salad was filled with autumn flavors and really had a nice sweet/salty flavor, I recommend it--with or without my changes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Apple Pancakes

In the October Foodzie Tasting Box I got two small jars of Maple Syrup from Ben's Sugar Shack. We were supposed to get one jar of Grade A & a second of Grade B but we actually got two Grade B's. Either way, I decided to get up early and make breakfast this Saturday morning before Joey went to work so that we could try out the new syrup!

I'm not really a superb breakfast maker, but I can do it in a pinch. The problem for me is that I don't really like the thick heavy bisquick pancakes. I like buttermilk ones that are light and fluffy. But, keeping buttermilk around the house is annoying and I'm still weirded out by the lemon juice & milk method--so I am always looking for new recipes.

Apple Cinnamon pancakes sounded really good to me since I am currently obsessed with this Baking Spice from Penzey's spices that my friend Jenny gave me a few years ago for a gift. So I started to search the web and then I just decided to search Smitten Kitchen and I found just what I was looking for--pancakes with bits of apple in them!

Per her instructions, I added a little extra flavoring to the mix--a little vanilla, a teaspoon of baking spice, a half teaspoon of cinnamon. I think the result was really delicious. I recommend this recipe from Smitten Kitchen!

When I was grinding up the apples in my food processor, I didn't manage to eliminate all the big chunks so as I was making pancakes, I found a few slices of apple doused in batter. I threw those in the griddle too and the result was nothing short of amazing. These apple slices had just a bit of custardy batter on them that browned up--with the cinnamon and still a little crunch and juice from the apple--I think pancake battered apples could be the next new thing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grilled Baked Apples and Pork

It's October. We had one week that really felt like fall at the end of September. But then summer came back and today it was like 108 in the valley. I love summer, but sometimes I really want a little taste of fall; especially when all the food magazines and websites are selling me on apples and pumpkins and pork.

So today I decided to be totally California and use the grill to make a fall favorite--baked apples. I also made some pork loin steaks which some might refer to as deconstructed pork roast. This fall dinner was delicious, fast and did not heat up the house like the oven it was already outside.

Baked apples on the grill! So fun! Also doesn't that pork in the picture kind of look like a fish? Hehe. it's pork actually.

2 4oz each boneless pork loin steaks (I've never seen these before, but they were only $5 for like 1 1/2 lbs.)
English Prime Rib Rub (okay so this is from Penzey's spices but I'm sure you could use your favorite choice of spices but this one was really fall)
2 apples, cored (I'm not good with coring apples, so I just dug out a hole with a melon baller and we cut around the core when we ate)
2 T brown sugar, packed
Baking spice (another Penzey's but it's like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, good stuff)
1 t butter

1. Heat gas grill to medium high (around 4oo)
2. Meanwhile, dig out a hole in the apples and stuff with brown sugar, butter and spices
3. Wrap each apple in a square of tin foil and scrunch tight
4. Put the apples on the grill (top side up so the sugar stuff doesn't leak out), close the lid and set a timer for 10 minutes
5. Salt & English Prime Rib Rub the pork. After the apples cook 10 minutes put the pork on the grill.
6. Grill 5 minutes per side and continue to cook the apples (10 more minutes total)
7. Use care while unfolding the foil as steam will escape quickly. Eat!

CrockPot Spaghetti Sauce

Let's be honest, there are tons of way to make a quick red pasta sauce for dinner. It might take an hour at most and with the real cheater methods it can take as little as 5 minutes. But recently, I had some leftover chuck roast that needed to be cooked and I was tired of the braised meats like pot roast and short ribs and wanted something Italian. Chuck roast has to be cooked long to be tender and delicious. So I decided to use the crockpot to make a chuck roast spaghetti sauce.

If you like your spaghetti sauce with ground meat in it you'll find this is a little strange. If you're one of those people who has your own meat grinder though; you could potentially grind your chuck. Or you could just use ground beef or sausage if you're trying to use up your beef. The sauce turned out pretty good for simmering away in the crock pot all day--passable for leftovers.

The dish is more like an Italian strogonoff except without mushrooms. The fresh beet fettuccine I used also played off the strogonoff feel by tasting a lot more like egg noodles than bold pasta flavor.

So the age old question - Can you make spaghetti sauce in the crockpot? has been answered. Yes.

Oh and did I mention that I cheated even in the actual making? This a true set it and forget it meal.

1 jar (20oz) favorite marinara pasta sauce
1 lb chuck roast, cubed
1 Can whole tomatoes in juice, torn into pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed and separated into pieces
1t crushed red pepper
1 1/2 t Italian seasoning
1 t tomato paste
pasta, for serving

1. Combine all ingredients except pasta in the slow cooker.
2. Set cooker for 8-9 hours on low (I did 9 and it warmed for 3 and then shut off).
3. Around the end of the cook time, boil water and cook pasta
4. Serve with pasta

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes

My husband works with a lot of Taiwanese people and whenever they return from trips home they bring a variety of sweets to share with the office. One of everyone's favorites are these shortbread-like cookies stuffed with a pineapple paste. These treats are popular for the Chinese New Year but are available all year round.

After bringing them several times to the office, some of Joey's coworkers challenged him to try and make them. One coworker offered to translate a recipe for us to try. It turns out nobody ever makes these cookies. They buy these cookies. But now we were making these cookies. When the translation was done we compared it with a similar recipe online (there were seriously like 3 recipes online) and set off to the Asian market for some unusual ingredients.

At the store we found some winter melon. Later we learned that winter melon is just a stabilizer to help the cookie's filling last longer and could be left out of the filling. Winter melon is a bland melon that tastes like a cucumber but has a the texture of a watermelon. Either way, it wasn't obvious in the filling at all.

Pineapple cakes are kinda like fig newtons except there's really no flavoring in the butter crust and the pineapple filling is more sticky.

We had a ton of trouble with the recipe. There was the hunt for the maltose & winter melon (we used malt syrup actually which is kind of like corn syrup although we did see maltose we just decided against it). Our filling never got thick like they said it would, this probably due to the different maltose. But whatever the problem, we got some use out of the turkey baster and extracted all the liquid from the pan to artificially thicken our pineapple paste.

We had no issue with the dough part but we think that if you were going to make these and go a little nontraditional a little bit of almond extract would go a long way.

After a taste test of the ones we made vs. a packaged pineapple cake we purchased at the Asian market the difference is night and day. The packaged kind have a sticky filling and a dry outside. Our kind is sort of like a really delicious butter/shortbread cookie filled with a wet pineapple jam. I don't like the real version, but ours were delish!

We used this recipe. But in case it disappears for them web, reprinted here:

Pineapple Cakes

Makes 24 pineapple cakes.


2½ cups cake flour
⅛ teaspoon. baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons nonfat milk powder, passed through a fine mesh sieve
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup shortening
½ cup confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks
1 recipe Pineapple Paste (recipe follows)


  1. Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and milk powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Place the butter, shortening and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolks and beat on medium-low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Stop the mixer and add half of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until most of the flour has been absorbed. Add the remaining flour and beat until all of the flour has been absorbed, 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat 1 minute. Divide the dough into 2 even pieces and roll each piece into a 10-inch log. Wrap each log tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
  4. Cut each log into 12 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Use a tablespoon measure to divide the pineapple paste into 24 evenly sized 1-tablespoon balls.
  5. Place a dough ball in the palm of your hand and flatten into a disk. Place a pineapple paste ball in the center of the disk, bring the edges up together and pinch shut. Roll between the palms of your hands until the seams are no longer visible. Press into 1¾-inch-wide square pineapple cake molds or gently shape into squares by hand.
  6. Place the pineapple cakes 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, turning the cakes over once and rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through baking. Place the baking sheets on wire racks to cool 10 minutes before transferring the cakes to the racks to cool completely.

Pineapple Paste

Makes 1½ cups pineapple paste

This pineapple paste is more intensely pineapple-y than the filling in commercial pineapple cakes. If a milder flavor is desired, reduce the amount of pineapple and increase the amount of diced winter melon by the same amount. Winter melon and maltose syrup can be found in most large Asian markets.


12 oz. (weight) peeled, cored, diced pineapple (from 1 pineapple)
1 pound, 4 ounces of peeled, seeded, diced winter melon (from about 2½ pounds winter melon wedges)
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup maltose syrup


  1. Place the pineapple in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pureed, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, 18 to 20 pulses. Pour into a Dutch oven.
  2. Place the winter melon in the food processor and pulse until very finely shredded, 20 to 22 pulses. Transfer to the Dutch oven.
  3. Cook the combined mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the winter melon begins turning translucent, about 20 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, add the sugar, and cook until the mixture has thickened, about 8 minutes.
  5. Stir in the maltose syrup and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, sticky, and uniformly light amber in color, 10 to 12 minutes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chili Baked Potatoes

One of my friends told me about a canned chili called Dennison's 99% fat free Turkey Chili. When I went to the store I learned that Dennison also makes 99% fat free beef chili. I've never really compared chili nutrition labels before--but I did this time between beef chili with beans and 99% fat free beef chili with beans I was totally surprised by how much fat the former had! 2 grams of fat vs 16 grams of fat? I bought the 99% fat free.

Why did I even buy canned chili you ask? Well as you recall, earlier this week we attempted to make Everyday Food's Texas Red Chili planning to serve the leftovers on baked potatoes. Unfortunately, the resulting meat soup was not made for topping potatoes so in order to follow through with my dinner plans, I decided to buy the chili.

Dennison's 99% Fat Free Beef Chili get's both Joey's and my stamp of approval--a good topping chili but not good enough to just eat in a bowl for dinner.

Again being short on time I baked our potatoes in the microwave. Our microwave has a handy baked potato setting! I used it and it took about 11 minutes to bake our two giant potatoes. Meanwhile, I heated the chili in a pot on the stove and shredded a little sharp cheddar. Dinner was ready in 12 minutes and we were on our way to a relaxing Friday night at home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Slow-Cooker Braised Shortribs

When we got the ingredients to make the chili we had to buy more meat than we really needed. We had a little over a pound of short ribs left and the same with the chuck roast. Unfortunately, both chuck & short ribs are the kind of meat that you have to cook for lots of hours to make it delicious to eat and quite frankly, during the work week I don't have a bunch of hours for anything besides working and driving.

Luckily, this is where my old friend the slow cooker comes in handy. Recently I had a sad meal with the slow cooker that involved a power outage. Planned or not I did not think of it when I plugged the cooker in the morning and only realized something was wrong when I got home and it didn't smell like dinner; only to find a note on the door from the Gas Company that they turned the power off--at 10am.

I was a little hesitant to do a slow cooker recipe again because I was pretty sure there would be some freak situation in which a power outage would happen. It didn't happen! I got home and dinner was warm and still smelled delicious.

As it turned out these were good but not amazing--it needed something and I cannot place it. I only sort of followed an epicurious recipe from my phone because the original recipe called for mushrooms and I felt it didn't have enough flavor, plus I had 1/4 of the meat.

1.5 lbs bone-in short ribs
1 picnic-sized bottle of merlot (or whatever red wine)
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/4 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
3 carrots
1 T oregano

1. Salt ribs
2. Add all ingredients to the crock pot
3. Cook on low 9 hours
4. Be contented with a warm meal when you arrive home. This would be good on mashed potatoes or with dipping bread

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Texas Red Chili

This month's Everyday Food had a chili cook off in it between the editors. They all made vastly different chilis but only two of them really peaked my interest. So this week Joey and I decided to make one of these chili dishes and then use the leftovers for a second meal later in the week.

We chose Texas Red Chili. <--see picture? I think we can all agree that our Texas Red Chili was anything but red. In fact it was brown, and it wasn't thick like chili and it really had no texture at all. What some call Texas Red Chili, I might call beef & beef soup. I mean it was good beef soup--but it was like just meat. Meat Beef Soup. And it's not even spicy.

I don't know what we did wrong. We couldn't find the right dried peppers but we used a replacement that the internet said would work. Our blending wasn't perfect cause we don't have a real blender--just an immersion one. But even if those things worked for us I'm not sure this chili would've turned out any better.

So Martha, what'd we do wrong? If you need some really moist beef for say, meat soup, you should make this recipe and add a bunch of vegetables and maybe some barley and it will be delicious. (beef & barley soup!)

1 1/2 ounces dried guajillo chilis or California Anaheim chilis
1 chipotle in adobo sauce + 1 T sauce
1 lb boneless beef short ribs cut into 1 inch pieces (we stripped ours from the bone cause we couldn't find them boneless)
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
salt & pepper
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 t cumin
1 t oregano
2 T cornmeal
3 3/4 C low-sodium beef broth
1 - 2 T white vinegar
Cheese, onions and yellow mustard for serving (yellow mustard seems weird but it actually tasted kinda good)

1. Place whole peppers in a pot and cover with boiling water. Weight down with a plate and let steam about 15 minutes until pliable. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Remove stems and seeds and set aside.
2. In a blender, blend reserved soaking liquid, chipotle & sauce, and dried peppers until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside
3. In a large dutch oven heat pot over medium high. Salt & Pepper short ribs and cook until browned about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
4. Add oil to the bot and season beef chuck. Cook until browned about 5 minutes. Transfer to the meat bowl.
5. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, garlic and 1/2 C water and cook until translucent and fragrant scraping off bits from the bottom of the pan
6. Add spices and cornmeal and cook 1 minute.
7. Add meat, broth, chili puree and water to cover meat if necessary.
8. Cook 1 hour partially covered. Then remove lid and cook 45 minutes longer until slightly thickened. Add vinegar to taste and serve.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Frosted Red Velvet Brownies

For his birthday, my brother-in-law requested cupcakes. I learned from my sister-in-law that red velvet would be a good choice. But my time was limited--so making anything from scratch was kind of impossible.

One of my friends told me about a recipe that makes cake mix really moist--you add a pint of ice cream to the mix and bake! So I looked it up online to see exactly what the recipe was. I found it on but at that moment abc was having a little trouble with their advertisements and they were strobe-lighting across the side of the screen. I'm kinda into online advertising and distractedly left the site after trying to guess the problem with the ads.

So it is no surprise that when I went to the store and then later made the cupcakes that I didn't follow the directions at all and just mixed the ice cream and cake together--with nothing else. It was a really thick batter but it seemed fine. I baked them and they looked fine. I pulled them out of the oven and they deflated...a lot. So the end result was something kind of like brownies or really dense cupcakes. They were good--just not cupcakes.

Do you make ice cream? We do. So the thing is this recipe premium ice cream + cake mix totally made sense to me with no additional ingredients because premium ice cream has eggs, sugar, cream in it.

The REAL recipe calls for eggs in addition to the ice cream and cake mix. Apparently eggs are what make cakes rise. Who knew right? Well I want to make it another try at this cake because I think it really could be good--but probably I should've stuck with regular box mix this time since I was in such a rush.

The Real Recipe
1 box cake mix, any flavor
1 pint premium ice cream, any complimentary flavor, at room temperature
3 eggs

1. In an electric mixer, combine all the ingredients
2. Fill cupcake cups
3. Bake
4. Cool completely
5. Frost

*Ben & Jerry's Red Velvet ice cream is so delicious. I don't usually like ben & jerry's cause it's a little grainy and it always has so many strange combinations with so much stuff in them. But I was seriously regretting my decision to put that ice cream in the cake when I tasted it. If only I really had regretted it then I would've just made regular box mix cupcakes and this whole dense brownie red velvet cake mix wouldn't have happened. You live you learn. Try that ice cream!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Stir Fry

I used to make stir fry all the time when I was single. But Joey's not a huge fan of the stuff and it's dropped off my rotation mostly. However, I recently came into some chicken (buy one get one free*) and had a bunch of vegetables and dinner alone and decided stir fry was quick and easy and perfect for the weather.

My stir fry recipe is sort of throw together and make it up dish that I don't really revise much at all in the sauce but totally change in the ingredients. I started making stir fry in Austria when I was not yet a real cook and didn't have all the choices of ingredients that I do here--this version is a lot better but I can't necessary advertise my sauce as mainstream. But I love it!

*You can swap in any meat or vegetables that you have on hand but be sure to mix textures so that it is more interesting to eat.

Stir Fry for 2
1 t vegetable oil or the like
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 thinly sliced chicken breasts
1 handful rice noodles
1 bunch baby bok choy
1 tomato
1 skinny eggplant
1 bell pepper
1 squeeze siracha
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 squeeze deli mustard
1 t soy sauce (or to taste)

1. Chop all the vegetables and the chicken
2. Heat oil in a wok or medium frying pan over medium heat. Set a pot of water on a different burner and bring to a boil.
3. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant. Add and brown the chicken
4. Just before the chicken is brown add the eggplant and peppers and let them cook down
5. Cook the noodles according to directions about 5 minutes and drain
6. Mix the vinegar, mustard, siracha and soy sauce and set aside
6. Add the tomatoes and bok choy just as the chicken becomes cooked through
7. Once the bok choy is cooked to your favorite texture, add the noodles to the stir fry and mix together. Add the sauce and cook briefly until everything is well mixed and serve immediately.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

I like the occasional enchilada but I find the meat filled ones to be rather dry when eating htem at restaurants, as a result I always order cheese. However, when it comes to making them at home I have already tried cheese and they weren't a family favorite even with the thick red sauce from the jar. These enchiladas looked to be worth a try, and they're relatively good for you two as long as you stick to the careful measuring.
This recipe is from Martha Stewart's blog. I completely followed the recipe although I didn't do the rue quite right and didn't get as thick of a sauce as I wanted. You should serve these with beans and salsa. I didn't serve them with beans but I thought it would've been a good idea, I served them with bok choy, wrong ethnicity? Yes. Good vegetable choice? Passable.

I really liked the chicken enchiladas. I mean they certainly aren't traditional in any sense, but they have a nice taste, moist chicken and a satisfying belly-feel after only two enchiladas. They are also a possible make-after-work dinner. I revised the recipe only slightly with spices, recipe reposted below so you don't have to navigate through M.S. yourself.

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (3-4 oz each)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 minced canned chipotles in adobo
  • 1 Tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium fat free chicken broth
  • 8 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces)

  1. In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1 inch salted water to a boil. Add chicken. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 5 minutes; remove skillet from heat. Let chicken steam, covered, until opaque throughout, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer chicken to a medium bowl; shred with two forks. Set aside.
  2. While chicken is cooking, make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add flour, cumin, chili powder, adobo sauce, and chipotles in adobo; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, whisking occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly, 5 to 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1 cup sauce to bowl with chicken; toss to combine.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour 1/4 cup sauce into bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish; set aside. Stack tortillas, and wrap in a double layer of damp paper towels; microwave until hot, about 1 minute. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture; roll up tightly, and arrange, seam side down, in baking dish. Cover with remaining sauce, and top with cheese. Bake until hot and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Broiler: A Love Hate Relationship

This morning I made a quick marinade of one of those picnic-sized bottles of red wine, some chopped basil and a dash of salt and herbs de Provence. I threw in a slab of top round steak and called it a day--a day in the refrigerator that is. The plan was to come home, spend all my time making applesauce while the grill did the work on the steak.

But once again the grill failed to do it's part in the plan. It didn't heat up and seemed to run out of gas. I feel like we just bought said gas, but I suppose that could totally have been at the beginning of the summer...Anyway, because I was already making the applesauce and the meat was soaked in wine, I decided it was imperative to make the meat at home. So I called on the poor-man's grill, the broiler.

The broiler pretty much annoys me. I don't like how you are supposed to use a special pan. I don't like how hot it is and how close your oven mitt-clad hand has to get to the heat. I find the special pan a bit awkward to handle. Plus the texture of the food that comes from the broiler to me isn't perfect. On the other hand, it cooks really really fast.

10 minutes after discovering the faults of the grill, the meat was cooked and sliced. The applesauce was still cooking away on the stove. I thought the beef was not as firm as it would be when cooked on the grill but it is possibly the cut of meat.

You win again broiler.

P.S. The marinade needed some kind of acid like lemon or maybe a little oil. If you are a wine connoisseur you would love this marinade because it tastes like wine (surprise!)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

S'mores Cupcakes

S'mores are just the thing I look forward to every summer and then hardly ever eat. This summer was no exception. Just as September hit that s'mores craving was back with a vengeance. The problem is that September was already filled with desserts--caramel cake, strawberry shortcake, where was the room for s'mores? Finally it came. My sister & her family were invited for a birthday lunch. At first I was going to make some of the many recipes for s'mores bars but then I decided since this is a celebration it had to be cupcakes.

I browsed the web and thought about how to make a s'mores cupcake my way. I thought that maybe I could do a graham cracker crust like the oreo bottoms for cookie & cream cupcakes. A lot of the recipes for s'mores cupcakes though insisted on a graham cake but I just wasn't feeling it. I mean you can't use a mix for graham cracker cake. Finally I found a recipe that uses a graham cracker crust and loosely followed the directions--very loosely.

We wanted a marshmallow filling for our cupcakes and we thought we had it taken care of that but our method didn't work. We cut large marshmallows in fourths and placed them on top of the baked graham cracker and then poured the cake over it. In the oven, the marshmallows totally expanded and moved to the top and were basically undetectable when eating. So next time, I would do one of two things. 1. Spread marshmallow creme (preferably fluff) on top of the graham cracker crust. 2. Use a piping bag to fill cupcakes after they are baked (you take the tip and just stick it into the top and pipe and then frost the top. Next time. We thought that because we were missing the filling there wasn't as much of a delicious marshmallow flavor. So filling should be added!

S'mores Cupcakes

Chocolate cake mix and ingredients according to directions on the box
5 1/3 T butter, melted
1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs, about 1 sleeve crackers
1/4 C sugar
Marshmallow cream, preferably fluff if you can get that brand
2 regular sized Hershey's bars, optional
6 regular sized marshmallows, cut in fourths (See note about how this doesn't work)
24 paper cupcake liners
1/2 C melted chocolate or extra marshmallow cream

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Prepare graham cracker crust by mixing sugar, graham cracker crumbs and butter in a bowl until combined. Press 1 T crust into the bottom of each paper liner.
3. Bake Crusts for 5 minutes. Cool
4. Prepare cake mix according to directions on the box
5. Spread a little marshmallow or some melted chocolate on the graham cracker crust and then place a marshmallow piece on it (but you may want to skip the marshmallow see note)
6. Pour cake batter 2/3 full in the paper liners
7. Bake according to directions and cool completely
8. When cupcakes are cool, spread a small blob of marshmallow creme on top, don't worry it won't spread easily but it will melt easily!
9. Wait a few minutes and you find the creme melted across the top of the cupcakes, place a square of chocolate on top for garnish

*These cupcakes only last for about 2 days once "frosted" with marshmallow creme. As they sit, the creme melts into the cake and drips off the side. You can, of course, re-frost them if you let them sit out, but that's a lot of work when you might as well just eat them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Foodzie Tasting Box - August

I promise I will post something in between the August & September tasting box. And from now on I will try to spread these out so you don't get cravings to buy expensive foodstuffs online all at once.


Gourmet Scooping Ketchup - This ketchup came in the size bottle you get at fancy hotels when you get breakfast in bed and they bring you jams for your toast. I had it on a hamburger and discovered it tasted a lot more like chili sauce than ketchup. The sauce had a real zing but it wasn't as good as the standard Heinz Chili sauce so I won't be buying it special. 4

Serendipity Frozen Hot Chocolate - As luck would have it, we just tasted this frozen concoction recently at the Serendipity cafe on the grounds of the Caesar's Palace hotel in Vegas. At the cafe, I thought the drink was just okay and a little overly sweet and grainy for my taste--kind of like some of the iced drinks at the Coffee Bean. We will probably try out this mix, but right now we're still aware of how it tasted in the wild and not interested in trying it again, even if it is famous.

Sweet Potato Chips, North Fork Potato Chips - I have not tried these yet but I plan to this week

Justin's Nut Butter Sampler - I have noticed Justin's peanut butter packets before at REI. I have noticed their jars of butter on grocery shelves too, wondering who would pay over $10 for a jar of peanut butter. The sampler pack included regular peanut butter, honey peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut butter and almond maple butter.

O. M. G. Two of these butters were the best I've ever tasted. The honey peanut butter was a nice mix of sweet and salty with a slightly crunchy texture even though it was a creamy variety. It's the kind of peanut butter you can tell is actually made from peanuts. However, compared to the maple almond butter the honey pb was nothing special. I've never had almond butter before but this one was so delicious I actually bought the jar within a week of tasting it. The texture was again a familiar nut crunch but the creaminess of creamy butter. The flavor was out of this world. This is pretty much the best nut spread I have ever tasted and I have joined the ranks of people who pay too much for peanut butter. The regular PB was not very sweet which I suppose is the point but I didn't really like it. The chocolate hazelnut butter was also not that sweet and had a bit of a bitter aftertaste. I am weary to even finish the remaining package of the hazelnut butter.

CHB: 3
MA: 10
HP: 9
P: 3

Marshmallow Crunch Bar - This was a huge rice crispy treat. Is there really much that can be done to improve a rice crispy treat? Is there really a reason to try and recreate this poor-man's delicacy? No, I don't think so. These are such a cheap dessert to whip up that it should be made that way every time---melt some butter and marshmallows, mix, shape eat. A great cooking project for home and a warm treat beats a plastic-wrapped one any day. 5

Nut and Herb Bar - These "healthy" bars are made nut/dairy/so free for all the allergy prone. I have not tried these yet but of the two bars we have already passed off one to our gluten free friend in hopes that he can find a new indulgence. I haven't tried one for myself yet.