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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Foodzie Tasting Box - July


Fleur de sel Peanut Brittle - We have not tried this yet but it is on our list. This peanut brittle has a touch of sea salt and vanilla

Organic Olive Oil - This miniature bottle of olive oil has a future in ice cream, that dream has not yet been met.

Black Truffle & White Cheddar Popcorn - It took me a long time to eat this popcorn from the brand 479 degrees, but when I did I was totally hooked. The airy puffed corn is light in both calories and taste. The flavors were delicious and I was really satisfied with one bag and happy it was surprisingly low in calories. This product comes in lots of different flavors and is another one of those products that I would definitely buy again. It is on my list if I ever do indeed order from Foodzie. 9

Dried Cherries - I have not yet eaten these

Fennel Pollen Shortbread - Shortbread isn't my go-to dessert (it's chocolate chip cookies or ice cream for the wondering minds) so I haven't really been focused on this small box of cookies but apparently it is all Joey can do to keep his hands off it. These could be delicious and we will let you know when we try them

Organic Heirloom Emmer Farro - Farro is one of those fancy grains that is all the rage these days like quinoa. I haven't tried it yet. I'm worried that it will be tasteless to me like quinoa which everyone seems to adore. I'll try it next time I make some kind of grain salad. Joey won't touch the stuff so it will be all on me. It does say you can substitute with barley though so maybe I can make a vegetable soup

Monday, September 12, 2011

Foodzie Tasting Box - June


Falafel Chips - I thought these were really good and a nice addition to hummus, they were crispy but not too flavorful without a dip. I also like eating them in the car not feeling like I was having a terrible snack. 7

Green Tomato Relish - This relish looks gross and tastes about the same. I tried to eat it with some pork we were having and found the flavor to be off-putting. I still have the condiment in my fridge wondering what to do with the rather generous jar. I am not generally a fan of sweet relish but I just thought this was too sweet and not as acidic as I hoped. 3

Blueberry Acai Gummies - The strong blueberry smell really turned me off of these gummy candies. Every time the bag was opened I was overcome by the scent. Needless to say, Joey ate all these. He liked them and continued to eat the bag even though the smell drove me crazy. 7

Spiced Almonds - I had a few of these almonds covered in a sweet and spicy spice rub but Joey really loved the, This is one of the few products we've gotten in a tasting box and immediately been interested in purchasing. They are from Glenview, IL where we happen to be traveling next month. Maybe we'll try to pick them up locally before buying online. 9

Coconut Oat Bar - this granola bar meats sweet treat was another traveler with us to Vegas--and back. We still haven't eaten it but I've been told that it's super sweet and can't be eaten in one sitting.

Miso Chocolate Brownie - This product unfortunately didn't travel well and came slightly melted, I'm really weird about packaging and so the melty-mess in the thick plastic sort of grossed me out. I won't be trying this brownie. We plan to send it to someone at Joey's work. While I think Joey would like it, he's not a fan of Asian foods in most circumstances


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Foodzie Tasting Box - May

For a few months now, I have subscribed to the gourmet tasting box from Foodzie. At first I got the free box on a guest pass, but then I continued to fork over the money for a new surprise box every month. I think the novelty in the box is both the idea of a care package every month and a taste of products I otherwise would not buy because I'd deem them too expensive just for a trial. However, with this box it's different. I really feel like I'm getting something neat, new and possibly delicious. Until I decide to cancel my subscription, I will be reviewing each box on this blog. I will list all the items but may not review them all until I have actually tasted the item. Sometimes I am not the only eater, in that case I will provide the other person's review as well.

Foodzie is a gourmet food site that provides people with a way to buy artisan and gourmet local products from around the US. The word artisan may mean to you expensive and yes, it is the same here, but the samples are nice because then you know before you buy.

The rating scale is out of 10, 10 being the best

Dried Pineapple - We took this with us to Las Vegas and brought it back again and still have yet to open the package, luckily it lasts forever

Traditional Alfajores - These are these little sandwich cookies with fillings. Joey ate these as I was turned off by the foil packaging. 7

Lemon poppyseed and almond biscotti - I actually gave this to my sister because I don't like biscotti and she is always eating individually wrapped foods when I see her, verdict unknown

Assorted Fresh Herb Sea Salts - I tried the rosemary sea salt on potatoes, I thought it was okay but didn't impart as much rosemary flavor as I would have liked. I am interested in trying the truffle flavored one but Joey is weary of this mushroom sounding delicacy. 4

Pure Southern Iced tea - I just made the basic iced tea and didn't add sugar as I'm not a big fan of sweet tea. I thought this was going to make too much tea so I saved it for a special event, then it only made 2 qts--smaller than the pitcher we have. I thought it tasted like regular iced tea and nothing more. 5

Classic Seaweed Snack - I also gave this to my sister and didn't hear anything. Then, I was at whole foods the other day and saw someone buying the same product so it can't be terrible, right?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Easiest Strawberry Shortcake

For her birthday, Jenny requested strawberry shortcake for dessert. Before I got started, I quizzed her on what strawberry shortcake means to her. The answer was the biscuit like bottom with strawberries and a bit of whipped cream. I asked because it seems like people like a variety of desserts that they label strawberry shortcake--like angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream, or those little yellow cups they sell in the produce section at the grocery store, or even a full cake layered with strawberries in the middle and whipped cream spread around the top and sides like frosting.

Jenny luckily chose the easiest recipe of them all (except for the pre-made ones I guess) and since I was on the rebound from caramel cake & dinner for 9, I was happy to make something easy.

I ended up using this recipe from the food network. I also shortcutted with store-bought whipped cream. I was planning to add a little almond extract to the shortcake but completely forgot in the heat of the moment. I didin't exactly follow the directions but the shortcake came out fluffy but dense and really delicious with the sweet strawberries. And did I mention this recipe is a real cinch? If you were hanging out at home having just mowed the lawn and learned that your neighbors were dropping in for dessert in 40 minutes, you could make this dish and take a shower! It's that easy.

Strawberry Shortcake
1 1/2 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
5 T sugar, divided (3 & 2)
1 1/2 C heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients and 2 T of the sugar stirring with a spoon. Add cream and stir until well combined.
3. Pour the batter into an 8x8 glass dish and spread the batter evenly with wet fingertips
4. Bake 18-20 minutes until golden brown or at least crispy on the top and browning on the edges and pulling away from the sides
5, Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries and place them in a bowl with the remaining 3T sugar (you may need less if your strawberries are really delicious. Cove the bowl and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 min but longer is better.

Once the shortcake is cool enough to handle slice into squares and serve sliced in half and stuffed with the strawberries and whipped cream.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Minnie's Caramel Cake - The Help

I was browsing Tastespotting a few months ago and came across this delicious looking rendition of Minnie's Caramel Cake - a recipe discussed in the very popular novel The Help. I showed it to my friends and we decided to have a Help party - see the movie and then eat cake together and discuss it. All of us have read the book so it should be a fun conversation.

After comparing our schedules we were dismayed to have to wait almost an entire month to see the movie together. But today the day has finally come and this is the cake that is in our future.

I was nominated to make the cake since I am the only one among us that has a dedicated to food blog and I also have cake pans. I was pretty confident with the recipe and was sure it would be easy to bake.

It turned out that it was easy to bake but the hard parts were things that always present difficulty to me when it comes to cake - getting the cakes out of the pan, stacking them, and getting the frosting consistency correct.

I followed the recipe exactly although I nearly omitted the 1/2 C of oil when I felt like the cake batter was already wet enough (I ended up putting a little less in) and since I haven't tasted the cake yet I'm not sure if it mattered.

My one tip for when you make the recipe, is that when you make the caramel frosting you must use it immediately. So have everything ready to move. You may want to have a helper at this time. If the caramel glaze starts to thicken it will be hard to pour and you will be moved to re-heat it on the stove. Don't do this! It will become slightly grainy. Just work quickly and you will not come across the issue. If you fear your ability to work quickly you may want to split the caramel recipe and make half of it first and half of it second so that it doesn't get thick.