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!