Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Pioneer Woman's Blackberry Cobbler

Last year, I made this cobbler with raspberries, and I just don't think it really worked.  This time, I made it again in this other pan and I think it worked way better. In fact, it was a total success! Instead of last time using a 9x13 pan, I used this thing...which is...uh 9x9? I have no idea, it's probably around there and it was so easy!

Despite having to buy self-rising flour this 5 ingredient dish is easy enough to whip up at the last minute for company and delicious enough to eat for breakfast!
Blackberry Cobbler
1 stick butter (1/2 C), melted
1 1/4 C sugar, divided
1 C self-rising flour
1 C milk
2 C blackberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat the oven to 350
1. Melt the butter
2. Whisk together flour and 1 C of sugar until combined
3. Add milk and whisk until combined.
4. Add butter and whisk until combined.
5. BUTTER your dish
6. Pour batter into the dish and dot with blackberries. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 C - 1 T of sugar (I didn't use all of this)
7. Bake for 50 minutes, then sprinkle 1 T sugar on top of the cobbler. Bake an additional 10 minutes until golden and bubbly (with my thicker pan we actually baked it about 15 more minutes until it was actually golden)

I wish we ate this warm....

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chewy Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day I was browsing the web and came across a picture of these amazing looking salted caramel chocolate chip cookies.  I was drawn by how chewy they looked but then I was later excited to realize I had all the ingredients to make them on hand!  These cookies worried me, the proportions of ingredients are all off compared to regular cookie recipes.  It called for less butter, less chocolate, more flour...I just wasn't sure. With this recipe, you really do need to hand fold in the chips, the dough is thick!  I baked mine about 8 minutes after waiting patiently through the 30 minutes of dough chilling.  The results?  Well let's just say I had some cookies for dinner and will probably have some more later.  These are almost as good as the cookies that stole my heart last year.

Because I fear this recipe going away or getting hard to find, I am posting it here so I can make it again!  However, it came from the Zesty Cook.

This really does make about 3 dozen
2 C + 2 T flour
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 C salted butter, softened
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 t vanilla
3/4 C chocolate chips (I used about a half bag)
16 Kraft caramels, unwrapped and cut into quarters
Maldon finishing salt (or sea salt I gueess)

1. Mix flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside
2. Cream butter and sugars
3. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla, beat to combine
4. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined
5. Fold in chocolate chips
6. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes
7. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
8. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets and press in caramel pieces
9. Bake about 8 minutes until puffy and very slightly golden, sprinkle with maldon salt flakes while warm
10. Let sit on the baking sheet at least 5 minutes then remove to cooling racks
11. Eat at least one warm, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Salad Shrimp Red Curry

Tonight I was cooking for myself and I wanted something delicious and different. I decided to make curry when I was in the store and gathered together the ingredients. One of my downfalls is that I can never remember what I have at home in the pantry and tend to buy some ingredients over and over again. Such as coconut milk. I thought I had some but was so unsure I couldn't risk it.  I had some. Conveniently  the kind I bought had the curry recipe on the back!

This is pretty much the fastest meal you can make. It takes 10 minutes and you can cut down on any "prep" work if you have to by using frozen vegetables and ready to eat rice. It says this serves four, and that's probably about right if you aren't starving.

1 package Uncle Ben's Jasmine Microwavable readu rice (2 packages for 4 people)
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly lengthwise and then cut in half
1/2 C sugar snap peas
1 can lite coconut milk
1 T brown sugar
2 T red curry paste
1lb cooked salad shrimp (and shelled if the shells are on)
2 T fish sauce (or I think you could easily use the same amount of soy sauce)
4 basil leaves (optional)

1. In a large skillet or walk bring the coconut milk to a simmer over medium heat
2. Add curry paste and brown sugar and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes
3. Add vegetables and cook 3 minutes
4. Microwave the rice for 90 seconds (or read the directions) and at the same time add the shrimp to the curry.  The shrimp is already cooked so you are just warming it
5. Add fish sauce & basil, stir
6. Serve the curry over rice

Sunday, November 4, 2012

(Joseph Conrad) Heart of Darkness Brownies

For my wedding, I received a cookbook called "Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey." Unfortunately, I've only ever made a handful of recipes from it because generally when we have people over Joey takes part in the dessert preparation and leans toward exotic pies and tarts.  But this time I stood firm on wanting something chocolatey.

These (Joseph Conrad) Heart of Darkness brownies are so rich that while the recipe makes 24, your guests will only be having one. They are that rich.

These brownies combine regular brownie batter with snickers, chocolate chips, marshmallows, caramel drizzle and an option of toasted nuts.  And they remain moist and a little bit gooey in the center.

It seems like a lot of steps to take but these brownies aren't as difficult as you might assume. The hardest part is unwrapping all the candy!  Don't make these if you are dieting. Do make these if you need to use up extra halloween candy. I think you could easily swap in another candy like milky ways or twix bars or even peanut butter cups.

Before you scoff at the ingredients remember this makes over 24 regular sized muffin cup brownies. We made a small ramekin extra.

For brownies:
3 Sticks unsalted butter
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 1/4 Cups sugar
1 C brown sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 t salt
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
5 full size  (2.07 oz each ) snickers bars, or half a regular sized funsize bag, chopped into chunky bits
3 C mini marshmallows
1 C coursely chopped toasted almonds or pecans (optional)
For Caramel Sauce:
6 oz unwrapped caramel candies (such as craft brand)
2 T heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray two muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

1. Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a pan over med-low and stir til smooth
2. Pour chocolate mixture into a bowl and add sugars, eggs and vanilla. Stir to combine.
3. Add the flour and salt and stir just til combined
4. Add the nuts if using, chocolate chips, and snickers bars and stir until just combined
5. Fill the muffin cups half full and bake for about 20 minutes until the surface is glossy and cracked.
6. Remove from oven and top with marshmallows
7. Return to oven and bake 2 minutes more so marshmallows are lightly puffed
8. Set aside on racks to cool for about 10 minutes
9. After 10 minutes, remove brownies from tins and set to cool completely on racks
10. When brownies are cool, combine all the caramel ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high 1 minute. Add 30 seconds until the caramels are melted. Stir to combine and then drizzle over brownies
11. Let the caramel cool and harden, then serve or store in an airtight container

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Snake Bite

For some reason this year I'm really into Halloween Food. I became a bit obsessed with some Jello last week that I hope to make and then someone posted a drink recipe that sounds fun, and then I came across Snake Bite Calzone. A recipe I made once before for a Halloween party at work, I remembered it being very good.

And boy was it easy!  30 minutes and on the table--plus no real dishes!

1 tube refrigerated pizza dough (we used Artisan whole wheat)
1 package pepperoni (about 30 pieces needed)
3/4 C mozzarella cheese (we used the new kraft one that has cream cheese in it, melty)
1/2 C ricotta cheese
Yellow & Blue food coloring
1 egg white
cooking spray
pizza or marinara sauce for serving

1. Unroll the pizza dough and roll it out a little bit more so it is big
2. Lay pepperoni in rows along the dough leaving a 1 inch border
3. Mix together cheese and place dollops over the pepperoni
4. Roll lengthwise into a snake, pinch the ends
5. Spray a baking sheet and place the snake so it looks like he's slithering across the tray
6. Cut a piece of pepperoni for the forked tongue and eyes
7. Put one drop of yellow food coloring in the egg white, paint the snake. Add 1 drop of blue coloring and stir. Paint the snake green. Be sure to attach the eyes and tongue if you haven't already.
8. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown
9. Warm pizza sauce and serve with the snake

This is enough for 4 with a salad or some other vegetable/fruit side

Variations: We liked this with no changes but it would be good with a little garlic inside or maybe some spices if you want to add some variety.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sausage and Bean Soup

A few weeks ago I went on a bit of a sausage kick, I bought a few kinds of sausages on sale. I bought one kind for a recipe and the other cause I'd always wanted to try it and there was that sale. Then I went home and made the recipe and later we had the other sausages and we found we didn't love them. I was now stuck with a variety of extra sausages.  Being "Autumn" I decided to make a nice soup with the sausages and some beans. I searched recipes, I found one, I went to the store and got the rest of the ingredients.

And then it was 106 degrees.  For the whole week...

But finally this weekend the weather was a little more reasonable, so I made some soup.  I loosely followed this recipe. It was actually a really hearty soup and pretty delicious. And guess what? Joey ate Kale!

My adaptation:

2 15oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed
4 C chicken broth (low sodium)
1 onion
3 large carrots
2 cloves garlic
4 sausages, (I used 2 pork-wine from Guy Ferrari and 2 Italian Chicken)
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 t salt
10 grinds pepper
1/2 t Italian spices
1/4 t oregano
1/4 t thyme
2 bay leaves
1 T olive oil

1. Dice the onions and slice the carrots into half moons. Mince the garlic
2. Heat a heavy pot over medium high and add oil once hot
3. Saute the onions and carrots until onions are soft and brown, about 4 minutes
4. Slice the sausages into half moons, prepare the spices
5. Add the garlic to the pot and cook about 30 seconds, then add the sausages
6. Cook for 8 minutes and then add the beans, spices and chicken broth--keep track of those bay leaves.
7. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
8. Remove 2 cups of the soup and blend with an immersion blender, add it back to the soup and cook another few minutes.
9. Remove kale leaves from stems and cut into pieces, rinse
10. Remove soup from heat and add kale to let it wilt, serve

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A play on Monkey Bread

Tonight I made some buttermilk biscuits but I used the smaller biscuit cutter and made way too many. In order to make a slightly less amount of too many biscuits for two, I decided to mix some sauteed cinnamon apples with the scraps and bake it in the oven.

This is not unlike Monkey Bread. This is a lot like a certain recipe I remember seeing on Tastespotting early last week.  But I didn't follow any recipe, I just put it together.  It took 8 minute to bake and maybe it could've gone a bit longer.  I think this is a fantastic "Welcome Fall" dessert.  If you are living anywhere besides Southern CA you might actual have met Autumn on September 22nd. But if you live here in Los Angeles, you are planning to put some shorts on tomorrow and zip from the car to the ice cold office to avoid 102 degrees on OCTOBER first...

This is a quick dessert if you already have the apples and biscuit dough made. This is a slightly less quick dessert if you don't.  This made enough for two.

Apple Biscuit "Cobbler"


1/2 C sauteed cinnamon apples (recipe below)
1/2 C leftover biscuit pieces or 3 canned biscuits
baking spice
3 T sugar
1 T butter


1. In a small bowl mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking spice. If you sliced the apples, cut them into smaller bits
2. Layer biscuits and apples in a small ramekin, ending with more biscuit than apples
3. Melt butter and pour over the ramekin
4. Bake at 450 degrees for 9 minutes
5. Let cool at least 10 minutes before digging in!

Sauteed Cinnamon Apples

4 medium apples, two red, two green, peeled and thinly sliced or cubed
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T butter

1. In a small frying pan, melt butter over medium heat
2. Toss apples with cinnamon and sugar (I actually used a ton more sugar but I highly dissuade you from doing this because it was too much sugar)
3. Saute apples for about 8 minutes until tender and a little syrup forms, serve as a side or a dessert

Monday, October 1, 2012

Buttermilk Marinated Pork Chops

Do you ever need buttermilk for a recipe and then wonder what to do with the rest of it? Why do they sell whipping cream in 1 C cartons but buttermilk only in the quart size? Do they expect me to have a glass with dinner? The worst thing is that you probably bought the buttermilk to make some kind of dessert/bread and do you really want to make another dessert/bread? So today I decided to use the buttermilk to marinate some pork chops we had.

This is a quick recipe and pretty tasty I think. Joey thought they were a little plain. You could definitely make some kind of sauce to go with this, or maybe put it in a salad.  It is very moist. Feel free to mix up the spices anyway.

I got the idea from this blog and basically followed the marinade instructions but not the cooking instructions since I used the really thin pork chops.

1 1/2 C buttermilk
4 thin boneless pork chops
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt & pepper
1 t dried thyme

1 t olive oil

1. Place all ingredients in a ziplock bag and marinade in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, I did 6 hrs.
2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high
3. Shake off excess buttermilk and cook chops about 3-5 minutes per side or until cooked through

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Super Moist Chocolate Cake

 Making cake from scratch is something I have only ever done one other time. Cake mixes are just so convenient! And once, my mom told me that cake from a mix is the same taste as cake from scratch. So I stuck with the basics.

However, Joey always says "it's just from a box, we can't serve it to people" so this time, in honor of Gavin's birthday I decided to bake from scratch.  I browsed the interwebs for weeks, then my browser restarted and I lost all my saved recipes.  So, I decided to make Smitten Kitchen's chocolate cake with caramel filling and vanilla frosting.

This cake is the moistest thing I have ever made. It calls for buttermilk, eggs, coffee and oil - how's that for lots of liquid to make a moist cake?
This makes a lot of cake. It really only makes two 10-inch rounds but who has 10-inch cake pans? I sure don't. I have two 9-inch cake pans, so I made those and also made a little pan of cake for two. This was a great idea because then Joey and I had the opportunity to taste the cake since when you make a cake round you can't taste it!

This cake is SUPER moist. It fills up your mixer so when she says large bowl really take her advice on that one!  As  you can see, while the cakes came out in rounds, the stack wasn't so successful...the cake demolished itself on the top layer and it took some pretty creative frosting to get it back together in one piece.  I also wasn't able to do that crumb cover frosting layer.  It turns out I'm not that good at frosting. But I think it turned out pretty well all things considering.


For the Cake:

Head over to Smitten Kitchen to read the ingredients and instructions for the cake part. This makes the moistest cake ever.

For the caramel filling:

I made a half recipe of the frosting/filling for the Domestic Fits blog for the cake I made last time - I didn't actually read the instructions as well as I thought but it was still fine, except that it solidified FAST. This filling turns into a crunch almost toffee like filling. It wasn't what I was looking for but everyone really liked the added crunch. I wish it had been creamy and caramely--like in a milky way bar.

For the frosting:

I made the frosting sans sprinkles from Sweetopia's blog. This frosting spread super easily and it also piped alright from a ziploc bag.

This cake was pretty sweet, I thought the crunchy layer was a bit weird but it was well received by the diners.  The actual cake itself was amazing!  i really loved the moistness of it and honestly, I think I could eat it plain. Normally I don't see the point of plain cake, but this time I think I'd be into it!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars

Several years ago, one of my coworkers brought in Chocolate Dulce de Leche bars for her birthday. I had one and have remembered the rich and delicious flavor ever since.  This past weekend, I had reason to make dessert and decided to make the bars I'd been thinking about for years.  After mixing up the dough I realized  that there was not enough to share with upwards of 30 people so I quickly made moves to double the recipe. I didn't really double it per-se, because I didn't exactly have the topping ingredients for doubling--just the crust. I made enough fro a 9x13 pan + a smaller pan--I used a 9x9 cake pan but the amount of crust I had left was not enough, so maybe a smaller pan would work better.

I forgot to take pictures, but they were well liked at the party and all eaten over the rest of the weekend.  I think they may have benefited from a light sprinkling of finishing salt on the top. But I didn't think of that until I was at the party.

These bars actually traveled quite well and lasted out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving. They may be even more delicious chilled but I didn't feel the need to cram them in the hostess' fridge.

This is the measurements I used, adapted from Epicurious:


For shortbread crust:
  • 2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour

For chocolate dulce de leche:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 14 oz dulce de leche (this is the size of the can)
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 8 ounces 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, I used chocolate chips

Make shortbread crust: 
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a shallow 9- to 9 1/2-inch square baking pan (1 to 1 1/2 inches deep). Line bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Butter parchment.
Blend together butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl with a fork. Sift in flour and blend with fork until a soft dough forms.
Spread dough evenly in baking pan using an offset spatula or back of a spoon, then prick all over with fork.
Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.
Make chocolate dulce de leche
Bring cream and dulce de leche to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon until dulce de leche has dissolved.
Whisk together yolks in a bowl, then slowly whisk in hot cream mixture. Return to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pan is visible in tracks of spoon and mixture registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.
Make bars:
Pour chocolate mixture over cooled shortbread and chill, uncovered, until cold and set, about 2 hours.
Run a small knife around edges to loosen, then transfer to a cutting board using parchment. Cut with a hot clean knife (dip in hot water and wipe clean between cuts) into 24 bars. Chill until ready to serve. (these were hard to cut)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Dinner Party - Strawberry Caprese

Pre-dinner party, I had the ladies over only for movie watching and book chatting. I decided to offer snacks during this time which, in retrospect may have slightly overshadowed the early dinner.  However, this particular appetizer was so delicious I am glad I made it. It has all the same flavors you love about tomato caprese with a twist!

I made this in the morning and let it sit about 30 minutes before serving. Make this for your next party!

I followed this recipe exactly and served it over baguette slices that I toasted in the oven for about 4 minutes at 350.

Strawberry Caprese Salad
makes 4-6 servings
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
8 ounces small mozzarella pearls/balls
1 pound fresh strawberries, halved or quartered if large

In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, honey, garlic, salt and pepper, until the
brown sugar is dissolved. In a slow and steady stream, whisk in the oil until emulsified. Add the basil and
mozzarella, tossing to coat. Cover and chillfor 2 hours. Add the strawberries and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally. Serve over toasted baguette slices.

Printed from

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Dinner Party - Savory Strawberry Sauce

In preparation for my dinner party in which I wanted to incorporate strawberries and fish, I spoke with my friend Robin and she suggested that to make dinner special I mix two proteins with one sauce so that people could mix and match.  Then, she went the extra mile and found me such a recipe!

Savory Strawberry Sauce sounds a little strange. It seems like there just can't be a thing. I also don't usually make sauces for my food. But this time I moved forward because it was a good way to link the food together.

At first when I was making it I just wasn't sure the sauce was going to be any good. In the end though it was a really nice accompaniment to the pork and the salmon. Who knew salmon could even meet a sauce it liked so much?

Do yourself a favor and make this sauce. I think it would also be nice with chicken.

Adapted from here

I doubled this recipe and it was PLENTY for 12

2 lbs strawberries, sliced (don't bother taking out that white part, just cut off the tops)
2 teaspoons butter
2 T white balsamic vinegar (but I think any vinegar would work)
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (did you know it is easy to peel ginger with a spoon?)
2 t ancho chili powder
salt & pepper
1/2 C water
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 C strawberry preserves (Homemade if you have it, thanks Sarah!)

1. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stir strawberries and butter until the butter is melted.
2. Stir in all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer
3. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
4. Remove the sauce from the heat and let sit until ready to serve. The flavors meld together the more it sits. The sauce is not very thick so don't worry if yours isn't.

Serve over pork or salmon or maybe even chicken.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Dinner Party - Grilled Pork Tenderloin

For the dinner party, I knew there were a few non-fish eaters in the group and I wanted to make sure to accommodate everyone. Plus, what if the salmon was terrible? I decided that the mild flavor of pork would fit with the sauce I wanted to make to go with both meats.  At Costco I got 4 pork tenderloins for a great price! This was way too much meat because the salmon was awesome.

For the pork I loosely based one marinade on Alton Brown's recipe for the ultimate grilled pork tenderloin and then I made up the other one a bit because I didn't really have enough lime juice left.

I didn't keep half the marinade since I doubled the pork and didn't double the recipe. I think it still turned out fine. I didn't want an overpowering flavor because I was making a sauce.

I think that if you had this pork without sauce it might be a little dull.

Marinate for 24 hours with this recipe.

Grill on direct heat about 12 minutes, turning every 1 1/2 minutes or until temperature reaches 145 degrees.

Let rest briefly and then slice and serve on a platter.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Dinner Party - Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

This evening, I held a dinner party for 12. It was fun to have so many friends over to share a meal and chat. This dinner was loosely themed around the food featured in the book Snow Falling On Cedars. If you haven't read it, don't bother.  This book takes place in the Pacific Northwest in a fishing village that is also filled with strawberry farmers.  The main character is Japanese. With the help of my friends, we decided to make a Japanese and Strawberry inspired feast.

Because there were 12 people around I did not take any pictures (oh but look! Someone else did), instead I will do a series called "A Dinner Party" for each piece of the meal.

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

I've cooked fish at home maybe twice ever. Joey does NOT eat fish. He doesn't like the smell the look the presence at all. As a result, I keep it out of the house and eat it at lunch. I also generally prefer my fish in shells or raw (or both, oysters!) so I've never really made salmon before.However, I bought a large filet at Costco, and read that the easiest way to cook it was on cedar planks. I chose this method because otherwise you have to well-oil your grill (I am notorious for getting food stuck or falling into the grill) and then flipping the fish is hard and you are supposed to leave the skin on and my fish came without skin. To make cedar plank salmon do this:

Serves 9-12
2 Cedar Planks
2 1/2 lbs salmon filet (costco!)
juice of one lemon
2 T olive oil

Go to the grocery store and look for cedar planks somewhere near the charcoal section. I found two for about $3. You can reuse your planks at least 2-3 times before retiring them unless you set them on fire...

At least 2 hours before dinner, start soaking the cedar planks submerged in water. If you choose the weigh them down with a can of tomatoes for instance, be sure to note that they will leave a mark on the wood. Choose something heavy that isn't metal if that bothers you.

Heat the Gas grill (okay you can use whatever kind, but you need to have a cool side of the grill). You want the grill to be about 350 when cooking.

Place the fish on the wet planks. Sprinkle with salt.  Place the planks on indirect heat (I turned off two burners and left on one to get this effect). Occasionally brush with olive oil and lemon juice to keep the fish moist

Keep the lid closed as much as you can and cook about 20 minutes until fish is opaque and flaky. Taste a little and see if it is right for you around 20 minutes--this all depends on the thickness of your filet.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blueberry Corn Salad

You know how some food bloggers take super amazing photos and then you make the dish based on the photo alone and are disappointed by your unstaged photograph that just looks kind of plain jane? I hate that, and it happens to me a lot. This weekend, I was browsing the web for salad recipes to make for Jenny's birthday dinner and came across a beautiful photo of Blueberry Corn Salad at Two Peas and Their Pod. The salad looked beautiful but sounded weird--corn AND blueberries? I glanced at the recipe a little more and found I already had most of the ingredients.  I decided to make the recipe because Jenny seems to be a big fan of corn salads.

Here's the crazy thing. Not only was the salad really delicious--it looked Just like the picture! I don't even need to take one of my own. It all worked!  What a lovely surprise.  This salad has the perfect mix of sweet with a kick. It is so beautiful and will look good on any table.

At first it doesn't seem like enough dressing at all but in the end it seems good. Make this ahead and let it sit a little for all the flavors to meld together.

Blueberry Corn Salad

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eggless Cookie Dough

 As part of my cookie party, I felt it was necessary to provide a treat that everyone eats and refuses to admit--cookie dough.  The problem with cookie dough though is that it can totally kill you if you happen to eat the kind filled with raw eggs.  So, in order to not kill my friends, I searched the web for a dough that tastes like the real thing but is eggless.  Some people felt that the risk being taken away, the taste of dough was not as exciting.  This wasn't the biggest hit at the party, and I felt I made a mistake putting huge blobs on regular spoons, what did go were the tiny spoons with just a bit of dough on top.

I saved the rest of the dough in the freezer to use for ice cream in the future, I understand this dough won't bake well.

The thing is, I think you can make any of your favorite doughs, but, instead of putting in an egg, replace it with a bit of milk - 4 T to be exact.

I used this recipe but because the butter was melted I felt it wasn't good until after it had been refrigerated a while and then left out.  Next time, if there is one, I would probably stick with the basic tollhouse recipe and replace the egg with milk.  I also recommend making about 1/2 to 1/4 of the recipe if you plan to use this as a dessert with friends

Monday, August 20, 2012

Maple Bacon Ice Cream

Bacon is starting to fall off the popularity scale but it is still high enough on our list to make something crazy with it.  We chose to make some maple bacon ice cream for our recent Game Night.  The ice cream recipe called for a bacon brittle, but we had a little trouble with the brittle and decided to omit it altogether and add just the bacon.  If you are afraid of bacon but love a good maple flavor, I recommend making this same ice cream base and adding some crunchy brittle or chocolate chips or something like that.  Heath bars perhaps?

Maple Bacon Ice Cream  adapted from the Food Network


  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped (fry in a skillet 5 min/side on medium high heat)

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a bowl until pale yellow. Transfer to a saucepan and whisk in the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until almost simmering (the mixture should be thick enough to coat a spoon). Stir in the maple syrup. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes or up to overnight.

Churn the ice cream according to your ice cream maker instructions. At the very end add the chopped bacon and mix in.  Freeze until ready to serve.  (We churned this less than usual and it resulted in an incredibly soft ice cream which is advisable).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Caramel Nut Tart

I must admit, when Joey suggested we bake this nut tart for our friend's visit last night I was a little grossed out by it. He then related that some reviewers said it tasted like pecan pie, that gave me a better idea of what I was getting into. This tart, however called for oranges, pine nuts and cashews. What would it be like? How could we serve this to our friends?

We did it and I am glad we did. The texture of the filling is not unlike the filling of pecan pie, but everything else is completely different. The crust is basic and not flavorful alone, it tastes of shortbread. The filling is a simple caramel spiked with orange juice and zest. The texture of different toasted nuts and the cashews add a fun surprise to every bite. Unfortunately, the look of the tart is a bit disgusting so it is better to taste it with your eyes closed.  Perhaps if we organized the nuts into more of a pattern on top it wouldn't look so strange?  This could be a stand in for Pecan Pie at this year's thanksgiving celebration, try it for yourself.

The recipe called for walnuts, pine nuts and cashews. We replaced walnuts and some of the pine nuts with pecans. I think the cashew texture is necessary but I encourage you to replace nuts to your pleasing. Check your local bulk grocery for pine nuts and only get just enough to save money--they were $20/lb at our market! We made the crust and froze it overnight before pre-baking, covered in parchment paper. This whole tart could be made the day before but should be stored at room temperature and covered in foil.

Caramel Nut Tart from Epicurious


10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, separated
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
dried beans or pie weights (use dried beans over and over for this purpose)
9 inch tart pan with removable bottom (other reviewers said they used a regular pie pan)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice (about the juice of 3/4 orange)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (about 1 orange)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews, leave whole or chop, cooks preference
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted and roughly chopped


For crust:

Using electric mixer, beat butter, powdered sugar, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add egg yolk and cream; beat until smooth. Add flour and beat just until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly to combine. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inchdiameter tart pan with removable bottom. Gently fit dough into pan, trimming all but 1/2 inch of overhang. Fold overhang in, forming double-thick sides. Pierce bottom of crust all over with fork. Freeze 30 minutes. (at this point, we wrapped the crust in parchment and froze it overnight)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until sides are set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil with beans. Bake crust until golden, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, whisk egg white in small bowl until thick and foamy.
Brush hot crust lightly with some beaten egg white and place on rack to cool. Maintain oven temperature. (this means that you should make the filling when the crust is cooling so it doesn't get too solid before going back into the oven)

For filling:

To toast the nuts, heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Add nuts and toast until fragrant, watch the nuts for burning about 7 minutes.

Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Cook until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat and pour in juice, then cream. Whisk over low heat until smooth. Whisk in butter, honey, orange peel, vanilla, and salt. Stir in cashews, pine nuts, and pecans.

Pour filling into crust. Bake tart until filling is bubbling thickly all over, the filling will not seem set when you take it from the oven but don't be scared, about 22 minutes. Cool tart completely on rack. This is best served at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookie

At my cookies & milk party, this cookie tied with "eggless dough" for the Most Unique category. However, I voted for it as The Perfect Cookie. The cookie has a variety of chips, a strong coffee flavor and tastes fantastic with milk but I bet it would also be great with vanilla ice cream. It would probably be the perfect replacement for your morning coffee if you're into that kind of thing.

These look kind of weird in the picture, huh? I can tell you why. This was the first cookie I made for the cookie party. I pulled out my trusty airbake cookie sheets, set the oven and baked up two sheets of cookies. And they spread like crazy. They spread so much that they started to look a little like fake barf. After I pulled them out of the oven and set them to cool and they did not recover, I pulled out my standard rimmed baking sheets, lined them with parchment and threw a few more cookies in the oven. They turned out perfectly, they didn't spread at all. They looked like a really dark chocolate chip cookie. Well, I learned my lesson but it was too late for most of this dough. I haven't used my airbakes again since, and I kind of feel like they might be on their way to goodwill in the near future.

Despite the strange look, these cookies were so delicious. I might have one now actually, now that you mention it.

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder - I used the cheapest kind and it was good in these cookies but gross used for coffee
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, cut into chunks (I didn't cut this in chunks because by the time I used it it was very soft)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used Tahitian)
1 pound chocolate chips or chunks -- I used white, milk and semi-sweet
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

1. Whisk the flour, coffee, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
2. Beat the butter in a mixer until lightened. Add granulated sugar and beat for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat for another 30 seconds. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until blended.
3. Turn mixer speed down and add flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Add chocolate and mix until evenly blended in.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for as long as you can stand it, I did probably about 2 hours
5. Preheat oven to 350, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop a heaping tablespoon full of dough onto sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
6. Cool on a wire rack and eat one warm if you can, then eat one for breakfast instead of your coffee and see if it works.

These cookies freeze well. To freeze, lay cookies in a single layer in a zip top gallon sized bag. Add a layer of parchment paper before the next layer of cookies until the bag is full. Lie flat until the cookies are frozen or the whole time if possible. If you didn't head my warnings and used an airbake style cookie sheet make sure the cookies aren't even in the same room as each other as they defrost because they WILL stick together. If you listened and read through this whole post, go you!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Inside Out Cookies

Inside Out Cookies are like a chocolate chip cookie--except opposite--chocolate on the base and white chips in the middle. These cookies didn't win any prizes at my party and there's still a lot of them left, but I thought they were pretty good. More like a brownie than a cookie, these cookies are kind of time consuming. I think I might have overcooked them because I felt they still looked like dough balls even though the tops were cracked. If you see this, they are probably done. You might want to bake just a few first to get an idea of how long this takes in your oven.

The Recipe

1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped with a serrated knife
4 Tbls. butter
2 extra-large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350
1. In a separate bowl whisk the flour and baking powder, set aside
2. Over some steaming water in a double boiler (or similar) melt chocolate and butter together, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.
3. In the mixer, mix eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla together for ELEVEN (11-13) minutes. It will get really light colored, thick and fluffy.
4. Pour in the chocolate and beat about 2 minutes until incorporated
5. Fold in the flour mixture and the white chips
6. Line baking sheets with parchment and drop Tablespoon sized balls onto the sheets, these don't really spread so you can crowd them.
7. Bake 10-12 minutes or less until cookies are cracked on top but still look ooey gooey

Sunday, July 22, 2012

NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookie

This weekend I hosted a milk and cookies birthday party for my 30th birthday. It was pretty fun. I got some of my friends and relatives and myself to bake over 10 varieties of cookies. Then, we served them with milk and asked guests to vote on five categories. This version of the famous New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie won 1st place in two categories - Just like Mom's and The Perfect Cookie. See for yourself and make this cookie make the dough today, start enjoying them tomorrow or the next day.

Note 1: Do NOT skimp on the refrigeration. For some reason, it makes a difference. Do at least 24 hours
Note 2: Do not use an airbake-style cookie sheet, it makes the cookies spread too much
Note 3: I started off making them huge but ended up making them more normal sized, they were still good
Note 4: Don't forget to salt the tops

I used this recipe, which is probably a little different than the original, but these are the ones to try.

2 C minus 2 T all-purpose flour
1 2/3 C bread flour
1 1/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t coarse salt (if you use regular salt you are supposed to use less)
1 1/4 C butter
1 1/4 C brown sugar
1 C and 2 T white sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/4 lbs chocolate disks - bittersweet or dark (I found these at Sprouts in the bulk section, I used dark chocolate but it tasted a lot like bittersweet)
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes

1. Whisk flours, baking soda and powder in a bowl, set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugars together for 5 minutes until very light. Add eggs, one at a time and mix well. Add vanilla.
3. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the chocolate discs and try not to break too many of them.
4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with a piece of plastic pressed onto the top of the dough. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours-but up to 72. (I did 24)
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Line non-airbake cookie sheets with parchment paper or slipat sheets
7. Scoop cookie dough onto the prepared trays and turn chocolate pieces so they are horizontal
8. Sprinkle with maldon sea salt or other flake salt
9. Bake until golden brown but still soft about 10-12 minutes for regular sized cookies or 18-20 minutes for large sized cookies
10. Let cool on trays 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. Do yourself a favor, have one warm.

These cookies freeze well. To freeze, place one layer of cookies on the long side of a gallon sized zip top bag. Place a piece of parchment on the cookies and continue to layer until the bag is full. Carefully move the bag to the freezer and lay flat until frozen and if possible the whole time. When you defrost, be sure the cookies are not touching or they will stick together.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Coffee-Cocoa Rubbed Pork Chops with Blueberry Hoisin Glaze

This past week, while browsing my list of 80 favorite food blogs, I noticed that the Pioneer Woman was doing some product placement grill contest.

*Note: Product placement is seriously crazy recently. I am all for product placement that fits in, but when they make it all exaggerated and obvious it sort of ruins the show/contest/everything. I'm in advertising, I know about marketing your brand, but still. It is getting ridiculous.

I thought a lot of the Pioneer Woman Grill Contest (Beans) looked great!  So today I set out to make the pork chop recipe.  It was...not a hit in our family. I actually did like the sauce but because I was eating the sauce, I didn't taste the rub. The rub was definitely not good so I understand....but maybe I didn't make it well? Who even knows.

But let me tell you, pork loin chops--about 12 minutes on the indirect heat, cooked so perfectly. Try it, with another rub or maybe this one because it was probably good and just not to us...

Now for some uses of hoisin sauce...

The recipe.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Poached Apricots

Poached fruit isn't something I've ever had before, but when I saw White on Rice Couple's post about poached apricots (and their beautiful pictures) I was immediately intrigued. Joey likes stone fruit but he is allergic to it when it isn't cooked. Unfortunately, cooked stone fruit is usually in pie or cobbler or buckle or something else that is generally not healthy. Poached fruit is made in a sugar syrup, so it's not really GOOD for you, but there's no crust involved.

These apricots were absolutely fantastic! I loved the flavors that soaked into the fruit, I loved the texture, I loved how they tasted with ice cream, I loved them warm, I loved them room temperature, I think I would love them cold. I think I will make these all summer and maybe try it with other stone fruit!

The caramel sauce that I was supposed to make by reducing the liquid just didn't turn burned, it became one solid piece of dark dark brown candy that was gross looking. It made our house smell disgusting. It was totally my fault, I didn't want to stand there watching it. I bet the sauce would've been as delicious as the apricots. I served a little goat's milk caramel sauce with ours instead but it totally wasn't necessary. Do yourself a favor and poach some fruit today!

I halved the recipe because I only had 10oz of apricots. My apricots were maybe a tad on the too-ripe side for this recipe. I bought them and then delayed in making them because we decided we'd pair them with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.  When we finally made the ice cream, the apricots were READY. By the time I had time to make them, I'd already lost two and had to put them in the fridge.

1/8 C honey
3/4 C sugar (I used vanilla sugar because we just made some with our leftover vanilla bean from the ice cream, it might have added something)
3/4 C water
scant handful of basil (we're growing our own!)
10oz apricots
vanilla ice cream

1. Combine honey, sugar, basil and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. (this will be fast)
2. Slice apricots in half and remove pits and stems.
3. Reduce heat to medium high and add apricots. Poach 2-4 minutes until soft but still intact
4. Remove fruit to a plate to cool
5. This is where you should read the directions again over on WoRC's blog and try to make the reduction. Since it didn't work for me my only advice is WATCH IT THE WHOLE TIME.
6. Serve the apricots over ice cream and lick the plate clean of the best simple syrup you've ever had.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Homemade Hot Dog Buns

On Sunday we went to the store with the plan to get fruit and food for the week. We did get fruit but when it came to dinner for the week we only half-heartedly got anything. We got hot dogs but no buns! It was a sad realization when we got home.

Today, as I worked from home after jury duty, I decided to try out this recipe for hot dog buns that I found online. It seemed like it would be so easy! I had all the ingredients! I knew my skills at bread making were lacking but I tried it anyway!

Well, the results were lackluster. Our house is apparently very drafty, even with the bread dough in the closet it didn't get close to rising after an hour. Later, trying to rise the dough again proved futile even in the hottest closet in the house!  Could the car work?

The final product was more like a dinner roll than a hamburger bun, but it was still a worthy project with little hands on time.  I don't know what I would try next time for better results but at least I have a go-to dense dinner roll recipe!  These buns were filling, tiny and delicious. I told Joey at dinner that I wanted 1 hot dog and three buns. It wasn't a reality but this is my kind of bread!

Note to self, bread skills still lacking.

Hot Dog Buns  - we got 7 buns for our 7 dogs,

1 T sugar
1/4 C warm water
1 package yeast
4 C flour
1 C warm milk
1 T vegetable oil, plus more for the bowl
1 tsp salt

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer stir together sugar and water until sugar dissolves
2. Add yeast and let sit 10 minutes until foamy. If it isn't foamy when you get back, start over with a new yeast packet.
3. Add milk, oil, salt and 3 cups of flour to the bowl and beat with your dough hook in your electric mixer. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.
4. Add additional flour in spoonfuls until the dough stays away from the sides
5. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes until smooth and elastic
6. Place in a well oiled bowl, cover with a light towel and let sit 1 hour or until doubled in size
7. Later, when it has doubled, divide into 7-9 equal pieces and roll into logs about 4 1/2 inches long
8. Place logs just barely touching on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with the same towel and let rise 45 minutes until almost doubled in size
9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
10. Bake about 20 minutes and serve warm

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mashed Potato Cake with Zucchini and Egg

 If you don't like eggs, stop reading right now!  If you DO like eggs, particularly with runny yolks that add depth and flavor (and protein!) to the foods you eat, continue on.

Today I had a smallish lunch and found myself to be starving by 3. I knew our cupboards were sort of bare and I wanted something quick and delicious.  My usual fallback at this point is egg in the hole.  However, that didn't sound good to me today.

So I ducked my head into the fridge to look at the cheese situation. It was dire. Instead, I saw leftover mashed potatoes, a zucchini on it's last legs and eggs.  I can make something from that right?

This dish was one of those things you might see someone on Chopped start out doing. Trying to mix together three things that don't always meet on a plate.  The potato cake was the only real experiment and it was delicious!  I liked the slight crunch from the potato cake and the runny egg and the additional texture from the vegetable.  If you need a snack, this is one to try!

For One

1 egg
1/2 small zucchini, sliced into thin half moons
scant 1/4 t lemon pepper
1/4 C mashed potatoes
a tiny bit of butter or oil

1. Heat a small skillet over high. Add the butter and melt it all over the pan. Form the mash into a small patty and place in the pan to one side. On the other side, add the zucchini and lemon pepper and stir to coat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until one side of the cake and zucchini is light brown.

2. Flip the cake and zucchini and cook an additional two minutes.

3. Clear a space in the pan. Break an egg into the pan and let cook until whites are opaque and yellow is cooked but still runny, about 1 1/2 minutes more.

4. Serve in a stack and break the egg to pour al over the potato.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Salad

It is Memorial Day Weekend and we had my sister's family over for a little BBQ.  I really wanted all the foods associated with summer; corn, watermelon, beans, potato salad, three bean salad, ice cream, something on the grill etc. The problem is our party was only for 5 people so we really didn't need this excessive amount of food.  In an effort to make everything I wanted, I decided to make a fresh summer salad that encompassed both potato salad and three bean salad but fresher.

I basically made this recipe up thinking about a potato salad I once made with fresh herbs and looking for a spring flavor in a lemon vinaigrette.  You could definitely mix in a variety of different vegetables in here but this classic is colorful and springy and apparently delicious because it's almost all gone!

1/4 lb fresh green beans
1/4 lb fresh sugar snap peas
6 small new potatoes
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 C mixed herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, thyme, chopped (at our farmer's market you can buy a bag of mixed herbs for $2.50, this is the best way to get a mix of herbs unless you grow your own)

1/4 C olive oil
1 1/2 lemons, juiced (you need the juice)
1-2 T rice vinegar
1/2 t Dijon Mustard
1/2 t salt

1. Scrub clean the potatoes and then place them in a pot and just cover with cold water.  Boil about 10 minutes until fork tender.
2. Remove the potatoes from the water with a spoon and set aside. Place the peas and beans into the boiling water and blanch for about two minutes so that the beans and peas get greener but keep their crunch. Drain immediately and rinse in cold water or an ice bath.
3. In the salad bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and salt.
4. Quarter the potatoes, third the beans, and cut some of the peas in half. If your tomatoes are really big cut them in  half, otherwise leave whole.
5. Toss the vegetables and herbs with the dressing and let rest in the fridge until ready to eat. If you want it to look prettier, only toss half the herbs in now and add the other half just before serving.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fruit Spring Rolls

Did you see these spring rolls on Tastespotting last summer? I sure did. I saw them and thought I had to make them for something because they looked so fun and unusual and also really pretty and tasty.  So I set out on a path to make these for any upcoming events that would have the right sort of crowd. Unfortunately, I couldn't find rice paper anywhere. So I filed this recipe away for a rainy day.

Then this spring I was browsing an Asian market called 99 Ranch Market in Van Nuys and happened across not one but three kinds of rice paper wrappers! Luckily I still had the recipe in mind and bought a pack.
These are so simple and fast to make! I watched a short video on Chow about how to dip the wrappers before I embarked on the adventure of making these and found it to be super simple. Some people didn't seem to think the rice paper really added much to these except that it makes them hand held. i also like how it makes them pretty and I wish I had cut them in half but I never did, I also forgot to add mint. I think you could make these with any mix of fruit.

1 pint strawberries, diced
2 small mango, cut into matchsticks*
1 1/2 pint blueberries
8 blackberries (or 1/2 pint if you want these in all of them)
Mint, chopped (we agreed that this may have added something even though I forgot it)
Spring roll/rice paper wrappers
Damp dish towel
Serving plate
shallow bowl or frying pan filled with warm water

1/3 C honey
scant 1/2 t vanilla extract
zest of 1 lime

1. Prepare your fruit. *To cut the mango into matchsticks, I cut off the edges of the mangos to get the fruit sides and no pit. Then I scored around the edge and cut strips down the middle but not through the skin. Then I bent the skin so that the fruit was sort of inside out and cut along the skin so that the matchsticks fell out. This worked really well for me.

2. Dip one sheet of rice paper into the shallow bowl or frying pan of warm water for about 2 seconds edge first. Lie paper on a plate.

3. Place some of each fruit in the center of the paper and then fold in the sides and roll up tightly. The paper sticks together so work quickly and don't try to change anything after rolling it. Place on a serving tray under the damp cloth. Try not to put them two close together as they will stick.

4. Once you are finished the rolls, place the plate covered in the damp cloth in the refrigerator for up to two hours.

5. Stir together lime zest, vanilla extract and honey for dipping. We all agreed that while this sauce wasn't necessary it was fun to complete the spring roll concept. I recommend heating it up in the microwave for about 10 seconds to make the honey more fluid if your honey is thick like mine.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weeknight Spare Ribs

One of my goals is to get the whole family interested in what to have for dinner.  It is a lot of pressure to decide night in and night out what to make for dinner so it's a real treat when someone else makes one of the buying decisions.

This weekend, as we browsed the meat aisle for sales, Joey picked up a rack of pork spare ribs. I was a little leery about it because I was pretty sure ribs take several hours to cook and couldn't be made on a weeknight.

We got home and I took a quick search around the web and found this easy recipe from Martha Stewart.  It does take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to prepare but since Joey works closer to home than I do he was able to start the dinner and we finished it together when I got home later--I hardly had to wait at all!  We only followed Martha's cooking time and spices--we bought our bbq sauce.

These ribs were tasty, tender and a nice change for a weeknight. We also filled up on only about 3-4 ribs a person which seems small in usual times.  This would be good served with any variety of sides like greens, beans and bread.

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 1/2 lbs pork spare ribs
2 T chili powder
Salt & Pepper
BBQ Sauce - any style

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Rub the chili powder, salt and pepper all over the ribs.  Then wrap them tightly in a double layer of foil (so you don't get tons of fat on the pan).
3. Place foil packet on a rimmed baking sheet and cook about 1 1/2 hours or until ribs are fork tender.
4. Just as cooking time finishes, heat the grill** to medium
5. Remove ribs from oven and brush both sides with bbq sauce.  Grill 2-3 minutes per side and serve.

**Several people didn't grill these and just brushed with sauce and put the ribs under the broiler briefly. It would work fine if you're against using another appliance or if you have a charcoal grill and the turning on process takes a long time!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Puffs

Strawberry shortcake is one of my sister in law's most requested desserts.  For her baby shower, I was determined to have a play on strawberry shortcake.  The thing is, for a baby shower you don't want anything big--people are into small bites.  I wanted to make something quick and easy that wouldn't mess up the kitchen but could be made the day of.  These were just the thing. Everyone really liked these bites and they weren't too sweet which was sort of nice. You could make these sweet by brushing the pastry with sugar before baking or soaking the strawberries in sugar first, but I don't think it's necessary.

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (you can do this overnight in the refrigerator or in 40 minutes on the counter)
8 strawberries, sliced into triangle wedges
1 C heavy whipping cream
1 T powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
Sugar in the raw

1. Preheat the oven according to the directions on the frozen puff pastry package--I think it is 425?
2. Spread the sheets flat on the counter and cut out small circles of dough and place on a parchment lined baking sheet
3. Bake 15 minutes or until pastry is puffed
4. Meanwhile, beat cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form, beat in vanilla
5. When the pastries are slightly cool top with a dollop of whipped cream and a strawberry slice.
6. Refrigerate until ready to eat
7. Just before serving, top with sugar in the raw

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spicy Pork Tenderloin

Have you watched that show Worst Cooks in America? Remember that episode when they made late night gourmet diner snacks and Bobby Flay made some nachos?  Yeah, so those nachos are SO complicated that I can't ever imagine making them as a late night snack much less dinner.  Instead of making the whole thing, I just used a version of Bobby's dry rub to make this pork tenderloin. I say a version because I don't really have all the different kinds of chili powder Bobby is always putting in his recipes.  This pork was spicy and sharp but pretty delicious too. If you want to make the monray sauce be my guest, but I recommend this pork with some roasted carrots and a Hawaiian roll.

Adapted from Bobby Flay's recipe
1.25 lb pork tenderloin, cut in half
2 T canola oil
2 T light brown sugar
3 T ancho chili powder
1 T regular chili powder
1t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 1/2 t cajun spice mix (I just have this, you can just omit it)
Kosher salt
5 turns fresh ground black pepper

1. Salt the pork generously on all sides.
2. Mix all the other spices together on a large plate and dredge the pork into the spices. By dredge I mean really push the meat into the spices and make sure all sides are covered. Shake off excess.
3. Heat 2 T oil over high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add pork and sear each side for about 2 minutes.  Then reduce heat and cook 6-10 minutes more until a thermometer registers 135-140. Remove to a cutting board and let sit 10 minutes. Serve with roasted carrots.

Roasted Carrots
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Toss carrots cut into like-sized pieces with olive oil and salt and sprinkle with thyme
3. Roast 20-25 minutes or until carrots are tender

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets

Face it, you sometimes eat your kid's chicken nuggets. They're good! You know you're always buying the frozen variety to use in a pinch. Now here's your chance to make your own--and know exactly what goes inside.

Joey describes these chicken nuggets as the crispiest thing he's ever eaten. You don't even notice they aren't fried!  The chicken inside is juice and delicious, the outside is flavorful and the novelty of making mini chicken bites at home never gets old. This is a great recipe for kids to help with too! Get out your favorite dipping sauce folks!

(I made 20 nuggets with this list of ingredients, the original recipe with the same portions makes 12...)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 eggs
1 C panko bread crumbs (found in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores)
1/2 C flour
1/3 C parmesan cheese, shredded
1 t vegetable oil (the recipe actually calls for 1 T but I only used 1 t and it worked fine)
coarse salt
cooking spray
your favorite dipping sauce - we used bbq sauce
3 shallow bowls
1 cooling rack that fits (or generally fits, mine fits slanted) into a rimmed baking sheet

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the panko in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.  Pour into a shallow bowl. Add cheese, 1/2 t salt and oil and stir to combine slightly
2. Salt the chicken on both sides and then cut the chicken breasts in half and then into nugget sized pieces, set aside
3. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl. Pour the eggs into a separate shallow bowl and whisk to break the yolks and combine slightly
4. Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray and set inside your rimmed sheet. Increase oven temperature to 450.
5. Set up your dipping station--chicken, bowl of flour, bowl of egg, bowl of panko mixture, pan. Dip chicken into flour and shake to remove excess, then eggs *shake*, then panko and set on the rack.  I used tongs to do this so my hands wouldn't get all gross but it was slow going--this is the most time consuming part of the recipe.
6. When all chicken is coated, bake for 12 minutes, turning nuggets halfway through.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce!

Watch the video for an even better idea of how to make this super simple dish!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marinated Skirt Steak

 Hello Summer!  The weather here in SoCal has gotten warmer lately and it seems like summer is upon us.  In addition, my favorite grocery store Sprouts has been selling summery selections for a reduced price and that makes me think of having summer right now!

Tonight I wanted to eat at home but didn't want to spend all day slaving in a hot kitchen. Sprouts didn't let me down with this $5.75 meal for two.

This meal is simple and fast. I happened to have a few hours so I threw the skirt steak in a marinade of homemade Italian dressing--you know the kind you can get in the packet that sometimes comes with a dressing bottle? I purchased that salad dressing kit a few weeks ago in preparation for an upcoming baby shower in which I need the vessel.  I did the reduced oil method of the marinade. I also described it to my salad-hating husband as a "vinegar & oil marinade with a mix of Italian seasoning" shh don't tell; he liked the marniade and the steak and thought it had a nice flavor but he couldn't place it!  If he can't tell it's dressing either can your family, they will think you slaved away in the kitchen when in fact this meal takes minutes to prepare.

~1lb skirt steak (1/2lb per person is my measurement and we always end up with a little leftover)
1 recipe Italian dressing (dry spice packet, 1/4 C + 3 T water, 1/4 C vinegar, 1/4 C oil)
1 gallon sized ziploc bag
2 corn cobs
1/2 watermelon
1 orange
3 massive strawberries (or about 6 regular strawberries, but we found these massive ones at the Farmer's market last week)

1. An hour or so early or you could probably do this in the morning, prepare dressing directly in the gallon sized ziploc bag by propping the bag up in a drinking glass.  Close the bag and shake to combine. Add skirt steak and marinate in the refrigerator, at least an hour, or up to all day.
2. Heat the grill to high heat. Place the corn on the grill over direct flame and cook turning 4 minutes.
3. Prepare the fruit salad by segmenting the orange, cutting the watermelon into small cubes and slicing the strawberries.  Place in a bowl in the refrigerator until dinner is ready. I like cold fruit, if you don't leave it on the table.
4. After you've cooked the corn about 4 minutes, add the steak to the grill over direct flame.  I used tongs to pull mine right from the marinade bag and straight to the grill. Cook the steak for 2 minutes per side or possibly less depending on how thin your steak is.  Continue to cook the corn until browned and warm.
5. Slice the steak and serve

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pork Chops with StirFry Vegetables

I have been getting the Everyday Food Magazine for years and have always loved it. Then when we got an iPad, I was thrilled with the extra features the ipad version promises including videos and step by step pictures.

Recently, Sara, the editor in chief has started a series of videos that come to me via email each morning.  The video series is a feature of "dinner tonight" and provides quick and easy dinners that you could make even if you were coming home from work and had to have the kids in bed by 7.

As you have probably noticed, I haven't done much cooking lately and have really been jonsing for a homemade meal.  I decided tonight was the night and whipped up this recipe in a matter of minutes (12 total I think).  I really liked the meal.  The vegetables were gussied up just enough to make them taste a little bit different, the pork chop was flavorful and cooked perfectly.  Joey thought the texture of roasted bell peppers (from the jar) was a little strange but I liked them because I have had them before--he thought they didn't provide much in the way of texture.  If you have that same issue you could easily omit the peppers or throw in some raw ones or another quick cooking vegetable like asparagus or um...something quick cooking and colorful of your choice!

The recipe is for 4, so I reduced the quantities at the store in my head based on what we usually eat. Also if you are adding a jalepeno, I recommend looking for a small one and mincing it instead of just rounds.  Our stirfry was very spicy because the jalepenos they sell here are supersized.

Recipe & Video
For 2
Recipe reprinted here in case they take it off the website and I want to make it! (:()

2 bone-in pork chops
2 T olive oil divided
1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled with a spoon and roughly chopped
1/4 lb green beans cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 bunch scallions, whites chopped; greens cut into one inch pieces
2 roasted peppers from a jar, chopped into medium pieces
1 jalepeno (chopped or cut into rounds, you can remove the seeds if you want)

1. Sprinkle salt on both sides of the pork chops liberally. Heat a large skillet on high for 2 minutes. Add 1 T olive oil and move the pan to get the oil all over.  Add the pork chops. Cook on high 4 minutes per side or until cooked (but for me the 4 minutes per side was perfect)
2. Meanwhile, cut up all the vegetables
3. Remove pork chops from the pan and keep warm on a plate in the microwave (don't turn it on, just leave them there)
4. In the same pan add the remaining 1 T olive oil and reduce heat to medium high.  Add beans, whites of scallions and ginger and cook until beans are crisp tender about 3 minutes.
5. Add jalepeno, scallion greens, salt to taste and bell peppers and cook about 1-2 minutes more until peppers are heated through. Serve vegetables and pork chops together.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coconut Key Lime Pie

 Easter dessert is always our challenge.  This year, the main challenge was that we didn't decide what we were going to make until the week before Easter and then we tested it and then made it all again the next week. By that time, I was already tired of our choices and didn't end up eating any of our desserts at the actual Easter celebration (luckily nobody noticed cause that would've been just weird).

The first dessert we made for our smaller group of just 14 people was coconut key lime pie.  This pie was perfected in our second try by really reducing the amount of whipped cream topping from the amount that Martha Stewart used in the recipe because on the first pass our pie and whipped cream were of comparable texture.  We also added some flavoring to the cream because we felt it was boring on top of the pie just as is--it was sort of useless.  This pie was a cinch
put together and a big hit with the family.  It really does need time in the refrigerator before digging in so try to make this pie ahead and let it set first. The coconut flavor wasn't very strong which but just a little hint of it was nice.

Coconut Key Lime Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

For the Crust:
6 oz Graham Crackers
3 T sugar
1/4 t coarse salt (I used regular salt the first time and Joey used coarse the second time, there was no difference)
5 T unsalted butter, melted

For the pie Filling:
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (13.5oz) unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 C bottled key lime juice (or fresh!)
1 T lime zest (we zested some key limes)
7 large egg yolks

For the whipped cream:
1 t lime zest
2 t key lime juice
1 C heavy cream
2 T powdered sugar

For Decoration:
2-3 T toasted coconut
1 key lime's zest

1. Preheat the oven to 350
2. In a food processor pulse the graham crackers until course sand. Add all the other ingredients and pulse until combined and the crackers seem wet
3. Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie tin. Bake crust 12 minutes until dry looking and slightly more golden.  Let the crust cool while you make the filling
4. Reduce oven temperature to 325
5. In a bowl combine all the ingredients for the pie filling until mixed together well. Pour into the graham cracker crust and bake 40 minutes until set but still a little wobbly in the middle.  Cool on a rack until room temperature and then move to the refrigerator.
6. Meanwhile, toast 2-3 T sweetened coconut flakes in a small dry frying pan over medium heat.  Toss the coconut so it doesn't become too browned on one side.  Remove from heat when most coconut is browned and cool, then store in a ziploc bag.
NOTE:  We made our whipped cream 1 1/2 days before Easter dessert and it turned out fine, stored in the refrigerator without re-whipping. However, if you feel the desire to make it right before, feel free.  Whip cream
7. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream, sugar, juice & zest on high until stiff peaks form about 3 minutes.
8. Spread whipped cream over just the center of the pie leaving an edge of filling to see.  Sprinkle toasted coconut and remaining zest over the pie and chill until ready to serve.