Thursday, September 30, 2010

General Tso's Chicken

Since we're on such a roll, I thought I would do one more recipe for the month of September. My neighbor one row over at work had Chinese for lunch. And, boy, did it smell divine. So, I had this wonderful idea to try making General Tso's Chicken from scratch. I've never made this before, and went on a hunt to find the perfect recipe. Well, there were definitely plenty of recipes in google-land. I came across one that looked and sounded good. So, I decided to go with it. I thought it turned out pretty good, but I'm a little flummoxed as to what could be missing. The good thing about these recipes is you can tweak whichever way you'd like. Overall, the recipe was definitely very good!

1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup water

1 tbsp Sesame Oil
6-8 sprigs green onions, chopped
3 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
Red Hot Pepper Flakes
1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

Chicken Dredge
3 eggs
3/4 cup corn starch

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

If you go to the website that this recipe came from it said to sautee the chicken in olive oil until browned. Well, I wanted to go all out and fry up some chicken. So, I used the chicken dredge from this recipe. Prepare the chicken dredge in a bowl by combining the 3 eggs (stir well) and the corn starch. Drop the chicken cubes in the bowl. Around this point you may want to start preparing your rice depending on how long it takes to cook. Prepare a deep pot with enough oil to fry up the chicken. Make sure the oil heats up to about 350 degrees. Fry about 7-8 pieces of chicken at a time. Place on paper towel. Continue frying until chicken is cooked.

Next, put the tablespoon of sesame oil in a wok or deep sautee pan. I forgot to get the green onions, so I used some scallions from my garden and about a cup of chopped white onions. Sautee for a couple minutes over medium heat. Pour in the sauce that you had set aside from earlier, and bring to a boil. I didn't feel like it thickened much so I added about a tablespoon of corn starch to the sauce. I also added some red pepper flakes, and 2 cloves garlic minced. I forgot the ginger, so instead I put about 1/4 tsp ground ginger in the sauce. Since it was about 20 minutes since I fried up the chicken I decided to fry it a second time. So, I heated the oil back up and in 3 batches re-fried the chicken. This helped to crisp it even more. I placed the fried chicken into the sauce mixture, and coated well. I topped the chicken over the rice and served.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Secco Wine Bar

Secco has only been around for a few months, but in this moment in history when Carytown is having so many turnovers, I have no doubt this is one restaurant that’s going to stay. When perusing the wine-list, I had the chance to choose not only organic but also biodynamic varieties. When I didn’t know what ‘biodynamic’ meant, our waitress didn’t scoff or snicker. She explained the term with a smile as she told us her recommendations.

Of course, when you’re going out for wine, some sort of appetizer plate is a perfect complement, and again, we relied on the expertise of our waitress to help us choose three cheese selections ranging from Langa Bocconcino to Rosen Manchego. I feel so naïve in my cheese education, but her recommendations were amazing, as was the chutney served on the side.

Nice but not stuffy, relaxed but not sloppy, Secco is the wine bar that Carytown needed. I’m sorry Bin 22, but you have a new rival.
My rating: 5 sporks out of 5.
Location: 2933 W. Cary Street, Richmond, VA (Carytown)
Cuisine: European style eatery
Pricing: $$

The Bellytimber Tavern

Bright and open are not necessarily words that I would have associated with Border Café, the former establishment at 1501 West Main Street in the Fan, but Border is no more. The Bellytimber Tavern has taken its place, and this change is a great one.

A rugged open-faced brick wall mixes with a retro red tin ceiling, while a long wooden bar stretches down the length of the restaurant. There is plenty of room for seating and mingling while the tunes play, setting a mellow mood with a lot of natural light in the daytime.

When I look at a menu and find pirogies, I cannot help but order them, and these were definitely good ones rivaling the best of Table 9 memory. Of course, the sandwiches are also solidly done, well presented and tasty.

The Bellytimber Tavern is smooth and cool, taking the address up a notch in reputation. If you didn’t realize that this spot has a new restaurant, definitely check it out.

My rating: 4 sporks out of 5.
Location: 1501 W Main Street, Richmond, VA

Cuisine: American
Pricing: $$

Chicken Piccata

I’ll be absolutely honest. It was the name of this recipe that hooked me, not the easy instructions or the luscious picture of the finished product (to be perfectly un-humble, I think my pic beats out the one on the Tasty Kitchen Blog). Chicken Piccata. Doesn’t it just roll off of your tongue like you’re some worldly, dignified chef who has a mastery of all things? Maybe that’s just my kitchen naïveté showing itself again.

This recipe was not only easy but one that made my kitchen smell great. I got to take out some stress with the pounding of the chicken and the dancing around my kitchen with my flour-filled ziplock bag (see below), and our dinner dishes were practically licked clean at the end.

Olive Oil
¼ cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 pieces Chicken Breast
Garlic powder
½ cups Chicken Broth
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice.
(The original recipe called for garlic cloves, but I only had powder in the house. It also called for capers, which I think would have added in well, but as I said, this recipe was awesome as I made it).

Pound your chicken breasts until they are of uniform thinness. This can be done, of course, with a meat hammer, but as mine apparently ran away from its drawer, the same effect can be reached by putting the chicken inside a gallon sized ziplock bag and pounding away with a can of soup. I highly recommend this on a stressful day.

Next, melt butter and a little olive oil in a large sauté pan. I’ve started eye-balling these things, but it was roughly a tablespoon of butter. Spoon a few tablespoons of flour into the ziplock back with one of the chicken pieces. Shake it or dance around the kitchen with it in your hands (making sure the ziplock is well sealed!). Stop dancing (shaking) once the chicken is well coated.

Then sauté chicken piece in the oil and butter for roughly 3 minutes on both sides. Repeat the dance with your other chicken breast, adding more butter and oil to the pan and more flour to the ziplock. When finished, cover your chicken breasts on a nearby plate.

Add garlic to the remaining butter and oil in the pan, adding more olive oil if necessary. Saute briefly until you can smell the garlic. Add chicken broth, whisking it into the mixture. Again, sauté for about 2 minutes. When the sauce starts to thicken, whisk in a little bit more butter and squeeze in lemon juice. If you had capers, you would also add them here.

Add back in the chicken pieces, and let them heat up in the pan for a few minutes until they are cooked fully. Sprinkle on parmesian, salt, and pepper to taste.

Happy cooking!


(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

See's Fudge

This particular dessert is an oldie but a goodie. It's a recipe my Grandma has made for 40 years. It's so classic and timeless and easy that you can't go wrong making it. It's a very creamy and smooth fudge. It's very simple to make and your friends and family will think you are a superstar baker because you made fudge! ;) Hope you like it!

6 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
10 Large Marshmallows
1 small can Evaporated Milk (or 2/3 cup)
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped Walnuts

Prepare an 8x8 pan and spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl combine the chocolate chips, the butter, and the vanilla.
In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine the evaporated milk and the marshmallows and bring to a boil. Stir constantly for exactly 6 minutes.
Pour into the prepared bowl, and stir until the chips and butter are melted. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Place in refrigerator until cold. Best served cold.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Five Alarm Stir Fry Ginger Beef

I’m calling this “five alarm” not because it’s incredibly spicy (although this does have a nice slow burn that builds up over time). No, the name comes more from the fact that we almost had to call the fire department while making it! Well, ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the house did fill up with smoke alarmingly quickly. Still, it was quite tasty. Although now I wonder if yours will taste like ours did, since ours had a lot of smoky flavor and burny bits in it. At any rate, I recommend you try it. Just don’t cook it on high, and maybe turn off the smoke alarm in advance.

Found this one on Simply Recipes, via Tastespotting.

2 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
5 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chile pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1.5 lb top sirloin steak
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
3-4 green onions, cut on a diagonal, 1/2-inch apart, including the greens
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2-3 hot chiles, preferably serranos, sliced
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled, cut lengthwise into matchsticks
1/2 cup loosely packed, chopped cilantro

Slice up the steak into thin pieces. We didn’t make them bite-sized because I think that helps the steak cook better. If you cut it too thin you’ll end up with well-done beef, and I prefer mine more on the medium rare side. Whisk all the ingredients of the marinade together, add the sliced beef and sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours. I only did 30 minutes and it still got quite a bit of flavor, but if you have more time, it certainly couldn’t hurt. I also just realized as I read the ingredients again that I totally forgot to put in the fresh ginger. Not sure how that would have changed the flavor. D'oh! 

Do all your chopping and have your veggies ready because they cook quite quickly. Also, stir together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water. You’ll probably need to mix it up again right before adding it.

Heat the oil in a wok or pan. The recipe calls for high heat, and this is where our smoke problem came in. They directed us to heat the oil until it was NEARLY smoking. Obviously, we went past that, but I really feel like high heat was too hot anyway. Pat off the beef and cook it in the wok in small batches (a handful is perfect). You only need to cook it for about a minute to make sure it’s brown on the outside. Ours was pretty black, actually. Put the beef aside.

After all the beef has been cooked and removed from the wok, add the garlic and chilies and stir-fry for about 45 seconds. Next add the ginger and stir-fry for another 45 seconds. Add the beef, the cornstarch mixture, and the scallions and mix it together, cooking for about another minute. At this point, if you aren’t smoking out your house, you’re doing better than we were. Go ahead and take the wok off the heat and stir in cilantro. Don’t skip this step as I think the cilantro was a big part of the flavor. Serve over rice, with a steak knife.

Steve and I felt like this could probably use some more veggies so I think if we make it again, we’ll probably add some broccoli when we put in the chilies and garlic, or maybe even cook the broccoli for a minute or two before adding them. I also felt like it needed something else, so I sprinkled some lemon juice on top, which gave it a little more of an edge. Not necessary, but if you taste it and feel like you need something, that’s what I recommend. Then you are ready to hook your smoke alarm back up, and enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

In anticipation of Fall, I wanted to get a head start and make one of my favorite fall soups; Butternut Squash. I made this once before a couple years ago, and very much enjoyed it. I decided to give it another whirl but give it a different dimension by adding some spicy elements to it. This recipe is also out of my favorite cookbook The New Best Recipe. If you don't have this cookbook in your arsenal I recommend you get it ASAP!

4 TBSP unsalted butter
1 large shallot, chopped fine
3 pounds butternut squash (reserve strings and seeds)
6 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp dark brown sugar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

4 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp curried powder

First I prepared the squash by taking a sharp knife and slicing the squash down the middle. If you have a crappy knife you may need to use a cleaver to knock the knife into the squash so it splits it down the middle. The cookbook has a picture on how to do this. Scrape out the strings and seeds with a spoon and set aside (DO NOT THROW AWAY). Next, chop up the squash into chunks. Now, get a large stockpot or Dutch oven and melt the butter over medium-low heat until it foams. You are supposed to add the shallots next. I didn't have a shallot so I just used a white onion cut in half and then chopped. Stir frequently for about 3 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the strings and seeds from the squash and cook until the butter turns a saffron color. It took about 5 minutes for this to happen. You are supposed to add the water and a tsp of salt next. I used about 5 cups chicken broth that I had in my freezer and a cup of water. Bring to a boil. If you haven't already, add the squash into a steamer basket and place the basket into the pot. It says to cover and let steam for about 30 minutes. This actually took me about an hour probably because I forgot to cover the lid after a half hour. You have to poke the squash with a fork to determine if it's tender. And, once it is remove the steamer basket from the pot, and let the squash cool. Then, when it's cool enough to handle careful remove the skin from the squash and place in a bowl. Discard the skin. Then, strain the liquid from the pot thru a mesh strainer. Discard the onion, seeds, and strings. It says there should be about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of liquid. I'm pretty sure I had more than that. Don't ask me how. Rinse and dry the pot. Next step is to take the 2 tsp of curried powder and add the squash and a little bit of the liquid into a blender and puree in batches. Be sure to add a towel over the lid of the blender so the liquid doesn't explode into your face. Transfer the puree as you go into the clean pot and stir in the remaining liquid, the heavy cream, and the brown sugar. I didn't have dark brown sugar, so I just used light brown sugar. I also didn't have whole nutmegs, so I just used about a tsp of ground nutmeg. Warm the soup, and adjust the seasonings.
At this point you need to mix together in a small bowl the yogurt, cilantro leaves (which I left out, because I didn't have any), lime juice, and salt. Refridgerate until ready to serve. Add a dollop of the mixture to each of the individual bowls you are serving. I just dumped the mixture into the pot of soup since it was just me I was serving. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Magic Cookie Bars

Continuing with the coconut theme; one of my favorite go-to desserts when I'm craving something chocolate is this delicious cookie bar. It has a graham cracker crust, walnuts, coconut, and chocolate chips. Yum! Yum! Yum! I've been eating this dessert ever since my mom made it for my family 20+ years ago. It's super easy to make and very scrumptious.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter

First you set the oven to 350 degrees. Next, take a 13x9 baking dish and place the stick of butter in the pan, and stick it in the oven. As soon as the butter is finished melting take out the pan (careful it's hot) and sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the butter. Then, take the can of condense milk and pour evenly over the crumbs. Then, sprinkle with the chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and walnuts. Place in your oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the coconut flakes are a golden color. Enjoy.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Faux Mashed Potatoes

You can’t believe it either, right? This bowl of creamy goodness is not mashed potatoes, it is actually mashed cauliflower. I absolutely love this recipe because I feel like I am eating comfort food, but I am actually getting one of my daily servings of vegetables. And it’s super easy.

1 medium head of cauliflower
3 or 4 tbsp of cream cheese
Garlic powder

Break up the cauliflower into small pieces then boil for about 6 minutes or until they soften. Drain the cauliflower and pat dry. I thought it might take a while to pat dry so I actually ran them through a salad spinner. I think it did the trick nicely. Then just combine all the above ingredients into a food processor and blended until they are smooth.

I actually had to run two batches in the food processor, but this allowed me to taste the first batch and adjust the salt and pepper for the next one. I used garlic powder becuase I just didn’t feel like dealing with smelly hands, but I would highly recommend using real garlic.

Finally top with butter, cheese and/or chives.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Iron Chef Coffee: Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Yes, the Iron Chef competition was a few weeks ago, but better late than never to post the winning recipe, right? I’m not much of a cook, but I love to bake so I called dibs for a dessert entry. Good thing, since I don’t like the taste of coffee and you can disguise it pretty well with chocolate. I did a lot of hunting (and trial runs) before finding the winning recipe – enjoy my cup o’ cupcake.

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
Cupcake batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Finding the espresso powder was a bit of a challenge. It doesn’t seem to be available in the local grocery stores, though there are alternatives on the internet. I decided to splurge and bought some from King Arthur Flour. All the reviewers raved about how it enhanced the flavor of chocolate…apparently, they were right.

To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese, sugar and egg. I used an electric beater to get it nice and smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate – I used Nestle’s chunks. It was cheaper than a bar of bittersweet chocolate and I had some left over from another recipe.
In a big bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder and salt. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In another bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. (The vinegar seems like a strange addition to me, but most of the recipes I looked at in my recipe hunt called for vinegar - who knew.) Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined. Evenly divide the batter into muffin tins lined with paper liners. The recipe says it makes 12, but I ended up with 14 or 15. You don’t want to fill them too full or they’ll puff all over the place.

Evenly divide the cream cheese filling between the chocolate batter-filled wells, aiming the filling into the center of each. Bake for 22-26 minutes or until the tops are springy when gently pressed. Remove and let them rest for 2-3 minutes before removing and placing them on a rack to cool completely.

I think they taste best after they’ve cooled a bit, but before you store them in the fridge.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

I am in the midst of a squash resurgence. Well… I guess a squash “surgence” would be more accurate (though less grammatically correct) since I never really ate squash growing up. But I have recently discovered the joys of butternut squash, and this weekend, I experienced my first spaghetti squash.

If you have never had spaghetti squash, I highly recommend dropping everything (or if you’re holding something fragile, like an antique plate or a baby, just set it down gently) and getting one. They are one of the most interesting vegetables I’ve ever eaten. The texture actually seems a lot more crisp and crunchy than spaghetti, in a good way. It really doesn’t have a strong taste. I’d say it’s more like a vehicle for salt and pepper and butter, or whatever you put on it. And what did I put on it? Well, there’s nothing I like more than taking a healthy vegetable, dousing it in cream and topping it with cheese. So I made a gratin. A tasty, bubbly, parmgiano reggiano-y gratin.

1 spaghetti squash, baked until tender
1 large (or two small) shallot(s), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 t. dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, divided in half
salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

I found this recipe on Pinch My Salt via my new favorite food site, Tastespotting.

So, first you’ve got to prepare the spaghetti squash, which takes a little time, so make sure to plan ahead. Pick a nice yellow squash with no bruises. I knocked on it to see if it was hollow, but that was really just for show. At home, stab the squash in a few places on all sides. Really let out your inner “Dexter.” I used a big barbeque fork. This is an important step so your squash doesn’t explode. Don’t skip it. Then put it in a roasting pan and cook at 350 degrees for one hour. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut it open lengthwise (or if you’re weak like me, get a manly man to cut it open) and scoop out the seeds. Then use a fork to gently scrape the meat of the squash, pulling the strands like spaghetti. This sounds strange, but it’s really easy. When you are finished, put the squash in a big bowl.

From then on, this gets even easier. Saute the shallot in butter until soft, then add the garlic and cook about a minute more. Add that mixture to the spaghetti squash, along with the thyme, heavy cream, sour cream, half the cheese, and salt and pepper. Mix it well and pour it into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Let it rest for 5-7 minutes (and avoid burning your mouth). Then serve! It’s probably not too healthy because of the cream and cheese, but hey—it’s not as bad for you as a pasta side, or mashed potatoes. I hope you enjoy and begin your own squash surgence!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Black Bean and Coconut Milk Soup

Okay all you coconut haters, give this one a shot. You won't regret it. I found this recipe out of Fitness magazine several years ago, and I've been going back to it ever since. It's very easy to make and very healthy for you. I know, I know, it has coconut milk in it, but really you can't taste the coconut. Try it, and if you taste the coconut milk, then go ahead and let me know that I was wrong. But, I really think you will like it. It is pretty spicy due to the chipotle chiles you add to the soup, but you can always dial that back if you'd like. Enjoy!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced or 1 1/2 tsp Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce
1/4 c fresh cilantro (not dried)
2 (15 oz) cans whole reduced sodium black beans
1 (15 oz) can reduced-fat coconut milk
2 1/2 c water or vegetable broth

lime wedges
diced white onion
fresh cilantro leaves

In a soup pot, pour in the olive oil and sautee the onion, garlic, cumin, and chipotle. Saute for about five minutes over medium heat, and make sure you stir. Then, you add half cup of water and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the onion is softened. Next, you add the black beans (include the bean liquid), coconut milk, and 2 1/2 cups water or stock. Next, you increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Once the allotted time has past take about 1 cup or so of the beans and some of the liquid and puree in a blender. Then dump the contents back into the soup, and stir to thicken. I think I used about 2 cups of the bean mixture including the liquid. Or, if you have an immersion blender you can bled the soup that way). Stir in the cilantro, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish in each bowl with cilantro leaves, onions, and lime wedges.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Restaurant Review: Friend or Pho

Combine the delicious Vietnamese soup of Pho 79 on Staples Mill Road with the indie style of so many Fan restaurants and you'll get Friend or Pho, a new restaurant on Main Street. When you walk in the door and down the steps, the cozy White Dog atmosphere has been transformed. A vivacious mural by local artist, Christian Detres, sets the groovy mood for a lunchtime bite or chill nighttime scene.

I don't think it's quite possible to finish a bowl of their pho. The portions are huge, and personally I found it delicious. I should give a fair warning that Vietnamese might not be everyone's cup of tea, but for those who love pho, this restaurant is great. We had the spring rolls for an appetizer, and I had the chicken pho for my main course. Adding my own basil, lime, peppers, bean sprouts, and sauces allowed me to perfect an already awesome soup.

Their outdoor signage was not all hung upon my visit on their 6th day open, nor did they yet have to-go containers. But I think that comes with the new restaurant territory. Besides a typo on the menu ("desert" rather than "dessert"), these were the only flaws I could find.

My rating: 4 sporks out of 5.
Location: 2329 W Main Street, Richmond, VA
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Pricing: $$
You should definitely check Friend or Pho out!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fresh Tomato Sauce & Fettucini

There's a local restaurant here in Richmond that I absolutely love; Edo Squid's. Typical of most of my favorite restaurants; I get the same dish every time I go. This particular dish is very simple. It's called spaghetti with marinara. It always comes out piping hot and has plenty of flavor, which consists mostly of garlic. Lately, most of the jarred marinara I get from the grocery stores just haven't been doing it for me. So, I've been wanting to find a recipe that resembles Edo's marinara. I found it. Thanks to my mom trying it while visiting her sister. She told me about this recipe she made out of one of our favorite cookbooks; The New Best Recipe. She thought it was better than Edo Squid's version, so I had to try it. The verdict is in and I have to say it very much resembles Edo's. I think I would have to make it again to determine if it surpasses Edo's version. But, it was very delicious and flavorful. My only complaint; there wasn't enough juice to soak up with my bread. I think this is because I incorporated the fettucini in the sauce as opposed to just pouring the sauce on top of the fettucini. Normally, I would use spaghetti, but I wanted to get rid of my fettucini. Please try was very good!

2 pounds tomatoes - You are allowed to use any tomato as long as it's ripe and flavorful. I just used the cheapest, which was Roma tomatoes.
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fresh Basil, chopped
Salt to taste

The New Best Recipe has a very long explanation on why you have to boil the tomatoes. Just do as they say, they're never wrong. :)
Prepare the tomatoes by taking out the core, and then place about 5 at a time into a pot of boiling water for about 20 seconds. Remove and immediately place into a bowl filled with ice water. Don't fill it up too high otherwise when you put the tomatoes in; the water will spill onto the countertop. I learned this the hard way. Once you are finished with the tomatoes, take a pairing knife and gingerly slice the skin off of the tomatoes. The Cook Illustrated authors suggest dipping the paring knife into the ice bath before slicing the skin off. They think it's easier to slice the tomato this way. I'm not so sure it helped all that much. The cookbook suggests cutting the tomatoes in half and removing seeds. I did this, but then cut again into quarters.

In a decent size skillet; place the 2 cloves into 2 tbsp olive oil over about medium-low heat and saute...but do not brown the cloves. Turn up the heat to medium-high and place the tomatoes into skillet and cook for about 10 minutes until the tomato juices dissolved. I wasn't entirely sure if the tomato juices had dissolved. But, after about 12 minutes I figured it was safe to turn the heat back down to warm, add the basil and salt to taste, and cover the skillet with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes. At this point I set up my pot to boil my pasta.

The Cook Illustrated author suggests that if you are using penne then this version works great. However, if you are using a fettucini or spaghetti then they suggest pureeing the sauce in a blender or food processor. I pureed about half the sauce, because I wanted some chunks in the marinara. Perhaps I should have pureed the entire batch as this probably would have made it more juicy. Add the pasta and stir together to incorporate. I also would have preferred just pouring the sauce over the pasta instead of dumping the entire pasta into the sauce. It was an excellent recipe.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Potato and Cheese Soup

The author of this particular recipe titled it: The Best Potato Soup You Will Ever Eat. I beg to differ. While it was a good potato and cheese soup it definitely wasn't the best I ever ate. The best is another potato soup that I'm saving for a potential Iron Chef show-down. So, I just named this soup a boring: Potato and Cheese Soup. I'm definitely a soup lover, and I went searching for a new recipe to try. I came across this particular recipe and since it received pretty good reviews I thought I would give it a whirl. Again, it's not bad. I would make it again. It was pretty quick and easy to make.

4 whole Potatoes
3 cans (10.75 Oz. Can) Cream Of Potato Soup
3 cans Milk (Use The Soup Can To Measure)
1/2 bags (8 Oz. Bag) Mozzarella Cheese
1 bag (8 Oz. Bag) Cheddar Cheese
2 cloves Minced Garlic
1 teaspoon Salt And Pepper

First step when you are buying these ingredients is to make sure you don't forget the main ingredient: the potatoes! I forgot this ingredient the other day, so I ended up making it yesterday after going to the grocery store just for the forgotten potatoes. Next, take out about 4 large potatoes and peel and wash them. Place in a pot with water and boil for about 30 minutes until soft. Pour out the water, and mash the potatoes making sure to leave some chunks in there. At this point I was a little nervous, because I had used 5 potatoes and there were a lot of mashed potatoes in my pot. But, have no fear; after placing the 3 cans of potato soup and pour milk into the 3 empty soup cans. It all turned out okay. I poured the salt and pepper in and the minced garlic. I added a little more salt and pepper to my taste. Then I dumped the 1/2 bag of shredded Mozzarella Cheese, the full bag of shredded cheddar cheese, and about a half bag of Colby and Monterey Jack shredded cheese. I fried up about 6 pieces of bacon and placed in the soup. After it's heated up and salted to your taste it's done. I think it could have used some kind of herb but I didn't add anything else. It was a good soup, and I'm having some leftovers today. Perhaps it will be even better the next day.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Iron Chef Coffee: Coffee-Braised Short Ribs

They say you eat with your eyes. That’s why gourmet restaurant chefs spend so much time stacking, drizzling, swirling, spreading, and placing every morsel of food so that it looks as delicious as it tastes. But I don’t know about you—I eat with my mouth. It doesn’t matter how good something looks, if it doesn’t taste good, I don’t want it. And this recipe? Tastes gooooood.

But unfortunately for me, my Iron Chef competitors made some desserts that not only tasted pretty delicious, they also looked really beautiful and tasty. And one thing braised short ribs are not is attractive looking. So even though this was a winning recipe based on taste, it just couldn’t get its presentation in order. Still, I recommend it.

(photo taken by the R.Home photographer, not me!)

I found this recipe on Epicurious, but modified it based on the comments, and used beef short ribs instead of bison (who eats bison?).

4 cups water
3 cups chilled strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups ice cubes
8 short ribs

For the marinade, mix the water, coffee, salt and sugar in a bowl. The recipe calls for chilled coffee… I didn’t really chill mine fully, but I did let it sit out for a little while. Plus the water really takes the temperature down. Stir this until you don’t see any more salt or sugar crystals. Then add the next three ingredients. Next, add the ice cubes and stir until they melt. Not really sure what the point of the ice cubes is, unless it’s just to make sure the mixture is cool and won’t cook the meat. Once the ice cubes are melted, you can add the short ribs. Cover and chill them for 4 to 6 hours. I actually let them sit for 24 hours with no adverse effects. Might not be a good idea to marinate them longer since the acid in coffee really breaks down the meat and could make it mushy.

Short Ribs:
1/4 cup chopped bacon (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped shallots
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 chipotle chile chopped, and 1 Tbsp adobe sauce
1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Drain the marinade off the ribs and discard. The marinade, not the ribs! Then preheat the oven to 325°. Use a heavy ovenproof pot (like a dutch oven) and sauté the bacon over medium heat just until it begins to brown. Remove the bacon to a plate, but leave the bacon grease. Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper, turn the heat up to medium high, and brown the meat on all sides, working in batches of about three ribs. When they are browned, remove them to a plate. I deglazed the pot with a little bourbon as one of the comments suggested, but I’m not sure how successful an idea that was. It seemed to evaporate almost immediately.

Add the onions, shallots, and garlic to the pot, turn it down to medium and cover. Cook until they are soft, stirring every once in awhile (for about 8-10 minutes). Then add the coffee and broth, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan for all the tasty brown bits. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then add the bacon and ribs, cover, and put into the oven for about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

This recipe is best made a day or two in advance. That way it really gets the flavors absorbed into the meat and it’s fall off the bone tender. You can eat it now if you want, it’s just totally worth it to wait. Let it cool uncovered until it’s cold, then cover and put in the fridge. When you are going to reheat it, make sure to take all the fat off the surface (this will be easy when it’s chilled). Take out the ribs and boil the sauce until it’s reduced to 2 cups, which should take about 5 minutes.

I chose to rewarm the ribs on the grill to get some nice caramelization. I made a “glaze” based on a commenter’s suggestion. He didn’t say what proportions he used but it was coffee, brown sugar, and chili sauce. My glaze was pretty watery even though I reduced it for a while. I would recommend maybe using about a half cup coffee, a fourth cup chili sauce and two tablespoons of brown sugar. Put this on the ribs as you grill them. Serve over mashed potatoes, using the sauce as a gravy. It’s very, very tasty. In your mouth.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Iron Chef Coffee: Beatty's Chocolate Cake

For some reason I really wanted to make a good impression on this particular Iron Chef. Maybe it had something to do with a local magazine called Richmond Magazine featuring us in a little article in one of their upcoming issues. Or, maybe it had something to do with coffee being our secret ingredient and knowing how well coffee can play up a dessert. Nah, it had to do with Richmond Magazine. So, I went searching for the best recipe. I tried many, but ultimately went with this cake which was featured on one of Barefoot Contessa's Food Network episodes. I actually requested this cake for my birthday back in March. So, I had a pretty good idea how it would taste and look. It's a pretty cake and it definitely tastes wonderful. In my opinion, you can taste the coffee in the chocolate icing and a tad in the cake. The cake itself is very moist and rich. I'm not sure who Beatty is, but this is a splendid cake!

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The recipe indicates placing parchment paper into an 8 inch cake pan and butter and flour the parchment paper. First of all, I had a 9 inch cake pan and the parchment paper was driving me nuts. So, I dusted cocoa powder onto the cake pan after spraying the cake pan with cooking oil spray. I will say I had a bit of trouble getting the cake out of the pan after baking. So, using the parchment paper probably would have been a good idea.

I used a sifter and sifted the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of my electric mixer. I used a paddle attachment mixed on low speed the above ingredients. Next, in a separate bowl I combined the 2 eggs, the shaken buttermilk, the oil, and vanilla and stirred to incorporate. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry at low speed. Then, I slowly added the coffee stirring just to combine. Then I stopped the mixture and scraped together the ingredients with a spatula. I did use espresso instead of regular coffee because that’s what I had in my pantry and I think it turned out just fine. Pour the batter into your prepared cake pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. I believed mine took about 30 minutes to bake. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Then place them on a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Place the one layer of cake flat side up on your cake plate and spread with your prepared frosting. Then, place the second layer of cake round side up and spread the frosting evenly on top of the cake and around the sides.

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Chop the chocolate and place in a sauce pan set over another sauce pan over simmering water. Stir until it is just melted and set aside to cool. I just used regular old semi-sweet baking chocolate from the grocery store. Next, I fitted my electric mixture with the paddle and beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy for about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and then the vanilla and continue your beating for 3 minutes. Then turn the mixture to low and gradually add in the sifted confectioner’s sugar beating at medium speed until smooth and creamy. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl with the spatula to get it all incorporated into the mix. Next, dissolve the instant coffee into 2 tsp of hot tap water. On low speed add the chocolate and coffee mixture, and I just let mine mix for a couple seconds. Then I took a spatula and finished mixing it all together.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mocha Silk Pie

The month of August was a busy one for me. I tried many recipes while trying to find the ultimate recipe for our Iron Chef Coffee event. I tried a mousse, a chocolate cake with whipped cream icing, chocolate chip cookie dough, etc. This particular recipe was the last one I tried before going with Beatty's Chocolate Cake. I was very tempted to use this recipe. It's a delicious pie; silky, smooth, with the crunch from the chopped pecans. It was very easy to make and I am still enjoying it. It's held up very well in my fridge for the past week. I made some modifications to this recipe. I did not have Kahlua, nor the money to buy it, so I substituted coffee for it. I think it still turned out great.

1 cup Pecans, Finely Chopped
1/2 cups Packed Brown Sugar
2 ounces, weight Semi Sweet Chocolate Grated
2 Tablespoons Kahlua
Dash Of Salt

2 sticks Butter (salted)
1-1/2 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Instant Coffee Granules
1 teaspoon Kahlua
3 ounces, weight Semi-sweet (or Bittersweet) Chocolate
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
4 whole Large Eggs

To make the crust I first chopped my pecans into little bits. It probably would have been easier to buy pecan bits but I didn't have it in my pantry. I poured the pecans into a bowl along with the brown sugar, the grated chocolate, and the salt. A word about grating chocolate. I started to use a food processor but that caused the chocolate to break up into chunks and the chocolate was melting. So, I ended up just using my standing cheese grater. That worked just fine, and it didn't take as long as I thought it might. I poured in my cooled coffee in place of the Kahlua. Mixed together and then placed into a pie dish. I pressed the mixture firmly into the dish.

First step is to melt 3 ounces of your semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for about 45 seconds. Do not melt for more than a minute. I did this and burnt my chocolate and my kitchen stunk cause of it. Set it aside and let it cool.

Next, in a standing mixer with the whisk attached (oops I used the paddle) beat the butter, 2 tsp instant coffee, sugar, and 1 tsp Kahula (again I used my coffee)until light and fluffy. It takes about a minute and a half. Scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Then drizzle the cooled chocolate into the mixture as it beats on medium speed. You may need to use a spatula to get all the chocolate out of the bowl into the sugar mixture. Then add 1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract. Beat until thoroughly combined. Again scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary. Next, on medium speed add the 4 eggs ONE AT A TIME for about 5 minutes for a total of 20 minutes. Scrape sides of the bowl halfway thru the process. Then pour the filling into the pie crust, smooth it out, and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. I let mine chill over night. Top with more grated chocolate and whipped cream if desired.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Whole Wheat Chicken Pot Pie

When I came home from college, there was always one recipe I requested. After my freshman year, it became the recipe that magically appeared on the table without my having to say a thing, a recipe that became synonymous with good home cooking. Who doesn’t love a really good chicken pot pie?

Now, the chicken pot pie and I have had our quarrels. It usually wins, the crust refusing to harden in anywhere close to the expected time or the filling boiling over within my oven creating a mess and a lovely burning smell that always gets my attention. Now, I refuse to give in. The chicken pot pie will not defeat me. I’m just a better person than that.

Where Bisquick has failed me in the past (or perhaps I have failed Bisquick), I tried a new crust this time.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Milk
Frozen mixed veggies
2 Cans Cream of Chicken Soup

Cook the chicken and cut into small pieces. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup whole wheat flour and milk (I used 1%). This will be for the top of the pie. Mix frozen veggies (the amount varies to taste here, I use a lot, more than half of the bag), chicken soup, and chopped up chicken. Pour mixture into pie pan. Cover with the flour and milk mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Now, it was seven minutes shy of 45 minutes when I smelled something burning. The chicken pot pie and its trickery had gotten the best of me again! Luckily, it wasn’t the pie itself. It was the filling which had bubbled over onto the bottom of the oven. Now, those among you who are shaking your heads, saying, ‘wait, she just said this was a point of failure that had happened before,’ you may have a point. However, I had been extra sensitive this time about the height of my filling against my pie dish. I was convinced there was room for it to bubble without the mess. However, of course, my chicken pot pie had an urge to defy me.

The dinner was good, though I think I would have doubled the size of the crust. It was thin, and I like a really thick flaking crust. I also ended up peppering the final product, which I should have done in the earlier mixing.

A few more tweaks, and I’m almost there. The chicken pot pie will not beat me forever.


(Click here for printable recipe)

Slow Burn Sticky Sweet Wings

Wings are one of the most intensely personal foods out there. I mean, it doesn’t get more personal than picking something up with your hands, tearing the flesh with your teeth, and licking your fingers when you’re done. It takes you back to the primal days of yore (YORE!) when we were all hunting and gathering our food, rather than having someone else bag it up and carry it to the car. (Sidenote: it drives me CRAZY that Kroger does that now. I’m able to load my own groceries, thank you! I appreciate the offer, but there’s no way I’m letting an 80-year-old man struggle to load twenty pounds of cat litter and boxes of wine into my trunk.) (Sidesidenote: That just made me sound like a crazy cat lady, didn’t it.)

Anyway. So, as I was saying, wings are personal. My point is, I like to eat them in the privacy of my own home where I can truly ravage them. Which is why I decided to try this recipe I found on the Good Mood Food Blog, via Saveur. (Although I renamed it. “Asian Chicken Wings” seemed pretty generic, and not all that accurate.) It’s one of those recipes that you like more the more you eat it. I think it might have helped to let them sit for five minutes before we began the feeding frenzy, but by the time they were done cooking it was 7:30 and we were famished.

Chicken Wings (the original recipe called for 12. I used 24 full wings and had plenty of sauce)
1 Cup of Sweet Chili Sauce (I found this in the specialty Asian section of Kroger)
The Juice Of One Lemon.
1 Tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce.
2 Cloves of Garlic Minced.
2 Tablespoons of Honey
1 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 Tsp of Chinese 5 Spice powder.
1 Tsp of Sesame Oil.
1 Tsp of Cornstarch

Don’t be like me and make sure to break down the chicken wings. It just makes them much easier to eat, and I think they will lay better in the pan as well. Mix all the ingredients (except the wings) in a bowl. When they are combined, add the wings and mix. If you want to continue the “personal” theme, mix with your hands. It really does make you feel like you are cooking. Get in there! You can either leave the wings in the bowl or spread them out in a roasting tray. Cover with saran wrap and put them in the fridge for at least a half hour. 

Preheat the oven to 400 and put the wings in the roasting pan on the top rack. Cook for 25 minutes, then stir them around, turning them over, and cook for another 25. They should get some good color on them by the end. Let them sit for 5 minutes or so if you can, so the sauce thickens up, then serve! They are sweet but you’ll notice after the first one or two that you are feeling a little burn in your lips. The next time I make them I might add a little Thai Garlic Chili sauce to up the heat factor, but that’s up to your tastebuds. Serve with plenty of napkins! And don't feel guilty about eating them alone where no one will see your savage side. 

(Click here for printable recipe)