Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coconut Soup with Chicken

Tonight, I ventured into unchartered territory. I cooked with lemongrass and thai fish sauce. Lemongrass proved very difficult to find. Kroger, Trader Joes, and Martin's didn't have fresh lemongrass. However, I found success at Whole Foods. I had to look up how to cut lemongrass. I found this site, which proved very informative. I've heard a lot about lemongrass lately thanks to a friend who cooks a lot with it. And, since we may use it as an eventual Iron Chef secret ingredient I thought I'd give it a shot. Lemongrass is very fragrant, and from the website it says you don't want to eat the lemongrass stalk. Thai fish sauce is also very fragrant, but not in a good way. It has that yucky fish smell. But, it proved very flavorful when mixed in with the soup. I found this recipe in cooking light's cookbook, and it definitely packed plenty of flavor. This soup was also very easy to make. You don't have to do much chopping other than slicing the ginger and lemongrass. I thought for sure I'd have to use salt, but I think the thai fish sauce helped with the seasoning. I highly recommend this soup. Enjoy!

4 c water
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1/2 c sliced, peeled fresh lemongrass, slightly crushed
15 pieces thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger, slightly crushed
4 serrano chiles, slightly crushed
5 kaffir lime leaves, slightly torn, or 1 1/2 tsp grated lime rind
1 3/4 lb chicken breast quarters, skinned
3/4 lb chicken thigh quarters, skinned
1/4 c Thai fish sauce
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
6 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

I completely messed up the very beginning of this recipe. I was boiling chicken and tossed my 3 chicken breasts in with the boiling chicken. But, what you are supposed to do is pour your water and coconut milk (I used light coconut milk) into a dutch oven over medium heat. Then, you stir in your lemongrass, ginger, chiles, and lime leaves. Bring to a boil. Now, I didn't see kaffir limes anywhere, so I just used a lime and grated the rind. Also, I couldn't find serrano chiles so I used 2 large jalapeno peppers. I just used a meat tenderizer and pounded the peppers, lemongrass, and ginger once. Now, you are supposed to add your chicken, reduce the heat, and simmer for 50 minutes covered or until chicken is done. Now, remove the chicken from the pot. Let chicken cool for 15 minutes or so and shred. Take your pot, and strain the broth thru a colander into a large bowl. Discard the solids, and return the broth to your pot. The recipe says to remove the chicken from the bones, but I just used boneless chicken breasts which makes life so much easier. Return chicken to the pot, and add the fish sauce. Cook for a minute. Add the lime juice and heat thru. Add the cilantro.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Chicken & White Bean Enchiladas

The Dinner Club already contains one enchilada recipe, but for Mexican fare I think there is always room for two. This isn't spicy, but it is extremely flavorful.

1 package of chicken thighs (4-5 thighs) cooked & shredded
1/3 of an onion (chopped)
2-3 garlic cloves (chop or use garlic press)
1 4.5oz can of chopped green chiles
1 15.5oz can of Cannellini beans
1/2 cup of chicken broth
1 tsp chili powder
Flour tortillas
2 cups of shredded Mozzerella
12 0z of green taco sauce - I like La Victoria
Honestly I am not sure how to shred chicken. I shouldn't say I don't know how, but the method I have in mind would take too long. So I boiled the chicken and chopped it into small pieces. This worked perfectly fine.
Preheat oven to 375.
In a large pan, heat olive oil on medium. Cook the onion and garlic for about 3 minutes. Then add the green chiles, beans, chicken, chicken broth and chili powder. Bring to boil then cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove the cover continue to simmer about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Fill each tortilla shell with roughly two hearty spoonfuls of the above chicken and bean mixture. Wrap up the tortilla - I like to leave one side open, but some tuck both ends. To each her own. Place the yummy wrap seam down in a 9x13 pan. Repeat until the pan is full or your chicken & bean mixture is done.
Evenly distribute the green sauce over the enchiladas. Cover with cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese starts to turn a golden brown. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Restaurant Review: Made in Asia

Made in Asia was recently named one of Richmond’s 15 best new restaurants by Richmond Magazine. With an endorsement like that, we had to try it. The Pan-Asian restaurant is located way down Hull St. in an area of town that is starting to grow into a nice new area. From the outside, it looks like nothing special. Located in a strip mall, with a darkly tinted front window, revealing only the neon “open” sign, it’s a place you might just pass by. But I recommend you give it a closer look.

Inside, it’s like a whole different place. Decorated in white, gray and black it has a modern feel. Not sure I am completely on board with the style, but it also doesn’t detract. The presentation of the food is better than the decor. Not quite on par with the artistic platings of some chefs in NYC, but here in the RVA, it’s pretty nice.

(Shrimp tempura, Gyoza, Seared Tuna Tataki)

Foodwise, there were definitely some big hits for the night. The General’s chicken was pronounced the “best ever.” The seafood curry and drunken noodles were also well liked. But there were also misses. The seared tuna was completely bland, despite a slice of jalapeƱo on each piece. The cashew chicken was drowned in sauce. And the lettuce wraps were nothing more than strips of chicken with iceberg leafs. But there is a wide variety of dishes to choose from and almost Asian cuisine is represented in some way.
(Seafood Hot Pot, Drunken Noodles, Cashew Chicken, General Tso's Chicken)

Is Made in Asia one of Richmond’s 15 best new restaurants, as voted on by me, myself and I? Well… as someone who probably hasn’t tried any other new restaurants in awhile, I’d say… it could be. Depends on what you order. I do think it’s worth trying out, and I would go back and order something different.

Pros: Definitely some tasty dishes, variety, presentation, location (for Southsiders)
Cons: Food is hit or miss, location (for non-Southsiders)

My rating: 4 sporks out of 5.
Location: 7302 Hancock Village Drive
Chesterfield, VA 23832
Cuisine: Thai & Pan-Asian
Pricing: $$$

Fudgy Sheet Cake

Ever since I was a little girl we were always given dessert after dinner. Basically, this has ruined me for life, because I always want something sweet after dinner. When you are trying to eat healthier after-dinner sweets isn't always a good idea. So, I thought why not make a healthier dessert. I looked through my cooking light cookbook trying to decide what dessert I would make and what ingredients I already had in my kitchen. I came across this chocolate sheet cake, and couldn't resist. I thought it came out pretty moist, and suprisingly had quite a bit of flavor. I gave a couple slices to my Dad who texted me the next day to say it was still very good. So, for a lighter dessert it was a very good choice. As an aside, I'm not sure why they call it Fudgy when to me it wasn't fudgy at all. It was more chocolaty. So, I would call it a Chocolate Sheet Cake...real original. Ha! Enjoy!

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
1/2 c boiling water
2 c sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c sugar
1/3 c vegetable shortening
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 c low-fat buttermilk

3 c sifted powdered sugar
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa
1/4 c 1% low fat milk
2 tsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First thing I always do when I'm baking is gather together all my dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside. In this case; place your flour (sift it), baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Now, take a small bowl and pour the 1/2 cup boiling water with the 1/2 cup cocoa and let cool. Next, take your mixing bowl and pour the sugar, shortening, and vanilla into it and mix at medium speed until combined. Add eggs one at a time and make sure you beat till combined each time. Pour in cocoa mixture and beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture. Make sure you end with the flour mixture. Beat well. Pour batter into a well-greased 13x9 baking pan. Bake for about 28-35 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack.

For the frosting, combine the sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa in a medium bowl stir well with a whisk. Add milk, butter, and 1 tsp vanilla. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled cake.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Pretty much everyone enjoys a chocolate chip cookie. Peanut butter cookies are well loved, and oatmeal raisin has its fans as well. But to like a molasses cookie, you have to be a special kind of person. So when Steve admitted that he was a molasses-lover, I jumped at the chance to make one of my favorite kinds of cookies. My first attempt, while ultimately tasty, wasn’t big on the molasses flavor. So I made a second batch, this time with my own adjustments. If you have a special place in your heart for molasses cookies, you have to try this recipe. They are chewy, slightly spicy, and best of all, perfectly molassesy.

3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
White sugar

Mix the butter, sugar, and one egg together until smooth. Then stir in the molasses. I usually try to eyeball the molasses since it’s such a pain to measure it and then try to get the sticky stuff out of the measuring cup. Another hint I’ve heard but not tried is to spray the cup with no stick spray. If you try it, let me know how it works.

You can either combine the flour, soda, salt and spices in a separate bowl, or use a dish-saving tip. I like to pour the flour on top of the wet ingredients, then put all the other ingredients in the middle of the flour. Use a spoon to lightly stir the dry ingredients on top (without dipping into the wet ingredients). Then mix them into the molasses mixture until it’s all incorporated. Cover and chill the dough for about an hour.

After the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 375. Roll the dough into balls, about an inch in diameter. Pour some white sugar onto a small plate and roll the balls in the sugar to coat. I usually just make sure to get the top and sides of the ball (because I don’t like the burned sugar on the bottom of the cookie). But you can roll it all over if you like. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes. If you like a crisper cookie, you can flatten the balls a little and cook a little longer. Either way, they are delicious and worth adding to your cookie repertoire.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa

This is my first post of the new year, and one of my resolutions is to try to eat better, and hopefully lose some weight in the process. I've been trying some recipes out of my cooking light cookbook, and this particular dish I cooked up was one I adapted from that cookbook. I did think the fish was a wee bit bland, but the mango salsa helped give it some flavor. The fish was really easy to make, and I got to use my new cast-iron grill in the process. I cheated a bit and used mango salsa from a local grocery store.

Store-bought Mango Salsa
Cooking Spray

Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the tilapia fish. Generously, spray pan with cooking oil. Cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes on both sides. Pour mango salsa over tilapia, and enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Herbed No-Knead Bread

I’m not usually one for fads. The whole “jeggings” thing is not gonna happen with me. The amazing berry acai diet passed me by (despite the persistent Facebook ad campaign). And remember in the 80’s when everyone was wearing jellies? I wasn’t. But No-Knead Bread is a fad I can really (and literally) sink my teeth into. It turns bread baking from a quaint hobby practiced by Martha Stewart wannabes to something that can be done by those of us who have jobs. And lives. Fresh baked bread is a joy, and any fad that makes it attainable is fine by me.

The best part about this recipe is that it’s so simple. Wait, the best thing is that it’s so cheap. Oh, and that it tastes so good. Well, just try it and see what your favorite part is.

3 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
1 5/8 cup lukewarm water

(For herbed variation)
2 teaspoons Italian herb mix
½ teaspoon garlic powder

A few notes about the ingredients.
FLOUR: You can get all fancy with flour, and if you do a little online research you’ll see that bread bakers are pretty snobby about what they use. But for your first forays into the no-knead world, plain old all purpose works just fine.
YEAST: There are lots of kinds of yeast out there. For this one the best is instant or quick-rise yeast.
WATER: The temperature of the water is pretty critical. If the water is too hot or too cold it can kill the yeast. So make sure it’s just warm.

Before you start the bread making process, you should realize that while your “hands-on” time is pretty minimal, the actual time that the dough needs to rise is considerable. So don’t think you can start this before dinner and have fresh bread immediately. It needs to rise at least 12 hours for the first rising and about 2 hours for a second rising.

Combine the flour, yeast, salt, herbs and garlic powder. Pour in the water and stir until you get a sticky, shaggy dough. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for at least 12 hours, or overnight in a warm spot (I like to put it in the microwave). After the dough is risen, dust your hands and a work surface (like your counter) with flour. Pull the dough out of the bowl and sprinkle more flour on top. It will be sticky and some will desperately want to stay with the bowl. Get what you can but don’t obsess over it. Form the dough into sort of a rectangular loaf shape. Fold it over a few times, still in the rectangle. Don’t worry too much about the shape; as long as it’s loaf-like it will be fine. Put the dough in a greased loaf pan, cover it with a towel, and let it rise for another 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Using a sharp knife, slice the top of the bread, just a little, down the middle from short end to short end. This will help the bread crack along a straight line and just looks nice. You can also brush the top of the loaf with an egg white wash if you want a glistening top, but I do without. Bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes. It should be nice and brown on the outside, and if you dump it out of the pan and knock on the bottom, it should sound hallow.

Storing the bread still has me a little stumped. If you leave it out, as die-hard bread makers suggest, it tends to get extremely hard. Still tasty, but hard. If you put it in a plastic bag, it definitely gets softer and chewier. If anyone figures out the best way to keep the bread fresh, let me know. In the meantime, enjoy the bread. As well as the impressed looks you’ll get from family and friends. Hmmm, maybe that’s the best part…

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parmesan Herb Popovers

Onomatopoeia refers to words that sound like what they are, like “Oink” or “Bleep” or “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” But is there a word for words that describe what something literally does? A lot of people don’t know what a Popover is, but you can figure out what it does just by the name. You bake it using a special pan and the bread pops over the top and puffs up. It’s kind of like an eggy muffin and can be sweet or savory. When it’s done it kind of looks like an ice cream cone with a big tasty scoop of ice cream on top. Parmesan-Herb ice cream, in this case.

I asked for a popover pan for Christmas after seeing some delicious looking recipes, and this one, from Jane’s Sweets and Baking Journal, did not disappoint. It isn’t particularly difficult, and looks (and tastes) pretty impressive!

3 and 1/2 cups milk 
4 cups All-Purpose flour 
1 and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. dried mixed herbs (I used an Italian mix.)
1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 12 equal chunks

This recipe makes twelve, and the typical popover pan only has six cups. If you don’t have lots of people eating, I would recommend cutting the recipe in half because each popover is pretty big and filling. They also don’t keep particularly well and are best eaten while still warm.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it’s just lukewarm (don’t let it boil). Take it off the heat. Beat the eggs in a large bowl for about 3 minutes until they are pale and foamy. If you have a wire whisk attachment for your mixer use it. Add in the warm milk and mix briefly.

Add in the flour mix gradually (it helps to have someone assist you) and continue mixing at a low speed. Once all the flour is in, raise the speed to medium and beat for two minutes. Then let the mix rest in the bowl at room temperature for an hour. In the meantime, mix the parmesan, herbs and garlic together in a bowl. I didn’t have fresh garlic and just used garlic powder (not garlic salt) and it was fine. Of course, fresh is always best.

Preheat the oven to 450 and grease the popover cups (including the top of the pan) and put the pan on a baking sheet to catch anything that might “pop over” and spill. Fill each cup almost to the top with batter. Sprinkle the cheese and herb mix over the top generously, and put a butter chunk on top of that. I found that flat pads of butter worked best, and don’t press it down into the batter, just rest it on top.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for about 30 minutes more until they turn a deep golden brown on top. Do NOT open the oven while they are cooking, especially in the beginning. As soon as you take them out, poke the top with the tip of a sharp knife so they don’t get all soggy inside, and serve them warm! Make sure your guests are careful when they open the popovers, as they will be filled with steam. If you don’t have a popover pan, you can still make these with a jumbo muffin pan, but they just won’t be as dramatic or popovery. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fast Turkey Chili

I did something daring today. Finally post a blog after about a month of silence, you say? No, that wasn’t it - though, sure, it might have been a while. Today, I was brilliantly brave. Not only did I make chili from scratch. I did so while wearing a clean, white shirt.

I know. Such bold acts walk the line of lunacy.

Anyhow, this is a recipe I’ve had bookmarked on my computer for easily over a year. Fast Turkey Chili – the name alone is promising. 'Fast' is always a great thing when it comes to dinner. 'Turkey' presents a healthier option to the sometimes greasy beef chilies. And, of course, ‘Chili.’ I mean, really. Who doesn’t love a good chili when it’s cold outside?

Olive oil
1/2 medium onion
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium green bell pepper
1 lb. ground turkey
garlic powder
chili powder packet
1 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 15-oz. can of pinto beans
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 ½ cups of frozen corn
Dice the onion, and chop the bell peppers into roughly ½ squares (minus the core and seeds). Heat a large pot over high heat and drizzle olive oil, spreading it evenly. When the pot and oil are hot, toss in the onion, bell peppers, and ground turkey. Cook, stirring regularly, until turkey is no longer pink.
Add in garlic powder to taste (about 5 shakes for us). Mix well and cook for one more minute. Add the chili powder packet and mix well, cooking for one more minute. Add the tomatos, beans (drained), and oregano, and stir thoroughly. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Partially cover it, and stir occasionally.

Add the frozen corn, stirring to mix it in well, and simmer for 10 more minutes. After that, it will be ready to serve. The total time from start to finish is roughly 60 minutes. I made cornbread, which was a perfect complement.

Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Ruchee Indian Restaurant

When it comes to Asian food, Indian has been my long-time favorite. Perhaps because it was my first branching out from Chinese buffets or Japanese hibachi grills. Perhaps it has something to do with a college freshman hall-mate who introduced me to Samosas. Either way, though, when I’m looking to go out for dinner and I’m in the mood for something a bit different, Indian is a choice I get excited about.

Rarely busy, but always delicious is Ruchee on Midlothian Turnpike. The service is attentive with refilling water-glasses, knowing that their mouthwateringly flavorful food is spicier than the American norm.

While I enjoy going for dinner where I can dive into a meal of my selection, (my favorites being Lamb Saagwala, Vindaloo, or Chicken Tandori), their lunch buffet allows guests to try a selection of ecxellent choices. If you’re not familiar with Indian food, this is a great place to start.

But few meals, in my mind, can compete with their dinners. The Indian beers, such as the Maharaja Pilsner or the Flying Horse Royal Lager, perfectly accompany the spice of the meals. I’m sure their desserts are great, but honestly, the meals themselves are such heafty portions, I rarely have the room to finish the main course let alone still be hungry for dessert. If anyone has thoughts on their desserts, please comment below.

I highly, highly recommend Ruchee for meals out that are nothing like your norm.
Address: 9930 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235
Price: $$$
Rating: 5 Sporks out of 5