Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lemony Goat Cheese Ball

This isn’t so much a “recipe” per se, as it is an idea. I found it on The Kitchn, which is pretty much the best site out there for those of us who love to cook (or just eat). I’ve always loved cheese balls, but there is something sort of retro about them. Maybe because I am used to my mom making them for family get togethers as a kid. This idea takes the cheese ball into today, and makes it a little more classy than the traditional. I was told this recipe was a “home run,” and it’s so simple that there’s no reason not to try it!

About 10 oz soft Goat Cheese
1 Lemon
Fresh herbs of your choosing (I used chives)

Put the goat cheese in a bowl. Chop up your herbs and put them in the bowl as well. The original called for parsley, but I used chives. You can use any kind you want, really. Zest some of the lemon into the bowl, as much as you like. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Don’t get vigorous with it—just a simple squeeze with your hand. You don’t want to pull out the citrus press on this one or it will be way too lemony. Then mix it all together with a fork. Once it’s mixed enough use your (clean) hands to form it into a ball. Cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve! I made little garlic toast pieces to go with it. The tang of the goat cheese and the lemon play off each other really well. It’s the foodie’s version of a cheese ball, and is a sure way to impress everyone at any of the holiday parties you attend.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cranberry Salad Dressing

After Thanksgiving and two days of leftovers, we were in serious need of some greens. I was thrilled with this healthy use of Thanksgiving leftovers.

2/3 cups of cranberry sauce
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of pomegranate juice
1 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
pinch of salt

Simply mix all ingredients and toss with your choice of greens. I decided to dress my salad up a bit with turkey, almond slices and slices of mozzarella. Easy and afterwards you won't feel weighed down or sleepy.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Iron Chef Citrus: Simple White Sangria

The first time I had white sangria was when Cara served it at Sara's Bachelorette Party. I thought it was so much better than Red Sangria. Of course, I'm not a big red wine drinker so that probably had something to do with it. The version Cara made was really good. Since the theme of Sara's Bachelorette was apples' she incorporated them into the drink. I wanted to attempt this at home, so I found this recipe. This is more of a citrus version but I'm sure you could do apples, or whatever fruit you like. I've been making this version ever since. I even got 2nd place with this drink at Iron Chef Citrus. And, if I'm not mistaken this is one of the few times a drink has placed at our fun competitions. It's very simple to make, and you will love to serve this at any party or just for yourself on a nice warm day. Enjoy!

1 Bottle of white wine (Riesling, Albarino, Chablis,Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay,Sauvignon Blanc)
2/3 cup white sugar (or you can make a simple syrup)
3 oranges (sliced) or may substitute 1 cup of orange juice) (I used both oranges and
1 lemon (sliced)
1 lime (sliced)
1/2 liter of ginger ale or club soda (ginger ale for those with a sweeter tooth!)

Take your favorite pitcher, and pour in the wine (I used Chablis); the simple syrup; the orange juice. Take your sliced oranges, limes, and lemons and squeeze into the pitcher and toss in. Lastly, add in your club soda or ginger ale. I used club soda. Add ice if the liquids are not cold otherwise you can refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!

(click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Iron Chef Spicy Recap

Sorry for the major delay in getting this recap up but finally, here it is and it is spicy! Ok, maybe not everything was spicy. In fact, except for a few items we might as well rename this Iron Chef Mild. I think most of us didn’t want to go crazy spicy, but in our respect for each other’s taste buds we ended up turning the volume too far down. That’s not to say that everything wasn’t tasty, because we had a lot of delicious food that night. But not everything was exactly spicy. Note that I’m saying “not everything.” This will become clear later.

This was a smaller crew, which ended up being great since my place doesn’t have a whole lot of counter space that isn’t reachable by my dog. He did manage to get a few pieces of toasted bread out of our first dish of the night, Laura’s Spicy Shrimp in Cream sauce. We all groaned when she announced that she made shrimp since that is our perennial winning dish, but of course we stopped groaning when we tasted it. While it wasn’t a bit spicy, the shrimp was delicious and we all appreciated having the bread to soak up that delectable cream sauce as well. Laura won a prize, just not the Iron Chef title. She came the closest to guessing how many hot tamales were in the jar! (Answer: 488)

Our second appetizer entry was from Kristy and ended up taking home the runner up title. She made Indian Spiced Pinwheels that were tasty little bites of pastry with curry and other spices inside. Sort of like a savory mini cinnamon roll. Kristy always thinks of great presentation tricks, and this time she included bits of apple carved to look like leaves. Very creative! And it’s always nice to have edible decorations.

We moved on to the sides next starting with Chelyen’s Jalapeno Popper Mac & Cheese. I mean, every single one of those words sounds like something I want to put in my mouth immediately. She even made it into convenient little cups using muffin tins that were a perfect portion, and a technique I’ll definitely be stealing. As was the theme for the night, it wasn’t as spicy as she had hoped, but that didn’t stop us from having seconds and thirds (or was that just me?).

Around this time, someone smelled something burning, and it turns out it was my side dish: Goat Cheese Tamales with Spicy Mole. Well, it was actually just the bamboo steamer that was burning, luckily. I was pretty disappointed in the tamales… they seemed pretty gummy and bland to me, although everyone else thought they were ok. The sauce was nice, although again, not as spicy as it had seemed earlier. This was my first attempt at tamales, so hopefully I will improve in the future!

We only had one main dish for the evening, but it turned out to be the only one we needed. Emily’s Spicy Pork Tacos won the night, and they were also the first actually quite spicy dish of the meal. She was inspired by Richmond’s own Boka Truck and recreated this dish based on what she had tasted in their spicy Asian tacos. They not only tasted great with a pleasant kick from sriracha and guajillo peppers, but they also looked gorgeous. Congrats to Emily!

We ended the night on a spicy note, with Cara’s Chocolate Cayenne Ice Cream and Spiced Walnuts. And when I say spicy, I mean hot, hot, hot! My love of cayenne is well documented on this site, and even I couldn’t take the heat. It was a fun combination though, with the chocolaty cool ice cream and then the heat in the back of your throat. I think that with a little balancing, this creative dish could be a great one.

There you have it! All in all, as always, we enjoyed each other’s food and each other’s company, and nobody went home with heartburn, as far as I know. I’ll call it a success! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spicy Corn Chowder w/ Cheese

I guess you could say this is corn chowder part deux! Sara posted this delicious sounding corn chowder recipe a year ago. Unfortunately, I didn't have all the ingredients, so I wasn't able to try it. But, I definitely will one day. I have been wanting to make a spicy corn chowder after trying La Parisienne's (in downtown RVA) version. It was super good. Plus, it had a bit of cheesiness along with a nice spicy kick. I found many, many corn chowder recipes, but I thought this one from sounded right up my alley. Even better I had all the ingredients save for heavy cream. But, I just grabbed that ingredient when I made a grocery store run. I have to say this soup was very, very delicious. I loved that I added cheese to it. I think next time I will only use about a cup of diced potatoes. I think 2 cups is a bit overboard. I agree with a lot of the commentators from that you don't need to use a quart of chicken stock. I just added enough so that it had a thick but just right consistency. I highly, highly recommend this soup. Enjoy!

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
lime, juice and zest of
2 tablespoons corn oil (I used olive oil)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced
1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade (I wouldn't pour all of the chicken stock in there just enough until the consistency is more like a chowder...about 3/4 of the quart)
2 cups peeled diced russet potatoes
1 teaspoons ground red chili powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 anaheim chili, stem and pith removed,seeded and chopped (I used a jalapeno pepper)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus
5 sprigs cilantro, tops for garnish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
garnish with drained salsa, if desired

Take a medium sized bowl and pour in the corn. Add the lime zest and the juice of the lime. Set aside.
Next, take your large saucepan and add in the oil and the chopped onion and sautee until the onions are soft and translucent. Add about 1/2 the quart of chicken stock, the potatoes, chili pepper, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin, and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Then cover the sauce pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the potatoes are very soft. Poke the potatoes with a fork to determine if they are soft. Add in the corn that you had set aside from earlier, and the heavy cream. Continue to cook until the soup thickens. At this point, try the soup and determine if you need to add any more of the spices and/or salt. I definitely did. When you get the seasonings just right add in the chopped cilantro. Add in your shredded cheese. I probably used about a 3/4 cup of cheese. I did not add salsa to the soup. But, feel free if you would like. And, enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Iron Chef Spicy: Spicy Pork Tacos (Boka Truck Style)

Cara's husband, Whit, looooves Boka Truck. He posts often (on facebook) about the truck coming to his office, and being excited about it. Well, a co-worker of mine also loooves the Boka Truck. It started making appearances at the Martin Agency right down the street from our building. Well, one day I decided to try it since both Whit and my co-worker seriously love it. I ordered 2 tacos; the Spicy Asian and the Mexican with pork as the meat. I first tried the asian, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I mean it was packed with flavor, spice, and cilantro. I looooved it. Then, I tried the Mexican. I mean it was good, but after eating the asian I wished I was eating that instead of the mexican taco. I've been hooked ever since on Boka's asian tacos.

Well, come to find out the next iron chef was going to be a theme instead of an ingredient. The theme was spicy! So, I immediately started looking for spicy main course recipes. My sister suggested a fish taco. I ended up making this, but it just didn't grab me. I will post this at some point in the near future.

Then, I thought to myself; why don't I try to re-create Boka Truck's asian tacos. On their website they explain what's in each of their featured tacos, so I thought I had a shot at it. I knew I had to figure out how to make kimchi, the guajillo pork, and the sesame aioli. This is where the Internet becomes your friend. I found this
recipe for guajillo pork. And, this one for sesame aioli. However, when it came to the kimchi I seriously didn't want to make this. It seemed too complicated and cumbersome. So, I went to Tan-A and purchased a bottle of it in their "refridgerated" section. I'll be sure to post a picture of it the next time I make a trip there. Next, I knew there was some kind of cabbage in the taco and cilantro and sesame seeds. While I was at Tan A, I purchased a bottle of their black sesame seeds. I knew white would work, but the black sesame seeds really livens up the taco. At Kroger, I purchased a bag of cole slaw it was on Manager Special, and I just threw away the packaged dressing. I purchased the corn tortillas and cilantro, and I already had Sriracha in my fridge. So, now I was ready to make the tacos. The pork is really simple to make and so is the sesame aioli. I know this seems like a lot, but it really isn't all that bad, and you will love it. I mean, obviously, my friends loved it since they chose me as the winner of this Iron Chef. Enjoy!

Guajillo Pork

3-4 lbs pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt
1 bay leaf

10 guajillo chiles (Whole Foods had these, but I was told that Kroger does, too)

1 large onion, peeled and cut in half through the middle
3 fresh plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons white flour

First, take your pork shoulder and cut it (carefully) into 2 inch cubes. Add the pork to a dutch oven or a large saucepan. Add in the salt and the bay leaf and pour in enough water to cover the pork. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then simmer for an hour with the lid covering the pot.

While the pork is simmering away, take your guajillo peppers and remove the stems and shake out the seeds. I did leave some of the seeds in the peppers. Take a medium sauce pan and bring 3 cups of water to a boil. While the water is boiling; take your peppers and place on a large skillet and over medium-high heat let the peppers cook until they turn a reddish color and start to crisp up some. I turned the peppers to make sure both sides were cooked. This took about 5-10 minutes. Once the peppers have crisped up some, remove from the pan and place in a medium to large bowl. Take your boiling water and pour over the peppers. Let the peppers soak for about 20-30 minutes. Set aside.

While the peppers are soaking, take a large skillet and cut your plum tomatoes length-wise and place in skillet. Do the same with the onion. Let the tomato and onion cook over medium-high heat until they are nice and charred. 
About 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and place in a blender. About this time, the pork should have simmered for an hour. Remove about 2 cups of the water from the pork, and place into the same blender as the tomatoes and onion. Puree them. Next, drain your peppers and place into the same blender and puree.
Next, remove another 2 cups of the juice from the pork. Set aside. Drain the pork and clean your pot with a paper towel. Add in the oil and flour and stir for a couple minutes until well combined.
Place the pork back in the pot, and pour in your tomato, onion, and pepper puree. Simmer for another hour with the lid covering the pot. If necessary, add some of the saved liquid to the pot if the mixture becomes too thick. I never had to do this. The recipe says to serve over rice.

But, I served on tacos!

Sesame Aioli

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about half a small lemon)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar (optional)

To make the sesame aioli; combine all of the ingredients into a small bowl. Stir to combine. I found that I needed to add more of the sesame oil and some sugar to help combat the lemon taste. Really it's up to your palette on how you think it should taste.

Remaining Taco Ingredients:
Kimchi (purchased at Tan A on West Broad Street), chopped up a bit
Corn or Flour tortillas (Corn is preferred); warmed
Cole Slaw (or any bagged shredded cabbage) without the dressing, however add a couple tablespoons of the Sesame Aioli to the cabbage and stir to combine
Black Sesame Seeds (or white if that's what you have)

Assembling the Tacos:
Take 2 warmed tortillas (I used a skillet and set to medium to medium-high heat and warmed both sides for a minute or two), and place on top of each other. Set them on a plate. Brush some of the sesame aioli on the taco. Add the cabbage to the taco. Add the kimchi (I chopped up some of the kimchi because I thought the pieces were a bit too big). Add several pieces of pork (shred a little with a knife or fork). Add some of the cilantro to the taco. Squeeze some of the sriracha onto the taco. Add a couple shakes of the sesame seeds. And, now you are ready to eat your taco (or 3). It really does taste like the Boka Truck's asian tacos. Enjoy!!

(click here for printable recipe)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beer and Cheddar Soup

How many of you utilize Kroger's digital coupons? I do, and I love it. The only bad thing about it is that you have to remember (when you go to the store) what all you had put on your kroger plus card. Well, I remembered that I had selected this digital coupon for Food & Wine magazine. It alloted me a dollar off the regular $4.99 price. Also, I knew I had till the end of October to utilize this discount. Well, I'm glad I did. The November issue of Food & Wine talks about Thanksgiving. They have plenty of other recipes as well. One of the "other" recipes I picked out was this Beer and Cheddar soup. I thought it sounded really good. I mean it contains beer, cheddar cheese, jalpenos, bacon, heavy cream. How could it possibly be bad? Well, it wasn't. Buuuut, it also wasn't totally awesome either. I definitely over-salted the soup a tad, which was a bummer. And, I ended up using smoked gouda because Whole Foods didn't have smoked cheddar. Also, I used a Pale Ale instead of a Pilsner or a lager. So, maybe it was partly my fault since I didn't follow the recipe exactly. My Dad really, really liked it. And, if you like beer then you'll love this soup. You could really taste the ale thru all that cheese. So, maybe it was just my palette.
Oh, a little tid-bit, I looked up if there are any immediate remedies for over-salting soups. I found that if you peel and quarter a large potato and let it sit in your soup for 15 minutes then discard it this will help eliminate some of the over-salting. My Dad confirmed today that it really did help. One last thing, obviously this soup is not a low-fat soup. So, I probably won't be making this soup very often. Enjoy!!

1/2 lb piece of slab bacon, sliced 1/3 inch thick (I just purchased a pack of bacon and chopped it into little pieces)
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp chopped thyme (I used 1.5 tsp of dried thyme)
1 12 oz bottle lager or pilsner
About 2 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb sharp yellow cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
4 oz smoked cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan cook your bacon pieces until crispy. Remove the bacon and place on a paper towel and then place into a small bowl. Set aside. Next, add the celery, onion, jalapeno, garlic, and thyme into the same saucepan and cook over medium heat until the onion is tender. Add half the beer to the pot and cook until reduced by half. About 5 minutes. Add 2 1/4 cups of chicken broth and bring this to a simmer.

Next, take a small skillet and melt your butter. Add in the flour and cook over medium heat. Stir the mixture until lightly browned. This could take up to 2 minutes. Incorporate the roux into the soup and bring to a simmer. Cook until the soup has thickened. This could take about 8 minutes. Add the heavy cream, the cheeses, and the remaining beer. Simmer and stir occasioinally until thick and creamy. This could take up to 5 minutes. Stir in the bacon and season with salt and pepper.

(click here for printable recipe)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bubble Up Pizza

While I generally love to cook, there are sometimes those nights where I’m just not feeling it. I’m not sure if it’s just because of a long day of work, or if I’m just in a funk, but on those nights Steve is usually subjected to me whining (and wine-ing) and we end up either ordering pizza or eating whatever we can find in the fridge (generally hummus and pita chips for me). So, when I find a recipe that looks as easy as this one for Bubble Up Pizza (from Pass the Sushi), I’m definitely game to try it. Especially when it’s what I like to call a “Stir & Plop” recipe. Just stir together the ingredients and plop them into a dish. Super easy.

But, here’s the unfortunate news. It ain’t good.

I mean, pizza is pretty hard to mess up, but this recipe made a valiant effort and, in the end, triumphed. There was hardly any flavor. It was soggy. It didn’t even smell good, and it offended the eyes. Overall, there were no redeeming qualities, and I don’t recommend making it. But in the spirit of experimentation upon which this website was built, I am posting it so this never happens to anyone else.
2 containers refrigerated biscuit dough
1 jar/can pizza sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup pepperoni (or other favorite toppings)
5 fresh basil leaves

Check out the directions on the dough and preheat accordingly. Take out a bowl, and cut your biscuit dough into small pieces. Divide each biscuit into four, which is about the right size. I used scissors to cut up the biscuits, which I think was easier than a knife. Pour in the sauce and add 3/4s of the cheese plus whatever topping you like. Kroger was inexplicably out of pepperoni, so we went with plain cheese. Stir this all up together, and then put in a baking pan or oven safe skillet. We used a cast iron skillet.

Mince the basil and sprinkle on top, along with the remainder of the cheese, then bake according to the directions on the dough. Because we used the cast iron, we ended up increasing the bake time quite a lot. Basically, just make sure the dough is cooked.

There you have it. Hopefully you can understand why I was attracted to the ease of this recipe. But as they say, if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing. Or in this case, easy come, easy go—straight into the trash can. 

(no printable recipe because, seriously, you don't want to make this.)