Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nutella Buns

Sigh. I really need to stop with the whole Nutella situation. I think I have a problem, and it's probably time I seek help from Nutella Anonymous. I'm sure such a program exists. I mean; I know I'm addicted to this stuff, and I am pretty positive others are, too. Sigh. Well, here you go. Another delicious Nutella recipe. I found this particular recipe from Saveur and decided to try it the other night. OMG. Straight out of the oven it was simply divine. I inhaled one right before I was to eat my dinner. The next day was good, but definitely not as tasty as straight out of the oven. I would suggest warming them in the oven if you eat it the following day. I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me for posting another heavenly Nutella recipe. Enjoy!

1 (¼-oz.) package active dry yeast
¼ cup, plus 1 tsp. sugar
½ cup milk
9 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
¾ cup brown sugar
⅔ cup coarsely chopped pecans
1½ cups Nutella
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Take out a small bowl and add the yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees). Stir and let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast mixture is nice and foamy. Meanwhile, take out a small saucepan and pour in the milk and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. In a mixing bowl, add 4 tbsp softened butter, remaining sugar, salt, yeast mixture, and 2 eggs. Stir in the milk and add the flour a little at a time. I actually ended up using all 4 cups. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 3 minutes. Place in a lightly-greased large bowl and then set it in a warm oven (85 degrees) so it can rise for a couple hours or until doubled in size.

Once the dough is about ready to be pulled from the warm oven, take out a small sauce pan and add the brown sugar and the remaining 4 tablespoon of butter. If you are using the pecans add them to the saucepan. Once the brown sugar and butter is melted; pour this into a 9x13 baking dish. Set aside.

Once the dough has doubled in size; remove from the oven. Now, set the oven temperature to pre-heat at 375. Then, punch down the down and let rest for a minute or two. Roll out the dough into a 15x20 rectangle. Carefully, spread the Nutella around the dough while leaving an inch border around the edges. Take your remaining egg and lightly whip. Then using a brush, dip into the egg wash and spread along the 1 inch border. Carefully, roll the dough into a log and cut using a sharp knife into 12 rounds. I think I got about 8 or 9 rolls out of the dough. Transfer rounds cut side up to the baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you are using and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the rolls are a nice golden color. Once ready, remove from the oven and let cool for a couple minutes. Serve inverted on a plate and drizzle with the syrup from the baking dish.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tilapia Meuniere

Man, I just love a delicious sauteed fish. I feel like I'm starting to get a little better at cooking fish. Maybe it's because I'm finding really yummy recipes. I used to think the only time I could eat decadent, smooth, tasty fish was at fancy restaurants,but thanks to this recipe from Barefoot Contessa I don't need to drop $30 for a decadent fish. Now, I can make it at home for about $8. This recipe is super easy and very tasty. I highly, highly recommend that you give her recipe a try. Enjoy!

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 fresh sole fillets (I used tilapia), 3 to 4 ounces each
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Take out your fish and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle salt on one side of each fish. Take a plate and add the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the fish to the flour and shake off any excess flour. Take out your saute pan and set it to medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons butter. Once the butter starts to brown in the pan; add two of the 4 fish. Lightly brown one side; gently turn over the fish and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add some of the lemon zest on top of each fish, and then add the lemon juice to the pan. Gently remove the fish from the pan and place on a plate. Pour the juice from the pan on top. Warm in a 200 degree oven, and do the above to the remaining 2 fish. Remove the fish from the oven and serve. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Breakfast Potatoes

For Christmas 2012; I wanted to do brunch with my Dad. On tap for my menu; were these Swedish tea rings, this quiche, and breakfast potatoes. I found the recipe for breakfast potatoes from The Pioneer Woman's blog. My friend, Sara, swears by her recipes, so I figured I couldn't go wrong with it either, right? Right. It was very simple to make; and I even added cayenne and paprika pepper to kick it up a notch. I wish I had made more bacon, because I would have added crumbled bacon to it, as well. My only gripe was that I wish the potatoes were crispier, but I think it's because I used white potatoes instead of the red potatoes she suggested in her recipe. Oh well. They were still quite tasty. Overall, brunch was a success!

4 whole (to 5) Large Red Potatoes
1 whole Onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Or Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Bacon Fat
Salt And Pepper, to taste
Red And Green Bell Peppers, Diced (optional)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp paprika (optional)
crumbled bacon (optional)

Wash your potatoes and throw in a large pot and boil until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and then dice 'em up. Set aside. Take out your onion and dice 'em up. Take out your saute pan and in the bacon fat and oil. I just used regular ol' bacon fat, because I can. Set the temperature to medium-high and add in the diced onion. Just as the onions are beginning to brown this is the time to throw in the diced potatoes. Stir and cook the potatoes for a couple minutes. Then kinda crowd your potatoes together and pat down with your spoon. Let sit for several minutes without stirring. Feel free to sprinkle some flour at this point. You can also add in the cayenne and paprika peppers if you so desire. The pan should be hot enough to crisp the potatoes but not so hot it'll burn 'em. Cook for several minutes and then flip with a spatula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your desired seasoning. And, keep cooking to your desired crispness. Enjoy!

Alison's Quiche

So, for the past couple years I've been going to a co-worker's Ornament Exchange party. And, every year that I've been she's made this Quiche recipe as part of her brunch menu. The first year I tried it I was pretty leery since I'm not an egg person. But, I have to admit that I really liked it. So, if you are not a big egg person I bet you will love this recipe. It doesn't taste real eggy (is that a word?) but it has that fluffiness you can expect from a cooked egg. Plus, you use a pie crust, which, if I'm being honest is my favorite part. And, you also throw in your favorite veggies and/or protein such as ham. I think that if you are a big egg person then you should really love this recipe. Give it a try and I'm sure you won't regret it. Enjoy!

1/2 cup veggies of your choice, diced (Mushrooms, Green Pepper, Onions, Asaparagus)
1/2 cup cooked diced ham
3 eggs
1 cup Half and Half
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded swiss cheese
2 tbsp flour
1 pre-baked pie shell

Cook your vegetables in 2 tablespoons of butter until nice and soft. I used green peppers and onions. Set aside. Since I used diced pre-cooked ham I didn't bother sauteing them.
Next, take a medium bowl and mix the eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper. Then, mix the flour with the cheese in a medium bowl. Now, take out your packaged pie crust; pour in the veggies and diced ham. Add in the cheese and then carefully pour the egg mixture over the cheese. Place the quiche on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Then, drop your oven temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes. The quiche is ready when a knife inserted doesn't come out runny. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

Barefoot Contessa's Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

I made this recipe for a friend's 40th birthday party a year ago, and I remember it being such a hit that I decided to make it again for a White Elephant Christmas party. I think Ina Garten hit the nail on the head with this appetizer. I love me a ham and cheese sandwich, but adding puff pastry to the mix just takes this rather plain sandwich to another level. Also, substituting gruyere cheese in place of swiss cheese makes it even fancier. And, using Dijon mustard instead of plain ol' yellow mustard takes it to gourmet status. Plus, it's super simple to make and tastes yummy! Really. Give this fancy version of the plain ol' ham and cheese a try and you will want to make it for your next party! Enjoy!

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 pound black forest ham, sliced
1/2 pound Swiss Gruyere cheese, sliced
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

First, roll out your puff pastry so that it's around 10 by 12 inches. If you have trouble rolling it like I did then just skip this part. The sandwich will still taste the same. Next, spread the dijon mustard on the puff pastry, but leave space around the edges. Then, add the ham and then the cheese. Brush the border with the egg wash. Be sure to roll out the second puff pastry to 10 by 12 inches or just leave it as is, but either way you need to place this on top of the filled pastry. Pinch the edges together to help seal the two puff pastries together. Gently, brush with the egg wash and slice small slits so that steam can escape while baking. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and then gently move the puff pastry to the baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is a lovely golden color. Serve hot or warm.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Martha Washington Candies

Who doesn’t love candy? And, who doesn’t love chocolate, pecans, butter, and coconut? Well, if you are like me and you love all 4 of those ingredients then you will love these Martha Washington Candies. I used to make these candies all the time at Christmas back in my college years, because they are really super simple to make. But, be warned; they make a ton. And, you will probably find yourself popping a few in your mouth; you know, just to make sure they taste okay. This is another recipe where I think my mother got it from her mother. But, either way it’s super creamy and delicious. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

4 sticks butter, melted
1 2 pound bag of powdered sugar
2 cups chopped pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
10 oz bag of coconut
1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ block of paraffin wax (find in the canning section of your grocery store)

Take a large bowl, and combine all these ingredients thru the coconut. Mix well. Set in the fridge for a couple hours to cool.
Around the 2nd hour, take out a small saucepan and combine the wax and the chocolate. Let  the mixture melt over medium heat. Once the mixture is melted; set the heat on low/warm. Now, remove the candy mixture from your fridge, and using a small ice cream scooper; scoop out the candy, roll into a ball, and dip into the chocolate mixture. I used a slotted spoon to help coat the candies in chocolate. It can get pretty messy with your hands. Then, place the candies on a wire rack with parchment paper under it so the candies can set. It should make around 60+ candies. Best to keep in the freezer as they can get really soft if left at room temperature. Enjoy!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Clusters

You know what’s good? Simple. Easy. Uncomplicated. Especially during the time of year when things are often busy, difficult and stress-inducing. And these little clusters are the epitome of simple. Just 4 ingredients, a microwave, and some wax paper and you’ve got a simple little chocolatey candy that tastes really impressive. I love to include these in my Christmas cookie gifts because I always overcommit myself to difficult cookies and these are a lifesaver to fill out the tin at the last minute. (And hey, I hear Santa is a big fan as well).

12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
10 oz peanut butter chips
3 cups (give or take) unsalted peanuts
Sea salt for garnish

Are you ready for this? Simply empty the bags of chocolate and peanut butter chips into a large microwave safe bowl. Melt them. This is really easy if you have a melt setting on your microwave, but if not, just make sure to keep the power on fairly low and check it often. Melt until you can stir it together with no lumps and make sure the chocolate and peanut butter is completely combined. Then pour in your peanuts. You might want to start with fewer nuts and stir it in, then see where you are as far as your nut to chocolate ratio. You can always add more.

Once your nuts are stirred in, set out some wax paper on your countertop. Use a big spoon to drop clusters of these chocolate nuts. This will get messy, I promise. Just go slow and don’t lick your fingers until you’re done. Once you’ve laid out your clusters, go back and sprinkle just a touch of sea salt on top before they’ve completely set. If you wait too long, the salt will not stick, so you may have to work in batches. And that’s it! I guarantee you’ll get lots of compliments and guess what, you don’t have to tell anyone how easy it is to make. I won’t tell. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mint Chocolate Cookies

I love these cookies. In fact, you guys, I’m going to make a bold statement here. These are my favorite cookies. BOOM! That’s right. Favorite. Which explains why I only make them once a year. Because if I made them as often as I think about them (all the time) and ate them as often as I’d like to (all the time) I would have to be rolled into the office. Or maybe transported on a flatbed truck. Because they are THAT good. I mean, as long as you like chocolatey, fudgy cookies topped with delicious swirled Andes mints. You know, if you enjoy that sort of fabulous thing.

Anyway, I make these once a year, every year, for Christmas. I try to give most of them away, but I find myself making bigger and bigger batches so that I have plenty to keep for myself too. In the recipe book where we found this gem, there are post it notes stuck in with the measurements for double, triple, and quadruple batches. My mom used to make them when I was a kid, but I took over as soon as I could and have been making them ever since. I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you add them to your repertoire. Or you could always become my good friend and you’ll get them from me. Once a year.

2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. water
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 egg
1 ¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
8 to 12 oz. Andes mints

In a saucepan over low heat, combine the brown sugar, butter and water. You want to stir often as the butter melts so that the brown sugar doesn’t burn on the bottom. Stir until the butter is completely melted (be patient!) and then pour in your chocolate chips and stir continuously. Again, make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn on the bottom. When the chips are completely melted and you no longer see any lumps and bumps, pour the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Beat in one egg, and then add the flour and soda on top. Mix the soda into the flour before stirring it all together. Make sure that the flour is completely mixed in, but don’t over mix. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to make the next step easier.

Roll the dough out into 1-inch (or so) balls and place on a cookie sheet. You’ll cook them at 350 for about 7 minutes. You may have to adjust your cooking time based on your oven, and also for the first batch it usually takes a minute more (I think because the pan is cool). They should be puffed up and fragile looking with some crackles in the cookie.

While they are baking, unwrap your Andes mints and cut them in half. Take the cookies out and place a mint half on each cookie. Just barely push it down, just enough to create a tiny dip—don’t press the mint actually down into the cookie. Put them back in the oven for just one minute, and then pull them out again. With a butter knife, swirl the melted mint on top of the cookie a bit like frosting. You don’t need to cover the whole cookie, just the top. Then let them sit and cool for a few minutes. If you try to move them right away, they are likely to fall apart, but as they cool they hold together a little more. After a few minutes, remove them to some wax paper to cool fully before storing. Or before putting them directly in your mouth. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry

It’s starting to get downright wintery around here these days. And while cold weather makes me miserable when I’m out in it (particularly when I’m out in it at 3am with a barking dog) it makes me happy when I’m either snuggled under the comforter in bed, or when I’m able to have my favorite soups. Whew, that was a long sentence. Still with me? Ok. So, soup. Man, that stuff is good. Warms your insides up. Butternut Squash Soup is a classic and it seems like everyone has their own favorite recipe. I decided to try a new one and found this on food52. I of course modified it because that’s just how I do. Plus, to me a soup is a constant adjustment. You taste it, and adjust. Not creamy enough? Add more cream (or cream cheese, or sour cream, or Greek yogurt). Not enough flavor? Add some spices. So follow this recipe to start, but then get out a nice clean spoon and start adjusting.

2 Tbsps unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 3-to-4-pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
¼ Tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ Tsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
3 Tbsps dry sherry
2 to 3 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup milk
4oz cream cheese (optional)
½ Tsp cayenne (optional)

Get out your nice big soup pot or Dutch oven and melt butter over medium low heat. Cook your chopped onion in the butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in your squash, nutmeg, pepper and a half teaspoon of salt and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often. Add in the sherry and reduce for a few minutes, then pour in enough chicken broth or stock to cover the squash. I used about 3 cups. If you want to make it vegetarian just use veggie broth, but I personally like the taste of chicken broth a lot better. Turn up the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil, then take it back down to a simmer. Let it simmer for 20 minutes partially covered, or until the squash is fork tender.

If you have an immersion blender, this part is way easier than if you don’t. Blend together the soup with the milk. If you don’t have an immersion, you’ll have to blend it in batches in your blender. Be careful! At this point start to adjust. I like my soups to be a little bit creamier, so I added in some cream cheese. Just be careful to blend it in well or you will have little bits of cream cheese floating around. I also added cayenne pepper for some spice. If the soup is too thick, just add more chicken broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. The original recipe also said to stir in a “splash” of sherry just before serving, but I skipped it. Taste and adjust the spices and when you like what you taste, serve it up! It’s a great soup for those chilly days.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Barbecued Mahi Mahi

Someone recently told me that Mahi Mahi is actually dolphin. I was pretty sure they were wrong, but also quite horrified to think that all this time I had been eating Flipper. Turns out it’s dolphinfish, which is not the same thing as a dolphin at all. I saw a photo and it’s not even cute, so don’t worry. I can see why people prefer to call it Mahi Mahi though, to avoid the confusion. Anyway, the point is that Mahi Mahi is not dolphin but it IS very delicious. It’s a sturdier white fish, more like salmon in texture and meatiness. It holds up really well to spice and big flavor, so I knew this recipe would be a tasty one. I found it on the blog Ezra Pound Cake. I decided not to do the pesto on top, and it was really good without it. If anything, I’d maybe add a bit more of the dark brown sugar, just another half teaspoon or so. The sweetness went really well with this fish.

2 Tbsps Spanish Paprika
1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Powder
2 Tsps Cumin
2 Tsps Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Chile de Arbol powder
1 Tsp Kosher Salt
1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
4 8 oz Mahi Mahi filets
Olive Oil

First of all, I could not find the Chile de Arbol powder, so I went with a Mexican Chile powder. Not sure that it made much difference. This is super easy to make. Just mix together all the spices in a small bowl. Lightly oil the fish on both sides, then sprinkle the spice mixture over one side of the filets. Make sure the filets are covered, but shake off excess spice mixture.

Heat up the grill and grill the filets rub side down first. It should only be about 2 to 3 minutes per side before they are done and ready to eat. We grilled them alongside asparagus, which took about the same time. Really simple, flavorful, and healthy as well. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

I generally am not a muffin person. I don’t know why. I just prefer cookies. Or the occasional cake. Or, mmmm… ice cream. Or cheesecake…yum! Okay getting side tracked. Anyway, during my recent vacation I had an extra zucchini lying around (who doesn’t) and decided that zucchini muffins were the way to go. And not just plain old zucchini, but chocolate chocolate chip zucchini. I found the recipe on From Ketchup to Chutney and they turned out pretty good. I may have overbaked them just slightly because they weren’t as moist as I would like, but still very tasty. And for anyone worried, you don’t taste the zucchini at all.

I did make a few tiny adjustments. The original recipe called for half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour and I just used AP flour for the whole thing. It also called for plain yogurt and I used plain Greek yogurt since I had some. One little thing that threw me was the orange zest. In the future, I might leave it out. I’m not a big fan of chocolate and citrus, and the orange smell was definitely prevalent the first day. However it did dissipate after that first day, so maybe it’s fine. If you do like the citrus-chocolate combination, by all means, leave it in. The recipe also said that it only made 24 mini-muffins but it made almost three times that.

1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 ¼ cups shredded zucchini
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of ½ orange
2 ½ cups white flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
8 oz chocolate chips

Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. Either line your muffin tins or spray them with Pam. In a large bowl, beat or whisk together the sugar, oil and vanilla, then beat in one egg at a time until smooth, followed by the yogurt. Stir in the citrus zest and the grated zucchini.

I usually don’t advocate separate bowls for wet and dry ingredients, but for this recipe I would make an exception. So in a separate bowl stir together your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Make sure they are mixed thoroughly. Add half the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir (by hand, not mixer!) until it’s just mixed, before adding the rest. You don’t want to overmix, so just make sure that it’s all incorporated and that’s it. Add in your chocolate chips and stir briefly.

Fill your muffin cups three quarters full and bake. I made mini muffins so I baked each batch about 13 minutes. If I did it again I might try a batch at 11 minutes and see if they are any more moist. Full size muffins cook for 15-20 minutes.

I think my favorite part of making these was giving some to a couple male friends (mostly for them to take to their families). I didn’t think zucchini was such a weird ingredient but they both balked and said, “Chocolate chip—what?” Later one of them referred to the muffins as “Rutabaga-asparagus or something.” So I guess as long as your guests or kids aren’t as picky as those two, you’ll be set. 

Tacos al Pastor

There’s a great little Mexican place in Richmond called Tio Pablo. It’s relatively new and since it’s tucked away down in Shockoe Bottom, it’s somewhat unknown. I ate there with a friend for lunch recently and judging by the really delicious flavors, it won’t be unknown for long. One of the tacos I had was the al Pastor, which is basically spicy pork with pineapples. Pairing the spiciness of the pork marinade with the sweetness of the pineapple was a truly wonderful combination, so I decided to try it at home.

I found the recipe on this beautiful site called I Am A FoodBlog. It’s a very simple recipe but one of the ingredients, the achiote paste, was difficult to find. I expect you could get it at a Hispanic focused grocery. We found a (completely inauthentic) substitute recipe made from things you probably already have at home, and it turned out fantastic. It had tons of flavor, it’s bright and colorful, and pretty easy to make, considering. The only thing that we felt was missing was a little bit of Mexican Crema to cool it down a little. If you don’t like very spicy food, I would cut down on the chipotle chiles.  

3 1/2 ounce package achiote paste (or the substitute below)
3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, plus 4 tablespoons canning sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1.5 pounds thinly sliced pork shoulder
1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
diced onion
chopped cilantro
taco tortillas

Combine your achiote paste, chipotles, adobo sauce, and vegetable oil in a food processor or blender. As I’m re-reading the recipe I realize that they also added ¾ cup of water, but I missed that. It turned out great without the water, so I personally would just leave it out. Maybe if you want to dilute the spiciness a little it would help, though. Blend this all up and pour over your sliced pork in a bowl or a baggie to marinate for at least an hour. We let it marinate for about 3 hours.

If you can’t find the achiote paste this is the substitute we used. Like I said above, I’m positive that this is not authentic because it doesn’t use annatto seeds. However, if you can’t find the paste, I think finding annatto seeds will also be a challenge. This substitute uses ingredients you already have around the house. Just blend these ingredients together first, then follow the directions above.

Achiote Substitute
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. white vinegar
3 Tbsps. paprika
1 ½ Tsps. dried oregano
½ Tsp. ground cumin

To cook the pork, heat up a little oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. You want it to be hot, but not so hot that it smokes up your entire kitchen. Believe me, we did that and this spicy marinade is not so pleasant to breath into your lungs so be careful. Grill the meat in small batches until they are cooked and have a nice char on them. If you’ve sliced them thinly enough it shouldn’t take much more than a minute per side. Set them aside while you grill the pineapple in the same pan. They’ll get some of the marinade flavor on them from the pan. Just brown them up; it should only take a few minutes. Spoon pork and pineapple into your warm tortillas and top with the chopped red onions and cilantro. I also added about a tablespoon of the pineapple juice into the onion and cilantro to make more of a fresh salsa. I think some sour cream or Mexican crema would be a great added flavor as well. Try these, and then hit up Tio Pablo and try some of their other wonderful tacos as well! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sweet Potato Casserole

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving meal is not Turkey, not mashed potatoes, nor is it stuffing. It's sweet potato casserole. Yes, as a child I did not like this dish either. I seriously was missing out especially since there's a yummy sweetness to it. I found this  recipe about 10 years ago, and I've been making it ever since. If you don't like coconut flakes, you can omit those, but I think it goes great with the casserole. I was at Thanksgiving lunch at a friend's house, and her 5 year-old niece refused to try the sweet potatoes. I could certainly empathize with her, but I thought to myself; oh, one day you will realize how silly you were to not give it a shot. Enjoy!!

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 5 sweet potatoes, boiled until softened, skin removed)
3/4 c white sugar
1/3 c butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c mlk

1 c flaked coconut
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c chopped pecans
1/3 c melted butter

Preheat you oven to 350 degrees. Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, white sugar, soft butter, beaten eggs, vanilla, and milk. Spoon into a 2 quart oven proof baking dish.
Next, in a medium bowl combine the coconut, flour, brown sugar, nuts, and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes and then bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Pecan Pie

Continuing with the dessert theme; I made a Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving dinner for my dad and I. Now, I wasn't always a big Thanksgiving dessert fan. Throughout the years, my families dessert menu consisted of Pumpkin pie (yuck), Apple pie,(double-yuck), and Pecan Pie. Growing up, I'm not sure I even ate dessert after our dinner. I've never been a fan of cooked apples, didn't care for the taste of pumpkin pie, and I don't think I even tried pecan pie. Eventually, I came around, and even though I still don't like cooked apples; I'm definitely a fan of Pecan and Pumpkin pies. This recipe is similar to the one my mother baked for our traditional Thanksgiving dinners. The recipe is from Joy of Cooking and the crust is from Cook's Illustrated. Unfortunately, I tad over-cooked the pie, but it still tasted great! If you want a traditional pie for Thanksgiving then I definitely recommend this Pecan Pie recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients for Crust:
1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 pieces and chilled
4-6 tbsp ice water

Ingredients for Pie filling:
1/4 c butter (room temperature)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 c light corn syrup or molasses
1 to 1 1/2 c  broken peanuts or walnuts
1 tsp vanilla or 1 tbsp rum
1/2 tsp salt

For the Pie Crust
To make the pie crust, process the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor until combined. Scatter shortening on top and process until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter over top and pulse mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.
Transfer the mixture into a medium bowl and sprinkle 4 tbsp of the ice water over the mixture.  Stir and press the dough together until it sticks together. If dough doesn't come together then add more water a tablespoon at a time until it does.
Get out a plastic sheet, and turn the dough unto the plastic sheet and flatten into a 4-inch disk. Wrap tightly and then refrigerate for about an hour. Before rolling out the dough, let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes. (Dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let dough thaw completely on counter before rolling it out.)
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into 12-inch circle on lightly floured surface. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 9-inch pie plate, letting excess dough hang over the edge. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into the bottom with the other hand. Leave any dough that overhangs plate in place. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond the lip of the pie plate. Tuck overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Crimp dough evenly around edge of pie using your fingers. Wrap dough-lined pie plate loosely in plastic and place in your freezer until the dough is fully chilled and firm, about 30 minutes, before using. Once pie is fully chilled, remove from the freezer and poke some holes into the dough using a fork. This will help it to not bubble up while cooking. Cook the pie for about 5 to 8 minutes. It will be fully cooked once the filling is poured into it. Remove pie from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Then, we'll add in the filling and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

For the filling:
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the light corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Fill the partially baked pie shell. Cover the edge of the pie plate with foil, so that the outer pie crust doesn't burn. I wish I had done this because my crust burned. The Joy of Cooking cookbook says to turn the oven up to 450 degrees, but I felt that was a bit too warm. I would set it to 425, instead. Let bake for 40 minutes until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the filling. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

If there's one dessert that always hits the spot it's chocolate chip cookies. I posted this chocolate chip cookie recipe more than a year ago, which is absolutely fabulous, but you have to wait till the next day before you can eat them. However, these thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies are great if you want to satisfy that craving now! I found this recipe in my handy Cook's Illustrated cookbook. These cookies remind me of the ones my Grandma use to bake and then freeze. Their thin, crispy, and would taste great frozen or at room temperature. My grandma always froze her cookies, and I always knew to check the freezer for those goodies. I doubt she noticed a couple were missing. ;) Enjoy!

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 lg egg yolk
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 c semisweet chocolate chips

First, adjust your oven to the middle rack position and set your oven to 375 degrees. Then, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Now, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Take the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat the melted butter, the sugars, and corn syrup on low speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Then add in the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla; mix until fully incorporated and smooth, about another minute. With mixer running on low, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll into balls, and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are a deep golden brown and flat, about 10-12 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway thru to ensure even baking. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sweet potato shepherd's pie

This was adapted from my favorite recipe website which means it’s the perfect combination of warm comfort food and low calories. I actually don’t like sweet potatoes but the chicken broth, garlic and sour cream gave the potato topping a creamy savory flavor that was simply delicious.

Sweet potato topping
1-1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled, diced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fat free chicken broth
3 Tbsp reduced fat sour cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil sweet potatoes until soft. Drain then return to pan and mash with chicken broth, garlic, sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meat filling
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 parsnip, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
10 oz frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

Sauté ground turkey until brown seasoning with salt and pepper. Add onion, celery, and parsnip. Cook about 10 minutes, until onions are clear and celery is soft. Next add garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally add frozen vegetables, chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer on low about 15 minutes.

In a 9x13 oven safe dish spread the meat filling evening across the bottom. Add a heaping spoonful of the potato topping over each section and spread smooth to cover the meat filling. Use a fork to scrape the top of the potatoes to make a grid pattern across the top (it just makes it feel fancy). Sprinkle the potatoes with paprika. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

French Onion Soup

So here goes my one post, every six months? Maybe not even that frequently? I'm so thankful I get to be a part of this awesome blog despite my infrequent posts. I look to this blog for new recipes and if I want to try something different, so it's very convenient.

Okay, so I have officially moved OUT of the in-laws and into my own apartment. That means I have my own kitchen, and I am so excited to be able to start cooking up a storm. Since the temperatures outside dropped for a bit, I thought a nice soup for dinner would be a great idea, and I have never made any kind of soup before. In trying to figure out what kind of soup I could make with ingredients I already had, french onion soup came to mind. I already had onions, wine, cheese, and bread. Not to mention Joe loves french onion soup.  This recipe from Food Network is what I chose to go by, and there was some as-I-go changes and adjustments because the time frames listed in the recipe were completely inaccurate. Well, at least they were for me. It definitely did not take 25 minutes to caramelize the onions, and it took way more than 5 minutes to evaporate the wine. Whoever wrote the instructions to this soup probably should revamp it. So here goes what I actually did, and it turned out pretty tasty!

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced (I used 5 small onions)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs (I didn't have fresh thyme so I sprinkled in some dried thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle (I used what I had in stock, Chianti which worked out well)
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere (I just used shredded Kraft Swiss, which was still quite delicious)

In a large pot, melt a stick of butter. As the butter melts and warms up, slice all your onions and chop up garlic. You can make your onions as big or as small as you want for the soup. I sliced some onions and chopped some just for the fun of it. Saute your onions until they caramelize in the butter with garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. This took me about 15 minutes or so. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until wine has evaporated. The original recipe said 5 minutes, but this took about another 15 minutes. I could have very well not had the heat high enough, but what I did worked out just fine. Once the wine has mostly evaporated remove bay leaves and fresh thyme, add flour and stir. Cook for about five more minutes. Pour all of the broth into the pot and bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. I didn't add any more salt and pepper because the broth had plenty of salt. For a little different twist, I cut the baguette into cubes, toasted them in a pan with butter to make croutons. To serve, ladle soup into a bowl, drop a handful of shredded Swiss cheese into soup (or more handfuls of cheese if you so desire) and float croutons on top. Voila! Yummy french onion soup. Just beware your entire house will smell like onions for at least a day - consider opening a window or lighting candles.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Light Sesame Chicken

Well, I just made this recipe tonight, and I have to say it's definitely a keeper. I've been on a bit of an Asian kick lately. I think ever since I tried Peter Chang's restaurant this summer I've been inspired. I wasn't necessarily looking for an Asian-inspired recipe, though. Really, I was looking for a new chicken tenders recipe. Well, I went to the tried and true Tastespotting website, entered chicken in the search engine, and came across this recipe for Lighter Sesame Chicken. I kicked it up a notch by adding a tsp of sesame oil, a tsp of red pepper flakes, and a dash of cayenne pepper. I didn't have broccoli nor onions, but I didn't notice. It was really, really good. I practically licked my plate, and that's saying a lot. It's healthy and delicious. Give it a whirl and I bet you will love it, too. Enjoy!
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg white
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 small chicken breasts (12oz), cut into 2″ pieces
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups broccoli florets

First, take out a medium-sized bowl and combine the red pepper flakes, sesame oil, cayenne pepper, honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic. Stir well and set aside. Take out your chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper. Take out a medium-sized bowl and combine the egg white and cornstarch. Stir well. Toss the chicken pieces into the corn starch mixture. Get out your sautee pan and add the oil and set the heat to about medium to medium-high. At this point if you are making rice; I would get this going. Add the chicken pieces to the sautee pan and cook both sides for about 5 to 10 minutes. Once the chicken is cook thru; remove the pan from the heat and add some of the prepared sauce and the green onions if using. If using the broccoli; be sure to steam in a saucepan until crisp and tender. Then, add the broccoli to the chicken mixture. Spoon some of the remaining sauce over your rice and add chicken on top. Enjoy!

Friday, November 9, 2012

World's Best Lasagna

Growing up I wasn’t the biggest fan of lasagna. I thought it was just okay, but it wasn’t something I craved. I think the ricotta cheese was something I didn’t enjoy. For me; it was a bit too tangy. Maybe if it had more cheese in it than ricotta I would have enjoyed it more. Fast-forward 20 years later; and I have become a big fan of lasagna. I think the reason for this is now I can look for my own recipes and try them myself. Plus, I can add a ton of cheese if I so desire. Well, a while back I came across this recipe.
It had great reviews, and though the recipe seemed a bit daunting with all the ingredients;I was eager to give it a whirl. I’m really glad I did. It’s probably the best lasagna I’ve ever had. You make your own meat sauce, it has a ton of cheese (and, yes, even ricotta), and it makes a ton of it. I made this the other night; and my Dad raved that it’s one of the best things he’s ever had even in restaurants. So, go make it and you will not regret it one bit. Enjoy!

1 lb. sweet Italian Sausage (or just regular Italian sausage)
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
½ cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
2 (6 oz) cans tomato sauce
½ cup water
2 tbsp white sugar
1 ½ tsp dried basil leaves
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ tsp salt
¾ lb. mozzarella cheese
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

First, get out your Dutch oven or large pot; and sauté the ground beef, sausage, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Next, stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water. Then, season with the sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp of the parsley. Simmer, covered, for about an hour and a half. Stir occasionally.

About an hour and fifteen minutes into the sauce simmering; take out a large pot and pour water and a little salt to cook the noodles in. Bring to a boil and cook the lasagna noodles for about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl; combine the ricotta cheese, egg, ½ tsp salt, and remaining parsley. Stir well.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Get out a 9x13 baking dish and pour 1 ½ cups of the meat sauce into the bottom of the dish. Spread the meat sauce. Next, arrange 6 of the noodles lengthwise across the meat sauce and spread half the ricotta mixture over the noodles, evenly. Top with a third of the mozzarella slices and then spoon 1 ½ cups of the meat sauce over the mozzarella and sprinkle ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Take some foil out to cover the baking dish; but first spray the foil with cooking spray so the cheese does not stick. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ga Kho Chicken

I’m a sucker for chicken cooked in a killer sauce and served over rice. If you check out my past recipes, that’s definitely a theme. So I figured this recipe would be right up my culinary alley. It turned out… fine. A little sweet for my tastes, but I know there are people who love that. The comments on the blog where I found this, The Ravenous Couple, were nothing but raves, so maybe it was the fact that we couldn’t get our chicken to caramelize that made us miss out on some flavor. Anyway, this isn’t going to go into regular rotation for us, but if you like a sweet, flavorful sauce, then this might be the one for you!

4-6 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup water
4 cloves of crushed garlic
2 tbs chopped ginger or lemongrass
1 large shallot minced
2 tbs soy sauce for marinade
1 tbs brown sugar for marinade
2-3 serrano chiles
2 green onions, sliced
fresh cracked pepper
2 tbs cooking oil

Start by marinating the chicken with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. The original recipe called for fish sauce, but as my husband so delicately put it, “It smells like feet.” Soy sauce is a good substitute, but go ahead use fish sauce if you know you like it. Marinate for a half hour at least.

In the meantime, you can make your sauce in a small bowl. Combine the brown sugar, soy sauce (or fish sauce), rice vinegar and water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add in the shallot, garlic, and ginger and stir before setting aside.

Heat oil in a large pan and put in the chicken with the meatier side of the thigh facing down. This is where the original recipe wanted you to get some good caramelization, but it just didn’t work for us. Maybe because we have a nonstick pan? Anyway, allow it to sear without touching or moving the chicken for a minute or two and then pour in a quarter of the sauce. You’ll want to leave the chicken alone, again so that it gets a good sear on it (hopefully).

Cook for just a few minutes and check the chicken to see if it’s caramelized, or at least just nice and browned. Then you can turn it over and add the rest of the sauce. I also added in the chiles here because I wanted them to cook a little, although the recipe called to add them at the end. Top with cracked black pepper and serve over rice. The sauce will thicken even more once it is off the heat, and you definitely want the rice to soak it up. Like I said, it was very flavorful, just a little sweet for my tastes maybe. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Palm Beach Brownies

When I was about 23 years old; I went to Vero Beach, Florida to visit my Aunt and Uncle. My cousin met me out there and we had a wonderful time. It was a lot of firsts for me during that trip. I went on my first boat ride, ate my first sushi, tried crab legs for the first time; saw my cousin in a play for the first time, etc. Eating brownies that my aunt had made wasn’t necessarily a first, but these brownies were to die for. They’re appropriately called Palm Beach Brownies. They have a crunchy outer crust and a soft inner layer. They are really good. I loved them so much that she gave me the recipe and I’ve been making them ever since. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them, too!

Makes 16 huge or 24 or more extra- large brownies
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
5 lg eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dry instant espresso or other powdered (not granular) instant coffee
3 3/4 cups sugar
1 2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
8 ounces (2 generous cups) walnut halves (optional)
First, adjust your rack 1/3 from the bottom of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Next, take a 9x13 baking pan; turn it over and cover it with a piece of aluminum foil and press down the foil around sides of the pan using your hands. Remove the foil and turn the pan over then press the foil into the pan. Spray the foil with cooking spray.
Take a small saucepan and place over a large saucepan filled about ¼ of the way with water, then melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over medium heat. Stir occasionally to help melt the chocolate and butter. Once melted removed the chocolate mixture from the heat and set aside to let cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, dry instant espresso or coffee, and sugar at high speed for 10 minutes. Turn the speed down to low and add in the chocolate mixture. Beat only till just mixed. Next, add in the flour and beat only till just mixed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the nuts, if using.
Pour the brownie mixture into your prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the pan to ensure even baking. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. If you insert a toothpick into the brownies it will come out wet even so it is done. Remove the brownies from the oven and let cool. Carefully, remove the brownie from the pan by lifting the foil. Cover with foil and refrigerate for several hours or leave it at room temperature over night. Use a serrated bread knife to cut into the brownies as they will be very sticky. Wrap brownies individually with foil or seal in an air tight container separating each layer with wax paper.