Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

After being a poor contributor in the past, I have decided to try to actually do something about that. It seems to be easier to make writing down what I cook a point since I don't do much these days except, well, be at home doing home stuff. I think cooking falls in that category! Last night I made a variation of a stuffed peppers recipe after reading about 4 or 5 different recipes, none of which appealed to me. The last time I made stuffed peppers of any kind, it was with Stove Top stuffing and probably about 5 years ago? The ex-boyfriend didn't like rice--should have known then that it wasn't meant to be. Anyway, onto the main event!

5  bell peppers (can use any you prefer, red or yellow, etc. I used green)
1  lb Italian seasoned ground turkey
1  small onion
2  jalapenos (optional)
2  to 3 cloves of garlic, more to your liking
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
2  to 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (I used 2 cups but think 3 would be better)
2  8 ounce cans tomato sauce
Olive oil 

The spices I hardly measure, but did my best to keep track. You can tweak the amounts if needed:
Salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper)
About 1/2 teaspoon or so of Paprika
1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper (Joe and I like a little kick but this is optional as well)

Directions: Place rice in a pot with about a cup of water and cook until water is absorbed. Meanwhile, chop off the tops of the peppers and gut them. Rinse and set aside. Dice the onion and jalapenos, and finely chop the garlic. For less spice, remove all seeds and insides from jalapenos.
Heat olive oil in a pan, add the chopped goodies and garlic. Saute for about 2/3 minutes. Add ground turkey to the pan. Cook until no longer pink. The ground turkey can come already seasoned which I prefer. It just adds something to the meat. If you have regular ground turkey, you can always add Italian seasonings to the mix.

Remove from heat. Add 1 can tomato sauce, cooked rice, spices, and cheese. Mix it all up! Leave enough cheese to sprinkle on top of the stuffed peppers. Lightly grease a baking dish. Fill peppers with stuffing, and place in the baking dish, pour the other 8 ounce can of tomato sauce over the peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour until peppers are tender. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese left aside on tops of the peppers and bake for an additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with garlic bread, or any choice of sides. Yum!

(Click for printable recipe)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Carne Asada Tacos

I went to a really fun Cinco de Mayo party a few weeks ago that seemed to wake up the taco-lovin’, guac eatin’, Mexican food aficionado in me. And then when I was browsing food blogs and came across a GORGEOUS one called “I Am a Food Blog” that was featuring a flat iron carne asada recipe, I knew that the Fates were sending me a sign. A cilantro-y, citrus-y, spicy sign.

I love me a simple but flavorful recipe, and this nailed it. I only slightly adjusted a few amounts for the sake of personal taste, and we also used one habanero instead of two chiles. Marinate it for just about an hour and you’ve got tender, juicy steak with cilantro and red onion (and a little sour cream because I can) all wrapped up in a tortilla. It may not be authentically Mexican, but it was good—and that’s really all we’re looking for, right?

1 pound flat-iron steak, sliced
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1-2 chilies, minced (to taste)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon pureed kiwi

Mix all the ingredients except for the steak in a bowl. Use whatever chile you like. We used one habanero, which was nice and spicy. But use jalapeno or Serrano or whatever else you like. Slice your steak pretty thinly and add it to the marinade, stirring to cover. Marinate it for up to an hour. Don’t go any further though—the acid in the kiwi will break down your steak, and who wants broken down steak?

Heat up your cast iron skillet until it is really stinkin’ hot (be careful!) and then add the meat. Hopefully you get a nice big sizzle, or else it wasn’t hot enough. Cook until the meat is browned, which won’t take very long. If I was going to nit-pick, my only complaint would be that I wanted the meat to get a little bit of caramelization on the outside. Just a little extra brownness. I think the liquid (from the marinade and released from the meat) is what stopped that from happening. In the future I might drain that out a little or make sure that the cast iron is really, really hot.

We toasted up our tortillas on the grill, which was a nice easy touch. I garnished with cilantro, red onion and sour cream, but pick your favorite toppings and salsas (maybe throw in some guac!). They are small enough that you can have two or three. Or if you’re my husband, six.

(Click for printable recipe)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Iron Chef Honey - Honey Glazed Doughnuts

Okay. Okay. I know this was probably one of my worse Iron Chef showings, but really we only had 5 people total. And, I promise you this doughnut is really, really delicious. I probably should have known going into it that not eating these doughnuts right away would probably be my demise. I contemplated making a Honey Cake with a Honey Frosting, but that's been done before. And, I really wanted to do something different; something no one else had tried. So, I decided to stick with these doughnuts (courtesy of All Recipes) even though I knew it would not taste as awesome 3 hours later as it would hot out of the oil. My other downfall was that I decided to use whipped cinnamon honey that I purchased from the Farmer's Market earlier in the day to make my chocolate glaze instead of regular ol' honey. I probably would have done better than fourth had I just stuck with regular honey instead of trying to kick it up a notch. I made a honey sugar glaze and a  chocolate honey glaze. Stick with regular honey and you won't regret it. Live and learn, I guess. But, seriously, make these doughnuts and eat them right away. You won't regret it. Enjoy!

Ingredients for doughnuts:
2 (.25 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 quart vegetable oil for frying

I used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast. Please go to All Recipes to view their directions on using Active Dry Yeast. I'll proceed with my directions for instant yeast.

Grab your standing mixture bowl and add in the instant yeast, the sugar, salt, shortening, 3 cups of flour, the lukewarm milk, warm water, and eggs.  Beat at low speed and gradually add in 1/2 cup at a time the remaining flour. Beat for 5 minutes at medium speed until the dough starts flapping away from the bowl or until the dough is smooth and not very sticky. Take a large bowl, lightly oil it, and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm enclosed place. I use my oven for this and set the temperature to around 100 degrees. Let rise for an hour or two until doubled in size. Remove the dough from the oven and punch it down with your fist. Pour it onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1/2 thickness. Using a doughnut cutter cut out the dough and set on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You will probably have to use 2 to 3 cookie sheets. Let rise in the oven for 45 minutes. While the dough is almost finished rising take out a heavy pot and add in about a quart of vegetable oil. Using a dessert thermometer make sure the temperature reaches about 360 degrees and then add in 4 doughnuts at a time. Cook on both sides until it reaches a golden color. Use a wide spatula to remove doughnuts from the oil and set on a wired rack. Dip the doughnuts into your glaze and set back on the wired rack.

Honey Sugar Glaze:
150 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon honey (I'm using orange blossom)
3-4 tablespoons milk or water

Take a medium sized bowl; and mix the powdered sugar, honey, and milk.

Chocolate Honey Glaze:
30g butter (2 tbsp butter)
1/4 cup (90g) honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g dark chocolate (I used milk chocolate)

In a small saucepan, cook the butter, honey, vanilla, and chocolate over low heat until melted.

(Click for printable recipe)

Honey, Lemon and Rosemary Grilled Chicken

I have an abundant amount of rosemary growing, so I thought this would be a great recipe to help use it up. I really enjoyed this marinade. It was really easy to make and I let it marinade for about an hour and a half. You could certainly taste a hint of lemon and rosemary. I hope you like it, too. Enjoy!

1/2 cup honey
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Really, all you do is take a small bowl mix all the ingredients from the honey to the black pepper. Dump your chicken into a zip lock bag and pour the honey mixture on top. Mush the chicken so all the pieces are incorporated with the marinade. Marinate from 30 minutes to over night in the fridge. Heat up your grill and grill away. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

I know, I know. Your friend the Jolly Green Giant makes those veggie steamer packs that are soooo much easier than actually making a legit vegetable side dish. But I promise this is so easy, and very tasty, so it definitely makes a few minutes of extra work worthwhile. I’m not even going to make you read my musings—let’s get right to the recipe.

Head of Cauliflower cut into florets
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper

Mix the olive oil and spices in a bowl big enough for your cauliflower. Don’t be afraid to use a slightly larger bowl—I didn’t and it was hard to keep the cauliflower from escaping into the waiting mouths of my dogs.

Toss your cauliflower in the oil and spices and then pour it onto a baking sheet. In a 475 degree oven, roast the cauliflower for about 10 minutes. Stir and roast for about another 10 (you might want to check on it). When it’s a nice golden color, it’s done and ready to serve! The Green Giant might not like it, but you definitely will. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thai Style Pork Lettuce Wraps

I bought a pound of pork that I ended up not needing. Normally what would have happened is I would have left said pork in the fridge, totally forgetting about it, until one day I open the fridge and something grabs me by the face and pulls me to a horrifically green, meaty demise.

Not wanting to meet (no pun intended) this grisly fate, I went in search of something to make with a pound of ground pork. I found a recipe for Thai Pork Stir Fry on The Whole Kitchen and thought it sounded tasty. But since I am trying to eat a little healthier these days (a LITTLE) I decided to adapt it to make lettuce wraps instead of stir fry, so I chopped all the vegetables a lot smaller. This turned out really great! It had lots of flavor, a good amount of spice and a really satisfying crunch. My only complaint would be that it was a touch oily, but I think that could easily be helped by draining off the meat.

1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 red onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 shallot, diced
1 jalepeno, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fish sauce, divided
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated, divided
2 Tbsp cooking sherry
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Lettuce for wraps

As always, make your life easier by prepping the ingredients. This is where prep bowls really come in handy. Start by chopping the red onion, carrot and pepper and putting them in a bowl. Chop the jalapeno (seed it if you are not a spice fan) and shallot and put them in a bowl. In a bigger bowl put in the ground pork and add one tablespoon of fish sauce and half of the ginger. Mix it around using your hands (this is much more pleasant if the pork is not straight from the fridge). Set this aside, and in your last prep bowl mix up the sauce. The remaining fish sauce, ginger, sherry, honey, hoisin and chili garlic sauce goes here. This may seem like a lot of chili garlic sauce, but it really melded nicely with the other flavors and although the end result was spicy, it certainly wasn’t overly so. Mix them well and set aside. Now, you are ready to cook.

With a teaspoon of oil, sauté the carrot, pepper and onion over medium high heat for about 4 minutes and then put it back in the bowl. Next sauté the jalapeno and shallot with another teaspoon of oil over medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds before adding the meat mixture. Bring the heat back to medium and brown the meat. Make sure it’s fully cooked and then carefully pour off some of the oil. Add the vegetables back in, followed by the sauce. We decided to keep the mixture on the heat for a little bit longer, another 3-5 minutes to let the sauce thicken further. Finally, add in the cilantro and take the mixture off the heat. Serve spooned into lettuce cups. My husband liked it so much he wants me to make even if I don’t accidentally find myself with an extra pound of ground pork. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Simple Salmon Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Last week I marinated some salmon for dinner, not remembering that I would be eating alone that evening. I decided to make it all anyway, and since then I’ve had a couple cold salmon fillets staring at me every time I opened the fridge. I’m actually a pretty big fan of cold salmon. It’s not cold pizza, but it'll do in a pinch. I would have totally eaten them cold if I hadn’t been struck from the heavens with a wonderful idea. I put it on a salad.

It turned out fantastic, actually, as far as salads go. I admit I was a little afraid of the vinaigrette. Especially when I mixed it up and tasted it and it went KRA-KAW! in my mouth. But over the lettuce it wasn’t so strong, and it balanced all the flavors out quite nicely.

Your favorite lettuce (I used butter lettuce)
Fresh Basil
Leftover cold salmon, flaked
Thinly sliced red onions

2 Tbsps Olive Oil
Juice and zest from one lemon
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste

Just to shake things up a little, I sliced my lettuce into strips. It makes it a little easier to eat, and I know it doesn’t really make it taste any different, but sometimes it seems like it. I also julienned the basil. Toss all the salad ingredients together first. Then mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk until fully combined. I’ve also heard that you  could mix it in a canning jar and then just shake the jar, but whisking with a fork worked for me. Don’t dump the entire vinaigrette on the salad! First, just pour some of it over the salad and toss. Then see if you need more. I definitely didn’t need all of the dressing since it’s pretty strong. 

I think this dressing would be great with any salad toppings or meat. It has a great brightness and a lot of flavor. 

(Click for printable recipe)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Iron Chef Honey Recap

When we set the date for Iron Chef Honey last March; it started out promising. We had 8 possibly 9 people lined up for this event, and the ingredient sounded like it would be delicious. I mean who doesn't love honey, right? Well, we ended up with just 5 people participating (our lowest number) and it probably ranked as one of the worst Iron Chefs food-wise. Okay. Okay. Looking back on the night; it wasn't that bad, but it sure seemed like it at the time. However, we did have a lot of great conversation and tons of laughter.

We started out the night with Morgan's Honey Spread. She came into this swearing we would hate it. She almost didn't bring it thinking for sure we would think it's awful. Well, she was wrong. So wrong in fact that she ended up in 2nd place for her dish. It was quite tasty with all the different components incorporated such as dates, olives, feta cheese, nuts, and, of course, honey. She served it with toasted (but "hard"...according to Kim...ha!) pita chips. 

Morgan's "really awful" Honey Spread - 2nd Place Finish

Next up was Cara and her Pear, Honey, and Goat Cheese Crostini. This dish was an immediate hit. I'm beginning to think there is a goat cheese theme here. Kim came in second with her Pistachio Goat Cheese Grapes. I came in second with the Goat Cheese and Basil Oil with baguettes. And, now, Cara came in first with her Pear, Honey, and Goat Cheese crostini. Congrats to Cara for her win. They were delicious!!

Cara's "really good" Honey Crostini - First Place Finish

Kim started out the Main Course with her Cajun Shrimp Pasta. Kim's dish had a ton of flavor and a ton of spice. So much spice that Cara declared she might have won Iron Chef Spicy with this dish. It was really delicious and well made!

Kim's Spicy Cajun Shrimp Pasta
Then the night got interesting with Shu's main course. Shu made a Honey BBQ Pork Chop. Her recipe called for broiling the pork chop for a couple minutes. Well, cooking in a different house probably factored into her over-cooking the pork chop.

Shu's Honey BBQ "Tumor" Pork Chop
Actually, we had a bit of an adventure trying to turn off Kim's smoke alarm, opening windows, and turning on the vent. It was really quite hilarious. Fortunately, nothing caught fire; just a toasty pork chop. We all agree that had the pork chop been executed well it might have had a good chance for the win because you could definitely taste a hint of honey. Next time, Shu!! 

We ended the night with my homemade doughnuts. Unfortunately, the glaze on my chocolate doughnuts ended up being a bit too sticky. As a matter of fact, Morgan was caught with a small glob of the glaze on her tooth. However, the honey and powdered sugar glaze was much more successful. Even though the doughnuts didn't do too well at the iron chef; they were a hit at my work and they really are best right out of the hot oil. I will post the recipe soon!
Emily's "too sticky" Honey Glazed Doughnuts
Overall, the food certainly could have been better but it was still another successful iron chef! Sounds like the next one will be at Shu's house and the "secret" ingredient is possibly basil. Till next time...

Really Good Salsa

One of my favorite things to eat at Mexican restaurants are chips and salsa. Actually, I could totally eat chips and salsa as my main course and forgo your typical burrito or taco. Sometimes salsa made at restaurants can taste pretty bland; almost as if they serve it out of a jar. So, I definitely judge a Mexican restaurant based on how fresh their salsa tastes. I can't go to Mexican restaurants every time I crave chips and salsa, however, I can make my salsa at home. I've been trying for years to perfect salsa. I've tried many recipes, and I feel like I've finally perfected it. I hope you enjoy it. I know I do. Enjoy!

4-5 tomatoes on a vine, quartered
1 to 2 jalapenos, loosely chopped
1/2 onion, loosely chopped
juice of one lime
couple dashes of cayenne
couple dashes of cumin
couple dashes of Chipotle Adobo Chili Pepper (optional)
Salt to taste
small fistful of cilantro

Take out your food processor, and throw in the tomatoes, jalapenos, and onion. Pulse for several seconds. Remove the lid and add in the lime juice, salt, and spices. Pulse a second or two. Remove lid and add in the cilantro. Pulse for several seconds so the cilantro is incorporated. Remove the lid and try the salsa. If necessary; add more salt. If the seasoning tastes fine; pour the salsa into an air tight container and refridgerate for an hour. Enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Strawberry Popsicle

Last summer I purchased $5 popsicle molds from my favorite store: World Market. For some strange reason, I never tried making popsicles last year. Maybe it's because I was on my watermelon sorbet kick or could have been because I didn't have any popsicle recipes. I'm not really sure what the deal was with me last summer, but I sure was missing out. Since it wasn't quite watermelon season in March I decided to try making popsicles. I came across this strawberry popsicle recipe from Baked Bree and decided to give it awhirl. Yum. Yum. Yum. Man, are these popsicles delicious. They're really simple to make and quite good for you being that it calls for strawberries, lemons, and honey. Of course, I have to go ahead and take it up a notch by adding a couple dashes of simple syrup. But, hey, it's still healthy. Anyway, I highly recommend you run out to your local World Market (or Bed, Bath, and Beyond) and get yourself some popsicle molds. Try this recipe and you will love it! Enjoy!

1 pint Strawberries
lemon juice squeezed from 1 lemon
1/2 cup honey ( I only used about 2 tbsp of honey since I use simple syrup as well)
1/8 to 1/4 c simple syrup (optional)
Splash or two of OJ (optional)

Take your strawberries and cut off the tops; throw in your blender along with the remaining ingredients. Puree the mixture. Simply pour the strawberry mixture into your popsicle molds. This makes about 8-9 popsicles. Freeze for at least 4 hours, and preferably over night. If you have problems getting the popsicle out of the mold once it's been frozen, simply turn the mold over and rinse with hot water for a couple seconds. They should come out with a nice and easy tug. Enjoy!

(Click for printable recipe)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

I actually made this soup a while ago, when the weather was still appropriate for a hearty soup like this. But I didn’t post it because there was one little ingredient that the original recipe (found on The Kitchn) called for that completely ruined it for me: rosemary. Now I like rosemary in certain situations. However, adding dried rosemary to a soup is something I’ll never do again. Those little pieces never soften so you end up being very aware of them, and not in a good way.

This time I omitted the rosemary and I think the soup is a real winner. It was maybe a little too hot to make it last night, but I don’t regret it. One major change I made (reflected below) was to use two boxes of Rice A Roni Long Grain Wild Rice, because I couldn’t find actual wild rice. I think that this change made the soup taste even better though. The seasoning packet helped make it even more flavorful. I also used vegetable broth the first time, and decided that chicken broth tastes better. I also cut down the amount a little. This soup takes some time, so take that into consideration when you are planning to have it for dinner. We didn’t eat until almost 8.

2 boxes Rice-a-Roni Long Grain Wild Rice
1 large onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 pound sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth/stock
1 cup whole milk or cream
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt to taste

I dice the celery and onion pretty small so they sort of disappear into the soup, but if you want a chunkier soup, just rough chop them. You can either cut up your mushrooms or leave them in slices, which is what I would recommend. Big meaty slices of mushrooms—yum!

So, get your rice started by following the instructions on the boxes. Then get out your Dutch oven or trusty soup pot and heat up a little bit of oil over medium-high heat. Add in the diced celery and onion and cook, stirring, just about 4-5 minutes until they start to get tender and translucent. I also added in salt and pepper at this point. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in your mushrooms. You’ll want to cook the mushrooms for a good 20 minutes to get them nice and brown and caramelized. That’s where the flavor of the soup really comes from so don’t get impatient. Don’t feel like you have to constantly stir it, but you should mix it up about every 8 minutes or so to make sure nothing burns. Leaving it sit actually helps the caramelization.
Next add in your garlic and oregano. The recipe says cook until fragrant. I never know what that means but they recommend about 30 seconds. Now you want to sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, and stir it up. You want the flour to soak up the liquid and stick everything together. Once that happens, turn up the heat to medium high again and you can pour in your wine and deglaze the pot (scrape up any delectable brown bits from the bottom of the pot). Let this simmer for a little bit until it thickens up and some of the wine evaporates, about 5-8 minutes.

Put in the bay leaf. Just break it in half, but don’t crumble it. You’ll want to remove it later (people shouldn’t eat bay leaves.) And add in the broth or stock. The original recipe called for 4 cups of stock, but it always seems a bit too much to me, so I cut it down to 3 ½ cups. Bring this to a boil, then turn it down to simmer for 20 more minutes. (See, I told you this would take awhile.)

Now, add in your rice, which should be done by now, and the milk or cream. Simmer AGAIN for 15 more minutes. It’s worth it, I swear. Finally, add the vinegar and salt to taste. It makes a lot of soup, but the leftovers last and it’s definitely tasty enough to have a few nights in a row.

(click for printable recipe)