Saturday, February 28, 2009
... and my Hubs of course. At least that's what I told him when I served this for Valentine's Day. lol
The Daring Bakers challenge this month could not have been more perfect for me. As I've said over and over again, I'm an unapologetic choco-holic, and not just at "that time" where Hubs throws the box of chocolate at me and runs. :-D When I saw "flourless chocolate cake" was picked, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. The challenge for me? Not inhaling the batter would typically be the right answer...
The challenge this time was to make ice cream to go WITH the cake! An ice cream maker is one piece of equipment I still don't own! Boy did I have fun with this...
For the required bit to reaffirm my love and devotion for Daring Bakers : The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.
The reason I joined Daring Bakers was to try new things in the kitchen. Well, this certainly put me in a new realm- I learned that egg whites are ridiculously tempermental, and that even I, a professed choco-holic, have a limit as to how much chocolate I can take. lol Because I chose super dark chocolate for the cake, I don't think I could have eaten it without the accompanying ice cream! The cake was super rich and bitter (but the good kind of bitter), and I couldn't even finish a whole piece!
For the ice cream, I used Dharm's recipe, and it turned out so creamy and rich, even without an ice cream maker! It turned out so well that I want to start experimenting with different flavors for summer!
So I guess the take home messages for today- don't overwhip your egg whites, and MAKE THE ICE CREAM. Trust me.
Check out the other DB-ers' photos and thoughts on this month's challenge...
And just to provide a bit of entertainment, my pup decided he wanted to be shipped to China in the box that our new blender came in. He got comfy by curling up in it.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Or as my friends and family back in Louisiana are saying, "Let the good times roll!"
I'm sure most people know that today is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, a celebration of indulgence before the beginning of Lent. While I may not be in the warmer climate and I may not be able to partake in the festivities on Bourbon and Canal Street, but I celebrated in my own way... with a homemade King Cake!
A displaced Louisianian friend tried out this recipe yesterday and told me about the success she had with it, after having had King Cake disasters in the past. Trying to repress memories of the only other King Cake I've ever tried to make (which was the driest, hardest ring of baked dough ever, and made me wildly upset), I set out to make this brioche ring.
Let me remind you of how dedicated I am to keeping with authenticity- I walked in the rain, 30 minutes there and back, just to get the coloured sugars. I know I could have made my own, but I'm not that talented. lol
My only tweaks were that I used orange zest instead of lemon, and I had no pecans on hand, so I just made double the filling from the second link. A tip: if you can't find cane syrup, my suggestion would be to use 1/2 corn syrup and 1/2 honey. I suppose you could use all honey but I don't know if the viscosity would be the same. Oh, and I used less liquid for the glaze that what was called for, because I like thicker glaze, and the original version was a little thin for my tastes.
For the cake and glaze, Emeril's recipes are absolutely fantastic (I'm sure his cream cheese filling is just as tasty, I just wasn't in the mood for cream cheese today). For a simple filling, NOLA Cuisine has a fantastic one, and it tastes exactly how I remember King Cake filling tastes like.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Last summer, I was feeling inspired after watching quite a few TV chefs make homemade vinaigrettes. Being a newbie cook with little creativity, I thought this was the perfect chance to play a bit. I had just discovered dried fenugreek, which is one of my favorite dried herbs, and was trying to put it into everything I possibly could.
Not to mention, Hubs and I were dying to try out our new barbecue and the grilled version of this chicken is just amazing. If you have nice enough weather right now, try making this into kabobs with red onion, peppers, and mushrooms, basted with leftover dressing.
4 tsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. dried oregano
4 tsp. dried fenugreek
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
4 tsp. honey
1/2 c. olive oil
For the marinade:
1/2 red onion, rough chop
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2-3 lemons, sliced 1/4" thick
1 lb. chicken breasts
For chickpea salad:
1 (28 oz) can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1.) Mix the dressing ingredients together. Place 1/3 into a medium sized bowl and mix in the garlic and onion. Place chicken breasts into marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2.) In another bowl, mix the chickpeas, tomatoes and celery with another 1/3 of the dressing. Refrigerate until chicken is cooked. (The longer it sits, the more the chickpeas will soak up the dressing.)
3.) When you're ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 425°F. In the bottom of an 8x8" baking dish, drizzle a small bit of olive oil. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, and arrange in dish. Layer each breast with a single, overlapping layer of lemon slices.
4.) Bake for 50-55 minutes, uncovered (you can poke into the edge of one of the breasts, and the juices should run clear). Remove from oven and let cool.
5.) Serve with chickpea salad and mixed greens salad dressed with remainder of dressing.
Sorry for not getting a picture of the chickpea salad, but it didn't last long enough for me to get any! lol Everyone devoured it!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Just as a reference, I was singing "It's spa-ghetti and meatballs time, it's spa-ghetti and meatballs time!" the entire time I was making this dish. :-D If you've ever heard "It's Peanut Butter-Jelly Time", think of that tune.
Because my life isn't exciting enough, I decided I'd join this amazing group dedicated to making recipes from Ina Garten, aka "Barefoot Contessa". The Barefoot Bloggers, are very similar to The Daring Bakers, because the recipes are picked by different people each time, but there's 2 recipes a month, posted on every other Thursday!
Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to ask for membership at the right time- the very first recipe of February is Spaghetti and Meatballs! Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a ridiculously irrational love for pasta. And this particular meatball recipe... there are no words to describe how wildly delicious they were- juicy, full of flavor, and so easy to make!
My only alteration to this recipe was that I used only pork and ground beef- veal is not exactly appealing to me, even when mixed with other meats. Other than that, I followed everything and the entire pot of pasta and meatballs was inhaled by the end of the night! However, if I were to make this again, I'd likely bake the meatballs to cut down on the amount of oil used when making the meatballs. I'm curious if Ina really knows how deep 1/4" actually is... lol
Check out the other Barefoot Bloggers to see what others thought! If you want to try the recipe for yourself, it's available on Food Network, and it's posted below! :)
For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan
Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
As promised, I'm dedicating this entire post to two of my favorite sides- roasted vegetables and cheesy roasted potatoes. I mean really, how can you go wrong when smothering anything in cheese? :-D
See that plate? That was my dinner and lunch for two days. I had some protein on the side (because to be entirely honest, I make roast chicken and I'll eat it but it's not my favorite), but look at that plate... just makes your mouth water!
I'll bet some of you are asking what fenugreek is. Well, if you've ever smelled curry powder, fenugreek is the dominant note (at least, it is to me). I use it when making marinated Mediterranean chicken or lamb, and in the fantastic Persian dish Ghormeh Sabzi. I will absolutely post that unphotogenic meal eventually, only because it is one of my absolute favorite foods- it's made of tons of chopped parsley, spinach, green onions, cilantro, and dried fenugreek with red beans, cubes of beef or lamb, and then spruced up with a bit of lemon juice, then served over hot basmati rice. *drool*
But I digress... Here's the vegetables I used in my roasted vegetables, as I try to find something to wipe my chin with.
Roasted Vegetables (everything is cut into similar sizes- about 1" cubes)
1 large parsnip, peeled & cut
3 carrots, peeled & cut
1 red onion, peeled & cut
3 turnips, peeled & cut
1 green bell pepper, cored & cut
1 red bell pepper, cored & cut
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled (but NOT minced or grated- it'll burn and be bitter)
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried fenugreek
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Toss cut veggies with olive oil and spices. Arrange in a roughly even layer in the bottom of a large roasting pan.
3. If cooking with a roast chicken, place into the oven with the chicken when there's 30 minutes left.
4. After 15 minutes, toss the veggies around to keep from burning (and setting off the smoke alarm, like I did).
5. After 30 minutes, remove veggies (and chicken if you're doing both) and let cool for 5 minutes or so before devouring.
Now, about one of my all-time absolute favorite side dishes that has become a staple. The original recipe is called "Darth Tater", but I call them "Cheesy Roasted Potatoes" so I don't have to repeat myself 1000 times when Hubs ask "We're having WHAT?" lol I've declared my adoration for Janet and Greta Podleski's Eat, Shrink & Be Merry! before, and this cheese-covered monster is a big reason why. Do NOT run away when you see the ingredients. I'll include their nutritional information at the end, just as an extra selling point.
But, trust me. If you make these, you'll want to make them ALL the time. Heck, you may want to stock up on ingredients for the cheese sauce-- it could probably be used on tons of vegetables and your kids would inhale them! :-O
Darth Tater (from Eat, Shrink & Be Merry! by Janet & Greta Podleski)
2 1/2 lbs (1.1 kg) red or white potatoes, cleaned with the skin left on!
1 c. chopped onions
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic, minced or grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, paprika, and dried thyme (I've omitted the thyme and it's perfectly fine without it!)
1 can (10 oz) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted (COME BACK! lol Just trust me...)
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh dill or parsley, chopped (Parsley is my favorite here.)
1/2 c. packed shredded light old (or sharp) cheddar cheese
1 green onion, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. **See note at the end! Cut potatoes into 1" chunks and place into 9x13" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
2. Add onions, garlic, olive oil and spices. Toss until potatoes are thoroughly coated.
3. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Reduce oven to 375°F.
4. In a medium bowl, mix soup with Parmesan cheese and herbs. Pour over potatoes and stir around to coat well. Sprinkle grated cheese on top, followed by green onion.
5. Bake for another 25 minutes, uncovered, until cheese is bubbly and potatoes are golden brown around edges.
6. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
**Note: I made these at the same time and temperature as the chicken and vegetables (450°F), but cut down each cooking time by 8-10 minutes. The second time in the oven was also done at the higher temp for only 12-15 minutes instead of 25. They turned out perfectly fine, and mighty tasty if I do say so myself...
And I do. :-D
Monday, February 2, 2009
One thing that I was told early in my cooking adventures was that it's always better to master a handful of great basic recipes than to be able to make lots of mediocre dishes. This has stuck with me, and it has definitely influenced how I cook everyday. It's also part of the reason why my posts aren't always regularly spaced- most of the dishes showcased are those that are tried-and-true or ones that recieved rave reviews from the family. :)
One of the best basic dinners to master is a good roasted chicken with roasted vegetables, cheesy roasted potatoes, steamed broccoli and a good risotto. I realize this sounds like a HUGE meal, so I won't babble on about it in one post. For now, roasted chicken and a revisit to risotto; next cheesy roasted potatoes and roasted vegetables will be in the spotlight.
To make a really juicy, flavorful chicken, brining is a fantastic method. For those who don't know (which I'm sure most of you do), brining is simply "soaking" meat (usually turkey or chicken) in a solution of salt water. It's similar to marinating, but it adds more subtle flavors than marinades, in my humble opinion. For my brines, I tend use equal parts of salt and sugar, lemon juice (and the lemon halves), lime juice (and the lime halves), fresh orange juice (I think you know what goes here), garlic, fresh herbs like thyme or oregano and white wine if I have them, and some fresh black pepper.
The actual cooking method I've learned to love is something of a combination of Thomas Keller's simplistic approach and Ina Garten's Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken.
1 12-13 lb. chicken, brined for at least 2 hours
1 lemon, sliced
Fresh thyme or oregano (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. dried fenugreek
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Line roasting tray with lemon slices. (Top slices with the fresh herbs- if you're using them.) Place chicken on top of lemons, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and pour on the olive oil
3. Tie the chickens legs together and roast the bird in the oven for 50-60 minutes.
4. Sprinkle dried fenugreek over chicken and baste the skin with the juices in the bottom of the pan. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes.
The risotto this time around is slightly different from the risotto I posted ages ago. Instead of white wine and chicken stock, I chose to use a mix of chicken and vegetable stock, parmesan cheese, herbed goat cheese leftover from a tart I had made, and mixed in chopped fresh parsley. No fancy asiago, no asparagus, just pure unadulterated cheesy goodness.
Have I mentioned we like cheese in this house? Just wait until you see the cheesy roasted potatoes!!