Friday, May 29, 2009
So life has been pretty crazy lately. Between Hubs' birthday today (Yay!) and getting my house ready for my family to visit next week (double yay!), I've also somehow managed to reserve my cap and gown for graduation next week AND find a new job! It's a part-time thing for now, so I'll still be able to cook.
But there are a few housekeeping things first...
So, obviously, you already know that I am completely unprepared to post about Daring Bakers or Barefoot Bloggers at this point. I *did* make Ina's Outrageous Brownies, but made a few key boo-boos; when Ina says butter and flour a pan, she doesn't mean butter and cocoa powder. I thought I'd be sneaky and use that little tip I saw a long time ago, where a chocolate cake recipe called for a buttered and floured pan and the chef used cocoa powder so the edges weren't covered in white powder.
That was mistake #1.
Mistake #2 was that I forgot to "rap" the pan on the stove shelf halfway through baking. I was in a bit of a rush to meet with a couple of friends for a super light dinner, and was completely distracted. Listen to Ina when she says to do something. She's not just a crazy lady who loves food- she knows what she's talking about.
Mistake #3 was using a 9"x13" Pyrex dish instead of a half-sheet pan. I didn't have a big ole half sheet pan that wasn't grody-looking, so I thought it'd be alright and I'd get FAT brownies instead.
Nope. lol What I ended up with was a pan of insanely rich delicious brownies that I have to eat out of the dish with a fork. That's fine with me, since I could eat the entire thing on my own. They are so rich, so chocolate-y... the inside is almost fudge-like instead of cake-y, brownie-like. *drool*
Now, on to Daring Bakers... This recipe is somewhat involved and I intend to do it over Sunday/Monday, as a "welcome" for my mom, who is visiting me here for the first time! It will be a bit of a culture-shock for her, I think, but I hope DB's streudel recipe will impress her and make her feel a bit more comfortable. :) Plus, she had mentioned cooking for me, so my gumbo post may be a guest post by my own mommy! Yay!
So, again, I apologize for being a total slacker. I hope having a job will make me more organized and focused, since I won't be a depressed lump sitting around my house anymore. :) So, thanks to all of you who visit and comment and leave me encouraging words. I really do appreciate it!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I feel the need to share with you some revolutionary items that will change your daily routine. I have to thank Baking Bites for pointing me in the direction of the first item but the others have slowly snuck into my growing basket of "Things I Intend to Buy With My First Paycheck". :-D
All the photos are courtesy of Amazon.com, as are the ridiculous Christmas wishlists I've started to accumulate.
First, having the strongest sweet tooth known to man, I have to introduce Cupcake Dental Floss. How much more incentive do you need to floss twice a day! lol I'd floss every HOUR with this stuff...
Plus you can keep your breath "cupcake-ified" with Cupcake Mints! Between flavored dental floss and cupcake mints, you'll want to make out with yourself! Or pull your own teeth out to save on dentistry.... whichever works for you. :-D
Somewhat related, if you're not much of a cupcake person, there's also Breakfast Dental Floss for that added oomph to your morning routines. You can go for Waffles, Bacon or even coffee!! Or for a full-blown morning pick-me-up, use all three.
And one last thing, just because I'm a huge fan of food-shaped things that are something else entirely. I present to you Meatball Bubble Gum. Looks like an authentic, delicious Italian meatball, but is actually a little brown ball of gum! lol You might think it's weird but I think it's awesomely fun.
Enough of these odds and ends... I'll be back to posting recipes soon. The sun is finally coming out again which will make it easier to take proper pictures. :)
Sunday, May 17, 2009
First I have to say, I'll be posting the first Daring Cooks' challenge soon. I completely forgot the date of this new group's posting, so I feel like a goober that I haven't gotten to it yet. Next, I don't plan to make the BB Tuna Salad recipe for this past week, because I'm the only one in our house who eats tuna and, with our purse-strings getting tighter, I can't justify buying ingredients to make the recipe just for myself. Sorry. :(
So I promised a post with Persian stew, called "khoresht" in Farsi, and this one is one of our favorites. It was one of the first Persian dishes that I ever tried, and it's one that I begged my mother-in-law to teach me. It's called Ghormeh Sabzi and is so amazingly delicious but time-consuming so I'd suggest it for special occasions. lol There are tons of variations on it, like with any "traditional" food, and there are also some shortcuts you can use.
If you like red beans and rice, you'll LOVE this. Heck... even if you don't like red beans and rice, you'll love it. :)
Now is when I remind you that I am writing this recipe from experience and memory, and if the measurements seem odd, that's because they are. lol My "handful" may differ from your "handful" so I'll try to give rough approximations of the meausrements.
If you're more apt to try a formally written recipe by a cookbook author, check out New Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij. It's such a fantastic book, full of amazing recipes and stories about Persian traditions and ceremonies, and it's peppered with images of traditional Persian art. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an introduction to the Persian kitchen. :)
1 bunch each- curly parsley, cilantro, green onions, minced VERY finely
1/2 bunch of fresh spinach, minced VERY finely
2 Tbsp. dried fenugreek
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I wouldn't substitute olive oil here- the flavor will be too strong)
2-3 handfuls of dried kidney beans, either red or striped (roughly 1 c.), soaked overnight
1 yellow onion, diced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. stewing beef, 1 in. cubes
2 Tbsp. mild curry powder
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
7 c. water
1/4 c. lemon juice, fresh is best!
3 c. white basmati rice, soaked at least 3 hours in salted water
1 Tbsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 whole wheat pita rounds, split in half and ripped into big pieces
1. Before anything else, fry the herbs, green onions and spinach in the vegetable oil, until very very very dark. They will look almost black, and it's ok... really! :)
2. In a pressure cooker, heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown up the chopped onion. Add the meat, and brown on each side. Add curry, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or so.
3. Add water and put on lid. After the pressure cooker goes off once, set a timer for 45 minutes and let cook.
4. After 45 minutes, release the pressure. Drain and rinse the soaked beans and add to the pot. Add the cooked herbs too. Stir well. Let simmer over medium heat until beans are cooked, maybe 25-30 minutes? (I'm terrible at watching the clock, because I'm usually watching a TV show while I cook this.)
5. Add lemon juice and turn off heat. You can add more salt and pepper to taste.
The following "recipe" for rice is the standard sort of rice that you'd have with most Persian stews. Some people like making the "tadiq" (a crunchy layer at the bottom of the pot) with rice, but I much prefer either pita bread or very thinly sliced potato. :-D
1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. When the water is boiling, salt liberally. Rinse the soaked basmati rice 2-3 times until the water runs mostly clear.
2. Add rice to boiling water and stir once. Let it come back up to a rolling boil, and cook for 8-10 minutes (again, keep an eye on it because this is a pure guess-- if you want to test its "doneness", taste a couple of grains. The rice should be very slightly undercooked.) Drain into a colander.
3. Put the same pot back over medium heat. Melt butter and oil together. Swirl the fat around to coat the bottom, then pour it into a coffee mug. There should be a very thin layer left in the bottom.
4. Layer your pita bread pieces, overlapping, in the pot. I tend to pour a tablespoon of the melted fat back over top, just to make sure they get crispy.
5. Pour rice back on top of pita, and use a spoon to make it a mountain-like shape- take care to NOT press the rice down. Pour remaining melted fat over the rice.
6. Cover the inner part of the pot's lid with a towel, and cover rice. Reduce heat to low and set a timer for 25-27 minutes.
7. When the timer goes off, turn the heat off and remove the lid. Let sit for another 10-15 minutes.
Before serving, it's best to pull the tadiq out of the bottom or it will get soggy. Ick. Soggy tadiq is no fun.
Like I've said, this is purely from memory, and it's how my mother-in-law taught me. Other families may have other variations, just like any other food. :)
Monday, May 4, 2009
Well, yesterday was my blog's first birthday! I can honestly say this is one hobby that has turned into a serious passion for me- I love talking to other bloggers and learning new photography techniques and presentation tips... this past year has been a great learning experience and I can't wait to learn more!
I know I did a poll on what I should make for Southern Eh?'s birthday, but I've decided I'm going to use the poll results a bit differently. Cupcakes got the most votes, for obvious delicious sweet-tooth-killing reasons, followed by Thai curry, Persian stew and Gumbo. So rather than only doing cupcakes as the winner, I thought I'd work from the items that got less votes up to the winner...
First up- Thai curry!!
This is my first time making a Thai curry at home, so I was admittedly a bit timid. I've only ever had Pad Thai and another chicken & veggie curry that I can't even begin to spell properly. lol I wandered the Asian foods aisle of my favorite grocery store for a good 20 minutes, reading the labels of almost every single jar of red curry paste. I'd done a bit of online research about "authentic" flavors and wanted to make sure I found something that had everything in it- Kaffir lime, galangal, etc.
I make no claims as to how authentic the flavors of this curry are, but it was just spicy enough for me (meaning the spice isn't all over your mouth and on your tongue), and was absolutely delicious. I'm always open to any suggestions and constructive criticisms, so please drop a line and say hi! :)
Red Thai Shrimp Curry
1 lb. jumbo shrimp (or jumbo prawns), cleaned, deveined & shells removed
3 Tbsp. red curry paste
1 can coconut milk, shaken (I used just shy of 1 can, but it thickened considerably, so you may want to use the whole can)
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced
1 Tbsp. lime juice
Handful of clean cilantro leaves
1 c. brown rice
2 c. water (or a combination of chicken or vegetable stock with water)
For the curry:
1. "Melt" the curry paste in a medium-sized pan over medium heat, stirring around to loosen. Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
2. Add peppers and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally., until peppers soften slightly
3. Add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, stirring gently
4. Add lime juice, and stir. Turn off heat. Stir in some of the cilantro.
For the rice:
1. Toast rice in a pot over medium-high heat, for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Add liquid and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low to bring it to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes.
3. Remove lid and fluff rice with a fork.
Spoon the curry over the rice and garnish with remaining cilantro leaves. Try your hardest not to eat the entire pot on your own. :-D
Next up... Persian stew!!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
I'm a huge huge huge Mexican food fan. HUGE. Anything smothered in melted cheese with chili powder, cilantro or lime will make me almost as happy as anything covered in dark chocolate sauce. lol Although there's no melted cheese the simple fajitas I made for dinner last night had all of my favorite Mexican flavors going on.
I'm sure Rick Bayless would choke if he saw my bastard child of a fajita and enchilada, so I hope this makes up for that delicious insanity.
Simpler was the key motivation. But like every other part of my life, I had to complicate matters. I had WAY too many chicken breasts defrosted so I ended up making fajitas AND a Thai-inspired curry (that will probably be posted on Monday). :-D I still have some left, and plan to make yogurt-marinated kabobs and a Persian chicken salad called Salad-e Olivieh.
Like most things I make, I didn't think to measure anything as I went, so all the ingredient quantities are approximate.
3 chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2" strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" slices
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" slices
1 orange bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" slices
1 red onion, sliced
Juice of 1 lime, divided in half
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided in half
8 corn tortillas (or small whole wheat tortillas)
Shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or sharp Cheddar)
1. Heat half the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Toss in chicken "tenders", and cook for 2-3 minutes per side. (It's ok if they stick a tiny bit, because those bits will be picked up by the peppers and onions.) Add cumin, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Turn off heat and add one half of the lime juice. Remove chicken to bowl or plate.
2. Add the other half of the oil to the pan, turn up the heat to medium-high heat. Throw in the peppers and onions, and let them soften and caramelize slightly.
3. Heat 2 tortillas in the microwave by putting them on a plate between 2 paper towels for 30 seconds.
4. Place 2-3 chicken strips in the middle of a warm tortilla, top with pepper/onion mixture, and garnish with any of the condiments listed above!
One of my new favorite side dishes for any type of Mexican or Mexican-inspired dinner is black bean and corn "salad". Besides being insanely simple and cheap, it's filling, delicious, and you can customize it to your family's tastes! Even Hubs eats it, and he's beyond picky, so you know it has to be good. :)
Black Bean & Corn "Salad"
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) whole niblet corn, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, diced (similar size to beans & corn if you can)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
Other half of the lime juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2-3 garlic cloves, grated (optional)
1-2 medium tomatoes, diced (optional)
1/2 jalapeño, diced very tiny (optional)
1. Mix everything in a big bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge until ready to eat. The longer it sits, the tastier it is!