Archive for November, 2011

November 30, 2011

Blueberry Muesli

I’ve been rather obsessed with muesli lately. Even in bulk, it’s been costing me quite a bit at whole foods (HEB stopped carrying it! wtf…).
Solution? make it yourself:
  • rolled oats
  • rice krispies
  • dried blueberries
  • raisins
  • sunflower seeds
  • flax seeds
  • almonds, raw whole unsalted

+ cold milk

tada!

November 28, 2011

Chicken Diane

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 leeks, white parts only
  • 1.5tbs dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 tbs dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ~1 cup cream
  • white wine
  • ~1 tbs clarified butter/ghee
  • garlic salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tbs corn starch, dissolved in chicken stock
INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Slice leeks and wash thoroughly. (I was taught to slice them at ~45 degree angle, rotating the stalk with each cut. This way you dont get rings, which are hard to separate and wash, but diamond shaped slices.)
  2. Trim fat off chicken thighs, pat dry, then (garlic) salt and pepper generously on both sides.
  3. Heat a pat of butter on medium high in a 5qt dutch oven. Brown chicken evenly on all sides, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding. Remove chicken and set aside, covered. (Chicken should be 90% cooked through.)
  4. Saute leeks in remaining fat (mmmm…fat..)
  5.  Add ~1 cup chicken stock.  Let it boil while scraping up bits and pieces that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream, dijon, tarragon, parsley, worcestershire sauce and dissolved corn starch. Add 2 dashes of white wine. Mix and salt to taste.
  6. Add chicken back in, spooning over sauce, and let liquid reduce to thickness and consistency of your liking.  ~2 min or until chicken is cooked and juices from center run clear.
  7. Plate chicken and spoon over lots of sauce. I served it with sauteed kale with toasted pine nuts and wine soaked raisins.

TIP: I also added 1 tsp of turmeric, just for an extra splash of color (: Turmeric, I hear, doesn’t actually impart much flavor. But it boasts a laundry list of health benefits. So they say.

November 25, 2011

Trial and Error: Macarons!


So maybe it was a bit overzealous to try macarons after just learning how to bake cookies last week, but what’s Thanksgiving without a bit of a challenge, no? I must say though, it was quite a humbling experience. The results of Take 1 are laughable:

Check out the monster on the left. (And that would be take 3 on the right…) Oh, and never underestimate the power of food coloring! Same filling in both cookies. No joke.

This recipe is the result of intense research and recipe combining! Props to my little researcher/photographer, Angeline. (:

Feel free to do your own research and come up with your own recipe. Trial and error is the best way to learn what works for you and your oven. There are a plethora of blog posts out there on troubleshooting and tips. Also, feel free to use those creative juices to come up with flavors combos. Things I want to try in the future: cardamom with orange white chocolate filling, macha green tea and red bean filling, classic pistachio with buttercream filling, coffee and chocolate, mint and chocolate, the list goes on…

MACARON SHELLS (makes ~20 sandwiches)

  • 3/4 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar (aka confectioner’s, icing, etc)
  • 1/4 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 eggs)
  •  baking sheets and a pencil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 315F (too low heat = cracks, too high heat = bottoms will burn)
  2. On the paper side of the baking sheet, trace out 1 inch diameter circles, 2 inches apart. Flip over in a baking pan, waxy side up.
  3. Sift and measure out almond flour and powdered sugar into a separate bowl.
  4. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites on medium until foamy. Increase to high, and beat in granulated sugar slowly. Keep whipping until the mixture turns white, thickens, and forms stiff shiny peaks. Add food coloring while you whip.
  5. Remove bowl from stand mixer and SLOWLY fold in flour mixture into meringue. Sift in some flour mixture, and fold, sift in more flour, then fold, etc. Do NOT overmix. Should be about 50 folds total. Resulting mixture will be shiny, magma-like, and drop off spatula in a slow, viscous manner. Over beating will create a thinner consistency. Under beating will be too thick and paste-y. To be honest, I actually didn’t use all the flour. I simply added most of it until it reached the consistency I liked.
  6. Spoon into a plastic bag and cut off the tip, ~1/2 inch diameter. When piping, the mixture should flow out on its own without pressure.
  7. Bake for 11 minutes, rotating after 5 min, and occasionally propping the oven door open just a crack to let out any steam. Err on the side of a tad overcooked instead of undercooked. A crisp macaron shell will soften the next day as it melds with the filling.
  8. Set aside to cool, then fill. Now LEAVE THEM ALONE! Eat it the next day. I promise. It’s 10x better. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. Preferably somewhere out of sight. (:

MACARON FILLINGS:
(Berry + White Chocolate Ganache) 

  • 4 oz white chocolate
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp jam (strawberry, mixed berry, raspberry, what have you.)

Place chocolate piece in a small glass or metal and place over a small sauce pan of water. Heat water slowly up to a simmer and melt chocolate. Add cream slowly as it melts and mix in jam. Optional: add 1 drop of red food coloring for aesthetic effect. Set aside until shells are ready to be filled.

(Salted Caramel) 

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 1 pinch of salt

You will need two small sauce pans. In one pan, heat milk over medium low heat, just before it boils. In another pan, add sugar and melt over medium high heat. Let sugar caramelize into a deep brown color tehn remove from heat. Slowly pour in hot milk while mixing continuously. Let it cool a bit, then add butter in pieces while still mixing. Place in fridge and let it cool a bit. Remove from fridge then beat until mixture is smooth and creamy. Set aside until macaron shells are ready to be filled. Don’t re-refrigerate fillings. They get too cold and hard to use…


Props to Angeline the researcher/photographer, Gloria the architect, and Rich the dish-washer (and stand mixer contributor?)

November 17, 2011

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

I love Martha Stewart.

This is my first batch of cookies since high school. That was the first and only time I tried to make cookies. They came out as chocolate chip biscuits. I never attempted cookies again after that.

Cookies take two?

(Look, Ma! Homemade frosting!)

Much more successful. The cookies are light and cakey with a very distinctive carrot cake spice. I had some trouble with the cream cheese frosting and it came out a bit lumpy (didn’t wait for everything to come to room temperature) and liquidy. Ok. I probably could’ve avoided those problems easily, but I was lazy. I used granulated sugar instead of powdered, and simply blasted it in a food processor to make it into a powder. Sounds like a reasonable substitute, right? HOWEVER,… I realized too late that I had measured 1 cup before I processed it. The resulting powder was actually less than a cup, and I was too lazy to measure more out.

In all honesty, sandwiched between two jumbo cookies, no one will notice what the frosting looks liked. Although next time, I’ll just listen to Martha and follow the damn recipe.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 whole clove, ground
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots, (about 3 large carrots)
  • 3/4 cups raisins
  • 3/4 cups chopped walnuts

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

  • 16oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature, cut in pieces
  • 2 cup confectioner’s/powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Grate carrots. Set aside in a large bowl with measured out oats, raisins, walnuts.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars and butter; beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; stir to combine.
  4. Gradually add flour to butter mixture; mix on a low speed until just blended.
  5. Mix in oats, carrots, walnuts, and raisins. Chill dough in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour. This is important to prevent runny dough and flat cookies.
  6. Make frosting:
    1. Beat cream cheese gently until softened.
    2. Add butter and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed until well incorporated (no more lumps).
    3. Slowly add powdered sugar until all two cups are in, adding more if frosting is still too runny.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper, and set aside. (use the butter wrappers to grease up the parchment paper. Quick trick.)
  8. Using a 1/2-ounce ice-cream scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. A 1tbs measuring spoon makes a good substitute. (***important! If you make the scoops too big or too close, you will get a sheet cookie. Trust me. I learned the hard way.) Transfer to oven, and bake until edges are JUST browned and crisped, 12 to 15 minutes. (Cookie will continue to cook and darken in color once removed.)
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat baking process with remaining dough. Once cooled completely, use an offset spatula to spread cream-cheese filling onto a cookie. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Some tips:

  1. Between batches, cool the baking pan completely by running it under some water in the sink. This keeps the dough from deflating upon contact on a hot pan…
  2. If you don’t have an ice cream scooper (I do not), use a 1tbs measuring spoon. 1 heaping spoonful will do. Just be consistent as you want the cookies to fit together for the sandwich.
  3. Chilling the dough is paramount. The dough is actually rather runny. Put the dough back in the fridge between baking batches to keep it firm.
  4. If the icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar! You may need more sugar than the icing recipe calls for.

EDIT: 3 years later, I’m getting pretty good at this recipe. Here’s the new and improved version. Smaller cookies, thicker and creamier frosting.

carrot cake

I also wasn’t instagram-ing 3 years ago. I’m sure that makes a difference in the photo quality. (: carrot cake2

November 12, 2011

Fudgy Toffee Brownies w/ a Pretzel Crumble Crust

I’ve never even made brownies from a box before. But this recipe is so detailed and fail proof, that all those new friends you’ll get when they get a whiff of this won’t even know it. “Oh yea, I’ve been baking for YEARS…”

And if you’re type A like me and need some more research, this article has GREAT tips and troubleshooting ideas: http://www.dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bakingtips.Brownies/Brownies.cfm

Conquering my fear of baking, take 1: 

Adapted from this amazing recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 bags heath toffee bits
Pretzel Crust
  • ~3-4 cups salted pretzels
  • 3/4 – 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Line the inside of an 9×13 pan with foil. Lightly butter the bottom of the pan.

3. Melt butter in a large metal or glass mixing bowl, placed over a saucepan of water on low heat. Add the chocolate and stir by hand until it is melted and smooth.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute—time yourself—until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in add-ins (toffee bits, toasted nuts, etc).

5. Crust: Melt butter. In a food processor, pulse pretzels until it becomes a coarse sandy texture. Add pretzel crumbs and sugar to melted butter. Mix until it forms a crumbly texture. Pack pretzel mixture into the bottom of the pan.

6. Scrape the brownie batter (it will be thick and difficult to spread) over the pretzel crumble and set in fridge for an hour or two. This supposedly helps create a crisp crust on top and a soft gooey center when baked. I like this combo in a brownie. feel free to skip the fridge step if you like.

7. Bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Toothpick should NOT come out clean from the center.

7. Let the brownie cool COMPLETELY in the pan. Lift the foil or parchment and the block of brownie out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares. (The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days and can be frozen for 1 month.). Tastes better the next day! If you’re making this at night, tightly seal pan with aluminum foil and leave it on the counter over night and cut in the morning.

November 6, 2011

happy birthday to me.

That is all I have to say.

November 6, 2011

Kimchee Burgers

My new favorite snack:

  • 1 Sandwich Thins round, toasted
  • 1 Gardenburger Portabella patty*
  • Kimchee

*I find the Original flavor is too herby and clashes rather badly with kimchee…

Takes 2 minutes, and is only ~200 calories. And for a little perspective: a sugar loaded granola bar is ~180. A bag of SunChips is ~210. A cup of Raisin Bran cereal with 2% milk is 265. And come on, who eats only 1 cup of cereal?

I always have a jar of kimchee in my fridge. Tastes good with everything. Especially a hot bowl of ramen. Mmm…. ramen…

I’m on a diet this week. Can you tell? Too bad I’m baking zucchini bread right now. I swear I’m gonna give the rest away after one slice! I swear!

November 4, 2011

Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant

Eggplant season is here! I visited Houston’s Bayou City Farmer’s Market for the first time last weekend, and the stands were all filled with beautiful shades of purple. I couldn’t help myself and bought way more than I knew what to do with… but that’s ok! ‘Cause I went on a google craze and this is the best eggplant recipe I’ve tried yet. And what is cooking without a little improvisation? (Yes. I am very type A and typically plan out my meals a week ahead…)

Some tips on eggplants: Unblemished eggplants with their skins perfectly intact will last on your counter for a couple of days. Best to store in the fridge, unwrapped, and in your veggie drawer because they go bad quickly! Oh, and smaller = less seeds = less biter.

Please excuse my craptacular camera:

Adapted from Gourmet

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 mini eggplants
  • 0.75 lb lamb, ground
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • ½ cup cooked long grain or wild rice
  • ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1  large onion, diced finely
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 tbs parsley
  • salt
  • 1 15oz can diced tomato
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ~1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp+ coriander seeds

Saute onions and garlic in a large 5qt dutch oven or pot. Add parsley and ~1 tbs+ kosher salt. Remove HALF of the onions and set aside to cool. In remaining onions, add 1 can of tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Season with sugar, comin, and coriander seeds. Salt to taste. Cover and leave on a simmer while you prepare everything else.

Cut off tops of eggplants and with a melon baller, scoop out the insides of the eggplant, leaving about 1/2 cm thickness all the way around. Make sure to take out all the seeds. I did this with a spoon. It hurt my wrists. Please get a melon baller. Add cooled onions to a large mixing bowl. Add all spice, pine nuts, rice, and meat. Mix until just combined. Stuff eggplants with meat.

Preheat oven to 375F. Rub olive oil over eggplants and place on aluminum lined baking pan. Bake for 20 min, then add to sauce and simmer, covered, for 20 min.

Squeeze lemon over eggplants and top with parsley before serving.

To be honest I’m not sure if baking them first makes any difference, but the reasons why I added that step are

  1. I wanted to get rid of some of the liquid from the eggplants and not have it all run out into the sauce
  2. When baking, some of the fat drains out.
  3. I didn’t want soggy eggplants and I figure baking might leave them firmer than if I plopped them in liquid for an hour.
I’ll continue to experiment next time I try this!
November 2, 2011

I <3 Peru: Lomo Saltado

I’ve lost count of how many times we had this dish when we visited Peru in the summer. It is SO good. And so simple! Not unlike a Chinese stir fry. Which might be part of why I took such a natural liking to Peruvian food. Apparently they are heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine. I am not sure why… If someone out there knows, enlighten me, please!

Here’s my attempt at recreating one of my favorite meals of the trip:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb skirt steak or fajita meat, sliced thin
  • ~2 tbs soy sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • corn starch
  • 1 med sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 med red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 3 small red chili peppers, sliced (I used dried, chinese peppers)
  • 1 splash of red wine vinegar
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatos
  • 1+ tsp cumin
  • 1+ tsp paprika
  • salt
  • optional: cilantro
  • served with: rice and french fries

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Dissolve corn starch in ~2 tbs soy sauce (enough to coat meat). Marinate steak in thickened soy sauce and garlic for 3o min-2 hours.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over HIGH. Add meat and brown quickly on all sides, no need to cook through. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In remaining oil in the pan, saute onions and bell peppers until just soft, 5min. Season with cumin and paprika.
  4. Add 1 can off tomato and simmer until heated through. Salt to taste.
  5. Add meat and a splash of vinegar to tomato mixture, cover, and simmer on very low for 15-20 min or until meat is cooked through.

Traditionally served with rice and french fries, but I try to be healthy when I can so I used whole grain wild rice and roasted yams instead. (:

Dinner is served!

You know what ELSE tastes good in Peru? ALPACA. Yea. Those cute little furry things in the background. They are damn good.

Oh and seafood. Lots of good seafood in Lima.

Viva El Peru!