Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blog Blossom Graphs

So I ran across this website this evening that analyzes the HTML coding on your blog and turns it into this beautiful graph. It was featured on Tastespotting.

This is the one of here



Isn't it pretty? You should totally try it out here.

Asparagus & Mushroom Orzotto with Feta


I subscribe to a few different food magazines, one of them being Vegetarian Times. I'm not a vegetarian, but I've spent most of my life avoiding most meat. Only recently have I really made meat my main protein source in my diet and that's simply because I've fallen into a rut with cooking. I've been so busy with school lately that it's so much easier to throw a last minute steak on the grill than to actually think up a menu and stick to it. But, my body's not really loving me for it. Plus, I do have a little moral issue with meat. Not all meat, but commercially raised meat. I was raised with a healthy respect for all life, and if something is going to be giving up its life to sustain me then it better be damn well treated humanely while it was on this earth. Modern factory-farming is just not that. It's a horrible, evil thing and I feel like a complete wretch every time I buy meat at the grocery store. I also think that if one is willing to eat meat then one should be willing it kill the animal, but that's a long story and is not the time nor here the place. So, I've been looking through my past issues of VT, hoping to find some healthier alternatives to our meals as of late.

This Asparagus and Mushroom Orzotto recipe was found in the last issue of Vegetarian Times. It was paired with a veg Osso Bucco that sounded particularly delicious. However, I am fundamentally unable to follow a recipe so I ended up changing it quite a bit. First off, I don't usually have vegetable stock, so chicken stock it is - and there goes vegetarian right off the menu. It wanted me to add parmesan, I wanted to add feta, you see, we just weren't getting along. So, as per usual, I just did whatever I felt like.

Thankfully it turned out pretty fantastic.



Asparagus & Mushroom Orzotto with Feta

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced on bias into thirds
6 oz. cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup orzo
3-4 cups chicken stock, warmed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup feta, crumbled

Heat olive oil and butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic, and saute 2 minutes. Add asparagus and mushrooms, and saute 5 to
7 minutes, or until mushrooms start to release their juices. Add 1/2 cup orzo and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add remaining orzo, and cook
3 minutes more, or until all pasta bits are browned. Stir in 1/2 cup vegetable broth,
parsley, and thyme, and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, or until orzo has absorbed all liquid, stirring often. Continue adding broth to orzo 1/2 cup at a time until all liquid is absorbed and orzo cooked through. Remove from heat, and top with feta and a crack or two fresh ground black pepper.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Daring Pizza



It's that time again, ya'all. No, not time for fried squirrel and banjo pickin'. Time for the October Daring Baker's Challenge!



This month's host was Rosa, of Rosa's Yummy Yums. She did a lovely job hosting this month and presented us with DB's first ever pizza dough recipe! Selected from “The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart, the recipe was a thin crust pizza dough, using a cold fermentation technique. Our real challenge though, was to toss our pizzas like real pizzaiolos - and capture on film the hilarious aftermath.

Pizza is one of Mr. TA's all time favorite foods, so I've made pizza at home several times before, using all different types of recipes for the dough. This one seemed a little pretentious at first, what with all the chilling and the resting, and the blah, blah, blah. But, you know, it really made a difference. This was, by far, the best pizza dough recipe I've ever used. This will henceforth be my go-to recipe for making MR. TA his favorite meal. It was perfectly thin, with great flavor. Crispy and chewy, supporting the toppings ideally but without being doughy. This really is the recipe for pizza dough if you're a thin crust pizza lover. And if you prefer Domino's or whatever...then you're gross. I'm just sayin...


C'mon. Check out that crust. Tell me you don't love it.

Well, after thoroughly dousing my kitchen floor with flour and cornmeal, I succeeded in my task. Mr. TA took the picture of my throwing dough around my kitchen, refusing to shut off the flash (whatev.) like a big pain, and I almost speared it on this giant Indian paper star I have hanging from the skylight, but it ended up turning out OK.



That is, if you discount the deer-in-the-headlights look I have. Apparently my pizza was threatening to attack me or some BS. (My debut on my own blog and I look like a dumbass...whoooo) I don't know...

I used three of the six dough balls I made. Each dough ball made a ten inch pizza, more than enough for Mr. TA and I. The first one I made was Mr. TA's favorite, Margherita. Just a simple marinara sauce, topped with whole milk mozzarella, sliced tomato and fresh basil after coming out of the oven. Drizzle with a little high-quality olive oil, and a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and you've got heaven on dough.



The second pizza was my favorite, pepperoni with mozzarella and sharp cheddar with a healthy smattering of raw onion. Oh yeah, babe. That's some pizza. This one actually reminded me of a pizza I had in Costa Rica, straight out of a giant clay, woodburning pizza oven in the middle of nowhere. Talk about memories. Though, this time I wasn't getting the shit bit out of me by mosquitoes. I didn't get any pictures of this one (that turned out at least) or the third one, a sausage and pepperoni with mozzarella. But let me tell you, they were delicious.

I want to thank Rosa again for such a wonderful challenge. Also, my heartfelt condolences to Sher's family. I didn't know her, but she sounds like an amazing lady.

I urge you to check out all of the other Daring Baker's creations, there's some pretty fantastic ones out there..

Olive, Fig, & Prosciutto from Gourmet or Gourmand
Blueberry, Mascarpone & Dulce De Leche from The Hungry Housewife (OMG omnomnomnom)
Grilled Chicken with Parmesan Tomato Sauce from Sugarlaws
Honey, Pistachio, Date & Banana from Tea Factory
Apple Cinnamon Streusel from Baking Obsession (Oh god yes...)

And so many more...

~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method:
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

Or

2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

Or

8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

Or

10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

Or

11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

Or

12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

Or

13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup


One of my guilty pleasure is broccoli cheddar soup. Too often it's adulterated with Velveeta or some other nasty ass processed cheese-style food, which is sad, because it's can be so comforting when made properly.

The other day, apparently a day when I felt like my thighs could use a bit more cushion, I decided to try making my own for the first time. This is by no means a low-fat soup. This soup kicks low-fat's ass. But piping hot with some fresh dinner rolls slathered with butter...it's like a day at the spa for my tummy.

Only fattening.

Whatev.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup


½ onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
½ cup cream
12 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese

In a 6 quart pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and cook till the onion is softened – about 4 minutes. Sift in the flour, all at once, stirring to combine. Cook the flour mixture for about 3 minutes, moving constantly to avoid burning. Pour in ½ cup chicken stock, stirring until fully incorporated, repeat with remaining stock. Pour in milk, all at once, then add broccoli. Bring to a steady simmer, stirring constantly. Be sure to not let the milk stick to the bottom of the pan. When broccoli is softened, about 15 minutes, add the cheese 2 oz at a time, allowing to melt completely before adding more. Stir in the cream, serve immediately.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Boiled Peanuts



One of Mr. TA's (I'm shortening it, Totally Awesome is just way too long for someone as lazy as me) favorite snack foods when he was a child was boiled peanuts. He often tells me stories about how he and his dad would get boiled peanuts from roadside stands in Florida. He's asked before if I would make them for him, but I thought it was going to be some long, arduous process that involved some crazy Southern secret ingredients. It turns out it's pretty much as easy as it sounds, boiling peanuts. Mr. TA said the people at the stands would sometimes have different flavors, curry, spicy, Cajun, etc. I haven't quite gotten that far yet, but I bet boiling them in some Tony Chachere's seasoning would be pretty bad ass. That stuff tastes great on just about anything.

Mr. TA likes to eat his peanuts just as they are - crack open the shell and suck the mushy peanut out - but I guess it's a pretty traditional Southern habit to pop the peanuts into a bottle of cola and chug 'em down together. I'm assuming there's some chewing of the peanuts involved in there somewhere. I was introduced to this crazy custom by my mother's husband, C. C's from Texas originally and has all sorts of interesting habits. C and I were headed somewhere on some road trip to do something (there are too many occasions similar to this to pinpoint exactly what we were all doing) and stopped at a gas station to get fuel and snacks. He bought a packet of salted peanuts and a bottle of Coke and proceeded to empty the peanuts into the Coke bottle. I thought he was a friggin' crazy person. Who the hell does that? Puts peanuts in Coke. That's just weird.

But, I was recently reading "Pig Perfect" by Peter Kaminsky and he also related the Southern custom of putting peanuts in cola. So I suppose it's not quite as crazy as I thought...

C made me try it before I nay-sayed it too badly, and it's really pretty good. Not something I'd go out of my way to try again, but I wouldn't kick Coke and peanuts outta bed for eatin' crackers, know what I mean?

It's extremely easy to make, and if you've got a Southern boy, or an East Coast man with Southern roots like Mr. TA, then these are really too convenient to not make for them.

Just make sure you drink lots of water. My god, what is with Southerners and adding unhealthy amounts of everything bad for you to every single recipe they make? There's enough sodium in these bad boys to bloat you up like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.



Boiled Peanuts

Makes 1 lb.

1 lb. raw (green/young) peanuts
1/2 cup kosher salt
6 quarts water

Boil the peanuts and salt in the water for about 3 hours, or until peanuts are soft all the way through. Pull one out, let it cool, peel it, and try the peanut after about 2 hours. Repeat every 15 minutes until peanuts are all tender.

These must be eaten same day, if not they'll get all slimy and smelly. If desired you can reserve the cooking liquid and keep the peanuts in the liquid in a jar in the refrigerator for no more than three days.

Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp


I am addicted to Gourmet magazine's Gourmet Everyday section. Every month I eagerly await the arrival of the mag, set myself down with whatever tasty beverage-of-the-minute I'm craving, and pore over that baby like it's fine literature. I subscribe to Bon Appetit as well, I just haven't quite developed the appreciation for it that I feel with Gourmet. I've found so many great recipes in Gourmet that I'm pretty sure at this point I'll be a subscriber for life.

This month's luscious find was Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp. It has an unusual (for American cuisine at least) combination of spices, cinnamon, allspice, and red pepper flakes with a sprinkle of dill over the top. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it, but figured it was worth a shot. I shouldn't have hesitated, because it is most definitely one of our favorite new meals. Mr. Totally Awesome and I downed nearly the whole recipe in one evening, sopping up the juices with some herbed-butter bread. The interplay of piquant tomato sauce, salty feta, and the fresh shrimp was just right.

I did switch a couple things up, I used tinned diced tomatoes instead of chopping up whole tinned tomatoes - that seemed like a useless extra step - and I was all out of fresh dill, so I just sprinkled some dried over the top after baking. With the dried it was tasty, I can only imagine how much better it is with the fresh. I'm a sucker for fresh dill.

For a quick and easy weeknight meal, Gourmet hit a home-run on this one. I urge you to try it out with some nice big 15 count shrimp. I used little bitty 25 count guys and they were nice, but I bet some big-ass prawns would seal the deal like no other.



Greek-Spice Baked Shrimp

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
Pinch of sugar
1 1/4 pound large peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 pound feta, crumbled (2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped dill

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Cook onion and garlic in oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in spices and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes with juice and sugar and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Season shrimp with 1/8 teaspoon salt, then stir into tomato sauce. Transfer to a 2-quart shallow baking dish and top with feta. Bake until just cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve sprinkled with dill.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

All American


There are many things in this world that I absolutely cannot live without, Mr. Totally Awesome (oh yes, that name is sticking), a clean house, brownies, fried chicken, goat cheese, and burgers and fries. Burgers are my guilty pleasure, I'm liable to order them whenever they're on the menu. I've even been known to patronize a Burger King or two when I'm hit with a real craving. I know, it's dirty and wrong, but I just can't help it (Burger King, not burgers in general). There's just something about the combination of juicy, flavorful hamburger, melty sharp cheddar cheese, salty bacon, tomatoes, onion, pickles...oh yum. I'll eat a specialty burger with gorgonzola and caramelized onions, or avocado, or pineapple, but nothing gets me quite like a good old fashioned all American hamburger with all the fixings.

This is one of my own recipes that I've fashioned after the way my mother made them when I was a child. These babies are moist and full of flavor, but they are a little fragile - I won't lie, they can fall apart on you. But, once you take that first bite you'll know what I mean. Nothing tastes quite like home like a burger and fries.

Tasty Juicy Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

1/4 yellow onion, chopped very fine
3/4 lb. lean hamburger
6 saltines, crushed
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
pinch red pepper flakes

In a small skillet cook the onion until softened, remove from heat. Combine onion, hamburger and remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and work together with your hands until thoroughly combined. Chill for at least two hours. Remove meat mixture from the refrigerator and let sit at room temp for 15 minutes. Shape into four patties. Grill burgers on BBQ, or pan fry over med-high heat.

The key here is to let the burgers cook for 4-5 minutes each side, only flipping once. Put the burgers in the pan/on the grill, let cook for 4-5 minutes, depending on thickness and how done you like them, then flip and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. DO NOT press down on them with a spatula or you'll ruin them. It presses all the juices out and makes a dry piece of leather. If desired throw a slice or two of cheese on the patty after flipping. When finished place on a bun and top with whatever the hell makes you happy.



Oven Baked French Fries

3 russet potatoes
vegetable oil
salt and cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 450 F (this will take at least 1/2 hour allow for that)

Slice the washed potatoes into 1/3 inch square fries. Toss in a bowl with vegetable oil, salt and pepper to taste. Lay out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Do not forget the parchment paper, if you're not going to use it just throw the potatoes in the trash because that's about all you'll accomplish. Lay out the fries in one even layer over the parchment. Bake for 40 minutes, or until crisp on the outside, tender on the inside.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trogdor!!

It's official.

The KitchenAid Mixer will henceforth be called Trogdor the Mixinator.

He will be sent upon his inaugural mission by creating tasty marshmallows...

...sometime next week.

Because I cannot tell you how incredibly effing busy I am right now. I think it's actually a collaboration among professors to schedule all huge projects for the same week. Every single class I have has either a big project, a paper, or a midterm exam this week. What the F, yo? Can a girl get a little love around here?

I've been whipping up tasty dishes all week, but sadly I haven't been getting them on the table until after dark - which means no photo action. I can't take flash pictures to save my life and I haven't taken the time to set up a little macro studio in the second bedroom yet. Hey, I'm busy...and a little lazy.

But I promise you, my faithful half dozen readers (hey guys!), I shall return this weekend to create some marshmallows that will rock your friggin world.

Promise.

P.S. If you're unfamiliar with Trogdor the Burninator, you should watch this video. However, if you're not keen on silly internet cartoons and have never heard of Homestar Runner you probably won't enjoy. Be warned.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Me!


Guess what I got...

On November 3rd Husband and I will be celebrating our first anniversary, it's hard to believe it's already been a year since we married, time sure flies when you're having fun, eh? Last week, being the outstanding man that he is, he surprised the ever loving heck out of me by buying me something I've wanted for EVAR.

Do you have one of those kitchen gadgets that you drool over every time you think of it? Maybe sometimes you even look at it online, tell it how pretty it is and how one day the two of you will be united to conquer the culinary kingdom of tasty goodness? Maybe pet the screen a little?

OK then, I guess that's just me - figures.

My coveted tool is the KitchenAid Mixer. My mother had one when I was younger and I think I almost wore the damn thing out making anything I could possibly think of. Chocolate chip cookies, braided herb breads, zucchini bread - you name it. They are a godsend to have in the kitchen. You can make anything in a KitchenAid; bread, cookies, cakes, quickbreads, pastry dough, shortbread, cheesecake - not to mention all the attachments. Meat grinding, flour milling, ice cream making, pasta rolling, food processing...this thing is like Thomas Keller in a machine. And god knows how much I love that man. (Almost as much as Husband.) (Which according to Husband he is now to be referred to as Mr. Totally Awesome. I think I can manage that considering the cool thing he did.) (Husband, not Thomas Keller.)(Have I used enough parentheses yet?) But, unfortunately KitchenAid Mixers are pretty spendy. Not exactly a small appliance you buy on a whim, and I'm a pretty frugal person when it comes to purchases that aren't completely necessary. I'm the queen of buyer's remorse. So, I'd resort to lovingly fondling my laptop screen, dreaming about the day I could make bread without feeling it in my shoulders for two days afterward.



Then Mr. Totally Awesome (told you so) bought me one for our anniversary! Would you like to know why? Because he is freakin' totally awesome! After years of drooling and thinking about all the wonderful tasty treats I could whip up with a trusty KitchenAid mixer I finally have one! I shall lay the culinary world to the ground with my mixing prowess! Muahahaha! OK, probably not - but I'm going to make some seriously tasty yumminess in this bad boy.



Ain't he purty? Yes, he's a he. I don't know why, but that's what he is. He's the licorice color, which is a pretty semi-matte black. I like it much better than the straight onyx black that's all shiny. The only color I would've preferred was the caviar, unfortunately the caviar wasn't 46% off on Amazon the other day (Go Mr. Totally Awesome at finding a great deal!) He's the bowl lift-style Professional 600 series with the 575 watt motor and the 14 cup capacity. That's right baby, 14 cups! Yeast breads bow before me! Just thinking about the 67 point planetary mixing action and the direct drive transmission makes me weak in the knees. If you get me started on the attachments I may need my smelling salts. (What the hell is in smelling salts anyways?)

Now, I've only got one problem...I don't know what to make with it. I've been thinking of too many different things to make for so long, that I can't decide on one specific thing to christen my lovechild with. So, I'm going to you, my lovely readers (All four of you, hey guys!) to help me decide what to make for its inaugural mission.

Plus I need to come up with an awesome name for it. This guy is now a beloved member of the family, he has to have a name! So, what do you think? CookieMonster 3000? Trogdor the Mixinator? M.O.U.S. (Mixer Of Unusual Size)? Got any better ideas?

For those of you outstanding human beings who already have a KitchenAid Mixer, tell me why you love it, why you hate it, or why you couldn't possibly live without it!

Leave your ideas for recipes and names in the comments. I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say!

Sharp Cheddar Nachos



One of my guiltiest pleasures is nachos dripping in cheese sauce. I can enjoy nachos with melted cheese, and drowning in additional toppings - but my favorite is an ooey, gooey, spicy, sharp cheddar cheese nacho sauce. I'll even go for that awful stuff in the jar sometimes, I can't help it - I'm addicted!

So, when I saw this recipe a while back I knew I had to try it out. Of course, I'm one of those people who are completely unable to follow a recipe. Most of the time I start out with the intention of following it pretty closely, but as the recipe progresses I decide it can use a little pinch of this, or a dash of that. Sometimes to alter a recipe I know is going to come out faulty, or most often because I'm a pain in the ass and don't like to follow directions.

Drew's recipe was outstanding, but I couldn't help changing it up to suit my tastes. The result? Amazing. If you like nachos with cheese sauce I cannot recommend this recipe more. He really came up with a winner this time. Normally I wouldn't post someone else's recipe on my page, but because I altered it so much I'm going to switch it up and post my version. Hopefully Drew doesn't mind!

Nacho Cheese Sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup evaporated milk
2 oz cream cheese
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, in small cubes or shredded
1 tablespoon Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1/2 jalapeno, minced

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over med heat. Whisk in corn starch. Slowly stir in evaporated milk. When milk is fully incorporated with no lumps add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Add cheese an oz. at a time, waiting until it is completely assimilated before adding more. When all cheese is added stir in the hot sauce and minced jalapeño. Taste and add more heat if you like. Serve over tortilla chips with whatever toppings you like.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pie


I don't think you can delve farther into the comfort food category than with pot pie. I think the only thing that beats chicken pot pie is macaroni and cheese. On that note, I must confess I didn't follow my own rules. See, I have this little problem about following recipes. To be honest I have a problem with following directions of most kinds, it just happens to be that recipes are generally the only directions I come across. Whoo...Nobody's the boss of me!



So, I posted earlier that you can do a boatload of things with a single fryer chicken. This is my second meal out of the same chicken, utilizing the remainder of the shredded chicken meat from our Roast Chicken Dinner on Sunday, and the chicken stock I made with the leftover carcass. In my earlier post I detailed a recipe for chicken pot pie that I've made several times. This time however I had some leftover bacon from Sunday morning's Cinnamon French Toast breakfast. And who knows what happens when there's left over bacon in the refrigerator? That's right. It makes it's happy way into as many dishes as is humanly possible. Husband was rummaging through the fridge on Monday looking for food and asked about the bacon, then insisted it must go in the pot pie. So was born the Chicken, Broccoli, and Bacon Pot Pie. Feel free to salivate at will.



Chicken, Broccoli, and Bacon Pot Pie
Serves 4

1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 very small, or 1 medium, leek, white part only, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 small yukon gold potatoes, small diced
1 broccoli crown, chopped into small florets, stalk included
10 oz. shredded roast chicken
4 strips bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
olive oil
sea salt
cracked pepper
prepared pie crust/puff pastry for two crusts
1 egg, beaten

In a large skillet (4 1/2 quart) or soup pot over medium heat cook the garlic in a drizzle of olive oil until fragrant, about thirty seconds. Add the leek and onion, cooking until softened and nearly translucent. Add the potato and broccoli, allowing the broccoli to turn bright green and potato to start to soften, about 4 minutes. Add in the cooked, shredded chicken and the crumbled bacon and stir well. Chop the butter into tablespoon size pieces and add to the pan, allowing to melt completely. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture evenly, and then mix well. Fold into the mixture until dry flour is no longer perceptible. Slowly stir in one cup of the chicken stock, mixing very well. When stock is fully incorporated with the flour and beginning to thicken add the remaining stock and the heavy cream. Mix well. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until as thick as desired. Line the bottom of an 8 in. deep dish pie plate with one crust, top with filling. Place second crust over the top and seal edges by pressing together. Brush top with beaten egg and pierce crust to allow for steam ventilation. Bake in a 400 F oven for 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chicken Stock


Continuing with the other day’s theme of being frugal, last night I made chicken stock with the leftover chicken carcass from our roast chicken dinner. Now, the recipe I provided in that post is a great basic chicken stock, but I had a few extra things floating around in my fridge that could use some using up. That’s the key point of being conscientious about finances, be flexible. If you’re interested in making a recipe, but can’t afford to buy all of the ingredients – or you’re lazy like me and don’t feel like going to the grocery store – adapt it to what you have on hand. In the refrigerator I had some leeks, cilantro, and carrots with greens that were just begging to jump in the stock, so I went with it.

Now, usually I wouldn’t post an additional recipe for stock, I truly do try not to be redundant ( doesn’t show, does it?). But this was quite possibly the best stock I’ve ever made. Really. Truly. Outstanding. I try not to be so specific with something like stock, generally mine are a little different every time depending on what's in the refrigerator, but this one is so tasty I want to post it exactly as made, if for no other reason than I can replicate it. So, if you’ve got some time and an extra chicken carcass lying around, and really, who doesn’t? Then knock yourself out with my badass chicken stock.

Chicken Stock

1 roasted chicken carcass
3 fresh carrots, scrubbed & chopped, with leafy green tops
3 small leeks, white and green parts, scrubbed & chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup cilantro, with stems, washed and chopped
1 heart of celery, with leaves, washed and chopped
1 broccoli crown, quartered
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 bay leaves

Put all in large stock pot, add water to cover plus two inches and boil. Let simmer for three and half hours, skimming fat when necessary, till reduced by at least 1/3 – 1/2 for more flavor. Strain into bowl, chill, store, salivate.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chicken Days, Chicken Nights


There are few things that can provide more meals in one than a whole chicken. With the economy the way that it is and food prices skyrocketing the way they are, most people, it seems, are just trying to eke by until payday. Sadly, though Husband and I do well for ourselves financially, there's this little thing called identity theft. It sucks. Even when your bank catches it within an hour. I'm not even going to tell you how many thousands were gone. So, I got to reach back in my memory of being a starving waitress and trying to feed myself before I met Husband. Nothing like trying to buy a couple weeks groceries for thirty dollars, eh?

Luckily, one of our benefits from being enslaved to the government is the commissary. I've ranted about the commissary before, and don't get me wrong, if I could choose I would not shop at the one near where we're stationed, but the prices simply can not be beat. Everything is sold at cost, plus the overhead of running DECA (the commissary bigwigs). Now, before you get all "Lucky you!" and "Aww. That's not fair, what about me?" remember that I had to sit at home for 15 months while my husband was in a big ol' sandbox. Think I'd switch ya for a higher grocery bill? I'll let you decide.

My point in all of this is that grocery stores are raising prices to outrageous amounts feigning high gas prices and whatnot, even the commissaries. It's times like these that require pinching pennies and trying to get the most out of the items you can afford to buy. I was shocked walking into a civilian grocery store and seeing boneless skinless chicken thighs $3.99 per lb. And boneless skinless chicken breasts at $6.99 per lb. Outrageous! The whole chickens weren't hugely better, but at $2.19 per lb, you're saving money - plus there's so much more you can do with a whole chicken. Breasts or thighs - once you use 'em they're gone. But, a whole chicken - that's got some lasting power. So, stop buying all that pre-skinned, pre-boned, way more expensive stuff and come with me.

Following are four recipes, and three meals, using only a whole chicken and a few other ingredients, most of which I bet you've got in your kitchen.

Pantry Items

Sea Salt/Salt of some kind
Black Pepper
Flour
Butter
Dried Herbs
Eggs
Rice
Ingredients to make Pie Crust/Frozen Pie Crust

Shopping List

1 4 lb. Whole Fryer Chicken
1 box Stovetop Stuffing (or make your own at home)
1 head Celery
1 2 lb. bag Carrots
2 tins Chicken Stock
3 Onions
1 head Garlic
1 Broccoli Crown
1 Russet Potato



Roast Chicken Dinner
Serves 2

4 lb. Whole Chicken
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, divided
1 box Stovetop Stuffing

1 cup Rice
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon dried Sage

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Remove giblets and neck from cavity, discard or reserve for another use. Rinse chicken with cool water, inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels and let rest for ten minutes at room temperature. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, prepare stuffing according to directions. Fill cavity with stuffing and truss legs together. Place in oven, uncovered and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and chop up remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and place pieces all over the breast and legs. Cook for 25 minutes further, basting with juices in pan every ten minutes, until bird is golden brown and registers 180 F both in center of cavity and in thigh or until a knife inserted in thigh produces clear juices.

Meanwhile, rinse rice until water runs clear, drain. Follow directions to prepare in rice cooker or place rice in saucepot with lid with the 2 cups chicken stock and dried sage. Bring to a boil for 1 minutes, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Serve Roasted chicken legs, and ½ breast each, with rice and stuffing.

Shred remaining breast and thighs, plus pulling any meat possible off of the back or around the cavity. Be sure to exclude fat, skin, and ligament. Halve the shredded meat and store in refrigerator in separate containers. Save carcass for stock.

Chicken Stock

1 Chicken Carcass
2 Carrots, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, washed, chopped, leaves included
1 Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon Whole Black Peppercorns
1 tablespoon Sea Salt
2 Bay Leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot, add water to cover plus two inches and bring to a boil. Keep at a low boil for three hours, skimming fat and scum when necessary. Strain into a bowl, discard solids. Cover and chill overnight. Skim solidified fat off top the next morning and save for future use.

Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pie

Serves 2, with leftovers

½ Shredded Chicken Meat
2 Celery Stalks, sliced
1 Onion, chopped very fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Broccoli Crown, florets and chopped stalk
1 Russet Potato, cubed
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Flour
1 cup Chicken Stock
½ teaspoon Sea Salt
½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Egg, beaten
1 portion pie crust/puff pastry, equal to 2 8 in. rounds

Preheat oven to 375 F

In a sauce pan over medium heat melt butter. Stir in flour and cook, stirring continuously for 1 minute. Slowly stir in chicken stock until fully incorporated. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken, celery, onion, garlic, broccoli and potato. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Line an 8 in. pie plate with one portion crust, top with chicken filling, and lay second portion crust over top. Seal edges with beaten egg, pressing down with fork after to seal. Brush top with beaten egg and pierce with knife to vent. Bake for 25 minutes, or until heated through and crust is golden brown.

If desired, vegetables may be cooked/roasted separately before adding to sauce to deepen flavor.

Chicken and Rice Soup
Serves 2, with leftovers

½ Shredded Chicken Meat
Remaining Chicken Stock
2 Carrots, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 Onion, chopped fine
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Rice
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

In a large soup pot melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add celery, carrot and chicken. Cook for a further 3 minutes. Pour in chicken stock, season to taste with salt and pepper, bring to a boil. Add rice, stirring well. Boil for 1 minute, cover, reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

P.S. We did finally get our money back, but that was a rough two weeks. It opened my eyes to how much I really could cut back on our grocery bill if I tried a little harder. I'm already frugal, but there's always somewhere one can cut back. Even if you don't like these recipes, take a look at your receipt the next time you go grocery shopping. I bet there's a few things you could do without. Take a little time, and a little effort, and stretch that food budget like it's Jane Fonda in a Jazzercise video! I'll be making the stock tomorrow, along with the pot pie, followed by the chicken and rice soup after that - I'll prove this menu's not boring, and it's totally doable.

Cinnamon French Toast


When I made the Cinnamon Bread the other day I knew it would make some stellar French toast. And did it, you ask. Oh god yes it did. There's two trick to make this outstanding:

1. Soak the bread in the egg, really soak it in. It'll take several minutes for the egg to permeate the density of the bread.

2. Fry it in bacon fat. My mom told me about this once, but my ass can't handle cooking a whole lot in bacon grease. But, I was cooking bacon at the same time I was soaking the bread and...well, you see what happened. And folks, let me tell you, it's friggin' tasty.

P.S. The picture looks like garbage, but the taste really stands out. I can't recommend this enough if you love French toast.

I'll stop soon, I promise...

I just can't help it, I'm fired up about this election...


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cinnamon Bread


Continuing on with my cravings for sweets that aren't really all that sweet I decided to make some cinnamon bread today. I've been experimenting with yeast breads lately, and been having a marginal amount of success. The dinner rolls went well, so I opted to manipulate that recipe instead of trying a whole new one. I'm a creature of habit, I can't help it. Once I find something that works for me, I very rarely change my ways. This isn't so great being married to someone in the military, though. There are many things that get changed with very little notice and we have little to (more often) no control over it at all. But hey, at least I've got some bread that I can control the heck out of, right?

I was going for a little bit more swirl action when I constructed this in my mind's eye, not so much the giant "C" I did achieve. I guess I should just be clever and tell everyone it's "C" for cinnamon, eh? I'm really not that clever. And what would happen is I ever made a Pecan bread? I'd be screwed.

This actually turned out much better than I thought it was going to. The bread is light and fluffy with just a hint of cinnamon, with a tasty cinnamon sugar streak right through it. This is so destined to be made into French toast in the morning. Or get toasted with some butter. Or be used to make a PB & J. Or, or, or...



Cinnamon Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

In a mixing bowl combine warm (110 F) water with the yeast and let bloom for 10-15 minutes. When yeast is foamy add sugar oil, salt, and cinnamon. Stir well. Add 2 cups flour, mix well. Add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time. You may not need all the flour depending on the day, sometimes it uses it all and it’s still damp, other days I only need about 3 2/3 cups. Add enough to get it to form into a ball and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for ten minutes, until smooth and elastic. Try to knead in as little flour as possible, remember – the more flour you knead in the dryer and denser it will be. When dough is smooth and elastic, place in oiled bowl and allow to rise until tripled in size, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 10 by 8 inches. Brush surface with beaten egg. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and spread evenly over the dough, leaving a ¾ inch border around all sides. Roll up the dough, jelly roll style and pinch the ends and seam. Place into a 9x5 bread loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm area and allow to rise until dough crests 1 ½ inches over the rim of the pan. Heat the oven to 400 F. Place loaf into the oven, turn down to 350 degrees. After 15 minutes, cover with tented tin foil and bake for a further 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool near to room temperature before slicing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Whole Wheat Molasses Cookies


I may have mentioned before that as sweets go, I'm not the biggest fan. I didn't enjoy sweets when I was a child at all, and as I've grown older I've started eating more, but I still don't get the kick out of it most people seem to. I don't crave candy bars, I couldn't care less about ice cream, chocolate is pretty blah and as much as I loooove cupcakes, one or two will tide me over for a couple months. Dessert is my least favorite course and if I'm in a nice restaurant I'll usually opt for an espresso con panna and the cheese plate. And don't even get me started on doughnuts. Blech. People that eat doughnuts for breakfast make me want to yarf. How can you stuff that much sugar and fat into your maw that early in the morning? Yeesh. Unless it's a piping hot Krispy Kreme original glazed, then I can usually eat a whole one - but it has to be at least the afternoon. Sweet foods don't belong in the morning hours.

When I do crave baked goods it's usually in the spice capacity. I love gingerbread cookies, spice cake, pumpkin and apple pie - get the theme here folks? Basically I love cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. In pretty much everything. I can eat an entire batch of gingerbread cookies, as long as they don't have a ton of sugar and aren't iced and apple pie makes me weak in the knees, but again it can't have too much sugar in the filling. So, when I came across a recipe for molasses cookies that included all my favorite spices - game on!

Now, to me, molasses tastes kind of funny. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, there's not a whole lot of molasses action going on up there. You want fish for breakfast there's about a million options, but molasses? Heck no. I'd never even seen molasses until visiting the South for the first time. My sMiL likes to dip toast into molasses and just eat it plain. I don't think I could handle that, it's too strong for me, but in these cookies it's just perfect. I altered the recipe quite a bit to suit my tastes, and these cookies turned out perfectly. I couldn't be more pleased.

Now I just have to not eat all of them before morning...



Molasses Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 F
Line baking sheet with parchment paper or SilPat

In a medium mixing bowl cream together butter, brown sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, molasses, 1/3 cup white sugar and spices. Sift the flour and baking soda into the mixing bowl. Beat until combined, scraping the edges of the bowl if needed. The dough will be soft and sticky. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in sugar. If you use a teaspoon to portion, and then barely roll between your palms, drop them right into the sugar mixture and toss, it's much easier to handle them once coated in sugar. Press down slightly onto the baking sheet, repeat. Bake only one tray at a time. Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes or until edges are set. They will appear undercooked, but they're not! Pull out of the oven, and let rest for 5 minutes - place on cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

Bangers and Mash


I was walking through the commissary the other day and noticed these babies hanging out in the deli case. I've had bangers and mash at many a British-style pub, but never attempted to recreate it on my own. I'm pretty picky about sausages, but this style appeals to me. Usually sausages are so greasy and full of fat I feel like I'm about to hurl about 15 minutes after eating - these, not so much. These are great. Not greasy, with a perfect balance of flavors. You can really taste the toasted breadcrumbs!

I would post a recipe, but there really isn't one. I'd love to gab on about how I made the perfect gravy, but I was feeling incredibly lazy and used premade. I know. Sacrilege. A travesty of gravy proportions. My excuse? If you knew the amount of studying I had to do you'd be usin' the premade crap as well. Thankfully it didn't ruin the meal, the focus was really on the sausages and caramelized onions and mushrooms.

The basic gist of bangers and mash is a high quality British sasauge served over mashed potatoes and topped with caramelized onions and a red wine gravy. I added mushrooms because I'm a rebel like that. Many serve it with peas, but I can't stomach peas unless they're fresh from the garden. The frozen and canned varieties make me want to yarf.

So, if you're yearning for some British comfort food, wait until the day is gloomy and dreary outside, put on your best British flag garb, try out a new accent and stuff yourself with sausages and mash.

Cheerio!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ham and Cheese 饺子


I saw these on a blog a couple months ago and have been thinking about making them since. For the life of me I can't remember which one it was out of the ridiculous amount I browse through on a weekly basis. I'm a lurker, I can't help it. If I actually take the time to comment or remember the name of your blog I'm suitably impressed with your culinary prowess/storytelling/general badassery. Not saying that the cool people that came up with these aren't worthy of any of those claims. I also smoked a lot of pot when I was teenager. I blame the shitty memory on that.

These are super, ridiculously easy. Unless you're afraid of deep frying. Then you're screwed and will never taste the salty deliciousness of deep fried ham and cheese jiaozi. So there.

Unless you have little gremlins to do your dirty work for you. If so, send them to my house. I'm tired of folding laundry.



Ham and Cheese 饺子

15 gyoza skins
2 oz. ham lunchmeat
2 oz. cheddar cheese
handful of chives (if you ask me to measure a handful I'll punch you)
oil for frying

In a small saucepan/deep fryer/cauldron of death heat your cooking oil. It needs to get to 350 F and to do that safely it'll take a little while. Use a candy thermometer. It's worth it.



Dice up your ham, cheese, and chives into little bitty bits. Place a teaspoonful in the center of the skin. Wet the tip of your finger in water (Just a tiny bit, people - we are putting this into extremely hot oil.) and run it around the edge of the skin. Fold/pleat/wad into a ball in frustration to seal the filling inside. Fry three to four at a time until finished with batch. Do this in batches or the temp of your oil will fall to much and you'll end up with soggy, oil soaked fat bombs. Ain't nobody want that in their tummy.

Enjoy plain or dip into nasty ranch dressing - pick your poison.

I Hate John McCain

How is their even a "race" going on if this is the opponent? I didn't think it was possible for someone to be this friggin' stupid. Oh wait, it must've been all that time he spent on nuclear powered ships that fried his brain.


Monday, October 6, 2008

饺子


Jiaozi, or potstickers, are Husband's favorite food. I think if you were to give him dumplings and pizza he'd follow you around like a lost little puppy dog, begging for a treat. You should see his face light up whenever I mention either of those is for dinner. It's about how I look when I find out Crate & Barrel's having a sale. I wonder what would happen if I gave him pizza dumplings? I think his brain might explode.

They look difficult, but they're really not. If anything they're time consuming. You can purchase the gyoza skins at most grocery stores, it's usually near where they keep the tofu, or sometimes they're in the freezer section. Some people use a little fluted press to speed up the folding process, but I prefer the hand pleated look. Which, also looks complicated, but is really not. I'd explain, but I think it's easier to just see how it's done. That honestly makes it look a little more complicated then it is, but I can't find the awesome video that I learned from. Perhaps my awesomeness scared it away. Doubt it...

In any event, if you love potstickers, please, give them a try. They're super easy and soooooo much cheaper than at a Chinese restaurant. Seriously, $6.95 for a half dozen? Friggin' whatev. Once you make them you will never again fork over that much cash for something so simple. Unless, like me, you get very very lazy sometimes.

Then you're totally willing.



饺子

40-50 gyoza skins
1 lb. ground pork (or any ground meat)
3 scallions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 carrot, finely grated (use a microplane zester)
4 nappa cabbage leaves, blanched, drained, shredded, and minced (sometimes I'm lazy and mince celery really fine - works like a charm as a substitution)
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili oil
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
2-3 cups chicken stock
vegetable/peanut oil

Dipping Sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon dry sherry
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, minced

In a small dish mix together all ingredients for dipping sauce, set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl mix all ingredients (except the skins, of course) until thoroughly combined. On a dry surface lay out a Gyoza wrapper and place a teaspoonful of pork mixture in the center. Wet just the tip of your finger and run around the edge of the wrapper. Fold over and pinch the sides together accordion style, or just fold into a semi-circle, whatever works for you. Repeat until the pork mixture is gone. In a large frying pan with a lid (I use a 4 1/2 quart Sauteusse)heat a drizzle of vegetable/peanut oil and place 10-12 gyoza in the pan. Cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, really let them stick to the pan. Then pour in 1/2 cup chicken stock and cover with lid immediately. Allow to cook 5 minutes, or until most liquid is absorbed. Remove from pan and keep in a warmed oven. Repeat with remaining jiaozi. Serve immediately with dipping sauce and steamed rice.



Note: You can make the jiaoza right up until the cooking process, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet, toss them in a bag and freeze for up to two months. Pull them out and add a minute to undisturbed cooking time, and two minutes to the steam time and you've got a near instant weeknight meal.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dinner Rolls



Enter the best recipe for dinner rolls. Ever. So, I'm a bit of a bread snob - that's why I don't often try to make it myself. It seems like every time I do I screw something up and it ends up like a dense, floury, rock.

Without fail.

Every time.

I am no God of the Breads

Except this time.



This time I used a recipe I found on My Kitchen Cafe. It's the best recipe. Ever. I followed the directions exactly and it paid off big time. I was surprised at the large amount of yeast called for, and even more surprised when my dough tripled in volume in the specified hour. I made mine a little large, I'd probably make them smaller next time - I'd also be a little more gentle when applying the egg wash right before baking. I was a little too rough and a couple of them deflated. Though, surprisingly, they were still nice and fluffy.



I really cannot recommend this recipe enough. If you're like me, which is terrified of making your own bread, try this recipe. It was too easy and tasted exactly like I wanted it to. No floury yuckiness, and light and fluffy as air.

I think I'm going to go make some now...again.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Spaghetti & Meatballs


Who doesn't love spaghetti and meatballs? Well, other than communists. That's right, nobody. It's as American as...everything else we stole and bastardized from other nations?

This definitely went much better than last time I made meatballs. These ones turned out perfectly. Pretty much the only way I'll eat spaghetti is if I've made the sauce myself. Sure, I'll use bottled when I'm feeling totally lazy for lasagna or to mix with other stuff, but if it's just getting heated and then put in my mouth? No thank you, sir. I'll pass on the flavorless, artificial colorings, preservative enhanced blech. Of course, unless I'm feeling lazy. Seriously, folks. When I'm tuckered out I'll throw my principles out the window faster than that lady with the baby and the bathwater. I'm easy like that, what can I say?

Want to know the secret to fantastic spaghetti and meatballs? Don't top with grated parmesan - top with grated Roncal. It's a sheeps milk cheese and makes all the difference. MiL introduced me to Roncal and I can't thank her enough. It's superb and really adds an additional nuance of flavor.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Sauce:

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz) tin petite diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz) tin tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) tin tomato paste
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar ( If you're not using champagne vinegar, just omit it. Do NOT substitute white or cider vinegar.)
1/4 cup chicken stock (optional)

In a large deep skillet melt butter over medium heat. Cook garlic until fragrant, add onion and cook till softened and nearly translucent. Add basil, oregano, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Mix thoroughly. Add tin of petite diced tomatoes and incorporate completely. Allow to come to a steady simmer. Add a nice glug of champagne vinegar, approx. 2 tablespoons. Simmer over med-low heat for 45 min-1 hour. If the sauce becomes too thick add chicken stock if desired to thin. Do not shorten cooking time, it's needed to slowly deepen the flavor of the tomatoes and meld the flavors together.

Meatballs

olive oil
1/4 yellow onion, minced very finely
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 saltines, crushed to crumbs
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 F

In a small skillet cook onion over medium heat until softened and translucent. Remove from skillet and cool to room temperature. In a mixing bowl combine ground beef and cooked onion with rest of ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Grease baking sheet with olive oil and shape meat mixture into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until internal temp reaches 160 F. Serve with cooked spaghetti noodles and sauce.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debate


Generally I don't like to get all political in a public arena; I believe everyone has their own opinion and that for the most part - they should keep it to their damn selves. But, I thought this needed mention...

Joe Biden should have mauled her. He acted like a teddy bear when he should've come out all claws and teeth.

Make Palin feel like one of the creatures she's so viciously trying to eradicate.

Curry!



Hello curry! Hi there. I'm tasty curry paste all the way from Alaska! Don't you want to eat me? Oh yes Curry! I do! I do!

So, in addition to my way awesome mom in WA, the coolest mom EVAR, way awesome MiL and GMiL in MD, and way awesome sMiL in TX, I have my way awesome Other-Mother in AK - my mom's best friend. She's not only way awesome, but equally as into all the crazy tasty bits I like to put in my mouth. You want some sushi - she's your go-to lady. By the way, her husband probably just caught that sushi off the bow of their way awesome sailboat. That they live on. In ALASKA. What's that you say? They're crazy? Perhaps yes, but crazy like cool foxes! You want some curry? She's got the perfect paste. You want a sourdough starter? She's got plenty. Need a recipe for some crazy (Insert Odd Random Country Name Here) native dish? Seriously. She's probably got it.

You may be thinking - Whoah! That's a lot of awesome ladies in one person's life. And you, my friend, would be correct. I'm one lucky bird.

This installment is all about tasty curry though. My OM in AK makes curry all the time, one day we were on the phone chatting about all different types of curry we like and she mentioned her favorite curry paste. I looked and looked for it, but much to my dismay, it could not be found. So, being the awesome OM that she is, she mailed me some. Because she's awesome. Have I said awesome enough yet?

Mae Ploy Thai curry is surely one to brag about. A problem that I frequently have is curry powder is borderline tasteless, or mainly composed of turmeric. Now, turmeric is all well and good, and especially good for you, but it doesn't taste the greatest. I've used powdered, which taste like crap, whole combos that never get ground quite fine enough so it tastes gritty, but this is my first paste. And I don't think I'll ever go back. The yellow curry I tried had strong notes of lemongrass, galangal, and coriander backlit by cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin. The ideal combo for Thai curry. Even better is there's no preservatives and no colorants of any kind added. That rates up there in my book. I do a lot of shopping at Asian markets and it seems like most everything is loaded with MSG, artificial color, and preservatives. No thank you, kind sir, I'll take my cancer-free body elsewhere. I didn't quit smoking for nothing.

I highly recommend this, just as my OM did. She's a pretty smart lady. You better listen.



Mae Ploy Chicken Curry

4 tablespoons butter
1 lb. chicken, preferably thighs, cubed
1 yellow onion, slivered very thinly
1 clove garlic, smashed with the flat of your knife
2 cups coconut milk, divided
65 grams Mae Ploy Thai Yellow Curry Paste
1 (28 oz) can tinned, petite diced tomatoes, drained of all juices through fine mesh strainer
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Jasmine Rice to serve over

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot add butter and melt. Sear the chicken meat and cook about half way through. Remove to a bowl and add onion and smashed garlic clove. Cook onion until softened, about 5 minutes. When garlic clove begins to brown, fish out and discard. Add 1 cup coconut milk curry paste. Cook, stirring, until mixture is uniform in color and paste has been completely mixed in. Add remaining cup of coconut milk. Mix thoroughly. Add chicken and tinned tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered, stirring every ten minutes, until curry has reduced and thickened. Just before serving mix in chopped cilantro and serve over jasmine rice.