Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Guacamole

Happy Halloween! Hurricane Sandy is ruining the holiday this year on the east coast - no power at my house - but thank goodness the grocery store is still open and I have a gas stove and oven so I can still cook! This isn't really a Halloween recipe, but it's still good. Guacamole... it's easy and I'm sure everyone knows how to make it but I'm sharing how I do it.

Ingredients:
1 avocado (soft and ripe)
1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1/2 minced jalapeno


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Corn Tortillas

I LOVE corn tortillas, even more than flour tortillas. The only thing that sucks is that when I buy them from the store, they're slightly dehydrated and end up cracking really easily. The second I try and fold up my taco, the tortilla rips or breaks in half or crumbles apart. The solution? MAKE THEM MYSELF. First of all, it's really easy to do and it's cheap. Secondly, it's only three ingredients. And lastly, they taste so much more delicious and they don't have any chemicals or preservatives in them.

Ingredients [yields 10 small tortillas]:
1 cup masa harina (dried and powdered masa, which is made from ground hominy)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water

**I will definitely have to do a post on arepas in the future. Arepas are incredible.
This is a tip that I learned from my coworker, who hails from Mexico. Take a 1 quart zip-top bag and cut it open on two sides so that you have a long sheet of plastic. You're going to use this during the tortilla press process. This will work better than plastic wrap because it's thicker so it's more durable and it's easier to peel the tortillas off once they've been pressed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Homemade Oreos

A perfect treat to make for Halloween this year: homemade Oreos. Homemade versions of store bought items are always great because you can control the amount of fat and sugar and you know there are no chemical preservatives.

Flour Bakery (has multiple locations in Boston) makes homemade Oreos that are amazing. If you recall, I recreated their awesome sticky buns, which are also amazing. Anyway, this is Flour Bakery's recipe, not my own, so all credit where credit is due.

Ingredients [makes 3 dozen cookies]:
2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
7 oz. chocolate (I used dark 70% cacao)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened (I used dark cocoa powder)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Start by melting the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. The process will depend on your microwave but what I like to do is set it on medium level and microwave it for 3 to 4 minutes, pausing the microwave every 30 seconds or so to stir. Give the chocolate a good stir after you remove it from the microwave and then set it aside to cool.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hazelnut Macarons

Yes, yes, another post about macarons. Sorry, I've been obsessed lately; not because they're so delicious (which they are) but because I'm trying to perfect my technique.

These are some photos of the pink hazelnut macarons I made with the chocolate ganache and chopped hazelnut filling, which I mentioned in yesterday's post. The combination of hazelnut cookie and chocolate/hazelnut center really made these taste like nutella. Insanely delicious or deliciously insane.

Just like the pistachio ones, I substituted half of the almonds for hazelnuts. You can buy whole hazelnuts and blanch them (dip in boiling water) and then rub off the skins but I didn't think they did anything negative to the cookies, either in taste or appearance.
I decided to try dyeing these pink, if you couldn't tell. Most of them have tiny little peaks, which did hurt the finished product a bit, but it wasn't a huge deal. It's not like I'm applying to be the pastry chef at Laduree or something.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pistachio Macarons

Here are some shots of the pistachio macarons I made. I just substituted half of the almonds in a normal macarons recipe for pistachios.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Asparagus

Asparagus, though it can make your pee smell terrible (sorry, that's not an appetizing way to begin a post) is an easy and delicious side dish.

Some facts about asparagus:
  • It is a good source of B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
  • It's also a good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.
  • And it's got a good amount of chromium in it, which sounds scary if you've seen Erin Brockovich (hexavalent chromium anyone?) but it's an important mineral that helps the insulin in your body move the glucose in the bloodstream into the cells.
  • There are key enzymes in asparagus that help to break down alcohol so if you munch on a few with your cocktails, you'll avoid getting hungover in the morning.
  • It also helps you go to the potty (both #1 and #2). And it makes your pee smell funky because it's got some sulfuric compound in it and once it goes through your body, it gets broken down by enzymes and that's when the smell is unleashed. However, not everyone has the gene that can break down the compound (which is called mercaptan, by the way). Those people are lucky.
  • Asparagus and tomatoes can help each other in the garden because each repels a pest that enjoys the other.
My favorite way to make asparagus is to just grill it for a few seconds. But, when it gets too cold to grill outdoors, I just fire up a cast-iron skillet (or grill pan), add a little olive oil, and let the spears cook until they're tender, rolling them around every once in a while to make sure they cook evenly. You'll notice that they start off looking sort of pale and then they'll take on a richer, more vibrant green color as they cook (along with some lovely browning from the heat and oil). If you let them cook for too long, they'll turn a sickly puce army green - avoid that. You will also notice in my photo that my spears have jagged bottoms. That's because I snapped off the bottom few inches where it's too woody and fibrous and not tender.
Once the asparagus are cooked to your liking, plate them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Okay, so, if you decided to make my Sweet Potato Layer Cake recipe and then ended up with way too many mashed sweet potatoes, here's what you can do:


Monday, October 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Layer Cake

My sister just turned 21 last weekend, hooray. So a few weekends ago, while she was home for her Fall break, I made a cake. I wanted something autumn-y but still birthday-ish and not too cliche. I ended up making a sweet potato cake. This recipe is great because it's moist, it's low-fat, and it's awesome for this cool, crisp season.

Ingredients:
1 cup mashed sweet potato (1 large sweet potato, about 1 lb)
1-1/2 cups cake flour (or all purpose - cake flour will yield a more tender cake)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger) - not pictured
pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg - not pictured
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup mascarpone
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
+ butter & flour for greasing the baking pan

*So, I have walnuts in this photo here but I totally forgot to use them in the recipe.
Start by roasting the sweet potatoes. I lined a baking sheet with foil (EASY CLEAN UP), poked the tubers with a fork (this is to help the steam escape so they don't explode in the oven), and baked them in a 400 degree oven for about 1 hour until they were soft and cooked through. You'll see that some of the juices will escape and then caramelize because sweet potatoes are full of sugar.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Plain vs. Breaded

I'm the type of person that usually concerns herself with taste and flavor more than calories but sometimes, it's really important to think about these things. Here's an example:
The tilapia on the left was simply pan fried in 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
  • tilapia fillet = 300 calories
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil = 30 calories
  • TOTAL = 330 calories
The tilapia on the left is obviously breaded. The fillet was coated in flour, dipped in a beaten egg, and then rolled in panko breadcrumbs. To pan fry the breaded fillet, 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil were used to get that golden brown color. Less olive oil would have yielded a dry-looking breadcrumb coating.
  • tilapia fillet = 300 calories
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil = 150 calories
  • 1 tablespoon flour = 15 calories
  • 1 tablespoon egg = 20 calories
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs = 30 calories
  • TOTAL = 510 calories
When you're cooking at home, you can control the amount of each ingredient you use but when you eat at restaurants, the chef is usually going to do whatever it takes to make the food look and taste more appealing, which usually means more salt and fat. I'm not trying to be preach-y today. But currently, I'm trying to watch what I eat (because I'm going to Puerto Rico in November) so this is more of a message to myself... because I'm the type of person who would choose that breaded tilapia over the plain one in a heartbeat.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Honey Soy Glazed Green Beans

This dish is rather simple, so I'll let the photos do the talking... Though, if it's not clear enough, there's a recipe page at the bottom for you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

DIY Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is SO expensive - have you noticed? Often, I'm tempted to grab the imitation vanilla extract because it's always a few dollars cheaper. What's the difference?
  • Vanilla extract, according to the FDA, must contain 13.35 oz. of vanilla beans per gallon and at least 35% alcohol (70 proof!).
  • Imitation vanilla is just that - it's an imitation made from chemicals and whatnot and doesn't contain vanilla at all. It's actually some wood byproduct. The word "byproduct" grosses me out a bit.
  • There's also vanilla flavoring, which is derived from vanilla beans and contains no alcohol.
If you remember, I bought a stash of vanilla beans from Amazon.com (the price has gone up a few dollars) a while ago and they're still amazing and delicious and fresh (reminder: silken tofu cheesecake post) because I've been keeping them in an airtight container. Side note: it smells AMAZING every time I need to open that container to get some beans. So, I had the idea to just make my own vanilla extract. I've seen it all over Pinterest and other blogs anyway, so I gave it a go.

This is the ratio I used: 1 vanilla bean per 1/2 cup of vodka. This gives you a lower ratio of beans to alcohol than what the FDA considers pure vanilla extract. HOWEVER, because you leave the beans to steep indefinitely, you still get as much or more vanilla flavor out of this ratio than you would in a store-bought extract. So, why vodka, why not bourbon? I'm sure you've seen bourbon vanilla extract before and its name has nothing to do with bourbon liquor. It was named for the time when the Bourbon kings of France ruled some French island in the Indian Ocean. Honestly, you could potentially use any liquor you like, as long as its got a high enough alcohol content but I like vodka because it tastes so neutral and because it starts off clear, you really get to see the transformation in how deep the color becomes. Clear rum would also be a good choice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kimchi Jjigae (김치 찌개)

I've got an updated version of this recipe on my blog now, if you're interested in a prettier looking post!

Kimchi jjigae, a.k.a. kimchi stew, is a great way to use up overly ripe kimchi. If you've ever had (cabbage) kimchi in your fridge for too long, you'll know that the leaves start to turn almost translucent and take on a deeper color. Some people prefer their kimchi extra ripe but for many the taste is a bit too strong and pungent. Personally, I need a HUGE glob of rice with one TINY piece of over-ripe kimchi. I know some recipes will call for some fancier ingredients like gochujang (hot red pepper paste) or dwenjang (fermented bean paste) but really all you need is kimchi and water. And it's an easy recipe because all you have to do is toss the ingredients into a pot and leave it alone for a bit. It's also a flexible recipe because you can go above and beyond and represent all of the food groups by adding in some proteins and carbs, which is how I made kimchi jjigae a few days ago.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
3 cups kimchi plus the juices
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 lbs pork ribs
1/2 lb tofu
1/2 package ramen noodles (or a whole package if you love noodles)
Start by adding kimchi, water, and ribs to a pot over medium high heat. Place lid on the pot and bring to a boil.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Macarons (Vanilla Bean & Dulce de Leche)

A week or two ago, my cousin's baby, Elodie, had her first birthday. I decided that her birthday was an occasion worthy of a special dessert, thus, I set out to make my first batch of macarons. I was somewhat successful, perfect domes with visible "feet" - though as you can see, some of my cookies have some slight cracks, and I did have 1 batch that was completely ruined.


Click after the jump for a long long long blurb on the history, the science, and how I made these cookies for the first time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kitchen Tools

I've been dreaming about owning a KitchenAid mixer ever since my first episode of the show 'Sweet Dreams,' hosted by Gale Gand. I think I was in 8th grade, watching her make a simple batch of cookies, and I thought, Hm, why am I always trying to mix cookie batter with a fork? Can I get one of those for myself? Anyway, lately, it seems that Target is having a sale on KitchenAid appliances every other week (usually 20% off) and I'm always tempted to buy one. Apparently they're made a little cheaper than they used to be (according to numerous reviews on both Target and Amazon) but they're getting more colorful and vibrant.

I'm not sure which color I'd get but I know I'd get a few attachments right away.
KitchenAid Mixer Wishlist

It's not like I absolutely need one, considering I've been fine making bread and cakes and everything else without it for years. But, if I stumbled upon a pile of cash lying around somewhere, I would definitely go buy one immediately.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pot Roast (2)

A little less than a year ago, I posted a recipe for pot roast, which I made based on Alton Brown's recipe. Well, chuck roast was on sale at the market so I decided to make a roast completely on my own without Alton's help this time. This one is cooked on the stove top instead of the oven - but you could definitely do it in a slow cooker too - and I got to use some of the herbs in my garden to flavor it, which was cool.

Ingredients:
2 lb. chuck roast
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon
1/2 onion
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
2 cups beef broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Start by seasoning the meat with salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne. I like the cayenne because it adds a little spiciness and the cumin adds smokiness. If you hate either of these flavors, you can leave them out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Roasted Carrots with Honey

I'm not a huge fan of cooked carrots because they're mushy, lifeless, and have this distinct taste that my tongue just does not like. And as much as I love raw carrots (carrots are SO good for you), serving raw carrots for dinner doesn't scream, "ELEGANT!" So, I roasted carrots and drizzled them with honey and they came out so good, even me, a cooked-carrot-hater, loved them.

Ingredients:
1 bunch of carrots (usually 5 or 6 in a bunch at my market)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 sprig of thyme
1 spring of rosemary
drizzle of honey

So for some reason, I can't find those bags of big carrots in my grocery store anymore. Do you know what I'm talking about? Most produce sections have these dumb carrots pictured below with their big fluffy greens still attached AS WELL AS carrots without the greens in a plastic bag (the same way celery hearts are packaged).
Trim off the tops and any hairy roots and then cut the carrots up into bite sized pieces. I prefer to cut on an angle instead of making coins but you can cut them however you prefer. And despite all my whinging (re: whining) about the greens, I left a bit of them on the tops because I thought they looked pretty. SO SUE ME!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kimchi Chicken Wings

Even though I posted a chicken recipe yesterday, instead of shooting for variety, I'm going to post another one today. This was an experimental recipe but it was successful so I'm sharing it. If you love kimchi and wings (I love both), then this is a great hybrid.

Ingredients [1 dozen wings]:
1-1/2 lb wings
1/4 cup kimchi "juice" (the liquid generated when the cabbage is pickled)
1/2 cup cabbage kimchi
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Sriracha
2 tablespoons hot pepper paste (gochujang)
1 tablespoon honey (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable, canola, what have you)
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Because this was an experimental dish, I don't have a comprehensive photo of all the ingredients. I was just grabbing stuff as I went saying to myself, "Hm, that's probably gonna be good..."

To start, marinate the wings in the kimchi "juice" for at least 1 hour in the fridge; overnight if you have time.

Put the marinated chicken on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sriracha Barbecue Chicken

Happy Columbus Day! Columbus Day is kind of a gloomy holiday because barbecue season is over and it's not really the type of holiday that entails a special meal (e.g. Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Passover, etc.). But just because it's unconventional doesn't mean you can't/shouldn't. So, I think faux-bbq (in the oven, not on a grill) is just what I need on a day off from work, like today.

Way back when, like in the 90s when I was in grammar school, my mom would make barbecue chicken (meaning chicken with barbecue sauce, not chicken cooked on a barbecue - a.k.a. faux bbq) with a Kraft barbecue sauce that was the best. Kraft makes a few different kinds, like "Mesquite BBQ Sauce" and "Hickory Smoke," but this one was called "Onion Bits." I think the reason it was so good was because it was mild, meaning not too smoky, and it was sweet, so it suited my childish palate. However, for some unknown reason, Kraft stopped making Onion Bits BBQ Sauce, which is something I learned a few years ago when I decided I wanted to make my mama's barbecue chicken and I couldn't find it in any stores or online!

So what do you do when you can't buy an ingredient? You make your own! So this recipe started off as a copycat of the Onion Bits BBQ Sauce but then I decided since I was making this my own recipe, I was going to jazz it up with some Sriracha. Because let's face it, Sriracha makes everything better (that was a hyperbole, I do not literally mean it makes everything better, thanks).

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1-1/2 lb package of chicken drumsticks (4 to 5 pieces)
salt and pepper
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Sriracha
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 jalapeno pepper
Okay, so this method of roasting chicken might seem weird, but I promise the chicken will be deliciously moist (which probably has more to do with the dark meat factor than the method, but still). Preheat the oven to 350 and line a sheet pan with foil and have it ready to accept the chicken (that sounds weird). Peel back the skin on the drumstick towards the bone but don't tear it or pull it completely off. You're just "undressing" the chicken to expose the flesh.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Skirt Steak with Parsley Chimichurri

Skirt steak is a great piece of meat because it's inexpensive (I see it on sale in my local market all the time) but it's delicious and versatile. A few weeks ago, I served it with coconut peas and rice and a frisee salad. I just salted and peppered the meat, slapped it on the grill for a few minutes, and then sliced it (against the grain) to serve. An easy way to make the steak a little fancier is a spicy chimichurri. The recipe is below, if you'd like it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Home Fries

So many breakfast foods this week! This time, it's home fries. I LOVE home fries. They make a great accompaniment to an omelet or pancakes or eggs & toast.

No step-by-step instructions for this one but here's the recipe page:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Egg White Omelet

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of egg white omelets. I miss the yolk too much. However, I had 8 egg whites begging to be used (because I made a bunch of custard that required egg yolks only) so I decided to make egg white omelets for breakfast. And even though I drowned that thing in cheese, I still missed the yolk. Nevertheless, it was delicious so if you're a fan of egg white omelets, give it a go.
No step-by-step instruction for this one, just a recipe page for you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Poofy Apple Pancake

Usually on days off from work, I'll make something special for breakfast, so almost 1 month ago (yikes, this post is way late) I made an apple pancake/dutch baby hybrid for breakfast. A dutch baby is a popover that's meant to be eaten in the mornings. My particular version had apples in it because I love baked apples and it's an appropriate theme to kick off autumn. This is an awesome recipe if you have guests staying at your house and you want to feed them something special or if you're hosting brunch or if you have a bunch of apples that need to be used. It's pretty impressive when it comes out of the oven.

Ingredients:
2 medium-sized apples
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon butter (used in two different places in the recipe)
1/2 cup all purpose flour (or cake flour)
1/2 cup milk
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
+ 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for garnish

First things first: wash your hands and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Then prepare the apples. Peel them, chop out the core, remove the little wedge in the middle where the seeds usually are, and then cut into wedges. If you prefer cubes of apple over wedges, then by all means, cube your apples.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Oreo Pie

Welcome to October! It's Halloween season - I started seeing costumes and Halloween candy in stores right after labor day actually, so I guess it's STILL Halloween season! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because I love dressing up and as a kid, I had a lot of DIY costumes because my parents weren't huge fans of spending a bunch of money on an outfit I'd only wear once. But I still have lots of fond memories and I still love DIY-ing my costumes. Anyway, Halloween makes my teeny tiny sweet tooth grow quite a bit.

Back in March, Oreo celebrated its 100th anniversary and since then, my local grocery store has been having Oreo specials pretty much every week, though now, they're all filled with orange creme. I'm not usually one to purchase sweets because 1) my sweet tooth is v. small and 2) I prefer my desserts homemade to avoid putting too many preservatives in my body but I made an exception for my Halloween-bloated sweet tooth and bought a package of Oreo cookies.

I might shock some people with this next statement but I despise the creme in the cookie so usually, I peel it off and eat the naked cookies by themselves. Well, after eating 3 creme-less cookies, I felt sick from all the sugar, and abandoned the cookies for about a week. I realized nothing was going to happen with those cookies unless I re-purposed them somehow so I decided to make an Oreo pie. There are several Oreo pie recipes out there in the world, but I think mine's the best because I use vanilla bean and vanilla beans push any dessert over the top. It's pretty similar to my coconut pie recipe except there's no coconut.

Ingredients:
16 oreos + extra for decoration (optional)
3tbsp + 1 tbsp butter
4 egg yolks
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 tbsp powdered sugar
Start by separating the cookies and scraping off the creme. Save the creme in a bowl and put the cookies in a zip-top bag.
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