Monday, December 26, 2016

Icelandic-Style Hot Dogs

I hope everyone (who celebrates) had a Happy Christmas. We had our family party yesterday, which was fun, and now I'm ready to wind down. I'm taking this week off from work so I'm going to do lots of leisurely activities and I think I might attempt to make pho or soup dumplings. We'll see! I mean, in addition to being delicious, it would make great blog fodder; if you haven't noticed, posts are less frequent these days as I start to run out of inspiration (and because 2016 was just really busy in general so I just had less time for my favorite hobby).

Today's post is one that tugs at my heartstrings because it's a meal inspired by my recent trip to Iceland. We enjoyed these awesome "gas station hot dogs" on our road trip and decided that we can't ever enjoy a plain old hot dog with just ketchup anymore. There really isn't too much to this post, except that I do share my recipe for remoulade, which is a really important ingredient and sorry, you can't just substitute mayo. It's like a super indulgent junk food experience and I think I might make these again when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around in a month.
Ingredients:
hot dogs
buns
french fried onions
diced raw onions
honey mustard
remoulade
ketchup

remoulade
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon caper brine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon capers, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup olive oil

Monday, December 19, 2016

What I Ate: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I'm a little sad and ashamed to say that I didn't break out my ice cream maker at all this past summer and I didn't try and attempt a new flavor. The last time I made ice cream, it was a salted caramel one and that was the summer of 2015. I don't even have any real excuses because the chiller bowl for the ice cream maker has a permanent spot in my freezer so as long as there's some dairy in the fridge, I could potentially make ice cream at any time.

Well, I didn't whip up a new flavor for autumn or winter, but I did revisit an old favorite: vanilla bean ice cream. It's the first ice cream I ever made with my little trooper of a machine and it's still my favorite. It's lusciously simple but powerfully flavorful and it was the perfect topper for the sticky toffee pudding I served at Thanksgiving.
Even though this is a 'what I ate' post, I threw the recipe page down at the bottom for convenience. Happy Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

George Michael Eats: Meaty Birthday Cake

George Michael turned 9 this year and I wanted to make him a treat because he's such a good boy. I wanted to make him an actual cake (instead of just little pupcakes) and I wanted the cake to be meaty and function as a meal instead of like a dessert. And because his birthday is in November (I'm sharing this about a month late) I decided to make him a turkey cake.

I love making him homemade treats because they're decadent but at the same time, I choose really healthy ingredients and try to make him something wholesome and nutritious.
Ingredients:
cake
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup milk
1 egg
1 cup grated carrot
1 lb. lean ground turkey

filling
1 banana, sliced
¼ cup natural peanut butter (no sugar added)

frosting
1 medium sweet potato
¼ cup cream cheese, room temperature

toppings
freeze-dried blueberries

Monday, December 12, 2016

Roast Turkey

I've been hosting Thanksgiving for a few years now; basically, since I was a senior in college. And with these past few years of experience, I've come to learn a lot about roasting turkeys. Usually in the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving preparation, I haven't been the best at documenting the process, but this year, I made a bit of an effort so that I could share the fruits of my labor.

Because we think younger, smaller turkeys are more delicious (and more natural; no steroids or hormones, thank you) we like to limit the number of attendees to our dinner. It's v. exclusive. I suppose the techniques I'm sharing here will also work for a larger bird, but in all honesty, I doubt a 22 pound monster would taste as good as our normal-sized 12 pound bird. That being said, it wouldn't hurt. And maybe you're thinking, "Well, what do you do when too many people show up to your exclusive event?" If the guest list gets out of control, we usually make a second protein (like a beef tenderloin) and stick with a small turkey.
Ingredients:
10 to 15 lb. turkey
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 lemon, quartered
1 small onion, halved
1 bulb garlic
handful thyme sprigs
handful rosemary sprigs
cinnamon stick

brine (adapted from Alton Brown's recipe)
8 cups vegetable stock (two 32 oz. containers)
8 cups water (I just refill the stock containers twice)
½ cup rock salt
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
8 cups ice water

gravy
turkey giblets
turkey neck
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
+ any flavorings you like (garlic, mushrooms, herbs)
2 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper, to taste

tools
big plastic bag (brining bag or garbage bag)
large container (or cooler)
thick, strong rubberband
large pot
small pot
roasting pan with rack
aluminum foil
baster

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dan Dan-Inspired Noodles

I've only had dan dan noodles three times in my life and all three times, it was frankly disappointing. Based on the description in the menu, I had an idea of what I wanted and what was served to me on all three occasions (which were at three different restaurants) was overcooked noodles swimming in red grease.

So, I decided to tackle the recipe on my own and made what I wished I'd been served and honestly, the result was super satisfying. In addition to thinking that my noodles were super delicious, they were also prepared with 75% pantry ingredients so I can see myself making this over and over again during harried weeknights when I'm looking for an easy way out during dinner prep.
Ingredients:
4 servings round rice noodles
1 teaspoon canola oil
½ onion, diced
2 long hot peppers, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. ground beef
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons shrimp paste
2 tablespoons sweet chili paste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 handfuls baby greens

Monday, December 5, 2016

Spicy Korean-Style Beef Back Ribs

This dish was an experiment; it was a successful experiment. Yet again, I was looking for ways to use some habanero peppers and I decided to try it out in some Korean-inspired cooking.

Short ribs are stupidly expensive (in general but even more so at my local store) so I decided to buy a pack of beef back ribs, which were not only cheaper but were also on sale, and make a kalbi jjim-inspired dish. Of course the twist was that it would be spicy and also cooked in the oven, instead of on the stovetop, since beef back ribs do a bit better in ambient heat, as opposed to simmering in a liquid (at least from my limited experience working with them).
Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 rack beef back ribs
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ apple
¼ onion
1 red habanero pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 sweet potato, chopped

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What I Ate: Crispy Roasted Chicken

You might be over poultry after Thanksgiving weekend, but I thought I would quickly share this pretty awesome chicken I made a couple of weeks ago. I had bought thighs with the intention of making salsa chicken but realized I'd bought bone-in thighs and therefore had to change plans.

I ended up grabbing some rosemary out of the garden (it's still doing remarkably well) and whipped up this all-American dinner.
I don't have a recipe page for this one - it's just too easy to require it and that's why I went with a 'What I Ate' style - but I'll do my best to outline the instructions throughout so you too can whip up this delicious weeknight dinner.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving Recap 2016

Thanksgiving was great this year. We had a modest party of nine with the perfect amount of food. (Perfect amount to us means that there's enough leftovers to make turkey soup and turkey salad sandwiches).
Keeping with tradition, I got caught up in the food and entertaining and didn't take the exact photos I wanted but I have enough to give you a flavor of our festivities.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a great holiday. I'm thankful for many things this year, including anyone who reads my blog.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

I have a super old carrot cake recipe on my blog from years back. Since then, I've tweaked it and thought I would share it. I tried a citrus cake at a bakery near my house recently and the girl at the counter told me that their secret was that they pureed the entire fruit and added it to the batter. The essential oils from the zest enhanced the flavor of the cake and the juice and rind helped add moisture. So, I took a cue from that and decided to throw a few oranges into my carrot cake mixture and it made the cake so much more moist and amazing. The flavor of orange is subtle enough not enough not to be overpowering, but the slight fragrance adds a freshness. I feel like carrot cake is sort of an old lady's dessert, but the orange helps give it a fresh take.

I thought this would be a fun recipe to share for Thanksgiving. I mean, if you've been invited over to someone's house to celebrate, how nice would it be to bring a Tupperware full of these?
Ingredients [yields 2 x 8" rounds]:
cake
2 medium oranges, pureed (about 1 cup)
4 eggs
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup canola oil (or other neutral oil)
¼ cup buttermilk
1½ cups light brown sugar
2 cups grated carrot
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

frosting
4 oz. cream cheese (1/4 cup)
4 oz. container of mascarpone cheese (1/4 cup)
¼ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Few Thanksgiving Recipes

I wanted to do another quick roundup of some Thanksgiving recipes to inspire you for next week. Do your shopping this weekend and maybe make something new!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Peri Peri Roast Chicken

Despite never having had a cheeky Nando's in the UK, I picked up a bottle of their PERi-PERi sauce from the shelf devoted to British groceries at my local store. It was delicious and balanced - a hint of citrus, loads of fragrant garlic, herbaceous, and bright - but it wasn't quite spicy enough for me. That's when I started doing some research on real peri peri sauce. Typically made with African bird's eye chili peppers and it originated in Portugal but it's equally popular in South Africa, Namibia, and other countries in Africa. The name 'peri peri' (also spelled piri piri) means 'pepper pepper' in Swahili.

I haven't made it to Portugal yet (it's on my list) so I can't speak to the authenticity of this recipe; I mean, it's already pretty inauthentic since I didn't use bird's eye chili peppers. Really, I just decided to improve on the Nando's sauce I enjoy.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
chicken
2 lbs. chicken thighs (or preferred cut of chicken)
2 to 3 red habanero peppers*
½ bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
¼ red onion
1 tablespoons lemon zest
juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
8 to 10 sprigs cilantro
3 sprigs oregano, stripped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

tomato salad
1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, chopped
¼ red onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pepitas

*Technically, peri peri sauce is made with African bird's eye chili peppers but guess what? These are not available stateside. I've substituted in red habaneros because I love heat. Other alternatives are cayenne peppers (which are slightly milder than peri peri peppers), red jalapenos, Thai chilis, serrano, or tabasco peppers. Use a pepper with a heat level you are comfortable with.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cumin Rice

I wanted to share this incredibly simple dish because it's so easy but so flavorful and can jazz up almost any dinner. I was inspired by my favorite frozen meal from Trader Joe's, which is their tikka masala (both the chicken version and the vegan version are amazing). It comes with a cumin rice, which is just a fluffy basmati speckled with cumin seeds. I thought it was just the simplest but most delicious side dish so I decided to make my own.

I think my version can suit both Tex-Mex style meals as well as Indian, it really just depends on the kind of rice you use. It's also just a generally good side dish to have with chicken or fish or roasted vegetables. It's so yellow and pretty and it takes maybe 15 minutes to throw together so it's great for a weeknight meal.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1¼ cups rice
1¼ cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cheesy Pierogies

Guess what? We're in Iceland! But, as promised, I have a couple of posts ready to go while I'm away.

Back in college, pierogies were a staple in my diet. They were cheap and delicious (Wegman's brand all the way!) and they were a cinch to whip up. It's been on my list to make pierogies for a long time and I don't really know what was stopping me other than my chubby body telling me that eating carbs wrapped in carbs was maybe not the best idea. That really profound thought popped into my brain even though I share loads of diet-opposite recipes here so I figured I'd stop being a hypocrite and just make them already.

And you know me, I had to put my own spin on it, so instead of the traditional cheddar, I added habanero cheddar and some mozzarella because I just had to.
Ingredients [yields 4 to 5 dozen]:
dough
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter, room temperature

filling
2 medium sized russet potatoes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon butter
¼ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup grated mozzarella
¾ cup grated cheddar (I used habanero cheddar)

to serve
2 tablespoons butter
¼ onion, sliced
½ apple, diced
+ sour cream

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Spicy Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Tomorrow, my family and I are off on our annual holiday. This year, we are heading to Denmark and Iceland and I'm really excited. No, I'm seriously excited. I've been anxiously awaiting this trip for several months and now that it's finally here, I couldn't be happier. As usual, I will have some pre-scheduled entries set to post while I'm away. Frankly, it's been sort of difficult arranging that because I've been so consumed with finalizing our itinerary and obsessively checking the weather and oh yeah, working at my full-time job. But, I've made it work and now I'm ready to go on vacation.

Whilst I'm in such a good mood, I thought I'd share one of my favorite posts of the year so far. The recipe is delicious but that's not what's made it a favorite; it's the peppers. Our poblano pepper plant was a trooper this year and though it was months before we could pick any, the harvest was plentiful. I wanted to do something kind of special with them so I revamped my stuffed poblano pepper recipe. I made it better by adding loads of spice - in terms of heat and flavor - and topped it with my beloved, habanero cheddar. This babe of a cheese has been making all of our Mexican favorites even better.
Ingredients [serves 6]:
6 to 8 poblano peppers
¼ cup rice
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 lb. ground turkey (or any ground meat of your choice; crumbled tofu is a vegetarian option)
¼ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 egg
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup + ½ cup grated cheddar (I use habanero cheddar)
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from can of chipotle peppers)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Yuca Fritters

Happy Halloween! I wish I had a spookier, more on-theme post for you today, but if you need a dose of me getting carried away with Halloween, you could revisit my Harry Potter Double Potions post. Or, you could head over to my other blog to read about my fun Harry Potter festival experience in Philadelphia last weekend. HP is my jam, y'all.

Despite the lack of holiday spirit, I still really like today's post. Remember the mashed yuca I shared last week? Well, I used the leftovers to make some awesome fritters which were insanely easy to make. It's literally just two ingredients and it's easy to make as few or as many as you like.
Ingredients:
mashed yuca
oil for frying

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Spicy Black Beans

I make rice and beans all the time. But I've never made black beans using dried beans; it's always been canned. Canned beans are so easy because they're fast and put dinner on the table in under an hour, which makes them the perfect weeknight shortcut.

Admittedly, canned beans can be a bit mushy and overly salty, which is something I can forgive when my stomach is rumbling. But when I have the time on weekends, I like to use dried beans. I hadn't done anything with my black bean recipe thus far because even with canned beans, it's so good. But, I figured it was time I do them justice. Honestly, the difference was pretty incredible. Yes, it took loads more time, but I have a feeling that this winter, I'll be doing a lot more simmering and a little less can-opening.

This recipe is essentially the same as my regular black beans recipe, with an added spice or two and the added step of soaking dried beans. Because the beans are simmered in the spices, they really soak up all of the flavor and it's really delicious; seriously though, so good.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 cup dried black beans
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 oz. salt pork, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, sliced
2 cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chopped oregano
½ teaspoon dried coriander
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mashed Yuca

We've really been loving yuca in our house lately. They're a perfect substitute for potatoes and they're extra convenient since I buy them already peeled and frozen. It's such a handy ingredient to have stored in the freezer, especially since we don't really buy potatoes that much anymore (since my sister discovered they make her ill).

A few weeks ago, I made some grilled ribs and wasn't sure of what to do for sides. I ended up making a small batch of truffle cheddar mac & cheese, green beans, and salad. But because there was only a small pan of pasta, I decided we needed more carbs so I turned to the trusty yuca in the freezer and made some mash. It's literally the same as regular mashed potatoes except it's yuca. And, I decided to throw in some cream cheese because why not?
Ingredients [serves 6]:
1½ lbs. yuca (peeled)
½ cup milk
2 cloves garlic, smashed
¼ cup butter
4 oz. cream cheese
salt & pepper

Friday, October 21, 2016

Apple Picking 2016

We went apple picking this past weekend at Riamede Farm. Because this autumn has been unseasonably warm (case in point: it's been in the 80s this week) I assumed that there would be apples ready to pick right through November. Unfortunately, that assumption was incorrect and the majority of the trees had been picked clean.
Fortunately, we still managed to score some really delicious apples (we got a bunch of fuji and cortland) and I plan on baking a pie; maybe this weekend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grilled Jerk Chicken Wings

I love making crispy hot wings. Wait, that's a lie. I like eating crispy hot wings. But making them's quite a chore. You've got to get a big vat of shortening splattering hot and the smell permeates the entire house and there's loads of splatter to clean up afterwards, even if you've used a pan splatter guard. So, when we bought a big value pack of wings, I fried up half of them and put the rest in the freezer. A couple weeks later, I defrosted them and decided I was way too lazy to do another fry up.

I didn't want to do regular barbecue wings because we'd just had some barbecue drumsticks the week before. Then, I realized this was a perfect opportunity to use another habanero pepper from the garden. I made a jerk marinade with the flavors I remembered and recognized from a meal I enjoyed in the Caribbean, and it turned out quite good.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
1½ lbs. chicken wings
½ onion
2 scallions
3 cloves garlic
1 habanero pepper
1 orange, juiced
3 sprigs cilantro
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin

*Normally, jerk seasoning has some heat in it, like cayenne, but because there's a habanero pepper in here, I omitted that added layer of heat. If you like a lot of heat, throw in an extra habanero or add some cayenne to your jerk seasoning. If you're sensitive to spicy foods, I would suggest omitting the habanero and adding in a little cayenne.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Swedish Meatballs

Eat your heart out, Ikea! Just kidding, these meatballs were inspired by Ikea actually; my aim was to recreate my beloved meatballs but just make them a little less salty. They're certainly more expensive (and free of horsemeat, harhar) but they're fresher, which is a plus.

I thought about putting a spin on these meatballs by making them spicy or something, but then I decided that I really wanted the classic $2 treat that I gorge on every time I shop at Ikea. So, with that in mind, I grabbed a bunch of ingredients out of the pantry, bought a couple of packs of ground meat, and set to it. And you know what? These turned out pretty delicious. They weren't exactly like Ikea's but they were possibly better, mostly just because they were less salty and my salt-intolerant family and I really needed that.
Ingredients:
meatballs
¼ cup finely grated onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup cream
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 egg
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 tablespoon butter

gravy
2 tablespoons pan drippings
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef broth
splash cream
¼ cup sour cream

Monday, October 10, 2016

New Cookbooks

Recently, I found a bag under my desk that had a few books we'd bought at the Philly AIDS Thrift last year and had completely forgotten about. Among those books were two cute (and crazy cheap) cookbooks that I was excited to add to our small collection. And then, I went ahead and bought the Bob's Burgers Burger Book for two reasons: burgers are one of my favorite foods and Bob's Burgers is one of my favorite shows. So, I figured this would be a good time to share my tiny cookbook collection.

Admittedly, I'm not that big on cookbooks. I prefer to make dishes up on my own and experiment if I'm cooking something new - which is usually inspired by something delicious I've eaten at a restaurant - or I stick to what I grew up eating.
Some of these were gifts and some were bought on our own, but I mostly like looking at these as a way to kill time and have fun. I haven't made many recipes from these. And I didn't want to share everything, but I picked a few that I thought were special to share.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Spicy Chorizo Jambalaya

I've discussed my intense cravings here before, but in case you forgot, let me explain my weird appetite to you. Sometimes, my brain will get fixated on something and I have a hard time concentrating on anything else until I sort out the obsession. So, sometime in July, I got hit hard with a craving for jambalaya. It happened when I was researching new ideas for cooking Italian sausage. Pinterest, for whatever reason, showed me a big pan of jambalaya. That evening, I went home and made sausage and pepper sandwiches (yeah, not really a new way of using Italian sausage but it was still delicious and I added hot cherry peppers so it was bomb) which was satisfying, but I really wanted jambalaya.

I couldn't stop thinking about it so when we did our next week's grocery shopping, I bought a pack of chorizo (without casings) with the intention of making jambalaya. Now, I'm not keen on standing by a stove when it's summery and hot. I'd rather stand by a grill. But, on this particular day, it was raining so hard that there were flash flood warnings popping up on my phone every two minutes. Since grilling was out of the question, I took this as a prime opportunity to quell my jambalaya craving. By the way, the mini monsoon is also why this photo diary was shot in artificial light. It was so dark outside with the ominous clouds and sideways rain. I saved this post for a few months so I could share it when it was more weather appropriate; and now I'm excited to make this again now that the weather is cooler and I don't mind standing by the stove anymore.

I didn't go the classic route of jambalaya, which usually involves seafood of some kind and sometimes chicken. Instead, I went for a chorizo version and added heat with jalapeno and a custom cajun seasoning. It turned out really delicious and when both my sister and I had leftovers the next day, we reported back to say that our respective coworkers were jealous because it smelled so good. But that's not to say I wouldn't consider adding in some crawfish for the next batch.
Ingredients [serves 4 to 6]:
jambalaya
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bell pepper, diced
½ onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 jalapeno, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. chorizo
2 tablespoons cajun seasoning (see below)
1½ cups long grain rice
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 scallion, chopped
handful grape tomatoes, halved

cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
*I don't like adding salt to my seasoning mixes. I think salt should be added on its own so that you can control the amount added. That way, you're not like, "Oh, I want more cajun seasoning" and pour a bunch in and then end up with an overly salty mess.

Monday, October 3, 2016

What I Ate for Dinner (3)

Now that the weather is cooler, making dinner is much more enjoyable.
The best part is that it's still grilling season so I can get the best of both worlds.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Buttermilk Pancakes (2)

I thought it was time to update my buttermilk pancake recipe. It's 4+ years old and the food photography is *thumbs down* and I've since tweaked the recipe a bit. I was inspired to redo the recipe because my sister received some Vermont maple sugar from her boss as a gift and though her thoughts automatically went to making some maple candied bacon, mine went to pancakes. It's not like we couldn't compromise though; we made both.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
1¼ cups flour
1½ tablespoon maple sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup melted butter
1 egg
1¼ cups buttermilk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Monday, September 26, 2016

What I Ate: Tacos & Nachos

Guys, my patronus is a Siberian cat. What... the... motherflippin'... The thing about Pottermore is that once you've discovered something about yourself as a witch/wizard, there's no going back, which totally makes sense. It's not like Harry was like, "Uh, yeah, excuse me, wand? I don't fancy having a stag as my patronus. You mind?"

I was proudly sorted into Slytherin (Severus Snape is my hero) and my wand is basically the same as Bellatrix Lestrange's - same shape and aggressively unyielding - and I trust those results wholeheartedly so why am I so disappointed about my patronus? Well, I guess it's because I'm a stubborn dog person so I thought I would get something adorable like a saint bernard or a mongrel dog. Instead, I got some sort of fluffy cat, which I can't deny is stupid cute but just not my cup of tea. I have been told time and time again that I look like a cat (I think it's my super pointy cupid's bow and maybe my preference for cat eyeliner) and I like my independence and I can be standoffish at times, so maybe Pottermore knows what it's doing.

Anyway, let's get into today's post. Beyond this introduction, it's basically wordless (as you sigh with relief). Remember that hot sauce I shared on Friday that I used for fajitas? Well, I also used my freshly made habanero hot sauce as a condiment for tacos and for grilled nachos. We had tacos for dinner and then the nachos were made with the taco leftovers for lunch the next day. I made chipotle beef, cilantro chimichurri, pico de gallo, and we had some leftover tomatillo salsa. I actually made the chimichurri by hand (meaning I chopped up the cilantro with a knife) because I was too lazy to get the food processor out; I've got to say, it was kind of delicious to have big chunks of cilantro. The pico de gallo was also made rather lazily; I quartered the cherry tomatoes instead of giving them a finer chop, but as it turns out, the bursts of bright tomato are rather welcome when you're fighting through the spice of a fresh habanero hot sauce.
The day after we enjoyed the tacos, when our stomachs were mumbling on about wanting some lunch, I fried up the stack of leftover fresh corn tortillas to make the chips for nachos and they were awesome. Freshly fried tortilla chips that are made from freshly made corn tortillas are probably one of the most pretentious things I've made in my kitchen so far. But you know what? They're so good that it's worth being kind of a try-hard.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What I Ate: Habanero Hot Sauce

Our garden did really well this year and we had loads of habanero peppers. I decided I had to make habanero hot sauce because I hadn't made it in three years and I had a big craving for it. I made some small adjustments to the recipe - I used a full orange pepper and omitted the carrot, mostly because I forgot the carrot - and it turned out just as delicious as I remember it.
I actually made this over Labor Day weekend and I decided to serve it with some fajitas. I marinated some ribeye steak and slapped in on the grill. It was delicious.

Monday, September 19, 2016

What I Ate: Nutella Pancakes

I tried that Pinterest trick where you freeze little circles of Nutella and drop them into your pancakes on the griddle.
Technically, it worked. But I'm such a Nutella fiend, I think I'd still like to spread more on top. But I held back. Instead we topped our stacks with a little maple whipped cream.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Grilled Peach Salad

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not in denial about summer coming to a close. How could I when there's a certain chill in the air in the mornings and walking my dog in the evenings is much more bearable in this crisper air. But, while there's still summer produce in the markets, I'm going to continue to take advantage of it.

Last weekend, we got a big box of white peaches that smelled incredible and tasted great. I wanted to incorporate some into our dinner, which I was preparing on the grill, so I decided I would make a big, gorgeous salad and make the peaches the star.
Ingredients [serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side]:
1 peach
3 cups baby greens
1 baby cucumber, sliced
½ bell pepper, chopped
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons pepitas (or nuts of your choice)
3 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons feta cheese
1 slice thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup short cut pasta, cooked
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
+ salt & pepper

*This salad can certainly be customized with ingredients that you love.
**I didn't make a recipe page for this post since it's just as simple as assembling the ingredients in a bowl.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What I Ate: Strawberry & Peach Mini Crumble Pies

I'm still holding onto summer for as long as I can and even if you can't deny that the trees are starting to change color and that the morning temperatures are much crisper than they were a few weeks ago and that it's dark when I wake up in the morning, I can always trick my brain with food. I made these mini pies, mostly because I was craving something sweet, but also because I was in the wanted to celebrate the continuing sunshine with a summery, cute dessert.

I used my standard pie dough, mixed up the filling with sugar and cornstarch and some spices and lemon juice, per usual, and then topped it with a crisp topping.
The great thing is, even though I'm in denial about summer's end, now that it is a little cooler, I can actually bear turning the oven on. The glass is half full, my friends.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Summer Holiday 2016 Food Diary

This is going to be a slightly different style of post. I just wanted to share all of the snaps of food I took whilst on holiday a few weeks ago. For more detailed holiday posts, you can head over to my travel blog (I went to London and the Greek Islands).
But here, I'm literally just sharing the photos, food pr0n style.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Korean Spicy Watermelon Noodles | Soobak Naengmyun (수박냉면)

Happy Labor Day! I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend. I've been having a great time, mostly because I love a nice long weekend but also because the weather was amazing. It was perfectly warm but breezy and the evenings had that crispness hinting that autumn is definitely approaching.

I don't really keep up with Korean trends or anything. I'm not that into K-pop or even Korean beauty, which seems to be super popular these days. However, the one thing I do get curious about is the food. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of watermelon naengmyun (수박냉면), which is basically bibim naengmyun (비빔냉면) made inside of a watermelon and mixed with bits of watermelon.

I thought this would be the perfect toast-to-the-end-of-summer kind of meal. It isn't quite yet the end of summer and I'm definitely not someone who jumps on the pumpkin spice bandwagon as soon as it hits September. However, watermelon season is definitely coming to a close, so if you feel like making this, go out and buy some watermelons today.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
noodles
8 oz. naengmyun noodles (buckwheat noodles; these are different from soba but soba can be substituted)
2 baby cucumbers, julienned
¼ cabbage, chopped (savoy or green)
2 dozen perilla leaves, chiffonade
2 baby watermelons
4 eggs, hard boiled
1 scallion, sliced
+ sesame seeds for garnish

sauce
1 cup watermelon
2 cloves garlic
2 scallions
¼ cup Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
3 tablespoons Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
¼ cup cola

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Garden Update 3

Our garden did really well in August. We had a bunch of habaneros ripen and turn orange, the poblano plant is humongous and out of control and making loads of peppers (and I plan on making some stuffed peppers or maybe chile rellenos with them), there are several watermelons going nuts, and we finally had a few wildflowers blossom in our new garden box.
I think I'm going to make some hot sauce with the habaneros this weekend.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Arnold Palmer

Back in university, my roommates and I would drink Arnold Palmers all the time (the ones by Arizona). We would jokingly call them "alnord parmels" (switching the 'r's and 'l's). It's one of my favorite beverages, whether it's bottled or made fresh. I made a big pitcher to accompany a delicious burger dinner and it was so delicious and refreshing. Sure, it's more effort than buying the premade stuff, but it's so much better when made with true brewed tea and real lemons.
Ingredients:
arnold palmer
2 cups cold brew tea
¾ cup quick lemonade
2 cups water
ice
mint sprigs

cold brew tea
2 cups water
4 to 6 teabags

quick lemonade
5 to 6 lemons (½ to ⅓ cup juice)
½ cup sugar

Friday, August 26, 2016

Chicken Piccata

I've been buying lots of lemons at the market every week because I like to drink lemon juice every morning. I squeeze the juice out of half a lemon and then down it like a shot and then chase it with water. It's been helping me keep my skin really bright, it's been helping me not get sick *knock wood*, and it's a great way to jumpstart my metabolism in the morning.

The thing is, I forget to do this at least one day a week which means that there's always an extra lemon sitting in the fruit bowl. So, one night when I was trying to decide what to do for dinner, I stared at the package of chicken, then at the leftover lemon, and decided that chicken piccata would be the way to go. Luckily, we had a jar of capers in the fridge and a good bottle of white wine so I was all set.

I like using chicken thighs instead of breasts because they're more tender and more moist and because of that, I don't even bother pounding them. But, if you're a boob-person and/or a traditionalist, then go for the breasts and pound them out thinly. Seriously though, thighs taste better and they're cheaper so that's the cut of chicken I usually buy. You will likely never see a chicken breast-specific recipe here; I'm not a fan.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
4 chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
juice of ½ lemon
½ cup white wine (or chicken stock, if you're not a fan of wine)
1 teaspoon basil

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lobster & Sweet Corn Pasta

I'm back from holiday and I'm so cranky about it. I have an awesome tan that I can't even show off properly because it's freezing in the office! But, I can be in a good mood about one thing: this blog post. I'm pretty happy with this dish.

My mom was one of those crazy people at buffets where she would stuff herself until she was sick and would encourage my sister and me to do the same. She was especially embarrassing at seafood buffets where she would pile her plate high with king crab legs and harass the staff when stock would get low. I hated that behavior as a kid but I'm pretty sure I behave similarly when I'm at any buffet now.

This woman, who gave me life, also taught me how delicious lobster is and that one must always squeeze out every ounce of meat, including from the tiny legs. She and my dad used to steam a few lobsters for dinner maybe once a year. It was a special little treat for our family to indulge in and I follow a similar tradition. Maybe once a year (probably less often, due to my squeamishness) I buy a lobster or two and make an indulgent little meal. So, this post is to share this year's lobster dish: a delicious creamy pasta with plenty of delicious lobster. I went all out and made fresh pasta, I used in-season sweet corn, and I stuck with my love of butter poaching lobster. I think it yields the most tender, decadent lobster. Plus, I like how easy it is to pull out all of the meat by par-cooking it.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 lb. fresh pasta (fettuccine or pappardelle)
2 ears of corn
2 butter poached lobsters
¼ cup beurre monte (leftover from poached lobster)
lobster shells
½ cup milk
½ cup cream
1 cup + ¼ cup grated parmesan
1 scallion, chopped
2 basil leaves, chiffonade
+ fresh ground pepper

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What I Ate: Korean Food (4)

Since I did a roundup of non-Korean dinners on Monday, I thought I would share some Korean ones too.
Seriously, I get so hungry putting these together, reliving the meals.

Monday, August 15, 2016

What I Ate: For Dinner (2)

Hello! This is the first of two posts that have been prescheduled for while I'm away on holiday! I'm hopefully sunning in Santorini as this goes live.

I figured I would keep things casual around here while I'm away so I decided I would share another 'What I Ate: for Dinner' post, as I have collected quite a few photos of some of my more memorable meals from the past few months.
There's a mixture of really summer meals in there (the grill is featured a few times) but there are also some heartier dishes from when the temperatures dipped here and there early in the summer.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What I Ate: Blueberry & Cheese Galettes

Summer berry season is amazing. It makes the produce section at the market smell so lovely and it makes my stomach happy. I made some galettes with blueberries and cream cheese (to mimic a danish-style pastry) and they turned out pretty amazing.
I let them get a bit toastier than usual in an attempt to get the crust nice and crunchy so that they'd be extra delicious straight out of the oven and at room temperature. It was still crunchy even when I enjoyed one for breakfast a day later, so these keep really well.

Monday, August 8, 2016

What I Ate: Chili Cheese Dogs

I know chili may not seem suited for summertime, but hotdogs certainly are, so I think chili can be suited for summertime if you want to top your hotdogs. This time, we used lots of habanero cheddar, diced onion, cilantro leaves, and jalapeno.
The good thing is that making chili doesn't require too much time spent over the stove. Also, I added some finely chopped mushrooms and they were so good. I could totally imagine a vegetarian version of chili made with mushroom; they soak up the flavor of the spices really well.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Garden Update 2

This past month, we started harvesting some yummy produce from our garden. It felt like our plants really flourished from the major amounts of rain and days of intense sunshine.
Unfortunately, we had some terrible encounters with the deer this past month. They came and chomped off the budding baby lemons. But, the lemon tree has started producing new flowers so I've got my fingers crossed that we'll see at least one full-grown lemon this year.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pork Belly Bao Buns (Korean-Inspired)

Hello, August! My sister was saying that if she could put seals of approval on my blog posts, that this one would definitely warrant one. We compared it to Joan Calamezzo's book club, ha!

Bao buns seem to be a thing now, thanks to Eddie Huang. But, not all of us have the time or the means to head over to Bao House every afternoon (which is the frequency with which I would like to enjoy bao). So, for someone like me who loves to cook, it means making it at home.

Koreans also have filled steamed buns, called ho-bbang (호빵) and steamed bread, called jjim-bbang (찜빵) which my aunt used to make all the time. So, I defaulted to the dough I know to make the bao bun. For the filling, I also went Korean-inspired and slow cooked pork belly in a sweet soy sauce. I topped the whole thing off with freshly made julienned radish kimchi (polluted with lots of Korean chive from our garden) and a little fried egg. Because Koreans like topping things with eggs.

The end result was a really delightful, super delicious bao. It was so good that I start drooling when I think about it. In fact, I'm drooling as I write this post.
Ingredients [yields 6 to 8 bao]:
steamed buns (bao)
½ cup warm water (110F)
1½ tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon canola oil

pork belly
8 oz. pork belly
½ small daikon radish
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 Thai chilis, chopped
½" knob ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil

filled bao buns
julienned radish kimchi
cilantro leaves
quail eggs

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What I Ate: Flatbread Pizza

A few weeks ago, a group of my coworkers and I met up to make some fresh mozzarella. My one coworker's cousin and her father were the instructors for the evening, and funnily enough, I had already taken their class through a local community education center. It was great to see them again and to interact with them on a more personal level.

We enjoyed delicious food, good conversation, and in the end, we left with a delicious ball of fresh mozzarella each. I brainstormed what I should do with the cheese and settled on pizza, mainly because I was also craving chicken wings.

I ended up making one of those floofy, fancy flatbread pizzas that we made fun of on mozzarella night. But hey, I don't mind those floofy, fancy flatbread pizzas, especially because it means that we also get a decent dose of vegetables whilst we indulge.
If you ever get a chance to enjoy freshly made fresh mozzarella, I highly recommend it. The texture, the temperature, the flavor is other worldly.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yuca Frita & Citrus Mojo

The past few posts and this one are all about deep frying. Well, whenever I set up to fry any dish, I try and make good use of the pan of shortening instead of throwing it out after one use. So, when I was in the mood to eat chipotle nacho beef but didn't feel like actually making nachos or tacos, I decided I would fry up some yuca.

My grocery carries fresh cassava (a.k.a. yuca) but I think it's a pain to process, or at least it seems that way from what I've seen on Chopped. So, I prefer to buy the frozen kind. The only thing to watch out for is pulling out the tough weird root-like stem thing running through the center; frozen yuca has been peeled but that stem hasn't been removed.

If you're going with fresh, make sure you buy one where the flesh is completely and beautifully white. It might be difficult to inspect but at my store, they already have the yuca chopped in half to expose the flesh which makes for easy inspection. There are plenty of authentic, useful resources out there that will help you navigate how to prep cassava so I'm not going to even attempt to make a guide when in all honesty, I've only ever dealt with frozen yuca. But it doesn't even matter because the frozen tastes just as delicious as fresh.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
yuca frita
1½ lbs. frozen yuca
oil for frying
+ salt to taste

citrus mojo
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons sour orange juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

One v. important note is that you should never eat raw yuca. Yuca contains cyanide and is toxic in its raw form. There are several varieties of cassava, some of which are more toxic than others. Sweet cassava is typically what is available in groceries in the States (due to our proximity to Latin America) and this variety is the least toxic and is made safe to eat simply by boiling. Bitter varieties of cassava require days of soaking before cooking, but bitter varieties are typically found in Africa.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Funnel Cake

Every year in the field near my office, the town hosts a carnival. It makes me nostalgic for the town carnival I used to visit as a kid. My mom would give me $10 to spend, which would only give me enough tickets to go on maybe three rides and then the leftover would be spent on either kettle corn or funnel cake, depending on my mood. Funnel cake usually won out, since it was the less accessible option; popcorn is the more readily available snack, right?

These days, I'm not as keen on visiting carnivals - waiting on a 30-minute queue for a 30-second ride just doesn't have the same charm. But, that doesn't mean I can't still enjoy a good funnel cake. But, I avoid the crowds and the kids and indulge at home instead.

There are lots of recipes out there for funnel cakes made with a pancake-like batter but I'm an advocate for pate a choux batter. It yields really light and crisp swirls of cake that puff up beautifully. Plus, the batter keeps really well in the fridge so you can address your cravings after dinner for an entire week; if you're as gluttonous as I am, this aspect is probably the winning trait.
Ingredients [yields 6 to 8 small funnel cakes]:
½ stick butter (¼ cup)
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup flour
2 eggs
oil for frying
+ powdered sugar

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fried Calamari

The best fried calamari I ever had was in Barcelona at a restaurant by a manmade beach. It was particularly memorable because it was made with the tube portion and they were humongous. Like, 5" diameter huge.

These calamari were inspired by those Barcelona calamari. I purposely chose huge tubes to try and recreate the effect. To be frank, I missed the tentacles a little - the texture is different and enjoyable - but I liked the result nonetheless and the nostalgia was awesome.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
calamari
2 lbs. squid (tubes and/or tentacles)
¼ cup flour
¼ cup potato starch
¼ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
oil for frying

dipping sauce
½ cup San Marzano tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon chopped oregano
1 teaspoon chopped basil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
pinch salt
pinch pepper

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pineapple Margaritas

I feel like because it's summer and because I have a bottle of tequila staring at me on my counter every day, I've been obsessed with making margaritas. This time around, I decided to make a pineapple marg.

While I worry about breaking my margarita glasses after imbibing, I do feel like drinking a margarita out of a smoothie glass just wouldn't have the same impact and it just wouldn't taste as good, right?
Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 ripe pineapple, chopped
1 cup coconut water
2 limes, juiced
1 cup tequila
1 cup ice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon himalayan salt
½ teaspoon lime zest

Monday, July 11, 2016

Groom's Cake

My coworker asked me to make a grooms cake for her wedding a few weekends ago and I happily obliged. She sent me an example from Pinterest and I did my best to recreate it, minus the glove (her request) and with a little less finesse.
This was my first time working with fondant and I think it went okay. It wasn't the easiest medium to work with - too sticky and finicky - but it worked out okay in the end, I think. My "customer" seemed pretty pleased and that's really all that matters, right?

I used my white cake and bavarian buttercream recipes, only altering the cake slightly to make marble cake, at V's request.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Couscous with Golden Raisins

I'm heading to Greece in August - something I continue to mention again and again because I'm just really excited - and I was wondering if I should put a pause on eating Mediterranean food knowing I'd be off to enjoy some genuine delicious fare but I thought, nah, because it's just too good and it's perfect for grilling.

So usually when we have falafel and chicken souvlaki, I usually make flatbread pita but on this occasion, I couldn't be bothered to knead dough or turn on the oven. So, I decided to make a fluffy couscous instead. I added in some chopped herbs and lemon and pine nuts for crunch and of course, a good handful of golden raisins, as the title of this post suggests.

The result was a gorgeous, fluffy couscous that was delicious and flavorful on its own but also made for a great neutral side dish to go alongside both falafel and chicken souvlaki (I couldn't choose which main I wanted to eat so I made both), some grilled eggplant, a pile of fresh crunchy bell pepper, pickled pepperoncini peppers, some feta, and of course, chunky tzatziki.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
2 tablespoons butter
¼ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups couscous
1½ cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped dill
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup chopped toasted pine nuts

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Pimm's Cup

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day. I loved my long weekend and it kind of sucks to be back at work. I'm actually daydreaming about the amazing food we had this past weekend; of course it'll all eventually be posted. I thought I would slide back into reality slowly and start this week with a blog post about a delicious libation.

When I went to New Orleans last year, I discovered the Pimm's Cup cocktail. It originated in the UK - and is the mascot cocktail of Wimbledon - but it's since become a staple cocktail in the Crescent City and rightly so. It's the most refreshing, delightful drink, which is needed in that humid city. Plus it reflects the cheerful disposition of the people.

I'm heading to London in August for a few days (as the bread of a Greek Island sandwich; that analogy was meant to explain that I'm bookending a trip to Greece with a few days in London) and I plan on sampling as many Pimm's Cups as possible while I'm there so I can compare and decide if it's better here or there.

In the meantime, I'm whipping up batches at home, trying to recreate the fresh, vibrant flavors I loved so much in NOLA.
Ingredients [serves 1]:
ice
3 cucumber slices
6 mint leaves
1½ oz. Pimm's No. 1
3 oz. lemonade
3 oz. lemon-lime soda

garnish
pineapple wedge
maraschino cherry
cucumber slice
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