December 21, 2011

Kale Chips

Have you ever tried those seaweed snacks?  No?  You should.  Wait, no, you shouldn't because if you like salt, you seriously won't be able to stop. Like me. I'm addicted. While seaweed is healthy, I'm sure these are not with their high levels of sodium. That is why I'm addicted. I love salt. So, I needed to find an alternative. My friend, Liz, introduced me to kale and recommended I try kale chips. Um, a great snack and I'll make this for dinner than store in a container and have as a snack for the next day. 

Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale
2-3 tspn olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 350.

1. Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. Separate and for each leaf, remove the hard stem. Break the kale into small pieces.
2. Spread the pieces of kale onto a baking sheet. Make sure your kale is completely dry or your 'chips' will not crisp up.  Drizzle the olive oil over and give it a good toss with your hands. Sprinkle with the salt and garlic powder. Bake for about 12-15 minutes.
3. Eat immediately! I was able to keep mine for the next day to snack on by storing it in an airtight container.

December 19, 2011

Spiced Nuts

Love this recipe. I have tried a few variations and this is my favorite.  You can make sweet, spicy and even savory flavors. For the savory nut recipe, it used salt and fresh rosemary,  but I still prefer the sweet variation! Nothing taste (and smells) better than fresh nutmeg and cinnamon on these nuts. 

I've used several types of nuts and I prefer a half/half combination of almonds and pecans. Walnuts don't taste as good with this recipe.

Sugar and Spice  
1 lb nuts
1 egg white
1 tbspn water
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cinnamon (fresh if possible)
1 tsp nutmeg (fresh if possible)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

2. Mix together the sugars, salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon (freshly grated if possible) and nutmeg (freshly if possible). Set aside.
2. Whisk the egg white with water until frothy. No need to bring out your hand mixer, just use your handy dandy arm and whisk for about a minute. Put the nuts into a large bowl and add the egg white mixture. Mix well to ensure all the nuts are coated.
3. Add the sugar mixture to the wet nuts.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Don't skip this part! Otherwise, you will have a hot sugary mess stuck on your baking sheet and give you much grief cleaning...  Spread the nuts evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes. 
5. Let the nuts sit on the counter for about 2-3 minutes. Then, taking two forks, start to separate the nuts into individual pieces. Again, don't skip this part or you will have large clusters of nuts. I like to lightly dust the top with a little more cinnamon and white sugar - optional.  Store in an airtight container and these will be good for at least two weeks.

December 18, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Yes. I know. Christmas is one week away. Why am I posting about Thanksgiving when I should be thinking about our Christmas meal? The past few weeks have been a whirlwind and I'm in denial that Christmas is only seven days away or that 2012 will be here in two weeks. So I'll continue to be in denial for the rest of this post, the night and probably for the next few days. I'm telling myself that Thanksgiving was just last week and I have plenty of time to start/finish all of my holiday shopping and errands.

Thanksgiving this year had its successes and fails. I did not try anything too complicated but tried to look at more 'traditional' Thanksgiving dishes - cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, soup, etc. 

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
This was a great success. It was silky and rich.  The extra dollop of sour cream on top help tremendously. The only fault of this recipe? It makes a TON of soup so be prepared to have leftover soup for several days. Recipe here from Ina Garten.  My variations: I did not add any curry powder, I added the sour cream on top and instead of using a food processor, I used my sister's handy immersion blender!  I want one now!
Brined Turkey
Here is the big sha-bang, the TURKEY!  It turned out pretty tasty except the wings were a little crisp. I used the same recipe as last year, found here. No variation this year.
Chopped Salad
Have I told you that I love pinterest? I found this recipe for a great salad several weeks ago and love it. It's delicious. I think the charm is the combination for the dressing - 3/4 poppyseed dressing and 1/4 balsamic dressing, which I simply use balsamic vinegar than the pre-mixed dressing type.  You can really add anything to this salad but I think the musts are the toasted walnuts and the pear or apple slices. I also used the crispy bacon from the turkey above and crumbled a few slices for the salad - double yum!  You can find the recipe here from Espresso and Cream.
Roasted Cauliflower - Not a fail but prefer the simpler method
You know from previous posts that I love simple roasted cauliflower - but I can't just have simple roasted cauliflower for Thanksgiving so to kick it up a bit, I followed this recipe. My variations: No anchovy paste or raisins. Honestly, I think the extra work was nice but I'll stick to simple roasted cauliflower with just garlic, olive oil and S&P - taste just as good.
Boursin Mashed Potatoes 
No feast is complete without mashed potatoes. Not just any mashed potatoes but Boursin mashed potatoes. I buy the garlic and herbs variation of Boursin cheese but I'm sure any of the flavors would work. My variation: I added heavy cream instead of the milk and cut it in half, 1/2 stick of butter (yes, I know. Over indulgent but it's okay.), and freshly chopped thyme and rosemary. Next time, I'd push to roast a whole garlic clove in the oven (or even take from the turkey) and add to the potatoes.
Cream Corn
Ross' mom has shared a few recipes with me - Rum cake, pecan pie and cream corn. I've made this every Thanksgiving since she bestowed these amazing recipes to me and I'm surprised I have yet to share it with you!  This is not for the health conscious, those that are scared to use cream, or those who don't want to taste awesomeness. A future post to come soon.
Cheese Ball - Fail
I was first introduced to a cheese ball by Laurie during a holiday party and simply remember myself stationed next to this cheese ball for a good portion of the night.  I've looked through pinterest and came upon this recipe. For me, this was a fail - I'm not sure if it's the way I prepared it, the amount of time I let it rest in the fridge or that I'm simply comparing it to Laurie's amazing cheese ball. I'll attempt this again and may work on some slight variations but if anyone has a solid recipe to share for a cheese ball, please let me know!
Carrot Cake
In addition to the aforementioned Rum Cake, I also made a carrot cake for dessert. It's dense, has pineapples and is not sharp with hits of spices. Having had this since I was little, I actually thought this was the norm - until I had the carrot cakes that are covered in creamy frosting, light/flaky at times and with a heavy cinnamon flavor. After asking my mom if this was her recipe, I found out that she pulled this recipe from a Chinese newspaper back in the day!  No online recipe as it's on a handwritten and I'll work on putting up a separate post soon.
Cranberry Sauce
The last item we made was cranberry sauce. If you can believe it, we've never had cranberry sauce during Thanksgiving. I gave it a shot and most of us agreed that we weren't a fan. Unfortunately, this particular side probably won't make an appearance at future dinners. I realize that I didn't even take a picture of this final dish... 

What do you think of our Thanksgiving 2011?  My mom also made her Asian noodle dish (recipe here) and oily rice (similar concept to this). I didn't have time to take pictures while she was making the latter dish, but will do so next time as it's quite good and easy to make. 

Stayed tuned for some Christmas holiday cooking and some recent cookie recipes!

October 22, 2011

Vodka Pasta

Vodka pasta always seems like a treat when I go to an Italian restaurant, not thinking I can make it at home. I have tried Ina's vodka pasta recipe and while it turned out well, I was put-off by the complexity of the recipe and the 3 hour cooking time. This basic vodka sauce is from Giada and more importantly, is easy and quick - about 45 min to an hour. 

Vodka Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes
Adapted from Giada

6 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
1 large shallot, chopped (or two smaller shallots)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 cans of whole tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 tsp sugar (more based on your taste)
Garlic powder
Cherry tomatoes, cut in half (amount is based on what you prefer)
Cooked pasta (Penne and bowtie work well here)

1. In a cold pot, put the chopped garlic, chopped shallots, butter and dried herbs. Turn on the heat to medium high and let it cook down until the shallots start to get a little glazed.
2. Add in the whole tomatoes. I use my wooden spoon and smoosh the tomatoes into large chunks. I like to let this sit for about 5 minutes so the flavors start mixing together. Take a quick taste for flavor. Add in additional dried herbs if you need to.
3. Pour in the vodka.
4. Add in a can of tomato paste. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium low and let it cook for 10-15 minutes for the vodka to incorporate well.
5. Now the tasting/testing begins. I add in a tsp of sugar to bring out the flavor of the tomato and a quick dash of garlic powder. Take a quick taste and add in additional sugar, salt and/or pepper.
6. Add in the cream. You can probably omit this step if you prefer, but why?
7. Last, add in the parmesan and your vodka sauce is done!
8. Using a mix of bowtie and penne pasta (so the sauce sticks better and gets into those nooks), I add that to a large medium hot pan with olive oil and additional garlic. I add the cherry tomatoes and give it a give stir to warm through.
9. Add a few large spoonfuls of sauce on top and incorporate well.  Turn off the heat and if you'd like, add additional cheese. Serve with some roasted chicken and veggies! 

October 19, 2011

Prosciutto Egg Breakfast Tarts

Seriously, a very simple dish and quite delicious. Great for breakfast and also easy if you're need to serve for 10+ people. Each person should get at least two.  The directions and photos below are for prosciutto and egg.  However, I made these again for a family gathering and used turkey bacon with the addition of green onions and they were much better; sorry no pictures. Recommend you add in the chopped green onions.

Prosciutto Egg Breakfast Tarts
Serves 2 (2 tarts each)

4 slices of prosciutto (you can also use bacon)
2 egg
*1 stalk chopped green onions (entire thing - whites and greens)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

2. Spray a mini muffin in (if it's not non-stick or if your bacon/prosciutto isn't very fatty).  Using one strip and form into the shape of the muffin cup.  I cut the slice into two pieces as it was easier to mold. 
3. Crack an egg into a bowl. One egg will fill two cups with one holding the yolk and the other of egg whites. Slowly pour the egg into two cups.  Add chopped green scallions if you have and then top with a little bit of pepper.  I don't add salt as the prosciutto is salty as will your bacon if you use that.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. Bake a little less if you want the yolk to be a little runny. Carefully scoop out the tart with a fork and eat immediately while it is still hot!

October 17, 2011

Roasted Salsa

Why buy salsa when you can make it at home?  This was a fairly easy recipe that took some time and used several bowls/appliances!  Much cleanup afterwards!  I would halve this recipe if you are not making this for a party - way too much.  Additionally, be careful when you add the jalapenos to the food processor, only add a few at a time as it can get a tad overwhelming.

Roasted Homemade Salsa
Adapted from Sassy Radish
Serves a ton (You can halve this recipe or use the Sassy Radish recipe for smaller amount)

10 roma tomatoes
1 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
6 jalapenos
1 bunch of garlic (separate each clove but no need to peel off the skin)
3 limes
Bunch of cilantro
White Pepper
Few dashes of tobasco sauce

1. Turn on your broiler to high.

2. Put the tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves and jalapenos on a lined baking sheet.  Put under the broiler for 15 minutes (make sure to watch so it doesn't burn).  Take it out and flip them quickly with tongs. Put back under the broiler for 10 minutes.
3. Juice three limes.
4. Put the tomatoes and onion into the food processor. For the garlic, you should be able to easily squeeze out the garlic from the skin. For the jalapenos, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. I added in all the jalapenos at once and thought it was too spicy. Recommend that you add in two at a time to determine the hotness of your salsa. Blend everything together.
5. Put the salsa into a large bowl and add in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Mix well.  Take a taste and add in S&P as necessary. Add in a few dashes of tobasco sauce and for a different flavor, add in some white pepper. Serve with chips!

October 14, 2011

Not My Dad's Rice, But Good Fried Rice Nonetheless

Simple fried rice is the easiest solution when you have leftover white rice - and the quickest dinner!  Fried rice can be made with a variety of ingredients - chinese sausage, shrimp, leeks, peas, corn, leftover pork/chicken or whatever you have leftover in the fridge.

For the actual rice, I find that jasmine rice doesn't work well. I like my rice a tad sticky and typically use a more glutinous rice variety - Kokohuo japanese rice, which you can find in almost every asian grocery store. Looks like they also sell on Amazon, but at an ridiculous price. You can most likely buy for 20-25 in an asian grocery store and it will last for months.

This is a simple vegetarian fried rice with scallions and corn. Serve with some green veggies and it's an easy weekday dinner. Ready for the prep and cooking time? 15-20 minutes max!  Just make sure to prepare/chop all your ingredients before you start cooking since it'll be ready before you know it.

Step three is where you can add in your varied ingredients. If you want to use chinese sausage or meat, cook them first for a few minutes to ensure they are fully cooked/heated through before adding in the veggies since those will cook much faster.  You don't want perfectly cooked meat but overcooked/burned veggies! Increase or decrease the amount of soy sauce you add based on your ingredients. For instance, if you use salty chinese sausage, cut down on the soy sauce. If you use blanced chicken, add a little more.

Vegetarian Fried Rice
Serves 3-4 (pendng how many bowls of rice each person consumes! ;))

3 cups of cooked rice (I used one day old rice)
1 cup of corn (Frozen is fine)
5-6 stalks of green onions, chopped
2 eggs
1/3 cup soy sauce
Dash of seasame oil
*You can also add in a little bit of fish sauce for varied flavoring. If you do so, cut back significantly on the soy sauce to ensure you don't have an over-salted dish.

1. Prepare all your ingredients because once you start cooking, the process goes very quickly. No time to chop this or chop that in between steps. Chop your green onions/scallions into slivers. I used the entire stalk - waste not!  Next, whisk the two eggs together until nice and fluffy. Make sure your corn is out of the freezer. As for the rice, since I typically use one day old rice, I re-heat the rice in the microwave until nice and hot.
2. Heat your pan to medium and add a dash of oil. Quickly scramble the eggs with a tiny dash of salt. Then remove the cooked eggs into a bowl. I like to cook them just a little bit under as it will cook a little more when you add back to the rice.
3. In the same pan, add a little more olive oil.  Then add in the scallion and the corn.  Add a dash of salt to the mixture. Don't skip this step!  This will be the way you ensure the saltiness is incorporated througout the finished rice dish.  Let this cook for a few minutes until the corn is fully heated and cooked. 
4. Turn your heat down to low. Add the hot white rice on top of the mixture and using a flat rice scooper or a flat spatula, start mixing and incorporating the green onion and corn throughout the rice.
5. Add back in the eggs . Slowly add the soy sauce  a bit at a time to ensure you don't put too much at once. Taste and then add more if you need. Next, add a brief dash of seasame oil. Mix to incorporate well. Again, take a quick taste. If you need more soy sauce, add more. I err on adding more soy sauce vs. salt at this point. I like to add in a dash of pepper at the very end to round the flavors out. Serve immediately!

October 12, 2011

Baked Trout with Green Beans

Growing up, my dad took us on several fishing trips and we soon found out how to de-scale and clean a fish. I remember sitting in our backyard cleaning the dozen fish from our night fishing trips. For the following weeks, having whole fish for dinner was a weekly if not daily dish.

Don't be alarmed with cooking a whole fish. Pretty simple! We bought these good looking trout from Costco and after getting home, I realized that they still had scales. UGH. Should have checked more carefully at the store so the butchers could de-scale them for me. 

I couldn't find any good recipes in my cookbook sso I just went on a whim with this - or should I say, what I could find in my fridget that I thought would go well with trout, which wasn't much. Lemon, butter and herbs. Yeps, that's about it.

Baked Trout

2 whole trout (cleaned and de-scaled)
1 lemons (one cut into slices and the second into wedges)
Several long sprigs of oregano and thyme
4 tbsp butter
Garlic Salt

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Wash and pat dry the fish. Season the fish with salt, pepper and garlic salt on both sides and inside the cavity. Then, cut deep slit into both sides of the fish and squeeze a lemon slice and tiny slab of butter in each. For the cavity, stuff the herb sprigs and a few more slices of butter. 

3. Place the fish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes until completely cooked through.  Prior to serving, take one lemon wedge and squeeze the juice over the fish for additional flavoring.

September 13, 2011

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

No long post to start. Just the recipe and my thoughts. I felt the cupcakes were a little too dense and a tad dry. I would consider adding in 1/2 cup buttermilk and/or sourcream to lighten this recipe up. Also, this was incredibly easy to make. Making the actual batter took about 15 minutes and the ganache about 10 minutes. The ganache is fantastic but makes way too much for the dozen or so cupcakes. I ended up using it as a fruit dip for snacks!

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes and 6 mini-cupcakes
Adapted from Ina

1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 cup flour
4 eggs (room temperature)
16 oz  Hershey's chocolate syrup (note, I couldn't find this and used hershey's chocolate syrup typically used for ice cream)
1 tbspn vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 bag of chocolate chips
2 tbspn of espresso or very strong coffee

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Make sure the butter is room temperature. I actually leave my butter out the night before if I know that I'll be baking with it the next day. You may be tempted to go ahead and bake with fresh out of the fridge butter, but highly recommend you wait just two hours. Trust me, I was that person and after making a dessert the room temperature butter, I saw a difference. Your dessert is more moist and creams significantly better. 

3. Next, crack the eggs in a measure cup. Then add them one by one to the mixer. Add in the vanilla. 
4. Add in the chocolate syrup, making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixer periodically to ensure the batter is well mixed. I couldn't find the Hershey's syrup at my grocery store, so I substituted with Hershey's hot fudge syrup. The same? Probably not but I think it worked to provide that intense chocolate flavor. Next, slowly add in the flour in three batches.
5. Spray your cupcake pan and fill each to about 3/4 of the cup. These cupcakes don't rise too much. I also baked some mini-cupcakes as well!
6. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. For the mini-cupcakes, they only took about 12-15 minutes.
7. For the cupcake ganache frosting, heat the heavy cream in a double boiler. Once simmering, add in the chocolate chips and mix until all the chips are melted. Add in two tbspn of espresso or very strong coffee. It should be shiny and silky.

8. Once the cupcakes are done and cooled, dip the top of the cupcake into the chocolate ganache. Set on platter to set.