Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wrapped in Goodness

I love the blogoverse. I love seeing a recipe on a blog and becoming completely inspired. I love then taking that recipe and butchering it to bits to make it mine. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. The only problem? I don't like salmon. Or any seafood. So I decided on my first modification - I'd make it with chicken.

And then we ran into problem number 2. Lack of other ingredients. See I'm very tired lately. So tired that the virtual kitchen pantry I keep in my head appears to be a bit off. I thought I had phyllo dough. I knew I had goat cheese, but for some reason I believed I had quite a bit more than the few sad crumbles that were left. And I was too tired to run to the store.

So now I had to ditch the virtual head pantry and go fishing in the actual pantry. I discovered that the reason I thought I had phyllo dough was because I had puff pastry dough in the freezer. Eh, close enough, right? And since I didn't have enough goat cheese I needed something else in the packet with the chicken. So I went with spinach - yum spinach! My favorite veggie.

So I started out with phyllo wrapped salmon with goat cheese and created chicken and spinach in puff pastry.

Chicken with Spinach in Puff Pastry
1/2 pkg of baby spinach
1 egg
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
2 chicken breast halves

1) Heat tablespoon oil in large skillet. Add spinach and tablespoon of water. Cover and steam spinach for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2) Roll pastry dough out into 14 inch square and cut in half.
3) Spoon spinach into center of each half, and top with chicken, season with salt and pepper.
4) Beat egg with tablespoon water and brush edges of pastry dough. Fold each corner to center on top of chicken and seal edges. Place seam side down on baking sheet. Brush with egg.
5) Refrigerate for 1 hour. Heat oven to 400. Bake 30 minutes.

Friday, May 30, 2008

My coworkers LOVE me!

So on my desk I keep a candy dish that is perpetually filled with chocolate in some form or another. Personally, I'm not a huge chocolate fan, which is the only reason I keep chocolate on my desk as opposed to a giant tub of popcorn. If I had a popcorn dish on my desk it wouldn't be there for very long and I would soon become far too large to fit through my office door. Chocolate can sit there for a very long time, giving everyone an opportunity to steal a piece.

However, because I don't eat a lot of chocolate, I don't always know what's going to be popular. My last supply was cappuccino chocolate, which sounded good to me. Who doesn't like coffee and chocolate? Well as I learned, a LOT of people don't like coffee and chocolate. Or perhaps I just happen to work in an office with a strange population.

On one of her visits into my office The Organizer was disappointed in the chocolate selection because coffee bothers her stomach - even when its mixed in with chocolate. It just so happens that this month is The Organizer's birthday month - yes you read that correctly, she celebrates the entire month of her birthday. Which is great for her friends because she organizes an activity every Friday of the month (tada! "The Organizer"). She is uberselective about who "makes the cut" for her events, so we were honored to be invited to birthday month celebrations. I wanted to do something nice for her, so I decided to make her a birthday treat that involved her two favorites - chocolate and alcohol (no coffee).

Chocolate Loaf
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 lb semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp hazelnut liqueur
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp melted unsalted butter

1) Line loaf pan with plastic wrap.
2) In food processor grind hazelnuts with sugar
3) In top of double boiler over simmering water melt chocolate and butter until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in ground hazelnuts and 2Tbsp liqueur. Let mixture cool.
4) With electric beater on high, beat heavy cream, melted butter, and remaining liqueur until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate.
5) Spoon mixture into loaf pan and smooth surface.
6) Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Thaw before serving.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Berrys and Cream

As I mentioned earlier I am going through some SERIOUS blueberry cravings right now. I can do blueberries in just any form imaginable, but you know what's REALLY good? Blueberries and cream! Know what's better thank blueberries and cream? Blueberries, cream and cake...well kinda cake. Shortcake!

Such a perfect tea recipe, for more reasons than one. First, because it was inspired by another teatime recipe. Second because that inspiration led me to actually use tea IN THE RECIPE. Oh yes, I went there. I'm such a rebel.

I don't have Earl Grey, but I have more green tea than I care to admit....I have three different brands because I like to change it up a bit. My current favorite is TJ's green tea with jasmine. Close your eyes and just think of it, green tea, jasmine, and blueberry. It was such a great combination that I plan on using it again - what do you think of blueberry cupcakes with green tea frosting? The thought of it has me salivating.

Blueberries and Green Tea Shortcakes
3 cups blueberries
1 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 bags of green tea and jasmine tea
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp confectioner sugar

1) Combine half of the blueberries, 1/3 cup water and 1 Tbsp of sugar in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining blueberries.
2) Heat half the cream to a boil and add the teabags. Remove from the heat and refrigerate (with the tea bags in the cream) for 2 hours.
3) Heat oven to 425. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger.
4) Stir in remaining cream and vanilla.
5) Remove dough to lightly flour surface and kneed gently. Roll dough to 3/4 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter, combining scraps and rerolling until you have 12 circles.
6) Place dough circles on baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
7) Bake about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool on wire rack.
8) Remove tea bags from heavy cream. Beat until frothy, then add the confectioner's sugar and keep beating until soft peaks form.
9) Halve the shortcakes horizontally. Spoon berry mixture over bottom half, top with whipped cream, and cover with top half.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Another quick one

It's another LONG and busy week/month/year here in Thathouse. Which means I am SO skimping out on elaborate dinners. Instead we're back to late dinners that can be made super quickly and with very little pots/pans. Although Thatboy totally stepped up tonight and took over the dishes so I could get in a couple more hours of work in. Good times.

This is my ridiculously beyond easy steak that can just as easily be transformed into a ridiculously beyond easy chicken/fish/pork dish. Okay. Everyone pay REALLY good attention:

Italian Steak
1) Wake up in the morning and pour Italian dressing all over steak and quarter bell peppers. Put in fridge.
2) Go to work for a million hours.
3) Come home. Call your husband from the parking lot and ask if he could pretty please carry you from your car to the apartment. When he hangs up, laughing hysterically, think about how much fun putting ice under the covers tomorrow morning is going to be.
4) Take steak out of the fridge and let come to room temperature as you heat your handy dandy grill pan over high heat.
5) Lower heat to medium and toss the steak and peppers on the grill pan. Grill until cooked to desired doneness.
6) Serve with whatever you like. I did some pasta tossed with zucchini.

Any questions?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Homegrown peanutty goodness!

For the most part, we don't really go out to a lot of chain restaurants for dinner, however, when I think of the chain restaurants I like it's not because of their entrees, it's all about the dessert!
Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, Claimjumper's chocolate cake, and BJ's pizookie.

Wait, you don't know what a pizookie is? Or BJ's? Well when I was trying to think of this month's entry for Homegrown Gourmet I was stumped. The recipe had to be something that involved peanut butter. California is known for a lot of things, but Peanut Butter? Not so much. And that's when I thought of BJ's pizookies.

BJ's started out as a California chain specializing in Chicago style pizza - that great deep dish pizza that is almost as good as REAL pizza (meaning the kind from New York obviously). And capitalizing off this deep dish, they introduced a deep dish dessert, the pizookie. It's a cross between a cookie and a pizza. Take some cookie dough, put it in a deep dish pan, and cook it until it's ALMOST done. (My mom refers to this as the "easy bake oven" consistency). Top the hot cookie with ice cream and you have (drum roll please) a pizookie! The pizookie comes in four flavors - chocolate chip, white chocolate macademia nut, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter.

I have a special affinity for BJs because it's one of my dad's favorites (back when he was able to eat food that didn't come from a bag or a box). Now add on the fact that my brother worked there. Stack on the bonus feature that there was one where I went to college, and it's almost like I'm related to the restaurant.

I don't know if this is really truly the recipe, but a google search turned up the recipe here. Born in Southern California and containing peanut butter? Sounds like a Homegrown Gourmet recipe to me!

1. Anyone can play!
2. A theme will be picked by the host. Participants will make a dish that follows the theme and that somehow represents their home region - town, state, area. Representation can feature a local ingredient, be a traditional dish from your area, or be a creative twist.
3. Participants will have 3-4 weeks (host discretion) to complete their recipes and post them to their blog (or email the pics and text), and notify the host. The host will then post the results and then let everyone know via email or message board the results are up!
4. An explanation of your dish is required; it can be a story about the local custom or ingredient, how you came about eating/making the recipe, or an explanation about how your creative dish fits the theme.
5. Fresh and local foods are encouraged!
6. When the round is done, the host will announce their favorite dish by updating their blog. Favorite is completely subjective to the host- no one expects the host to make and taste test all the dishes, it is just something that strikes the host’s fancy! The creator of the fave gets the honor of hosting the next round, if they so choose!

Peanut Butter Pizookie
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon beaten egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoon unsalted peanuts
2 scoops of vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

2. Combine all ingredients for cookie of your choice up to, but not including, the flour, in a small bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until smooth. Add flour and baking soda and stir well by hand. Stir in peanuts then press the dough into a small buttered pie pan, cake pan or 6-inch deep-dish pizza pan.

3. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until cookie begins to brown. Cool for a minute or so, add 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream, and serve.

Serves 2 for dessert.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Worst Breakfast Ever

This is a terrible breakfast, but a FANTASTIC dessert. The theme for this month's recipe-remix was breakfast. Unfortunately I am terribly uncreative when it comes to breakfast, mostly because I like the classics.

So I put on my thinking cap on how to change up classic breakfast foods. I'm going through a HUGE blueberry phase right now - blueberry bread, blueberry shortcakes, fresh I kept having dreams of blueberry pancakes. Luckily blueberry pancakes are Thatboy's favorites. So then came how to twist it up... and I kept coming back to Belgian waffle sundaes - you know, a belgian waffle, topped with ice cream, fudge, whipped cream......

Why not make a pancake sundae? With blueberry pancakes!! And instead of fudge, I'd top it with maple syrup - you know, like what you put on pancakes. And that's when my flash of brilliance came in. My mom's all time favorite sundae topper is wet walnuts. Honestly, I don't know what exactly they are, but they're sweet and carmely. So adding pecans to maple syrup should have the same effect!

So next time you want pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast, keep the leftovers on hand for an amazing dessert.

First, lets make the pancakes. Thatboy likes his blueberry pancakes with that sour flavor imparted by buttermilk. But in the interest of making a twist I used sour cream instead of buttermilk. Thatboy was worried it would make the pancakes too light and fluffy (heaven forbid) but I tried to explain to him there's no leavening agent in sour cream.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup milk
4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 pkg fresh blueberries

1) Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse several times.
2) Combine egg yolks, sour cream, milk, and cooled melted butter. Beat well.
3) Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and beat until smooth.
4) Beat egg whites on high until soft peaks form, then fold gently into the batter.
5) Fold in blueberries.
6) Heat griddle over medium heat. Reduce heat and pour circles of batter onto griddle. Cook over low heat until bubbles appear on the surface and then flip them. Cook other side for one minute and then remove from heat. Store in warmed oven.

Okay, time for the wet pecans:

4 oz pecans
1 cup Log Cabin Lite (no I'm serious, if I bring home anything else I get sent back to the store)
4 Tbsp butter

1) Toast pecans.
2) Heat maple syrup in small saucepan and simmer gently for 3 minutes.
3) Remove from heat and stir in pecans and butter.

Now for the fun part!

1) Take warmed pancakes and put them on a plate.
2) Top with scoop of vanilla ice cream
3) Pour wet pecans over the top

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nothing Fancy

Every now and then I try to plan something easy for myself. It's not often, as anyone who knows me can attest - I often like to scale walls instead of looking for a door. However, the old standbys are old standbys for a reason. So when I want an easy dinner I schedule a baked chicken. It's this old recipe, but this time I coated the chicken in flour before the egg to help with a more even coating. I think it worked! Also, now that I'm getting pro at the "fried chicken" I stuck this in the fridge for an hour before baking it, just like real fried chicken!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

MMMMM tasty

I've wanted to take part in Joelen's Tasty Tools ever since she started it. Unfortunately the lack of tools (either because I don't have them or because they were packed up) has kept me from joining in. This time around however, I just HAD to join in. Why? Because the tool of the month is the blender!

Ah the blender. The first appliance of every college student. Because we all know how much college students Yes. Smoothies. Which reminds me of one of the favored snacks of Freshman year...see one of the on campus food choices was a smoothie place. Which was great for a quick breakfast on your way to class. At night however these smoothies served an ENTIRELY different purpose when combined ingredients that Freshman students DO NOT keep in their dorms. Promise.

Wait, where was I again? Oh right, the event. A couple weeks back Thatboy and I made a deal that there'd be no more random weeknight drinking. Apparently its not a good sign when you're doing shot after shot in your kitchen on a Wednesday night. Which means I had to find a nonalcholic use for the blender. It didn't take very long for me to think of a GREAT summertime treat that requires a blender. POPSICLES!!!!!!

With all the fresh fruit that starting to become available, I should let you in on a little secret - I ADORE frozen fruit. It can't be healthy. As soon as fruit starts becoming available fresh I start sticking it in the freezer to snack on. Backwards huh? At least if I put it in popsicle form I get less weird looks. I wanted this to be super summery so I used Thatboy's favorite fruit - watermelon. I then added the two ingredients that I add to every summer recipe - mint and lime.

Summer Pops

1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup watermelon, roughly chopped
1 lime
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp mint, chopped

1) Place strawberries, watermelon, sugar, and juice of lime in blender.

2) Hit blend. Blend until its all blendy. Oh wait- blend in your blender until all blendy. There ya go.

3) Strain your blended fruit mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Alrighty, so I REALLY need a bigger fine mesh strainer. Hopefully you have a bigger one - it makes things go SO much faster. Otherwise this is the part where you stand around complaining about how you just can't reach your medicine until someone sitting nearby feels sorry for you and offers to help...and passes you the medication while you silently curse them for not getting the hint.

4) Now's the time when you add the mint you chopped up. Stir it in good.

5) Pour into popsicle molds. I poured the strained mixture with mint back into the pitcher because it is MUCH easier to pour from a pitcher than a bowl. Also a little note - I have popsicle molds because I make a TON of pops in the summer. I got it at Kohls a couple years back for $3. If you don't have a mold, this would work equally well with small cups and popsicle sticks or straws.

6) Place in freezer overnight. However, that's a really long time to wait, so...

7) Make sure you save enough to pour into a glass to drink while you wait. It tastes just like summer. And yes that is a jelly jar - its my all time favorite glass. The pops will be ready in no time!

Friday, May 23, 2008

A feast a feast!

Back in the kitchen and just in time. Since we're nearing the end of the month, that also means we're nearing the due dates for all the awesome blogging events I take part in. I can't believe how the list has grown! But since this was the first it will always be near and dear to my heart.

It's time for Platinum Chef Challenge! As you may or may not remember (or may or may not care) Danielle was picked as the hostess for the month. That means she gets to pick all the great ingredients. And the ingredients she picked were SO great, that a bunch of us brilliant chefs all came up with THE SAME IDEA ON HOW TO USE THEM! Impressive for folks to share a brain when they live across the country, no?

And what were these magical, brain sharing ingredients? Bok Choy, Mango, Mint, Panko, and Yogurt. Which was perfect because I was already planning on making Mango and Crab springrolls before she even rolled out the ingredients! The original recipe called for Mango and Mint, so I knew it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to add some bok choy. Then panko always screams SHRIMP to me (and Cara, and Tpox) I thought that adding some panko shrimp with a thai peanut-yogurt sauce would be fantastic.

Which leads me to my entry:
Mango and Crab Spring Rolls with Panko Shrimp and Two Dipping Sauces

The Ingredients:
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp honey
1 lemon (not pictured - he was REALLY shy and chose to stay in the fridge until he made his grand entrance)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (not pictured - he was REALLY hard to find in my pantry)
1 1/2 cans of crabmeat
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 shallot, minced
rice paper sheets
mint leaves
1/2 lb shrimp (this time peel it and devein)

1) Combine the vinegar, sugar, sriracha, and 1/4 cup of water (Crap she most certainly did not mention water in the ingredients. Looks like another trip to the store....or the sink...just turn around, fill 'er up and quit complaining). You should probably use a bigger bowl than the one pictured. Mostly because it was hard to stir without making a mess and dipping would be near impossible. But I didn't realize this until too late. Learn from my mistakes.

2) In a different bowl (well duh) combine the peanut butter, yogurt, soy sauce, honey, ginger, and the juice of half a lemon. (Save that other half, you'll use it later - promise). Around this time begin to wonder why you're calling this Thai peanut yogurt sauce since there's nothing especially Thai about the ingredients. Get flashbacks of Chicken Satay Skewers and decide not to focus too much query. Notice how this fits ever so nicely in the little bowl.

3) Saute the leaves of some bok choy over low heat, just until they begin to wilt. Like spinach! Then set them aside to cool.

4) Combine crab meat, mango, shallot, salt and pepper.

5) Fill a pie plate with warm water and throw caution to the wind! Or just throw your rice paper in there for a couple seconds to make it pliable. Transfer to clean, dry workspace and blot any excess water with a paper towel - be gentle because these things are fragile.

6) Now comes the easy part. Place 1 bok choy leaf at bottom of paper, and top with 3 mint leaves and 1 cilantro sprig.

7) Top that with 2 Tbsp of the crab/mango mixture.

8) Fold bottom of rice paper over mixture and tick in sides and roll up. Set roll on plate and cover with a damp paper towel.

You'll find the rolling to be very cathartic and there will be more and more and more of them!

9) Preheat your broiler. Remember that half of a lemon I told you about? The one you were supposed to keep? Well pull that bad boy out and squeeze it into a bowl. Pour your panko onto a shallow dish and dip the shrimp in lemon juice and then panko. Place on your favorite broiler pan and broil those puppies 3 minutes per side, or until golden.

10) Top your spring rolls with your golden shrimp and serve with the Chili dipping sauce and peanut yogurt dipping sauce.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Last one I swear!

Starting tomorrow we'll go back to recipes, and I'll go back to cooking. I didn't make anything tonight anyway since I got to go out to a special event (I really love living in San Diego! We have something super cool to go to almost every week!)

However, I won't deny you some food porn. See, Ruth, who is my favorite person in the whole country of Ireland, tagged me with one of the coolest Memes EVER. You tag 10 of your top food pics, and then tag 5 people to choose 10 of their tops food pics.

As cool as this meme is, it wasn't so easy because basically I take TERRIBLE pictures. (Stop laughing Gillian - you saw first hand how "amazing" I am.) But if you shoot enough arrows you're bound to hit the bullseye every now and again!

Mini Mocha Cupcake with Buttercream Frosting

Pumpkin Ice Cream