Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't tell the Italian...

So, I made this Skillet Lasagna recipe this week for a quick and easy dinner. Sure it is not the real thing, but it works well for a one pot meal, kinda like the Hamburger Helper days of the past. For mine, I added extra Italian Herb mix and salted well. There really isn't a lot of flavors going on here, but you can still end up with a tasty meal. You can break up lasagna noodles as directed or just use orecchiette pasta. Sorry, no picture, but I think the camera is coming back to life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

German Christmas Markets

I thought I would do a quick post on the German Christmas Markets. This time of year is very festive all over Germany. The Christmas markets are the only thing that get me through this dreary time in Northern Europe when it doesn't get light out until after 8am and is pitch-black again by 4pm in the afternoon! In many German towns, Weinachtsmarkts pop up all over the cities. You can find all kinds of handmade wooden gifts, lots of snacks and sweets (such as the famous Nurnberg Lebkuchen, gingerbread) and hot drinks like Gluhwein (mulled wine). Here are some pics ... Enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gluten-free Christmas Cookie Party

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I hosted my annual Christmas cookie party this weekend and even issued a "challenge" to my guest...bring one gluten-free item to share. It is interesting the number of things are are naturally gluten free, and what people try to adapt using gluten free flour and mixes. I am going to focus on the naturally gluten free items.

First of all, you have to finish you meal before you have dessert. At my cookie parties, I like to have some normal food to balance out the sugar in the sweets. Our families favorite hummus recipe is always on the menu.

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Per 1 can chickpeas
1 clove garlic
1 lemon, juiced
salt, pepper
olive oil

Combine chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in food processor and process. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency. Serve with pita (note: the pita I buy at the grocery story is always pretty sad, any tips?)

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Almond Crescents - Not gluten free, but a family favorite. Pictured here with mint chocolate cookies.
1C soft butter
1/3 C sugar
- cream together

1 2/3 C sifted flour
1/4 tsp salt
- stir in

2/3 C ground blanched almonds - add and chill

Roll into 2 inch sections and bend into crescents (thus the name). Bake at 350 for 14-16 minutes. Sift powdered sugar on top.

A wonderful cookie: rich, buttery, and melts in your mouth. My mom actually made these.

Chocolate macaroons
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4 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

1. Heat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Reduce heat, and allow to simmer. Place chocolate in small bowl and set over sauce pan. Stit until chocolate is melted, and set aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine cooled chocolate, cocoa, sugar, coconut, egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Use your hands to mix well, completely combining ingredients.
4. Dampen hands with cold water. Form 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture into a loose haystack shape and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture, placing macaroons 1 inch apart.
5. Bake until just firm to the touch but still soft in the middle, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven to wire rack, and let cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

**note: I did find unsweetened coconut, but when I got it home, I realized it was reduced fat! YIKES! It actually turned on well because it made the macaroons a little more crispy and I seemed to like that texture better.

Chocolate Pecan Butter Crunch
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2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups chopped pecans, plus more for top
8 oz semisweet chocolate
2 T light corn syrup

1. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and set aside.
2. Place the butter and water in a large sauce pan. Cook over medium high heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugar and stir constantly until dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush away any sugar crystals on the side of the pan to prevent recrystallization. Cook until the mixture is dark amber in color. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans. Pour into prepared baking pan, and let stand at room temperature to cool completely.
3. Place the chocolate and corn syrup in small heat proof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until combined and completely melted. Let cool slightly, and spread over the top of the cooled toffee. Arrange the pecan halves on top and let sit at room temp until the chocolate has cooled and completely set, at least 2 hours or overnight. Carefully unmold by lifting out the parchment paper. Break or cute into pieces and store in airtight container for up to 1 month. Yield 2 dozen.

**note: making candy is always messy and nerve wracking, but these are simply the best things you have ever put in your mouth.

Almond Croquant
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups finely chopped blanched almonds

1. Place silpat on baking sheet, set aside. Combine sugar and corn syrup in saucepan. Bring to a boil, st iring until the sugar dissolves. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush away and sugar crystals on side of pan to prevent recrystallization. Cook, swirling occasionally, until mixture reaces soft ball stage on a candy thermometer (238)
2. Stir in almonds, cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is light amber in color.
3. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet, spread quickly into a 1/4 inch layer with oiled metal spatula. Let set 2 minutes before cutting, or let cool completely and break into pieces. Set aside until completely cool. Store in airtight container for 1 month.

**note: more messy and nervewracking then the toffee. I made 2 batches and both ended up kind of chewy. I think I didn't let it get hot enough...stupid candy thermometer.

Sugared Cranberries
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I think these will become a part of my foodie Christmas gifts next year!!

Sorry no picture, but these are another great gluten free treat.

It was another successful cookie party, and I have another platterful of cookies in my kitchen. I just have to say that the toffee, brittle, and macaroon recipes, I actually got from lbmartinez, she is great at the baked goods. I wish all of you could have been at the party...maybe next year?

Quick and Easy - Salmon with Fennel and Pernod

This recipe was in the Bon Appetit Dec. 2007 Fast Easy Fresh Section. It was a really tasty salmon dish. The braised fennel was fantastic and I should have made more of it.

1.5 t. fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 c. butter, at room temp
2 T. minced shallots
1 large fennel bulb with fronds; bulb quartered, then cut lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices; 2 T. fronds chopped
2 (6 oz) salmon fillets
2 T. Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur (I used Jagermeister instead and only used 1 T.)

Stir fennel seeds in a large nonstick skillet over med. heat until fragrant, about 1.5 minutes. Transfer seeds to small bowl; cool. MIx in (with seeds) butter, shallots and 1 T. fennel fronds; season butter with salt and pepper.

Melt 1 T. of the butter mixture in the same large nonstick skillet over med. heat. Add sliced fennel bulb and 1/4 c. water to skillet; cover and cook until fennel is crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Uncover skillet and saute until fennel begins to brown about 2 minutes. Transfer fennel to plate.

Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Add remaining butter mixture to same skillet and melt over med. heat. Add salmon; cover and cook 5 min. Turn salmon over; add 1/4 c. water to skillet. Cover and continue cooking until salmon is just opaque in center, about 5 min. longer. Slide salmon to 1 side of skillet return fennel to skillet. Add Pernod and remaining fennel fronds (if you have any left; stir, heat through. I let some of the alcohol cook off.

Divide fennel mixture between 2 plates. Top with salmon; spoon pan butter over salmon and serve.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thai Chicken

2 chicken breast cubed
Chicken Marinade:
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 garlic clove minced
1 tsp grated ginger root

3 tbsp chili sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 c peanut butter
1/4 c water
1/3 c soy sauce

Mix chicken with marinade and set aside. Slice some carrots, squash, zucchini, etc. Saute or steam until tender. Set aside. Saute chicken in some olive oil, then set aside with veggies. Combine sauce ingredients and whisk together. Pour sauce into heat pan and stir until peanut butter melts. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Return chicken and veggies to sauce and simmer for a bit. Serve over whole wheat pasta.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chipotle Cashew Chicken with Brown Rice

Saw this one on an episode of 30 minute meals and just had to try it. It falls into the "quick and easy" category. After our hot, sour, salty, sweet challenge, this seems rather low brow, but I love the contrasting tastes and textures. I think the reason this one comes together so quickly is that after the chicken and the vegtables are cooked, you make a glaze instead of a sauce so it doesn't have to cook together. I made regular brown rice in the oven (2 cups brown rice, 1tsp salt, 3 cups boiling water, bake in 375 degree oven for an hour) to serve it over. The recipe calls for raw cashews, which I can never find, so I just use the roasted ones.

The picture is thanks to the food network.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here we go a wassailing.....

Wassail. It's that thing I've been singing about for years that I have never once tasted, seen, or smelled. I have a chance to make a cool quasi-alcoholic beverage for my women's group on Monday. Does anyone care to submit a wassail recipe with alcohol? Thanks!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nonna's Tiramisu

If we are anywhere near the vicinity of northern Italy at Christmastime, you better believe we will be stopping by Nonna's house for some Tiramisu. I love this Tiramisu because way before it was fashionable to lighten recipes, Nonna was ditching the high fat mascarpone filling you normally see in Tiramisu recipes and making her own custard fillings, which are considerably lighter than the traditional. This is basically a layer of ladyfingers, then a chocolate custard layer, then another layer of ladyfingers, then a vanilla custard layer with a sprinkling of chocolate to finish it off. I jazzed up the vanilla custard by scraping the seeds from a vanilla bean. Also, normally Nonna would use a little Stroh liqueur instead of the espresso, but Alex and I both prefer it with espresso.

1 package ladyfinger biscuits (or also called Savoiardi)
2 eggs, divided
6 T. sugar, divided
2 T. flour, divided
4 T. milk, divided plus
500 ml. milk, divided
1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped of seeds or 1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
espresso coffee
chopped or shaved dark chocolate for sprinkling on top (or you can sift on unsweetened cocoa powder)

To make the custard layers (one vanilla layer/one chocolate layer):
Mix well 1 egg and 3 T. sugar in a mixing bowl. Add 1 T. flour and mix until combined. Add 2 T. milk to loosen the mixture and place on the stove in a saucepan. Add 250 ml. milk and vanilla flavor and stir with a whisk to combine. Bring slowly to a boil to thicken the sauce. Once thick, empty into a bowl to cool slightly.
Now make the chocolate sauce. Mix well 1 egg and 3 T. sugar in a mixing bowl. Add 1 T. flour and mix until combined. Add cocoa powder and 2 T. milk. Mixture will be thick. Place in saucepan on the stove and stir in remaining 250 ml. milk and stir with a whisk to combine. Bring slowly to a boil to thicken the sauce. Once thick, empty into a bowl to cool slightly.

To assemble the tiramisu:
In an 8x8 square pan, place a single layer of ladyfingers on the bottom. Drizzle several tablespoons of espresso liquid over the biscuits to soften. Carefully spread the chocolate custard mixture over the biscuits. Add another single layer of ladyfingers. Drizzle this layer with several tablespoons of espresso liquid to soften. Carefully spread vanilla layer over biscuits. To finish, sprinkle a layer of lightly sifted cocoa powder or crushed/shaved dark chocolate on top of vanilla layer.

Make a day ahead if you like. Tiramisu is much better the second day!

Saturday, December 8, 2007


So this is a two-fer: quick and easy AND a family favorite. I grew up on this meal, and we always seem to say it as one word, like in the title. Simply thaw extra steaks you bought last time they were on sale overnight in fridge. My favorites are t-bones or strip steak. Not cheap I know. One hour before dinner, wash potatoes and prick with a fork. Place in 450 degree oven until dinner time. Start charcoal grill. As the fire gets going, marinade the steaks. By "marinade" I mean open spice cupboard and sprinkle on both sides of meat whatever smells good that day. Top off with lots of worcestershire sauce, plus some red wine, some sort of vinegar, maybe some soy sauce. Fires should be ready 30 minutes plus after starting. Grill 5-8 minutes on a side then let the meat rest as you put the rest of dinner on the table. Serve with a green salad and Clemson Blue Cheese Dressing for extra artery clogging effect.

A healthier option is to do steak and baked sweet potato which is what we had last night.

Great for company and a good excuse to open that really nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Quick and Easy - Chicken Strips for Grown Ups

I think I'm the last person in America to have seen the movie, Supersize Me. I just finished watching it the other day - incredible. I normally have zero craving for anything McDonalds and even more so now after watching the movie. But, I must admit I found myself clipping this Chicken Strips for Grown Ups recipe out of a food magazine this morning and made it tonight. It satisfied my nuggets craving for now.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves 4

4 oz. flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 oz. sesame seeds
4 oz. bread crumbs
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into strips or 1lb chicken strips
oil for frying
5 T, sweet chilli dipping sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Start by prepping 3 bowls: one of the well seasoned flour, the next with 2 beaten eggs and last with the sesame seeds and breadcrumbs mixed together. Dip the chicken strips first into the flour, then the egg, then the crumb mixture. Put them onto a tray in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

Heat some vegetable oil in a large saute pan about 1/2" deep. Fry the chicken in batches, removing them to a baking sheet once browned. Put in the oven in a small roasting tin to cook through for 5 minutes. While the chicken is still warm, toss with the sweet chili sauce and transfer to a serving platter.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Homemade Egg Nog

Don't tell my parents, but I bought store bought egg nog this weekend. I was starting to decorate for Christmas and I just started craving it. Growing up, it was our tradition to make it from stratch during the holidays: spiked for my parents and virgin for me and my sister. Well, when I was craving it I would have loved to have made it, and would have, but egg nog contains all sorts of things forbidden in pregnancy i.e. raw eggs and alcohol. I might have chanced the liquor, but the raw eggs makes me a little uneasy, so I bought some. Hey, its organic, but still, it just isn't the same. Someone needs to tell these people that a pinch of nutmeg is just a pinch! It does make a tasty egg nog latte though. If anyone out there who isn't with child would like to try some yummy (although not low fat) egg nog, here is our family's recipe:

Egg Nog
12 egg whites
1/2 C sugar
12 egg yolks
1 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 qt heavy cream
1 qt milk
2 T vanilla
nutmeg (PINCH)

Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat in 1/2 C sugar. In separate bowl, beat egg yolks, 1C sugar, and salt until light.

Combine egg mixtures and blend well. Add next 3 ingredients and chill.

My parents recipe calls for 1 C bourbon and 1 C rum, but I prefer something closer to what I had growing up. However, since this does contain raw eggs, I like 1/2 cup bourbon and rum for some anti-microbial effects.

You can also beat the cream and chill all bowls and beaters.

This makes a ton, so unless you are having a HUGE party, a half of a recipe will do.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mom's Bread Pudding with Chai Creme Anglaise

We just made this last weekend so the pic is hot off the press. The bread pudding is my mom's recipe and I jazzed it up with the Chai Creme Anglaise sauce.

Bread Pudding
3 c. soft bread chunks
2 c. milk
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
2 eggs

Heat oven to 350F. Place bread chunks in 2 qt. casserole dish. Scald milk with butter in a saucepan (scalding is just to the point where the milk steams but doesn't boil). Combine milk/butter mixture with sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a seperate bowl beat eggs lightly. Slowy, add a spoon of the hot milk mixture to the beaten eggs as you continuously whisk. Continue to add a spoon at a time of the hot milk to the eggs until they are combined. Pour this mixture over your bread chunks and combine well. Place the casserole dish in a 9x13 metal cake pan and fill the cake pan with water to a depth of 1 inch. Bake 40 minutes and check. Continue baking in 3 minute intervals until pudding is set to desired doneness.

Chai Creme Anglaise
2 T. sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 c. whole milk
1-2 t. loose chai tea

Combine the sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add chai tea to a tea steeper and place steeper in milk. Heat milk with chai in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat to 180F or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Place mixture back in the pan; cook over low heat 6 minutes or until mixture coats back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat and spoon over sliced bread pudding.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The spirit of sharing for December

Since the holidays are such a busy time, and we worked so hard on that last challenge, I thought we could take it easy this month. For December, please share at least one "quick and easy" meal and one "family favorite holiday recipe". You can make them and take a picture, or if you just don't get around to all that, just post about it. I look forward to getting some new ideas this year!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Smoked Fish and Green Mango (pg. 174)

I thought I would try my hand at asian-fusion cooking tonight. I realize you can barely see the photo but I thought this photo would help make my case that this salad is so good even the little one is licking her chops in anticipation. The title doesn't seem enticing but I really enjoyed this one. I may not have made this one quite right. I'm not sure what a green mango is (maybe an underripe one???) ... well, I found a perfectly ripe one so I had to get it instead. I barely used any of the dressing because the mango was so juicy ... it really didn't need much more. The asian fusion comes in because I put this over a bed of arugula. Really, this is a great dish, the contrast of the ultra sweet mango and smoky salty fish and fresh cilantro was a wonderful combination.

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles pg 134

Even thought I knew Mark would hate it, I had to make at least one curry dish. I love the curries! This one looked pretty easy and different to others I had made before. I used ground turmeric, half full-fat half low-fat coconut milk, sirloin steak, and egg fettuccine in this dish. I topped it with store bought fried lo mien noodles and green onions. The results was a very mild curry dish. I liked it, but I think I would like the curries that KAJ made a little more. The flavor is probably a little more intense.

The good news with the mild curry is that my 15 month old seemed to enjoy it!

Mainly he just ate the noodles and the meat with a little sauce.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our Favorite Noodles with Greens and Gravy

Again, I apologize for the horrible picture quality but we are in the final week of this challenge and there are a few I wanted to knock off my list. This was a really tasty noodle dish. It was really similar to Rad Nah which I posted back a few months ago. I did sub thinly sliced brocolli for the bok choy but kept everything else the same. The flavor was great, the problem I have with these stir-fried noodle dishes is that I can never get my noodles soft enough ... they are always pretty chewy even after soaking for 20 minutes. The couple times I've had success with these type of dishes is when I double the amount of liquids so that there is plenty of broth to let the noodles steep in for 5-10 minutes at the end.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Eggs Scrambled with Tomato with Quick and Tasty Yunnanese Potatoes

Sorry for the poor picture quality but I realized after I made everything that my camera is with my husband on a business trip and I had to resort to my computer cam. Both dishes were great, especially after a week of being a carnivore with the holidays. The potato dish would go with nearly anything ... it was so good. I did not use a wok as the recipe says but got great results with a nonstick saute pan. This time, I backed off the amount of salt they state in the recipe and it was a good idea.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Duck in Green Curry Paste (Pg211)

So, I did buy a duck for this, but it was frozen solid. I went with some pork shoulder. The Green Curry paste is considerably less spicy than the red curry paste...hmmm, I wonder why? I followed the recipe but instead of all eggplant, I include onion, mushroom, red pepper, carrot, shallot, and tomato. I topped it with avocado because that is what they do at the Thai restaurant we go to.

Again, no lime leaves, just zest. We also went with some noodles instead of rice to mix it up!! My husband asked for it and it was delicious. We will be making this and the red curry for years :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Does this count? Iced Coffee With Sweetened Condensed Milk

So, I was trying to decide which recipe to make for dinner this week, but to be honest, the thought of most of them turns my stomach! Ahhh, the 11th week of pregnancy... I probably would have soldiered on, but with Thanksgiving this week, I just don't need the extra stress. However, I just can't fail in my monthly challenge. I came across this recipe on page 304 and since I had all the ingredients (I'm sure my pumpkin pie can spare 2T of sweetened condensed milk), I thought I would give it a try.

The picture of this one in the book is very impressive, the white milk topped with the black coffee in a glass with ice. When you read the recipe, there is really no way that happens. I don't know, maybe I read it wrong. Anyways, I followed the recipe which is to combine the milk and the coffee and mix well, then pour into a tall glass with ice. I used decaf espresso and a knife instead of a long spoon. I have to say, it was pretty bitter. I ended up adding an extra spoonful of sugar, and all my ice melted, so I added a few more cubes. It was nice little coffee drink, but it really wasn't anything special.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hui Beef Stew with Chickpeas

Disclaimer: This recipe is not for those who do not like to be tied down to the kitchen. This stew took forever but was great in the end. The anise gave it a truly chinese taste ... it was wonderful. We started putting the stew together around noon and were finally ready to try it around 7pm! I ended up adding a whole extra liter of water during the stewing as I felt it was getting really dry. I would make this again but found two things I might do differently.

1) The recipe does not say to soak your dried chickpeas (if it did, I missed it) ... so I didn't. I never got my chickpeas to "practically melt" as the recipe states after cooking them for 7 hours. I really think I should have soaked them first and I probably wouldn't have had to keep adding so much water if I had soaked them.

2) Again ... I oversalted this one. I thought a whole Tablespoon sounded like a lot ... and in the end ... it was. I would cut the salt down to half and add more at the end if it needs it.

I served this with a Turkish flatbread as the book suggested and it was a nice change from rice.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Shan Salad With Cellophane Noodles and Ginger (pg 145)

Also, Grilled Chicken with Hot and Sour Dipping Sauce

I have most of a head of napa cabbage leftover from the Vietnamese Chicken Salad I made last week. I went to the index of HSSS specifically to find another recipe to use it in, and this Shan Salad looked like a good one to try.
This salad does have a lot of steps, but they are all pretty easy and it works well if you want to do an alternative to plain rice for a grilled meat dish. A few notes: I actually found dried shrimp at this little store here in town, but wasn't brave enough to use as much as it called for. I used half and you couldn't taste it at all. Like fish sauce, it smells terrible, but it must all work out in the end. I also got the cellophane noodles from the same little place, and wasn't at all sure they were what I was looking for. They were a little heartier than what I had seen in the grocery store, but I think that worked out well in this dish. I followed the directions on the package rather than the ones in the book. All in all, a nice fresh tasting salad with a good balance of hot sour salty and sweet.

As for the grilled chicken. This one was a hit. I loved that peppery marniade, but the dippin' sauce was a little too sweet for us. I used boneless breasts instead of bone-in and that seemed to work out well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quick Red Chicken Curry(Pg210)

I used the store bought red curry paste when I couldn't find any galangal or shrimp paste:( This dish was quick and delicious. I added the extra chiles...that was a mistake because the curry paste was "hot" enough for us. I also used lite coconut milk and added onions and mushrooms, but wished I would have added some carrots and maybe tomatoes. We also put alittle more sweet by adding some "sugar". I used lime zest instead of lime leaves. We will definitely revisit this recipe again!!

Aromatic Steamed Fish Curry (pg. 180)

I wasn't planning on cooking from the book last night but as I was half-heartedly flipping through it I noticed this recipe and realized I had all the ingredients already except the fish plus I had some of that great leftover yellow rice to serve with it. This is the thing I really love about cooking from this book if you make a good run to the asian grocery and get a few staple items it is easy to cook many different recipes and only have to pop out to the store for some fresh meat, fish or veggies. I didn't quite understand the directions for steaming the fish in the recipe but the headnote said the original recipe was cooked in banana leaves. I actually had some frozen banana leaves so I used these and made little packets to steam the fish in. I wasn't a big fan of this dish. It may be my fault ... I definitely over-salted the fish so it brought out the tangy-ness of the lime and cilantro and was a bit overpowering. I also threw in a couple of shrimps to each packet. Although we were not fans for the marinade, we both agreed that steaming the fish and shrimp in the leaves really works perfectly and doesn't overcook the fish or shrimp. Here is how we cooked the banana leaf packets in case anyone runs across some and feels like being experimental, we cooked it at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes and then let it sit outstide the oven for 5 more minutes before opening the packet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shrimp and Rice Soup

I decided to make this soup in addition to the "Grilled Lemongrass Beef" skewers last night. The beef was a hit, although I would probably use a more tender cut of beef next time. The soup turned out pretty good too. For me and my DH, we thought it was a little too fishy for leftovers, but we ate what we had and enjoyed it. We will definitely make the beef again, but although we enjoyed the rice soup (very little liquid in it), it's probably seen its only opportunity.

It might sound odd, but I really do recommend the soup. If you hate "fishy fish" this is not for you. Ironically, the fish sauce with chiles was a good match. Go figure.

And BTW, lemongrass is confusing. I peeled so many layers that I had none left (they all had some purple). I eventually just threw in a bunch of stuff, including some of the greenery. Fortunately, neither of us ended up hallucinating or anything!

I think we are getting a little Thai'd & Vietnamese'd out right now. We might need some enchiladas before hitting this book again :)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Grilled Chicken with Hot and Sweet Dipping Sauce (Pg199)

So, this one is husband approved. Brian loved it!! I made the Pepper-Coriander Root Flavor Paste(Pg 184) just like the book said in a mortar. It was tough work...especially with two screaming kids. I also had to marinade it for a little over 3 hours. The sticky rice was an after-thought, so we just had jasmine rice with grilled veggie. LOVED IT!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Rau Ram - Mel style

I know this was already posted on the blog this month, but since I was told I would like it, I took a leap of faith and made it. Since you already know the recipe, here are some highlights - Mel style.

First, fish sauce smells. I mean, really smells. I made the fish sauce w/chiles and dang, it smells.

The must-have table sauce was pretty good and relatively easy to make. I don't like the fact that it only lasts 3 days and the fish sauce with chiles lasts forever. Somebody should reverse those :)

Lesson 1 - Serrano peppers can be subbed for bird peppers. I know they warn us about the capsaicin, but what the %*(#??? It totally took my breath away and sent me into coughing spells. Nice. For fish sauce. Nicer.

Lesson 2 - vietnamese coriander was subbed for basil. Wirrek mentioned sweet basil. What is that? I found basil-basil and used that. Geesh, this book is not for beginners.

Lesson 3 - Salad leftovers are not an option. Bummer. I tried eating the leftovers today, but it was so soggy I had to throw it out.

Lesson 4 - the salad itself was really delicious and DH loved it too. It's definitely a unique flavor, and it was very much enjoyed.

I am branching out tomorrow for two new recipes. They both involve lemongrass. I bought a couple of branches from the grocery store, and now it looks like a tree growing in my fridge. Twigs anyone?

I can't make 90% of the things in this book, but I'll work through the few that I can! I'll keep you posted. Please be sure to put all the substitutions in your post since I sure as heck need the additional help!!

A Question about Garlic?

Thought I'd post this picture of my garlic dilemma. Since I'm going through a billion heads of garlic this month, I thought I would post this question. At my weekly farmer's market they have two types of garlic, one called fresh garlic which is the white one on the left (see how the stem and papery wrap is thick?) and the other is garlic or sometimes dried garlic which is always what I thought fresh garlic was. The one on the left, fresh garlic, is 3 times the price of the dried garlic. So my question is ... what's so special about this fresh garlic? Anyone up for some homework?? :)

Lao Yellow Rice with Duck

This was a really tasty rice dish. This dish reminded me of the Grilled Chicken dish I made last week because it had a heavy pepper taste (as in black pepper) ... both are Laotian influenced so that could explain it. We halved the recipe and have plenty of leftover rice and I used one large duck breast and cut it into 3 medallions then sliced a medallion each and put it over the rice. The recipe also says you can use beef with good results. Kerri, you should really try this dish ... no tang or peanutty taste whatsoever!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Aromatic Lemongrass Patties

These were very very good! I used ground pork as I had some in the freezer and blended it with the other ingredients in the food processor.

I loved these on their own but I also followed the directions to make them into a salad, which I served over rice. Not very photogenic but very delicious!

I'll definitely make these again!!

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cellophane Noodle Salad with Oyster Mushrooms(Pg144) and Classic Vietnamese Spring Rolls(Pg274)

So, I Finally got my book in the mail! I guess that is what happens when you buy it on Amazon. Brian DID NOT like the salad. I was very weary at first, but I enjoyed it:) The spring rolls weren't stellar either, but that is probably my fault as well. The had to sit in the fridge for almost 4 hours and the oil wasn't hot enough and I pierced the paper... The meal was good in my opinion, but I only got a hang of rolling the spring rolls on the last couple. There is no such thing as rice paper that is too wet, but it is difficult to work with when it is not wet enough.

We also added more red pepper to the must-have table sauce(Pg 28)...Brian also added extra sugar. I think after some fine tuning these recipes will be delicious. I really enjoy how the book tells you to plate the dishes as well as how to make them :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Rau Ram

I might be spelling that wrong. Sorry about that.

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Another easy one for this week, but it was pretty tasty. This turned out to be filling, but a fairly light dish. Mel, you would like this one. I subbed sweet basil for the vietnamese corriender, but followed the recipe with everything else. I really loved the napa cabbage in this dish. It was crunchy, but not overwhelming. I really should use it more. My husband thought it was "too citrus-y". I told him that was the SOUR of the hot sour salty sweet so he needs to get used to it!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Best Eggplant Dish Ever?

That's what it's called in the book anyway. It's quite good but I think the best eggplant dish I've ever had is The Imam Fainted(see my blog for recipe).

This would have been a perfect dish to use my mandolin. But as I keep it stored away I forget I have it. I sliced the eggplant a bit thicker than what they indicated and I didn't cook it down to mush. Maybe next time.

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A Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet Sunday Brunch

We dove head first into the challenge this weekend and invited 6 of my husband's co-workers over for a Thai brunch. The menu included the following recipes from the book:

Grilled Chicken with Hot and Sweet Dipping Sauce

Grilled Lemongrass Beef

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Balls

Aromatic Jasmine Rice

We also served a couple of sauces:
Vietnamese Must-Have Table Sauce
Vietnamese Peanut Sauce
Vietnamese Herb and Salad Plate

To supplement the meal we purchased some rice paper rollups (summer rolls) from our neighborhood Vietnamese Cafe.

This was a fabulous brunch. The beef skewers were the biggest hit, followed by the Grilled Chicken as a close second. We followed the Jasmine Rice method as told in the book and it turned out to be the best jasmine rice I had ever made - so light and fluffy. Of the sauces, the peanut sauce bowl was practically licked clean. Surprisingly, the herb and salad plate was nearly polished off. People would take the lettuce leaves, throw in some herbs and some sauce and roll it up like a lettuce wrap.

We had a pretty good game plan. We made the sauces and marinades the night before. When we got up this morning, we started marinating the meats and formed the pork meatballs. About 30 minutes before guests arrived we started grilling the chicken, then pork, then beef. We kept the chicken and pork warm in a low-heated oven. Everything turned out really wonderful ... all the recipes were great finds. What I should post is a picture of my new biceps ... since I purchased a mortar and pestle this weekend, I decided to get the full Thai experience and pounded all my pastes in the mortar (with the help of my husband) ... by the last sauce we decided to switch to the blender!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Starting off slow - Thai Fried Rice

My husband LOVES asian food, but for some reason he doesn't like thai food. He says it is too "spicy, limey, peanuty." We might have some problems on this challenge. Anyways, I decided to easy into this challenge with the basic fried rice. I followed the recipe for 2 servings, plus added a tomato and the fried eggs. It was pretty good, just your standard fried rice. I am thinking that I might have had too much rice and didn't get a good fried flavor.

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I ate mine with the thai fish sauce with hot chilis. This of course, was too adventuresome for Mark. This sauce really brought this dish to the next level. Sure, it was a level filled with pain of burning lips and tounge and help, give me some crackers quick, but it was oh so good.

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To round out the meal, and provide some cooling relief, I threw together the simple cucumber salad. This was a good basic cucumber salad, but I think I would like something more vinegary. I subbed balasmic vinegar for the black rice vinegar. Did not take a picture.

Just a note about recipes...I think all the regular participants have bought the book, so I will go ahead and make the command decision not to type out the recipes. However, if you are reading this blog and would like the recipe, just post a comment and we will try to type it in at that time.

A not so bold start ....

I decided to jump right into the Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet challenge but chose a simple salad recipe as my first attempt. Above is my attempt at Pomelo Salad. I subbed grapefruit for the pomelo and scallions for the shallots but stuck to the rest of the recipe. I thought this would be a simple recipe to start out with but it is actually a bit difficult because I didn't quite pull off the whole sour, salty, sweet combo. The salad takes a lot of balancing at the end and mine came out too sour ... due to the lime and probably grapefruit. In general, I really love fruit in salads so I think this has potential. Do try if it is on your list.

I paired the salad with a curry dish, which I found in a German cooking magazine called, Lecker. This is a new recipe and I was interested in it because I love curry dishes, but try to indulge in them sparingly as the coconut milk is pretty high in fat. This recipe uses a roux of flour, milk, and broth to get the creamy curry mixture instead of coconut milk. I would like to try this recipe again ... another one that has potential ... but I think I rushed it and half heartedly measured and ended up with a slightly runny curry. Here is my translation of the recipe:

Sesame Crusted Tofu with Vegetable Curry (although I had to sub turkey for Tofu)
1 small head of cauliflower
1/2 lb snow peas (I had to sub green beans)
2 t. vegetable bouillion
3/4 lb. tofu (or, I subbed turkey cutlets)
1 egg
2 T. soy sauce
4 T. flour, divided
6-7 T. sesame seeds (use 1 t. black sesame seeds if you can find it)
1 med. onion
1 T. curry powder
1/2 c. milk
2 T. oil

Wash cauliflower and seperate into florets. Wash beans and trim. On the stovetop, dissolve the bouillion in 1/2 liter boiling water. Add the cauliflower and green beans to the broth and cook gently for 10 minutes. Take out the vegetables and save the veggie broth.

Cut the tofu into cubes ... or if using turkey, I cut each fillet into 3 smaller fillets. Combine the egg with the soy sauce in a shallow dish (for dredging) ... and season with pepper. Put 3 T. flour into another shallow dish for dredging. First, dredge your tofu cubes or turkey cutlets in flour, then the egg mixture, then sprinkle or dredge in your sesame seeds so they adhere well. I found sprinkling the seeds worked better than dredging. In a saute pan, with 2 T. oil cook your tofu or turkey until golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Remove from pan and continue below in the same saute pan.

Cut your onion into fine slices. In a saute pan with 1 T. oil, cook the onion until tender. Add 1 T. flour and the curry powder to the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and milk and cook for 5 minutes to thicken. Add the vegetables and tofu/meat back to the curry mixture and toss to combine. Serve with rice.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

!Uno Mas!

Tonight for Halloween, I entertained 7 adults prior to taking our little ones trick or treating. We started off with some pico de gallo and chips, along with some Jalapeno poppers. Then for the main course we had some tortilla soup. I was inspired from my recent trip to Mexico:)

Pico De Gallo
4 tomatos chopped
juice of one lime
1/2 c cilantro
1/2 red onion
Salt and Pepper to taste

Jalapeno Poppers
5 Jalapenos halved and seeded
cream cheese
colby jack
eggs beaten
bread crumbs

Fill each jalapeno half with cream cheese and place a stick of colby on top. Dredge in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Top with a little melted butter and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Tortilla soup(vegatarian style)
Chopped carrots
Chopped onions
Chopped garlic
Chopped celery
vegetable broth
chili powder
ground corriander
salt and pepper
2 cans tomatos
1/2 cup milk

Sautee all the chopped veggies in a little oil. Add everything else...simmer for as long as you got. The key to good soups like this are the toppings: chips, avacado, lime, sour cream, cheese, and pico!!! Delicioso!

End of October

Well, it is the end of another challenge. This one seemed to really pick up steam in the last week here. Thanks for the great idea, Robin!

Just a reminder, in November, we will be cooking from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffery Alfred. I have already made my Thai Fish Sauce with Hot Chilis. It smells terrible! ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Autumn Salad

This is a recent Cooking Light salad I found the other day and made it with our dinner last night. I have never made a viniagrette with parika and was curious. The dressing was really good but I think it really works because of the sweet pear in the salad. I don't know if it would be as great on its own. The salad had an overall sweet-tart thing going on. Use a really ripe sweet pear if you can find one. Here is the link for the recipe . This may become my new winter standard salad.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I bet you all thought I wasn't going to submit anything. It's been a crazy month but here's my contribution.

Now I took a lot of pictures but not one does this dish justice. It's sooo good! And the sauce does get spicier the next day. It can also be used over ravioli if you like.

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Filling based on an old CL recipe:

2 cups black beans; 1 cup chopped in food processor
2-3 chopped scallions
1 chopped chipotle in adobo
1/2 cup low fat sour cream

Mix scallions, chipotle and sour cream. Stir into black beans.

("Everyday Food; May 2004)

1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalapeno, quartered
(remove ribs and seeds for less heat, if desired)
1 tsp. chili powder
8 corn tortillas (6 inch)
Filling of choice (see note)
1-1/2 cups grated sharp white cheese(I used white cheddar and didn't measure)

Serves 4 * Prep time: 20 mins. *Total time: 1 hour

Preheat oven to 425.

In a blender, puree pumpkin, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, 2-1/2 cups water, 2 tsps. salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper until smooth. (Hold blender top firmly as blender will be quite full.) Pour 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of an 8 inch square or other shallow baking dish.

Roll tortillas with filling; mound on half of the tortilla and roll up; place seam side down in baking dish.

Pour remaining sauce on top; sprinkle with cheese. Place dish on a baking sheet (I didn't need to); bake until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool five minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

In response to Kerri's disappointment over her soup attempt last week, my invigorated taste for a scrumptious version has risen to the top. This one was actually quite good!
Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

1 butternut squash (approx 4 lbs)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp honey
6 sage leaves or 2 Tbsp dried sage (I used fresh)
4 cups chicken stock/broth (I used real (boxed) stock this time since it matters so much here)
1 cup sour cream (omitted)
Salt and pepper to taste (1/4 - 1/2 tsp pepper)

Prick the outside of the butternut squash with a fork, place on baking pan, and roast in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool. Slice in half, remove seeds, peel, and cut into ½ inch chunks.

In a large saucepan (soup pot), melt oil, add onion, and saut̩ until translucent. Add honey and cook until the mixture begins to bubble. Add chunks of squash, sage, salt (omitted), and pepper, and stir for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock so that squash chunks are completely submerged. Bring soup to boil, and simmer for 45 minutes Рmake sure squash remains submerged by adding water if necessary. Remove soup from heat and puree in a food processor, mixer, or blender. Ladle soup into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream (omitted), and serve. Note: We really like pepper, so we added a lot. Pepper for your own taste.

We used our china for the first time tonight, and I was so excited about taking a cool picture, but I forgot.... so I got this lame picture in the tupperware storage dish for leftovers. Hey, I'm a newbie here :)

The soup was great and we will definitely make it again. And healthy too!! DH is a fan and that counts for something.

Ooooo, SALAD!!!

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I finally made my salad course Friday, and actually had company over to eat it. That was the first time that has happened for this "company" challenge.

This salad is based on one we had a Maguire's in Dallas. I'll call it...

Fall Apple Salad - 4 servings

4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
4 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients except olive oil and stir with whisk. Gradually, stream in olive oil. (I don't like a lot of dressing.)

~6 cups red leaf lettuce (it just makes this salad look really fall-ish. Any other kind of lettuce is fine)
blue cheese crumbles
red onion, sliced
1/2 granny smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
pecans (see note)

Combine lettuce with most of dressing. Add more dressing, or lettuce, if needed. Arrange lettuce onto 4 plates. Top with apples, blue cheese, and red onion. Oh, and pecans. See note.

Note: The Maguire's salad uses candied pecans. It was my intent to make some, but I just ended up toasting mine. Then, I forgot to put them on my salad. Oh, bother!!