Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Black Bean and Corn Salsa Pizza

I love Mexican food and pizza, so here is a happy compromise: home baked pizza (almost from scratch) in 20mins!

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

1 bag of pizza dough from Trader Joe's (wheat, plain, or garlic and herb...I am a fan of garlic and herb!)
7-10 stems of cilantro
3/4 of a 15oz can of black beans
1/2 cup of finely chopped bell peppers (any color)
1/2 cup of frozen sweet corn
1/2 cup of finely chopped onions
1/2 cup of finely chopped tomato
1/4 cup of finely chopped jalapenos
1 tsp of taco seasoning (or more to taste)
1/3 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 cup of grated cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, or Mexican)
A little bit of flour

Pull out the dough from the fridge 20 mins prior to baking.
Pre-heat your over to 450 degrees. And chop all the vegetables.
Thaw out (or microwave to thaw) the corn.
Lightly flour a 12'' circular baking sheet or a similar sized rectangular sheet.
Hand stretch (or roll) the dough out over the baking sheet.
Add a thin layer of spaghetti sauce (not really needed for flavor, but keeps the crust from being too dry).
Mix together all the vegetables with the taco seasoning, and add to the pizza.
Top with cheese.
Bake for ~10mins.
Cut and enjoy!

(I really like the Trader Joe's crusts for quick, cheap, delicious meals! They really can be topped with anything. We also made a veggie pizza with bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and Italian spices. In the past, I have made pesto/sun dried tomato pizzas. They all come out great!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cauliflower Soup

I like cauliflower best in or as soup; I don't really believe that there is another good way to have them. This is so easy to make, nutritious, pretty, and comforting - all in one!

1 head of cauliflower, cut into flowerets or cubed
2 cups chicken stock (I used water & chicken bouillon, same thing)
salt & white pepper to taste
1 medium onion, sliced or diced
sprinkle of chives for garnish if desired

1. Sauté the onions.
2. Bring the chicken stock to boil, and add the cauliflower & onions. Boil until mostly cooked, about 5min. A little at a time, blend cauliflower, onions, and liquid base in blender. Return to pot until all the cauliflower has been nicely puréed. Season to taste. I really recommend using white pepper powder for this. You can use black if you want, but white looks and tastes better, in my opinion. Garnish with chives if desired.

Variations: Use milk instead of chicken stock. Add a little flour to thicken if it's too liquidy, or simmer a bit longer. Use roasted garlic instead of sautéed onions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mini Chocolate Almond Pie Surprise

My roommates had plenty of bars of chocolate and a huge bag of almonds leftover from a recent camping trip, so we decided to use up some of that.

Time: 0:20
Serves: 6-10

6-10 mini ready-made graham cracker pie crusts
1 package (16oz) silken tofu
12 oz chocolate (we used Hershey's milk chocolate b/c we happened to have a lot)
1 tsp vanilla extract (we should have substituted 1/2 tsp almond extract, in retrospect)
1/3 cup chopped almonds, or to taste.

1. In a food processor or a blender, blend the tofu with the vanilla.
2. Melt the chocolate (since we were making 25 pies in one evening... to save time, I just stuck it in the microwave instead of doing the double boiler thing). Pour into the food processor and blend until well mixed.
3. Line the bottom of the pie crusts with the chopped almonds. That's the "surprise." :) Cover the almonds with the chocolate-tofu mixture. I filled it halfway first and lightly mixed the almonds with the chocolate-tofu, then covered it up and smoothed it out with the bottom of a spoon.
4. Refrigerate until firm. Garnish with some toasted slivered almonds if desired.

Hint: Don't tell people it's made with tofu. They'll never know, and don't things taste better if you think they're less healthy? ;)

Mini Raspberry Pie

For our roommate's 25th birthday, OhmsAndFarads and I convinced a friend to make her 25 pies, of 5 different flavors. This resulted in an epic 6hr pie-making marathon. Someone suggested raspberry as one of the flavors, which sounded good since it didn't require peeling/coring/juicing/etc. I based our pie off this recipe, but this resulted in way too much filling.

Time: 0:45
Serves: 6-10

6-10 mini ready-made graham cracker pie crusts or one batch of crust from Mini Cherry Tarts
2 cups raspberries - don't pack it down when measuring
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
~ 1 Tbsp cornstarch as needed

1. Bring water to a boil. Dissolve sugar in the water and add half the raspberries (1 cup). Mash it up a bit with a spatula - the drupelets will separate and you'll get a very nice, uniform sauce.
2. Dissolve the cornstarch in some cold water and add to the pot, stirring so it doesn't lump up. This will thicken the sauce nicely. Simmer to let the water evaporate until you get a nice, thick sauce. Add more cornstarch/sugar if needed.
3. Line the bottoms of the pie crusts with the remaining raspberries. Cover with the raspberry sauce. Let chill in fridge until firm.

I think we wound up with 6 raspberry pies and leftover raspberries/sauce, which we just ate/used as jam. The result of all our hard work? A lot of pies and a very pleasantly surprised roommate. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

苏州月饼/Suzhou Mooncake

It's fall, which to me means the 中秋节/Mid-Autumn Festival is coming up. Since we're going to be out of the country during the actual festival this year (Oct. 3), I convinced my family to make 月饼 (mooncakes) early instead. I've been helping make these since I was a kid, and I think I've finally mastered the whole process, start to finish. We have a few family traditions that I really like - one is the whole family assembly-lining the making of foods such as mooncakes.

My family, being from the Shanghai/Jiangsu region, makes Suzhou-styled mooncakes, not the more well-known Cantonese-style commonly sold in American stores. We've traditionally made them with two different fillings - a pork filling and a red bean paste filling. In order to differentiate between them, we fold the pork ones like dumplings instead of like mooncakes. The crust is also different - it's flaky and multi-layered, kind of like puff pastry. One of my Hong Kong coworkers is immensely confused by this, but it's a recipe handed down the generations from my great-grandmother - I'm sure she's more correct about tradition than he is. :P

That being said, sorry, no recipe this time. Family secret. Also, it's complex - it takes my entire family a whole day to make. We do make them in large batches though (80 this time :O), so I have a lot sitting at home right now. We share the results among friends, so come on by and try one! And the next time you see one of these in a restaurant/bakery, know that they are also mooncakes, just as much as the Cantonese ones are.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baked Buddies

Some friends and I decided to have a Christmas party in September. Well, no Christmas party is complete without some freshly baked cookies. So then the question was, sugar cookies or gingerbread men? On this, the group was divided, so we decided to have a bake off. I was on Team Gingerbread. To up our game, we decided to decorate to resemble and poke fun at all the party attendees. The goal was to mimic the generic gingerbread man shape but add a little creativity. So, we could not use a store bought cookie cutter. Instead, we drew out the shapes and designs we wanted, and used those as stencils. Everyone had fun looking for their cookies, laughing at the details, and eating them!


Gingerbread Cookies:

Molasses: 1cup
Flour: 4cups
Brown sugar: 1cup
Butter: 1 stick
Water 1/4 cup
Ground Ginger: 2-3 teaspoons to taste

Cream butter and stir molasses. Slowly mix in flour, sugar ginger, and water in a food processor. If dough is too dry to roll out, add a little more water. Roll out dough on a clean table or counter. Draw shapes on paper and cut them out. Trace shapes onto dough with a butter knife. Peel and place on a cookie sheet. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.


1 package of cream cheese: 8oz.
Powdered sugar: 1cup
vanilla: 1/2 teaspoon
Food coloring

Soften and cream the cream cheese and add the vanilla. Slowly stir in sugar. Mix well.
Separate frosting into bowls for the number of colors you want to make. Mix in food coloring. Place frosting in Ziploc bags. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag, and frost.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blueberry Muffins (part deux)

Well, after a summer of not cooking (and not blogging) I am back in Boston in my own kitchen and ready to cook non-stop and hopefully blog about it :)
I recently spent 10 days in Maine at my family's summer home, and while I was there I ate blueberries morning, noon, and night. Wild Maine blueberries are one of my favorite things in the entire world, and so when I drove back I basically filled my car with cartons of fresh blueberries. Since I've been home, basically everything I've eaten involves blueberries - I eat blueberries on my cereal in the morning, made blueberry pancakes and blueberry cake, and today I'm making blueberry muffins!

Whenever I make muffins I like to try a new recipe because I have yet to find my "perfect" muffin recipe. I looked for a recipe that had some kind of streusel/crumb topping, because I love having a topping on my muffins - I think it gives them more of a coffee shop feel, as opposed to a box of packaged muffins you could buy at the grocery store. Because of the buttery/sugary topping, these muffins work as well as a dessert as they do as a breakfast.

I used a highly rated recipezaar recipe:

Muffin batter:
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
dash of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 cup blueberries

Very simple easy instructions - Mix together dry ingredients, mix together wet ingredients, add oil/egg mixture to flour mixture, fold in blueberries. Fill greased muffin cups.

1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup slightly softened butter
(and I also used about 1/4 cup brown sugar -- because brown sugar makes everything better)

Mix together, add a dash of cinnamon, sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 6-8 muffins.

Here are some pictures of the muffins. They were very yummy! I think if I made them again I would add more blueberries, but I like my muffins to be overloaded with fruit.