Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving with lots of friends, family, and food! I'm proud to say I cooked my first ever turkey this year and it turned out most excellently, although we have an obscene amount of leftovers, with a 10.8 pound bird for just the two of us.

Also, I thought this graphic was really interesting:

It shows state-by-state breakdowns of the popularity of searches for different Thanksgiving foods. It's probably not a big shocker that sweet potato casserole is a Southern thing, but did you know that yams are really big on the West Coast or that cranberry sauce is primarily a Midwest/Rocky Mountain thing?

Mushroom Penne Alfredo

I had some mushrooms that were going to go bad soon, and some heavy cream I wanted to use, so I threw together this mushroom penne alfredo without a real recipe. I cooked the penne according to the directions on the package, sauteed the mushrooms until they were brown and the juices were starting to run, and made a quick cream sauce using about 1/3 cup heavy cream, some milk, some shredded mozzarella and some parmesean. I added the sauce and the mushrooms, stirred it all together and topped with some more parmesean. Mmmm delicious!

Broccoli and Tomato Quiche

This is my go-to quiche recipe. The broccoli and tomato can be swapped out for other things (I actually adopted this from a recipe for broccoli & mushroom quiche) and it works great as a meal you can make ahead and eat through the week.

1 9-inch pie shell
1 small head of broccoli, chopped and cooked
1 small tomato, chopped
1 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup mozzarella cheese divided (the original recipe called for cheddar, I substituted mozzarella because I like it more)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. Bake pie crust for about 10 minutes or until bottom is brown. Let cool. Chop broccoli and tomato, steam broccoli until tender. Combine milk, eggs, butter, flour, salt and 3/4 cup cheese. Whisk until well blended. Spread remaining 1/4 cup cheese over crust. Layer broccoli and tomato over cheese. Pour milk and egg mixture over all. Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brownie Cups

My coworker brought brownies in little cupcake cups to our potluck the other day, but it didn't work out too well. The brownies were stuck to the paper liners, but I liked the idea of individual brownie pieces. Instead of the paper liners, I used puff pastries, and it worked out pretty well. I made it again to bring to my family's Thanksgiving dinner - the Chinese generation was very confused (some thought it was filled with red bean paste, others thought just pieces of chocolate), but all thought it looked and tasted good.

2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
splash of vanilla extract
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Roll out puff pastry. Cut into 12 pieces and press into pre-greased mini muffin pan. Preheat over to 400F.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave bowl for 30 sec. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and flour. Spoon evenly into puff pastry cups.
3. Bake for 18min, or until toothpick comes out clean.

I thought the brownie a little overly rich, but the puff pastry helped balance out a little of the sweet denseness.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crepe Cake

I forget how I got the idea of making a crepe cake into my head, but once I did, it wouldn't leave until I found the perfect recipe and made it. And my perfect excuse? Why my coworkers' holiday potluck, of course.

I pretty much followed the recipe to the T. Except I reduced the amount of sugar in the batter to 6Tbsp. And I'll let you in on a little secret - I was incapable of making perfectly round crepes until the very last one, which I used as the top "layer." Instead, I made approximately half-circled crepes, then when layering them, rotated each layer by 1/3 of the circle. This made the cake kind of poof up in the middle, but I propped the edges up with a little extra cream filling, smoothed out the cream filling as thinly as possible in the middle, and all was well. I think I ended up making the cake too big in diameter though, so it looked flatter than I would have liked. Oh well. It tasted good; I'm considering making another one for Thanksgiving dessert this year.

Also, one last tip. For a realllllllly cold night like the ones we've been having? Standing over the stove making crepes warms you up very nicely, and you get to munch on crepe scraps from the "mishaps" you're bound to have along the way. ^_^

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More things made with pumpkin...

Continuing the theme of pumpkin flavored foods, I made some excellent chocolate chip pumpkin muffins recently. I forgot to take a picture (possibly because I was too busy eating them)...but I can offer the recipe and my promise that they're delicious!

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 16-oz can pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, just pumpkin)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
dash of salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix together eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, and oil. Separately mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture; stir in chocolate chips. Fill greased or lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-20 minutes. Makes about 30 small muffins or 15 large-ish muffins.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Halloween Cupcakes!

For Halloween, I planned to make cupcakes and decorate them as pumpkins. I made the cupcakes from a mix, and made an orange frosting using a simple recipe:
a box of confectioner's sugar, a stick of soft butter, 1/4 cup milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla. I colored it orange using red and yellow food coloring in about a 2:1 red:yellow ratio. I picked up green frosting & black gel from the grocery store, and planned to draw pumpkin tops and faces on the cupcakes...but it turns out my hand was not steady enough to draw pumpkin faces (when I tried they came out looking like a 5 year old drew them), so I just made green pumpkin tops, and wrote "Happy Halloween" on the cupcakes in black gel. They looked cute enough, but I don't think they were super tasty (although I may be biased, since I don't really like vanilla frosting).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

It's gotten really chilly in the past couple of weeks, so I've been cultivating a craving for hot soups. Tonight's menu is one of my childhood favorites - Taiwan-style beef noodle soup, or 台湾牛肉面. I don't usually cook beef, but some cultural dishes just shouldn't be messed with - this dish is either made with beef or not at all. It takes awhile to cook and I adjust spices as I go, but the general idea is pretty much the same. :)

3 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 star anise
1 tsp Chinese five spice (五香)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 thin slices ginger
2 stalks scallions, chopped
1/2 lb beef
bok choy, sour/pickled vegetables/酸菜, noodles as desired

1. Bring the water, soy sauce, rice wine to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and add the sugar, star anise, five spice, garlic, ginger, and the white parts of the scallions. Or do what my dad does - put the star anise, garlic, ginger, and scallions into a cheesecloth bag and tie it before putting them in the pot. That way, you don't have to strain it later. Simmer for about 20min.
2. Add the beef. Simmer until tender. I used stew beef, so it was already cut into 1-in cubes and didn't need to be cooked for as long (about 1.5hrs). When the beef is about done, add the bok choy briefly. Cook the noodles in a separate pot. Pick out the bok choy and put into a bowl along with the pickled greens, noodles, and the green parts of the scallions.
3. Take out the beef and when cooled a little, slice into thin pieces or bite-sized cubes (slices are better, but if you used chunks of beef to shorten the cooking time like I did, it's not so easy to slice). Put into bowl with noodles et al.
4. Strain the soup through a sieve/colander/cheesecloth. Discard the solids. Dilute with hot water and pour over the noodles. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Non-pie uses for Pumpkin

Pumpkin Biscotti
How could you not cook pumpkin between Halloween and Thanksgiving? With all the extra pumpkin we had, I also opted to make pumpkin biscotti, using Elise's recipe. I made the following substitutions:

1/2 cup brown sugar for the 1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger
no vanilla extract because I didn't have any

I also extended the baking time, because the biscotti came out still moist/chewy, but it was really good with the pumpkin jam that will be featured in the next recipe. :)

Pumpkin Bread
My friends are oddballs and had a potluck dinner for Halloween. I decided to make pumpkin bread, using Elise's recipe. The only difference was that I used 1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices, because I'm lazy like that. It came out pretty well. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fondant Experiments!

I've made many cakes in the past, but I've never decorated with fondant. Here are pictures of my first couple escapades into that land of smoooooth sugar.

Honda s2000 cake for my favorite autosexual :)

Battlestar Galactica cake for a BSG aficionado

Middle Eastern Emulation

My spin on some middle eastern staples: hummus and falafel. Not even remotely authentic, but tasty nevertheless

Hummus 1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained, but liquid reserved
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 heaping tsp cumin-coriander powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Blend chick peas and olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Add the reserved chick pea liquid, one tsp at a time, as necessary if the chick peas seem to dry. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve with toasted pita bread.

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 c basil, coarsely chopped
1 tsp cumin (ground or whole seeds)
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for greasing
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/4 hothouse cucumber, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 8x8 pan with oil. Blend all ingredients in food processor until chick peas are crushed, but not pureed. Form into patties 3/4" thick and 1.5" in diameter and place into lined pan. Bake for 10 minutes on each side. While the falafel are baking, combine the tomato and cucumber with some salt and pepper to taste. Serve the falafel warm in toasted pita bread pockets with yogurt and the salad.

Farmer's Market Finds

I looove going to the farmer's markets around here (there are so many options! and they're open year round! it's amazing!), and I always bring my camera because I usually find some really funky fruits or vegetables there. Here are a few:

Kiwi of Looove <3
Cross section of a heart shaped kiwi! So cute...the whites look like smiling eyes or something adorable like that to me :)

Romanesco Broccoli
This stuff is amazing--it's got the consistency of cauliflower with the taste of broccoli. Or maybe it's the other way around. Or maybe a little bit of both. The taste and texture run together into yumminess, that's all I know. But the point of the picture is it looks crazyyyy...Like the Fibonacci sequence or fractals or something (yes, I know I should know which :P)

Nosy peaches
Here are some odd peaches I with a pointy nose and the other with a baby bump and 2 seeds inside to boot.

Purple Bell Pepper
My first purple bell pepper. I was expecting purple inside (green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are all green, red, yellow, and orange inside, respectively, after all), but got white inside instead. Interesting...

White bitter gourds
I've seen these in green numerous times (and been force-fed them on multiple occasions--they're REALLY bitter, and of course, since they taste awful, they must be good for you...), but never white ones. They look kinda creepy, frankly. At the stand they told me that the white ones are more bitter than the green ones. Sooooo I politely declined to buy any, but still thought they were worth taking a picture of...

Easy Cheesy Quiche

Quiche is buttery crust, cheese, and eggs, with a few veggies thrown in for good measure. What's not to like? This recipe was simple and delicious, but took much longer than expected to bake. So allot time!

Veggie Quiche Yield: 1 9inch quiche
Adapted from Recipezaar

Vegetable oil for sauteing
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 cups frozen broccoli
1/3 c mayonnaise
1/3 c milk
4 eggs
1 c cheese, grated and divided (cheddar works well, but most any cheese will do)
Pepper to taste
1 small tomato, sliced
1 9inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil over medium heat and cook onions, bell pepper, and broccoli until tender. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, mix mayo and milk until creamy. Add eggs and 3/4 c cheese. Add the slightly cooled vegetable mixture to the mayonnaise mixture. Pour into pie shell and garnish with tomato slices and remaining 1/4 c cheese. Bake for at least 1 hr until set and golden brown. To make sure the egg is set all the way through the quiche, wiggle a table knife around in the center and make sure no liquids rise to the top.

Before baking:


A Hankering for Boston: Clam Chowder

At one point in my hiatus from posting, I was really craving a Boston favorite: New England Clam Chowder. I don't eat pork or beef, so I had to hunt for a recipe that didn't use any bacon or meat stock. I found this one and liked it so much I made it again a few weeks later. And don't forget, the best way to eat clam chowder is in a sourdough bread bowl :)

New England Clam Chowder
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from Ivar's

2 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely diced celery
2 cups finely diced potatoes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, warmed
1 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp pepper, to taste
dash of sugar

Open the canned clams and drain the juice into a medium saucepan. Set the reserved clams aside.
To the juice add the onions, celery, potatoes, and enough water to just cover. Simmer, covered, over medium heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large sauce melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and cook until it becomes a roux and is golden.
VERY gradually, whisk the milk into the roux. Cook, whisking, until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. With every addition of milk, make sure the mixture doesn't clump up. If it does, keep mixing vigorously, and eventually you can strain it and gradually mix the liquid into the collected solids.

Add the cooked vegetables together with their liquid and the clams, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir well, and adjust seasonings to taste if necessary.

Feel free to use different vegetables; this soup tastes great with carrots, yellow squash or zucchini too.

Brownies Twice Over

I'm way behind on my posts, and in the last few weeks, I've made a couple types of brownies: Mint Brownies and Cream Cheese Brownies. So lots of chocolate :D

Mint Brownies
Yield: 8x8 pan of brownies
Adapted from Gale Gand

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
dash of salt
1 cup mint chocolate chunks (I used chopped up Trader Joes's UFOs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler over very low heat. Stir together and remove from the heat. Add sugar and eggs. Mix well. Stir in the flour and salt. Add chocolate chunks. Spread the mixture into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Bake until set, about 40 minutes. When cold, the chunks of chocolate got too solidified, so they taste best served warm with vanilla ice cream :)

Cream Cheese Brownies
Yield: 8x8 pan of brownies
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Brownie Layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
dash of salt

Cream Cheese Layer:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line an 8x8 pan with aluminum foil (bottom and sides).

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt and beat, with a wooden spoon, until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan (about one minute). Remove ~1/2 cup of the brownie batter and set aside. Place the remainder of the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

With a hand mixer, blend the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and egg white and process until creamy and smooth. Spread the cream cheese filling over the brownie layer. Spoon small dollops of the reserved brownie batter evenly on top of the cream cheese filling. Then with a table knife or wooden skewer, swirl the two batters without mixing them.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges of the brownies are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. If you can wait, refrigerate the brownies until they are firm enough to cut into squares (at least two hours). These brownies can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. These brownies turned out a bit too sweet (I reduced the amt of sugar in the original recipe by 40% but I should have reduced it even further). Also, the original recipe called for twice as much cream cheese mixture, but I didn't have that much cream cheese, so I had to halve that. But it would have tasted much better with more cream cheese :)