Archive | Recipes RSS feed for this section

The Celebratory Cake

20 Jul
“Ate” – pronounced “ah-tay,” basically means “older sister” in Tagalog. While I don’t actually have an older sister by blood, I do have amazing ladies in my life whom I call “ate.” I’ve known one of them, Liz, since college. I joined the Filipino Student Association, where everyone is paired with an older “brother” and “sister” (we were a lot like a sorority or fraternity). Many people end up unofficially “adopting” younger members whom they get along really well with, which is what happened with Liz and I. I’m happy to say, even years out of college, we’re still really great friends. I still call her Ate Liz.
Ate Liz was here for both work and play during the 4th of July weekend (yes I realize this post is a long time coming). She told me about this cake and since I was craving dessert after dinner with friends on the Sunday night she was here, she offered to show me how to make it. It’s not a complicated recipe at all, unless you decide to make the cake portion from scratch. Either way, the biggest thing you’ll need for this is patience. It’ll be awhile until you can dig in, as it requires quite a bit of refrigeration. But once it’s ready, it’s so worth it – it’s creamy, sweet but not cloying, and those toffee pieces add to the caramel flavor with a bit of crunch.
Apparently Liz only makes this cake when she’s celebrating something, thus the nickname “Celebratory Cake”. She said a friend of hers back in Orlando would be jealous to find out she was making the cake for me, without any big, celebratory intention. Though it was Independence Day weekend, there was a different occasion for making the cake. We ate it while watching movies and cracking inside jokes and reminiscing about college days. Isn’t rare quality time with old friends – “sisters” really – a reason to celebrate?
Liz’s Chocolate Tres Leches – a.k.a. The Celebratory Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 boxed cake mix, like devil’s food or chocolate OR a chocolate cake made from scratch
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 jar caramel topping (the kind you put on ice cream)
  • 1 tub of cold whipped topping (i.e. Cool Whip)
  • 1 bag of toffee pieces (i.e. Heath Bar toffee)
Directions (hopefully I remembered this all correctly…)
If you’re using a boxed mix, make the cake according to package directions. Otherwise make a chocolate-based cake using your own recipe. While the cake is baking, empty the contents of the evaporated milk can into a large bowl. Pour the entire jar of caramel into the bowl and mix thoroughly with the milk.
When the cake is finished baking, remove from the oven and using a knife, make slits into the cake. Pour the bowl of the evaporated milk-caramel mixture over the entire cake, allowing the liquid to seep into the slits so the cake can soak up the liquid. Stick the cake into the refrigerator and let it cool completely. This may take a few hours so if you’re in a hurry, you could stick it in the freezer for maybe 30 minutes or so. I wouldn’t keep it in long because I don’t know how the liquid would react in the freezer. Refrigerating it is best.
Once cooled, remove the cake and completely “frost” the top with the whipped topping/Cool Whip. Sprinkle toffee pieces throughout the top. You can enjoy this now or chilled further in the refrigerator. This tastes best when it’s cold and the cake has been completely soaked with the caramel milk.

Do you have a go-to recipe for when you’re celebrating something?

Advertisements

Sweet inspiration

11 Jul

Can I be totally honest with you guys? My desire to undertake new and/or daunting recipes in the kitchen has been small lately. I don’t know if it’s lack of time, or lack of energy when I do have the time, or something else, but I’ve only been willing to stick to recipes I know or things that I know won’t take more than 45 minutes to make.

My motivation has been coming in random spurts, however. It usually happens when my sister and I (we live together), end up having a surplus of some random ingredient, or something is sitting in the fridge or cupboard that threatens to expire soon. You know me and how I hate to waste anything. I’ll either eat it someway or another.

But what about 1 random ingredient, that isn’t very appetizing to eat alone but is perfectly useful not to throw away? When our mom was visiting, she stocked up on croissants at the Dupont Farmer’s Market on Sundays, but left us way too many of them when she went back to Orlando. We ended up with 1 plain croissant after all the almond and chocolate ones were finished. I’m not much of a plain croissant kind of gal, though, and by the time I realized it had been sitting in a tupperware on our counter for awhile, it was going stale.

But when I think of stale bread, I think of bread pudding. And while one croissant certainly isn’t enough for regular-sized pudding, it is plenty for at least a single serving. I found a great recipe as a starting off point and then tweaked some of the cooking process, knowing how a regular bread pudding is made. I exchanged and added some choice ingredients as well. After I had popped them in the oven, I actually waited nervously for about 30 minutes, checking the puddings after 20 minutes, every 5 minutes or so, for doneness. I dreaded having to throw away cups of inedible goo that could very possibly result. But I pulled the little puddings out, let them cool for a bit, and then took a bite out of one.

Success! The bread pudding was creamy, but had a nice, crisp crust on top, and the melted chocolate and peanut butter tasted wonderful with the buttery croissant. I felt completely satisfied but not too full after having just one, it was the perfect size.

I know I need to find my motivation more than just randomly, but at least I know that finding it brings good results!

Single- Serving Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding (makes 2)

  • 1 croissant (slightly stale works best)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (could use soy or regular milk if desired)
  • 1/8 cup white sugar (basically 1/2 of the 1/4 cup)
  • dark chocolate chips
  • about 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. (My oven seems to be hotter than most, plus I converted the Celsius temperature to Fahrenheit from the original recipe). Slice the croissant in half and spread peanut butter on the insides of both halves. Rip or cut the halves into smaller (about 1-inch) pieces. Place 1 layer of the pieces on the bottom of 2 ramekins or oven-safe jars. Add a few chocolate chips, then place another layer of croissant pieces. Add more chocolate chips to your liking, tucking them in whatever space available.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and sugar. Carefully pour the mixture into both ramekins, filling close to the top. At this point, you can put these in the fridge and allow the the mixture to soak the bread for 30 minutes to an hour. But I’m impatient so I went ahead to the next step.

Place the ramekins in a small baking dish (I used a glass pie dish). Pull the middle wire shelf from the oven out and place the dish on it, and then fill the dish with hot water, until it reaches about half way up the ramekins. Push the shelf in and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, although it may take a little more time (for me, it took closer to 30 minutes). To check for doneness, pull the shelf out and shake the dish to see if the pudding jiggles a little, or you can pierce one with a knife or toothpick. If it comes out clean (unless you poke a chocolate chip), it’s ready.

Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

 

What do you do when you’re running low in motivation or inspiration?

Sandra ain’t got nothin’ on me.

27 Jun

Of course the weekend I’m off trying new restaurants and eating all kinds of good food, I forget to bring my camera along. Maybe someone needs to design a really chic, lightweight handbag with a thick should strap, will match with all my outfits AND fit my DSLR inside without feeling like I’m carrying 10 pounds.

While this is not really food-related (although we did sneak in some eats from Paul…), I watched Midnight in Paris with the Boyfriend and loved it. If you’re a literary/art/history nerd, or you just love Paris, or if you love Owen Wilson for some odd reason, definitely check it out. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris a few times in my life, and the scenery in the movie alone brought back a lot of great memories.

I took this while in Paris 4 years ago - the photo doesn't do it justice, but it really is gorgeous there!

I’ve been bitten by the travel bug again (I swear, this wanderlust hits me every 4 months or so). My friend Dorothy recently came back from an amazing trip to Barcelona, so after hearing her stories and seeing a movie about Paris, I’ve been wondering, “Where’s my next trip to??” There have been talks between myself and others about trips to Portland and Seattle, Vegas, Miami, the Bay area…we’ll see. Time, and well, finances, will tell.

Meanwhile, back here in DC I’ve been indulging myself every few days with overnight oats. I’m pretty sure this tops the list as my favorite breakfast food ever. This combo included old-fashioned oats in almond milk, mixed with 1/2 mashed banana, then topped with a few chocolate chips, the other half of the banana, slivered almonds, walnuts and my favorite white chocolate peanut butter. That, my friends, is happiness in a bowl for me.

Another food trend in my household lately: semi-homemade pizza. Now, to preface, I should tell you that ordering Papa Johns once a month was once standard for me. It’s close by, and it’s pretty much the easiest thing to order on those nights where I’m home late and my energy level is at 50% or under. But then I realized I should try making pizza myself. The Bf has a pizza stone from The Pampered Chef (similar to this but without handles), so I decided one night to put it to use. I bought a jar of pizza sauce and a Boboli’s crust, and then threw on a bunch of ingredients I already had in the kitchen.

And guess what. It was delicious! I liked that I could control the amount and the kind of toppings I put on the pizza, making it healthier than any delivery pizza I would normally order. Granted, Boboli’s crusts and jarred pizza sauce aren’t as healthy as crust and sauce can get. To be honest, I don’t really have time or patience to make my own pizza dough. Maybe on a Sunday afternoon when I’m really bored. So as much as I don’t like Sandra Lee, I don’t blame her for cutting some corners. I am willing, however, to try making my own pizza sauce, so if you have any suggestions, throw them my way.

My first iteration, with turkey sausage, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes.

My sister, Anna, has since found whole wheat pizza crust at Whole Foods so we’ve made these a few more times using that crust. It’s equally delicious to regular crust from Boboli’s, in my opinion. Assembling and baking this is super easy, but here’s some guidance for ingredients and assembly, just in case:

Ingredients:

  • whole wheat crust (couldn’t find it at Safeway, so you may have to check another store or just go to Whole Foods)
  • pizza sauce (I brand I’m using is Ragu because that’s also all I could find)
  • pesto (Anna prefers pesto to tomato sauce)
  • shredded Italian cheese (preferably low-fat)
  • goat cheese (apparently this is healthier than cow’s milk cheese. I love cheese so I use both)
  • chopped onion
  • chopped peppers
  • chopped mushrooms
  • chopped tomatoes
  • any chopped vegetable of your liking
  • 2 links turkey or chicken sausage
  • prosciutto
  • Italian herb mix
Pre-heat oven to the temperature as directed on the crust package. In a pan on medium heat, spray some cooking spray on the pan and saute the vegetables (except for the tomato) for a few minutes to soften them. Set vegetables aside and on the same pan remove the sausages from their casings and break up the meat with a wooden spoon. Brown the meat.
On a round baking sheet or pizza stone, place the crust and then spread pizza sauce or pesto, or both – Anna and I like section off our own sides using the ingredients. She likes pesto, goat cheese and prosciutto, and sometimes peppers and onions. I top mine with pizza sauce, then a little shredded Italian cheese, then sausage and all vegetables, then a little bit more cheese on top. I sprinkle everything with Italian herb mix and then pop it in the oven for time directed on the crust package. It usually doesn’t take more than 12 or 13 minutes!

Pesto pizza, sausage and cheese, sausage and veggies (all on 1 crust)!

Sorry Papa Johns, I think I’m officially a convert to my own pizza.

What food is heaven in a bowl to you? Have you tried any homemade/semi-homemade versions of your favorite take-out foods?

Peppers and Bordeaux

23 Jun

Don’t you just love the colors of these peppers??

The absolutely fabulous Stacy over at Winobee, teamed up with me again to pair one of my recipes with a wine of her choice. I love doing these pairings because it gives me a better idea of what kind of wine goes with what kind of ingredients, which I am normally clueless about.

Mama Nosher taught me how to make these peppers while she was here visiting a few weeks back. I realized that if she had a physical cookbook that contained all of the recipes she knows, it would have to be divided by ethnicity or country. She knows Italian spaghetti, Indian biryani, Spanish paella, and these Greek stuffed peppers, which she learned from a longtime friend of hers and then tweaked a bit later on.

Stuffed Peppers

  • 5-6 bell peppers (I prefer red and green but you can certainly use orange or yellow too)
  • 1 package lean ground beef  (between 1 and 2 lbs.)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bag of boil-in-a-bag rice, cooked
  • 1 small package of dill, minced
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • chicken broth or stock
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the top of the peppers and remove the seeds so that each pepper is like a cup. Keep the tops. Set peppers aside. Mix the diced onion, ground beef, rice, dill, about a tablespoon each of salt and pepper, and all but 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste in a large mixing bowl. Mash and combine thoroughly with your hands.

Stuff the peppers with the beef mixture. There should be enough beef mixture so that you’ll have some overflow – no need to pack it in so that it’s all inside the pepper. Place each pepper in a shallow glass pan or baking dish.

In another mixing bowl, combine ¾ cup of stock with the remaining tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle about a tablespoon each of liquid onto the stuffed peppers. Place the pepper tops back onto the peppers to cover the beef a little.

Pour the remaining liquid into the dish; it should reach about halfway up the pepper (if it doesn’t, you can add more stock or broth into the dish). Cover the dish with foil and carefully place into the oven. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the dish and spoon more of the liquid onto the cooked peppers. Serve warm and add Tabasco or hot sauce  to your liking.

Pairing:
Miss Winobee has chosen a Bordeaux wine to go with these peppers, specifically the ’03 Chateau Tour de Guiet:

Pairing Party
The combination of protein and acid in this dish will lend will to a wine that offers the same attributes, that’s why we went with a Bordeaux!
Try this ’03 Chateau Tour de Guiet which is just as big on flavors as your Stuffed Peppers dish. You’ll experience cocoa, black cherry and even some floral notes on the nose, but you’ll be greeted with balanced earth tones and an essence of driftwood on the taste. Its medium-bodied with light, smooth tannins and a velvety finish.

Cost: $16/bottle
Where to Buy: Morrell’s Wine

 

Head over to Winobee and check out our little “Pairing party,” and check out the rest of her blog. She’s got amazing cocktail recipes, notes on all kinds of excellent wine, as well as other food and wine pairings.

Thank you…

15 Jun

…to whoever invented Oats in a Jar. I already love the combination of peanut butter and oatmeal, but this is quite genius, especially since those perfectly delicious leftover bits of peanut butter often get thrown away when there isn’t enough to scrape onto a slice of bread. I’ve read about this many times on plenty of other food blogs but hadn’t tried it myself until now.

I did an overnight version by filling this jar the night before with equal-parts uncooked old-fashioned oats and almond milk. To that, I added a dash of cinnamon and vanilla. In the morning, I added chocolate chips and heated it for 30 seconds, stirred that and then added walnuts and sliced strawberries. It was creamy, nutty, slightly sweet and surprisingly filling since it didn’t even fill the entire jar. Oh, and it was a jar of this amazing brand of white chocolate peanut butter.

I’m already looking forward to when we finish our next jar of peanut butter…

Spaghetti and story time

14 Jun

­

One day, many years ago, my mother was given an offer she can’t refuse. She had the chance to learn how to cook spaghetti and meatballs, from an actual Italian woman.

Ok, I don’t actually know if there’s any Hollywood-worthy story behind this spaghetti, other than the fact that my Italian godfather’s mother (whose parents I believe grew up in Sicily?) taught my Mom how to make this classic dish from scratch. Isn’t America grand? I’m the daughter of Asian immigrants who has an Italian godfather, and my Filipino mother knows how to make Italian spaghetti, not the sweeter Filipino kind with hot dogs (which I also enjoy).

This recipe reminds me that so much that home cooking is trial-and-error, and about the importance of tasting as you cook. My mother has made this spaghetti for years, and I always remember it being wonderful. Yet Mom says that she didn’t get it right for awhile, that it took quite a few tries and learning how to taste in order for her to get it right. I’ll be completely honest with you too, I haven’t yet made this on my own. I imagine that when I do try it myself, it’s just not going to taste the way it does when my Mom makes it. So if you try this, don’t be discouraged if you’re not entirely happy with how it turns out. I’m sure as what happened with my Mom, if you keep trying it you’ll eventually get it right.

This recipe has been passed down through word-of-mouth, and with lots of standing in the kitchen together. I’ve never met my godfather’s mother (I’ll just refer to her as “great-Godmother”). But what I know of her – that she was a great home cook – my mother told me as she cooked this dish. I love that cooking with someone, especially someone older and more experienced in the kitchen than you, also often means story time. I learned a lot, and not just about food.

It was a little difficult for me to interpret what I was observing into measurements and words, which is why some of these measurements are estimated. So for you, this may need some experimenting and adjusting. I like the sauce a little tangy and slightly sweet, and thick and rich. You may like more of an herby flavor and a thinner consistency. Experiment, and of course taste, taste, taste. And if you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at noshernotes@gmail.com. 🙂

My great-Godmother’s Italian Meatball Recipe

  • 1/3 lb.  80/20 beef
  • 1 lb.  92/8 beef
  • 2-3 slices white bread (can substitute with hot dog buns or even hamburger buns)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • finely diced ½ large onion or 1 medium onion
  • 1 egg
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried sweet basil
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • salt and pepper

Toast the bread/buns so that they’re easy to crumble. Meanwhile, mix the 80/20 beef with the 92/8 beef in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, milk and egg. Crumble the toasted bread with your hands into the bowl with the beef mixture. Add the parsley, basil, and about 1 tablespoon each salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix everything until well incorporated. Form small meatballs with the mixture, about 1-inch in diameter. This will make about 22-24 meatballs. You’ll cook the meatballs in the spaghetti sauce recipe below.

Great-Godmother’s Spaghetti Sauce

  • 2 6-ounce cans of tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 diced large onion
  • 3-4 large, whole garlic cloves
  • dried parsley
  • sweet basil
  • salt and pepper
  • sugar
  • red cooking wine
  • cooked spaghetti

In a heavy pot, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onion and allow to sweat until they’re soft and transparent. Add all the contents of the tomato paste cans, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add all of the tomato sauce and cook for a few minutes, occasionally stirring.

Add about 4 cups of water to the sauce – the sauce will thicken, so if it’s too thick to your liking, add a little more water as it thickens. Drop in the garlic cloves. Add about 1 tablespoon each of the herbs and spices: salt, pepper, sweet basil and parsley. Add ¼ cup of red wine and about a teaspoon (a small pinch) of sugar. Stir the sauce to incorporate everything thoroughly. Taste the sauce and add more seasoning to adjust to your taste.

Carefully drop the meatballs into the sauce and shake the pot a bit to make sure they’re fully immersed. Turn the heat down to medium and allow the meatballs to cook for an hour.

If the sauce thickens too quickly, turn the heat down to low. Remove the garlic cloves from the sauce (no one wants to accidentally bite into one…). After about an hour, add about a tablespoon (or more, to your liking) of grated parmesan cheese. Allow the sauce to simmer further on low (if you haven’t already turn it down to low), for about another hour. Toss the cooked spaghetti in a ladleful of sauce, then serve the spaghetti with a good helping of sauce and meatballs on top.

Did anyone “unusual” teach you how to cook? What’s a dish you’ve always loved since childhood?

Not all “hospital food” is bad

20 May

Squeee! I’m going home! My hometown, I mean.

I’m looking forward to both homemade meals from Mom as well as food from local or Southern chains, like Sonic and Steak n’ Shake or Publix subs and Tijuana Flats’ burritos. Yes, I realize how unhealthy all of that sounds. I DON’T CARE. 🙂

I have good memories of Sonic and Steak n’ Shake, by the way. My friend Lan and I used to have Sonic dates when were UF students in Gainesville. We’d hop in one of our cars and make the 15-minute-or-so drive to the only Sonic I knew about in the area. Bonding over burgers. Loved it. Steak n’ Shake was a common after-school hangout in Orlando because it was close to my high school. And it was one of the default spots for post-clubbing grub in college (that is if we didn’t get the cheapo $5 pizzas that pizza guys would sell right outside the clubs). To this day, those are two of the select few chains that I purposely make time to visit when I’m back home.

Greasy chains won’t be the only places I’ll be noshing at though, there are a few spots I have in mind that I haven’t visited before, so hopefully I’ll have enough time to visit at least 1 or 2. And of course, I’ll be sure to tell you all about them.

Funny enough I have a recipe for you guys that’s not so much on the greasy side.  Turkey burgers! And guess where I learned how to make a turkey burger.

The Mayo Clinic! Yes, a non-profit chain of hospitals and medical researchers  taught me how to make a turkey burger. Well, actually, what happened is that I had a package of ground turkey thawed in the fridge and the intent of making turkey burgers. Through a short Google search I came across this recipe, which ended up including a perfectly short list of ingredients, all of which I had on hand. It was healthy, easy, and quick, exactly what I look for and need on a weeknight. I didn’t even know the Mayo Clinic develops recipes, but it suppose it makes sense. If you’re going to tell people to eat right, you might as well show them how.

Funny though, when I told The Bf where I got the recipe from, he thought I was talking about the Betty Ford Clinic. Recipes from a drug rehab center. I suppose if you’re going to get addicts to eat something instead of shoot up, these burgers would be a good start because they were damn good.

And juicy, if you can believe that! Turkey burgers are notorious for being on the dry side, since it’s such a lean meat. I think the Worcestershire sauce helped with the juiciness. And although this includes Tabasco, I could barely taste it. So for a spicier burger, I’ll add more next time. Because of what I had on hand, and because I wasn’t concerned with sticking to 244-calories-per-complete-burger, I tweaked things a bit. But if you’re trying to be more health-conscious, I would definitely recommend checking out the recipe on Mayo Clinic’s site, as it was a very good base for basic turkey burgers. Just don’t tell them I indulged myself a little.

Turkey Burgers (from the Mayo Clinic)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco (hot) sauce
  • whole-grain buns
  • tomato slices
  • red onion slices
  • Fresh spinach
  • Provolone cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • Condiments: ketchup, light mayo, or whatever you like

Directions

Combine the ground turkey breast, bread crumbs, chopped onion, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a large bowl. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Divide turkey mixture into equal-sized patties (I managed to get 5 thick ones out of this).

Using a skillet or a grill pan (I used a grill pan – you can also do this on a charcoal grill/gas grill/broiler). Lightly coat the pan with cooking spray.

Grill burgers until nicely browned on both sides and heated through, about 7 minutes a side. If adding cheese, I like to melt it by putting it on top of the patties at the last 30 seconds of grilling the second side. Place on buns and top with spinach, tomato, red onion and condiments of choice.

Are there any restaurants or even restaurants chains that bring back special memories to you? 

Venturing south of the border

13 May

My experience with cooking Mexican food reaches as far as opening a packet of taco seasoning and dumping it on ground beef with some water, then putting the taco meat in a tortilla with lettuce and cheese. That “recipe” definitely works for busy nights when I want a taco fix, but I realized recently I ought to try branching out. I’ve managed to get away from the semi-homemade realm of cooking for other cuisines, but not yet Mexican.

I don’t feel ready to venture into the more authentic Mexican dishes, like mole, but I feel that starting with dishes like enchiladas are a good stepping stone. This recipe seemingly has more ingredients and steps than I’d normally bother with on a weeknight, but it turned out delicious and we did manage to eat by around 9pm, not too late. In hindsight, it might’ve helped to have cooked and shredded the chicken the night before, or just bought a rotisserie chicken and shredded it. Cooking chicken breasts and then shredding them myself was way more laborious than I thought it would be and it added a considerable amount to my cooking time. At least I got a bit of muscle out of it.

Huge upside to this dish: it’s healthy. I’m not on Weight Watchers, but I love that Gina’s Skinny Recipes includes nutritional info (along with WW points). I knew to just have 2 enchiladas at most per meal, which was still filling and not nearly as caloric as what you’d probably find at Chevy’s.  And it was so tasty. The cumin and oregano really combined well with the tomato flavor, and I was happy with the spice level using just 2 chipotle chiles. Also, this dish was easy to just pair with whatever vegetables I had on hand to balance out my plate. I just sauteed some asparagus and diced shallot in olive oil and sprinkled artisan pepper salt toward the end of cooking. (I would definitely recommend this Didi Davis Artisan Food Sumac Pepper Salt – I received a sample of it in a Foodzie tasting box and now I sprinkle it every time I sauteé or roast vegetables now.)

I think these were worthy of being called restaurant-quality. Granted, it’s slim pickins’ here in DC so if I can manage to make a delicious Mexican dish at home instead of wasting $15 on it at a restaurant, I’m all for that. The Bf and I were both really happy with how this turned out, so I know I’ll make it again, whether that’s for a few days’ of meals or for a gathering (this would’ve been great for a Cinco de Mayo party but we just went out drinking instead…).

Chicken Enchiladas (from Gina’s Skinny Recipes)

For the sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (my Safeway has an Hispanic foods section, so I imagine most supermarkets have the same or at least an international section. I think brand I used was Goya.)
  • 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup fat free chicken broth
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

For the chicken: 

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 8.5 oz (2 breast halves) cooked shredded chicken breast
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 8 (6-inch) reduced carb whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded low fat Mexican cheese
  • Nonstick cooking spray
In a medium saucepan, spray oil and sauté garlic. Add chipotle chiles, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and garlic on low until soft, about 2 minutes. Add chicken, salt, cilantro, cumin, oregano, chili powder, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Spray a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray. Put 1/3 cup chicken mixture into each tortilla and roll it. Place on baking dish seam side down. Top with sauce and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes.
Let cool for a few minutes before serving – Gina suggest sour cream and/or scallions – I ate it with sour cream and it helped offset the spiciness nicely.

Do you have a favorite Mexican dish?

Mmm. Carbs and cream.

11 May

Hey friends. 🙂

I know, I know – it’s been awhile. Last Saturday was my last day of Illustrator class (I take design classes at a small art & design school here in DC). With a week to complete a final project, and only evenings after work to actually do so, I inadvertently pushed the blog aside to focus. But the project is turned in and class is over (for this semester at least).

So to catch you guys up on things, I did run that 8k I mentioned awhile back. And I ran the whole thing, never had to stop and walk! That was my main goal, to run the entire race, pace myself and get used to running in crowds. I’ll tell you, it felt really great. Really, though, I’m one of those crazies who actually enjoys running. I felt so fulfilled having ran a longer distance than the 5k I did last year, and it affirmed my desire to race and reach even farther distances.

My friend Ed (in the green outfit) and I, about to cross the finish line. Please disregard my mismatched outfit, my good black pants were in the laundry.

So I apologize now if I start talking a lot more about running and fitness. I mean, if I’m going to post photos and recipes of cookies and brownies, I might as well help motivate you guys to burn it all off, right? 😛

Speaking of foods that are not-so-good-for-you-but-are-delicious-and-somehow-I-justify-eating-because-I-ran-4-miles-today

Cream. I love creamy desserts like pudding and mousse. I like the creamy whatever-it-is inside Cadbury Creme Eggs. I love topping scones with Devonshire cream. And I love cream sauces on pasta. I know this is not a healthy love affair so I try to only take it in doses. Which is hard, though, when throwing together a tasty pasta dish with cream sauce is almost as easy as tossing a salad.

This is another one of my super simple recipes that started off as one recipe and then turned into an idea for an easy dinner solution. I’ve never made a proper alfredo or any other sort of cream sauce, so I wouldn’t exactly say this is anything close to a real Italian dish. But I love that pasta is easy to prepare and works great with all kinds of meats, vegetables and sauces. So it’s my fallback on when I want something that I can experiment with and will still want to eat once completed.

This started when I came across a recipe for creamed mushrooms on toast by the Amateur Gourmet. I admit, I wasn’t really turned on by the idea of mushrooms and cream on a piece of bread, so I opted instead to put the creamed mushrooms on pasta. Slowly, as I made this more and more, I’d take away or add some ingredients, and it has since become a weird fusion of creamed mushrooms and an alfredo sauce.

Yes, I realize how rich that sounds.  It pretty much is, which is why I’ve delegated this recipe to solo nights when I want pasta, don’t have fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, and just want to indulge. A lot. After eating this, I’m usually in a happy food coma and I don’t even crave dessert after (shocking!). I also love that ingredients can easily be omitted or replaced – I’ve used macaroni pasta instead of spaghetti with this and it was like a fancified version of macaroni & cheese. I’ve also made this totally vegetarian, without sausage. And I actually don’t miss the sausage at all, because it’s such a filling dish. I’ve also added spinach to the sauce before, making this an even lovelier combo of creamed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and an alfredo sauce. You’l definitely have leftover heavy cream after making it since you don’t need a whole carton. But it probably won’t go to waste. Heavy cream lasts surprisingly long. And if you’re like me, you’ll crave this again soon enough.

Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce (and Sausage)

Ingredients

  • 1 serving of pasta (I prefer whole-grain spaghetti or macaroni, it’s actually the only pasta I’ll use at home!)
  • 1 link sausage (I used spicy Italian chicken sausage, you know, to make me feel like I’m being a little more healthy.)
  • 1/4 sliced medium yellow onion
  • a handful of cremini mushrooms
  • oil or butter (EVOO to be on the healthy side, butter if you want a richer taste.)
  • chopped, fresh thyme (Dried works just as well here.)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, possibly a little more
  • white cooking wine
  • salt and pepper
  • A 3-fingered pinch of flour
  • 1/2-cup to 3/4-cup of grated cheese (I’ve used Parmesan, Gruyere, and an Italian cheese mix. Any one of these or a combo will work.)
  • Optional: about 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water, spinach

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Slice the sausage and brown the pieces in a small skillet. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of oil or butter. Add the sliced onions and allow to cook until fragrant and a little soft. Toss in the mushrooms and sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper. Allow the mushrooms to get slightly brown. If you want to add spinach, add it here, otherwise add a splash of white wine. When the wine has evaporated, sprinkle with thyme and toss the mixture. Add the browned sausage and toss together. Add about 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and combine well. This will cook down a bit, so if you want more of an even sauce-to-pasta ratio, add another splash or two of cream. Add the pinch of flour to thicken the sauce and stir. If it’s too thick to your liking, add a little bit of pasta water to thin it out. Depending on how cheesy you want your sauce, add a 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of cheese. Add the pasta (I usually don’t dump the whole serving, I like a lot of sauce to pasta). Toss to coat the pasta with sauce and if desired, top with even more cheese.

So do you have a favorite type of pasta? Tomato-based sauce, or cream-based, what’s your preference?

And if I start writing more about running are you going to stop reading? (I hope not!) 😛

Moroccan made easy

29 Apr

I love, love, love Moroccan food.  Well, at least the Moroccan food that I can get here in the states. I’ve never been to Morocco, and the farthest I’ve gone to actually eating the cuisine in the actual country was when I stumbled upon a great Moroccan restaurant in Paris a few years ago while vacationing with my family.

I just love how richly flavored the food is, and how it relies on combining all kinds of spices and adds fruits to savory dishes. My knowledge of Moroccan food is very, very limited, so I won’t say much on that. But I always imaged it that cooking Moroccan cuisine is difficult and very time-consuming. I’m sure it’s more of an undertaking than what cooking this recipe was like, which I actually found by clicking on a Campbell’s ad in a Tasting Table email. Don’t ask me why I actually clicked an ad on anything. I’m pretty sure the words “Moroccan chicken” caught my eye. And then when I saw how relatively easy the recipe is, I was determined to try it.

I will say this – the recipe needs tweaking. Moroccan food is supposed to be very flavorful, and yes, this is a very simple and Americanized take on it, but the taste left me wanting more. It was actually a bit better the following days when I ate it as leftovers, because some of the flavor of the chicken and the golden raisins seeped through the stew as a whole. I think next I try this, I’ll add more spices – maybe turmeric, cumin or coriander (or all three)? Or I could stop being a lazy American and just learn how to make an authentic Moroccan dish.

Moroccan Chicken Stew (via Campbell’s Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1⁄2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 can (10 3⁄4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Tomato Soup
  • 1⁄3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 can (about 15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1⁄3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Directions

Heat the oil in a 5-quart saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in batches and cook until well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the saucepot.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, pepper and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until they’re tender-crisp. Add the cinnamon and curry, (here I would add other spices, maybe some salt and pepper too) and cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the soup and heat to a boil. Return the chicken to the saucepot. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Stir the raisins and chickpeas in the saucepot. Cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the almonds.

So are there any certain dishes or cuisines that seem really intimidating but you’re itchin’ to try?