Month: May 2010

Summer Fun

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To kickoff summer and intense heat, I hosted a pool party at my place.  I would have rather done it later in the summer but most of the summer is piled up with things to do and places to be. 

This is what the menu was:

Homemade Hummus

Pecos Pasta

Sliders

Swiss Roll

Caramel Apples

I can’t begin to describe how great hummus is and if you haven’t tried some, you’re severely missing out!  You can buy store bought hummus, but making it at home is fairly easy.  The following recipe is a little bit more work and was a little bit too garlic-ky.  I lovvvee garlic so if you like a milder garlic taste, I’d reduce the amount of garlic. 

 

Hummus (from here)

2 heads garlic, intact
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
6 tbsp. tahini
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used fresh chickpeas)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

If you’re using fresh chickpeas, soak them overnight in water.  The next day boil them in the water till they are soft.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Chop off the quarter half of the garlic heads and wrap in foil with a pad of butter on each head.  Bake for about an hour.  Meanwhile in a small skillet, heat up the olive oil in a small skillet and cook the sliced garlic till they brown.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic pieces and place on a paper towel to drain.  Now mix the oil with the tahini sauce in a small bowl. 

In another small bowl, combine lemon juice and water.  Remove the garlic heads from the oven once they’re done and squeeze out the garlic.  The garlic should be soft enough to push through the skins.  Discard the garlic skins.  In a food processor, process the chickpeas,  roasted garlic, clove of garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowel to make sure everything is incorporated.  With the machine running, add the lemon-water through the feed tube following with the tahini-oil mixture. Process everything till smooth.  Empty out into a flat serving bowl and garnish with parsley, the browned garlic pieces, and olive oil. 

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I was given the idea of making sliders from A Lil Nibble and it was a great idea indeed.  I was worried about not being able to find mini buns but after some searching online, I found most people used dinner rolls.  It’s not perfect but it got the job done.  I used fresh baked dinner rolls from the local bakery and they went with the sliders. 

Sliders

4 1/2 lbs ground beef (don’t get lean meat)

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

3 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup parsley

1/2 onion

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 tsp Burger Spice by Chefrite

1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

In a large strainer, lightly wash the ground beef.  Make sure you squeeze out all the water properly.  In a small food processor, combine the parsley and onion.  Pulse till the parsley and onion are finely chopped.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, making sure everything distributed properly. 

Taking about 1 1/2 tbs of meat, make small patties.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place your patties on the tray.  Once the tray is filled, you can add another layer of parchment paper on top and add more patties.  I had about 37 patties made from 4 1/2 lbs of meat. 

On the grill or a countertop griddle, cook your patties on medium heat till its cooked through and each side is dark brown, about 4 min on each side.  Heat your buns in the oven for a few minutes so they’re slightly toasted. 

Assemble burgers with desired condiments.  I used baby spinach as my “lettuce”, sliced my own cheese, and has basic condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. 

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Little Debbie snacks were much coveted when I was younger.  I remember eating Zebra Cakes, Fudge Brownies, Strawberry Shortcake Rolls, Devil Squares, Cream Pies, Star Crunch, Fudge Rounds, and Swiss Rolls, the whole lot of them.  I haven’t had them in a realllly long time so I can’t compare the swiss roll that I made with Little Debbie but the ones that I made, were so light and not too sweet at all.  It was almost like I was eating pound cake with a yummy filling.  It’s like having an awesome piece of cake without having to feel too guilty about it. 

The original recipe covered it in chocolate which I opted to skip out but maybe next time I will indulge. 

Swiss Rolls (from here)

5 eggs, seperated into yolks and whites

1/2 cup of sugar divided + 2 tbs

1/2 cup of cake flour

1 tsp vanilla extract, divided

1/2 tsp salt + a pinch

4 tbs butter, melted

1/2 cup whipping cream

Your favorite Jam

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, whip together your egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla for about 3 min, till the eggs looks pale yellow.  Fold in the cake flour.  In another bowl, whip together the egg whites with 1/2 tsp of salt until soft peaks form.  Add in 1/4 cup sugar and beat still you have stiff glossy peaks. 

Fold the whites into the yolk mixture till there are no streaks.   Quickly fold in the melted butter.  Butter a large baking tray and line it with parchment paper, then butter the paper.  Spread the cake batter evenly onto the tray and bake in oven for about 15-20 min until golden and puffy. 

While the bake is baking, in a bowl whip together 1/2 cup of whipping cream, 2 tbs sugar, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract till it form stiff peaks. 

Invert the cake on a large cutting board after it has cooled.  Spread your favorite jam evenly all over the cake.  Spread the whipped cream evenly over the jam, trying not to mix the two. 

Roll the cake carefully from the longside of the cake until you have reached the end of the cake.  Scrape off any excess cream/jam that might have oozed out.  Cover the cake with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 6 hrs or overnight.  Once it has chilled, unwrap the cake and slice up the cake to serve. 

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I’ve been wanting to make caramels for quite a while but most of the recipes call for HFCS which I’m pretty much against.  I did find a document of really old recipes which I might try out.  However, for the party I made a caramel sauce to pour over apples which was a sinch! 

Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1/3 cup of water

1 1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a sauce pan, add in the sugar.  Pour the water onto the sugar with out mixing.  You don’t want to move the sugar around or it’ll crystallize and you’ll have grainy caramel.  Turn onto medium heat and let it cook without stirring.  While the sugar and water are cooking, make sure you have your cream ready to use and whisk on hand. 

Once the sugar has turned amber, pour in the cream which might splatter a little bit. Start mixing the mixture with a whisk until the sugar uniformly combines with the cream.  Turn off heat.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Summertime Berries

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Although I loathe the extreme heat in the summer, I can’t complain when berries come to bloom during this sweltering weather.  There’s an abudance of ways to eat/prepare berries, which is one of their beauties. 

Growing up, I ate Fruit-Rollups and Fruit By the Foot in abudance but I never knew that they don’t actually have any fruit in them; just HFCS and an array of food colorings.  I realllllly wanted to buy some recently while grocery shopping as I have a thing for nostalgic things, but I resisted!  I came home and made some fruit leather/rollups that are 99% all fruit.  It’s an easy snack that can be used if you have an excess of berries. 

Strawberry Fruit Leather (from here)

4 pounds of fresh strawberries, cleaned and stemmed (or any fruit you would like)
1/2 – 1 cup of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
juice from 1 lemon

Combine everything in a pot and with an immersion blender, blend everything till smooth.  Place on the stove and bring to boil, constantly stirring.  Skim off the foam that forms on top.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 min until the mixture thickens.  Preheat oven to 175 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread the berry mixture on the parchment paper evenly and bake it for 8-10 hours, till the center isn’t sticky. 

Let it cool before rolling the parchment paper and slicing the fruit leather to make rolls.

I had a banquest to go to last week and I was in charge of appetizers.  I made a Watermelon Basket, Egg Salad Sandwiches, and a Cream Cheese platter with Habanero Mango Sauce. 

Watermelon Baskets aren’t too hard to do, you just need to measure it out properly and have a carving untensil.  You measure where the midsection of the melon is lengthwise and measure out a thick band ontop of the watermelon for the handel.  Using your carving untesil, you just trace out the pattern you’ve measured out and carefully pull out the pieces that are needed to be removed.  Scoop out the fruit with a ice cream scoop or melon baller.

The Egg Salad sandwhiches followed my deviled egg recipe with the additon of some chopped celery and a squeeze of honey mustard.  Instead of seperating the egg yolks from the whites, I gave the boiled eggs a rough chop and mixed everything together. 

The Cream Cheese platter was pretty simple.  I sliced cream cheese through the middle so theres a top and bottom and laid them out side by side.  I bought a Habanero Mango Sauce but any sweet-spicy sauce will work and poured it ontop of the cream cheese.  Surround by water crackers.

Fear of the Unknown

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It always takes an extra effort to breakaway from routine things to go and try something new.  It makes sense because what we know is what is comfortable and easy.  The fear of the unknown often deters people from engaging in new experiences.  Sometimes being brave can prove disastrous results, but it can also bring about amazing discoveries such as the barley lentil soup I came across. 

  I’ve never cooked barley before so I really didn’t know what to expect.  I’ve been wanting to incorporate more whole grains into my diet so I gave it a try and I’m sooo glad I did.  Its a soup that has a chewy bite to it, great flavors, and takes very little effort putting it together.  I hope you like it as much as I do. 

Red Lentil & Barley Soup (adapted from here)

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
4 scallions, diced, whites and greens divided (optional)
1 clove garlic, whole and peeled + 1 clove minced
1 teaspoon chili oil
3-3.5 cups water
1 cube vegetable bullion (I’ve used chicken or beef cubes)
2/3 cup red lentils
1/2 cup pearl barley (or just plain barley)
salt and pepper

few pieces of raw chicken (optional)

In a pot, heat up some olive oil and sautee the onions and whole garlic clove for a few min.  Add in the minced garlic once the onions are about to brown.  Meanwhile, rinse & drain  the barley and red lentils with water, making sure to remove any dirt or rocks. 

Once the onions have browned, add in the 3 cups of water carefully (if you’re using regular barley, use 4 cups+).  Add in the boullion cube (you can use fresh stock if you wish instead) and chili oil.  Stir in the barley and lentils and cook for 40-60 min, depending upon which barley you’re using.  Add more water if the soup gets too thick. 

At this point you can add in the chicken pieces if you wish.  Once the barley is tender, remove chicken pieces and shred into the soup.  Adjust salt and pepper & serve immediately. 

The difference between barley and pearl barley, is that the pearls have the polished to remove the outer husk so it can cook quicker but doesnt have as many nutrients as plain barley.  The original recipe called for pearl barley which I didn’t have and so it took me an hour to properly cook the barley. 

I wanted to give the chocolate-cherry cookie mixture another try so I tried a different recipe which I liked so much better.  The oatmeal did wonders for it and gave a kick of nutrients. 

Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries (from Bon Appetit Sept 2009)

1/2 cup (1 stick1) unsalted butter, room temperature  + 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups dried tart cherries (6 ounces)

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I did half semi and half bittersweet)

Preheat oven to 375 F.  In a large bowl, whip together the butter, apple sauce, sugars, and vanilla extract.  Blend in the eggs.  Fold in the oats, flour, salt and baking soda until properly mixed.  Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spoon batter with rounded tablespoon 2 inches apart.  Bake for 7 min, rotate pan and bake for 7 more min, 14 min total.  Cool the cookies on a cooling rack and repeat with the remaining batter.

Braids Aren’t Just for Hair!

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How many of us comb through our fridges every now and then end up throwing out sooo much food?  Guilt floods and false promises are made that this will never happen again! It’s like throwing lighter liquid on your cash and lighting it with a match.  It’s hard to control the food ins and outs when you don’t have sole control of cooking and grocery shopping.  Although I try to control the things I make/buy, sometimes things get pushed back to the dark edges of the fridge.  

I had some feta cheese sitting in those dark edges and I decided to bring it to the light and make something out of it.  Most common use is for salads, but I feel upon a recipe for Feta Dill Bread which is a braided bread.  Never braided a bread but ones gotta try.  

 

Feta Dill Bread Braid (from here)  

Bread:
1 1/2 cups warm (100-110 degrees F.) water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil 

Filling:
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill weed
2 tablespoon melted butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 egg 

In a large bowl combine the water and yeast and let is rest for 2 mins until the yeast has dissolved.  Mix in sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups all-purpose flour.  Beat with a hand/electric mixer until smooth.  If you’re using a electric mixer, switch to a hook, otherwise you can use your hands when you add in the whole wheat flour.  Kneed until a smooth elastic ball forms.  Lightly oil the bowl and let it sit in a warm area covered for about 30 min or till the dough has doubled in size.  

Meanwhile, combine the feta cheese, ricotta (cottage) cheese, egg, dill, butter, and garlic in another bowl.  Mix till smooth.  

Preheat oven to 380F.  Punch down the dough and cut in half.  Roll out the 1st ball of dough on a floured surface so it is 10′ by 12′ rectangles.  With the narrow (long side) facing you, place half of the filling in a narrow vertical strip down the center of the dough. With a knife, cut the right and left sides of the filling’s dough intro strips.  

Another lame depiction; the strip green is the filling

 

Now starting from the top, alternately cross the right and left fringes over each other until the bread has been fully braided.  Carefully place the bread on an oiled baking sheet and let it sit in a warm area covered for about 30 min. Repeat process on second ball of bread.  

Place the bread in the oven for about 30 min or when the bread has browned nicely.  Let it cool down just a bit before slicing and serving.  

 

I attempted making Aebleskivers which are Danish pancakes that are filled with jam, and look more like puffs.  I didn’t have the pan you’re suppose to use so I tried improvising with a mini muffin pan on top of a flat skillet. 

Real Aebleskivers pan...almost looks like you could poach eggs with it if it didnt have a side handle

 

 Let’s just say its easier to make normal pancakes and spreading jam on top, which I ended up doing on the last half of the batter.  

Cherry + Chocolate

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Starbucks recently came out with their Dark Cherry Mocha drink which I got a few weeks back and it was scrumptious!  The mixture of cherry, chocolate, and coffee go very well together and is my new found favorite combination (not so new to the world, but to me it is!).  I found a blog that had made Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies and I  just had to make it in honor of Starbucks new drink. 

I was a little disappointed with the cookies results because they were more cake-like cookies which I’m not a fan of.  However, the 2nd day the cookies tasted a lot better.  Also, I might add in some coffee to the cookies next time to better mimic the drink. 

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from here)

1/4 cup butter, at room temp + 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I did 1/2 c semi, 1/2 c bittersweet)
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a mixing bowl, whip together the sugars, butter, and applesauce till light.  Beat in the egg.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Mix into the wet ingredients until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and cherries.  Refrigerate for 30 min if dough it soft.  Place a tablespoons of cookie dough on a baking sheet spaced out.  Bake for about 10-14 min.  Cool on cooling rack. 

I hate the traditional pasta + pasta sauce combination.  It’s over done, plain, and not much nutrition in it.  When I can find a new way to prepare pasta that’s easy and good, I’m thoroughly excited.  The following recipe contains your carbs, dairy, protein, and veggies.  Can’t get better than that.  I’m not sure where it gets its name from but I’ve no complaints.  I feel like it would be a kid-approved dish but that’s to be further tested.  🙂

Pecos Pasta (from here)

2 cups uncooked elbow pasta

1 tbs butter

1 small green bell pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 (15 oz) cans chili with beans

20 oz frozen corn, thawed

1 cup shredded cheese (I used sliced cheddar cheese since I had it on hand)

salt and pepper

In a large pot, boil water.  Season with salt and cook elbow pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside. 

In a skillet, melt butter and saute your onion and bell pepper till soft.  Add the cans of chili, corn, salt and pepper and cook for 5 min.  Mix in the pasta and cheese.  Cover and cook for 5 more min until combined.  Served while hot.

Tamales!

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I’ve always been jealous of tamale-eaters.  Most of tamales include pork in their filling and I’ve been tempted with chicken/beef fillings but I kept my strength.  What I later learned was that even if you have a vegetarian friendly filling, the masa (dough) that encase the filling typically has pork lard in it.  

I was so sad that I wouldn’t be able to have tamales.  It never occurred to me that I could make it myself because I thought you had to have some hispanic blood in you that automatically gives you the magical abilities to make tamales.  It wasn’t until a few weekends ago I joined my asian friend to help her make tamales.  If she could do it, I certainly could learn.  The masa was store-bought and she had already made the fillings before I arrived so I just helped her out assembling the tamales. 

 When I left her place, I knew I had to give it a try on my own.  After some searching, reading, and watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode, I felt comfortable doing it on myself. 

 I learned that making tamales is actually a very easy process that just takes some time to assemble.  Traditionally they are made in a large batch with a group of people and they keep well over a period of time.  They’re good as a snack or a quick meal.  Pop it in the microwave for 30 sec and you’re good to go.  I had exams the week after I made tamales and it’s basically what I ate throughout finals since I didn’t have time to make anything else. 

 Tamales

 Masa Dough

 4 1/2 cups of masa harina (I used Maseca company)

 3 3/4 cup cold water

 1 tbs kosher salt (yes kosher salt, if you don’t have kosher you table salt but reduce the amount of salt)

 4-5 tbs vegetable shortening

 In a large mixing bowl mix together the masa harina and salt.  Add the water slowly and mix it with the flour until combined.  Now mix in the shortening, making sure it’s evenly distributed throughout the dough. 

 Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.  The consistency that the masa should be is that it should easily spread onto your corn husk when assembling the tamales. 

 Bean and Cheese Filling

 1 bag of corn husks (can be found at local grocery stores such as Wal-Mart or HEB)

 3 tbs vegetable shortening

 1/2 cup white onion, chopped

 3 garlic cloves, minced

 2 tsp kosher salt (yes kosher, 2 tsp table salt will be too much)

 2 jalapeno, de-seeded, chopped

 1/2 tsp of cummin and red pepper

 2 (15oz) cans of black beans, drained

 3/4 c queso fresco, finely crumbled

 Place the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with water, using weights to keep the  husks submerged.  Soak for an 1-2 hours till the husks are pliable.  Drain water, squeeze and pat dry.  In a saucepan/skillet heat the shortening till its melted.  Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and salt.  Cook until the onions have softened.  Season with the cummin and red pepper.  

 Mix in the beans and cook till the mixture comes together and little liquid is left.  Remove from heat and fold in cheese.  Cool to room temperature before using. 

 Assembling

 Lay one corn husk in front of you, with the wide mouth facing you, vertically.  Take couple tablespoons of masa and spread evenly and thinly on the lower half of the corn husk.  Take one tablespoon of filling and place it vertically in the middle of the masa so it almost looks like a line. 

my sad attempt of a drawing to show where the masa & filling should go

  Now take the right side and fold it over so it almost meets the left side.  Fold the remaining left over the right.  Now fold the tamale so the filled bottom meets the top empty peak.  Repeat the process until filling/dough is finished. 

 Once you’re done assembling, in a pot place a steamer and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pot, making sure the water doesn’t come above the steamer.  Carefully stack the tamales in the steamer and turn on medium heat.  Cover pot with a lid.  Steam the tamales for about an hour, making sure to add water so the pot doesn’t burn. 

 You can tell that they are done if when you unfold the tamale, the tamale easily peels away from the corn husks.  Eat warm by itself or a salsa. 

 

Sorry no pics this time either, I finally found my camera so pics will be up in a few more posts.  To make up for it here are the two Good Eats episodes to show you how to assemble.