Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scallops over orzo with spinach

I didn't cook all weekend due to the unforeseen dangers of a slightly stale loaf of bread and a really sharp bread knife. On the plus side, Sunday was the first known instance of anyone actually cooking anything from the blog. If you've made anything, I'd love to read a comment about it!

This dinner was from a month or two ago-- it was the dinner when I first started taking pictures of appealing things I made.

It turns out that scallops are very easy-- this was a first attempt, and it turned out deliciously. I always love incorporating wine into sauces because then the rest of the bottle compliments dinner nicely.

A note of caution: Do all your prep work here first-- once you have everything on the stove, it goes VERY quickly, and scallops are easy to overcook. There's no time to snip herbs or smash garlic once things are cooking.

Sea scallops over spinach and orzo (serves 2)
6-10 sea scallops (defrosted), more or less depending on size
2-5 cloves garlic, smashed
Bunch of fresh parsley, washed and snipped
White wine (a nice buttery chardonnay would work well here)
1/4 package or so orzo or other little bitty pasta
Olive oil
Spinach (a few cups-- it reduces a lot in the pan)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Heat heavy skillet over med-high heat with olive oil until oil is shimmery. Blot scallops dry with paper towel; sprinkle salt, pepper, and parsley on both sides. Add scallops to pan; they cook very quickly. Flip as soon as they no longer stick (2 minutes.) They should cook through in less than 5 minutes; it is very easy to overcook them. When both sides are seared, remove to a plate.

3. Add a little more olive oil, the smashed garlic, and the rest of the parsley. Saute briefly, then add 1/2 c. wine. Bring to boil; reduce slightly, then stir into the drained pasta.

4. Add just a little more olive oil to pan; saute spinach until wilted.

5. Plate the pasta, the spinach, and put the scallops on top.

Enjoy with the rest of the bottle and a pleasant dinner companion.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Simple Roasted Chicken

Really easy, really delicious. My second-favorite way to roast a chicken (I promise to post my all-time favorite the next time I make it.)

No need for a roasting pan or rack-- all you need is a really big, heavy duty frying pan. The chicken is roasted at high heat in the oven in a hot frying pan, which makes a very crispy skin and helps the thighs to cook faster so they get done before the breast dries out. The garlic is optional, but you should definitely use it-- it makes a side of garlic roasted in chicken fat, which is sublime on its own or mashed into potatoes. (This method taken, as usual, from How to Cook Everything.)

1 whole chicken (3-5 lbs or so)
Coarse salt
Olive oil or butter
Garlic cloves, peeled (optional, but highly recommended)
Whatever herbs you have hiding in the back of your refrigerator, especially sage, tarragon, parsley, rosemary, thyme etc. (optional), snipped or chopped

1. Put frying pan in oven. Pre-heat oven to 450.

2. Prepare chicken by rinsing inside and out under cold running water (don't forget to remove the giblets!). Pat dry with paper towels, and heavily salt and pepper the body cavity and outside of the chicken. Rub the skin with melted butter or olive oil; if you're using herbs, generously sprinkle the outside of the chicken with them.

3. By the time you're done preparing the chicken, the oven should be hot. Remove the frying pan (it will be very hot-- that's the whole point-- use oven mitts!) and place the chicken in it, breast side up. It will make a delicious sizzling sound. Put a meat thermometer into the meat of the thigh. If you're using garlic cloves, sprinkle them around the chicken.

4. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until the meat thermometer reads 160.

5. Remove chicken to cutting board or platter; let it rest for 10 minutes. Pour pan juices into a glass measuring cup (if your kitchen is really well stocked, a gravy separator) and pour or spoon off some of the fat. If using fresh herbs, mix some more into the sauce. Carve chicken; pour sauce over chicken and whatever sides you're serving.

Serve with any sort of potatoes or rice and some sort of vegetable.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chicken fajitas

One of my go-to dinners... I have no idea where I got the recipe. It's a great do-ahead dinner; stuff can be cut up and marinated a day ahead of time (not too much more than 24 hours, though, or you'll have chicken ceviche. Interesting, but ew.) Once everything is cut up, it takes less than 15 minutes to cook.

1 package (1.25 lbs or so) chicken breasts
1 lime
a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder (or crushed cloves), chili powder to taste
2-3 red and green peppers
1 large red onion

Suggested toppings:
guacamole or avocado
sour cream
shredded cheese

In quart-size ziploc bag, squeeze lime and add several dashes of Worcestershire sauce.

Cut onion and peppers lengthwise into thin strips; set aside.

Cut chicken into thin strips; sprinkle a generous amount of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and chili powder on top. Put seasoned chicken into ziploc bag; squish out all of the air, and it should be covered in marinade. Refrigerate until ready to use (anywhere from a few minutes to until the next day. Of course, the longer you marinate the chicken, the tastier it will get.)

Add a little oil to a large frying pan; heat up until oil just starts smoking. Add onions and peppers; cook until onions just start to turn translucent, maybe 5 minutes. It's OK if the peppers char; actually, it's delicious.

Remove veggies to a bowl; add more oil to the pan if necessary. Add the chicken strips to the pan, laying them out so they're flat and in one layer. Do two batches, if needed-- don't crowd the pan! After a couple minutes, flip; they won't take too long to cook.

Serve with tortillas and anything that you think is good on a burrito.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

White chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies

Mmm... chewy and perfect.

From BHG Cookbook

1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 12oz. package of white chocolate chips
3-6 oz. macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Cream butter and shortening; beat in sugars and baking soda, then eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour; stir in white chocolate and macadamia nuts.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Chocolate panda cake

Apologies, dear readers (both of you), for the long delay in posting. The observant will notice a different kitchen in the background (Hi, Katie!)...

This cake is for chocolate lovers only. So, pretty much everyone. It is a wonderfully rich chocolate cake with luscious chocolate ganache frosting... unlike the earlier cassata cake posting, this is not an all-day project. You can have it mixed and baked in an hour (plus cooling and assembly time).

Adapted from Taste of Home Best-Loved Chocolate Classics.

3 c. sugar
1-1/2 c. buttermilk
1-1/2 c. brewed coffee, cooled
3 eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
4 squares (1 oz. each) semisweet chocolate, melted (do in the microwave on half power, in 30 second increments.)
3/4 t. vanilla extract
2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 c. baking cocoa
2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. baking powder
1-1/4 t. salt

1-1/4 c. heavy whipping cream (save the rest of your 2 c. container to whip and serve with the cake)
2 T. sugar
2 T. corn syrup
20 squares (1 oz. each) semisweet chocolate
1/4 c. butter

Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare three 9" cake pans by oiling and cutting parchment rounds to fit. If you can make paper snowflakes, you can make easily make parchment rounds. (You can also just grease and flour, but parchment makes removing the cake in one piece so much easier.)

In large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the dry ingredients with whisk. Add liquid ingredients; mix until combined. Pour into prepared pans; bake at 350 for 30-35 mins. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pans by running a butter knife around the edges and inverting onto a wire rack. Peel off parchment paper.

For frosting, combine cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a smallish saucepan. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in chocolate and butter until melted (this is easier than it sounds-- dump in all the chocolate and butter, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and it will stir right in.) Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and refrigerate until spreadable, stirring occasionally. If it gets too hard, simply pop it in the microwave or onto a shallow pan of simmering water (double-boiler style) and stir for a couple of mintues until slightly melty.

Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of the cake (use sheets of wax paper to transfer cake layers).

I'm still working on my cake assembly and frosting skills; like many Christmas trees, this cake had a definite 'room side' and a 'wall side':

Still, delicious. Serve with whipped cream, which you conveniently have left over from making the frosting. Also, if you want to get really elaborate (again, looks harder than it is), put raspberries on top of the cake and serve with raspberry sauce and whipped cream.

Raspberry sauce
from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book
3 c. fresh or frozen raspberries
1/3 c. sugar
1 t. cornstarch

Puree thawed berries in blender; press berries through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard seeds.

In a small saucepan, combine, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add berry puree. Cook and stir until thickened and bubble; cook for an additional two minutes. Transfer to a bowl; cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

A note of caution: do not serve this cake straight from the refrigerator; let it sit out for an hour or so before serving. The frosting gets hard and cracks when sliced cold; you can see the difference in cold (cake on wax paper) and room temp (raspberry cake) in the pictures (also, stick with baking bars-- if you must substitute chocolate chips, stick them in the cake, not the frosting. You can taste the difference.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nothing to do with food

Drool worthy camera:  Canon PowerShot S90IS 10MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3-inch LCD

Super easy sandwich bread

Now with step-by-step pictures and timeline!

This is a variation on the world's easiest bread; use 2 cups bread flour and one cup whole wheat flour. It's less dense than the 100% whole wheat version, and not as strong tasting as bread with a 24 hour rise time.

2 c. bread flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. active dry yeast (the kind that says it's 'great for bread machines')
1 1/2 c. water
1 T. honey
olive oil (to grease pan)
cornmeal (optional-- to dust pan and add crunch to crust)

1. Mix dough (8:00 AM)
Takes five minutes or less.

In med-large size mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and yeast:

Add 1 1/2 c water and stir in with spoon; dough will form into a shaggy ball. If you need to, add more water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and stir until it looks like this:

Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for 8-10 hours or so until bubbly. It will look something like this when ready:

2. Second rise (6:00 PM)
Takes ten minutes, including preparing the pan.

Drizzle a tablespoon of honey across the top of the dough; stir in. The dough will be very stretchy, which will allow it to trap gas bubbles formed by the yeast and give the finished loaf a nice crumb structure.

(Apologies for the terrible picture; it's tricky to take a photo in bad light with one hand while stretching the dough with the other.) The stirring will punch down the dough; when it's back to being in a ball shape, just glop it into a greased loaf pan. I like to dust the pan and top of the dough with cornmeal, which makes it easier to remove the loaf from the pan and gives the finished bread a crunchier crust.

Cover the pan loosely with the plastic wrap, and put back in a warm spot for a couple of hours until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Bake bread (9:00 - 9:45 PM)
Takes less than a minute-- enough time to remove plastic wrap and put into oven.

Once your dough has risen a second time in the pan, it will look something like this:

Preheat oven to 350; bake for 45-50 minutes. Your house should smell amazing after about 20.

Remove from pan, cool on rack, enjoy!

Time from start to finish: 12-14 hours
Time spent actually doing anything with the dough: less than 15 minutes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

White chicken chili

This is one of those recipes that starts without one... I've made it several times, but this is my first attempt at writing it down. Delicious, filling, and costs roughly $5 for the ingredients to make a whole pot. Possibly a perfect winter meal (or summer, if you're leaving your husband to fend for himself for a weekend.)

White bean chicken chili
1 lb. dried white beans (navy, great northern, cannellini, etc)
2 lb. bone-in chicken parts (I like thighs for this-- they give a little more flavor than breasts)
1 t. cumin
1 t. chili power
2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1-2 onions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2 c. corn (optional-- fresh, frozen, or canned all work fine)

1. Rinse and sort beans in large pot. Cover beans with 2-3 in. of water; bring to a boil. Turn down; simmer until they start to turn tender (approx. 1 hour, but could vary depending on the beans.)

2. When beans start to turn tender, add seasonings, chicken, garlic, and onion. Add more water to cover, if necessary. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked (30-40 minutes).

3. Remove chicken, set aside to cool. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Beans should be fully tender. Put half of the beans and all the garlic in a blender of food processor; add some cooking liquid and blend until thick and smooth. Pour bean mixture back into pot.

4. Pull skin off chicken; pull meat off of bones and chop. Discard skin and bones; put chopped meat back into pot. Add chopped jalapeno and corn to pot. Stir everything together, adding cooking liquid until it is a thick but soupy consistency (2-4 cups)

5. Adjust seasonings to taste; simmer for a few minutes.

Makes 6-8 servings.

This is even better the next day; the flavors mingle. Also, two people will get sick of eating this long before it is gone, but it freezes wonderfully in one or two-serving portions. To re-heat, just dump the chili cube straight into a covered pot over low heat.

Good with any or all of these:
chopped cilantro
sour cream
hot sauce
shredded cheese
corn bread

Monday, June 15, 2009

Corn, bacon, and cream, oh my!

Fry up a couple of slices of bacon in a large, deep frying pan. Remove and slice bacon, sautee a couple of sliced shallots or onions in the grease. Add a couple smashed garlic cloves, cook for a minute or so. Toss in some parboiled asparagus and corn, and then toss in (cooked) chewy pasta and the sliced bacon. Add a couple of tablespoons cream (it doesn't take much) and Parmesan to thicken. Easy! SO GOOD!

This reinforces my belief that either bacon or cream will make anything better; this has both.

Adapted from Bitten; not so much a set recipe as an amazing way to use up odds and ends in the fridge. It's flexible; green beans or asparagus would work, as would most any sort of cured pork.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Me!

Sadly, I did not make this cake for my birthday (if I had, I could go eat some as soon as I post this.) I made it a couple of weeks ago. But this is the sort of cake I had for special occasions growing up (birthdays, graduations, even my wedding cake was a variation of this.)

It is the best cake in the world.

Spongy cake, creamy custard, strawberries, and LOTS of whipped cream. And, of course, white chocolate shavings on top.

I found the recipe here, and won't re-type it... it's quite long. Completely worth the effort, though. And completely perfect. Here's just the ingredient list (yes, you need eleven eggs):

Cassata Cake!
For the cake layers:
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 1/4 and 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. cold water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 t. lemon zest
1 t. vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 t. cream of tartar

For the custard:
6 large egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. half and half
3 T. cornstarch

For the macerated strawberries:
3 lb. strawberries
2 T. sugar

For the whipped cream:
2 c. chilled heavy cream
1 T. sugar

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chicken adobo

This was delicious and would be even better finished on the grill, but sometimes one must make do with one's yardless, dishwasherless apartment. The chicken is slowly cooked in liquid and then roasted, broiled, or grilled to create wonderfully tender meat with nice brown, crispy skin.

Next time I make it, I'll use the broiler for an even crispier skin, reduce the amount of soy sauce, and use more garlic. Everything's better with more garlic.

Chicken Adobo
(from How to Cook Everything)
1 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. rice vinegar (or other mild white vinegar)
1 T chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 c (1 can) coconut milk
1 c. water
3-4 lbs chicken parts (skin on, bone-in)

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, 1 c. water, half the coconut milk in large covered skillet. Bring to boil, add chicken, reduce heat to simmer.
Cook, covered, for 20 mins, turning chicken halfway through.

Heat oven to 450 or heat up broiler or grill; remove chicken pieces from liquid. Add remaining coconut milk to sauced; boil over high heat until reduced to about 1 cup (mine did not get nearly this reduced-- just boil it until everything else is done). Grill, broil, or roast the chicken until brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes under a broiler or on the grill, or 20-30 in the oven.

Serve chicken with sauce and rice.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Huevos Rancheros and Wipeout!

A grand tradition was started last summer... my husband and I got addicted to both Wipeout and eggs with rice and beans and salsa. I'm not quite sure why, but nothing goes better with watching people fall in mud from great heights than huevos rancheros. Probably a Corona or two helps.

Huevos rancheros
Black beans (canned is fine, dried and cooked is better and cheaper-- I cook a pot at a time and freeze two-person portions)
Eggs with runny centers (I fry mine since I'm incompetent at poaching)
Salsa from a jar, or make your own-- chop and combine the following to taste:
  • tomatoes
  • onion
  • a clove or two of garlic
  • cilantro (if you are one of the many people to whom cilantro tastes like soap, use parsley)
  • freshly squeezed lime juice
Optional, but completely recommended:
shredded cheese
avocado slices
sour cream
Corona with lime wedge

Layer everything in a bowl and dig in!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Butterscotch cookies

I intended these to be a cookie version of a blondie (chewy butterscotch bar cookies with pecans and chocolate chips) but it turns out that I should've just made blondies. These were yummy, but kind of cake-y.

Of course, the cookie dough was my favorite part.

Adapted (perhaps too loosely) from the butter cookie recipe in How to Cook Everything.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gnocchi with vodka sauce

I took these recipes verbatim other sources, so I won't bother re-typing them here. Note: gnocchi takes freaking forever to make-- forcing the potato through the strainer is harder than it seems in the video. It's fun to roll out, though, like playing with play dough. I added Italian sausage and chiffonaded basil for garnish. Everything's better with basil!

Both the gnocchi and vodka sauce freeze beautifully; freeze the uncooked gnocchi on a cookie sheet and then transfer them to a ziploc baggie after they're frozen so you don't end up with one giant clump of potato dough.

Potato gnocchi
Vodka sauce

Saturday, June 6, 2009


When a recipe says to only fill a cupcake pan 3/4 of the way, it apparently means it. If you ignore that and figure that since you have batter left, you should fill them all the way, you get this:

And it makes it very difficult to get the cupcakes out of the pan. On the plus side, you get to eat all the brown edges before frosting them. I thought that maybe the buttercream would cover it up, but it didn't quite. I need a pastry bag or just more practice frosting; they weren't very pretty.

They were, however, amazingly delicious.

Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cupcake recipe

Vanilla Cupcakes (makes 12, plus a little extra)
1/2 c. (a stick) butter, softened
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 c. milk
1/2 t vanilla extract
1c sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350; line muffin tins with papers.
Mix milk and vanilla in measuring cup; mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Cream butter; beat in sugar gradually and beat until fluffy (~3 mins on medium speed)
Beat in eggs one at a time
Gradually add flour and milk, alternating and beating until incorporated
Spoon batter into cups, about 3/4 full.
Bake 20-22 minutes; cool on rack before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream frosting
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 c. confectioners sugar
1/4 c. cream (or milk)
1 t vanilla extract

Cream butter; beat in half the sugar and all the milk and vanilla.
Gradually add remaining sugar until icing is thick enough to spread.

Friday, June 5, 2009

World's easiest bread

I've stopped buying bread altogether. I've adapted this from Mark Bittman's no knead whole wheat bread recipe; it takes 10-30 hours (timing is very forgiving), but only about 10 minutes of actual involvement. Mostly it just has to sit awhile.

3 c. whole wheat flour (or a mix of whole wheat and white bread flour, or replace up to 1 c. wheat flour with something else, like rye flour or cornmeal.)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 - 1 t. instant active dry yeast
1 1/2 c water
1 T. honey or maple syrup (optional)
Olive or other oil (for greasing pan)

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water; the dough should form into a shaggy ball. If it's too dry, add a couple more tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap; let sit for 8-24 hours at room temperature until flat and bubbly on top.

When ready for second rise, oil a loaf pan, mix in a tablespoon of something sweet into the dough, and dump the dough into the loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or clean dish towel; let rise until doubled in size, 2-6 hours. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, until hollow sounding when knocked. Remove from pan; cool on cooling rack, or better yet, eat it fresh out of the oven.

For shorter rise time, use more yeast and warmer room temperature; I find that the top of the fridge tends to work well. A longer rise time will create a more complex tasting bread (kind of sourdough-y and delicious.)

So much yummier than anything you can buy in the baked goods aisle, and total ingredient cost is less than you could find in your couch cushions.