Monday, October 31, 2011

Cena Mexicana, Primera Part

Last week, I had a huge craving for rice and beans so I went to a Mexican take out place (Tijuana Tacos) during lunch. It was so good but my craving wasn't 100% sated so I set out to try and make my own rice and beans and ended up cooking an entire Mexican-themed meal. I'll break it up into a few different blog posts; this post will be dedicated to the rice & beans.

I decided to make up my own recipe, based on a couple versions of rice & beans that I'd seen a few different Food Network shows, and it turned out surprisingly well. [SERVES 4]

Ingredients for rice:
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup medium or long grain rice
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1-1/4 cups chicken stock

Ingredients for beans:
15 oz. can of black beans
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cubanelle pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt to taste

I finely diced 1/4 of a sweet onion, 1/2 a cubanelle pepper, 1/2 a small bell pepper, 1/2 a jalepeno pepper, and 4 cloves of garlic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I've been trying to find the perfect new measuring cups and spoons. I've been wandering around Christmas Tree Shop and Target and HomeGoods looking for a cheap replacement for my current set, which, while still usable, is old and lackluster. And they're made of plastic, which I think makes them hold onto grime better, for some reason. Like when I measure out oil, I feel like it leaves behind an unpleasant film, and I do not like it.
cute, but no.

I'm thinking either metal or glass for my new set so that I no longer have the unpleasant rinse issue. I also want them to be cute, but not in a way that hinders their function.

Par example: I see this style of heart-shaped spoons and cups on sale all over during the pre-Valentine's Day season, but they aren't v. practical. Imagine measuring out some lard to make a pie crust; I wouldn't be able to perform a graceful swoop and scoop with a rubber spatula, as I'd be hindered by the shape of the heart.

No, no, I think I want these:
These are from World Market for $10.98, which is pretty great. I love that each measuring cup has a little lip for pouring and the pristine white porcelain is v. charming. Of course, I'll have to be a little more delicate with these, but I think the pink-striped June Cleaver-esque apron I got myself (for $5 from Christmas Tree Shop) will help me be a bit more delicate in the kitchen.

I might just order myself a set, perhaps in time for Thanksgiving, as that holiday requires a lot of measuring.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Desserts Galore

Baking is completely based on chemistry - you need an exact recipe so I never really make up dishes the way I do when I'm cooking; I usually just amend or modify an existing recipe (like my raspberry cake recipe).

Here are a bunch of desserts I made by borrowing other talented people's recipes.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Raspberry Dessert Weekend (Part 2)

Like I said yesterday, this past weekend was filled with family and food. On Sunday, I got to meet my cousin's second child, Elias, who is 1-1/2 years old now and got reacquainted with his older brother, Oliver (who I met when he was 1 year old; he's 3 now).

I decided to make a raspberry cake for them, as I had a bunch left over from my crepe making. I found a regular yellow cake mix in my repertoire and added some lemon and raspberry tones to the cake.

Cake Ingredients
1-2/3 cups of flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 lemon, zested and juiced (save a pinch of zest and a sprinkle of juice for the frosting)
1/2 cup mashed up raspberries

Raspberry Frosting Ingredients
1/2 cup mashed up raspberries
1/4 cup powdered sugar
leftover lemon zest and juice
8 oz container of mascarpone cheese

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, add eggs until smooth, and then alternate the addition of the dry and wet ingredients until the batter is formed. I poured the batter into a buttered and floured springform pan and baked at 350 for 25 minutes.

To make the frosting, just combine all of the ingredients together. The lemon really makes it taste fresh and delicious and the powdered sugar helps thicken up the cream into frosting consistency.

lots of mashed berries

Monday, October 17, 2011

Raspberry Dessert Weekend (Part 1)

This past weekend was filled with family and food. One of my cousins just had a baby (Elodie, 2 weeks old as of yesterday) and my other cousins visited from the west coast with their 3 year old and 1 year old (who I hadn't met yet) and a third cousin got married on Saturday.

I visited Elodie and wanted to bring something so I just whipped together a crepe cake. It can be a bit time consuming if you're not great at flipping crepes, but it's probably the most foolproof, easy, no-nonsense cake you can make (and requires few ingredients). I decided to do a Nutella and raspberry mascarpone filled crepe cake but you can get pretty creative. Some filling suggestions: chocolate ganache, mashed strawberries, lemon curd, any jam or jelly, the possibilities are endless.

Crepe Batter Ingredients (I learned and memorized this recipe back in middle school during a fun let's-make-crepes French class lesson; you can certainly use your go-to crepe recipe)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Filling Ingredients
1 cup raspberries (makes about 1/2 cup once they're all mashed up)
2 teaspoons sugar
8 oz. container of mascarpone cheese
Nutella (I ended up using about 1/2 of the smallest jar available)

To make the crepes, combine the wet ingredients and then sift in the dry ingredients. Whisk until barely combined and then refrigerate for an hour. According to Food Network hosts, this is to let the gluten in the flour calm down and that will give you a more tender crepe.

I used a tiny teflon frying pan to make my crepes and used some unsalted butter to lube up the pan. I used a tiny ladle (holds about 1/8 cup, maybe a tiny bit more) to scoop the batter into the frying pan. You can watch some Food Network or youtube videos for visual advice on how to make crepes but I like to pick the pan up off the stove and bring it close to my batter bowl so I don't drip batter. I ladle the crepe batter into the center while swirling the pan with my wrist to get the batter to spread thinly across the surface. After a few seconds, I'll lift the side of the crepe with a butter knife to check how brown it is and if it's ready, I'll grab it with my fingers to flip it.

I made about 30 crepes and while they were cooling, I mashed up some raspberries with the sugar to mix into the mascarpone cheese. I didn't want the raspberry mascarpone to be too sweet because the Nutella was going to add a ton of sweetness.

so pink and pretty!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Both my sister and dad's birthdays are in October so every year I bake a cake. I'll spend a few weeks looking for inspiration and this year I decided on a pineapple upside down cake.

You will need a 9" round cake pan (I used a spring form pan to make the upside-downing a bit easier), electric mixer, rubber spatula, cutting board and knife, and 3 bowls (2 small, one large). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in the middle.

Pineapple Upside Down Ingredients
1/2 pineapple, cut into little chunks (I sliced it into 1/2" thick pieces and then cut into fourths or eights)
1/2 stick of butter, melted (just microwave it; no need to be fancy and do it on the stove)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, pack it into the measuring cups

Cake Ingredients
1-1/2 cups of flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
---------------- sift these ingredients together in a bowl
1 stick of butter, softened (I usually let a stick sit out on the kitchen table for a day or two and just forget about it)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs (let these come to room temperature so the butter doesn't seize)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk

Start by making the pineapple upside down part of the cake. Mix the brown sugar and melted butter until it makes a paste and spread it in the bottom of the cake pan. Dry any excess juice off of the fruit with a paper towel and then arrange the pineapples in the bottom of the pan, using smaller pieces to fill in gaps to make sure as much surface area is covered. Press them into the sugar mixture.
make sure it's evenly coated

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Potato+Macaroni+Egg Salad

I love potatoes, macaroni, and eggs, but I don't like mayonnaise so I like to make my own version of the classic picnic side dish.

small 1-1/2 lb sack of fingerling/assorted baby potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 hard boiled eggs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup of pasta (I like 'No Yolks' extra broad egg noodles but any short pasta will do)
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite-sized cubes
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
small 8 oz. container of Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

My trick for boiling eggs to ensure that the yolk doesn't turn that nasty green: start the eggs in the pot with cold water. Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and set a timer for 8 minutes. Once your timer beeps, drain the eggs and stick them in an ice bath.

Start by washing the potatoes, chopping them up, and boiling them until they're tender (don't forget to salt the water). Check the potatoes by sticking a sharp knife into them. If the knife slides easily in and out of the potato, they're done! If the knife gets stuck, the potato will need more time. If the potato crumbles once stabbed, you'll have to start over. At the same time, get a pot of water boiling to prepare the noodles and get your eggs cooked.
rinse the potatoes

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gourmet Burgers (Italian Style)

I like my burgers huge and juicy, not paper thin and lifeless. I usually do my take on a "steakhouse burger" (with A1 sauce mixed into the meat) but this past weekend I decided to do something a little different. I call this an Italian style burger because of the spices, the sausage, the cheese, and the pesto.

Burger Ingredients (for four patties)
1 lb of 90/10 ground beef
0.5 lbs of sweet Italian sausage - I prefer to buy the kind without casing since I'd just cut it off anyway
1/2 cup roughly diced sweet onion - vidalia would be really sweet and delicious
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper - freshly ground, please!
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 fresh mozzarella ball, sliced into 4 pieces
1 package of potato hamburger buns (my family likes Martin's) - rip up one bun into little pieces (similar to the size of the onion) to be used in the burger meat mixture

Don't worry about chopping the onion uniformly or too precisely. I like seeing the chunks of onion and bread throughout my patty because it's delicious and gives it that homemade feel.

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