Monday, November 1, 2010

Garlic Cheese



If your looking to keep away the vampires (or anyone for that matter) try eating some garlic cheese... Just dont forget to brush your teeth later.

While most grandmother's may have cookies, hot from the oven, waiting for your visit, my Granny always had garlic cheese.  Crackers and cheese; especially, loved by my older brother who loved cheese moreso than sweets (hard to imagine, I know!) Three simple ingredients and LOTS of pressed garlic. I was told that I must use a garlic press but, once again, I do things by my own rules.

So in honor of Halloween, my older brother's birthday on 11/2, and the excitement of knowing that those horrendous political ads are now over for awhile, I will whole-heartedly enjoy some garlic cheese and pretzels.

Happy Halloween (ok, so I'm a little late)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Asian Slaw Salad


After seeing The Social Network, I am now compelled to build the next greatest web-based invention.  I will admit it has only been about an hour since I have set out on the discovery for this global phenomenon but I am confident. Ok, so maybe I should sleep on it.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to the greatest discovery to work lunches.  It may not look like much but its filling, delicious, and makes enough to last you all week.  This recipe is one of my favorites to bring to the office, not only for its simplicity but for its nutritional value (which I can only guess is healthy from the ingredients) and its taste.  Thats right, I am addicted to this salad.  

Few ingredients, amazing flavor.  The asian dressing is a must but the green onions are imperative and the toasted ramen and cashews send it over the top.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Apple Galette


After a wonderful vacation in the North Carolina mountains, I am finally back and able to post.  The bounty of apples and pumpkins made my heart go pitter- patter.  Seriously, who doesn't like to cozy up next to the warm fire while the smell of apples and cinnamon drift through the air? Oh yea...

For a beautiful, yet simple, dessert or snack, an apple galette is the way to go.  A galette is just a free- form pie with the center piled with some fresh fruit.  Therefore, with bags of apples in my pantry and a pre-made roll of pastry dough in the refrigerator, I set out to make my first ever galette.  

I won't include a recipe because it is just as easy to explain the process right here.  I thinly sliced approximately 3 apples (whatever variety you have on hand).  In a bowl, I coated the apples with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, 2-3 teaspoons of cinnamon/nutmeg and tossed it all together.  Rolling out the dough, I arranged the apples in a rose pattern and folded the outside dough around the fruit.  Lastly, bake the galette on 350 degrees till golden.  See, incredibly simple to recreate!

Oh, how I love this weather

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies



The first day of Fall means that I can officially start baking pumpkin cookies!  These cake-like morsels of heaven may not look that appetizing (mainly due to the unflattering color of pumpkin and spice) but they are addictive.  

These cookies happen to be the simplest baked good you will ever come across...seriously.  I even took them two steps further (b/c I enjoy making a mess in my kitchen) and added chocolate chips to the batter, and a spice flavored icing for the top.  I highly recommend the chocolate chips but I found the icing to be a waste.  After a day, the cookies become extremely soft and the icing made them almost mushy. 

Two ingredients form the original recipe!  I even convinced the bagger at the grocery store to go home and bake them herself.  Please try these, you won't regret it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Sage


It officially feels like Fall has begun and visions of pumpkins and squash are running through my head.  I can almost taste the cinnamon, nutmeg, and clover... oh wait, those are the pumpkin cookies in the oven.

To kick off the this glorious season, how about a pasta featuring the butternut squash?  Its roasted and pureed with a hint of nutmeg and mixed with a browned butter.  oh wait, there is more...all this is topped with chopped sage and gorgonzola cheese.  One bite and you start thinking of the leaves changing colors and the pumpkin patches.  You can use any pasta but I had on hand some Sweet Potato Pappardelle that I had purchased earlier at the farmer's market.  A small serving goes a long way because it is so rich but well worth the effort.  

This is a must-try fall dish.

Monday, September 6, 2010

World's Best Birthday Cake


*Please disregard the crumbs and chocolate smeared cake platter, we were too busy inhaling this cake. 

So how did I come to find the world's best Birthday cake?

1.  By request from Mr.F, his birthday must consist of yellow cake and chocolate frosting.  This is a family thing, or tradition, that consists of the boxed variety of cake mix and frosting.  Im not against these cakes and highly recommend them for the time-limited or inexperienced baker; HOWEVER, doesn't a vanilla buttermilk cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting sound so much more appealing?  

2.  I have tried my hardest to deviate from said tradition and have in the past created a german chocolate cake.  Even after a few years with that delicious cake recipe, Mr. F's choice for a birthday cake was... you guessed it...yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  So I did the next best thing and searched for the best homemade yellow cake and chocolate frosting recipes.  A hearty in size yet light in taste cake topped with a thick yet not-too-sweet chocolate frosting.  

3.  Lastly, like most women with the "dessert" gene, I do consider myself a connoisseur of any baked or sweet good and this cake, even for being so basic, is so moist and delicious.  The frosting isn't too sweet and pairs perfectly with the buttermilk cake. 

So after years of swaying the birthday boy, I think I will stick with this recipe. This is one tradition I want to keep going!  Now, I just need to break some other "traditions"...like the creation of his birthday 
month.

For an extra special treat, pair the cake with a strawberry sorbet.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Orange Creamsicle Cookies


Anyone ever had that "week from hell?"  Well, mine was last week and among all the terrible, Armageddon- like events that took place, the icing on the cake was having my photos declined by a popular foodie website.  This site, which will only be abbreviated "FG", decided that my food is either a) dull/bad light or b) food composition.  So I am forging ahead with another cookie recipe and  Im not going to bother submitting for publishing since I can already hear the outcome... 

Regardless of what others may think based on some picture, I KNOW these recipes taste good! SO , enough of my rant and on with these amazingly delicious creamsicle cookies. 

Remember those orange creamsicle ice cream pops, well, here they are in cookie form.  At this point, I am usually met with skeptical facial expressions but one taste and you'll know what Im talking about.  Fine grated orange zest and white chocolate chips transform this basic cookie dough into a melt-in -your mouth summer treat.  WOW.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bacon Mushroom Cream Puffs


What's more appetizing than bacon and mushrooms cooked together with  parmesan cheese and cream? Oh yea, stuffing it all into a buttery dough and letting it bake to perfection!

I can still taste the amazing flavors from the cream mixture.  The orginal recipe simply contained mushrooms; however, since I happened to have on hand some thick-cut bacon, I thought "why not?"  My mouth is still watering at the thought. 

These puffs are fast, easy, and will be gone in seconds! I only wish I had made more. I am even considering using the cream mixture in a  pasta dish...Oh ya

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake


Does this recipe really need an explanation? I saw this cake and my mouth simply watered.  Dark chocolate + espresso + bundt (thats all the other ingredients combined in cake form) = Choir singing "Hallelujah"

Although a little time consuming, its definitely worth the effort!  Instead of buying an entire jar full of instant espresso, I had on-hand the instant Starbucks Vio packets and doubled the recipe amount.  

Oh, and the icing on the cake (literally) is a dark chocolate ganache.  Only because the cake wasn't rich enough without icing, a double layer of ganache was poured over top.  And may I suggest an additional cup of joe to go along with the cake...if you can take all that caffeine.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Biscuits


Apples in summer?  Trust me, when you smell these wonderful confections baking on a saturday or sunday morning, you'll wonder why you haven't made these sooner.  And reheated, they make the perfect breakfast...just ask Mr. F who consumed two this morning.

I am all about simple recipe, and this is right up there with the pizza bites and tortellini pesto salad. Using pre-made, flaky biscuit dough and an easy raisin, apple, and cinnamon mixture, these bake up in about 20 minutes.  

Bon Appetite!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tortellini Pesto Salad


Dressing says a lot about a pasta salad.  Italian dressing, mayo-based dressing, you name it, the dressing makes the salad.  The most amazing ingredients can be incorporated into a salad but with bad or overpowering dressing, you never get the full effect of the salad elements.  And like potato salad, I am a picky pasta salad eater...then I discovered the use of pesto.

And since wonderful pesto is available in every grocery store, and unless you have plenty of time on your hands to make it from scratch, you can simply purchase it. I even purchased premade cheese tortellini.  The other ingredients were what I have on hand in my fridge.  So feel free to experiment with other additions.  

Couple words of advise on this recipe:
1.  The cherry tomatoes are fantasticly sweet and pair perfectly with the cheese pasta, so highly recommended.
2. With the garlic in the pesto and the cheese in the tortellini, additional cheese is not needed.

Perfect for pot lucks and brunches!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Parmesan Crusted Wild Salmon


If wild salmon was a gamey animal, it would probably be a bison.  While being tender, bison has an intense game flavor.  You either have to love the meat with a passion or have the perfect pairing of a topping or sauce to tame down the intense flavor.  Thus is the story with wild salmon...

 A simple lemon and caper sauce that usually pairs well with a light salmon fillet most likely isn't the right topping for wild salmon. Therefore, I created a crust that combines the strong flavors of parmesan, thyme, and garlic that works perfectly with the fish fillet. Baked till golden and paired with a mushroom and rice casserole, this dish made the perfect weeknight meal.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vegetable Paella


So many fresh ingredients and not enough dishes that incorporate everything! The grocery store, or if your lucky the farmers market, is filled with the most ripe varieties of produce.  Its all to enticing to pass up. 

I must admit that I am a novice at paella making.  I stood in the rice aisle for about 30 minutes trying to decipher the differences in the grains.  The recipe called for short-grain rice so that cut down my choices by 3000.  In the limited number of paella's I have seen, they usually have a yellow rice so "bingo", rice shopping was done.  

I also used this dish as opportunity to introduce my taste buds to some new veggies.  In case you were wondering, my taste buds do not like fennel.  Licorice must be an acquired taste...for which I do not possess. So bedsides that one ingredient, I loved everything else. 

A little time consuming but worth the effort.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pizza Bites


For those of you in the Northeast experiencing the heat wave of 2010...
...welcome to my life in Florida.  We know its hot and humid so lets move on to something more fun with the warm weather, cookouts!

I went in search of an easy appetizer to tempt our palates during a recent 4th of July get-together.  Voila! Pizza Bites seemed simple and delish enough.  And you might be surprised to find out that these pair particularly well with an alcoholic beverage. May I suggest a nice frozen margarita or twenty?

Premade dough stuffed with mozzerella cheese and pepperoni, the pizza possibilites are limitless. I even provided a marinara dipping sauce.  So if you have 20 minutes to spare, these are perfect for a party. Even on warm day, these bites hit the spot. In fact, they went so quickly, I wished I had made more.

And honestly, whats more American than pizza and fireworks?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones


Another Sunday morning baking adventure.  I have never made scones before but this recipe seemed so delicious and easy.  I just couldn't resist.

Made with buttermilk and, of course, filled with blueberries, my only mistake was not following the recipe.  Why would I? After all, I am a master at baking *rolling eyes*  Innocently enough, I forgot to add the blueberries after my ingredients were already combined.  So to break up the thick dough, I added just a tad of extra buttermilk.  If I had gone with the original recipe, my scones wouldn't look so "globby". However, regardless of the final look, these scones are incredible!

So if your looking for an easy and delicious breakfast, this recipe is perfect for those summer morning.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Creme Brulee Cupcakes




What's that thing called when someone can take a dish and make it look appetizing? Oh yea, its called artistic ability.   And surprisingly, unlike my mother and grandmother, I have found that my artistic range is extremely limited.  So while these cupcakes do not look magazine-worthy, its simply because I can not match the artistry that was used when Bakers Royale created this recipe.  However, I do believe that I was successful in recreating the flavor and taste of this delicious chocolate and creme brulee combo.

The basic chocolate cupcake recipe has now become my staple go-to recipe for cupcakes...wow! If I hadn't added the eggs to the batter, I would have eaten the whole bowl with a spoon.  It was like a mousse...yes, it was THAT amazing!

The second half of the recipe calls for a creme brulee filling.  Being my first creme brulee ever, I was a tad worried; yet, I soon found myself eating my fair share of the vanilla custard.  So together, how could these cupcakes be anything but delicious?  

Done in a two step process, I let the custard sit in the cupcakes overnight before bruleeing in the morning.  For real step-by-step  instructions and pictures to these cupcakes, check out Bakers Royale and her amazing creation!  

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Black Bean Mushroom Burgers


How to get a guy to eat a a veggie burger? Step 1: make patty to look like beef. Step 2: season with delicious spices to overcome any lacking flavor. Step 3: Don't tell guy, add a little cheese, serve on a bun and await result!

My end result?  Mr. F ate a two burgers!  In his defense, he did know they were made from black beans and mushrooms.  However, if this burger lacked in any flavor or consistency department, he would be the first to say "this was good but not my favorite."  And my interpretive skills would allow me to translate this to mean "please don't ever make this again." HOWEVER, I hadn't even sat down with my plate before I heard moans of deliciousness emanating from the other room (yes, we ate in front of the TV). 

Easy, simple, and fantastic, these burgers will be added to my regular dinner rotation.  Next time, I will add variety to the flavor with different ingredients.  For now, I have to thank BrownEyed Baker for a wonderful recipe!  

I added sweet potato chips as a "healthy" side.  I guess a salad would be a better nutritious choice but, who am I kidding, I just ran 3 miles and I want some sweet potatoes :) 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mushroom Herb Mac N' Cheese


I was recently asked if I had to choose between pasta, rice, or potatoes which one do I enjoy more.  Simply answer: pasta.  I LOVE pasta. Its so versatile and delicious.  Ok, so its a personal preference but let me ask you this:  Do you like Mac n' Cheese?  If your answer is "no" then we may have some serious problems.  If your answer is "yes" then please proceed reading.  

I find the satisfaction level of a mac n' cheese similar to the craving/satisfaction level of donuts. Let me clarify.  If you're craving a glazed donut, a powdered one isn't going to satisfy. The same logic goes towards mac n' cheese. If your craving brand name shells and cheese then this gourmet version may not fulfill your taste buds.  However, for a sunday dinner, this mac n' cheese is a must-have.  

Fresh herbs, mushrooms, and two kinds of cheese round out this pasta.  The original recipe called for white cheddar and gruyere cheeses.  Now I'm all over some white cheddar cheese but HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF GRUYERE?!?  Holy mackerel!! My idea of budgeting is putting my foot down on a $15 small block of cheese for Macaroni!  Needless to say, I substituted the gruyere for a delicious smoked gouda.

Oh, and even though the recipe is called "Mac N' Cheese", I didn't use macaroni pasta.  If your a by-the-book kind of cook, knock yourself out with some macaroni.  Personally, I like to use different pasta shapes. 

Last but not least, don't leave out the nutmeg.



Friday, May 28, 2010

Honey-Lime Glazed Fish with Warm Black Bean and Corn Salad


Its summertime, so whats better than an fresh piece of fish.  Its hard to capture the true deliciousness of this dish on camera, so let me help describe it to you.  That sauce you see isnt simply broth. That liquid is filled with lime juice, spices, honey, and broth. Marinating the fish with this amazing sauce creates a flavor explosion in your mouth!  yes, I said it...as strange as it may sound.
Oh, But Im not done!  How about adding some black beans, corn, spinach, and onions as a warm accompaniment?  I have even used the leftover salad as a quesadilla filling with some avacado-sour cream.

 So here's my "Survivor- esque" grabber: One piece of fish, a variety of fresh ingredients and sauce, and many amazing dinners. 

The kicker?  From start to finish, this can all be yours in...20 min!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Perfect For Summer Guacamole


May 23rd, 4:43 pm- its official, Fork 2 is finally here and Im ready to share my delightful concoctions with the world!  Id like to start you out with a little piece I like to call Perfect For Summer Guacamole.  

I honestly have to admit that I am a slightly pickier eater than Fork 1- even though she would probably say the "pickiness gap" is much larger than I would.  And then the other issue I deal with is- well, have you ever heard of a "texture" issue?  I hadn't until I met Boyfriend (BF) who doesn't care for the textures of some foods, though he is willing to try anything and is getting much better.  I love this guacamole because it is simple and it satisfies both of us.  

Got chunks? I do. Or maybe I shouldn't call them chunks just in case BF is reading.  Instead I will call them delicious morsels of avocado combined with just the right amount of onion, jalapeno, tomato, a tiny bit of cilantro and a splash of lime juice.  Nothing can compare to homemade guacamole and nothing comes close to this recipe.  This is perfect for summertime and is especially delicious with an ice cold margarita.

Speaking of margaritas...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Orange French Crullers


Here a riddle: Whats deep fried and not delicious? Answer: Trick question, nothing. EVERYTHING tastes better covered in batter and dropped in a giant vat of hot oil.  So it goes without saying that fried dough is absolutely delicious. 

Crullers can best be described as a slight cross between a funnel cake and doughnut. They aren't as sweet as a doughnut and lighter than a funnel cake.  Then, I took it a step further and added fresh orange juice and zest into the batter. Once golden and fried, a light orange glaze was drizzled over the crullers.

My finished products were  bite-sized and more free-forming than the traditional pastry. Most cruller recipes advise the baker to pipe the dough on a heavy sheet of parchment then drop the form into the oil.  For whatever reason, or I should say "in my usual baking fashion", the dough was being stubborn and chose to tightly adhere to the parchment.  Needless to say, I soon chose to pipe circles of dough directly into the oil. The end product was unique and still delicious. The orange just added an extra layer of yummyness.

Word of Advise:  crullers should be eaten as soon as possible, otherwise, they get mushy.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie


Another first for Fork1: Rhubarb. Yes, in all of my grits and collar-green making life, I have never made rhubarb.  However, in my lonesome state without Mr. F last weekend, I slowly gave in to its usual unappealing nature in the form of a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie.  Rhubarb by itself..um, I'm working up to that.  Rhubarb baked with strawberries between 2 layers of flaky pie crust, sure!

I went in search of the red, stalky fruit at my local grocers to be told that they didnt have any because it was seasonal (figure that one out); however, they did carry it year round frozen.  So I went home to my pie making attempt to be hit in the face with a heavy mass of warm, stale air.   I soon realized that our AC had decided to stop working... in Florida!  So let me catch you up: its now 80 degrees in my home and I have decided to make a pie. A baked pie which requires the use of a hot oven. Did I mention I had also decided to make my own pie crusts? These pie crusts also consisted of butter and lard which needed to stay cold in order to be rolled. How grand!  No matter, I was determined.  I had bought the damn ingredients, this pie was going to be made!

So standing in my sweltering kitchen, melting pie dough with my bare hands, I rolled and refrigerated, rolled and refrigerated till the dough was solid enough to transfer to the pan.  The filling was so simple to cut and throw together.  And the crown and glory of the entire thing...cornstarch.  Don't scratch your head yet, I'll explain.  The cornstarch is the perfect ingredient to keep the filling from being runny. The pie can stand on its own! Your impressed, I know.

Let me just say, as far as Strawberry-Rhubarb Pies go, this one is definitely a keeper.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pirouettes


As seen in umpteen previous posts, I have a sweet tooth.  I try to balance it out with healthy meals (and I have) but I really enjoy posting the fun stuff... so here's one of them.

Patience is not one of my strong points. You're shocked, I'm sure.  You could say, I am more of a instant gratification kind-of-girl.  My father says that "the best things come to those that wait" but, honestly, who's he kidding, he's one to talk! He's probably the most impatient man on the planet...SO *deep breaths* I must have inherited it :) These cookies are perfect for my cookie quick fix.  Pirouettes are easy, buttery, delicious, versatile, and fun to make! 

A total of 5-6 min between baking, molding, and hardening!  A Silpat is perfect for these cookies since they need to mold so quickly. And with the use of a wooden spoon handle and a light touch, the soft dough sticks perfectly into a beautiful spiral. And imagine the flavor possibilities or a quick dip in chocolate. 

In the end, I served these cookies for a Mother's Day dessert with mango sorbet. And while my brothers are the most stubborn people to please (I make family sound so pleasant), the entire container of pirouettes were gone before I sat down to the table. At least my mom got a cookie... I think.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mango Sorbet


I dont know about you but this humidity is killer.  And while I love spending time outdoors, walking outside in this weather seals your fate to showering...soon! So what would be better than a cool sorbet to cool you down?

I was all prepared to start my frozen journey with a chocolate-hazelnut gelato (and I will get there at some point) but while grocery shopping, I spotted these beautiful mangos.  They were just so perfectly ripe, colorful, and calling my name. And while I have never made a sorbet in my life, I did some research in the frozen aisle.  All I needed was some fruit puree...check, water, sugar, and some lemon or lime juice.  

Then, I had an epiphany.  Yes, with freezing fingers holding several cartons of pre-made sorbet, it suddenly occurred to me. Why use water, when I could use some mouth-watering mango nectar. Since its already sweetened, less sugar will be needed in my final recipe! GENIUS, I know. 

The sorbet turned out so creamy and refreshing.  I would have to say that my first attempt using my Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Attachment was delicious. And considering the empty tub of mango sorbet, I would definitely have to say it was a success. 


Next up...Mother's Day.  I have several new varieties of sorbet floating around in my head.  I'm hoping to serve them with some homemade pirouette cookies.  






Sunday, May 2, 2010

Apricot Strudel


I am a morning person, especially on the weekends.  What does this mean?  In essence, this translates into an absurd amount of unnecessary energy roaring to go way before Mr. F crawls out of bed.  Therefore, if I can keep the dish clanking to a minimum, I might have a chance to expel some of that energy in the form of breakfast.  So what's better on the weekend than a pastry and coffee?

On a regular basis, I am usually not one to part-take in sugary breakfast foods. I will admit that I occasionally love those enormously sweet cinnamon buns that are doused with a blanket layer of sugar icing like the next person. And if I'm lucky not to go into a sugar coma before the end, I will just get a stomach ache before lunch; thereby, ruining any dreams I had of being productive during the day.  So to overcome the sugary sweetness, this strudel is made with cream cheese.  mmmmm...cream cheese

Since the preserves are simply a filling, feel free to choose any flavor you have on hand.  I happen to have had apricot and peach, so I chose between the two.  And since you pour the icing on top, you can control the desired level of sweetness.  

This was so simple to prepare, I managed to get the strudel in the oven just as Mr. F woke up. Im blaming it on the delicious smell :)

FYI, by its creator, this recipe is called a coffee cake. Yes, I do enjoy it with coffee. However, since I made it, I'm calling it a strudel only because its sounds cooler.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poppyseed Buttermilk Tea Cake


I. Have. Done. It! Muahahaha (that's an evil laugh by the way)

Ever wonder what to do with poppyseed filling, other than making my delicious hamantachen cookies? Look no further, for the most delicious poppyseed cake is right in front of you! And once again, I am amazed at the number of people who have never had poppyseed anything.  Maybe its my southern roots talking but I was under the impression poppy seed is as common as snickerdoodles and grits...ok, point taken.

This tea cake is perfect for brunch and dessert.  The buttermilk allows the cake to retain its perfect moisture level and the filling provides just enough sweetness.  For a light dessert, a strawberry puree would be perfect. Oh, did I mention how simple it is to throw together?

Now, Ive gotcha :)

Btw, poppyseed filling is found in a can next to the almond paste in the baking aisle.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shrimp Pad Thai


For my past few recipe creations, I have been one step behind.  I think to myself "Hey, I am going to make this dish and its going to freakin fantastic!" Next thing I know, I have been out done by someone else making it before me, arghhh.  Seriously, doesnt Bobbly Flay know that I had the idea to make Shrimp Pad Thai LONG before he decided to battle the cute pad thai lady from Cali? Jeez people.

I know Pad Thai has been around for about a million-jillion years (yes, thats a true number by the way) but I've decided to be one step ahead of the game this time.  SOOO, Pad Thai ...yay.  Here's a dish that you may not of thought of making (ok, go along with me now).

One ingredient, I never thought of buying, much less incorporating in a main dish, is fish sauce.  I know it sounds gross and, next to chinese stinky tofu, smells incredibly rank.  If you're not familiar with stinky tofu, your lucky.  Trust one this one, do NOT go in search of the stuff!  Additionally, I learned the hard way that fish sauce is for cooking and not tasting before hand.  Lesson learned: throw the sauce into the noodles and all will come out delicious. 

Preparing is the most time-consuming process in this dish.  The pad thai noodles are already pre-cooked, so a good soak to break up the noodles and your  ready to go.  Oh and SHHHHHH!  This recipe contains tofu. which Mr. F loved after he ate the whole plate.  Serve with extra peanuts and lime and viola! dinner is served.  BTW, the pad thai may have made even better leftovers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Challah French Toast


White bread...eat your heart out.  

What's challah french toast?  A rich egg bread is soaked in a mixture of cream, egg, spices, vanilla, and honey, then fried in butter.  Oh, but we are NOT done yet :)  Sprinkle on the powder sugar and Apple Butter syrup. Oh ya, you know you want some.

Seriously, could french toast look any sexier?  What if I told you that I made the challah from scratch?  Now, I would love to give you step-by-step instructions on challah making but MY instructions will probably get you nowhere. I have said it before and I will repeat it again, "Yeast, is not my friend." Ok, maybe I need to alter this statement since my bread baking results have now been upgraded from hunk-of-brick to dense-yet-deliciously-edible.  In my own defense and against the recipe instructions, I used rapid rise yeast versus regular yeast. Words of advise: stick with the recipe.

Yet despite my inability to read and follow simple instructions, the challah turned out pretty freakin delicious. So if your heart is now pounding to make some fresh loaves of egg bread, please use Mariel's recipe! She even has pictures to help (I think this is what saved my bread :) And even though I didnt braid it, the challah is even more yummy than store-bought; especially, when you will have enough bread to make french toast for an army.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vanilla Extract



Ever wonder why you pay obscene amounts of money for vanilla extract?  You could say "yes" b/c the product you purchase is so damn good its worth it.  Well, Im here to tell you... It all about the bean, baby!

Have a good vanilla bean, you can make even better extract.  Now, the bean itself is still pricey. Why? Vanilla beans are grown from orchids and take up to 11 years per bean to fully develop.  To top it off, the majority of the world's vanilla beans come from Madagascar. BUT if your lucky you can get Tahitian, Mexican, or Indian Vanilla beans ;)  And if your REALLY lucky, fresh vanilla beans are simply heavenly.  Fresh being plump, moist vanilla beans, not the dried beans found most commonly. 

So how to make extract...you will be amazed at its simplicity.  Oh, I am so excited to tell you! Vodka and vanilla beans!  I use a flip-top bottle, so the beans will go in but will never come out. 

To start, find the right bottle you want to use.  Place 3-4 beans in the bottle and fill to the top with vodka.  Place bottle in a dark place to sit for 6 months to a year (depending on the bottle size).  Once the color darkens, the extract is ready!  When you start to run low on extract (you can see Im getting there ) just refill with vodka.  It doesnt have to sit untouched like the first time.   Over the years, it just gets better!

And talk about gifts!!! Bakers will love to receive homemade vanilla extract :) Try Beanilla for a variety of beans and bottles.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini


This recipe is like gold.  Dont believe me? Let me ask you some questions:

1. Do you and/or your family like creamy pasta?
2.  Do you and/or family enjoy chicken for dinner?
3.  Do you ever have leftover chicken or keep frozen chicken in your freezer?
4.  Do you enjoy making easy, one dish casseroles for dinner?
5. Do you like meals that make for AWESOME leftovers?
6. Do you like cheese, cheese, and more cheese?

Let me guess...you answered "yes" to a few, if not all, the previous questions?  I've never met ANYONE that hasnt loved this dish. This recipe is about as easy a dinner as you can get without buying a frozen dinner or fast food.   In the times I have made this casserole, I have tweaked my moms original recipe based on the ingredients I have handy.   She has made for years, especially, when she needed an easy crowd pleaser for my family. 

You may be pondering the question: What does "Tetrazzini" mean? Um, I have no clue, maybe it means delicious. I'll leave the definition up to you. Let me know if you come with something good that I can tell people when they beg me for the recipe :)

Did I mention you can add or substitute any of the following ingredients? BTW, this is a great recipe for leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Then you can just call it Turkey Tetrazzini. Again, not sure what the "Tetrazzini" means, oh well.

I usually serve this casserole with a Caesar salad. 

P.S Great dish for potlucks!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Banana Pudding Cheesecake


Banana pudding: one of those common desserts that you love to eat but the idea of making it usually isnt very appealing.

Cheesecake: depends on the flavor but I can devour at anytime, slice by delectable slice.

Banana Pudding + Cheesecake: didnt think it could be done? Prepared to be amazed!

With a crust made from vanilla wafers and almonds, filled with cheesecake and a banana foster-like mixture, then topped with a frothy meringue and baked till golden.  Not your typical cheesecake but uniquely delicious!

Everything worked great till my meringue somewhat deflated on cooling.  Probably because, as usual, my patience meter on the cooling directions went from "cool at room temp" to straight to the fridge.  Did I fail to mention that my new springform pan decided  not cooperate in opening? Thus, as I was putting my arm through the still raging hot pan, I burned the crap out of my wrist.  On a happier note,  this is only the 2nd cheesecake I have ever made and I think it turned out great.

While you definitely need a topping to the dessert, a meringue isnt necessary (although looks beautiful).  A whipped cream might be just a yummy.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Creamy Lime Sauce


At the thought of these tacos, I just want to sing...but for your sake, I wont :)  

If your thinking to yourself, "these arent my thing", I bet I can prove you wrong!  Mr. F said the same thing till I convinced him just to try one.  Now he requests them!

Don't think of them as a traditional taco; instead, think of them as the equivalent to a healthy fish entree. I mean, I dont know the actual caloric breakdown on this recipe but your practically giving your body a workout: blackened fish, shredded cabbage, lime sauce, cheese, small corn tortilla.  You could even add a pica de gallo and cover all the major food groups.

I dont remember when I first  discovered my love for these tacos but I do remember when I decided to try them out for myself.  My initial attempts began with pre-marinated fish and discovered this was BIG mistake.  Once I began preparing my own blackened fish, my next addition was with a creamy lime sauce.  The sauce is so delicious, it can be made for just about anything.  After several trials, I prefer to pour the sauce on top of the taco rather than premix the slaw into the sauce.  Its simply a personal preference.  Have fun with them!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Chambord Sauce


Perhaps my love of chocolate is hereditary.  I come from a long line of extreme chocoholics.  Or perhaps it's genetics.  Didn't someone, somewhere prove once that being female automatically means you must love chocolate (or maybe I just made that up)?  Either way, a little chocolate in every dish would make the world a happy place.  Im serious... Ever had a chocolate steak?  The most amazing steak I've EVER had was coated in an espresso rub, butterflied and filled with a chocolate ganache!  It simply melted in your mouth.

So, it goes without saying that on the chocolate lovers scale, a flourless chocolate cake ranks at the top.  Extremely simple to make, originally named a "Chocolate Idiot Cake", it paired perfectly with the Strawberry Chambord sauce.  I served it at the family Sedar and was lucky enough to have a small wedge for the next evening... or had piece :p

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Passover Marzipan Cream Tart


On the Jewy Scale, I would rate myself prob around 3-4.  While I dont keep kosher or attend regular Shabbat services (*gasp* my grandmother is going to kill me), I still try to acknowledge the holidays; usually involving food in some way.  So with our family sedar coming up, I have to come up with a Passover-friendly dessert. And because I have a large, picky family, I have to make more than one.  This is easier said than done.  Off the top of your head and besides a flourless chocolate cake, give me one non-chocolate, non-coconut, flourless dessert... yea, see I told you it isnt easy.

For those unfamiliar with matzo (the cracker looking stuff),  the taste is unfulling for any dessert and is CERTAINLY NOT a good substitute for flour.  So my idea for covering up the carboard taste?  Almond Paste!  I used a thin layer over the semi-baked tart crust then topped it all with a decadent pastry cream.  Once the tart was cool and cream was set, I artfully arranged some ripe fruit.

Now for a side note to Matzo: *clears throat*

Matzo,  you have served me well during Passovers of the past.  For breakfast, you are delicious with butter and for lunch pair perfectly with some peanut butter and jelly.  However, you and your devious ways try to trick the everyday baker into thinking you can be substituted for flour when, in fact, you taste like crap.  But I have overcome your bland taste and terrible consistency!  Nice try.  Good luck next year~

* When not Passover, substitute an a regular sweet pastry crust and finish the recipe as written, YUM!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Holy Hell Brownies


*Warning* simply reading this recipe may add ten pounds.

There are brownie recipes and then there is this brownies recipe.  I had been drooling over this find for the past several weeks and I have finally given in to the temptation.  I had been forewarned per Buns In My Oven that "[my] life will never be the same again."  So naturally, something so extraordinary had to be taste tested.

When it comes to brownies, I am simple kind of girl.  I usually prefer the easy-to-prepare, boxed mix.  I know, I usually shun away from these premade mixes but I have to agree with Buns_In_My_Oven on this one.  Boxed brownie mixes turn out perfect, molten, chocolatey treats every time. 

Have you ever heard of a picky brownie eater? Well, I'm one of them.  Let me explain... I know many people love nuts, frosting, and crispy edged brownies but I am not one of them.  To me, nuts overpower and disrupt the pleasantness of brownie eating.  I will pick them out if need be.  And frosting!!! Brownies should not be frosted.  End of discussion on that.  And for those of you that like the crispy edges of the brownies, more power to you.  Personally, I really do not understand that new brownie pan that bakes up only edge pieces.  I thought everyone preferred the center.  Im still scratching my head on that one.

But whatever your brownie preferences are or the variations you prefer, this recipe has changed my view on using only boxed mixes.  The picture does not do them justice. 

The verdict:  holy hell these are good!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Corned Beef Rueben


I know, I know, its just a sandwich right? BUT, You cant deny that there is an art to the Rueben sandwich.  The right amount of each ingredient to every layer is crucial to the overall construction and taste.  Ok, now I just sound like a food nerd BUT those that love Ruebens can back me up.  There's a trust between you, the eater, and the "architect" that the sandwich will live up to your expectations.  Yes, I love this sandwich but only a couple have been labeled amazing... and this would be one of them.

It just made sense, when I had leftover corned beef from St. Patty's Day, to make a Rueben.  There is nothing secret about making corned beef.  I slowed cooked this slab of meaty goodness with a head of cabbage, an onion, cup of water, and spices.  Fast forward to the next night and I was layering the corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing between two pieces of rye bread.  

My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lemon Ricotta Cookies


If waking up in the dark isnt clue enough, Im here to tell you that spring is here! What better way to ring in the season than with a light, refreshing cookie?

This cookie is a tried and true Giada recipe.  The lemon isnt too overpowering but the ricotta makes this cookie so light its almost cake.  My brain wheels are turning as Im typing... wouldnt this cookie be delicious as a a sandwich cookie with a lemon creme center...oooh.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Anything Better?


Doesnt this look delicious, crisp, and colorful? This isnt a recipe but rather something I had to share.  To you, it may be a simple bowl of fruit (and it is) but this bowl of fruit is a creation by Mr. F!  I dont mean to belittle his abilities, however...wait, who am I kidding, he tries but cooking is, how shall I say, a learning process.  He has mastered the art of the microwave, boiling water for mac 'n cheese, and *chuckle* does a dead-on Julia Child's impersonation but following a recipe usually involves planning to eat a late meal. So when he found this fruit at the grocery store and came home to clean and chop it, I couldnt be more proud *tear*.


AND LOOK!!! Here is the appetizer that was waiting for me when I came home from work.  Notice the cut bread on the bottom far right with dipping oil and the artfully arranged celery, carrots, and ranch.  This man knows my heart

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nut Tart


Phyllo dough can either be your best friend or your worst enemy.  It all depends on how its handled.  Trust me, I have had my fair share of phyllo catastrophes.  Usually, my problem is in the thawing of the dough.  I become so impatient that I figure "hey, Ill unroll it anyway", this is a big no-no.  Most of my other failed attempts are because I let the dough get too dry.  Ever had cracks in your dough? Yep, thats why.  To make a long story short, my usual attempts with phyllo result in a smooth start with me quickly losing patience and balling up bad dough to throw into the trash.  Get the picture?

So when I came across this recipe on The Way the Cookie Crumbles, I was partly thinking good idea, I can do that and crap, I have go through phyllo dough hell.  But I was determined to master the technique. The trick to keeping the dough moist is to place a layer of plastic wrap followed by 2 layers of damp paper towels over the completely thawed phyllo.

While the orginal recipe says that this can be a main dish, I prefer to have a little substance as the main attraction to my meals.  So I would have the tart to either be an appetizer or side dish. 

Ultimately, the end result was a little dry and bland for my taste buds.  For future use and to the posted recipe, I added some sour cream and salt/pepper.  Otherwise, the presentation was phenominal and the spinach mixed with the feta and pine nuts was perfect!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beef Short Ribs with Cheesy Polenta


Have you ever had heaven on plate?  Well, if heaven was meat, I think it would be this dish.  I do not make or eat red meat that often but when I do I tend to remake tried and true recipes.  So what led me outside my box?  So glad you asked...

Mr. F and I were having company...my parents.  And just like my mothers birthday, a meal for them must meet a few requirements.  Each parental unit has their tastes and while this may not be difficult for most, my usual repertoire of recipes was not going to work.  In any case, I found what I was looking for on The Pioneer Woman (thank you, thank you!)  I was taking a chance with the beef but I figured the tenderness of the meat would cancel out the cut of meat.  In other words, my mother isn't big on meat in general but if it falls apart and can be mixed with something, she's willing to try it (pain, I know). 

PW has earned my trust from here on out.  I cooked according to the directions (oven not slow cooker) and it turned out perfect.  Per the recipe, I paired the ribs with a creamy cheese polenta and...voila, heaven in your mouth!

FYI, PW has goat cheese in the polenta recipe.  I wasn't about to spend the money on goat cheese but boursin cheese is a great substitute.  If you don't know what polenta is, it's similiar to grits.  If you dont know what grits are, then you aren't from the south and I can't blame you; HOWEVER, mixed with cheese they are delicious.  As a kid, I used to eat cheese grits for breakfast so I might be biased.  However, polenta tends to have a smoother consistency than grits (grits not a grit, I always think of Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Snickerdoodles


Im amazed at the number of people who do not know what a snickerdoodle cookie is!  I thought they were as mainstream as chocolate chip cookies, but boy was I wrong.  Maybe its a southern thing?

For those who have been left in the dark about this addictive sweet, let me describe this cookie to you.  Essentially, they taste like a soft shortbread cookie that has been baked with sugar and spices (usually cinnamon).  Need a better reason to make these? Mr. F isnt a dessert person (shocker I know) but these have to top his cookie list.

Yes, Snickerdoodles are simple and many might consider them nothing more than an stylized sugar cookie; yet, the fact remains that these are good.  So if you are looking for a quick cookie and like me have the ingredients already in your pantry...try them.  Snickerdoodles will not disappoint.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chicken Pesto Calzones


Instead of our weekly pizza night, I went out on a limb and created a calzone.  During a hungry spell, I ran across this recipe on Annie's Eats and I just couldn't resist putting my spin on it.  I already had the pizza technique and white sauce recipe down, so how difficult could it be?

Once again, let me reiterate that I do not make my own pizza dough.  Yeast does not like me and my past attempts have only failed in mega proportions.  So I buy my dough, and in an effort to save time, I also bought my own pesto.  *Gasp*  I know, I know, pesto is incredibly simple to make but being a weekday evening I was just looking for a quick dinner.  However, I did make the sauce and cooked the chicken.

I think Fork 2 would agree with me in claiming this recipe a success! Just like pizza, you can add your own ingredients.  I chose, pesto, a cheese white sauce, and chicken.  I was hoping to use mushrooms but, alas, if you read the previous post, I let them sit in the veggie draw too long.  oh well, this was fantastic on its own.

The only trick is sealing the edges.  I tried two ways.  First, I didn't use any liquid around the inner edges.  Using a fork, I pressed firmly around the dough crescent.  This didn't not work as well as my second attempt using olive oil around the inside.  From now on, I will go with the olive oil.  It takes 2 extra seconds and was completely worth it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Honey Ginger Carrots


If you cant already tell, I am not the pickiest of eaters but the few foods I do not enjoy have changed over the years.  One of those foods happens to be carrots.  You heard correctly...carrots; especially, sweet carrots.   Honestly, they were not on my "ugh, no thanks you" list, I just never found them that appetizing as a side item.  I never found them appetizing that is until now, or rather, until this recipe.

I cant put my finger on what is so addictive about this vegetable. Its simple to make (of course I love that) and flavored perfectly with honey, ginger, and butter.  Need I say more?
Ok, I will...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Szechwan Shrimp


I needed a fast, healthy dinner for tonight and I knew some sort of seafood was on the ballot.  We've had enough chicken, pasta, and pork.  Yes, I made pork and didnt post it!  Dont worry, I will.

So when I found this recipe for shrimp, I knew it was the choice.  Shrimp can be expensive but luckily my grocery store has affordable, frozen seafood that is surprisingly fresh tasting. To make the dish complete, I added broccoli, red pepper, and brown rice.

In fact, the only ingredient I needed to purchase was the shrimp.  See, I have this problem of buying everything that looks good in the produce section thinking I am going to make incredible dishes with them. The reality is that they usually sit in my veggie drawer going bad.  So this dish was a huge step for produce dilemma!

Now, I love spicy food; of course, szechwan by definition had alot of red pepper and ginger making the sauce somewhat hot.  However, I found that after doubling the ingredients for the sauce, it wasnt spicy at all.  It could have used another dose of red pepper to meet my taste buds.

All in all, this was another success in the Mr. F dinner book.  Now, after a long workday, plate in hand with a glass of wine, the evening is complete.

Monday, March 1, 2010

S'more Cake Bites



This idea was stemmed from Bakerella's adorable cupcake pops and a variety of marshmallow frosting recipes.  A moist chocolate center concoction with a bottom surrounded by a hard chocolate/graham cracker shell and topped with a toasted marshmallow frosting.  Ooohhhhhh, they are so good!

I wish I could tell you that these bite-sized mounds of s'more deliciousness were my ultimate goal.  But alas, these are the product of a failed attempt (see everything I make doesnt always work!) So I improvised. Was it the chocolate cake center? Nope, the chocolate cake mixed with chocolate frosting was so perfect that I will definitely try the same technique to create future treats.  Was it my placement of the graham cracker? Again no, I played around with a few ideas on placement but adding crushed graham crackers to the hard shell was a great choice. So where did my fantastic original idea stray?

Let me clarify when I say "failed attempt".  I am NOT referring to taste.  In the taste arena, these were PERFECT.  I failed in my vision which was the same product, shaped as a cupcake and on a lollipop stick.  As you can see the shape is more acorn than cupcake. The other half of the problem was the size. I made the cakes too big resulting in a weight bearing issue with the lollipop sticks.  Simply put, the cake was too heavy to stay on top of the stick.  Lastly, a problem encountered later (which I forgot to mention) was the marshmallow frosting.  While delicious, the frosting was...marshmallow.  And marshmallow tends to be sticky.  So how was I to package these things once finished!  Luckily, the frosting dried a bit and I was able to lightly wrap them for travel. (Due to my poor self-control and husband who isnt big on sweets, I get these out of the house ASAP)

Good? no, Amazing is a better description. Will I make again with some alterations? Definitely.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chicken Piccata

Ive just noticed that I have been posting alot of chicken and spinach recipes variations.  What can I say, I enjoy them both. So here is another.  Although, if it makes me look any better, I do not usually serve this with spinach. However, we needed a veggie so this was my choice. 

Chicken Piccata = classic italian.  Am I Italian? No, but I think this is a worthy enough version to deamed authentic.  Yes,  it is that good  every time. The trick is making your chicken thin. In fact, the cutlet pictured is pushing the limits but it was still delicious.  Over time and by using a variety of techniques, I have found the fastest and cheapest way to get the chicken thin was by slicing whole chicken breasts.  Pre-cut chicken cutlets are waste of money for the amount of chicken. And besides the noise and mess of pounding chicken, it just takes too much time. So, in the idea of butterflying a chicken breast, I just cut the poultry to the desired thickness.  Some may not call this the "professional" way but Im not a chef and this way works for me. 

By the way, if someone mentions to you that they do not like capers, make this dish anyway and urge them to retry.  Most people have just not had them the right way and this recipe will change their mind. Case in point, Mr. F. He used to pick out capers and turned away from dishes with this ingredient.  My answer to his problem was making this recipe.  Capers are not a common ingredient in childhood dishes; thus, at the first opportunity for tasting, they are tried on their own or with some sort of seafood.  At least this is my belief, everyone has their own excuses but I would still give it a try.

If you want to make this dish extra special, try making fresh pasta.  It goes perfectly with the lightness of the poultry, capers, and lemon sauce, mmmmmmm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hamantaschen


Its Purim time! And what do Jewish people do best but make food reminiscent of biblical stories and symbols. I have to tell you, in my many years at temple sunday-school, I didnt really pay attention to Purim.  I thought of it as a Jewish Halloween with minimal costume choices: Esther, Haman, and whats the other guy?  Anyway, Haman, he's the important one b/c he had the cookie; hence, Hamantaschen.

For my non-jewish friends, if anyone asks you, Haman was bad guy and he had a 3-pointed hat. Thus, his hat has been turned into this cookie. At least, I think I got it right.  As I said before, I didnt really listen in sunday school. Without this cookie, I dont know where I would be.

Now alot of traditionalists probably wouldnt deem my recipe authentic.  I didnt make the dough from scratch.  Again, I cheated and used a boxed cake mix but if you tasted them, you would never have known.  As for the filling, I did go with the usual poppyseed (which also happens to be my favorite), apricot preserves, and chocolate.  Anything can pretty much work for a filling but its the technique that you have to master.

Yes, unfortunately, there is a technique to making perfect shaped Hamantaschen.  The most common problem people have is getting the edges to stick together. Some recipes tell you not to pinch the sides; others say the opposite.  I am a pincher and its b/c the dough isnt cream cheese based  like so many other recipes.  Personally, I reserve that dough for rugellah (which is AMAZING) but I will leave that for another post.  And because I can pinch the sides of this dough, I also think its the reason it can withstand a variety of fillings.

Have fun and go crazy, Haman did (at least I think so)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tarragon Chicken Salad


Everyone needs a good chicken salad recipe and this one is mine.  Traditionally, Im a fan of grapes and pecans but I've learned that a large percentage of people do not like to mix sweet and savory.  Strange I know.  In fact, Mr. F happens to be one of these strange individuals.  So to avoid making myself  a whole bowl of chicken salad and then eating it all myself, I have developed this delicious alternative.

Trust me, you cant go wrong with this one. Its fast, easy and delicious.  For goodness sake, its chicken salad. Who doesnt love chicken salad?

For an even tastier dish, try this chicken salad on toasted baguettes topped with a small slice of melted cheese.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan


In the spirit of having more meatless weeknight dinners, I have been trying to incorporate more hearty vegetables into a main meal.  First up, an eggplant parmesan. While most recipes for this dish call for the eggplant to be fried, I have opted for a baked variation.  Paired with a homemade marinade and a mix of mozzerella and parmesan cheeses, I would have say that the meal was a success.

My only problem: maybe I should have made more for leftovers.
 
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