Sunday, October 28, 2007

That got the ol' heart pumping...

You know it's really good (or really bad) when a baked good actually makes your heart rate speed up dramatically. Today, after talking to my mom who made the above cupcakes I was inspired to give them a crack as well. Hey--I had all the goods on hand (which is a little scary considering I needed everything from buttermilk to sour cream to creamy peanut butter) and some free time so I gave another Ina recipe a shot.

And...whoa. They're tasty, but "rich" is not quite strong enough a modifier. These are intense little treats, so buyer (eater?) beware!

Stephen says: Needs more sugar. Kidding!
Stephen's rating: No...9.5...

Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Icing
Courtesy Ina Garten

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No soup for you!

This (delicious) Mexican chicken soup would surely have been a favorite of the Soup Nazi. The flavors are complex, there's a nice level of spice and the texture is creamy and delightful from the liberal use of corn tortillas. It's also a fairly quick meal to pull together, once you chop all of your veggies (I still hate prep work!). Warning: it yields MUCH more than the stated 6-8 servings. My fairly large dutch oven was filled to capacity, so make sure to use a large pot or halve the recipe.

Stephen says: It's like a soft taco...but soup.
Stephen's rating: 8.5

Courtesy Ina Garten (as is photo)

4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I fought the cookie and the cookie won...

***picture forthcoming***

SO. For a while now, I have been having a little "cookie problem." I'm not sure from whence my dysfunction stems, but I can't seem to produce a normal-ish cookie. In the past few months, I've had cookies that hopelessly ran together, cookies that burned to a crisp and cookies that refused to spread out (but instead puffed straight up). What's the DEAL? I think my oven is functioning properly, so the problem must rely with the cook.

On Sunday I set out to change this unfortunate streak with a tried and true recipe (Cook's Illustrated--how could I go wrong?). I made their oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies and while I'm happy to report that 90% of them turned out just fine, I probably should mention that three of them caught fire. Yes. Really. I still have no idea what happened there.

All in all, the cookies were great (lots of nice butter flavor and a dense and chewy texture) and, Lord willing, if you try them they probably won't spontaneously combust.

Stephen says: Why is the kitchen filled with black smoke? Have you been making cookies again?
Stephen's rating (of the non-burnt cookies): 7.5

Courtesy Cook's Illustrated

If you prefer a less sweet cookie, you can reduce the white sugar by one-quarter cup, but you will lose some crispness. Do not overbake these cookies. The edges should be brown but the rest of the cookie should still be very light in color. Parchment makes for easy cookie removal and cleanup, but it’s not a necessity. If you don’t use parchment, let the cookies cool directly on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 pound), softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven racks to low and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.

2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together, then stir them into butter-sugar mixture with wooden spoon or large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

3. Form dough into sixteen to twenty 2-inch balls, placing each dough round onto one of two parchment paper–covered, large cookie sheets. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. (Halfway during baking, turn cookie sheets from front to back and also switch them from top to bottom.) Slide cookies on parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It may be 90 degrees outside, but it's fall dammit!

At least that was my attitude last weekend when I decided to make pumpkin bread. To me, nothing says "fall" like a house filled with the smell of cinnamon and cloves. The rain and cold weather will be here soon enough (boo!), so in the meantime we enjoyed an easy fall favorite. I used a recipe I found online and thought it was actually very good. I will probably reduce the amount of sugar next time, but otherwise will keep it as is.

As a firm butter devotee, it was a little strange baking with oil, but I found that it kept the bread incredibly moist so it all worked out in the end. If you don't eat this bread liberally with cream cheese, you'll be doing yourself a disservice. Who cares about heart health? Am I right?

Stephen says: This is healthy, yes? I mean...pumpkin's a vegetable, isn't it?
Stephen's rating: 9

Recipe for Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
Courtesy Laurie Bennett (

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.

Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A healthy meal! (sort of)

After chowing down on dinner last night, Stephen casually asks me, "So...what's in pea salad? You know...nutritionally." I was puzzled. Stephen never asks about the nutritional content of, well, anything. But, last night he was health-focused and happy to learn that our meal was (for the most part) pretty healthy.

I made honey-brushed chicken thighs and they were incredibly spicy, flavorful and so moist and juicy. I highly encourage "breast fans" to try a chicken thigh from time to time: dark meat isn't scary, people! Our pea salad was a perfect compliment to the spicy chicken: cool, creamy and mild in flavor. I used reduced fat sour cream and skipped the nuts and bacon to keep it more heart-friendly. It was still delish!

Stephen says: I wish the Mariners were this hot!
Stephen's rating: 8
Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs
Courtesy Cooking Light
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder object
1 teaspoon salt object
1 teaspoon ground cumin object
1 teaspoon paprika object
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper object
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
6 tablespoons honey object
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.

Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

Friday, September 7, 2007

An apology & a promise...

I have a confession: I have been avoiding our blog because of shame. Shame that we have been cooking delicious meals (hey! nachos are delicious!) and not taking photos and writing about them. I am most particularly apologetic to my grandparents, who are the inspiration for this blog.

So, grandma and grandpa: this is a promise that Stephen and I will add a minimum of three new entries each week. So, starting tomorrow look forward to reading all about our new culinary adventures! And keep us honest!

We love you!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Aloha! And welcome back to the blog...

We're back from Hawaii (and a really long break from cooking & the blog)! We had a great time, but it has been fabulous being home again and getting back into the normal swing of things.

Tonight's dish was a shrimp, baby spinach & basil risotto, adapted from Bon Appetit. There's not much wrong with risotto: it's creamy, carb-y and so satisfying. Plus, this one has spinach so it's obviously very healthy. After a couple of mishaps (I'm not naming names, but let's just say that someone came home with the wrong cooking stock...twice), all went well and we were both happy with the end result. I added a teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the recipe below and instead of poaching the shrimp, I sauteed them in the onions for more flavor.

Risotto has an unfortunate reputation for being "hard" and "time consuming" and that's too bad. While it does take a willingness to stir and hang out near the stove top for a half-hour or so, it's actually a pretty simple dish for such a great impact. But enough preaching!

Stephen says: Mmmmm...good jambalaya, honey!
Stephen's rating: 8

Shrimp Risotto with Baby Spinach and Basil
From Bon Appetit

6 cups (about) low-salt chicken broth
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
11/2 cups chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
11/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice (about 9 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 6-ounce package baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Additional grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 6 cups broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Add shrimp. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand until shrimp are just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to small bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. Cover broth to keep warm.

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and stir 1 minute. Add rice and stir until edge of rice is translucent but center is still opaque, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until wine is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup chicken broth. Simmer until almost all broth is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Continue to add broth, 3/4 cup at a time, until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, stirring often and allowing almost all broth to be absorbed after each addition, about 25 minutes total. During last 5 minutes, add spinach in 4 batches, stirring and allowing spinach to wilt after each addition. Mix in shrimp, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and basil. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon risotto into shallow bowls and serve, passing additional cheese separately.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

24 people in a 800 square foot house...

Whoa! It's been a busy week! The food you see pictured here was part of yesterday's celebration of Lisa & Michael, who will be married on August 12--congrats guys!

Since I don't want to bore you with the recipes of all of our dishes, I'll highlight one that was a monster hit:

Stephen's Creamy Coleslaw
1.5 cup mayo
3 TB sugar
3 TB spicy mustard
3 bags slaw mix
1 teaspoon celery seed
3 TB white wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Juice of one large lemon

Whisk liquid ingredients, add to slaw mix and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve soon!

The rest of the menu included: Pulled pork, pulled chicken, baked beans, curry chickpea salad, two mixed green salads, fresh fruit, and a brownie tart & cheesecake for dessert. We also had margaritas, sangria, beer, wine and soda. Whew!

Please shoot me an email if you want the recipe for any of the above--they were all super tasty!

Stephen says: Stop talking to me. I'm eating.

Stephen's rating: 8

We also used some of the leftover pulled chicken on a homemade pizza tonight (I used BBQ for the sauce, yummy mozzarella and carmelized onions...drool....). Always great when you can find a new twist on leftovers! To that end, anyone in the Ballard 'hood is welcome to stop by and take a crack at eating approximately 30lbs of leftover BBQ-ed meat...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pasta and Sausage and Mascarpone, Oh My...

Well. It was a good thing Stephen and I made it to the gym this evening. Since it's the middle of the week and we've been pretty busy, I wanted something that would be tasty but not take forever to pull together. Tonight's meal of orechiette with sausage, beans and mascarpone fit the bill, but will my pants still fit? Only time will tell...

Stephen says: Those little orechiette don't look like ears...They look like bra cups.
Stephen's rating: 9

Notes: This is a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and while I am posting the original recipe here, I made a number of modifications since the original seemed a little bland. I added two minced garlic cloves, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, a little more sausage, and instead of using the pasta water I used white wine. I also subbed fresh basil for the oregano. Make sure you're pretty liberal with the salt and pepper on this one--it really brings out the mild flavor of the cheese.

I like that the recipe calls for turkey sausage--given the cheese, pork sausage would have been far too rich.

Serving suggestions: A simple green salad and fresh fruit are perfect. We also had a glass of Hedge's CMS--a great red blend.

Courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
1 pound orechiette pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound turkey sausage, casing removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large, heavy skillet warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and onions. Using a wooden spoon break up the sausage into bite-sized pieces as it browns. Continue cooking until the sausage is golden and the onions are tender. Add the beans and oregano cook for 2 more minutes. Add the cup of pasta cooking liquid and stir, scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the mascarpone cheese and stir until it dissolved into a light sauce. Add the salt, pepper, and hot pasta. Stir until coated and serve.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is it wrong to be emotional about pizza?

If I am ever in the position of needing to choose my last meal: this is it. Take note family and friends!

Tonight was the series finale of the Sopranos (loved it!) and, of course, we had to send our favorite show off in style with Italian fare and a bottle of good red wine. I made homemade pizza dough and topped it with an incredibly simple set of ingredients: fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, salt & pepper. You must splurge on the fresh mozzarella--it absolutely makes the difference.

Stephen made a Caesar salad and cracked open a bottle of cabernet...YUM.

Stephen says: delizioso!
Stephen's rating: 9


Pizza Margarita
2 tomatoes, seeded and sliced
Fresh basil
8 oz fresh mozzarella
Olive oil
1/2 batch pizza dough (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 450. Stretch (do not roll) your pizza dough until it is wide enough to cover your pizza pan. Place on oiled pan and top lightly with olive oil. Top with slices of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. Drizzle olive oil on top and generously season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 or so minutes, until cheese bubbles and your pizza begins to brown.

Pizza Dough
Courtesy Cooks Illustrated

1 3/4 cups water divided
1/2 cup warm, remaining at tap temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast (1 envelope)
2 tablespoons olive oil , plus extra for brushing dough
4 cups bread flour (note: I used all purpose and it worked great)
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
vegetable oil (or cooking spray) for oiling bowl

1. Measure 1/4 cup of warm water into 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm water plus remaining 1 1/4 cups tap water and olive oil. Meanwhile, pulse flour and salt in workbowl of large food processor fitted with steel blade to combine. Add liquid ingredients (holding back a tablespoon or so) to flour and pulse together. If dough does not readily form into ball, stop machine, add remaining liquid, and continue to pulse until ball forms. Process until dough is smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds longer.

2. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand with a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Put dough into medium-large, oiled bowl, and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. 3. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and use chef’s knife or dough scraper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths, depending on number and size of pizzas desired. Form each piece into ball and cover with damp cloth. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape as desired.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Summer in Seattle

Okay, it's allegedly summer. But today is a pretty typical June day for us Seattle dwellers--60 degrees and rainy. Our plan was to drive up to Camano Island to visit with some of Stephen's family who are in town, but Mother Nature has kept us at home (boo!!). SO, instead of breaking out the grill and running around in tanktops and flip flops like the rest of the country (I hate you, BTW), we are hunkering down and enjoying some cold-weather favorites.

Specifically, we snarfed some popovers (jazzed up with some herbs & cheese) and some pretty darn good beef and dumpling stew. I was having a hankering for my Grandma's famous chicken & dumpling soup but...I just couldn't do it. Call it stage fright or performance anxiety, but I knew that my efforts wouldn't hold up to the dumplings of my childhood. The beef version was a pretty good stand in--rich, good mix of flavors, and plenty of dumpling action. The dumplings were fairly light and fluffy and I tend to prefer my soup dumplings a scootch hardier, so I may dense them up next time.

Stephen says: I dare you to make a beef stew I won't eat. Not gonna happen.
Stephen's rating: 8


Beef & Dumpling Stew
2 lbs top round steak
1/2 cup flour
Assorted herbs (I used thyme, basil, and whatever else I had close at hand. It all had sort of a French-provincial flavor mixed together, but you could use whatever you prefer.)
1 onion
6 carrots
4 celery stalks
Box beef stock
2 cups tomato juice

Cut beef into 1-inch pieces and dredge in flour (add a little salt and pepper to your flour). Heat olive oil at medium-high heat and add meat. Cook for 5-8 minutes, or until brown. Add onion, carrot, celery, herbs, salt/pepper, tomato juice and stock. Simmer for around 50 minutes, or until beef and veggies are tender. Add a little sugar or honey if there is any tartness from the tomato juice. Add dumplings (recipe follows) by heaping TB and simmer (covered) for an additional 12 minutes, or until dumplings are done.

1.5 cup flour
3 TB butter
3/4 cup milk
3 tsp baking powder

Mix dry ingredients, add wet, and stir until combined.

Herbs (I used the same ones in the soup)
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups flour
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450. Beat eggs in bowl vigorously. Add other ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour into greased muffin tins, filling to 3/4 full. Recipe makes 12 popovers. Bake 25 minutes.

Important: Do not check on the popovers while cooking or they will fall. It's also important that your oven is completely preheated before putting your tins in for baking.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A slow cooker AND some cheating

A fancy meal this was not. But how much do you love it when something (ridiculously) easy tastes delish? The pulled pork was made in the slow cooker (I always sort of worry about our house burning down with the crockpot on, but pork is worth it, no?) and the baked beans were, well....not homemade, exactly. The slaw topping was leftover from last night's dinner and easy and pleasy mid-week dish. And you can tell people it took you hours (liar-liar-pants-on-fire though you may be) and they'll buy it--promise.

Stephen says: (indignant) I did not eat two sandwiches! I ate two open faced sandwiches, which equals basically ONE sandwich.

Stephen's rating: 8.5

Serving suggestions: Mixed green salad with rasberry vinaigrette, fruity red wine or cold beer.


Pulled Pork (serves four)
2 lb boston butt
Meat rub (I used a Tom Douglas mix called Rub with Love)
Bottle BBQ sauce (I used a homemade sauce that is molasses based and a little spicy)
1 medium onion

Put pork in slow cooker and top with several cloves minced garlic--rub into meat. Cover pork liberally with rub and top generously with the BBQ sauce. Slice onion and place on top of pork. Cook on low for 8 hours. Pull pork, place on soft bun, top with slaw and chow down.

Baked Beans
2 cans store bought baked beans
2 TB brown sugar
2 TB spicy mustard
4 TB ketchup
1 tsp crushed pepper flakes

Heat beans until warm. Add other ingredients and cook for five more minutes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Fried Beer for Dinner

Well, beer in taco form, anyway. Tonight's meal sought to take a perfectly healthy set of ingredients (fish, cabbage, carrots) and make it just a little bit dangerous. Stephen and I enjoyed our beer battered fish tacos topped with a zippy coleslaw. We (of course) paired the meal with the same beer used in the batter (a nice Redhook summer ale). For a side dish we shared sliced cantelope and a tart green apple.

Brutal honesty time: While the tacos were tasty, I'm feeling a little green around the gills. Next time I will do the tacos sans frying, me thinks.

Stephen says: They're crunchy and soft. Shrunchy?

Stephen's rating: 8


Fish Tacos
1 lb white, firm fish (such as halibut or cod)
Cajun seasoning
1.5 cup flour
1 cup good beer (no MGD, please!)
Veggie oil
Warm flour tortillas

Mix a couple TB of the Cajun seasoning with 1 cup flour in a medium sized bowl. Add a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper.

In a seperate bowl, combine 1 cup flour, a TB or so of oil and the beer. Mix until smooth.

Season fish (cut into taco-sized pieces) with salt, pepper & Cajun spices. Dip fish into the dry mixture, dredge in the beer batter, and place into skillet filled 1/3 with oil (375 degrees). Fry until cooked through, 4-5 minutes.

Place on tortilla and top with coleslaw.

1 package coleslaw mix
1 tb spicy mustard
Several tb sugar
1/2 cup light mayo
2 tb rice vinegar
2 tb milk
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate until use.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Chillin' & Grillin' (family style)

If anyone has been (obsessively) watching the Food Network (ahem!), they would notice that this week's focus has been on the grill (or the "BBQ" if you're not a yankee).

And what a delight grilling can be. Tonight Stephen and I made the 30-minute trip to my parents' place where my mother (who will henceworth be termed "the master") planned a menu of grilled chicken & prawns with sides of szechuan noodle salad (mmmm...peanut sauce...), Caesar salad, mixed berries, and a really incredible rosemary/salt bread. Oh, and lemon drops, but if you've been to my parents' recently, that goes without saying.

My key contribution to the evening's menu seemed to be (in Stephen's words) over-seasoning the prawns. And drinking lots of the aforementioned lemon drops. Obviously.

Everything was delicious--the chicken was tender, the prawns were tasty (the perfect amount of spice, thankyouverymuch), and the noodle salad had peanut sauce, so how bad could it be?

Mom chose to go with the old school charcoal grill in lieu of the gas grill tonight so that she could use some wood chips for smokiness and flavor. And, like most decisions she makes in the kitchen, it was a good one.

Stephen says: I'm stuffed. But in, you know, the good way.

Stephen's rating: 9.5 (a half point taken for my too-liberal hand with the cayenne)


Chicken & Prawn Rub
4 TB brown sugar
3 tsp cayenne
4 TB paprika
2 TB ground black pepper
1 dash salt
Notes: the chicken was brined prior to grilling. Add more salt if you do not brine your meat.
The rub may be applied to any meat or shellfish prior to grilling. BBQ sauce (top secret recipe!) was added to the chicken during the cooking process. Grill chicken to 170 degrees (for breast meat) or 180 degrees (thighs & wings).

Szechuan Noodles
Courtesy Ina Garten
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup good soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
4 scallions, sliced diagonally (white and green parts)

Place the garlic and ginger in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the vegetable oil, tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, sherry, sherry vinegar, honey, chili oil, sesame oil, and ground peppers. Puree the sauce.

Add a splash of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook the spaghetti al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, place it in a large bowl, and while still warm, toss with 3/4 of the sauce. Add the red and yellow bell peppers and scallions; toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature. The remaining sauce may be added, as needed, to moisten the pasta.

If you can't handle the heat...

Get out of my blog.

I like things spicy, folks.

Today's lunch was Friday's leftover dinner: Shrimp fra Diavolo with Lemon Capellini. It was delicious served hot on Friday, but I think I like it even more chilled after it has had a day to flavor-tango in the fridge. Num. I showed some restraint when adding the chili flakes, but I still more than doubled the amount called for in the recipe. There's some chopping involved here, but it's still a very simple, straightforward meal that doesn't require a ton of expertise.

The lemon capellini is an outstanding complement to the spicy shrimp--the cool, subtle flavor of the sauce and the bright green color of the basil are just parfait. There I go with pretentious French words again...

Stephen says: Oh yeah.

Stephen's rating: 8

Lessons learned: Be careful with those shrimp! I overcooked mine slightly, which really impacts the tenderness of the shellfish. No one wants chewy shrimpers! Also, I need to look into a better way to devein. Any tips?
Also, a pound of capellini is a motherload of pasta. Probably will halve that next time.

Serving suggestions: Pair this with the dry white wine you use in the shrimp dish and serve with a classic Caesar salad.

Courtesy Giada De Laurentiis (again!)

Shrimp fra Diavolo
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes (note: we used at least 2.5 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
1 medium onion, sliced
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside. Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.

Lemon Capellini
1 pound capellini
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.

Goin' Bananas

Stephen eats one banana every day. Which means that we buy precisely seven bananas every week. Somehow (was Stephen off his game??), this week we ended up with two extra (and very brown) bananas. What to do? Banana muffins of course! This recipe is painfully easy, but the muffins are quite spectacular--very tender, very sweet, and with a great banana flavor.

Normally, I would balk at using oil instead of butter for baking, but the vegetable oil really makes these muffins moist AND because I wasn't creaming butter, I was able to easily whip up the batter without pulling out my KitchenAid mixer. Nice!

Stephen says: I have no idea what happened to the other 11 muffins.
Stephen's rating: 9

Adapted from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe
Makes 10-12 muffins

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly, but eat warm. Mmmmmm!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2007


Spicy corn chow-dah to be exact. Ohmygod...Is there anything better than a cream based soup? I mean, c'mon. This chowder has it all: half & half, white cheddar cheese AND butter. The only question is how much you prioritize fitting into your pants tomorrow.

Stephen says: This doesn't have meat in it? At all? Will there be any meat-based accompaniments?

Stephen's rating: 7

Few TB olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Few TB flour
6 cups chicken stock
2 lbs potatoes
Black pepper
Cajun seasoning (to taste)
Chili powder (to taste)
2 packages frozen corn kernels
1 cup half-and-half
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Cook onions in butter/olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and seasoning and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake

I'm not sure who Beatty is precisely, but many thanks to her for this fabulous chocolate cake recipe. The coffee (in both the cake batter and frosting) makes the chocolate flavor more complex and intense and...damn, this cake is good!

Stephen says: I like chocolate cake. A lot

Stephen's rating: 9

Lessons learned: Gah! I burned the chocolate every so slightly while microwaving it for the buttercream. Be very, very careful if you go the micro-method with chocolate--it can be a fussy little bugger.

Courtesy Ina Garten

Butter, for greasing the pans 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans 2 cups sugar 3/4 cups good cocoa powder 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 cup buttermilk, shaken 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting: 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut) 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder.

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Modifications made: I used espresso powder in lieu of instant coffee for a more intense flavor in the frosting.