Saturday, March 31, 2012

133. Coconut Chicken Curry

Call me coconuts for coconuts or is the coco for Coco Puffs…something like that…LOL

I do enjoy coconut in most anything.  I buy the cans by the case and use it in recipes that are savory all the way to the good stuff…sweets!

Maybe it's from my youth.  I lived in the Philippines and we had them readily available to us and as a kid I ate my fair share and drank the milk too.  Nothing like a fresh coconut!  YUM

So it is no surprise that my family and I eat a lot of dishes with coconut milk.  I am pretty sure curry is up there too in our top 10 list of flavors.

Tonight I was in the mood for something creamy, warm and flavorful.  Curry always hits the spot for me.  In fact I told my hubby as we sat eating dinner tonight that I could eat this dish every night.  Oh who am I kidding, you know me too well….LOL  Ok, lets just say that I will be making this again soon.

I decided to make my own "special spice" or "Indian Curry Spice".  I used to buy this curry in a can and it was so yummy but since moving to MD I cannot find it anywhere.  I have tried several other  store bought mixes and they just don't taste the same.

I have a flour mill that I love.  I brought it out of hibernation and started grinding my seeds into a fine powder to combine into this "oh so yummy" combination of the Indian culture.  By making my own, I was able to regulate how strong I wanted one spice to be and really bring out the flavors that I enjoy.

I can tell you the cardamon is expensive…but it's the spice you need for this type of curry.  I also ground my own coriander.   YES, my house was smelling wonderful by this point.

I used dried herbs for the remaining ingredients and the spice mix turned out heavenly.

This is a gluten free meal and the coconut chicken curry can be served over rice, bulgur or served on its own.  

Recipe:  Coconut Chicken Curry

8-10 deboned chicken thighs, I bought mine at Whole Foods
1 can of coconut milk
1 small container of heavy cream
1 cup of cooked carrots, cut into pieces
1/2 a bell pepper, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
2-3 T. Curry Spice, recipe below
Salt, to taste

In a fry pan heat your oil.  Add the thighs in large pieces and cook until done.

In a second fry pan heat a small amount of oil to saute the onion and red bell pepper.  Towards the end of this saute throw in the cooked carrots and saute for a few more minutes.

In a large stock pot, add the chicken thighs, veggies, cream and coconut milk.  Add the curry spice.  I would recommend starting off with 2 T. and let it cook for a few minutes, taste and then add more if you would like it to be stronger.

This soup does not need to come to a boil.  I like to let it cook on medium, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes to let everything cook and simmer together.  This gives you time to prepare your rice or grain of choice to be served with the curry.

You will need to add salt to this recipe.  I always wait until the end to add this.  I know that many are on a low sodium diet and so I don't usually cook with a lot of salt.  So TASTE this before you serve it and add the amount of salt that your family is comfortable using.  ENJOY!

Recipe:  Curry Spice…This makes about half a cup of spice which should be enough for two batches of the above recipe.

1 Tablespoon of each:  cardamon powder, coriander powder, dried basil, dried thyme, dried oregano, cloves (optional)

2 Tablespoons of :  yellow curry powder

1/2 teaspoon of:  red cayenne pepper…use your judgment and increase or decrease based on your pallet.

Combine spices together and add to the above mix when called for in the recipe.

132. Fried Green Tomatoes

This is a treat if you ever get to make this yourself or have it served to you.  I love this combination of the tart tomato with the fried crust.  The soft interior with the crunchy exterior.  My mouth is watering as I type.

BUT, I am too full to eat another bite…LOL

My daughter had never had these before and requested them for dinner this week.  We happened to come upon a brand new bin at Whole Foods that had just been freshly stocked with a huge basket of green tomatoes.

We anxiously got our green baggie and started selecting the greenest tomatoes we could find.  Three in all. I don't know if you would want to eat more then a couple of slices.  For me it is more of a side dish experience.

We have a restaurant in Annapolis called Middletons and they serve delicious fried green tomatoes.

I started off with masa (corn flour) as the main choice for dredging my slices in.

Two reasons:

1.  I was trying to get away from using white wheat.

2.  I just love the flavor of corn anything.

I think it worked perfectly and fried up nice and crispy on the outside while the tomato was soft and warm on the inside.

You can add whatever spices you want to your choice of flour too.  This would allow you to change the flavor a bit.  Some suggestions would be : cayenne (spicy), grated parm cheese (cheesy) or curry powder to name a few flavors to the flour.

For me, being in the kitchen is always a case of Bill Nye the Science Guy meets Julia Childs.  I can't go in and not experiment, try new things, add a little of this, etc… to make it compatible with my families taste buds and I would not expect anything less from you with any of my recipes.

Enjoy these oh so yummy morsels of summer ( I know it's still spring  but we are having unusually warm weather on most days…LOL)

Recipe: Fried Green Tomatoes

3 green tomatoes,  I like to buy these at Farmer's Markets or Whole Foods
2 eggs
1 cup of masa harina (corn flour)
1/2 tsp of pepper…we like extra pepper in ours
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Canola oil for frying

In a large fry pan, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan…it does not have to be deep and your tomatoes do not need to float.

In two separate bowls add the eggs in one and beat.  Add the flour and spices to the second and mix well.

Slice your tomatoes into thick slices.  I get about three slices per tomato.  If they are too thin they may not hold up as well.  I also did not have to remove the slimy seeds inside, my tomatoes did not have many.

When your oil gets hot enough to start frying, dip the tomato slices first in the masa, then the egg and repeat.

I fried the slices until golden brown on each side, about 8 minutes total.

These can be served with ranch or as they are straight out of the pan.

131. Bulgur Teff Bread

 Cooking some things gluten free for the past few years has introduced me to so many new grains and flours, Teff being one of those.  I have used it a few times in recipes for muffins and pancakes.

When working with the bulgur over the weekend, I needed another "brown" flour to add to this bread recipe.  If you have ever seen a bag of teff flour then you would know that this would work perfectly for the color part.  I was concerned that it may not work for the bread though.  Teff contains no gluten.  I was also working with a rehydrated grain.

I was feeling adventurous and thought, "what the heck"…it's only one loaf.  To my surprise it worked quite well and the combination made an excellent round loaf of bread.

In doing some research with the teff, it does need some white flour to give the bread a bread feel and look.

I have found that I am now able to eat small amounts of wheat/white flour, IF, I make it from scratch.  I still struggle when I eat bread or pasta from the store.  It may be more of a sensitivity to the additives and other ingredients too.

I just love making everything from scratch any ways and so I do.

Sorry, I got off topic for a moment.  Back to the bread.

I let the bread rest, go through two rises and cool completely.  This would not be one of my quick bread recipes but it is very good.  It uses new ingredients that are healthier for you then straight white flour.

It's fun to experiment with the many different flours on the market from all around the world.  I also find that some of these flours and grains have not been changed from their original "blue print" as our current wheat has.  This is a huge deal for me.  I try not to use modified ingredients if I can help it.

Enjoy this bread!  I know that we did.

Recipe:  Bulgur Teff Bread

3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of bulgur

2 1/4-3 cups of flour, you may need to use more depending on the humidity of where you live.
2 T. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. dry yeast
1 cup of water, 125 degrees
1/4 cup of EVOO
1 cup of Teff flour

Black poppy seads, to top the bread

Prepare bulgur.  Add grains to 3/4 cup of water and let them absorb all or most of the water.  This may take up to an hour.

In your Kitchenaid with the dough hook , add the flour, teff flour and salt.

In a small bowl, add the warm water, sugar and yeast.  Let the yeast create the foam at the top.  This could take 5 minutes.  If this does not happen then you need to start over or check the dates on your yeast.

Add the yeast, water, sugar, oil and hydrated bulgur to the flour.

Mix on medium to combine the ingredients.  Your dough should not be sticking to the bottom of the bowl. If this is happening, then in small amounts, add a bit more white flour.  The dough should be pulled together in a ball.

Increase speed to medium high and mix for 3 minutes. Cover with a piece of plastic that has been sprayed with oil.  Let dough rest for 20 minutes.

Knead dough for 5 minutes.

Remove from mixing bowl and let rise in a well oiled bowl until doubled in size, 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and shape into a ball on a large stone sheet or a cookie sheet. Cover and let rise again, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the poppy seeds right before you bake your bread on the top of the loaf.

Preheat oven to 375 and bake for 30-40 minutes.  The bake time will depend on your oven.  Flours without gluten, like the teff, sometimes need extra time to bake.  The crust should be thick and golden brown.

NOTE:  Do not cut this bread until it is completely cooled.  If you cut the bread while still warm you could cause the still warm bread to stick together.  I actually liked to break this bread apart when cooled.

One loaf fed my family of 5.

130. Vegetable Soup with Bulgur

What the heck is bulgur?

Yes, I had the same question when I first heard this word.

Is it wheat? Is it a grain? Is it rice?

For a very long explanation you can go here and read all about the grain, but for the short and sweet definition.  This is it:

Bulgur wheat is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially pre-cooked. As a whole grain, it is a naturally high-fiber, low-fat, low-calorie vegetarian and vegan food ingredient.

You can use it just like rice or couscous, or any other whole grain.

One cup of cooked bulgur wheat provides 151 calories, 0.4 grams of fat, 8.2 grams of dietary fiber (that's about 33% the recommended daily value), and a healthy 5.6 grams of protein. Bulgur wheat is naturally cholesterol-free food.

WOW.  Sounds like my family found a new grain to add to our diet.

I will tell you that 2 cups soaked in water goes a long way.  I was able to make this soup, one loaf of bread and still have about 1.5 cups left over.

The grain itself does not have a strong flavor when eaten on it's own (after being soaked of course).  The soup was filling (it reminded me of a barley soup) and the bread was nutty, fluffy and delicious.

I love trying new things in my kitchen and this year so far has been fun fun fun.


Recipe: Vegetable Soup with Bulgur

6 cups of broth, you can use canned or homemade OR chicken or vegetable
1/2 cup of carrots, I used shredded
3 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 cup of red onion, sliced or diced
1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, whole
1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
6-8 medium sized fresh basil leaves
a dash of pepper
1/2 tsp of garlic powder or fresh, minced garlic
2 cups of prepared bulgur, see intructions

Parmesan cheese, for topping
avocado, for topping

Prepare your bulgur.  This may take a few hours depending on the type of bulgur you have purchased.  It can easily be done over night too or the day before and added to your soup at dinner time.

Saute the carrots, celery and onion in the olive oil.

In a large pot, add all of the ingredients.

Cook on medium heat.

Turn heat down low and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.  This allows the basil to have a chance to meld with the soup.  It's not strong, so if you want more basil, please add more.

Taste your soup and add salt as needed.  I did not include this in the recipe because some broths are saltier than others and the cook needs to regulate this ingredient to meet your families needs.

I added fresh avocado to each bowl along with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Delicious, easy and healthy!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spinach Pasta

Making pasta is such an ego boosting experience.  LOL  For many it seems out of reach.  We doubt ourselves. We buy every pasta book that we can find and then they sit on our shelves…untouched.

I will admit, it can be a daunting task to a new cook. It can be expensive to start (if you want all of the bells and whistles) but the rewards, if you try and succeed, are unexplainable.

You smile.

You feel relief.

You can't wait to do it again….and again….over and over.

It's the first time that the dough comes together, the first bite of pasta from a loved one, the feeling you get in your stomach once you realize that "you did it" and "that it wasn't that hard".

I am starting to sound sappy…but it's true.

Talk to most home chefs and they have probably had some of these experiences with making pasta.

Over the years I have made a ton of pasta.  Usually I use the pasta for ravioli's, spaghetti or tagliatelle.

I have always wanted to make pasta that was tinted with some type of pureed vegetable.  When I saw this recipe for green spinach pasta I just knew I wanted to make it.  I saved the recipe on my Pasta board with Pinterest.

Yesterday must have been the day because I woke up and discovered that it was National Spinach Day and the excitement over came me.  I quickly found the recipe and went to work.

Yes, it is work when you are dealing with schedules for the kids, a whiney dog, a cat that is crying and a 5 year old that thinks she is the chef in the family.  LOL

Isabella loves to make her own pasta and to play with the machine.  She was so proud of her "spaghetti" that she ate everything she made…two huge bowls.   I love that little kidlet!

This recipe is easy.  The instructions are pretty straight forward.  BUT…what if you are reading this and you have never made pasta before.  This is where I struggle with writing my recipes.  WHY?

It is so easy for me to copy and paste, give credit to Paula and be done.  SIMPLE.

But I can't.

Because, like me when I first started, what if you have never made this before…there are tricks to know, there are reason's that I do certain things, I don't want you to fail.

I am a curious person, I need reasons and explanations.  I assume that my readers want the same thing.  If you don't, then skip to the bottom and run with it baby…run like the wind.  Although, IF, you need more "explaining Lucy" (you should use Ricky's voice from I Love Lucy when you read that part)  then I hope that I can offer you your answers and a bit of encouragement to try and then succeed with which ever dish you decide to try from my blog.

Pasta making is like bread making.  There is a learning curve but once you get through your first few batches and you can read the dough and make your adjustments based on the recipe, the humidity, the type of pasta that you are making, it does all come together.

You will smile.

You will feel relief.

You will have joy.

Recipe:  Spinach Pasta
pasta recipe is by of Bell'alimento
sauce recipe by Sherron Watson (me)

What You Will Need:

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 eggs
pinch salt
1 cup cooked spinach - pureed
Marinara Sauce-recipe to follow

What To Do:

Place flour into the bowl of your stand mixer. Create a well. Add eggs, salt. Using paddle attachment, mix together until well combined. Add spinach. Continue mixing until a ball forms. Scrape sides as necessary. 

Adjust recipe here.  Add more flour if dough is wet.

This is the step that you really have to pay attention to, your dough.  You want your dough to form the ball that she is talking about.  If your dough is still sticking to the bottom of your bowl, then you need to add a little bit more flour.  Just a teaspoon at a time will do the trick.  The dough will continue to be mixed in the bowl and you will notice that it is not sticking to the bottom of the bowl anymore.  The dough will feel very stiff if you touch it at this stage of the game.

Switch to dough hook and knead dough for approximately 5-6 minutes. Cover mixing bowl with kitchen towel and allow dough to rest for at least 30 minutes.

This is the step that takes your dough from a stiff ball of flour and egg to a supple version that is soft and pliable.  You really need to mix the dough the whole amount of time that she recommends, don't skimp on this part.  The flour needs to be worked and this will get the job done for you.  Otherwise this part will need to be done by hand and it can take twice as long.  Your dough has to rest!  Again, this step is important.  You will notice that as your dough sits longer and longer it gets softer and softer.   If you won't use the dough right away, you can wrap the 4 equal portions in plastic wrap and set them aside.

Attach roller attachment to mixer. I used my pasta machine that is not an attachment to my mixer. Cut dough ball into 4 equal portions. Take 1 portion and flatten it with your hand. Run through roller attachment until it reaches a level 4 thinness.

I give step by step instructions here on how to run your pasta through a pasta machine.  You should run it through on 0 several times while refolding the dough into thirds each time.  Then start going through the numbers on your pasta machine. I stopped at 6.  This dough was tricky to work with the machine.  It was very damp compared to my other recipe.  This matters because it means that you have to use a lot more flour when running the dough through the machine.  Don't be afraid to dust your dough sheet each time you run it through the machine.  You don't want your dough getting stuck in the machine.  It also helps to let the sheets sit for a minute and get a bit dry to the touch before running them through your pasta attachment.  I also like to use my pastry scrapper to square up the end before running it through the attachment.

Attach Fettuccine attachment to mixer. Feed dough through. Lay fettuccine on a lightly floured work surface. Continue same process with 3 remaining dough portions.

This recipe made enough for my family of 5.  I have a drying rack that I like to hang my pasta on.  I live in a very humid area and laying the pasta on a cooking sheet for any length of time, causes the pasta to get very soft and stick together.  I find that by letting it hang and dry the noodles cook up wonderfully.  I also had a reader use coat hangers to hang her pasta.  I love that idea!  

In a large stock pot boil your water and add salt.  I big tablespoon of salt.  These noodles cook quickly, maybe 3-4 minutes per batch.  

Recipe: Marinara Sauce, simple but oh so good

2  cans of tomato sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 T. fresh basil, minced
1 T. fresh oregano, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sugar (optional)

In a sauce pan combine the above ingredients.  Cook over medium heat and let simmer for 30 minutes or longer.  Taste your sauce and make sure that it has a good balance of flavors for your family.  We like ours a little bit sweet, so I add a touch of sugar.   

I would recommend starting the sauce first so that it has time for the herbs and tomatoes to blend together.

Serve this sauce with your fresh pasta and top with Parmesan Cheese.


Monday, March 26, 2012

128. Rhubarb Strawberry Tart

My husband loves rhubarb.  For 23 years he has been asking me to make something with rhubarb.  Quite frankly this fruit (I am assuming it's called a fruit) has scared me.  To be honest, I don't like sour things.  

I am the one person that probably does not like Sour Patch Kids or to suck on lemon wedges…my kids love these two things.  My husband loves those Sour Lemon heads and when he was in Japan he fell in love with all of the sour candies they had.

Rhubarb to me, was like a foreign object until I took the time to read about it, study it and eventually try it.  

While traveling in our trailer on our GAP year from life, I found myself presented with a bunch of rhubarb.  It was a wonderful opportunity for me to try something new, surprise my hubby and challenge the inner cook with in myself.

I ended up making a basic rhubarb and strawberry pie with a crumb topping.  Making a pie inside an RV oven is a feat in and of itself,  but it worked and I was hooked.  

I learned that the rhubarb is not as sour once cooked and when it has been balanced with a little bit of sugar it becomes a treat.  

When I went shopping a few weeks back, Whole Foods had a huge bin of rhubarb and the wheels in my head started spinning.  I immediately new I wanted to make a tart with a chocolate crust.

I love tarts!  The crust is so easy and can be made so many different ways and the fillings are countless.

Oh I was on fire!  I could not wait to get home and start cooking….and baking…and creating!

I love when a recipe comes together like this.  I love the joy and excitement that comes when you are in the creative zone.  I just love cooking!

I knew that this recipe would take a few days to prepare because I wanted to make my own curd.  I have been watching others this past year making their own  and I wanted to try this year to mark this off of my "to-do" list.  I am so glad that I did.  It was wonderful!

I have been gathering recipes and found one that I felt I could make successfully.  This is the recipe that I used here.  This recipe was found on the website of Gilt Taste.

It worked like a gem and the instructions were easy to follow.  The only thing they don't tell you is that in order to get the curd pink…you have to add food coloring.  Otherwise rhubarb cooks to a pretty yellow color.  Start off adding just a touch of red and then add more to achieve the tone you want for your curd.

These are both rhubarb curds.  The yellow is in it's natural state and the pink was the one I added red food coloring to.

Of course this tart can be made with store bought curd, I just don't know if you will find the flavor you want or need.

This tart is a show stopper and the blending of chocolate, strawberries and rhubarb is exceptional.  It will wow your guest and leave you wanting one more bite.  

Blending rhubarb in your blender is a piece of cake.  I used my blender to measure how much I needed and then blended small batches.  8 pieces of  rhubarb took 3 batches.

Recipe:  Rhubarb Strawberry Tart

1-Tart crust, recipe to follow
2 cups of Strawberry or Rhubarb Curd, store bough or make your own
3-4 cups of fresh Strawberries, sliced
Rhubarb syrup, recipe to follow
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips, melted

Chocolate Almond Coconut Crust

2 cups of almond meal
3/4 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
2 T. sugar
3 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all crust ingredients in a bowl.  Pat down into a tart pan, going half way up the sides.  See picture below.  Bake fore 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven to cool.

Add the curd into the cooled tart crust.  Find recipe here.

Wash, slice and add your strawberries to the top of the curd.  Try to drain your strawberries of any extra water or juice.  NOTE:  If your strawberries are tart, you may want to add some sugar to them before adding them to the tart.  My strawberries were red but not very sweet for this tart so I did add some sugar.  I have a feeling that once summer hits and the flavor of the strawberries becomes more sweet I won't have to do this step.

I made a simple rhubarb syrup to go over the strawberries.  This can be achieved by blending a few stalks of rhubarb and then straining it through some cheese cloth.  You should try to have about 1/2 cup of juice.  Add 3 T. sugar and cook over a medium high heat in a small sauce pan.  The juice and sugar will reduce to a thick syrup that can be drizzled over the strawberries.  This process can take about 30 minutes depending on how thick you want your syrup.  This step can be skipped if you don't have the time or want to add this layer to your tart.

Finally, melt your chocolate and pipe over the tart to make it look criss-crossed.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Any left overs should also be kept in the fridge.  As your tart sits, you will find that the strawberries become more soft and produce their own juice.  I found that this did not affect the crust or make the curd runny.  ENJOY!


Carrot Cake

I did not grow up eating carrot cake.  I don't even remember my grandma making a carrot cake, EVER.  So I was caught off guard when I had the urge to make one myself.

I could not stand eating cooked carrots as a kid.  Just the smell would send me running to the bathroom in horror.  Raw carrots were okay once in a while, just not the cooked ones.

I can remember being at a church event about 20 years ago and being presented with the opportunity to test someone's "famous" dish.  Not wanting to say no or be unkind, I agreed.  We walked back to the kitchen and there before me was a HUGE bowl of cooked carrots that had been prepared with a ginger flavored sauce.

I found myself in an uncomfortable position….what to do, what to do.

Mentally I was freaking out, and outwardly I had the appearance of a refined lady.  I smiled, took the plate and took the first bite.  I waited.  I expected the carrots to remind me that they were not accepted by my body and to take off running to the nearest bathroom.  

I waited some more…and nothing!  I had been cured of my aversion to cooked carrots.  YEAH! 

To this day, I don't go out of my way to make them often, but I did get the recipe for the carrots I tasted above and have served them several times through out the last few years.  I will search for that recipe and share them this summer when I get some fresh carrots from the farmers market.

My feelings for this vegetable might explain why my family never made carrot cake…LOL  

I chose this recipe to make because it had so many fun ingredients: coconut, pineapple, pecans and carrots.  I felt like it would be a tropical paradise in every bite…and it was!    The title for this recipe has the word "best" included in it.  I can tell you for a fact that every recipe with this word does not make it the best every time.  I have been disappointed and so went into this with an understanding that it may or may not be the BEST.

I can tell you, after the fact, that it is pretty close to being the perfect carrot cake recipe.  I delivered half of this cake to my neighbor and he LOVED it, my husband ate the other half (just about) and the kids thought it was good too.

The cake is beautiful when cut, holds it's shape, stays moist and as it sits for a few days in the fridge, becomes a little bit better.

My daughter who is 5 is always telling me, "Mommy, when I am older, I will like that food".  She is much wiser then I ever was at her age.  She is right.  Our taste buds change and develop as we age and it's always a good idea to try new things throughout your life time.  I am glad that I did and the carrot lesson taught me to revisit some food items from my past that were not my favorites.  Since then I have discovered that I enjoy: beets, grits, beans, blue cheese and of course, carrots.

Enjoy your day!

Recipe:  Carrot Cake 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (3 1/2-ounce) can flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Line 2 round cakepans with wax paper; lightly grease and flour wax paper. Set pans aside.

Stir together first 4 ingredients.
Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in carrot and next 3 ingredients. Pour batter into prepared cakepans.
Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Cut the cakes in half so that you have four layers.  Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.  See below to frost your cake with out having a ton of crumbs to deal with.

Recipe:  Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
5-6 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
3-4 T. milk,  I used coconut milk

Pictures below of instructions:

I shredded my own carrots.  One cup was about 2 medium size carrots.

I filled the cake pans this full and they baked wonderfully.  I was able to cut the cakes in half and this gave my my four layers.

Having the parchment in the bottom of the pans is amazing!  Your cakes will never stick.  Use a pencil to trace the bottom of your pan onto the parchment paper and cut out the circles.  Place them in the bottom and spray with oil and flour.  When your cake is done, turn them over onto a rack and peal off the paper.

Stack your slices and add the frosting to each layer.  Take a basting brush and dust off any crumbs on the plate and on the sides of the cake.  When frosting a cake you do not want lots of crumbs in your final layer of frosting.  By brushing off the crumbs you will eliminate some of this.

The next step is the under layer of frosting.  This is important because this the layer that traps those final crumbs.  I usually do a thin layer to fill in any holes and gaps, level the cake, and insure that the crumbs are all under control.  I take this cake and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  When I add the final layer of frosting it is amazing out simple and easy the process is.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

126. Beef Noodle Soup

If I had to eat one style of food for the rest of my life it would be a toss up between Italian and Asian. 

 We love the flavors of Japan, Korea and Thailand.  I don't eat a lot of Chinese food because everything I like is fried…LOL  

I love rice and noodles.  I love soups.  We love the flavors of soy sauce, fish sauce, hoison sauce, spicy, sweet and salty.  These are the flavors that I find when we cook asian meals.  

I always feel good after eating a meal like these because they are not heavy and usually have a ton of veggies.

This soup can be made without noodles too.  In fact I usually make the noodles separate and add the noodles to each bowl and then pour the soup over it.  The broth is the best part, in my opinion, and so when the noodles are all gone and the veggies have been fished out…I still keep the broth and have it for a quick lunch the next day.  No need to waste the tastiness of this yummy soup.

The broth is what always remains the same and the veggies or meat change base on what I have on hand.  You are seeing two sets of pictures from two different days of preparation.  You can really customize this dish to what you and your family enjoy.

Recipe:  Beef Noodle Soup

1 package of asian noodles.  I use the Ho Fan (Vermicelli)  These work best for us.  You can use any rice noodle that your family enjoys.

2-3 cups of meat.  I have used chicken, shrimp and beef in this recipe with excellent results. I usually don't mix the three meats but you could if you like that combination.

10 cups of beef broth  It sounds like a lot, but our family loves this soup and we eat it for two days.

1/3 cup of soy sauce
1 tsp. fish sauce

1 head of bok choy

5 cups of veggies:  carrots, celery, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, garlic, or anything your family enjoys.

cilantro for garnish

Prepare your noodles according to the package.  Read your directions for the noodles.  Depending on which noodles you buy they have different preparation methods and this can mess you up if you have to let your noodles soak for 30+ minutes.

In a large pot, add your broth, soy sauce and fish sauce.  You will want to taste your broth to make sure the flavor is to your liking.  Some like more fish sauce and soy sauce.   I have given you the minimum recommended amount.

Cook your meat.  I have used ground hamburger, slice flank steak, grilled chicken or precooked shrimp.

Prepare all of your veggies :

Carrots: sliced or shredded
Mushrooms: sliced or whole
bok choy: I leave about 3 inches of white rib and then slice the leafs in 1 inch strips.
onion: sliced or diced
garlic: minced
bell pepper: diced

Throw these veggies and your meat into your hot broth.  Stirring occasionally to mix the things that float to the top of your pot.  This should cook about 15 minutes.

In a soup bowl, add your noodles.  Top with broth and veggies.  I like to serve mine with cilantro if I have it on hand….it taste amazing!


125. Purple Potato Chips

I love discovering new things to play with in the kitchen.  Discovering these purple potato's was so much fun!

A few months ago I found a recipe by Leite's Culinaria for some amazing potato chips.  I have tried to make these in the past and not with great luck.  What I liked about David's recipe is that he encouraged us to use a thermometer to make sure that our oil was the right temp.   DING DING DING….DUH

I had never done this before and it made a world of difference.  I was not letting my oil get hot enough and this was not producing a crispy chip.  Well, I now know and these will be made again!

I bought a huge bag not realizing just how many slices you can get out of one of these cute things…LOL  I used the remaining potatoes for our St. Patty's Day dinner with our corn beef…delicious!

I will tell you that if you don't have a mandolin than I would try to borrow one or go buy one.  Having my chips all the same width was nice.  It meant they all cooked relatively at the same speed.

The other thing that you want to ensure is that your slices are patted dry.  Mixing water with the oil creates bigger bubbles while frying and this can become dangerous if you are not cooking these in a large enough pot.  I actually play it safe and usually use a larger pot than I need to be on the really safe side.

I can tell you that these chips lasted less then 10 minutes at my house.  My family loved them and it was a fun treat to share.  I used Kosher salt because I loved seeing the grains of white salt on the purple back drop.

So I am encouraging you to try and find purple potatoes and surprise your friends or family with purple potato chips.  

IF….that is a big IF…you have left overs, make sure you put them in a sealed bag or they may go soft.  I live in a humid state and this happens with everything that we leave out or open.


Recipe:  Purple Potato Chips

This is David Leite's recipe from Leite's Culinaria.  His site and original recipe can be found here. My notes are in red.

Peanut or canola oil for frying I used canola.
2 large baking potatoes, peeled if desired I used purple potatoes

1. Pour enough oil to reach a depth of 2 3/4 inches in a deep fryer or a large, deep pot. Do not overfill the fryer or pot as the oil will bubble up when the potatoes are added. Heat the oil to 325°F (163°C). Line a baking sheet with a paper bag cut open or with a wire cooling rack and place it next to the stove. 
Reaching this temperature takes longer then you think, this was my error in the past.  Using a thermometer made a huge difference for my chips.
2. Meanwhile, set up a turning vegetable slicer with the straight blade. Cut off both ends of a large baking potato and attach one end of the potato to the grip at the end of the handle; the other end of the potato should sit flush against the blade. Turn the handle, pushing toward the potato with gentle pressure. The potato will rotate through the blade, forming extremely long ribbons of potato.
I used my mandolin set on the smallest width and sliced them into a bowl of water.  With 5 small potatoes I got about 3 cups of chips.
3. Place the potatoes on paper towels and pat dry; they should be very, incontrovertibly dry before they go into the hot oil, as any residual moisture will cause the oil to bubble up and spatter even more.

4. Carefully add some of the potato ribbons to the hot oil, working in batches. Add only enough potatoes to make a layer that is no more than 2 inches thick. Fry the potatoes until they are golden brown on the bottom. Using long tongs, gently turn the potatoes over. Continue to fry until the potatoes are evenly browned and crisp, about 6 minutes total, depending on the thickness of your ribbons.
I found with the purple potatoes, I knew they were done when they started to turn a slight brown color on the edges and middle…but not too much or you will burn them.
5. When the potatoes ruffles are done, use tongs to carefully lift them onto the paper bag or rack to drain. Serve the ruffles on a platter with a generous sprinkling of fleur de sel.
I found that the oriental round wire scoop that I bought to remove tempura veggies worked great to remove the chips.

124. Cajun Shrimp

This is one of the quickest meals I have made in a long time.  

On the weekends we always have a ton of things to do.  This past weekend proved to be just as busy especially since we are going into the warmer months.

Isabella had dance, we raked 12 bags of leaves, we had a soccer game and I decided to go on a cooking marathon…LOL  and make two desserts.  This is a real treat for my family because it's usually a holiday that provokes such actions.  They were quite happy!

I buy the frozen shrimp at Whole Foods.  I bought this for the first time a few weeks ago and fell in love with it.  The main reason is that it lasted more then one day in my fridge, did not smell fishy when thawed and was still firm after 3 days.  We usually try to eat it all with in 24 hours but it never fails I always have a handful left after a day or two.

I wanted to see if I could make this recipe with this shrimp.  The shrimp is already precooked and all I needed to do was to let it thaw, which it does if you keep it in the fridge and not in the freezer.

I searched for some cajun spice recipes and found that they all pretty much have the same main ingredients.  I went to my spice rack and was fortunate to have everything I needed.  

I made the spice recipe as an individual portion.  This was a great combination for 8-15 pieces of shrimp.  I made the first batch for me to eat on my salad and when my daughter came home from college I made her the second batch.  It was made in less then 5 minutes…so quick, warm and easy!

On busy nights and weekends, having something this simple on hand is wonderful.  I can't wait to make this shrimp recipe up and serve it with some fresh pasta…the cajun spices mixed with a wonderful white sauce sounds like heaven to me…or it could be that I am hungry and it's early…LOL  ENJOY!

Recipe:  Cajun Shrimp, this is a recipe for a small batch 8-15…you can double, triple or more

8-15 medium size, precooked shrimp, thawed

1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic granules
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp oregano, dry
1/4 tsp thyme, dry
2 tsp. butter

In a small bowl, mix all of the spices together.

Take your shrimp and remove the shell on the tail and rinse.   Pat dry.

In a sauce pan, heat butter and spices and toss in shrimp.

Cook until well coated and warm…around 1 minute.

Serve immediately with pasta noodles or on a nice bed of lettuce for a salad.

This about says it all……YUM!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

123. Minnesota Wild Rice Soup with Mushrooms and Spinach

We have had the best weather this week…today we were over 70.  That is awesome in my book.  We actually never really had a winter in Maryland.  A few dustings of snow and cooler temperatures in the 30's at night but nothing like what we have experienced the last 24 years living in Colorado, Illinois, and UT.  

Wind, snow, blizzards, white outs and more snow! Not this year though…Yippee Skippee!

So why would I make soup on one of the nicest days we have had this 2012 year?  It's simple

We love soup.

My family is not picky about only eating soup when it's cold.  We like it all year long!  

Today I also made traditional Irish soda bread.  I used the recipe from Baking Sheet .  Click on the name and it will redirect you to their site.  It turned out really good and it was so simple to make.

I have fallen in love with the flavor and texture of Minnesota Wild Rice and try to use it often.  I already had the mushrooms and spinach that HAD to be used today and so this soup was created.  I think we all went back for seconds and thirds were out of the question because we ATE the WHOLE POT!

Soup and my Soda Bread.

Recipe:  Minnesota Wild Rice Soup with Mushrooms and Spinach

5 cups of Chicken Broth
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup of sliced green onion
1 tsp minced garlic
3 T. butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of milk
1 cup of cream
1 1/2 cup of fresh spinach
2 cups of Minnesota Wild Rice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare your wild rice first.  It takes at least an hour for this type of rice to be ready to use.  Follow the directions on  the box.  I only used 2 cups of the rice but you can certainly add the whole 3 cups if you like.

In a large pot warm chicken broth.

In a sauce pan melt butter.  Add garlic, green onions and mushrooms.  Toss to coat with butter and cook for 5 minutes.

Add flour, salt and pepper to mushrooms and stir.  Cook over heat for a few minutes.

 Add mushroom mixture to broth and stir.  Add milk and cream and stir.  Your soup will thicken as it gets hotter and hotter.  I did not boil mine and turned off the heat right before this stage.

 I added the fresh spinach and let the hot soup cook the spinach.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes and your spinach should be soft and wilted.

Art, Technology, and Disability

It has been forever, it feels to me since I have written on my blog. I took a break to focus on family and school. Here I am, three yea...