Thursday, May 15, 2008

sloppy joe's

sloppy joes- yet again another food i had never had till i came down to north carolina. i'm pretty sure i had heard of it at one time or another, possibly on an old episode of roseanne; i can't say for sure though. i know that i'd never seen them on any menu nor had i even seen anybody eat one so it was completely foreign to me. my first time having a sloppy joe wasn't really anything to rave about either, granted i remember it being good and satisfying at the time but i mean it's ground meat mixed with something out of a can. not terribly difficult to fix or botch i would think, right? some people or quite possibly a lot of people have fond memories of this classic sandwich and that's all cool and great but it just wasn't something i grew up with so ultimately i was indifferent to it. it didn't stir up any old memories or bring me back to my childhood. for me, it was just a quick dinner when you're in a time crunch. throw in some oven roasted fries, a salad and you're set. last monday, that's what we did except for one, minor change - no canned sauce. it was time to put a homemade spin on this staple of americana and spin i did. i spun from work, to the gym and finally to the grocery store to grab the few items that i was missing to re-create my own rendition of this saucy sandwich. what did all this spinning produce? the following....

Sloppy Joe's Sans "the canned stuff"

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Sandwich Bread of choice

Pour 1 tsp oil in a medium skillet and heat over a medium flame till the oil starts to shimmer. Add the onion and brown sugar and cook till the sugar has dissolved and the onion has softened. Add the ground chicken and season with chili powder,salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Once the meat has browned go ahead and add the Worchestershire sauce, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Allow to simmer till your sauce reaches a medium-thick consistency- about 15 minutes. Heat your bread or buns during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

strawberry day @ the farmer's market + flo baker = strawberry genoise

yup, another cake recipe. no, we're not getting fatter. well, maybe a little bit but not bring out the crane fat. not yet anyways, ask us once we've gotten back from our trip to nyc next month. bring on the junior's cheesecake, grimaldi's( or john's?) pizza, jacques torres chocolate and h&h bagels...maybe not in that order,though... anywho, back to the above pictured cake.
the cake you see above was made this past sunday for a combo mother's day slash birthday celebration. seems like there's been a lot to celebrate here lately, not a bad thing especially since celebrations are an excuse to eat cake. for this cake though, i don't really think you need an excuse.
it's very light and shortcake-y even though that is not what it's called but that is what it reminded
me of. it's made up of eggs, heavy cream, and strawberries - sounds like 3 balanced groups to me. i mean come on you got your protein with the eggs, fat with the cream and fiber and folic acid and all the other good stuff strawberries have. fully balanced meal. i say go ahead and feel free to load up your plate with it.
delana was the one responsible for this wonderfully balanced meal. she got up early sunday morning to make it and it was a good thing too because she did run into a few issues. the cake itself is made of up of beaten eggs and sugar and folded in flour. sounds simple enough but it's tricky because the batter can deflate rather easily once you reach the folding in stage, which results in a very thin layer of cake. how do i know? it happened on the first attempt. no big deal tho
ugh. she didn't let it phase her, and just gave it another go and this time the second time was the charm. fortunate because there was no time for a third try. once cooled, she cut the cake in half rather than in thirds as the original recipe called for and sandwiched some whipped cream and mashed strawberries in between each half. no aluminum foil here, the cake was instead wrapped with the rest of the airy, goodness of the whipped cream and garnished with sliced strawberries. cake sandwich wrapped in whipped cream. go ahead and try some....

French Strawberry Cake
Adapted by Flo Baker for Baking with Julia

Perfect Genoise
-makes enough for one 8 in round cake

2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

1 c sifted cake flour
1/2 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

position a rack in the lower third of the over and preheat to 350 degrees.
grease and flour the bottom and sides of an 8 in round cake pan, fitting it with a round of parchment once the excess flour is tapped out.

pour melted butter into 1 qt bowl, reserve.
return sifted cake flour to the sifter or sieve, and add 1 tbs of the sugar and the salt; sift onto a piece of waxed paper and set aside.

put the eggs and remaining sugar into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer (or work with a hand-held mixer). holding the whisk attachment in your hand, beat the mixture to blend the ingredients. with the bowl and whisk attachment in place, whip the mixture on medium speed until it is airy, pale and tripled in volume like softly whipped cream, 4 to 5 minutes ( for us, it took about 12 minutes) you'll know that the eggs are properly whipped when the whisk is lifted and the mixture falls back into the bowl in a ribbon that rests on the surface for about 10 seconds. if the ribbon doesn't hold up for this long, continue to whip for a few more minutes. pour in the vanilla extracts towards the last moments of whipping.
detach the bowl from the mixer. sprinkle about one third of the sifted cake flour over the batter. fold in the flour with a rubber spatula, stopping once it is incorporated. fold in the rest of the flour in 2 more additions.
gently spoon about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl with the melted butter and fold in the butter with the rubber spatula. at this point, the batter is at its most fragile so fold gingerly. fold the mixture into the batter in the mixer bowl.

Pour into prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula working from the center outward and creating a slightly raised ridge around the sides. bake for 25-27 mins, or until top springs back. transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 5-10 mins.

Preparing the berries:

2 pints ripe, fresh strawberries hulled and sliced
1/4 to 1/3 c sugar ( depending on the sweetness of the fruit - we only had to use a 1/4 cup)

toss sliced berries with sugar in a large bowl and leave them uncovered, at room temp for at least 2 hrs.coarsely mash the berries using a fork and toss once more; let them stand for another hr. this can be done a day ahead just be sure to refrigerate once your frustrations have been released and the berries are mashed.

The Cream

1.25 c cold heavy cream
2 tbs sour cream
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip all the above ingredients until the mixture forms soft peaks. You've reached proper consistency once the tracks made my the whisk close slowly and almost disappear.( Keep an eye on this because faster than you can say curdled,, you'll end up with curdled cream. Not good.)Cover and refrigerate until it's time to frost the cake. Before using, whisk by hand to bring the mixture together again.

Finishing the cake
(props to you if you're still with me...)

Using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 3 layers ( we went with 2). Place the bottom layer cut side up onto a cardboard round or the removable bottom of a tart pan ( or whatever surface you choose). Using a slotted spoon, lift about 1/2 of the berries (if you're just doing 2 layers go ahead and add all your berries) from the bowl so that most of the liquid drains off and spread over the cake. Top off with a thin layer of the whipped cream.
Place the next cake layer and spread another layer of berries and whipped cream. Center the top layer over the filling. Proceed to frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream using a flexible metal icing spatula. Garnish with berries that have been sliced in half from blossom to stem, cut side down. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving

Monday, May 5, 2008

belated birthday cake

wow, i didn't realize how long it has been since i last posted on here. i knew i'd been somewhat neglectful of keeping things current but i didn't realize i'd gone a whole two weeks without posting anything. that's pretty bad, this week i pledge to get back on track though.
the week that i last posted also happened to be the week of delana's birthday, it was actually the day after my last post- the 22nd. since it fell right smack at the beginning of the wee
k, we each took the day off from work and just spent the time together. real low key, and relaxed. however, we were going to be celebrating it full on with her family on saturday, which brings me to the recipe i'm about to share with you. if you've ever been to, you've seen this recipe before. it seems immensely popular and i think it was either part of the daring baker's challenge or tuesdays with dorie, quite possibly both. i can't remember now. what am i talking about? i am talking about ms. greenspan's recipe for the perfect party cake and i believe the recipe originated with nick malgieri. pretty sure, not totally sure but it doesn't matter. this cake is gooodd. really good. finish it off in one sitting if your pants can stretch that far good. don't believe me? go find one of the million other bloggers who have made this cake and ask them because you'll find we pretty much all concur. you need to make this cake. it doesn't have to be made just for a party, cut the recipe down and just make it into some type of loaf/ muffin/ cupcake thing if you want and omit the buttercream. whatever excuse you can find to make it, just go with it. you won't be sorry.
will say this though: i have 2 complaints about this cake. nothing major, just minor details that were probably my fault but if you're a crappy baker like me you might have the same issues. first thing is they didn't really rise high enough to make four
layers, i got 3 by the skin of my teeth and a really steady hand with the serrated knife. second- i had a hell of a time trying to get the sides iced. it would just come off whenever i would try to like turn it and make it all pretty and smooth. again, this is probably just me because i don't ever make cakes, and i'm far from a cake decorator but it's just a potential heads up i guess.
i did also make my own tweaks:
  • i substituted the raspberry preserves with blueberry preserves that i made using frozen blueberries and a quarter cup of turbinado sugar cooked together till the mixture reaches a thick, syrupy consistency.
  • i garnished the cake using sliced lemons instead of the berries.

Perfect Party Cake
Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 2.25 c Cake flour
  • 1 tbs Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1.25 c Whole milk or buttermilk
  • 4 Large Egg whites
  • 1 1/2 Cups Castor sugar
  • 2 Tsps Grated lemon zest
  • 1 Stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 Tsp Pure lemon extract

Ingredients for the buttercream:

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 4 Large Egg whites
  • 3 Sticks (12 ounces) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1 Tsp Pure vanilla extract
Ingredients for the finishing:
  • 2/3 Cup Seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable in consistency
  • About 1 1/2 Cups Sweetened shredded coconut (or roasted, sliced/slivered almonds)

Getting ready:
  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F
  • Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper.
  • Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Method for the cake:
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
  4. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
  5. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
  6. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
  7. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
  8. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
  9. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.
  11. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
  12. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up.

  1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
  2. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
  5. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
  6. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes (during this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again).
  7. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
  8. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.


  1. Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
  2. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
  3. Spread it with one third of the preserves.
  4. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
  5. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
  6. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
  7. Press the coconut (or sliced almonds) into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Monday, April 21, 2008

sticky rice and flat cookies

after a week filled with days that started at 3 am and ended at around 7pm, i was excited about the arrival of the weekend. i thought it would mean time for me to play around in the kitchen, have a chance to take some food shots of whatever i decided to fix since during the week the main goal was just to get the food on the table but it didn't quite work out that way. my mojo just wasn't with me, i'm not sure where it went but i know it wasn't in the kitchen.i should have known something was up when i started my sunday morning on the hunt for some dried chilies and some cajeta dulce de leche and the one place that i find that has both things throws me a curve ball: the dulce de leche had expired. had it been expired just a few days, it would've been fine but no. this thing had expired almost 6 months ago. e as i browsed the shelves to see what else they had i came across something else i'd been looking for: saf instant yeast. this little box won the expiration race on the dulce de leche: this yeast had expired in october of 2003. definitely not a store i'll be going back to.
unfortunately i don't have any exciting recipes to share but here are some shots of what was supposed to be yellow rice with some peppers and onions, pretty much your basic chicken and rice style dish minus the chicken. after 3 nights in a row of chicken, it was time to find protein from another source. light red kidney beans would be the choice source on this occasion. in terms of taste, i got that much right but the texture just wasn't what i was looking for..
the other shots are of anzac cookies made from a recipe i found in cooking light. again, taste wise they were great but some of them spread out way too thin and just not up to par for me. i'll be sure to update once i figured out what i did wrong and how to fix it.
on the bright side, tomorrow is delana's birthday so i know i'll be in the kitchen but i'm not sure what the menu will consists of. it'll be up to her of course. i'll be sure to take notes and pictures and come back with an actual update and recipe.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

glazed buttermilk and apple cake

ok, so i know last week i promised to come back with a whole new post about granola. unfortunately delana has yet to share her recipe with me but she did say i could write a about the glazed buttermilk and apple cake she made last week along with the granola. she made the cake last tuesday while i was at work and she had the day off. this is one of those cakes that will fill your house, or in my case apartment, with all sorts of great smells. it's really a great cake considering that the recipe was pulled out of one our cooking light books. not only is it light, it's moist and not overly sweet even with the powdered sugar glaze. i will say though it is a little on the thin side but i think that makes it even better just because it allows you the option of either having it for a light breakfast treat with your morning cup of coffee or just for dessert topped off with a scoop of ice cream which is the route i took. in addition to all that, it keeps really well too. we didn't get rid of the last slice till saturday and even then it probably could've lasted a few more days kept under wraps. like i told delana, it is gggooooddd or was.

Buttermilk Apple Cake- taken from Cooking Light


  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apple
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare the cake, combine the first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes or until syrupy, stirring frequently; cool.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended; add egg and extracts, beating well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition.

Spoon the batter into an 8-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange apple mixture over cake. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon buttermilk, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, April 11, 2008

spongy proclaims

if you're not happy it's friday, maybe spongebob can change that...

i've got an awesome granola recipe to share, i'm just short the actual recipe. confused? it's ok. the recipe is tucked away in delana's baking brain right now. i'll be sure to pick at that lock and liberate it so as to share it with all you hungry, granola fans. p.s. sorry for the lack of updates, just been swamped at work. the weekend though will allow for more food musings and creations, maybe even (hopefully) a trip to the farmer's market. excited? you should be. i know i am.

Monday, April 7, 2008

bon appetit's rhubarb and raspberry jam

once again, it was another washed out weekend here in greensboro and once again, it was another early morning rise for delana and i. it really should be a crime to have to wake up at 3:45 in the morning on a sunday morning. sunday's are meant to sleep in right? i think so. i also think this message needs to be passed on to starbucks....wishful thinking. it's fun but that's all it is, is wishful. so what to do when life gives you rainy days and early mornings? complain? i just did that. so yes you can do that and you can also make jam. jam is what i did yesterday and boy did it turn out gooood.
my inspiration came out of Bon Appetit's March 2008 issue (pg.121?not sure but it sounds right.) i've been wanting to try it since the magazine made its way through my mail slot but have not been able to since the grocery stores around me didn't seem to realize that it was rhubarb season up until this past weekend. so behind the times. the first supermarket i came across that carried these elusive, red stalks had them at a whopping $6 a pound. my cash flow was not as great as my desire to make this jam. i continued on through the produce section, grabbing the stuff i actually needed. once done, delana and i made a stop at the Fresh Market to pick up some almonds since this location carries them in bulk at a much fairer price than the vacuum sealed packs found at our first stop. this second stop satisfied much more than our need for almonds, it also provided us with rhubarb for a $3 a pound. six dollars vs. three dollars? the latter makes for a much happier checking account balance. this along with the half jar of raspberry preserves i had in the fridge, some sugar and water and i was on way to rhubarb and raspberry jam minus the roly polys. i did make profiteroles from gourmet's march issue but i'll post about those later. i guess i too am a little behind on my recipe trials but better late than never. if you too are waiting to try this recipe out don't wait too long because it's definitely something that you're going to want ot have waiting for you in your 'fridge. i had some this morning spread over some toast with a side of oatmeal. delicious.

Bon Appetit's Rhubarb and Raspberry Jam
March 2008 issue

1/2 pound fresh rhubarb, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup raspberry jam

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and 1 tablespoon water in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Cover; cook until rhubarb softens to thick pulp, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Mix in jam; cool. do ahead Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill.

Friday, April 4, 2008

insight time

i have a question for all those out there reading or skimming the site. it's my attempt to gain a little insight, to fulfill a general curiousity. what inspires you? what motivates you to cook? what did you see,eat, or hear about that created your interest in cooking? do you spend long, possibly endless amounts of time trying to think of what your next culinary conquest is gonna be? or is it just one of those lights on moments that it just comes to you? you weren't even thinking about food or cooking and out of nowhere, there it is. it could be tonight's dinner, tomorrow's breakfast or next weekend's brunch. doesn't matter. i'm just genuinely curious to learn what motivates people in the kitchen and what keeps them continuosly interested. i'll be looking to reading responses....

tuna + onion + pepper = yummy in my tummy tuna salad...

tuna salad: a dish that everyone knows,has his or her favorite place to get it from or a favorite family recipe. me? i never knew tuna salad as tuna salad. for me, it was just "tuna fish." see, whenever my mom would fix what everyone else called "tuna salad" she would just say we're having tuna fish. when she said this, i knew what she meant and how she'd be fixing it. tuna, diced tomatoes, onion, and mayo. i knew nothing of the added celery bits and parlsey or any of that other stuff people add and that was ok. it was good, it still is good. i just don't get to eat it because a) i live 500+ miles away and b) she doesn't ever fix it for me when i do go to visit. it would probably help if i asked her to fix it. she's not a mind reader, or so she says... silly me. maybe next trip.
due to the above mentioned circumstances, i've had to make do it making it myself. not a problem.that's part of the beauty of enjoying to cook, circumstances like this allow for me to add one more dish to my small arsenal of recipes. i, however, chose to do things a little differently from her. not alot. just a little.
Differently? How? Why?
differently because i add diced red pepper. sometimes in place of the tomato or in addition to. it's pretty and it tastes good. plus, let's face it. summer does not last all year and finding tomatos that are actually good is like trying to find osama. ok so maybe grocery store bins aren't quite desert caves but still, you never know which one, if any, is gonna have what you're looking for. so when in doubt, grab a pepper.
another thing that makes mine different is that i add spanish smoked paprika. it was an experimental addition i made one day that turned out successfully tasty. it adds a nice smokiness to pair along with the creaminess of the mayonnaise. that's pretty much it. oh wait no, sorry. i add diced celery too. delana likes it, i've come to like it and it adds crunch. that's no secret. i think my mom just never added it because we never had any. it's just not something she cooks with. no big deal. i promise that not having it will not cause you to go through celery withdrawals.

"Tuna Fish" or Tuna Sald for the Masses
serves 2

1 6 oz. can Solid, White Albacore Tuna
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 roma tomato, diced (optional)
2 celery stalks, sliced lengthwise in 1/2 then cut crosswise
4 tbs mayonnaise ( i used a ratio of 2:1 of light mayo and Fage 2% Greek yogurt. Any plain yogurt will do)
1/2 tsp of smoked, Spanish Paprika

start by draining your tuna and then break it up right in the can with a fork till you have small, bite size chunks. in a large bowl, combine the broken up tuna with the pepper,onion, tomato, and celery and mix the 5 ingredients together.
in a separate bowl, mix the mayonnaise (and yogurt?) with the paprika and salt and pepper. stir to combine. do a taste test to make sure the seasonings are to your taste before adding it to the tuna mixture. once satisfied, combine the 2 in the larger bowl and stir till the dressing is evenly distributed. serve with your choice of bread. enjoy!

does anyone have any recipes inspired by their own families that they've modified to better suit their tastes? if so, please feel free to share. any family staples that have led to new, more jazzed up creations?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Springy and Creamy Mushroom Risotto with Asparagus Tips

risotto. you've heard about it, you've seen it fixed lord knows how many times on food network, you've caught glimpses of it on the wonder that is tastespotting and if you're anything like me- you have never actually had it. well, you were like the old me because guess what? i have finally had risotto. yesterday. for dinner. let me clue you in to something: you need to fix this. doesn't have to be my can be any recipe. have one that you've been itching to try but have just left it on the backburner? pull it out and fix it. i promise you won't be disappointed. this stuff is oh-so- good. you've got the creaminess of the rice, meatiness with the added mushrooms, sweetness from the onions and a touch of savory goodness from the stock in which it's cooked in. the asparagus just adds a touch of contrast by giving it some bite. mmm. definitely a repeat dish.

Risotto with Cremini Mushrooms, Onion and Asparagus Tips

  • 6 c Stock- your choice of vegetable or chicken. ( I did a mixture of chicken stock and water since I didn't have the low sodium kind of stock)
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 c diced, cremini mushrooms
  • 1 Shallot, diced
  • 1/2 of a Sweet Onion, diced
  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus, trimmed of hard stalks
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 c Arborio rice
  • 1/3 c of white wine ( I used a Chardonnay)
heat your stock over a low simmer, no need to boil it here. you're just looking to keep it warm.

melt the two tablespoons of butter over medium heat and throw in the diced mushrooms. once they begin to brown, add the diced shallots and onion and allow to cook till softened- 2 to 3 minutes. add minced garlic and rice, give it a light stir just to coat with juices extracted from mushrooms and onion. add wine, and continuously stir till it is absorbed by the rice mixture. get ready, this is where your arm muscles are put to the test.
start adding the simmered broth, about half a cup at a time, continuously stirring it till it is completely absorded. after you've added about 4 cups of the broth, add in the trimmed asparagus spears so they can cook as you mix in the remaining 2 cups of broth. once ristto reaches desired consistency, take off heat and serve immediately. if you like, you can mix in some grated parmigiano reggiano cheese for an added level of creaminess.

Monday, March 31, 2008

red bean and squash soup

it's been a dreary weekend here in greensboro, overcast clouds with spurts of rain and drizzle. of course, the weatherman didn't predict anything close to this. surprised? me neither. to top things off, delana was not only having to work but she was having to open which meant a 3:30 wake up call. looks like mother nature felt our pain and decided to share it with the rest of the city. i got up with her and stayed up, flipping through the new april issue of gourmet and channel surfing till i decided to watch the last episode of top chef that i had recorded a few nights earlier but failed to watch.

once i had gotten through that and had breakfast, i started thinking about what i could cook to help kill some time. i sat down and once more flipped through my new gourmet, not really finding anything in there that i wanted to take on either due to lack of ingredients or equipment since the issue was centered around italy's different pasta dishes according to region. i then went into the bedroom and grabbed some older issues of bon appetit and other gourmet's as well as a williams sonoma and cooking light cookbook. i looked through the recipe indexes of what i had grabbed, still no inspiration. i decided to take a break and throw some laundry in and make a dash to the store.that's where i found discovery was completely unexpected and unintentional, i wasn't looking for it. i didn't even know what it was. what is this it i speak of? butternut squash.
normally, i only buy butternut squash when i know i'm going to fix beans. the squash helps thicken the sauce from the beans and gives it a nice depth of flavor. i learned that from my mother. this time i hadn't planned on making beans but the more i thought about it, the better it sounded. however, i knew i didn't want rice which is what i normally have when i fix beans. it just wasn't a rice and beans kind of day. i wanted something a little richer, something to not only fill me but warm me. what to use in place of rice? ahah! sausage. i had some sundried tomato and basil chicken sausage that had originally been intended to go with pasta? but this sounded better. the great thing about this dish is that it's one of those things that you can make hours- even a day- earlier to have for later and you only have to dirty one pot, yes one. plus it makes for great leftovers. granted, there weren't any leftovers this time but take my word because i've had enough leftover beans to know that they taste just as good if not better the next day. this experience comes with living in a part puerto rican household.

Red Bean and Squash Soup with Italian-Style Sausage

  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 Italian Style Sausage Links- ( i imagine Andouille sausage would be just as good), sliced into about 1" pieces
  • 2.5 c of diced butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • Splash of red wine
  • 1/8 tsp of crushed red pepper - (less if you are using a spicy sausage)
  • 2 c of cooked light red kidney beans (i used canned and rinsed them)
  • 2.5 tbs of tomate paste
  • 2.5 c of water or chicken stock

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Once oil begins to shimmer, add sliced sausage and allow to brown on each side- should take 2-3 minutes. Remove sausage and add diced butternut squash. If necessary, add more oil to prevent squash from sticking.

Once the squash has browned on both sides, remove and add onion and minced garlic.Season with crushed red pepper,salt and cracked pepper and allow onion to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Proceed to add a splash of red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any stuck on bits. Once done add beans,tomato paste and water. Bring mixture to boil and then allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. If you find that the soup has gotten too thick while simmering, feel free to add more water or stock. This can be served with a good crusty bread and nice big, salad of mixed greens.

Question: What's your favorite rainy day, comfort food staple?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

good things come in 3's...

that's the conclusion i've come to based on my last post and the one i'm about to make. yesterday i shared my recipe for three c blondies and tonight i'm going to share with you my recipe for a 3-vegetable roasted lasagna. it's different, i know. i'm sure you're used to just having the traditional meat and cheese stuffed kind, packed with cheese. there's nothing wrong with that kind. if you're lucky, you've found a place or recipe that balances those 3 things perfectly. me, i have not which is why i wanted to try something different.

lasagna isn't something i have often just because it can leave you feeling a little overstuffed and wondering why you indulged on something that wasn't really quite that good. my usual source of lasagna was this pizzeria back on staten island and it was ok but they're calzones are better. on staten island? it's called mama rosario's. get the sausage and pepper calzone. it's good stuff. i've had it from other places too of course but i haven't really ever been that impressed with it to make it the main thing i would order from a menu. i'm obviously making it sound like im not a huge fan of lasagna so why would i bother trying to make it? becasue of this: The Kitchen Sink's Layer by Layer Lasagna. how could i not be inspired? plus vegetables, carbs, and protein all rolled into one bubbly plate of goodness? sounds like my kind of balanced plate.

i bet you can't guess what 3 vegetables i went with? zucchini, squash, and mushrooms! how'd you know? you're smart but we both knew that. this combination isn't definitive though, you can go with whatever vegetables you have on hand or whatever vegetable you've been craving. i went with these 3 just because i had a gallon sized ziploc bag stuffed with mushrooms and the zucchini and squash were affordable and i was suffering from low funds syndrome. i'm sure some out there can relate. now that i've given you a little background, i'll go ahead on to the method...

start with your vegetables: i used 2 small zucchini's and 1 veyr large squash and about a cup of mushrooms, all sliced, drizzled with some olive oil and seasoned with just a simple mix of salt and measurements just to your taste & toss to ensure that they're all coated evenly. spread them out onto a foil lined cookie sheet, maybe 2 cookie sheets. roast them at about 400 degrees for 30 minutes? maybe less, maybe more depending on your oven.

next: sauce. i made my basic marinara using a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, 1 whole onion( finely diced), 2 cloves of garlic ( minced), riesling (1/4 cup), dried basil and parsley ( 2 tsp each), crushed red pepper and the essential salt and pepper.

once those 2 parts were done, i made a part ricotta & part cottage cheese ( 1 cup each) mix= with shredded mozzarella and parmesan, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and you're done. i know you're wondering why cottage cheese? it sounds weird but it's good, adds a little more chunkyness and flavor to the filling. okay your components are done and time to assemble.

1st layer : sauce.
2nd layer: lasagna noodles. some say to pre-boil these, some say not to. i say not to.
3rd layer: ricotta and cottage cheese filling.
4th layer: squash, zucchini, mushrooms.
5th layer: sliced fresh mozzarella.

6th layer: go back to the beginning and continue till your casserole dish says basta! no more! really though you want to end with a layer of sauce and mozzarella. pop in the oven, 400 degrees, 40 minutes or until your cheese has reached your desired level of bubbliness. while cooking, maybe throw together a salad or just fix yourself some garlic bread. baguette, oil, clove of garlic. drizzle the bread with a little oil and rub the garlic over the bread and pop it in the oven during the last 5 minutes of cooking. enjoy!

Monday, March 24, 2008

three C blondies

this past weekend i had planned on toying around in the kitchen. yet again, i wanted to try something new. i've been flipping through new and old issues of bon appetit, cooking light, and gourmet. i had thought i might try and make some type of tart with a fruity filling? it sounded good but once the weekend actually came, i realized i didn't want anything fussy. tarts are fussy. they're pretty and tasty i'm sure but they're fussy. nay to the fussy. i'm sure i will soon take on the tart challenge. just wasn't happening this weekend. this weekend i took on the blondie challege.

sunday morning i got online and hit up up my usual food blog hangouts- tastespotting, 101 cookbooks,smitten kitchen, and our kitchen sink. browsing through smitten kitchen, i came across a recipe that sounded perfect. far from fussy, short on ingredients, and sweet. yay. what was this recipe you ask? blondies.

i had everything i would need for deb's basic recipe and a couple of extras that i thought would go perfectly. those extras would be what makes these three c brownies. c- chocolate chips, c-cherry preserves, c - coconut flakes. all perfectly good on their own, great when combined. now i've made blondies once before but they were very unsatisfactory and originated from a cooking light recipe. they were bland and dense and just not good at all. these however i was happy with. i did make a few modifications with the ingredients to help make this more my own and to help cut back just a smidge on the guilt factor of them. not a huge smidge though, which is why they're cut so small. less guilt, more brownies. smart cookie. or blondie. want to see the original recipe? check it out: Smitten's Blondies. want my recipe? well here you go:

  • 4 tbs butter & 3 tbs margarine(smart balance light for me), melted
  • 1 tbs apple butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 egg - i used an egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract & 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbs ea. of coconut flakes & chocolate chips & cherry preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Grease an 8 x 8 pan.
  3. Mix butters with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Once smooth, add in egg and extracts.
  4. Combine flour, cocoa powder and salt then stir into sugar mixture.
  5. Fold in your 3 c's and pour into your baking pan. Pop it into your heated oven and put a glass to chill in the fridge. At about 20-22 minutes, take the chilled glass out and pour yourself some milk and once done take out your blondies. You can either let them cool or just go ahead and cut a piece to have with your cold milk. if you're like me, patience is not something you possess a great deal of. pass me that milk...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

layers aren't just for clothes...

they can be for cake too.

this past weekend while some were getting ready for st.patty's day, delana and i were getting ready for cake. a cake that she was going to be making in honor of her dad's birthday. he had requested a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and threw in that it would be nice to have a three layer cake, a first for him. when he said this, he probably wasn't expecting to have that changed much less have an extra layer thrown in there. surprises. they're a wonderful thing.especially when they involve butter and chocolate.

the cake making process began on friday afternoon and was relatively simple. i think it only took about an hour before everything was mixed, poured, baked, and out the oven. pretty good when you have to double a recipe and only have two cake pans to work with. the frosting for the cake probably took a little over an hour just because it needs an hour to cool before you can use it. let me forewarn you, the frosting taste dangerously close to a melted hershey's milk chocolate bar so try and refrain from finger dipping unless you're prepared to eat it sans the cake. can we say chocolate hangover? bring it on.

saturday night: time to break into this four layered monster.

after singing happy birthday and blowing out the candles, we - delana, her dad, her mom and myself-each got a slice with a spoonful of light vanilla ice cream. yes, light. we like to keep things balanced here remember? ice cream was good. the cake was great. definitely rich but it's supposed to be. it says so in the title, "rich and tender yellow cake". no lie.
delana said she felt it was a little dry but then again she's never satisfied. always trying to improve, and that is not something i can condemn her for. i enjoyed the cake. it was a splurge. a splurge i ate very slowly and enjoyed thoroughly.

Rich and Tender Yellow Layer Cake
Taken from Baking Illustrated
Makes two 9-inch cakes

large eggs , room temperature
1/2 cup
whole milk , room temperature
2 teaspoons
vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons
baking powder
3/4 teaspoon
table salt
1/2 pound
unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened, each stick cut into 8 pieces

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9-by-1 1/2-inch cake pans with vegetable shortening and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease parchment rounds, dust cake pans with flour, and tap out excess.

2. Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla with fork in small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running at lowest speed, add butter one piece at a time; mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all butter is added. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high (setting 6 on KitchenAid) and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in slow steady stream, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined and batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds longer. (To mix using hand mixer, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Add butter pieces and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture; beat with hand mixer at lowest speed until incorporated, 20 to 30 seconds. Increase speed to high, add remaining egg mixture, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat at high speed 15 seconds longer.)

3. Divide batter equally between prepared cake pans; spread to sides of pan and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until cake tops are light golden and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (Cakes may mound slightly but will level when cooled.) Cool on rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around pan perimeter to loosen. Invert cake onto large plate, peel off parchment, and re-invert onto lightly greased rack. Cool completely before icing.

Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup heavy cream
table salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (or dark)
10 ounces
milk chocolate , chopped
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
8 tablespoons
unsalted butter (1 stick), cold, cut into 8 pieces

Heat cream, salt, and corn syrup in microwave-safe measuring cup on high until simmering, about 1 minute, or bring to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Place chocolate in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. With machine running, gradually add hot cream mixture through feed tube; process 1 minute after cream has been added. Stop machine; add confectioners´ sugar to workbowl and process to combine, about 30 seconds. With machine running, add butter through feed tube one piece at a time; process until incorporated and smooth, about 20 seconds longer. Transfer frosting to medium bowl and cool at room temperature, stirring frequently, until thick and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

dusting off the cobwebs....

and back from a whirlwind weekend. well, maybe not a whirlwind weekend but a busy one. one birthday and one work day. bleh i say to work. that's another reason i haven't been keeping up with this as much as i'd like to. when you're off for 2 days things can pile up and then when a fellow co-worker has the week off and you have to help with their stuff...yeah. like i said, it's been busy. to add onto all this i was going through one of those "nothing sounds good/anything sounds good" phases. sound familiar? you're just completely uninspired, and nothing sounds good? things look good on paper but they're just not what you want at that moment? that was my weekend. i wanted something good but it was just a matter of figuring out what that something was. it didn't come to me till monday which i guess better late than never. still though, it's just frustrating. fortunately, it's temporary and i am back and ready to get busy with this once again.
i'll be updating within the next 2 days with my first attempt at a homemade, all from scratch chicken pot pie from an old issue of Food and Wine magazine. that was sunday's caper. i didn't get to eat very much of it but the few bites i did have were quite yummy but more of that later.
i'll also be recounting my mostly successful attempt at mushroom and provolone stuffed chicken breasts- they're not as easy as they look but ooh they are definitely as good as they look. this was the end of my "nothing sounds good phase." it only took about half an hour of exchanging potential dinner ideas with my girlfriend which went a little like "how about barbecue chicken? no. sloppy joes? ehh, no thanks. hot dogs? no. french fries? pass. roast potatoes? sounds good. with what? i dont know." i'm sure you wish you were there.
exhausted by chicken? me too. how bout some lasagna stuffed with roasted zucchini,squash and mushrooms? sounds good, i though so too. who popped that little doozy in my head? our kitchen sink at wordpress. awesome blog with awesome pictures and very approachable recipes. go there, read, be inspired. get hungry.
still not what you're looking for? well shoot, how about you skip dinner and go right to dessert with a milk chocolatey four layer yellow cake. this was friday night's caper. not mine though, delana's. she dons the title of baker. she likes science. she likes food. it works. her motivation? it was her papa's birthday and he had mentioned a 3 layer cake and she wanted to push the envelope with an extra layer. the envelope was pushed and the cake was scrumptious. be warned though- you'll have to do a lot more than push an envelope to burn off a slice. maybe 2 envelopes. i won't burden you with calorie fears though, it's cake and it was a celebration. celebrate and eat. enjoy.
unfortunately, you're going to have to wait to see all our food capers so i'm sorry but i promise- PINKY PROMISE- that you'll be able to have or at least see all that i've listed before the weekend.
care to share what you've been mixing, beating, stirring, baking, cooking up in the kitchen?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

when the moon hits the sky like a big pizza pie...

that's amore. according to some oldies song anyways. for me, it means it's times
to make some pizza. no, i don't mean make a call to order some pizza but time to take out your flour and pizza stone and get ready for some good eating. that's what i did this past weekend. now it's your turn?

i started out with Elise from Simply Recipes recipe for pizza dough as a base and made a few modifications of my own. The last time I made pizza I also made extra of my spiked marinara sauce and put it in the freezer for later use. this pizza was going to be it's " later use." i had also been to the store that day and picked up some fresh white and cremini mushrooms, bell peppers, basil - yes basil, onions, and fresh mozzarella. i was lucky enough to find the basil at our local farmer's market for a $1.50 which was exciting because i've been looking for the hard to find green since valentine's day with no luck. the price was also a steal because even when it is in season, good luck finding it for under $3. one more reason to love the farmer's market. my finds at the store plus some leftover roasted red pepper and pepperoni would be my choice of toppings for this occasion. feel free to go with whatever you have though. hungry for meat? throw in some salami, ground beef, sausage, prosciutto, rotisserie chicken, ham. whatever you want. me? im a little more of a traditionalist and wasn't real hungry for meat this time. you say you're a traditionalist too? try this then...

Pizza Dough

adapted from Simply Recipes

Makes enough dough for two 10-12 inch pizzas

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F-115°F) - [[ i cut this in half to 5 oz water ]]
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast (check the expiration date on the package) [[ i used 1 1/8 t sp]]
  • 31/2 cups bread flour (can use all-purpose but bread flour will give you a crisper crust) [[ i used 1 3/4 c of all-purpose flour ]]
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil [[ i used 1 tbsp ]]
  • 2 teaspoons salt [[1 tsp ]]
  • 1 teaspoon sugar [[ 1/2 tsp ]]
  • i added 1 tsp dried parlsey also to the dough, thus the green specks.

1 In the large bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid), add the warm water. Sprinkle on the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Stir to dissolve completely if needed at the end of 5 minutes.

2 Attach a mixing paddle to the mixer. Mix in the olive oil, flour, salt and sugar on low speed for about a minute. Remove the mixing paddle and replace with a dough hook. Knead using the mixer and dough hook, on low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If you don't have a mixer, you can mix and knead by hand.

3 Place ball of dough in a bowl that has been coated lightly with olive oil. Turn the dough around in the bowl so that it gets coated with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place (75-85°F) until it doubles in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If you don't have a warm spot in the house you can heat the oven to 150 degrees, and then turn off the oven. Place the bowl of dough in this warmed oven to rise.

At this point, if you want to make ahead, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Preparing the pizza:

1.Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.

2 Remove the plastic cover from the dough and punch the dough down so it deflates a bit. Divide the dough in half. Form two round balls of dough. Place each in its own bowl, cover with plastic and let sit for 10 minutes.

3 Prepare your desired toppings.

4 Working one ball of dough at a time, take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further. Let the dough relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter - 10 to 12 inches. Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. You can pinch the very edges if you want to form a lip

5 Brush the top of the dough with olive oil (to prevent it from getting soggy from the toppings). Use your finger tips to press down and make dents along the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Let rest another 5 minutes. Repeat with the second ball of dough.

6 Lightly sprinkle your pizza peel (or flat baking sheet) with corn meal. Transfer one prepared flattened dough to the pizza peel. If the dough has lost its shape in the transfer, lightly shape it to the desired dimensions.

7 Spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and place your desired toppings on the pizza.

8 Sprinkle some cornmeal on the baking stone in the oven (watch your hands, the oven is hot!). Gently shake the peel to see if the dough will easily slide, if not, gently lift up the edges of the pizza and add a bit more cornmeal. Slide the pizza off of the peel and on to the baking stone in the oven. Bake pizza one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-15 minutes. If you want, toward the end of the cooking time you can sprinkle on a little more cheese.

We like to start by spreading about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sauce over the dough then sometimes sprinkling some crushed red pepper or dried parsley and our vegetables. With our selection of toppings this past weekend our layers started out with:

  • marinara sauce
  • basil
  • sliced green bell pepper
  • roasted red pepper
  • sliced red onion
  • sliced white and cremini mushrooms
  • pepperoni
  • shredded mozzarella

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