December 13, 2012

Natalie's Mushroom Tartlets

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm always looking for new recipes to add to the meal.  Recipes from family are even more special.  This one comes to me from my cousin, with a little spicy tweaking on my part. I think next year I will try making my own shells, but the pre-packaged ones are easy when you're cooking a full meal and working full time!  Play around a bit with the herbs until you find the perfect combination for you!


2 T butter
1/2 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1lb mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t oregano
¼ c thyme, chopped
8 oz goat cheese
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 to 1/4 t cayenne, to taste
60 phyllo-pastry tartlet shells

Melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant. Add the chopped mushrooms, nutmeg, oregano and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor and add the goat cheese. Add the oil and parsley. Pulse until the mixture comes together. Season with salt and pepper and cayenne, pulse again.
Spoon mushroom filling into tartlet shells and place on a baking sheet (or freeze to bake later). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

September 11, 2012

Diablo Tequila

So, work's started up, which means less blogging for me!  On the other hand, The Husband will be deploying soon, which means more blogging, so it will average out, right?  We'll see!  In other news, my BlogMommy Stacey has resurrected her food blog and can now be found at Om-nom sauce!

Last weekend I was hanging out at our favorite restaurant, chatting with the bartender.  I was enjoying my favorite Diablo martini, and the conversation turned to the epic amount of cayennes I've been harvesting this summer (seriously, anyone want a foot or three of dried cayennes?).  He showed me the tequila he uses for the margarita, home-infused with a whole mess of spicy peppers and chilis, and I decided that I simply HAD to try this at home!

Two days ago I sliced about a dozen small cayennes and dumped them, seeds and all, into about 300ml of tequila.  Today the tequila already has a fine bite and I think that in a few days it will be ready for margarita time!

August 18, 2012

Frogmore Stew

Disclaimer: No frogs were harmed in the making of this stew.

As it happens, the "Frogmore" appellation is derived from a location rather than amphibians.  So you can relax.  Frogmore stew is a classic lowcountry dish.  We firmly believe in learning about and enjoying local foods, which is how we were introduced to the stew in the first place.  We'd seen it on menus all over, but first tried it at Low Country Bistro.  LCB is, by the way, one of the best restaurants in Charleston, in my humble opinion.  The best thing about them is that they provide fantastic food at a reasonable price.  So, if you ever find yourself in Charleston, hit up LCB!

Saturday is Farmer's Market day in the town I work at, and the market is good enough that we're willing to make the 40 minute drive a few Saturdays a month.  It's also puppy-friendly and Kodi has many admirers there.  We picked up the usual tomatoes, goat cheese and lamb stew meat, but were also lured in by the fresh shrimp.  I'm starting to come around on shrimp and The Husband was about drooling over these huge, juicy bugs, so we got a bunch.  I asked what he wanted me to make out of them, and we came up with Frogmore stew (though we did just steam a few as an appetizer.  Amazing!).

This dish is fairly simple to make.  I do strongly recommend making your own stock and crab boil spice though.  The stock really makes or breaks the dish and if you use a commercial spice mix you'll risk having an overly salty stew.  Seriously, it will take you just over an hour to make the stock and it's so worth it.  The boil spice is a matter of moments to mix up!


1 leek (white parts), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
5 small red potatoes, cubed
2 c shellfish stock (recipe follows)
1 T crab boil spice (go find your own, I'm not sold on my recipe yet)
1/2 T Old Bay
1 andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
Water as needed

Sautee the leek, garlic and celery in the evoo for 1 minute.  Add tomato, corn, potatoes, stock and spices.  Simmer until potatoes are tender, 5-10 minutes.  Add water as needed, probably a cup or two.  Add the sausage and shrimp and continue simmering until shrimp are just cooked, 3-5 minutes.  Serve with crusty bread or biscuits.

Shellfish Stock

5 c shells (from shrimp, crabs, lobsters, etc)
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic

Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat, with enough water to cover everything.  Stir once.  Do not boil.  Keep just below a simmer, not stirring.  As foam forms at the top, skim it off and discard.  Cook like this approximately 1 hour or until color and flavor are both rich.  Strain out solids.

August 10, 2012

Homemade S'mores

If you weren't aware (as I wasn't until about noon today), it is National S'mores Day!  I've been thinking about making my own graham crackers and marshmallows for about nine months now, so this was just the impetus I needed to get off my butt and go do it.  Of course, it helped that it's the very last day of summer vacation.  I'm a little stressed about starting the new job on Monday, and my usual reaction to stress is to cook!

I thought this was going to be horribly difficult but... no.  Really.  It took less than 45 minutes to finish the cracker dough and the marshmallows.  Of course, then you have to wait for the dough to chill before rolling out and backing the crackers, but it wasn't hard at all!

I used Smitten Kitchen for both recipes:  Marshmallows and Graham Crackers.  I did do a variation on the marshmallows - instead of vanilla, I used pecan liquor.  We just got this stuff down at Firefly distillery and I've been putting it into just about anything these days.  Pecan whipped cream?  Heck yeah!

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure I did the graham crackers right.  My dough was very soft and wet and difficult to handle, even with plenty of flour.  I made the small 2x2 squares because after  looking at it I figured there was no way I would be able to transfer larger pieces to the baking sheet!  In retrospect, my dough definitely did not look quite right - probably should have added more flour.  Next time!  The flavor is still fantastic, and so much better than what you buy in the store.

You know, I bet this is my problem: for all the "cracker" part of the name "graham cracker," they're really more like cookies, aren't they?  And cookies and I just don't get along.

Graham Crackers


3/5 T butter
1 c all purpose flour
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/6 c honey
2/5 T milk
1 T vanilla
cinnamon sugar to dust

Chop the butter into 12 or so pieces and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt in your food processor.  Add the chilled butter and process until crumbly.  Add the liquids and process just until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, pat down, wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a pizza cutter, slice your desired shapes: normal graham crackers are 4x4.5 inches.  I made 2x2 cute ones.  Use cookie cutters.  Whatever floats your boat!  Carefully transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and chill again for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Poke pretty holes in your crackers using the end of a wooden skewer.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for about 20 minutes or until browned and slightly firm.

Pecan Marshmallows


Powdered sugar for dusting
1 3/4 packets gelatin
1/4 c cold water
1 1/4 c sugar
1/4 & 1 T cold water
Pinch salt
1 egg white
2 t pecan liquor or other flavoring

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  Dust with powdered sugar.

In your mixer bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/4 c water.

On the stove, heat water and sugar and salt together, stirring until dissolved.  Boil without stirring until you hit about 240 degrees.  Pour this mixture over the gelatin and turn on the mixer.  Mix on high for about six or so minutes, until fluffy and white.

Meanwhile, use a handheld mixer to beat the egg white to soft peaks.  Add to gelatin, along with the liquor, and mix just long enough to combine.  Pour into baking pan and dust with more powdered sugar.  Chill at least three hours.

Once firm and chilled, use a knife to carefully remove the whole thing from the pan.  Use a pizza cutter to cut the marshmallows to the desired size.

July 26, 2012

Oven Roasted Pork Chop with Fruit Salsa over Mango-Eggplant Risotto

So really, I have been cooking.  I've just been incredibly slow on the blogging front.  And I started having trouble with some of my photos, which just won't do.  And yadda yadda yadda.  Enough on the excuses.

This recipe I made for me, not for The Husband.  Sometimes he's very adventurous - I was so proud the other day in Charleston when he ate and enjoyed a pesto-based pizza!  But other times, not so much.  Pork chops are one of his boring things.  He thinks they should be grilled with bbq sauce.  Period.  End of story.

Well that just wasn't going to cut it for me.  I had a mango that needed to be used.  I had an eggplant that needed to be used (by the way, expect a lot of eggplant recipes, I'm swimming in them!).  I was going to use them!  And boy am I glad I did!  The meal even got a tolerable "I guess it's okay but BBQ sauce is better" from The Husband as he cleaned his plate.

The mango really added an interesting flavor to the risotto.  The sweetness was subtle, but the way the mango interacted with the chicken stock and the eggplant was - to my mind - quite fantastic.


Fruit Salsa

3 small heirloom tomatoes, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 peach, diced
1/2 mango, diced
1 cayenne, minced
handful of fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Let sit for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.


Pork chops
juice from 1/2 lime
splash of white wine

Loosely wrap chops in tinfoil with the lime juice and the wine.  Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.


2 T evoo
1/2 c rice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 eggplant, diced
1 quart chicken stock
1 cayenne, minced
1/2 mango, diced
1/2 c white wine

Heat the oil in a saute pan.  Heat the chicken stock to a simmer in a separate pan.

Add the rice and garlic to the saute pan.  Stir until the rice becomes transparent.  Add the eggplant and cook for another minute or two.  Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the pan, stirring constantly.  When the stock is nearly evaporated, add another.  Continue in this manner, always stirring constantly until the rice becomes tender and creamy.  At this point, add the cayenne and mango, and then the wine.  Stir and cook a minute or two more, then serve hot.

July 2, 2012

Bacon Popcorn

The other night, The Husband and I headed out to dinner at our favorite restaurant in this town; Hamptons.  Hamptons is a fantastic restaurant, and not just because the crappiness of this town makes it look good.  It would be a very, very good restaurant anywhere!  The Husband likes to go so that he can pretend that he's in a nicer place than this town, he says.

The menu at Hamptons changes constantly.  Sometimes this leads to some pretty difficult choices.  This time we ended up with the duck entree, over a sweet corn polenta with dates and bacon popcorn.

Yes, bacon popcorn.  On our duck.  Don't knock it till you've tried it.

Needless to say, like everything we eat at Hamptons, it was fantastic.  After dinner we were talking with our usual server, who makes great recommendations and he explained the recipe for the popcorn so that we could have it at home.  So tonight I whipped up a bowl and it is every bit as good as it was at the restaurant. I'm in love!

This recipe makes the amount of popcorn The Husband and I usually split.  We don't like to eat a ton at once so if you prefer bigger servings, adjust accordingly.


3 strips bacon
1 T bacon fat
1/4 c popcorn kernels
dash dried rosemary
dash sea salt

Cook the bacon, reserving 1 T of the bacon fat.  Set the bacon aside to cool.  Put the bacon fat and the popcorn into your whirley pop (or your usual pot) and heat over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the kernels start popping.  Then stir constantly until the popping slows and remove from heat.  Pour into bowl.  Then crush the bacon and sprinkle the bacon bits, rosemary and sea salt over the popcorn.  Toss gently and serve!

June 8, 2012

Chicken and Basil Ravioli with Veggies in a Garlic Sauce

The other day I was able to harvest the first veggies from my garden!  It was a very exciting day!  I got a zuchinni, a handful of green beans, and a handful of basil.  I looked at them, debating what to use them for, and this dish sprang into my head.  I had leftover shredded chicken in the fridge, so all I had to do was make the raviolis - and that really doesn't take long, though I am out of practice and did not get the dough as thin as I would have liked.  I also spazzed out and forgot how to use my ravioli maker, but I muddled through and it turned out delicious in the end!  As a side note, I tried out a new pasta dough recipe and did not like it so in the future it will be back to the old standby.


Pasta dough, rolled out thinly
1/4 - 1/2 c cooked and shredded chicken
4 large basil leaves, sliced
2 T olive oil
handful diced onion
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 zuchinni, sliced
handful green beans, chopped
2 T olive oil
3 basil leaves, sliced
1/2 tomato, diced

Mix together the chicken and the sliced basil, let sit while you roll out the pasta dough.  Stuff the raviolis with the chicken and basil mix and seal firmly.  Cover and set aside.  Start a pot of water heating for the pasta.  Heat the first 2 T olive oil in a skillet and sautee the onions and garlic until fragrant.  Add the zuchinni and green beans.  When the zuchinni begins to soften, add the remaining 2 T olive oil and the remaining basil.  Cook until the beans are soft, adding more oil as needed.  Add the tomato in the last minute or two.  Meanwhile, once the water for pasta is at a boil, add the raviolis.  Cook for three to four minutes, then drain.  Top raviolis with the veggie and garlic oil mix.  Enjoy!

May 22, 2012

Pasta with Red Pepper Pesto

Today's post is for the HH6 May challenge:

We're all inspired by someone, whether we know them in real life or just from the tv. Tell us who inspires your cooking and share one of their recipes.

I had a certain something in mind for this post but circumstances made my initial idea impossible.  I am determined to make it possible in the future so I won't spoil it.  Anyway, despite that minor setback, I still have an excellent dish for you.  My inspiration here is my friend Stacey (whose food blog is down, else I'd link).  I met Stacey in the summer of 2008 through a third party who (without permission) invited us to her house for dinner.  Quite rude, but incredibly fortunate as it turned out - who else would I have backpacked the Grand Canyon with, after all?  Anyway, Stacey is an awesome cook and I was newly married and just beginning to experiment on the culinary front.  Seeing what she made really pushed me to be better in the kitchen.  Today I've made a dinner I had at her house last fall.  Salmon, roasted veggies, and pasta with red pepper pesto.

Now, not only is it delicious, but the pasta has the amazing ability to pass The Husband Test.  See, my husband pretty much refuses to eat pasta that doesn't have "red" sauce.  Guess what?  This sauce is red!  If I hadn't told him, he never would have known that he was eating peppers and pine nuts!  As an added benefit, it's delicious hot or cold - bring it to your next summer grill-out instead of the traditional pasta salad!

Side note:  I really dislike the place we are currently living.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  My current reason is that I had to drive an hour to get pine nuts.  I did not buy basil when in the city, figuring that basil, at least, I could obtain closer to home.  Yeah, not so much.  And my own garden basil is not large enough yet.  So I had to use dry.  SOB!


Penne pasta
1/3 c evoo
8 garlic cloves
1/3 c pine nuts
1/4 c Parmesean cheese, chunks or grated
1/4 c asiago, chunks or grated
1 c fresh basil
1 c roasted red peppers

Cook pasta as usual.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the garlic.  Add the pine nuts and cook another minute or two.  Combine oil, garlic, nuts, basil, peppers, and 1/2 of the cheese in a food processor.  Process briefly until smooth.

Toss with pasta and top with grated remainder of cheese.

May 1, 2012

Chocolate Cups with Bailey's Mousse

A few weeks ago, my mom sent me this link for Easter Egg Balloon Cups.  I thought they were pretty cool looking and wanted to try them out.  But there was so much more potential here than to just fill them with little chocolate eggs.  What to use...

Bailey's Mousse.  It's perfect.  Light and fluffy, combined with the crunch of the chocolate, and Irish creme goes so well with chocolate in any setting.

I did have some trouble with my balloons being too large.  I just pulled them out of the junk drawer, but you'll be better off going to get the little water balloons, I think.

For the bowls...


1 lb semi-sweet and milk chocolate
small water balloons

Temper your chocolate. Pay close attention to the temperature of the chocolate, this is important!

Cool chocolate slightly, then dip in balloons.  Two dips should be plenty.  Put balloons on parchment lined tray until set, then refrigerate.

For the mousse...


1 c whipping cream, divided
1/4 c chocolate shavings
1/4 c Bailey's

In a double boiler, stir 2 T whipping cream with the chocolate shavings until melted and smooth.  Cool to room temperature and whisk in the Baileys.  Whip the remaining cream until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the Bailey's mix, then refrigerate to set, about an hour.  Spoon into chocolate cups and enjoy!

April 20, 2012

Rootbeer Pork Chops

April's HH6 challenge was to Pick a recipe or dish from a HH6 blogger's blog to prepare.

So I went trolling around on blogs for a while.  With the insanity of my life lately, I needed something easy.  I also happened to have some pork chops in the fridge and a desperate craving for root beer floats.  It all came perfectly together when I found the Root Beer Grilled Pork Chops on Saraplicious! Kitchen.

And then my Traeger broke.

The Husband went out and got a cheapo gas grill the day after I made this to tide us over until I get the Traeger repaired, but that was of no use to my poor pork chops which had to be oven baked instead of grilled.

They were still delicious though!  The root beer gave the chops a delicate flavor.  I'm actually glad I didn't use my Traeger for this - I think the smoke would have overwhelmed the root beer taste.  I made some small alterations, listed below.


4 pork chops
1 can root beer
1 T onion powder

With a fork, poke a bunch of holes in the chops.  Put them in a large ziplock and add the rootbeer and onion powder.  Massage until well combined and marinate 4-8 hours in the fridge, turning once.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until cooked through.

April 16, 2012

Sweet and Sourdough Muffins

I had an extra cup of sourdough starter hanging around and about 30 minutes in which to use it.  The solution?  Muffins!  Muffins are perfect.  Fast, simple, and you can have endless variety.  I went with cheesy muffins this time, but I was very close to doing a cranberry one.  Next week, maybe!


1 c sourdough starter
1 c bread flour
1/2 c sugar
dash salt
1 t baking soda
1 egg
1/4 c oil
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese.  Or fruit.  Or nuts.  Or whatever your little heart desires!

Combine all ingredients.  Grease muffin tin and fill cups about 2/3s full (this made 9 muffins for me).  Bake at 430 for 20 minutes.

April 9, 2012

Bang Bang Shrimp

Until Friday, April 6th, I never met a shrimp I liked.  Sometimes I'd find shrimp that I liked the flavor of, but the texture always killed it for me.  Last friday, though, we headed into The City to do some shopping - and to use the gift cards the in-laws had given me for my birthday.  The gift cards to Bonefish Grill.

Yeah, Bonefish is a chain, but despite our relative proximity to the ocean, we live in a bit of a seafood desert and Bonefish is wayyyy better than Red Lobster!

Anyway, my husband has been wanting bang bang shrimp for a while.  Wednesdays are bang bang days, with specials and whatnot, but it was Friday.  It was also happy hour, and we noticed that bang bang tacos were on the cheap appetizer list, so we got that.  Warily, I took a bite.

I was in heaven.  The sauce was divine, the shrimp crispy and not at all bothering me (the tortilla did, though, they really need to make their own!).  I devoured my share.

I needed more.

When I got home, I started looking up how to make my own.  Fortunately, it's a simple process.  I made The Husband run out and get me some shrimpies and we celebrated Easter with the oh-so traditional Bang Bang Shrimp dinner.  Yum!  I tossed them with roasted veggies to make it a bit healthier.


1/2 c mayo
1/3 c sweet thai chili sauce
sriacha to taste
2/3 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
vegetable oil

Make the sauce ahead of time to allow flavors to blend.  Mix mayo and chili sauce (maybe a bit extra of the chili sauce), and add sriacha to taste.  Add a LOT of sriacha to taste.  Don't be a wimp, get some spice in your life!

Heat oil to 350.  Pat shrimp dry and toss in cornstarch.  Let shrimp sit for 10-15 minutes.  Fry in oil until browned, 2-5 minutes depending on the temp of your oil.  Drain on paper towels.  Toss shrimp with some veggies and sauce to taste.  We had a lot of extra sauce but no extra shrimpies!

April 7, 2012

Kodiak Food

I know things have been slow lately.  The new job has been eating most of my time and we leave for Kodiak in less than two weeks so prepping for that has been taking the rest of my time!  I am trying to get a few posts scheduled for while we're gone, but in the meantime, here's a snapshot of the kitchen overload I've been engaging in over the past week as I prepped and dehydrated two weeks worth of food!  We're taking a pair of extra MREs and a pair of extra Mountain House meals, but those are all in case of weather delays.  Everything for the planned time I did myself.

On our trip we'll be feasting on chili, beef stew, stir fry, burrito bowls, beef burgundy, and spaghetti for dinners.  Desserts will be pudding, strawberry or chocolate cheesecake, pumpkin and apple pies, and strawberry shortcake.  Breakfasts alternate between oatmeal and chocolate chip pancakes.  Lunches are simple PBJs on crackers or tortillas.  For snacks we have beef jerky and fruit leather, plus I plan on making a batch of trail bread before we hit the road.  Exciting!

February 25, 2012

Thai Take-In

Okay, so, I took some fantastically gorgeous pictures of this dinner!  Lots of them!  ...Without a memory card in my camera.  Ooops.  I promise I'll take some more (WITH the memory card) when I'm eating leftovers next week.  Unless I forget because I'm busy with the new job (had I mentioned that yet?  I'm employed again!), in which case I'll just have to make this whole thing over again and eat even more Thai and you know, that sounds like an amazing idea really!


Rewind four months.  I was just coming back from the Grand Canyon Adventure with Adventure and Cooking Buddy Stacey.  Traditionally, we make our first meal after a backpacking trip a special one.  In Alaska, it was always Moose Tooth.  This time we tried the steak house at the Canyon, but the food was not up to our ridiculous foodie standards.  I thought Stacey was going to cry when her dessert came out covered in cool whip.  So we needed another, better post-Canyon celebration dinner.  Well, plans changed and Stacey came back to Vegas with me before returning home, and she declared that we should feast at Lotus of Siam.  This was a place that had been recommended to me by several people but I just hadn't made it there yet (something which I now regret).  So, off to Lotus we went.

Oh.  My.  God.

We ordered drunken noodles with crispy duck and khao soi with braised short ribs.  I was in heaven.  Absolute heaven.  Unfortunately, we only had a few more weeks left in Vegas at that point.  I set about going to Lotus every chance I got.

Back to the present:  I have been Lotus-less for four months now.  I swear I have actually been dreaming about that khao soi.  I had to have some.  So, I had to make some.  I spent a few days looking at various recipes on the internet, then set about winging it with my own recollection of the dishes from Lotus.  I was very pleased with how the Khao Soi turned out.  The Drunken Noodles weren't perfect, but The Husband loved them anyway.

Khao Soi Braised Short Ribs


6 beef short ribs
salt and pepper
1 T evoo
2 T vegetable oil
1 T minced garlic
1 T red curry paste
1 c red wine
6 c water

1 package thin rice or egg noodles
1 T evoo

2 T vegetable oil
1 T minced garlic
2 T red curry paste
1 can (2 c) coconut milk
2 c braising liquid or beef stock
1 1/2 t turmeric
1 T soy
1 T sugar
1 t salt

1 diced serrano chili
pickled veggies*

Place dutch oven** on lowest rack.  Preheat oven to 350.  In a large skillet, heat the evoo.  Rub the ribs with salt and pepper, then brown on each side.  Set aside.  In a sauce pan, heat up the vegetable oil until it is sizzling.  Add the garlic and the red curry, stirring well.  Add the wine and simmer for three minutes.  Add the water and return to a simmer.  Carefully pour liquids into dutch oven.  Add ribs and cover.  Cook for 2-2.5 hours or until meat is falling off the bones.

When the ribs are almost done, make the curry sauce.  Heat the vegetable oil, then add the garlic and red curry, stirring well.  While stirring, add the coconut milk, then the braising liquid.  Simmer for three minutes.  Stir in the turmeric, soy, sugar and salt (for a spicier dish, add the diced chili).  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes.

While the curry is cooking, cook the noodles according to the package instructions.  Drain.  Heat the evoo in a skillet and toss the noodles in, stirring constantly until noodles are slightly toasted.

Serve curry and short ribs over noodles, topping with pickled veggies.

*I tried pickling my own but I wasn't happy with the result.  I will try again.
**If you have a flat bottomed dutch oven, no need to preheat, just use it instead of the saucepan in the following steps.

Drunken Noodles with Veggies


2 T vegetable oil
3 cups diced veggies - baby corn, bell peppers, green beans
2 T minced garlic
3 serrano chiles, diced

1/2 bag of wide egg noodles

4 T soy
1 1/2 T oyster sauce
1 T rice vinegar
3 T brown sugar
lime juice from 1 lime

dash white pepper

Heat the oil in a large wok.  Add the veggies, garlic, and chiles, stirring well.  Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.  While vegetables are cooking, boil noodles according to package directions and drain.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the noodles and continue to fry for 3 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, mix together the soy, oyster sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and lime juice.  Pour over the noodles and veggies, stirring well.  Cook until the sauce has reduced, stirring constantly.  Top with a dash of white pepper and serve.

February 15, 2012

Marsala Risotto, Crispy Roasted Veggies, and the Holy Grail of Chocolate Cake

February's HH6 (as a side note, I really need to update my HH6 blogs tab) (side note two, I'm also a few days early with this) cooking challenge:

In celebration of Valentine's Day, create a dish that represents your relationship with your significant other. (example: the meal you had on your first date, on a vacation together, what you ate before you got engaged, the meal you had at your wedding etc.)

I have changed a lot over the course of my relationship with my husband.  I count myself as very fortunate that he has changed along with me.  Those who knew me in high school are continually amazed at the person I've become and I owe much of that to my husband who has always encouraged me to be a stronger, better person (even if he doesn't realize he's doing it!).

When we got married, I couldn't really cook.  I was student teaching right before we tied the knot and I'm pretty sure I lived on Kraft mac and cheese, Hamburger Helper, and frozen bagged stew mix.  The problem with this?  My husband hates cheese.  Insanity!  So there went the mac and cheese and most of the Hamburger Helpers!  What's a girl to do?  Why, learn to cook real food, of course.

One of the first real dishes I learned to cook was Chicken Marsala.  I've blogged this recipe before, so just follow the link to see.  I chose to use it for this challenge because it is pretty much the only thing that I cooked during our first year of marriage that survived my transition into a crazed foodie - and The Husband absolutely adores it.  The fact that he's been begging for it lately also might have played a part in my decision.

Back when we first got married, I'd serve the chicken with bagged instant rice and frozen veggies.  No more!  Now my chicken is accompanied with a creamy risotto flavored with marsala wine (no cheese, dear), and crispy roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts, both of which we would be content to eat like popcorn.  You never knew brussel sprouts could taste this good!

Marsala Risotto


1 c white rice
2 T butter
1 c marsala wine, divided in half
1 quart chicken stock (preferably home made!)

Always stir risotto CONSTANTLY!  This means if you need to cook something else at the same time, make sure that everything is mis en placed and within arms reach.

Heat the chicken stock until simmering.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer.  In a separate pot or saucepan, melt the butter until bubbly.  Add the rice and stir constantly until just toasted, not browned.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add in 1/2 c marsala wine.  Stir constantly.  Once the liquid is mostly gone, add a ladle of chicken stock.  Again, stir constantly.  Once the liquid is mostly gone, add another ladle of chicken stock.  Getting the picture?  Keep going until the stock is gone and/or the rice is creamy and fully cooked (if you run out of stock and it's not cooked, use hot water).  When the rice is cooked, add in the last 1/2 c marsala and keep on stirring.  Serve immediately.

Crispy Roasted Veggies


1 broccoli head, sliced into bite-sized pieces
4 brussel sprouts, quartered
Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 500.  Toss veggies onto a tray, drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with pepper and garlic salt.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Now, about the cake.  Valentines Day also happens to be The Husband's birthday, so I like to go all-out.  Last year was strawberry tartlets.  The two years before, though, he was deployed and got cake-in-a-jar (I should blog that sometime).  This year is all about the chocolate.

When I was in college, I went around making giant chocolate layer cakes for Christmas.  Of course, I used box mixes and what have you, but I think this tendency is part of the reason The Husband fell in love with me.  He comes from a family of chocoholics, and has been occasionally dropping hints that I have failed in providing him with Epic Layer Cake Goodness.  I needed to fix that.  So here we go, the Holy Grail of Chocolate Cake: chocolate fudge cake layered with cream cheese filling, chocolate-caramel butter cream and caramel cream drizzle.  You will never need another cake again.

*with the exception of the cake, which makes a full 13x9 sheet cake, the other recipes have been reduced because I only wanted to layer and frost a mini-cake, there being only two of us here.  If you are making a full-sized layer cake I recommend doubling the filling and the frosting.

Holy Grail of Chocolate Cake

Cake (Adapted from Alton Brown's Devil's Food Cake)


1 c boiling water
4 oz cocoa powder
1 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/4 c sugar
4 c flour
1 t baking soda
pinch salt
1 c vegetable oil
4 oz sour cream
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.  Line a 13x9 pan with parchment paper and grease the paper.

Combine water and cocoa powder until smooth.

Mix sugars, flour, baking soda and salt in your stand mixer.  In a separate bowl, whisk oil, sour cream, eggs, yolks, and vanilla.  Carefully add the chocolate mix to the wet ingredients, stirring well.  Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry, blending until smooth.  Pour into pan and bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before removing cake from pan.

Cream Cheese Filling


6 oz reduced fat cream cheese
2 T butter, room temperature
1/2 T vanilla
2-3 c powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until well mixed.  Add vanilla, then carefully add powdered sugar. Taste and add the final cup of sugar if you feel it necessary (I like my filling a bit tart).

Chocolate-Caramel Buttercream


1/2 c butter, room temperature
2 oz cocoa powder
3-4 c powdered sugar
1/3 c milk
2 t vanilla
2 t caramel coffee syrup

Combine powdered sugar and cocoa.  In a different bowl, beat butter for a minute.  Carefully add the sugar and cocoa, then the milk, vanilla and syrup.  Beat until fluffy.

Caramel Cream Drizzle


1/2 c brown sugar
2 T butter
2 T milk
powdered sugar to taste (2 T-1/3 c)

Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan, stirring constantly.  Cook until the mixture is quite bubbly, then whisk in milk.  Keep stirring and cook two more minutes, then set aside to cool.  Whisk in powdered sugar to taste (more if you want to use as frosting, less if you want to drizzle).

Building the Cake

Chill your cake layers (covered in plastic wrap) for at least an hour before building the cake.  Use a knife to level each layer if necessary.  Place first layer on a sheet of parchment paper.  Spread thickly with cream cheese filling, but leave a margin of 1/4 to 1/2 inch around the edge.  Place second layer on top and press down gently.  Spread the second layer with filling, again leaving a margin.  Top with third layer.  Spread cake thinly with buttercream - this is a crumb coating, don't make it perfect or thick.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before continuing.

Remove cake from fridge.  Spread with final layer of buttercream, then carefully transfer to the serving plate. Drizzle with caramel cream and enjoy!

February 10, 2012

Chinese Take-In

Sometimes, you just want Chinese food.  And sometimes, you're in a new place with little in the way of food options, and there's just no where good to go.  Therefore, tonight was Chinese Take-In.  I don't know why I hadn't thought of this earlier, making my own.  It's brilliant.  Just as delicious, cheaper, and nearly as easy.  Plus, it's kinda fun!

I wanted to surprise The Husband tonight.  Things have been pretty hectic the past few weeks and it's been difficult for me to cook more than spaghetti, so we've been eating out a lot.  This was our first evening home in several days, so it deserved something special.  Now, I think these will be regulars in our home!

Our Chinese Take-In consisted of the following:  Egg drop soup, lo mein, beef and broccoli, and kung pao beef.  I like egg drop soup a lot, but The Husband prefers wonton.  Egg drop was easier though, so that won out tonight.  We both love lo mein.  He usually gets something like beef and broccoli (or orange chicken, that will be a later dinner!) and I prefer spicier options, so I made both beef entrees.  As it turned out, he actually preferred the kung pao!

Given that my knowledge about cooking chinese food is... limited, I had some help with dinner tonight.  The recipes I modified, I posted here along with a link to the original.  Those I did not modify just get linked!

Egg Drop Soup

Lo Mein

Beef and Broccoli


1/2 lb stir fry beef, cut into strips
1 large head of broccoli crowns, sliced

1/2 t baking soda
1 t sugar
1 T soy sauce
2 T peanut oil
1 T sherry
1 t ginger

1/2 c soy sauce
2 T teriyaki sauce
3 clove garlic, minced
1 t cornstarch
2 T sherry

3 T vegetable oil

Whisk together the marinade.  Toss the beef in the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Turn once, halfway through.

Mix together sauce.

Heat 2 T of oil in a wok.  Saute broccoli 2 minutes.  Remove from wok and set aside.  Add 1 T of oil to wok.  Saute meat and 1/2 of sauce for 4 minutes.  Add broccoli and the rest of the sauce.  Cook two more minutes.

Kung Pao Beef


1/2 lb stir fry beef, cut into strips

1/4 c teriyaki sauce
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t ancho chili powder
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 t ginger

1 T peanut oil

2 scallions, sliced.

Mix together the sauce.  Toss the beef in the sauce.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour, turning once.  Heat oil in wok.  Add steak and cook 4-5 minutes.  Sprinkle with scallions.

January 18, 2012

Chili Rellenos

I apologize for the long hiatus, but we spent all of December moving again.  We're still not all unpacked here at the new place, but I made the kitchen a priority.  It's the only room in the house that is 100% functional.  With that said, I'll kick off my return to blogging with this month's HH6 challenge (due to the holidays there was no December challenge so I didn't miss one)!

Prepare a dish that you have never made before but always wanted to try.  Tell us why you have taken quite some time to make this dish.

Back in August of 2009, just before school started (you know, the days the teachers are there working but the kids aren't), I remember going out to lunch with my co-workers.  We headed to Mexican place down the street.  I had the chili rellenos.  I'm not sure how the conversation ended up where it did, but I made some comment about how it was probably hard to make chili rellenos or something along those lines.  One of my friends then pointed out that I was no slouch in the kitchen and certainly I could make chili rellenos if I wanted to.  Huh, I thought to myself, I guess I could!  So I decided that I would learn to make chili rellenos by the end of the year.

Yeah, that never happened.

I did go and read up on how to make them and I think that intimidated me.  It seemed like a whole lot of steps, between roasting and skinning the chili and making the batter and the tendency of things to go horribly, horribly wrong when I have hot oil around... So the whole thing sort of fell to the wayside.  Until I got this challenge in my email, that is.  So I began researching once more and as soon as I had the kitchen put to rights, I whipped out the frying oil and dove right in.

Honestly, it wasn't all that difficult.  The batter got nice and crispy, the poblano was tender, the salsa perfectly spicy.  I think I'll continue questing for a different sauce, but other than that both The Husband and I enjoyed this dinner very much.

One of the big decisions in making a chili relleno is what to stuff them with.  Cheese is, of course, the standard.  But why be boring?  I happened to have some pulled pork on hand (the first thing I did when I got my Traeger back was smoke a pork butt!) so I mixed that up with some spinach and grated cheese to make the filling.  Be creative!

The basic recipe came from Macheesmo, whom I had never heard of before.  They're really awesome though - go check them out!


1 poblano pepper per person, plus one extra
1 head garlic, peeled
4 tomatoes
1 jalapeno, seeded and halved
1/2 onion, quartered
1 lime
1 c flour
1/2 c beer
4 eggs, separated
vegetable oil

handful pulled pork
grated mozzarella and cheddar
handful of spinach, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 450.  Spread the poblanos, garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno and onion out on a baking sheet and roast until tender, turning the poblanos every few minutes.  If some things are cooking faster than others, pull them out early.  It should take about 30-40 minutes.

Carefully place one poblano per person into a plastic or paper bag.  Fold up and set aside to steam.

Combine the remaining poblano with all the other roasted goodness in a food processor.  Squeeze in the lime juice and process briefly until you have salsa!  Set aside.

Combine your filling ingredients in a bowl.

Now, back to the poblanos.  This is a bit tricky, so be very careful with every step here!  Remove the poblanos from the bag.  Peel the skin off, but don't tear the pepper!  It's ok if there's a bit of skin left on there.  Then make a small slice along the side.  Reach in and cut/scoop out all of the seeds.

Time to make the batter!  Mix egg yolks, flour and beer together in a bowl.  In another bowl, whip your egg whites until frothy.  Carefully fold the whites into the flour mixture, keeping as many air bubbles as possible.

Stuff the peppers!  Gently fill each pepper with your stuffing mix.  Don't over fill!

Heat oil in a skillet.  You should have about 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom.  Once it is hot, carefully dip the stuffed peppers in the batter.  Lay in the skillet seam side down.  After 2-3 minutes, turn and fry the other side.

Drain on paper towels.  Serve with salsa spooned over top.