Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shrimp Carbonara

Dan was feeling under the weather today and had to leave work early. What does one feed to a sick person? Ginger ale and soda crackers? How boring! And so sad. I figured something heartier would perk his immune system up faster. 

I've been reading Closet Cooking a lot lately, and the guy loves his shrimp. He's got recipes for Thai Lemon Shrimp, Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Po' Boys...just to name a few. He also had a great recipe for Shrimp Carbonara, and I just happened to have all the ingredients to make it. Shrimp has a lot of protein in it, right? And I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that carbohydrates do a body good.

The dish came together super quickly and was amazingly delicious. The shrimp was plump and tender, and while I didn't have any linguine, spaghetti worked wonderfully with the creamy, cheesy sauce. Dan gobbled down a heaping bowlful before crawling back onto the couch for a nap. He's looking better already!

Shrimp Carbonara (Adapted from Closet Cooking's Recipe)

- 1/2 box of linguine (or spaghetti)
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled/de-veined
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped

(1) Start cooking the pasta.
(2) In a medium-sized pan, cook the bacon. Set bacon aside and get rid of all but 1 tbsp of the bacon grease.
(3) Add shrimp and garlic to the bacon pan, saute until just cooked.
(4) In a separate bowl, mix yolk, parmesan, and heavy cream. Season with salt/pepper to taste.
(5) Drain pasta, then add it to the pan. Toss until shrimp and pasta are well-combined.
(6) When sizzling sounds stop, pour egg/cheese mixture into the pan. Toss until pasta is well-coated.
(7) Serve with parsley sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Crab Cakes

Dan hates grocery shopping with me. He says that no matter what I have written down on my shopping list, and no matter how many times I say that "this is gonna be a real quick trip, I promise!" I always end up meandering down the aisles and walking away with 50 extra things "I just have to have." So occasionally he'll refuse to go to the store with me. How is that smart? Letting me wander through food paradise unsupervised is a terrible idea! For example, this weekend I went to BJ's to pick up frozen strawberries and kitty litter, and came home with a 16-piece set of drinking glasses, apple pie, heavy cream, milk, and crab claws. In my defense, the glasses came in handy for mimosas at brunch, I used the cream to make whipped cream to go with the apple cinnamon doughnuts, and milk + apple pie was a delicious late night snack!

And, by Monday night, the crab claws were the answer to our daily dilemma of "what should we have for dinner tonight?" Crab cakes, obviously.

These crab cakes were super easy to make. Just dump all the ingredients into one bowl, mix it up, form cakes with your hands, and stick them on a hot pan. Boom, done in 20 minutes.

The crab meat refuses to be contained!

I wish I had put more bread crumbs in the mixture so the cakes would have crisped up more on the outside, but otherwise these crab cakes were delicious. Soft and creamy, with just a hint of tang from the mustard, and lots and lots of yummy crab meat. These are definitely going to be added to the weekly dinner menu!

Crab Cakes (Adapted from Crab Cake Recipes's website)

- 1 lb crab meat (I use claw meat)
- 1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp minced onion
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp mustard (Most recipes call for dijon, but I just used plain ol' yellow)
- 2 tbsp melted butter
** I kind of winged it with my measurements. If the mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If too dry, add more butter/mayo. It's all really just up to your own tastes.

(1) In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients until well-combined.
(2) Scoop up mixture by the spoonful and shape them into cakes with your hands.
(3) Drop cakes onto oiled skillet. 
(4) Cook on medium heat until golden brown on both sides. 
(5) Serve on bed of greens.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts

This past weekend, in order to celebrate the fact that we now officially own our condo, Dan and I invited some friends over for a housewarming brunch. Dan was in charge of the eggs and bacon, and I tried my hand at doughnuts.

Doughnuts are usually fried, right? That's a problem, because not only do I not own a fryer, I'm also trying to watch my girlish figure so that I can properly wreck it over Thanksgiving. So, what to do, what to do. Pass on the doughnuts and serve a fruit salad instead? Nahhhh. Enter Google search for "baked doughnut recipes."

Surprisingly, there were tons of recipes online for baked doughnuts. Most of them were just made of flour, sugar, baking powder and butter -- presumably, they produced cake-y doughnuts. That's not what I was looking for. I wanted to make Krispy Kreme-esque doughnuts: light and pillowy, more sweet bread than cake, and 101 Cookbooks had a recipe that seemed to fit the bill.

I didn't have doughnut pans or cookie cutters, but it turns out that cups and shot-glasses are perfect for cutting out perfectly round doughnuts and adorable little doughnut holes. Take that, Williams-Sonoma, with your ridiculously enticing product emails...

These doughnuts turned out to be a huge pain in the ass (recipes that involve yeast always are), but were totally worth it. Super light and chewy, and oh-so-delicious dusted with cinnamon sugar. Perfect served with a dollop or two of fresh whipped cream.

Recipe for these baked doughnuts can be found here, with one slight modification: I wanted a slight apple flavor, so I substituted a 1/2 cup of the milk for about 1 cup of apple sauce. Unfortunately, the doughnuts turned out to be less apple-y than I would have liked. Next time I'm going to try using more apple sauce, or substituting apple butter or some other form of cooked apple.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


In the last two days or so, I've become obsessed with a food blog called "Closet Cooking." It was started by a guy who realized one day that he was eating the same things over and over again, and wanted to spice up his daily dining experiences. So he dove right into the world of cooking and went from making grilled cheese sandwiches to inventing caramelized pear and gorgonzola quiches. Meanwhile, I'm making 30-minute skillet chicken parmesan...

One of the recipes on the blog that caught my eye was the one for Okonomiyaki. My experience with Japanese cuisine has been limited mainly to teriyaki and sushi, but I'm an avid watcher of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and I knew about okonomiyaki from his visit to Osaka. They're basically just savory pancakes filled with whatever you want. In my case, I wanted lots and lots of vegetables to counter all the crap food I've been eating lately. Grated carrots and cucumbers, chopped green onions and cabbage. No bacon! Although I bet bacon would be really delicious in this...

I was almost done cooking before I realized that I didn't have either okonomiyaki sauce or Japanese mayonnaise to spread on top of the pancakes. I wasn't sure if okonomiyaki without sauce qualified as okonomiyaki, but I figured that as long as I had some kind of mayo on there I was in the clear. So, I whipped up some zesty Ranch mayo and drizzled that over my pancakes instead. I thought the tangy, creamy mayo was delicious, but Dan didn't like it as much and chose to eat his okonomiyaki with sriracha sauce instead. I tasted a bite from his plate, and I can testify that the pancakes are delicious no matter which sauce you go with.. 

Recipe for Okonomiyaki can be found here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

Lately Dan and I have been eating a lot of mozzarella sticks, leftover takeout, and cold pizza. My mom's birthday lunch kind of burned me out on the cooking front, and I haven't been able to muster the energy to whip up anything blog-worthy. There were the glazed, grilled pork chops last Friday, but...I was hungry and didn't remember to take pictures until the chops were a mere grease smear on our plates. Alas.

Not that Dan ever complains about what I put into his stomach or anything, but I was feeling a little guilty last night after work. There was a time -- not so long ago, really -- when I painstakingly planned our dinners hours in advance and eagerly looked forward to putting home-cooked meals on the table every night. That lasted...2 weeks, I think. How did I get so lazy so quickly? Anyway, I was bound and determined to whip up something delicious last night, but it was late-ish, and neither of us could wait long enough for anything really involved. So, what is quick and delicious and filling? Skillet chicken parmesan.

Because we ran out of eggs this weekend, and I only had panko breadcrumbs, I was originally just going to pan fry some chicken breasts, smother them in sauce and throw the whole thing into the oven for a while. Who says chicken in chicken parmesan has to be breaded? Imagine my delight when I discovered a canister of Italian-style breadcrumbs in the pantry and half a container of heavy cream in the fridge! In case you were wondering, cream with a dash of salt/pepper works just as well as eggs + milk when it comes to breading chicken.

This turned out to be one of the yummiest meals we've eaten in a while (although, note to self: brown the chicken longer to crisp it up more), and it took only 30 minutes from start to finish. Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray!

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/3 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 jar pasta sauce
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- Salt
- Pepper

(1) Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
(2) In small bowl, season cream with salt/pepper to taste. 
(3) In separate bowl, mix breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan.
(4) Dip chicken breasts into the cream, then dredge in breadcrumbs.
(5) Cook chicken breasts on a skillet over medium heat with the minced garlic until lightly brown. Turn once to brown both sides.
(6) Pour pasta sauce over breasts. Place cover on skillet and let everything cook for 15-20 minutes.
(7) Serve with pasta, salad, and garlic bread. Pile on the grated Parmesan!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Maple Fudge Cupcakes

I'm in a great mood this weekend. Dan and I are happily settled into our new condo, the kitty is doing very well, we finally have furniture in our bedroom, and I passed the bar exam. How do I choose to celebrate these wonderful events? Nights of debauchery? Fine dining on the town? Nope! I celebrate by sleeping in until 9:30am and trying out a new Hannah Swensen cupcake recipe.

In terms of taste and texture, these cupcakes taste more like brownies than cake. They're dense, chewy, and intensely fudgy with a nice maple after taste. As for the frosting, I could probably eat it by the spoonful. Even Dan, who isn't nearly as wild about chocolate as I am, ate 3 of these in rapid succession. Now that's a good cupcake.

Maple Fudge Cupcakes (Slightly modified from the Hannah Swensen recipe)


- 4 cups chocolate chips
- 1-1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1-2/3 cups flour
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup milk

- 2 cups chocolate chips
- 1 14oz can condensed milk

(1) Preheat oven to 350.
(2) Prepare muffin pan with liners, or grease cups if you don't want to use wrappers.
(3) Microwave the chocolate chips, syrup, and 1/4 cup sugar for 1 minute. Stir mixture until chips are melted and everything is smooth.
(4) Add milk, melted butter, and the rest of the sugar. Mix well.
(5) When mixture has cooled a little, add eggs, one at a time. Mix well.
(6) Gradually add flour. Let batter rest for 5 minutes.
(7) Fill  of each cupcake liner 3/4s of the way full.
(8) Bake for 20-25 minutes.

(9) For the frosting, melt chocolate chips and condensed milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly to make sure mixture doesn't scorch. Drop large spoonfuls to fill the craters at the center of each cupcake + some extra to cover the rest of the cupcake top. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, or garnish with fresh fruit of choice.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chinese Birthday Meal

I have the best mother on the planet. I know everyone thinks their mother is the best, but take my word for it guys...mine is the greatest ever. She's beautiful, glamorous, wildly intelligent, kind-hearted, and generous to a fault. She's always there for me when I need her, I'm pretty sure her life goal -- other than becoming an international expert on honeybee viruses (which she is) -- is to make sure I'm happy and fulfilled, and she bullies me into being the best that I can be every day. She is my idol, and I love her. And I don't think I do enough to show her that I appreciate her.

Her birthday was last Thursday, and as per usual I had something delicious delivered to her office to be shared with her co-workers. But, because I was feeling particularly grateful to my mom (she and my dad gifted us the down payment on our new condo...see what I mean about generosity?), I wanted to do something extra special for her. So, I invited her over for a home-cooked, traditional Chinese birthday meal. What better way to show someone you care about them than to feed them?

We started with deviled eggs. OK, so deviled eggs aren't exactly a "traditional Chinese food." But, I read somewhere online that eggs are eaten on special occasions in China, because their round, smooth shape symbolizes continuity and unity. Or maybe it has something to do with fertility? Either way, eggs are special, so I was making eggs for my mom. Plain ol' hard-boiled eggs are gross though, so I jazzed them up a bit with mustard and mayo. Delicious!

Dumplings are also can important dish for special occasions, because they look like money (old school Chinese money), and so symbolize good fortune/wealth. My local grocery store didn't carry dumpling wrappers so I had to make do with wonton wrappers instead. I mixed together ground pork, green onions, chopped cabbage, soy sauce and sesame oil, folded them into roughly dumpling-esque shapes, tossed them into my wok, and hoped for the best. Not the prettiest dumplings I've ever made, but pretty tasty anyway.

No Chinese birthday is complete without "longevity noodles." Noodles are a symbol of longevity in China, and long noodles represent long life. On birthdays, we customarily eat bowls of noodles to ensure that we live long and healthy lives. I want my mom to live a very long and very healthy life, so I obviously had to serve her noodles.

As far as I know, pork doesn't symbolize anything...Chinese people just love to eat it. Who can blame us? It's fatty and delicious. My dad makes the best fatty pork dish I've ever tasted -- the fat just melts on your tongue, and the rest of the meat is unbelievably tender and flavorful. I couldn't even begin to compete with that, so I decided to make braised pork ribs instead. My friend from college recently posted a recipe for it on her blog, and I tried it out to great success and praise from everyone. Thanks, Lucy!

My proudest achievement in this meal was this birthday cake. Chinese-style birthday cakes are different from traditional birthday cakes in that they're a lot less sweet, utilize tons of fresh fruit, and have a much lighter/fluffier frosting. My mom has a crazy sweet tooth, but she hates the run-of-the-mill, sickly sweet birthday cakes found at grocery stores the world over. In recent years we've started ordering cakes from our local Asian supermarket, and they are always light and delicious. When I saw that my friend Lucy also had a post about Chinese bakery-style birthday cakes on her blog, I knew I had to try my hand at it. I am the world's worst cake froster, but the cake was wonderful. The spongy cake was light and fluffy, the frosting was delicate in its sweetness, and the fresh fruit was scrumptious. Dan and my dad both ate second helpings and declared it to be better than any other birthday cake they'd ever eaten. And my mom? She actually finished an entire slice of cake, and didn't scrape off 90% of the frosting like she usually does. Success!

Happy birthday, Mom! Hope you had a great day :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Man, it's been a while since my last post! It's not that I haven't been cooking -- I have, I swear. Pork chops, stuffed chicken breasts, soy-glazed salmon, etc. I just haven't been able to find time to take pictures/blog about it. I started my clerkship back in September, and then Dan and I moved into our new condo -- between commuting to/from work, buying a car, furnishing the condo, and getting lost in our new neighborhood on almost a daily basis, I barely have the energy to wolf down my dinner before it's time to fall into bed.

We also adopted a kitten, so a lot of our time in the evenings is spent trying to buy her love with food and belly rubs. She's definitely getting a little spoiled by all the attention. Her new favorite activity is jumping into bed with us way too early in the morning and making a nuisance of herself until one of us surrenders and gets up to feed her. Just this morning I was woken up by the little fur ball at 5:30am -- come to think of it, maybe this is why I've been too tired in the evenings to cook/take pictures/blog.

Today was the first day in a long time that I had a chance to cook at a leisurely pace. Emily and Smriti came over to see the new place and meet my kitty, and I decided to feed them too.

The pasta shells were stuffed and baked in less than an hour, smothered in cream sauce, and heartily enjoyed with garlic bread and glasses of wine. Delicious! (And even better cold the next day)

Stuffed Pasta Shells: (From...Food Network, I think)

- 12 jumbo pasta shells

- 2-1/2 cups ricotta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups spinach
- 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used mushrooms this time)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper.

- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic, inced
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 tbsp chopped chives or green onions
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes

(1) Preheat oven to 350.
(2) Butter 9x13 glass baking dish. Set aside.
(3) Boil medium pot of water. Add pasta shells and cook for about 9 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse. Set aside.
(4) In large bowl, mix ricotta and Parmesan.
(5) In medium skillet over medium heat, add garlic, spinach, and mushrooms. Stir until spinach is wilted and mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
(6) Add spinach/mushroom mixture to cheese mixture. Combine well.
(7) Stuff each shell with a heaping spoonful of the filling and line them up in the baking dish.
(8) For the sauce, heat the butter in a sauce. Add garlic and flour, whisk until smooth. Gradually add cream and milk. Whisk until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Remove from heat and add chives, 1 cup Parmesan, and tomatoes. Pour over shells.
(9) Bake for 30 minutes.