Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hotdog Sundaes

You know what the worst kind of day is? The worst kind of day is when you're hungry after a long day of doing absolutely nothing, and you shuffle over to the fridge for sustenance only to realize that your leftovers are unappetizing, you're not in the mood for pasta, and everything else that is cook-able is iced over in the freezer. Big time bummer.

So what can you do? Order out? A viable option, but that can get expensive. Go grocery shopping? No way, that would totally defeat the purpose of your lazy do-nothing day. Plus, it's cold out right now. That leaves you with option #3: rummage through your fridge/pantry, grab anything that catches your eye, throw it all together, and hope it's delicious. That's how Dan and I ended up eating hotdog sundaes for dinner last night.

Hotdog sundaes, you say? Disgusting! Unfathomable! HOW COULD YOU?! That's how I reacted the first time Karen told me about the special treat her mom used to make for her and her brothers. I pictured a standard sundae with bananas, ice cream, chopped up hotdog bits, and ketchup/mustard on top. Gross. Fortunately, Karen's mom is not a lunatic, and hotdog sundaes are not at all what I was imagining. For one thing, they're not meant to be a dessert. Thank god.  

In this delightfully-named concoction, hotdogs (in a bun) take the place of bananas, and scoops of ice cream are replaced with scoops of mashed potatoes. Shredded cheese is sprinkled on in place of jimmies, and gravy (if you're so inclined) is drizzled instead of fudge or caramel. The end result should look like a seriously loaded street dog. Yum!

Hotdog Sundaes (Courtesy of Karen)
When I made this last night for dinner, I didn't have hotdog buns, so I sliced up a baguette and slathered  the pieces with garlic and herb butter. And, in order to spread out my two remaining turkey sausages, I chopped them into small pieces and layered those on top of the bread. Topped off with buttery green onion mashed potatoes and cheese, then toasted in the oven, these were absolutely scrumptious. If I were to serve them as an appetizer (and I definitely will), I would have to reduce the proportions of each component a lot more, because even in last night's reduced form these sundaes were a huge mouthful -- two or three mouthfuls, actually.

Ingredients: (1 sundae)
- 1 hotdog or sausage, cooked
- 1 hotdog bun, buttered
- 1 cup mashed potatoes, cooked
- Shredded cheese for sprinkling
- Gravy, if desired.

(1) Preheat oven to 350
(2) Fully cook hotdog/sausage. Place inside hotdog bun.
(3) Using an ice cream scoop, generously heap hotdog with mashed potatoes. I like homemade chunky mashed potatoes with butter, garlic, and green onions, but instant mashed potatoes are good too.
(4) Place sundae on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with as much cheese as desired.
(5) Toast in oven for about 5 minutes.
(6) Serve plain or with gravy.
** For appetizer-sized sundaes, you can either chop up all the buns/dogs into small pieces like Karen usually does, or go with the baguette-layering route like I did last night.

Monday, February 21, 2011


So last week one of my interns told me that if I could successfully make tiramisu and post about it, his wife would officially start following/reading my blog. Well! I'm never one to turn down new readership, so....challenge accepted.

If I had known how difficult it would be to track down all the ingredients for tiramisu, I probably wouldn't have been quite so enthusiastic about accepting the challenge. I had to hit up to two different Safeways before I managed to get my hands on marscapone cheese, and then neither store had ladyfingers. In fact, none of the store employees had even heard of ladyfingers. "Lady Bingers?" one guy repeated in confusion. "No. Lady FINGERS. They're cookies that look like fingers? No? Nevermind." In the end, I had to just make my own. Oy.

So...espresso is basically just really strong coffee, right? I didn't have a fancy espresso maker, but I did have an electric drip coffee brewer. I also had a giant tub of Folgers coffee grounds from BJs, but I didn't think that would taste very good in a dessert, so I bought some espresso grounds and hoped that would make a difference. The espresso certainly smelled significantly better than the Folgers. And then when a splash of rum got thrown in the mix...yum! No wonder everyone likes tiramisu.

Aside from the grocery store debacle, tiramisu-making proceeded smoothly for the most part until the very end. Then, as I began building the cake layers, I realized that (1) I had made too few ladyfingers, so the tiramisu was going to be significantly more cream than cookie; and (2) the baking dish I was using was too long and shallow, so the whole thing was going to be a lot flatter than those gloriously thick cakes you get at Italian restaurants. Bummer! Still, it was too late at that point to change anything, so I just barreled onwards and hoped that even if my tiramisu didn't look great, it would at least taste good.

And it did! Shockingly good, in fact. 12 hours in the fridge had firmed the cream up to the perfect consistency, and while there was very little sugar in both the ladyfingers and marscapone cream, the whole concoction was pleasantly sweet, with distinct notes of coffee and rum. Mmm, rum. My tiramisu was definitely rummier than the usual restaurant version, but the stronger boozy flavor was not at all off-putting. Delicious! Are you reading yet, Heather? :)

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Apple Cheesecake Cupcakes

Last night I was seized with the most irresistible urge to bake something. But what to bake? Nothing chocolate. I'm sick of chocolate, if you can believe it. Maybe a pie? Nah, too much work -- no pre-made pie crusts in the freezer, and I'll be damned if I'm going to start rolling out my own crust at 9pm on a Wednesday. Then I remembered that Dan had been talking earlier in the day about his love of apple turnovers and sugary apple filling. Apple cheesecake cupcakes are topped with something similar to apple pie filling...

The first time I made this recipe was 2 or 3 years ago, the summer of my 1L year. I was working at the FDA in Rockville, MD, but living in DC. My friend Karen, who was also working there, lived down the street from me, and we took the Metro to work together every morning. After several failed attempts to get her to go running with me after work (Dan was living with me that summer, but he is lazy), I devised a plan to change her mind. I whipped up a batch of these cupcakes, then casually started to bring her one every morning "for breakfast." Karen has IBS, so she is generally a light eater, but she has a weakness for cheesecake. After a few days of eating cheesecake for breakfast, she started feeling guilty about indulging her sweet tooth -- but, these cupcakes were too good to resist!  It was easy to bully her into working out with me after that. Love you, Karen!

When I made these cupcakes the Summer of Karen's Downfall, I used peach/mango topping, but any kind of fruit would work just as well. This was my first time using apples, but I think I like them the best. If an apple pie and a cheesecake were to fall in love, mate, and produce a baby, these cupcakes would be it. Dense and creamy, not too sweet, with a hint of tang from sour cream, and topped off with sweet apple pie filling. Yum!

Apple Cheesecake Cupcakes

- 1-1/2 8oz packages of cream cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp cinnamon

(Sour cream topping)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp sugar

(Apple topping)
- 1 large apple, peeled/cored/diced
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp corn starch

(1) Preheat oven to 300. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.
(2) In a large bowl, mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy.
(3) Add eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix well.
(4) Spoon cheesecake mixture into cupcake liners, each about 2/3 full.
(5) Bake for 40 minutes. Pull out of the oven and set aside to cool. Leave oven on, and do not remove cupcakes from the tin.
**Cupcakes will come out puffy, but the middle will sink in drastically -- this is good!
(6) In a small bowl, combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Mix well.
(7) When cupcakes have cooled, spoon about a tablespoon of the sour cream topping into the sunken middles of each cupcake.
**Use more if necessary -- I like to see a heaping mound peeking over the edges of the cupcake.
(8) Stick cupcakes back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
(9) While you're waiting for the cupcakes to cool again, start the apple topping. Place apples in a small pot or saucepan, and cook on high heat.
(10) Add sugars and stir. The apples should start getting juicy right away.
(11) Add lemon juice and cinnamon. Keep stirring.
(12) When the apple pieces start to look soft, throw in the corn starch. This will thicken up the juices and leave you with something similar to preserves.
(13) Let the apple mixture cool before spooning on top of cupcakes.
(14) Cupcakes are good warm, but even better after some time in the fridge/freezer.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! Hope you all have someone nice to share it with, and if not, hopefully you have a ton of delicious chocolate treats on hand for immediate consumption. That's the only reason anyone celebrates Valentine's Day, right? An excuse to go on an all-out, gluttonous chocolate binge? Yes? Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I've been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to make for my Valentine's post. Something chocolate-y, obviously, but beyond that there were too many possibilities. Chocolate truffles? Maybe. Molten lava cake? Mmmmm. Chocolate covered strawberries? Decadent and healthy-ish, and possibly an aphrodisiac! But at the end of the day I settled on homemade Hostess cupcakes. There's something about reproducing homemade versions of popular commercial brand foods that really tickles me pink. Don't ask, I can't explain it either.

Is there anyone who didn't love Hostess cupcakes as a kid? Tender crumbly cake, sweet creme filling, rich chocolate topping that can be pulled away and eaten separately. Mmmm. Sure, the whole thing was a little too sweet and artificial-tasting, but I loved 'em anyway. I ate them every single day in high school until the day I discovered the wonders of glazed Honey Buns.

So, the homemade version. Awesome, but different. The cake is less sweet, probably because there is not a ton of sugar in the recipe. And, the entire outside is slightly crusty, like the top of a muffin -- I didn't use cupcake wrappers, so that could be why. But the cream filling, ganache topping and piping? Spot on. Tasted exactly like a Hostess cupcake should. 

This was a very time-intensive dessert (so many steps -- baking, filling, icing, piping), but I was very pleased overall, and Dan gave his stamp of approval -- always a win in my book. 

Recipe can be found here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wonton Cups with Spinach and Mushroom Ricotta Filling

Happy Superbowl Sunday, everyone! And...happy 1 year anniversary to my blog! To celebrate both momentous occasions, I spent the better part of the afternoon cooking: crab quesidillas, pizza dip, fresh guacamole, and...wonton cups with spinach and mushroom filling.

Why wonton cups? Well, I got really into cooking-themed books last year, and these cups were mentioned in passing in one of my books. There, the cups were filled with tuna tartare, but I had a feeling the people coming to my Superbowl party weren't going to be thrilled with raw fish, so I went with something a little tamer.

Who knew wonton wrappers were so versatile? I'd only ever used them to make wontons and crab rangoons, but they're actually quite effective as Tostito-esque scoops. And aren't they pretty? This is definitely something that looks fancier and more complicated than it actually is.

You can fill the cups with just about anything -- hummus, crab dip, salsa -- but I can tell you that sauteed spinach/mushrooms with ricotta was very tasty. The only downside is that, once filled, the cups lose a lot of their crisp/crunch over time. Maybe more time in the oven would fix this? Or perhaps frying vs. baking? 

Wonton Cups

- 1 package of wonton skins

(1) Preheat oven to 350
(2) Grease a mini muffin pan.
(3) Press a single wonton skin into each muffin cup. Make sure the skin doesn't fold in too much -- there needs to be enough space to fill with good stuff.
(4) Bake for 7-9 minutes, until lightly brown and crispy.
(5) Fill with anything you want, or serve as dip scoops.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kimchi Bokumbop (Kimchi Fried Rice)

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! All last week I had grand plans to make jiao zi (dumplings) and dou sha bao (steamed buns with red bean paste) and other Chinese goodies, but somehow I never got around to it. Fortunately, the New Year is supposed to be celebrated for 15 days, so I've still got plenty of time to make everything.

In the meantime, I just had to satisfy my craving for kimchi fried rice. My friend Grace posted a picture of her husband cooking it for a midnight snack a few days ago, and I've had kimchi on the brain ever since. It's just so pungent and tangy and delicious! So good as a side, but possibly even better in fried-rice form. It's definitely way better comfort food than mac and cheese or ice cream. And, I just happened to have a small jar of very ripe (best if used by 12/10/10...but still tasty in February!) kimchi sitting in my fridge, waiting to be eaten.

Since Dan and I live together now, it's pretty rare for me to cook a meal just for myself, especially on  weekends. Everything I cook these days is tailored to both of our tastes. So, it was with some trepidation that I asked Dan how he felt about having kimchi fried rice for lunch today. I love kimchi, but he hated it the last time we went to a Korean BBQ restaurant, and has steadfastly refused to eat it again since. Fortunately for me, however, he has terrible long-term memory when it comes to stuff that he eats, so by the time I asked about lunch, he had already forgotten that he'd ever eaten kimchi, and was willing to give the fried rice a shot. 

The result? I'm going to remember this moment forever as a shining victory in my Dan-feeding adventures. He not only ate the rice, but pronounced it delicious and went back for seconds. Awesome.

For the recipe and quick explanation of kimchi fried rice, check out www.trifood.com.