Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shooter's Sandwich

So, miracle of miracles, this recipe was actually sent to me by Dan. Yeah. The man who thinks eating is a hassle and only sometimes gets excited for dinner if it involves dumplings and/or blueberry pie sent me a link to a sandwich. Must be one hell of a sandwich! Naturally, I had to check it out. 

OK, so what the hell is a "shooter's sandwich?" According to the article Dan sent me, it's apparently an English invention. It was originally created as a snack that a gentleman's cook would make the night before a hunt, to be eaten when the gentleman in question got hungry after a day of bloodthirsty entertainment. So, it's literally a sandwich for someone who shoots. Cool.

More specifically, the shooter's sandwich involves a hollowed out loaf of bread, lots of steak, and mushroom/shallots cooked in loads of butter. And it's delicious. Really really delicious. Steak is always wonderful, but when loaded with super buttery mushrooms and wrapped in crusty bread soaked through with meat/shroom juice...words fail me. Just try it. And if you happen to have dijon mustard on hand, use it. Trust me.

For the recipe and a wonderful slideshow of the step-by-step construction of this sandwich, click here.

One year agoBridal Shower Spread

Thursday, March 24, 2011


OK, so the other day I was reading a super dorky food-themed manga about a kid that's really good at making bread. Like, really good. Better than every other baker in the world, in fact, despite zero professional training. And this is all because he has these "solar hands" that are naturally super warm so that when he kneads his dough the heat really gets the yeast going, the whole thing comes together and rises a lot faster than normal. As a result, his breads are always perfectly moist and fluffy, with the just the right amount of crustiness for each type of bread he makes. Seriously, his bread is so good that one bite will literally kill you with its awesomeness. Totally nerdy and improbable, but the story really got me excited to make some bread. 

Why brioche? Because a guy I knew in college (who is secretly a rock star in the kitchen) recently posted some really yummy looking pictures of the grilled cheese on homemade brioche he had made, and that  immediately made me want to make my own batch of bread so that I, too, could eat delicious grilled cheese and brioche sandwiches. What can I say, I am easily influenced by the whims of others.

I know it's not real and all, but...I would love to have me some "solar hands." Seriously, I can use all the help I can get when it comes to working with yeast. My doughs just don't rise properly!  Although, that may have less to do with my hand temperature and more to do with the fact that I am sometimes a moron in the kitchen.  When I made those embarrassingly scone-like hot cross buns, I screwed up because I substituted buttermilk for regular milk in the recipe, and all that acid killed my yeast. Then, when I failed at making dinner rolls, the yeast died once again when I poured scalding milk over it. Poor little bacteria...they never stand a chance. Still, I was determined to succeed this time and have the best dough-rising experience ever.

(Sad, poorly-risen dough) 

Everything was going great until the recipe told me to slather butter over my dough and knead it until the butter was incorporated. I had halved the recipe because I only wanted one loaf of bread, but everything seemed fine. First, my yeast was percolating happily in lukewarm water, then my dough came together without a hitch. But then that butter came along and everything fell apart.

In retrospect, I may have been overzealous with my buttering. I know brioche is supposed to have high egg/butter content, but...this may have been too much. I forgot entirely that I had halved the recipe, and ended up slathering on twice as much butter as I intended to. I kept kneading and kneading, hoping the butter would incorporate, but the slickness of the dough made it impossible to have a smooth kneading experience. For the most part it felt like I was folding a doughy piece of paper, but after about 10 minutes the dough suddenly got sticky and started falling apart. Eff. That's when I figured it was time to let the thing rest and see if it would rise.

The dough rose, thank god, but not as much as it probably should have. And, the bread puffed up some more in the oven, so by sheer miracle I ended up with something that actually looked like it could be a loaf of bread. And, it tasted pretty good. Not quite like the brioche rolls I've eaten in restaurants, but still very buttery, egg-y, and almost cake-like in its fluffiness. Come to think of it, this would probably be mighty tasty toasted and slathered with some jam...

Not exactly an unqualified success, but at least I can probably still make some pretty tasty grilled cheeses.

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of

One year agoThe "Ultimate" Lasagna

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I noticed the other day that I've been making a lot of desserts lately. My last five or six posts have been sweet things -- girl scout cookies, molten lava cake, mini pies, etc. Come to think of it, I haven't made a proper meal since the day we had Chicken Fried Steak for lunch. This is not good. A girl can't live on desserts, you know. So when I came home from work tonight, I was pretty determined to cook something tasty that didn't involve any amount of sugar. Luckily, there was chicken in the fridge, and leftover pie dough + frozen mixed vegetables in the freezer. Chicken pot pie, hollaaaa!

The thing about chicken pot pie is that it's awesome. Like, really awesome. Definitely one of the top ten comfort foods of all time. Let's break it down, shall we? First, there's the buttery, flaky crust that melts in your mouth with every bite. Then you have the morsels of juicy chicken and softened vegetables that not only explode with flavor but also add a nice textural contrast to the mix. And finally, there's the thick, creamy, and fragrant gravy that binds it all together and amps up the comfort-food quality of the dish. Mmmmm. What's not to love?

I only had enough dough to make two 4-oz ramekin-sized mini pot pies, but that actually turned out to be the perfect amount of pot pie. Dan and I each ate one for dinner and felt totally satisfied. Chicken pot pie is both filling and delicious, after all. And, the mini pies were adorable! What a great day in the kitchen.

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of

Saturday, March 19, 2011

S'mores Cupcakes

I have a real soft spot in my heart for s'mores. Yes, they're delicious and evoke happy childhood memories, but they're also what I used to win my way into Dan's heart. Early into our awkward and nerdy courtship (we pretty much fell in love after discovering a mutual obsession with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series), I figured out that Dan had a wicked sweet tooth -- the man couldn't finish a small burger but could inhale a jumbo box of Junior Mints in about ten seconds. So, every night for weeks, I would just happen to make too many late night s'mores and have to find someone to take the extras off my hands. This had the happy effect of 1) giving me an excuse to go hang out with Dan, and 2) putting me in the good graces of Dan's three roommates, who never complained about me hanging out in their room all the time. Ah, young love.

So are these cupcakes the culmination of my grand love affair with Dan? Nope. The first time I made these cupcakes was for my roommate Shanna's birthday last year. She requested something sweet and chocolate-y that would simultaneously be soft and crunchy -- she's really into that whole textural-contrast thing. I was at a loss for what to do expect maybe make some brownies with nuts in it, but then I found a recipe online for s'mores cupcakes that seemed promising. 

Fresh out of the oven, these cupcakes were soft and gooey, and tasted exactly like the s'mores I grew up eating. If I closed my eyes and lit a match, I could almost believe I was sitting around a campfire. After a night in the fridge, however, they were even better, and fit Shanna's specifications perfectly. The sticky marshmallow frosting oozed into the soft and moist chocolate cake, and the hidden layer of melted chocolate on top of the crumbly graham cracker crust had hardened in the fridge to provide a satisfying snap/crunch with each bite. Definitely a must try.

S'mores Cupcakes (I can't take credit for this recipe, but unfortunately I don't remember which blog I snagged it from...)

- 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 

- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cups karo syrup (corn syrup)
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.
(2) In a large bowl, combine 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well combined.
(3) Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Mix well. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue stirring until smooth. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.
(4) Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined.
(5) Spoon 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. (I used a tall/thin shot glass) Save the rest of the graham cracker mixture for topping.
(6) Sprinkle 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes.
(7) Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture.
(8) Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan and let cool completely.
(9) While cupcakes are cooling, start making the marshmallow frosting. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until very frothy.
(10) Slowly add sugar and beat until smooth and glossy.
(11) Add syrup and beat the mixture until it holds stiff peaks. 
(12) Fold
 in vanilla extract, combining until smooth and uniform in color.
(13) Spoon frosting onto the tops of the cooled cupcakes. Stick them back into the oven to broil for a minute or two if you want to frosting to get brown/toasted. Or just sprinkle the cupcakes with chopped and/or shaved chocolate.

One year ago: Gooey Butter Cake With Peanut Butter Chips

For other delicious chocolate recipes, click here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Happy St. Patty's Day, everyone! Are you wearing green? I'm not. I don't really own anything green; it's not a great color for me. Thank god no one at work is fanatical about the whole wear-green-on-St. Patty's Day-or-get-pinched thing. That would have sucked! Elementary school bus rides really traumatized me on that front.

Anyway, I've been thinking long and hard about what to do for my St. Patty's Day post. Something green? Something with Guiness or whiskey? Something super Irish? I did the first two last year, so I decided to go Irish this year. What do Irish people eat? Shepherd's pie...corned beef...soda bread...potatoes! Gotta have potatoes. 

The Simply Recipes blog had a post on Colcannon earlier this week that looked pretty tasty, and I really wanted to try it. What is colcannon, you ask? It's a traditional Irish dish consisting mainly of mashed potatoes mixed with kale or cabbage and served with a heap of butter. It sounds kind of weird, but apparently it's so good that there's even a song about it.

I was a little hesitant about cooking kale, because I had never eaten it before, but...turns out I actually have eaten it before! Raw, it didn't look familiar, but as the cooked kale/garlic smell wafted out of the pan and hit my nose, I realized that kale is the mysterious green leafy vegetable my parents always cooked at home but never knew the English name for. Awesome! And delicious. Mashed potatoes are always good, but they're even better when a salty, textured vegetable is thrown into the mix, with a big dollop of butter. Those Irish folk really knew a thing or two about eating potatoes...

Recipe for colcannon can be found here, courtesy of the Simply Recipes blog.

One year agoGodiva Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Buttercream Frosting

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mini Blueberry Pies

Happy Pi(e) Day, everyone! What is Pi Day, you ask? It's a holiday commemorating the mathematical constant pi. Invented in 1989 by Larry Shaw, a physicist at the San Francisco Exploratorium, it was officially recognized by the US House of Reps as "National Pi Day" in 2009. Basically, it's a kind of nerdy day that makes engineers, and scientists, and anyone else who likes math giddy with glee. I love it!

I'm terrible with dates, so I didn't realize it was 3/14 until Facebook told me that my friend Tiffany had hosted a Pi(e) Party this past weekend in honor of the mathematically special date. There were sweet pies, savory pies, and...a mac n' cheese pie with a woven bacon crust! This, of course, inspired me to bake some pies of my own.

I woke up this morning feeling under the weather, and decided to stay home from work. This pie-baking adventure was the only thing that could motivate me to get off the couch, and I almost gave up on the whole project when I realized there were no frozen pie crusts in the freezer. Fortunately, I managed to find a recipe online for mini pies that looked pretty easy. Even with a drippy nose and watering eyes I could handle rolling out enough dough for 4 tiny pies.

Dan's favorite pie flavors are apple and blueberry. His mom makes him an apple pie every time we visit, and I once saw him eat an entire blueberry pie by himself in one sitting. So, I thought it would be a nice surprise to have some mini apple and blueberry pies waiting for him when he came home from work. Unfortunately, no apples in the fridge. Alas! But, I'm pretty sure he likes blueberry pies better anyway...

As everyone knows, I am a fiend for things in miniature, and these pies are probably the cutest things I've ever made. Delicious too -- the crusts are flaky and buttery, and each bite is just bursting with sweet, juicy berries. Yum! 

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of The Cookie Shop blog.

One year ago: Thumbprint Cookies

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Molten Lava Cake

So Dan and I bought an elliptical machine today. My mom told me a few weeks ago that I was looking fatter than ever, so exercise has been on my mind a lot lately. I went running a few times...embarked on an 18 mile bike ride one day...hiked in the Great Falls....and then hit a slump. I blame the weather. Cold, wet, and windy...there's no way I'm going out into that.

Last week I became convinced that buying exercise equipment would solve all my problems: I could get a great cardio work out at home whenever I wanted, and if the weather was good I could still go for a run outside. Boom, just like that my newly accumulated flab would disappear and my thighs would become toner than ever.

First, I bought some free weights and an exercise ball (which Dan has now taken over as his computer chair). All that remained was some cardio equipment. It should have been an easy thing to acquire, but it wasn't. Dan and I spent all morning running around Virginia looking for a machine that I liked, and then when we finally found The One, the damned thing wouldn't fit inside our tiny Mazda. We eventually had to take all the pieces out of the box, pack everything into the car, and cart all the loose components back to our apartment. Then, when we finally got everything home, it took us another two painstaking hours to put everything together.

I haven't actually tried out the new machine yet, but it looks great in my living room, and I have every intention of getting on it shortly. In the meantime, I thought Dan and I deserved a reward for having such a productive Saturday, so I whipped up a batch of molten lava cake to celebrate. Warm, gooey, chocolate-y lava cake is the perfect treat for any special occasion, and it's so easy to make. Happy exercising, everyone!

Molten Lava Cake (Adapted from The Savory Sweet Life blog)

- 1-1/4 sticks butter
- 1 cup Ghiradelli chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

(1) Preheat oven to 425.
(2) In a medium bowl, microwave chocolate + butter in 30 second increments until melted. Mix until smooth.
(3) Add flour and sugar, mix until smooth.
(4) Add eggs + yolk, and vanilla extract.
(5) Divide batter between five (5) 4-oz ramekins.
(6) Bake for 8-10 minutes.
(7) To serve, run a knife around the edges of the ramekin, then upend on a plate. Eat with warm with fruit and whipped cream.
** If you don't eat the cakes right away, you can reheat and eat them later. Still delicious, but instead of a liquid chocolate center, you'll get a really dense, moist chocolate cake.

One year ago: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Orleans-Style Bread Pudding With Whiskey Sauce

Happy belated Mardi Gras, everyone! I was planning to make New Orleans-themed foods for Fat Tuesday  this year -- gumbo, jambalaya, king cake, beignets, etc. -- but work this week has been all kinds of hectic, and I was too tired to cook anything but leftovers in the microwave. Now that Mardi Gras is over, and St. Patty's Day is around the corner, I was sort of thinking that this recipe could kind of represent both occasions, since bread pudding and whiskey are traditional Irish foods, and Emeril Lagasse tells me this pudding is "New Orleans-style," whatever that means. 

Bread pudding is one of those wonderful, mysterious foods that  I didn't discover until fairly recently. I'd seen it on menus and in display cases at various cafes, but nothing about the name or appearance enticed me to try it. Then Karen and I decided to have dinner at the Circle Bistro before our annual date to see the Nutcracker, and chocolate bread pudding was the dessert offering for the prix fixe meal we both ordered. One bite, and I was in love. The pudding was dense and rich and succulent, like an extra moist chocolate cake. From that day on, I was sold on bread pudding because I figured if chocolate bread pudding tasted this good, how bad could the other variations be?

Bread pudding really doesn't look very appetizing when it's being made, does it? After all, it's just soggy bread sitting in a pool of cream. But it smells fantastic, even before going in the oven. Sweet and cinnamon-y, with the heady scent of French bread. And after it's baked? Then drizzled with boozy cream sauce? We've got the makings of a nose-gasm, folks.

I didn't use as much brown sugar in the pudding as the recipe called for, and I wish I had. The bread pudding is good, but it would be even better if were just a little sweeter. Dan thought it tasted fine and polished off two bowlfuls, but I've got more of a sweet tooth than he does, and I'm the one doing the baking so next time...more sugar! 

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse and the Food Network.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Samoa Cookie Bars

What is it about Girl Scout cookies that gets people so crazy? As soon as cookie season starts, pint-sized dealers pop up on every corner, and suddenly everyone is fighting with each other to get their hands on as many Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and Do-Si-Dos as they can before sprinting home to devour their sugary contraband. And god forbid you try to eat someone else's cookies without their permission... Yikes!

Maybe it's because I never joined the Girl Scouts, but I've never been that wild about their cookies. I mean, I'll eat them, and they're delicious, but I certainly would never assault anyone for them. Plus, now that prices have risen to $4.00 a pop, it just doesn't seem worth it to squander what little cash I carry on a single, tiny box of cookies when I can easily make my own.

Some people swear by Thin Mints, other people eat nothing but Trefoils -- I, however, am a Samoas/Caramel deLites girl. To be honest, I really can't stand coconut. Coconut milk, coconut shrimp, coconut rice, shredded name it, I won't eat it. Still, even I can enjoy the dreaded fruit when it's mixed with caramel, slathered on top of buttery shortbread, and drizzled with chocolate. 

For this recipe, I opted for cookie bars rather than the traditional Samoa shape because I was running late for my friend's housewarming/dinner party and I couldn't be bothered to roll out cookie dough and cut out the centers of every single cookie. Thankfully, a cookie's shape doesn't have any kind of effect on its taste, because these tasted awesome! Exactly like the Girl Scout cookie, except maybe a little more crumbly and a bit less chewy than the real deal. Still, pretty deLite-ful. Ha!

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of the Baking Bites blog.

One year ago: Eggs Florentine With Avocado

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak

I haven't eaten (or thought about) chicken fried steak since I moved out of Texas, where everything is bigger, beefier, and more fried. I'm not a health nut or anything, but I generally try not to eat too many fried foods if I can help it. And chicken fried steak is...a slab of steak that is breaded, fried, and then smothered in gravy. Red meat AND fried? That's a heart attack on a plate if I've ever seen one. Still, the Pioneer Woman had a post on chicken fried steak last week and it just looked so yummy that I had to try it.

Chicken fried steak is so different from the way I usually eat steak. I like my steak to be thick and juicy, attached to a bone, and still bleeding. Chicken fried steak is...none of those things. The meat is pounded thin for tenderness, there's no bone, and it's cooked all the way through with no sign of blood. But you know what? It's absolutely delicious. The meat is not at all tough or dry despite being thoroughly cooked, and the combination of breading, meat and gravy is amazingly flavorful and melt-in-my-mouth delicious.

I want to say that I'll be good, and that this will just be a one-time treat, but...there are probably going to be a lot of chicken fried steaks in my life from now on. Damn you, Pioneer Woman!

Recipe can be food here, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chinese Dumplings (Jiao Zi)

Hey, remember when I said I was going to make jiaozi and baozi and tons of other Chinese goodies for the New Year? Well that didn't happen. I meant to do it, I really did! But  first I had to cook for my Superbowl party, then Valentine's Day snuck up on me, and I had to make tiramisu that one day -- before I knew it, it was March. Yikes! You know what they say about the best laid plans...

So, I promised Dan last night that I would finally make some dumplings for dinner. He was pretty pumped, because after eating all kinds of interesting things in China last summer (frogs, snake, congealed pig blood, etc.), he's really come to appreciate the straightforward deliciousness of the humble jiaozi. There was just one problem though: no pre-made, store-bought dumpling skins, and I was all out of wonton wrappers. Merde! That left me with two options: (1) disappoint Dan, who almost never craves anything and only gets excited about food when the stars align, or (2) make my own damn skins. Really, I only had the one option.

This was my first time making dumpling skins from scratch, but I wasn't too worried. I've watched my parents do it for years, and I've handled enough homemade skins in my lifetime to have a pretty good idea of what they're supposed to look and feel like. Plus, it's just flour and water, and really very straightforward once you get down to it. The only thing I had trouble with was rolling out the individual skins. They had a tendency to get really thin in the middle and stay thicker on the edges -- the exact opposite of what is desirable in a dumpling wrapper! It took a little practice, but after a couple skins I got the hang of it. Still, they were a little thicker than is ideal, because I was worried I'd make them too thin and they'd break apart while cooking.

As for the filling, I usually like to use ground pork, but for whatever reason my BJs, Safeway, and Shoppers almost never have it in stock. What's up with that?! Anyway, I wasn't happy about it, but I used the only thing I had on hand: ground chicken. Ground chicken and cabbage, actually. And you know what? It was great! If I hadn't made the dumplings myself, I would have never guessed the meat wasn't pork. Go figure.

Overall, not such a bad effort, if I must say so myself. Don't they look pretty legit? Not the prettiest dumplings in the world, but they basically look the way they're supposed to. And there's just something about seeing rows and rows of fat dumplings on a tray that really makes me happy. Probably because my parents only ever made homemade dumplings on special occasions, and I naturally associate dumplings with happy things. Not such a surprising association, since dumplings (when made correctly) are little packets of juicy, meaty deliciousness. I could probably eat a hundred of the things by myself!

Chinese Dumplings (Jiao Zi) With Chicken and Cabbage

Ingredients: (Makes about 20 dumplings)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups water

- 1/2 lb ground chicken
- 1 cup Napa cabbage, shredded
- 1-1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp seasame oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Salt/pepper to taste
(1) Starting with the filling,  mix all the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.
**I like to leave off on the salt/pepper until after all the other stuff is incorporated, because you don't want your dumplings to be too salty. A quick lick is a good taste test, and I've never yet gotten salmonella from doing it.
(2) For the wrappers, mix flour and water in a large bowl until the dough comes together.  If dough is still too dry and floury, slowly add more water a little bit at a time until it is smooth and pliable. Dough should not be sticky.
(3) Shape finished dough into a ball, then cut it in half with a knife.
(4) Roll each half into a long strip, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
(5) Slice strips into 1/2-inch pieces.
(6) Flatten each piece into circles, then roll them out on a floured surface with a rolling pin. It doesn't matter if the skins aren't perfect circles, just make sure to get the dough as thin as you can. The middle should be a little thicker so the filling doesn't fall through, but the edges should be thin.
(7) Spoon a generous portion of meat filling into the center of each wrapper, then fold the wrapper in half. Pinch the edges closed, then scallop the edges of the dumpling by folding the outer edge in an overlapping pattern. (Like an accordion -- see picture above for guidance)
(8) Once wrapped, dumplings can be boiled in a savory broth, or pan-fried. To pan-fry like I did this time, heat olive oil in a large skillet until hot, then place about 5-7 dumplings in the skillet to cook.
(9) Pour about 1/2 a cup of water into the hot pan (it will sizzle!), then put a lid on the skillet. Shake the skillet to so that the dumplings don't stick to the bottom, then allow dumplings to cook until the water has evaporated.
**The bottoms of the dumplings should be light brown and fried-looking, and the rest should be entirely opaque with a yellowish/brown tinge. If parts of the wrapper are still white or translucent, the dumpling is not cooked all the way.
(10) Enjoy plain or with soy sauce and vinegar.