Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

I woke up this morning with the most intense craving for a gigantic blueberry muffin. You know, one of those sugar-crusted monstrosities from Costco that's packed to bursting with fat blueberries. Those things are so bad for you, but they're so delicious! They're really just dessert masquerading as breakfast. (Which is fine by me -- my parents used to let me eat cake and pie and ice cream for breakfast all the time.)

These days, my metabolism really can't handle actual desserts or an entire Costco muffin for breakfast anymore, but I can certainly put away a whole bunch of these equally yummy, normal-sized muffins. There is less than a cup of sugar in the whole batch, and two cups of fresh, juicy berries go into the batter. I'm pretty sure one of these muffins satisfies at least one daily recommended serving of fruit...maybe.

Blueberry Muffins (Adapted from the Mochi Thoughts recipe)

Ingredients: (Makes exactly 1 dozen muffins)
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- A little over 1/3 cup milk
- 2 cups fresh blueberries

(1) Preheat oven to 400, and fill a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
(2) In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients until well combined.
(3) Slowly stir in the oil and egg. Batter should be very thick.
(4) Add milk. If 1/3 cup is not enough to thin out the batter, add more slowly.
** I used between 1/3 and 1/2 cup total. Batter should be a little thicker than pancake batter.
(5) Gently mix in blueberries.
(6) Scoop about 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup.
(7) Gently press 3-4 blueberries onto the top of the batter in each muffin cup. The batter should be thick enough that the blueberries won't sink in.
(8) Bake for 20 minutes.
(9) Best eaten warm, but delicious any time.

For other great food ideas, click here or here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Meatball Sub

Looks like Hurricane Irene is the new Snowpocalypse -- everything is closed, traffic has ground to a halt, and everyone is holed up in their homes. The only difference, I guess, is that we're actually prepared to battle the forces of nature this time around.  Maybe a little too prepared. BJ's was a mad house yesterday! I was just there to get some snacks, but it seemed like everyone else was stocking up on enough bottled water and dry foods to survive the Apocalypse. I almost caved in to the peer pressure and got some water myself, but I was on foot and couldn't possibly carry all that back home. Besides, the storm is only supposed to last a day or two, and I've got a full Brita, orange juice, Gatorade, and lots of soda.

Anyway, with the storm a' brewin' outside, all my weekend plans have been canceled, so there's nothing left for me to do but watch the Ghost Whisperer marathon on WeTV, terrorize the cats, and cook. The TV is on, my cats are currently in hiding, and it's just about time for dinner. Dan hasn't had much of an appetite lately, so I really want to make something yummy to tempt him into eating a full meal. Seems like kind of a perfect time to make some homemade meatball subs. What could be tastier than warm, crusty bread, gooey cheese, and juicy meatballs smothered in savory red sauce? Nothing at all, especially in this weather.

Hope you guys are having as much fun during the hurricane as I am!  In the meantime, stay dry, be safe, and I'll see everyone on Monday when this all blows over.

Meatball Sub

- 1 lb beef
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 1-1/2 tbsp salt (more if you like your food salty)
- 1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 container tomato sauce (I used Prego)

(1) Preheat oven to 325.
(2) In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until well-mixed. The meat should be very malleable, and not sticky.
(3) Roll meat mixture into balls, 1-inch in diameter. Place balls on a greased pan. Don't crowd the pan, but you don't have to worry about these meatballs spreading, so you can line them closer than you would if you were working with cookie dough.
(4) Bake meatballs for about 8 minutes.
(5) While meatballs are baking, start heating the pasta sauce in a large sauce pan.
(6) Take the meatballs out of the oven and scoop them into the bubbling sauce. Leave the oven on.
(7) Cook meatballs in sauce for about 3 minutes. Turn stove off.
(8) Cut a 6-7 inch wedge off the end of a loaf of French bread. Slice length-wise without severing the loaf all the way in half.
(9) Line the bottom half with provolone cheese. Scoop about 4-5 meatballs into the middle, and top with more provolone.
(10) Place your sandwich onto a baking sheet and slide back in the oven. Bake for about 1 minute, or until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with chopped or dried parsley.
(11) Eat immediately, with a lot of napkins on hand.

For other great recipes, click here, here or here.

Jam Hands

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goat Cheese and Colby Jack Sandwich with Kimchi, Spinach, and a Runny Egg

Guys, I just had the greatest sandwich ever for lunch -- wheat toast, two kinds of melted cheese, spinach, kimchi, and a runny egg. So messy, so flavorful, so amazingly delicious. 

I've learned from reading my friend Sam's food blog this year that a runny egg makes everything extra delicious. And, as everyone knows, kimchi and runny eggs are a match made in foodie heaven. So when you get crazy and throw tangy goat cheese and hearty colby jack into the mix, you get something totally divine. Every bite is a study in flavor and textural contrasts -- salty/soft goat cheese, creamy egg yolk, spicy/tangy/crunchy kimchi, toasted wheat bread, and mellow baked spinach. Yum.

This sandwich probably isn't for everyone, since kimchi is more or less an acquired taste. But, if you took that out you'd still have yourself a deliciously creamy, oozy, egg and cheese sandwich. Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Goat Cheese and Colby Jack Sandwich with Kimchi, Spinach, and a Runny Egg

- 2 slices wheat bread
- 1 tbsp goat cheese
- 1 slice colby jack cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 cup spinach
- 1/2 cup kimchi
- Sea salt

(1) Preheat oven to 350.
(2) Place colby jack cheese on top of one slice of bread in an even layer. Top with spinach.
(3) Even distribute goat cheese over the second slice of bread.
(4) Slide both pieces of bread into the oven, laying them directly on middle rack.
(5) While you're waiting for the bread to toast and cheese to melt, start cooking your egg. Crack a large egg into a hot pan. Nudge/fold the spreading egg yolk until it's roughly the size/shape of your bread. Cook until egg whites are opaque, and yolk is still runny.
(6) Carefully remove bread from the oven, and slide them onto a plate.
(7) Gently slip your runny egg on top of the spinach-laden bread slice. Sprinkle with sea salt.
(8) Layer kimchi on top of the bread with goat cheese, then combine the two slices into a sandwich.
(9) Cut in half and eat immediately. Sop up all the runny egg yolk with your sandwich as you go.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cayenne-Cinnamon Baby Back Ribs

Whoa, two posts in one day, what's going on??? Unemployment, that's what. No, I wasn't fired. And no, I wasn't laid off. My judicial clerkship ended yesterday. Can you believe how quickly a whole year passed? It's been over a year since I graduated law school, one year since I took the bar exam, and 8 months since I got sworn in as a brand spanking new attorney. Oh, how time flies...

So, what's next? Nothing just yet, but I'm looking. It's kind of scary to be moving forward without a concrete plan, but I'm pretty sure it'll be OK. I've got a solid resume with a lot of good work experience, there are plenty of legal job search directories out there, and I've got Dan + my parents rooting for me. In the meantime, I'm just going to be a job application-mailing, food-blogging machine.

Anyway, enough about me. Lets get back to the really important stuff -- ribs. Juicy, meaty, glazed ribs. Ribs that ooze fatty, salty, porky juices with every bite. Ribs that were rubbed, roasted, glazed, broiled, and ready to eat in under two hours. Ribs so good that between dinner last night and lunch today, all 6 pounds of them are gone.

This was my first time making ribs, and I was under a bit of a time crunch. Usually, stuff like this need to cook for several hours on low heat to get that lovely fall-off-the-bone quality. Unfortunately, I didn't have several hours. I didn't get home from work until after 6pm, and my guests were scheduled to arrive at 7:30. Luckily, the Steamy Kitchen blog had a rib recipe that involved cooking the meat at slightly higher heat for less time. 

Because I was cooking 6 pounds of meat instead of 3, I actually had to keep my ribs in the oven for a little longer than the recipe called for -- after one hour, some of the meat was still bloody. I probably should have cooked everything even longer than I ultimately did, because the meat didn't fall off the bone like it was supposed to. Still, the ribs were still very tasty, and my guests had no complaints. I think my friend Andrew ate over a pound of meat by himself! Awesome.

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of the Steamy Kitchen blog.
(Her pictures make these ribs look way more delicious than mine do...)

For other great recipes, click here or here.

Dan in the Kitchen -- Creamed Spinach

Dan's back in the kitchen folks, and this time he's making creamed spinach for a cozy little dinner party. As my "sous-chef", he technically had a hand in every other dish served -- shredding cheese for the mac n' cheese, mashing potatoes for the garlic mashed potatoes, etc. -- but this was the dish that he was entirely responsible for from start to finish. I actually wanted to put him in charge of cooking the pork ribs, but he said that was more of a "Tina in the Kitchen" endeavor. Oh well. Next time...

Creamed spinach is one of our favorite steakhouse sides -- it's creamy, savory, and super delicious. But, considering how cheap the ingredients are and how easy it is to make, especially if you're using pre-cooked/chopped frozen spinach, it's kind of a rip off that most restaurants charge $7 for a bowl of the stuff.  

All you have to do is saute some garlic in butter, dump cooked/chopped spinach into the pot, add cream, stir, season, and let the whole thing simmer into perfection. 

Voila, creamed spinach! So easy, a caveman -- or, an inexperienced cook who needs very exact, step-by-step instructions** -- can do it. 

** Based on suggestions from numerous people, I showed Dan the "Cooking for Engineers" blog. Unsurprisingly, he found the cooking flowcharts to be incredibly logical and understandable. We'll definitely have to start using recipes from that blog!

Creamed Spinach (Adapted from Emeril Lagasse's recipe)

- 1 package frozen pre-cooked/chopped spinach, thawed
- 1 cup cream
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- A pinch of nutmeg
- Salt/pepper to taste

(1) In a pot, melt butter on medium heat.
(2) Add minced garlic, cook until lightly soft and fragrant, about a minute.
(3) Scoop all the spinach into the pot, and stir to allow the greens to soak up the garlicky butter, as well as break up any lumps in the spinach. Cook until liquid is released.
(4) Add cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook until the liquid has reduced to approximately half the original amount, about 4-5 minutes.
** Seasoning note from Dan -- if you're adding salt straight from the canister, do so with a gentle side to side shaking motion rather than a down-up pouring motion. This will help you control the speed at which salt is added, as well as the amount of salt that goes into the dish. Gently shake a little salt over every part of the pot, stir, and taste. If it's not salty enough, add more.
(5) Remove from heat and serve right away.
** Since this dish comes together so quickly, it's best to make it last so that it doesn't just sit around and congeal while the other food is being cooked. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dan in the Kitchen -- Grilled Cream Cheese and Colby Jack Sandwich

So, I'd like to introduce a new series of posts called "Dan in the Kitchen," where I document Dan's forays into the kitchen. I figure since I'm not always in the mood to cook, but we still need to eat, everyone would benefit from Dan gaining some cooking skills. Until we moved in together, pretty much all Dan ate was buffalo chicken subs from the student center deli, Cheez-its and pasta with bottled spaghetti sauce. To this day, if I'm not around for dinner, or if I don't feel like cooking, he'll just have a few beers and a pack of Oreos. So unappetizing, not to mention super unhealthy. I have high hopes that this "Dan in the Kitchen" thing is really going to turn things around for his eating habits. At the very least, this will add some variety to his diet. And, it's going to be fun to teach Dan how to cook!

I'm convinced that Dan could actually be a great cook if he put his mind to it. He's an engineer, so he deals with long, complicated instructions and handles delicate circuitry for a living -- surely he could follow a recipe with equal skill and finesse! I mean, constructing a meal is not so different than building a satellite, right?

The first recipe from Dan in the Kitchen is the humble grilled cheese sandwich, jazzed up with cream cheese and colby jack. OK, so maybe this isn't "healthy" per se, but we have to start somewhere, and this is a straightforward, frills-free recipe that's super delicious and satisfying. Just butter some bread, throw on some cheese, and cook it all on a hot pan. The cream cheese was my idea -- Dan was deeply skeptical, but he was nice enough to let me bully him into using it. 

The cream cheese turned out to be a fantastic idea. It added a whole new level of goeey, tangy, cheesiness to the sandwich that provided a wonderful contrast to the crunchy, buttery bread. The bread was perhaps a little too crunchy, but Dan has always liked his breads a little more toasted than I do. Either way, delicious! Not a bad start for Dan in the Kitchen.

Grilled Cream Cheese and Colby Jack Sandwich

- 2 slices bread, buttered on both sides
- 1 slab cream cheese
- 1 slice of colby jack cheese

(1) Heat a pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, slap on both pieces of bread.
(2) Toast one side of the bread to golden brown, then flip over and layer with cheese -- cream cheese on one slice, colby jack on the other.
(3) Cook for about 30 seconds, until cheese is slightly melted, then place one piece of bread on top of the other (cheese to cheese) and press down until the two cheeses are molded together.
(4) When the bread is toasted to your satisfaction, and the cheese is perfectly melty and gooey, take your sandwich off the heat and slide it onto a plate.
** If you find (as we did) that your colby jack doesn't melt as nicely as you hoped, stick your sandwich in the oven and broil on low heat for about 3-4 minutes.
(5) Cut in half and enjoy hot with a cold soda and some chips.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

(All pictures in this post were taken by Alex Hsu.)

A few weeks ago, right after my Japanese-Style Strawberry Shortcake post, I got a message from my friend Alex asking if I would cook him delicious food for his birthday. He lives in Jersey City and I live in VA, so my first instinct was to say "Haha...good one...no." But, I'm a sucker for compliments about my cooking, and I like to feed people, so I told him I'd do it. I didn't think to run the idea by Dan until after I had already committed us to a road trip, but to his credit he just rolled his eyes and said "Guess I need to take some time off on Friday..."

When I asked Alex what he wanted for dinner, his response was "Meat. Lots of meat." Well. That's helpful. I knew he was inviting a bunch of people over, and I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it to Jersey City before 5pm, so my main concern was feeding a lot of people and being done with all the cooking by the time everyone showed up at 7pm. I knew right away that my sides would be chive-garlic mashed potatoes, baked mac n cheese, and roasted carrots -- they're easy to make, very filling, and I can pretty much put them on the stove and forget about them while I cook the main course. With those sides decided, it was pretty clear I was going to have to make fried chicken to accompany all those carbs. Alex was going to get a good ol' Southern-style birthday dinner.

Have I ever made fried chicken before this dinner? Nope. Is it a good idea to cook something totally new and unfamiliar for a lot of people on short notice? Not really. But hey, lets live on the edge a little. Fortunately, Alex's roommate bought all the ingredients a few days ahead of time, and our friend Andy was hanging around the apartment all day, so all I had to do was tell Andy to soak the chicken in buttermilk and we were good to go.  When Dan and I finally made it to the apartment, I got right to work on the chicken. I tossed together large amounts of flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder for the breading, threw the buttermilk-soaked chicken directly into the dry mixture to coat, and pan-fried everything in very hot vegetable oil. I honestly didn't have high hopes, but the chicken turned out to be amazingly delicious. At least, the pieces that I didn't flip obsessively and actually cooked all the way through were delicious -- there were definitely some pieces that were kinda sorta really raw near the bone. Oops.

Thankfully, Alex ate the good pieces and was pretty happy with his meal. He had multiple helpings of everything, and that made me happy. But when he told me I should open my own fried chicken joint, I just laughed nervously and casually slid the under-cooked pieces away from his plate. What he doesn't know can't hurt him, right?

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Ingredients: (I sort of haphazardly threw ingredients into a bowl when I made my chicken, so these measurements are my best guesses for how much of everything I used.)
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or, just a whole bunch of wings/legs/whatever)
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup garlic salt
- 1/8 cup paprika
- Lots of salt and pepper (I like my food salty, so I used a lot of salt -- probably about 1/2 cup)
- Lots of vegetable oil (peanut oil would be great too)

(1) In a large bowl, pour buttermilk over chicken and soak overnight, or at least a few hours.
(2) In a separate large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients until well-combined.
(3) Fill a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet about half-way full of oil. Heat until very hot -- if you flick flour into the oil, it should immediately sizzle/bubble up.
(4) Throw buttermilk-soaked chicken directly into the bowl containing the flour/seasoning, and toss to coat. Shake off excess breading, then slide the chicken into the bubbling oil.
** The chicken should be mostly covered, but it's fine to have some of it peaking out above the oil. The longer you fry, the less oil you'll have anyway, and you'll be flipping the pieces eventually.
(5) Cook chicken until golden-brown, about 8-10 minutes on each side. Don't overcrowd your skillet -- 3 to 4 pieces at a time is best.
** I would say it's better to over-cook than under-cook in this situation. Do NOT flip your chicken obsessively like I did. Just throw it in there, walk away for a while, then flip once and leave it alone again. The breading will keep the meat nice and juicy, so it's fine to cook the chicken longer. There's nothing grosser than biting into raw/bloody meat near the bone...
(6) Set cooked pieces aside on your serving plate -- don't use paper towels or your chicken will be soggy. Keep frying until all your chicken is done.
(7) Eat immediately with sides of your choice.
** I suggest buttery mashed potatoes, biscuits, greens, and creamy mac n' cheese.

For other great recipe ideas, click here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Last Sunday, food blogger Jennifer Perillo's husband suffered a massive and unexpected heart attack and passed away. He loved peanut butter cream pie, and as a tribute to him, Jennifer asked everyone to join her in celebrating his life and honoring his memory by making the dessert he loved so much. 

I have never met Jennifer Perillo, and until last week I had never read her blog. In fact, I probably would have never known of her existence if it weren't for a delicious-looking peanut butter pie entry on FoodGawker early last week. In the last several days there has been an amazing influx of peanut butter cream pie entries on both TasteSpotting and FoodGawker, as hundreds of food bloggers rushed to support Jennifer. 

To be honest, I feel a little strange making a dessert for someone I've never met, and who likely won't even know what I've done. I also can't wholly relate to Jennifer's experience, as I've been fortunate enough to never  have  experienced the loss of someone dear to me. But, I'm so awed by the love and support complete strangers have shown for Jennifer and her family that I can't help but want to do my part as well. So, here's my pie for Mikey Perillo, and my best wishes for his family.

Peanut Butter Cream Pie (Adapted from the Running With Tweezer's blog)

- 1-1/4 chocolate cookie crumbs (I used crushed Oreos)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted

- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp butter, softened
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Melted chocolate and butterscotch ganache for garnish (Optional! I had butterscotch ganache leftover from when I made those butterbeer cupcakes, and I thought it would be a nice touch.)

(1) Preheat oven to 375.
(2) Combine cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter until the mixture has the texture of crumbly, wet sand. Press into the bottom of a pie plate.
** I opted out of the pie dish and divided my mixture between 2 mini spring-form pans.
(3) Bake crusts for 6-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
(4) In a mixing bowl, cream together peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar, butter, and vanilla until smooth.
(5) Whip cream in a separate bowl, then fold into the peanut butter mixture.
(6) Spoon filling on top of your crust.
** In my case, divide evenly between two mini spring-forms.
(7) Drizzle with melted chocolate and butterscotch ganache.
(8) Refrigerate until you're ready to serve -- the longer it spends in the fridge, the firmer the filling.
(9) Serve immediately, plain or with ice cream.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Loco Moco

Two of my college friends got married in Hawaii recently. (I know. So jealous.) Sadly, I wasn't invited to the wedding -- ahem, Sonia -- but I've been facebook stalking the photo albums of the people who went, so it kind of feels like I was there too. Note to self: must go to Hawaii soon.

From what I can tell, when the wedding guests weren't watching the two love birds join in holy matrimony, they were stuffing their faces with yummy Hawaiian food. Everything looked delicious, but it was the pictures of loco moco that really had me drooling. Rice, gravy, hamburger, and a fried egg? I'm so there! 

The ingredients for loco mocos are simple, the recipe is straightforward, and I was chowing down on a delicious Hawaiian meal in less than 45 minutes. The only way I could have enjoyed this more is if I were eating it in Hawaii. Sigh. (Just kidding -- congratulations, Sonia and Kevin!)

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of the Jun-blog.
** Note: I thought plain ol' meat gravy would be too boring, so I made a cream-based mushroom gravy instead. Super delicious!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cheesy Creamy Shrimp Spaghetti

So, it's been a while since my last post, huh? Yeah. Things have been a little hectic around here. So, unsurprisingly, Dan and I have been doing a whole lot of Chinese delivery-ing, and very little cooking. I made fried chicken last weekend for my friend Alex's birthday in NY, but...all the pictures are on his camera, and he has yet to send them to me. (Get on it, Hsu!) 

In other news, did you know that it's Mob Week this week? I know everyone is super excited about the shark action going on at the Discovery Channel, but who wants to see sharks attacking a fish decoy when there are classic mobster movies on TV? And, guess what else premieres this week? The Jersey Shore, Season 4: Italy! The most famous guidos on the planet take over Florence! Coincidence? I think not. 

With all the Italian madness on TV, I'm really craving a big bowl of pasta. Something creamy, in fact. Thankfully, I have about five pounds of dried spaghetti in the pantry from our last BJs run, as well as a tub of Savory Garlic Philadelphia Cooking Creme that comes with a Creamy Shrimp and Rice recipe that's easily converted into a pasta dish. A little chopping, a little stirring, and thirty minutes later, Dan and I are happily slurping piping hot bowls of cheesy creamy shrimp spaghetti while we finish watching Scarface. Not exactly the kind of meal you'd expect to have on a warm summer night, but very delicious, and very satisfying.

Cheesy Creamy Shrimp Spaghetti (Adapted from the Philadelphia Cooking Creme recipe)

- 1/2 box spaghetti
- 1/2 a red onion, diced
- 1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 1/4 cup milk (I didn't have milk, so I used heavy cream. Very tasty!)
- 1 container Savory Garlic Philadelphia Cooking Creme

(1) Boil and drain spaghetti noodles, then set aside.
(2) In a large pot/skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high and add onions + peppers. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, until soft.
(3) Add cream and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink and curled in on themselves.
(4) Mix in cooking cream. Cook until sauce is hot and melty.
(5) Add cooked pasta to the skillet. Toss until each noodle is well-coated with sauce.
(6) Serve hot, garnished with some green onions.