Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moved to Wordpress!

For those of you who are still using/following "," I've left Blogger and moved on over to Wordpress, so this site won't be getting any more updates.

If you want to keep following me, "" is where you should go. Hope you like the new layout :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

S'mores Pie

Call me crazy, but in my mind s'mores are a fall treat, not summer. I know, I know...summer camp and overnight camping trips --> camp fires --> s'mores and ghost stories. Camp fires remind me of autumn and cold weather, though. Maybe it's because I went to math camp instead of summer camp. Or, maybe it's because when I see a roaring fire burning real wood, I think of cool New England nights in Massachusetts with Dan's family. Either way, the only time I crave s'mores is when there's a chill in the air. And folks, it's starting to get nippy hereabouts...

If you're an avid FoodGawker, you'll know that this S'mores Pie is actually an imitation of the S'mores Bars posted by Endless Simmer blog last week. I tried to follow their recipe, but I couldn't get 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs to cover the bottom of an 11x13 baking dish and still come out as thick as the bars pictured in the original post. So, I made some adjustments to the recipe, put everything together in a pie dish, and called this sucker a s'mores pie. See, potential employers? I am creative and think well on my feet.

The Endless Simmer's trick of mixing Cocoa Pebbles into the chocolate layer of this pie is genius. Without the flavor/textural contrast provided by the cereal, this pie would pretty much be a giant chunk of chocolate with some marshmallows on top. Not that that wouldn't be delicious, but it would certainly be much harder to eat in one sitting. The Cocoa Pebbles really helps cut the richness of the pie and provide an interesting crunch that makes this treat extra addictive. I guarantee you won't be able to stop at just one piece. 

S'mores Pie (Adapted from the Endless Simmer blog's recipe)

- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 6 tbsp melted butter

- 12 oz dark chocolate
- 2/3 cup skim milk
- 2 cups Cocoa Pebbles
- 1 cup mini marshmallows

- 2 cups mini marshmallows

(1) Preheat oven to 350.
(2) In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl. Mix well.
(3) Firmly press mixture into the bottom of a pie dish. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Set aside and cool.
(4) In a sauce pan/pot, melt chocolate with milk over medium/low heat. Whisk until smooth. Cool for about 10 minutes.
(5) Add Cocoa Pebbles and 1 cup marshmallows to cooled chocolate. Mix until well-combined.
(6) Pour chocolate mixture over graham cracker crust.
(7) Pour remaining 2 cups mini marshmallows on top of the pie. Press down slightly to help them stick.
(8) Transfer pie to broiler for about 2 minutes to lightly toast the marshmallows.
** Keep an eye on your marshmallows while they're under the broiler. I forgot how powerful my oven was, and my marshmallows got a little too toasty. I personally like crispy 'mallows, but I had to pull off a lot of burnt bits for the pie's beauty shots. I would recommend broiling for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and then deciding if you want to keep your pie in the oven longer after that.
(9) Chill for a couple hours, then slice up and serve with a big glass of milk.

For other great recipe ideas, click here or here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dan in the Kitchen -- Ranch Burgers

Yesterday, I made a batch of brioche buns with hamburgers in mind. But, they turned out to be small and biscuit-like, so I decided to eat them for breakfast instead, maybe slathered with a little jam or cherry butter. Problem is, there are a lot of buns, and I don't actually eat breakfast much. Dan doesn't either, unless it's a muffin or bagel. Hmm.

My main concern with using the brioche buns for burgers was that they wouldn't be sturdy enough to stand up to a thick, juicy patty. Dan thought they would work though, so...hello, Dan in the Kitchen #4! I'm always happy to stand aside and let someone else cook dinner.

These ranch burgers were inspired by one of the Ranch dressing commercials -- you know, the one where a woman is cooking dinner for her family and she decides to throw a packet of Ranch powder into a bowl of ground beef to give her burgers extra flavor. Seemed like a tasty idea, so we decided to give it a try.

Honestly? Couldn't really taste the Ranch. The burgers were juicy and meaty, but I think our beef to Ranch ratio was too skewed in favor of beef to taste anything other than cow. We'll have to try using two packets of Ranch next time. (Oh, and the buns held up just fine! They're sturdier than they look.)

Ranch Burgers

- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1 to 2 packets Ranch dressing powder
- 2 brioche buns

(1) Fire up your outdoor grill, or set your indoor grill to "high."
(2) In a large bowl, mix Ranch powder and ground beef until well mixed.
(3) Divide your ground beef into two portions, and shape them into patties.
** Note from Dan: Ground meat is really gross, and working with it by hand is not the greatest sensation. But, you have to suck it up and pack your patties firmly, or you'll end up with a crumbly burger.
(4) Grill your patties for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Resist the urge to flip constantly.
(5) Slice brioche buns in half, and lay them on the grill for about a minute.
(6) Slide your burgers onto your toasted buns.
(7) Eat hot, with all the fixings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brioche Buns

Guys, making bread is hard. Or maybe I'm just really bad at it. Either way, my dough just doesn't rise the way it's supposed to. Either my yeast is sluggish, or I'm killing them. I could swear I did everything right this time, though -- I let the yeast percolate in warm sugar water...I didn't use scalding milk or acidic buttermilk...I let the dough rest in a warm place...I even toned down my stirring/kneading just in case too much vigorous activity scared the little suckers. But nope. Dough only rose a little bit. Goddamnit.

I mean, these brioche buns turned out OK, but they're definitely not as light and fluffy/puffy as they should've been. And, my egg wash didn't give them a gorgeous, shiny sheen like it was supposed to. In fact, I would say that these buns are more biscuit than brioche. Which is why I decided to eat one smeared with cherry butter for breakfast instead of using it as a burger bun. It was edible. It was tender. It was tasty, even. But it wasn't brioche. Sigh. 

Recipe can be found here, courtesy of the Kitchen Simplicity blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Triple Chocolate Loaf Cake

For once, I don't have a back story to explain my motivation for making this cake. And, I can't think of any anecdotes associated with either chocolate or loaf cake. I just really wanted something sweet and chocolate-y to go with my turkey sandwich.

(BTW, I have balcony furniture now! You like?)

Luckily, I had all the ingredients for a simple loaf cake, two types of chocolate chips, and a canister of dark chocolate cocoa powder. All things considered, triple chocolate loaf cake seemed like the way to go. 

With three kinds of chocolate in the batter, this was a very decadent cake, and I wanted something to cut the richness. Fresh fruit and whipped cream were the first things to come to mind. Good thing I had plenty of strawberry puree left over from when I was making strawberry mousse for my dad's birthday cake. Blended with freshly whipped cream, it was the perfect garnish for my afternoon snack.

Triple Chocolate Loaf Cake (Adapted from the Bittersweet Baker's recipe)

- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli)
- 1-1/2 flour
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips
- 1 cup white chocolate chips

(1) Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
(2) In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients until well-combined.
(3) In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
(4) Slowly mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to form the batter. Stir well.
(5) Gently stir in milk and white chocolate chips. Mix until chips are uniformly distributed throughout the batter.
(6) Pour batter into the greased loaf pan.
(7) Bake for about an hour.
** The original recipe says to bake for up to 1 hour and 10 minutes. My oven runs hot, so I always bake for about 10-20 minutes less than what the recipe calls for.
(8) Cool for about 15 minutes, then serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream.
** My loaf cake sank in on top during the cooling process. From what I can tell from the original recipe and other pictures, that's supposed to happen. Not very pretty, but you can always fill the hole in with whipped cream and fruit.

For other great recipe ideas, click here or here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apple Streusel Muffins

Did you guys know that it's September already? The middle of September? That means that summer is practically over, and fall is just around the corner. Man, where does the time go? I feel like I just barely got used to wearing skirts and shorts outside, yet my tan is already fading and I have to start pulling out my jeans and sweaters from the back of the closet. Bummer.

Sad as I am about the end of summer, though, I can freely admit that fall isn't all bad. Fall foliage is pretty allergies aren't as bad this time of year...and there aren't as many bugs around.  And, lets not forget all the delicious fruits/vegetables that are in season in the fall. Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pears, apples...mmm!

Funny story about apples: when I first came to America, I thought apples were something that students were supposed to give to their teachers every day, because that's what everyone on TV did. My first grade teacher got a lot of apples from me before I figured out that (1) she never actually ate them, and (2) no one else gave her apples. As I got older, I ate apples every day because they were delicious, kept the doctor away, and were great for my girlish figure. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started associating apples with fall -- hot apple cider, warm apple pie, etc. I still eat an apple a day, year round, but -- call me crazy -- I feel like they're extra delicious in the fall. Maybe it's something in the air.

Anyway, when Dan finally finished the last of the blueberry muffins this week, I asked him how he felt about the next batch being chocolate-peanut butter flavored. Shockingly, he was not enthused. Chocolate peanut butter muffins are apparently delicious right before bed, but too heavy for breakfast. What the heck kind of logic is that? There is never a bad time for chocolate and peanut butter. Still, the muffins were for Dan, so I had to give the man what he wanted, which was either more blueberries or some other fruit. 

Given the changing seasons, apples were an obvious choice. They're are almost as tasty in baked goods as chocolate/peanut butter, and definitely a little healthier. But, I couldn't resist making these muffins at least a little bit decadent, so I decided to throw some streusel topping into the mix as well. Delicious! The muffins were light and cinnamon-y, with soft chunks of apples in each bite; and the crunchy sweet topping was the icing on top of the cake (or, you know...the muffin). Best of all, there was enough batter/streusel leftover from Dan's muffins to make a small apple streusel cake just for me!

Apple Streusel Muffins (Adapted from Our Life in the Kitchen's recipe)

- 2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
- 2 cups flour
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 2 tsp cinnamon

(Streusel Topping)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- Cinnamon for sprinkling

(1) Preheat oven to 400. Line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers.
(2) In a large bowl, mix together wet and dry ingredients for the muffins until well combined.
(3) Gently stir in chopped apple.
(4) Scoop about 1/4 cup batter into each cupcake liner -- the cups should be 2/3 full. Set aside
(5) In a medium bowl, mix together ingredients for streusel topping.
** The original recipe called for 1/4 cup flour to be used for the streusel, but I found that the mixture was way too runny with just that amount. I kept adding more flour a little at a time until the topping became crumbly and was recognizable as streusel. 1/2 cup is my best guess at the total amount used.
(6) Spoon streusel topping on top of the batter in each muffin cup. Use as much as you want -- I sprinkled enough to cover the entire top.
(7) Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of the streusel.
(8) Bake for 20-25 minutes.
(9) Enjoy warm with a glass of milk.

For other great recipe ideas, click here.

Jam Hands

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

First Patriots game of the season was last night, and Dan was giddy with excitement. Me? Not so much. As dreamy as Tom Brady is, my favorite part of watching football is the eating. Chips and Mmm, junk food!

I saw this recipe for pizza puffs on FoodGawker and knew right away that I was going to have to make them. The ingredients were all things I had laying around, the prep/cook time was short, and the recipe just looked/sounded really tasty. 

These puffs are seriously delightful, guys. They taste exactly like pizza, but fluffier. And, because they're bite-sized, they're extra easy to eat. You pop one in your mouth, chew, savor the deliciously cheesy flavor, and the next thing you know the whole plate is gone. Definitely a great addition to the list of appetizers/snacks that will help get me through football season.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs (Adapted from the Kirbie's Cravings recipe)

- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup shredded cheese (I used Parmesan and Colby Jack)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/3 cup pepperoni, chopped/diced
- Salt/pepper to taste
- Italian seasoning

(1) Preheat oven to 400, and grease a mini-muffin pan.
(2) In a large bowl, mix everything but the Italian seasoning.
** You should get a batter that's slightly less thick than pancake batter.
(3) Scoop batter into the cups of the mini-muffin pan, about 2/3 full. Sprinkle some Italian seasoning on top of the batter in each cup.
(4) Bake 10-12 minutes.
(5) Serve warm with a side of marinara or pasta sauce.

For other great recipe ideas, click here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chinese Bakery-Style Birthday Cake with Strawberry Mousse Filling

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I made my dad a Chinese bakery-style cake for his birthday. It was just like the one I made for my mom last year, except instead of using vanilla custard and peaches/kiwis, I filled this one with strawberry mousse and fresh strawberries. I know. I'm on a strawberry kick. What can I say, I'm not ready to let go of summer yet.

Now, everyone knows that I love cake. Chocolate cake, cheesecake, cakes filled with shredded vegetables, loaf cake, cake covered in sugary sweet glaze...I've never met a slice a cake I didn't like. But of all the cakes I've consumed in the last 25 years, I love Chinese bakery-style birthday cakes the most.  Trust me when I say that they are vastly superior to every other cake out there.

They're light and fluffy, not too sweet, filled with fresh fruit, and coated with a light and delicate whipped cream frosting. And, if you sandwich thick strawberry mousse and sliced strawberries between the layers of fluffy cake...heaven. Each bite just melts in your mouth, and you can eat more than one piece without feel queasy or jittery from sugar overload. It's fantastic. Try it!

This recipe is inspired by a recent post from my friend Lucy.

- For directions on how to make the cake base and whipped cream frosting, click here or here.

- For directions on how to make the strawberry mousse, click here.
** I didn't have time to macerate strawberries for the mousse, so I just blended a lot of fresh strawberries with 3/4 cups sugar. That seemed to work just fine.

For other great recipe ideas, click here or here.

BY THE friend Melissa started a food blog recently, and she just made a post about Chinese birthday longevity noodles. How appropriate! Show some support for a new member of the food blogging community, and check out her site.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dan in the Kitchen -- Roasted Parsley and Garlic Baby Potatoes

So, last year I cooked my mom a delicious Chinese birthday lunch, complete with a homemade Chinese bakery-style birthday cake. For my dad's birthday a few months before that, we went to Red Lobster and got him one of those giant fruit tarts from Safeway. Looking back, that didn't seem fair, since my dad is pretty frickin' awesome and definitely deserved to eat something other than rubbery fried seafood and cheesy garlic biscuits on his big day (even if those biscuits are delicious). So, this year I decided to rectify the situation and cook him a delicious and elaborate birthday lunch. On the menu: roast chicken, grilled salmon, tomato-mozzarella crostini, roasted asparagus, creamed spinach, and roasted parsley & garlic baby potatoes. And for dessert, a Chinese bakery-style birthday cake with strawberry mousse filling.

One slight problem with my grand plans -- my parents were scheduled to come over at noon today, but Dan and I decided to go camping with our friend Andy in West Virginia yesterday and didn't make it back home until 10:30 this morning. So that's roughly 1.5 hours to roast a chicken, grill some salmon, throw together all of the other appetizers and sides, and bake a cake. Yikes.

Thank God for Dan. Despite getting up at 6:30 this morning, driving 130 miles straight (and therefore not being able to nap in the car like I did), and not having time for a bathroom break, he offered to take over some of the cooking duties. Most of them, actually. In the end, all I had to do was roast a chicken, slap salmon on a pan and make a cake; Dan took care of the spinach, asparagus, crostini, and potatoes. 

There wasn't time to take pictures of Dan doing everything in the kitchen, so "Dan in the Kitchen: Part 3" only showcases him making roasted baby potatoes. Really yummy, garlicky, crispy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside potatoes drenched in olive oil. So. Good.

In case you're wondering, my dad enjoyed all the food immensely, and ate multiple helpings of everything. And, he was especially pleased that Dan had a hand in putting together his lunch. Dan earned so many brownie points with everyone today. Seriously.

Roasted Parsley and Garlic Baby Potatoes (Adapted from the Unsophisticook's recipe)

- 2 lb mixed bag of baby potatoes (Our bag had Yukon, Russet, and some type of purple potato. The original recipe used fingerling potatoes, so that's fine too.)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1-1/2 tbsp dried parsley
- Salt/pepper to taste (Dan used 1-1/2 tbsp salt)

(1) Preheat oven to 425.
(2) In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
(3) Cut potatoes into halves or fourths, depending on how big/small you want your pieces to be.
(4) Toss the potatoes in the olive oil mixture.
** Tip from Dan: Really get your hands in there. You want to get olive oil on EVERYTHING.
(5) Spread potatoes out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
(6) Roast for about 35 minutes.
(7) Serve hot, with roast chicken and fresh bread. (But, also really tasty eaten cold by themselves.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Strawberry Cake

You know what blows? Unemployment. Rain. Crappy day time television. Job applications. Extreme boredom. Put those things together, let it marinate for two weeks, and you'll have yourself a big mess of complete and utter, "get-me-out-of-this-house-before-I-kill-the-cats" stir craziness.

You know what doesn't suck, though? Light, fluffy vanilla cake stuffed with fat, juicy strawberries. A perfectly moist cake made with simple ingredients that are sure to be sitting in your pantry/fridge right now. A sweet treat that can be mixed, baked, cooled, and devoured in less than an hour. 

This cake is the only thing keeping me sane today. There's something about cracking eggs and stirring batter and slicing strawberries that's really soothing. It's familiar, it's easy, and I'm guaranteed to get something great at the end of my labors. I'm still a little stir crazy, but after a few slices of this stuff I'm starting to feel like maybe life isn't so bad when there's strawberry cake to eat.

Recipe can be here, courtesy of the Gourmand Recipes blog.
** I didn't have milk in the house, so I used 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream instead. Worked just fine, and I think probably added some extra sweetness/richness to the cake.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

My friend Mark came over for lunch yesterday. He's a fantastic cook. During law school he was constantly whipping up delicious treats in his kitchen and bringing them to class. You'd think all that cooking would be a distraction during school, but he was also acing all his classes, teaching legal research and writing to bright young minds, and moonlighting as the Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review Journal. Don't you hate people who are good at everything?

Anyway, after drooling over his baked goods for the last three years, I've been dying to cook with Mark. So, when he came over, I roped him into helping me make a quiche. In no time at all, we were rolling out our store-bought pie crust, cooking/chopping fresh spinach, sauteing mushrooms, and whipping up the creamy base for the quiche filling. We were like a well oiled machine, chatting and chopping and whisking. But, hey wait a minute...when did the pie crust go in the oven??? Eff. Turns out, we not only forgot to set a timer for the crust, but also failed to put in pie weights before baking. So yeah, it came out just a little burnt, and very shriveled. Oy. Thank god there was another crust in the package. 

The second time around, we nailed it. The crust was baked, filled, and then stuck back in the oven for one final round. The resulting quiche was flaky, creamy, savory, and every bit as delicious as we hoped it would be. Thanks, Mark!

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche (Adapted from The Faux Martha's recipe)
** Looking back at my recipes, I do seem to do the spinach/mushroom combo a lot. I know there are a lot more interesting flavor combos for vegetarian fare, but spinach/mushroom is just so delicious!

- 1 store-bought pie crust, rolled out.
- 3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 3 large eggs
- 3-4 cups fresh spinach, boiled, drained, and chopped (Or, 1 package frozen chopped spinach)
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1 cup chopped portobello mushroom
- Salt/pepper to taste
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic

(1) Preheat oven to 425.
(2) Press rolled out pie crust firmly into a pie dish, making sure it sticks firmly to the bottom/sides of the dish. lay a large sheet of wax paper on top of the pie crust, and line with dried beans or pie weights.
(3) Bake crust for about 10 minutes, then pull it out and set it aside to cool. Leave oven on.
(4) In a large pan, sautee the garlic, onion and chopped mushroom in olive oil until onion pieces are translucent. Season with salt/pepper to taste. Remove from heat, add spinach, and mix until well-combined. Set aside to cool.
(5) Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth.
(6) Add eggs, then gradually beat in cream. Mix until smooth.
(7) Stir in cheese.
(8) Add spinach/mushroom to the creamy mixture, and stir until well-combined.
(9) Pour filling into the prepared pie crust.
(10) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is set and lightly brown in spots on top.
(11) Cool for 10 minutes, then dig in!

For other great food ideas, click here or here.