Monday, November 29, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I certainly did, but in case you saved any room for dessert, or are already thinking ahead to the next set of holidays... I have some delicious red velvet cake for you. I never understood why these weren't more popular for Christmas, after all, they have the color scheme down. I chose to omit nuts from this one, because of the crowd it was for, but if your allergy-free pecans are the classic choice and it also tastes great with walnuts.

Red Velvet Cake:
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 of sugar
1 tsp of baking soda
1 1/2 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil
4 tbsp of cultured buttermilk powder
1 cup of warm water
2 large eggs
1 oz of red food coloring
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together buttermilk powder and water until well combined. Add vegetable oil, food coloring, vinegar, eggs and vanilla and stir together vigorously, or use a hand mixer on low speed, it is much easier to use the mixer if you have one because you have to create an emulsion. When the mixture is very well combined add in 1 1/2 cups of flour, the salt and baking soda mix by hand or mixer until the dry ingredients are just absorbed. Add in remaining flour and sugar and mix again until well combined. Pour batter into 2 non-stick 9 inch cake pans (or greased regular cake pans) bake until set in the middle and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Try to test on the same cake each time you check it, then that one will be your bottom layer. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting. (adapted from Paula Deen)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups of confectioners sugar

In a large bowl mix together the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract using a hand or stand mixer until soft and creamy. Add in sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Increase speed on mixer and beat until light and fluffy. (from Paula Deen). To frost the cake, use a metal spatula to apply the frosting, all around. Then let the cake sit for 5 minutes. Clean the spatula and run it under hot water, and use it to smooth the frosting all around, cleaning and running under hot water every few strokes. This will give you a smooth and impressive cake, and make any decorating you want to do easy.

Happy Eating.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Butterfinger Rice Krispy Treats

This is definitely dessert season, and I am loving it. Everywhere you turn there are cakes, cookies, pies and other yummy treats. There are office parties, regular parties, potlucks and bake sales. So if you are looking for an easy, childhood flashback inducing, creatively delicious treat, I have one for you. A classic Rice Krispy treat, with a twist. Butterfingers! I made these bad boys with leftover Halloween candy (yes, I still have a ton) but you could use regular sized bars, if you didn't way over estimate the number of kids coming to your house. I cut these gigantic because they were for a bake sale. You could cut them smaller, but why would you want to?

1 bag of mini marshmallows
4 1/2 tbsp of unsalted butter
9 cups of Rice Krispies
1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
1 cup of chopped Butterfingers, about 15-20 mini candies.

Grease a 9" by 13" dish. In a medium pot over medium-low heat melt the butter. When the butter is completely melted add in the marshmallows and melt, stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth. Remove the pot from heat and mix in the Rice Krispies. Stir in the chocolate chips and butterfingers. Press the mixture into the dish until the mixture is spread evenly and there are no air bubbles. Let cool before cutting. This makes 12 huge Rice Krispie Treats (or more of a more normal sized treat). (adapted from the Original Treats recipe, the one on the cereal box)

Happy Eating.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Chicken and Udon Stir Fry

As I have said many times on here before, I love a good stir-fry. Quick and easy, yet delicious an exotic. Lately I have been obsessed with udon noodles. They are so different than other rice noodles, mainly because they are really thick. The sauce I use for stir-fries is usually a variation of this, you can switch Tereyaki for the soy, or use brown sugar or honey instead of maple syrup, or use different varieties of chili sauce to mix up the flavor. Likewise the protein and the veggies can be subbed with whatever your favorites or leftovers are.

Chicken and Udon Stir Fry:
1 Large boneless skinless chicken breast
1 8 oz package of Udon noodles
2 medium yellow onions
1 large green pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium shallot
1/2 package of gourmet mixed mushrooms
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 tbsp of maple syrup
2 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
1-3 tsp of Sriracha
Salt, Pepper

Make the Udon noodles according to package directions. In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cut onions into large slices or chunks and add to oil. Dice garlic and shallots and add to the pan as well. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are slightly tender, stirring to prevent burning. Chop the pepper and mushrooms to be a similar size to the onions and add to the pan as well. Slice chicken into thin pieces, season with salt and pepper lightly, and add to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently until veggies are tender and chicken is cooked through. In a small bowl whisk together soy sauce, maple syrup, vinegar and Sriracha to taste. Add the cooked Udon noodles to the pan and stir together, stir in sauce to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Happy Eating.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to Beef

I had not had steak since getting back from Argentina. First I was just over-steaked. I ate so much meat abroad, I couldn't even look at a cow. Then I was scared, what if I ruined my love of steak forever, by spending a week stuffing my face with the finest grass fed beef. But cravings can only be kept at bay for so long, so I did my best to minimize the American Beef shock, buy buying some beautiful steak and serving it up with fresh Chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is a fresh herb and garlic sauce, it's tangy, a little spicy and absolutely magical. It will make any meat (or bread, or your best dipping finger) sing. With a great piece of steak, and some magical sauce, I am ready to be a meat eater again.

The steak is prepared very simply. Just a little salt and pepper, then pan-seared to medium rare. Serve it topped with the Chimichurri sauce (recipe below), or sauce on the side. This will work for virtually any cut of meat.

As you can see below, this makes a lot of sauce, but trust me that's a good thing. You can either have a whole bunch of people over for steaks, this would be great for grilled steaks as well (weather permitting) or if you are just having a cozy dinner for two (like myself) you can save the extra sauce to make a delicious marinade for something later in the week. I marinated a pork tenderloin, for a delicious and easy dinner the next night. I marinated the pork over night and then just roasted it in the oven, extremely easy and very delicious.

Chimichurri Sauce:
3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
2 tbsp of water
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup of olive oil

Mince garlic and put in a small bowl. Pour vinegar and water on top and stir to combine. Chop parsley and cilantro, so that it resembles a mushy paste. Add that to the garlic mixture. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir together then whisk in olive oil slowly. Adjust seasonings to taste. Allow mixture to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. (adapted from Epicurious)

Happy Eating.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Cornish Hens and Papas Bravas

What's better than a delicious roast meal? How about one that takes about 40 minutes to make. Even better, you don't have to share. Cornish hens are perfectly proportioned for individual serving. They are small so they roast in about 35 minutes, and the meat is succulent and tender. They are like extra concentrated chickens. In the summer, they are great on the grill, but it's a little cold now, so these bad boys were roasted. I served them with roasted potatoes and brava sauce. Brava sauce, from Papas Bravas (which is potatoes brava style) is a Spanish favorite of mine. Brava sauce, or salsa Brava is a spicy-tomatoey mayonnaise, that is usually served on crispy roast or fried potatoes. My sauce is probably not the most authentic (I used Sriracha), but it was delicious and definitely got the flavor right. This delicious dinner is perfect any night of the week, a perfect dinner for 2.

Lemon Sherry Cornish Hens:
2 Cornish hens, approximately 1 1/2 pound each
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 lemons
2 tsp of pepper
2 tsp of salt
Small handful of fresh thyme
1/2 cup of sherry wine
1/2 cup of low sodium chicken stock

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove giblets if there are any, wash the hens inside and out and pat dry. Rub each hen with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Salt and pepper the hens inside and out (about 1 tsp of each, for each hen). Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on each hen and put lemon half inside the neck cavity. Put a few sprigs of thyme inside the cavities as well. Put hens in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Pour the sherry over the hens and roast an additional 10 minutes. Pour the stock over the hens and roast and additional 10-15 minutes, until the hens are golden on the outside and the meat is cooked to 180 degrees. Serve the hens whole, with pan drippings as gravy if desired.

Roast Potatoes and Brava Sauce:
5-6 medium golden potatoes
1 Large yellow onion
1 tbsp of olive oil
Salt, Pepper
For Sauce:
1/4 Mayonnaise
1 heaping tbsp of tomato paste
1 tsp of Sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the potatoes into roughly 1 inch chunks. Cut the onion into similar size. Toss the potatoes and onions with olive oil in a small roasting dish. Lightly Salt and Pepper. Roast until golden and crisp on the outside and fork tender on the inside, about 20 minutes. Stir all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, adjusting seasoning to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve potatoes drizzled with sauce, or serve sauce on the side for dipping.

Happy Eating


Friday, November 12, 2010

Caramel Corn

I love popcorn. In fact it is probably my favorite food. I love all kinds of popcorn, salty, buttery, spicy, sweet. Growing up a real popcorn treat came every summer on the Ocean City Boardwalk (that's Ocean City, NJ, not the other one). With Johnson's Popcorn. It was, is, and always will be the best caramel popcorn around. You can't go to the boardwalk without getting a giant bucket or two. I have to say though, my version came pretty close. My mom swore it tasted just like Johnson's Popcorn (although she is probably a little biased). The best part about this wonderful treat is it lasts awhile, if you store it in an airtight container. Mine was still tasty and crisp for about 2 weeks after I made it. It's super easy to make, and for some reason people will be ridiculously impressed that you made it. It makes a great party or game day snack. So cook up a big batch of delicious caramel corn for everyone to enjoy, but don't forget to save some for later.

Caramel Corn:
1/3 cup of popcorn kernals
Vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 corn syrup
3 tbsp of salted butter
3 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 tbsp of water
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of baking soda

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees. Coat the bottom of a large pot with vegetable oil over high heat. Add the kernels and pop, covered, until the popcorn is hitting the lid, and you no longer hear the popcorn popping. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease or Pam it. Pour dump the popcorn onto the sheet, removing all un-popped and partially popped pieces. In a small pot, combine sugar, corn syrup, water and butter. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, continue cooking until it's a lovely golden brown and smells like caramel. Turn off heat and stir in the baking soda. In pour about a third of the mixture over the popcorn and toss with spoons, or your hand to combine (careful, the caramel is hot). Repeat this 2 more times until all the caramel is incorporated and the popcorn is coated evenly. Put the tray of popcorn in the oven and bake for about an hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving, or putting in an air tight container for storage. (Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

Happy Eating.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Risotto and Chorizo

The food in Argentina was so ridiculously wonderful, I knew I would have to try and recreate some of our favorite meals. Since, I am still recovering from my absolute beef overdose, and have not had a bite or even a thought of a bite of beef, since I've been back, I decided to take one part from a particularly delicious Italian meal and one part of the most deliciously wonderful street food, chorizo. It's like sausage on flavor steroids, charred and delicious. Because of the saffron in the risotto, it feels amazingly Spanish too me, with a little bit of Italian and South American flare. Risotto is a little labor intense to make (you have to stand in the kitchen while you cook it, lots of stirring, etc) but totally worth it.

Saffron Risotto with Chorizo:
1 cup of Arborio rice
1 small onion
1 medium shallot
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup of white wine that you would drink (I used a Reisling)
1 tbsp of cooking sherry
2-3 cups of chicken stock
1 tsp of Spanish saffron
1 1/2 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
3 or 4 Argentinian style Chorizo links

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Dice the shallots and onion and add to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Warm 1/2 cup of chicken stock and stir in saffron, set aside. Add rice and cook for 4 minutes, toasting the rice (you may not notice a difference in the rice). Add wine and sherry and cook until almost evaporated. Add the saffron infused stock and stir. Cook, stirring frequently until the stock is mostly absorbed. Add an additional 1/2 cup of stock and cook, stirring frequently until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the rice is creamy and tender. Add the butter and cheese to the rice and stir until melted and absorbed. Heat/cook the chorizo in a small pan over medium-high heat, you do not need to but any oil in the pan because of the fat content in the sausage, cook whole or in slices, I chose slices to get a really nice char all over the meat. Serve risotto topped with Chorizo and additional Parmesan, if desired.
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

Happy Eating.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Garlic Spaghetti and Shrimp

Back to reality. No more vacation, no more Halloween treats. A brief interlude of everyday cooking before the Thanksgiving rush happens. I am using this opportunity to try all those dinner ideas I have been craving, and all those recipes I have been bookmarking. Revamping basics and trying classic and new flavor combinations. Today I have something pretty classic for you, garlic, pasta, and shrimp. Simple, fast and delicious, it was a great way to ease myself back into everyday cooking.

Spaghetti and Shrimp in Garlic Sauce:
8 oz of spaghetti (half a box)
1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium shallot
5 garlic cloves
2 tbsp of olive oil, divided
1/4 cup of sherry
1/2 of a lemon, juiced and zested
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
Salt, Pepper
Truffle oil (optional)

Cook pasta according to box directions. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook until tender, stirring often to prevent burning, about 6 minutes. Toss the shrimp in lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and let sit. Add sherry and cook until almost all the sherry is evaporated, 2-3 minutes. Add shrimp to skillet and raise heat to medium-high. Cook stirring frequently until shrimp are pink and curled, about 2 minutes. Add The cooked spaghetti to the skillet and toss to combine. Add in additional tbsp of olive oil and cheese, toss to combine. Salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with truffle oil if you are using it. Serve and enjoy.

Happy Eating.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tastemaker: illy issimo!

Do you like coffee? I am a total addict. I drink one every morning, and sometimes as an afternoon pick me up. Sometimes though, particularly in the afternoon, I want something a little sweeter. Through the Foodbuzz tastemaker program, I received a free sample of the new illy issimo coffee drinks. They come in three flavors caffe, latte machiatto, and my favorite cappuccino. They are pretty sweet, so if you like a lot of cream and sugar in your coffee I would suggest the latte (coffee, milk, and sugar) or the cappuccino (which also has some chocolate), the caffe one is more basic coffee (with a touch of sugar).

The cappuccino was by far my favorite, it tastes like chocolate milk with coffee. It's such a little pick me up, and only a 100 calories. Here I am at my desk...

Thanks to Foodbuzz and illy issimo for letting me try their new coffee drinks! What about you, which flavor are you most excited to try?

Happy Eating


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

S'mores Brownies

Oh boy do I have something delicious for you today. I made this little treat for some Halloween festivities (which is why the brownie is on a skeleton plate) but these brownies are not specifically for Halloween. In fact, they capture the essence of one of my favorite summer treats, S'mores!!!! There is nothing like a gooey s'more around the campfire, but this is definitely a super rich and decadent next best thing. The brownie base is the richest, deepest, most chocolaty brownie I have ever made (Thank you, Martha Stewart). Then the chocolate heaven is topped with more chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers. Yeah, these are amazing, and highly addictive, so beware...

S'Mores Brownies:
1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for pan
8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of flour
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4 of a bag of mini marshmallows
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 graham crackers

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 7" by 11" baking dish with parchment paper and butter or grease the paper. Melt butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl (I used the microwave), stir together and let cool for 10 minutes. Mix in sugar and vanilla until well combined. Then add eggs and mix until the mixture is smooth. Gently fold in flour and salt. Stir until just incorporated, you do not want to over mix. Add in chocolate chips and stir gently. Pour into lined pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until just before the brownies are done. Remove from the oven and top with marshmallows, distributing them evenly over the brownies. Then sprinkle with chocolate chips. Crumble the graham crackers into chunks and sprinkle on top. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the chocolate is melted and the marshmallows are golden. Let cool for 10 minutes then use parchment paper to lift brownies out of the pan. Cut brownies according to size preference. Brownies can be stored for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Serve and enjoy. (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Happy Eating