Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Pasta

After my study abroad semester in London, a group of us went on a two week tour around Europe. One of my favorite stops was Venice. How could you not like Venice? Seriously. It was gorgeous. And the food...absolutely delicious. I had the best gelato ever there (fresh strawberry) and also one of the best pastas I had ever tasted. What was it? Pumpkin Pasta.

At the time, I had never had pumpkin in pasta before then. I had never even considered it as something you could pair with pasta. I was blown away at how delicious it was. I asked the waiter what the sauce was made of and he said it was a simple pumpkin and cream sauce.  I searched for a while for a recipe that was similar when I got home but I wasn't able to find one at the time that had the same pumpkin cream sauce.  I attempted one that came close but it wasn't quite right.  Maybe you just had to be in Venice for it to taste right!

I stumbled across this recipe recently and though it was a different compared to what I remembered (i.e. not a cream based sauce), I thought why not. It still sounded like a tasty recipe.  And I had lots and lots of pumpkin in the pantry.  Still do come to think of it...

It's not exactly the prettiest of dishes (seriously...I couldn't get a pretty picture not matter what I tried) but let me tell you...it is down right tasty.  During a season where pumpkin is baked into pies, breads, muffins, and all manner of sweets...it is a nice change to eat it in a savory dish.

I almost used fresh spinach instead of the kale but I decided to go ahead with the kale since it was on sale at the grocery store.  It was my first time eating it and I was very happy with it...not blown away taste wise but it was pretty good.  I may still try the dish with spinach in the future.  I also have a lot of dried pasta in my pantry (a really good sale at the store not long ago) but none of the boxes I have was gemelli so I used rotini instead.  This was a great shape of pasta for this dish.  The sauce clung to the noodles so you got plenty of it in each bite.

A great addition for those that just have to have some meat with their meal, would be either bacon or pancetta.  Sprinkled over top, it would give a delicious crunch along with the almonds.  I topped mine with a little grated parmesan and it was scrumptious.

Pumpkin Pasta

Pumpkin Pasta

Serves 8.

INGREDIENTS

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound gemelli pasta, cooked and drained (I used rotini instead)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch (about 8 ounces) kale, thick stems removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 can (29 ounces) pumpkin puree, (not pumpkin-pie filling)
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons jarred sun-dried tomato pesto
1/2 cup unblanched almonds, sliced

DIRECTIONS
1. Cook pasta, and drain; reserve. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add kale; cook, stirring, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, broth, and pesto; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Pumpkin Pasta

2. Toss pasta with pumpkin-kale mixture. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or eight individual dishes. Top with almonds. Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Macaroons

Daring Bakers Logo- Vanilla Fairy

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I think I may be one of the only bloggers out there that hasn't had a french macaroon or dreamed of eating the perfect one. They are not something that I grew up eating. We always had the macaroons that are made mostly out of coconut. Even though I'm not familiar with the french version, I have seen them every where in the food blogging world. I thought they sounded interesting but I wasn't going to go out of my way to make them.

Until the Daring Bakers that is! When I saw that macaroons were our challenge this month, I had to read through the directions many times to make sure I understood every step. I'm prone to skipping over steps that are pretty important when I hurry through reading recipes and it nearly always ends in disaster. The recipe didn't seem to difficult and I thought I would be able to make it through without any major mishaps.

For the most part I was right. My egg whites whipped up perfectly thanks to my handy dandy immersion blender and though my homemade pecan flour wasn't perfect, I was able to sift it enough to make it less lumpy. I went with pecans instead of the traditional almonds because we were allowed to and almond flour apparently is unheard of in my local grocery store despite being in Dallas. I could have ordered it online but that looked a little too pricey since it was all I needed. And of course, pecans are my favorite nut and this is Texas where pecans are our state nut after all!

Macaroons

I also added some matcha to the macaroon batter to give it some color. The piping would have went a lot easier if I had a pastry bag. I didn't and had to use a ziploc bag. Not necessarily a bad thing but I cut the tip just a little too big and while trying to pipe each macaroon out, some were bigger than others and some started to run together.

Macaroons

I was able to get enough that didn't run together to make a few sandwiches, however. For my filling I went simple. Simple as in that jar of Nutella looks pretty darn good. I considered making a filling from scratch but the nutella was the right consistency that I wanted as well as flavor.

All in all, these turned out pretty well. The flavor was excellent and the color was great. I was able to get something that looks close to a traditional macaroon (feet and all!). They may not be something that I will make all that often but it was fun to try. I may bring them out when I want to impress some cookie lover!

Macaroons
Is it just me or do these french macaroons look like they are french kissing?

Thanks to our host, Ami for the challenge! For more macaroons, check out the Daring Bakers' blogroll!

Macaroons

Macaroons

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Ingredients
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.) (I made my own and used pecans)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g, .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
Matcha: 1 tsp

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Roasted Garlic and New Potatoes

Roasted Garlic and New Potatoes

New potatoes are my go to potato. I like the texture and size much better than their russet cousins. And the beautiful reddish purple skin is a nice pop of color over the dull brown of the usual baking potato. I nearly always keep a bag of red potatoes in my pantry for an easy vegetable side dish and I almost always roast them. Typically, I just toss the quartered potatoes with olive oil, salt, and some pepper and roast until crispy. This time I decided to do something a little different after seeing this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

I have so many recipes marked from her blog that I want to try and eventually I hope to get them all made. But this recipe stood out as a make this now because 1. I had almost everything in the pantry and 2. I love roasted garlic and roasted new potatoes. I had never thought to put the two together and roast at the same time but it is sort of genius when you think about it. Not only can you make one dish but you can throw a few extra heads on the pan and use if for something else.

I only made one change to the recipe. Instead of the white wine that she uses, I used chicken stock. I had no white wine in the kitchen (I rarely do since I rarely drink) but I had plenty of chicken stock that needed to be used.

Roasted Garlic and New Potatoes

Let me tell ya...these babies were soooo good. Perfectly tender and just starting to get crisp. The roasted garlic was amazing. Not only did it make my apartment smell delicious but it was out of this world tasty when mixed with the red potatoes. It will be hard to go back to my everyday roasted red potatoes. I may just have to throw these into rotation a lot more often.

Roasted Potatoes and Garlic Green Beans

Charlie was pretty happy with these too. I had some leftover with my eggs for breakfast and Charlie hovered nearby until he wore me down/annoyed enough to get some. Not the eggs though. Eggs + Charlie = open the windows and light some strong scented candles because it's not gonna smell good.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TWD: Pumpkin Biscuits

tuesdays-with-dorie-logo

This week's recipe is actually sweet potato biscuits but I am not a big fan of sweet potatoes nor do I keep any canned in the house. I do, however, love pumpkin and just happen to have many, many cans stocked up in my pantry. And if sweet potato can be used as a faux pumpkin pie, pumpkin can be used as a faux sweet potato biscuit...right?

Pumpkin is one of my favorite fall flavors. The moment Starbucks releases their Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino, I am there. Of course, I can't afford to go as often as I wish so I've come up with a homemade version of sorts. There is also pumpkin muffins, bread, brownies, and cookies that I enjoy almost to excess. Now pumpkin is in my biscuits. And it is very good.

Pumpkin Biscuits

The biscuits didn't rise as much as I was expecting but that didn't seem to affect the taste. I got small, very pumpkiny discs. Topped with butter and a little honey, these were a perfect snack or breakfast. Besides the rising, my only other issue was how soft the dough was. I found it nearly impossible to roll these out and cut into biscuits. I was able to get a few to turn out okay but the rest were awkwardly shaped to say the least. The short trip from cutting board to the pan was enough to made most of them even more funny looking.

Pumpkin Biscuits

I baked up six of the biscuits and froze the rest of the ones I was able to cut out. The remainder of the dough I left whole and froze it for later. I think that batch will become drop biscuits. If I were to make these again, I would add more flour to help make the dough easier to roll out and cut the biscuits.

Thanks to Erin of Prudence Pennywise for selecting the recipe for the week! You can find the recipe at her blog or check out page 26 of Baking. To see more biscuits, see the TWD blogroll!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Pho and Wontons!

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.


Chicken Pho


I don't think I've been as excited before as I was when I found out the recipes for this month's Daring Cooks. Jaden Hair, one of my favorite bloggers, was going to be featured. Jaden is one of the nicest and funniest bloggers around. Though I haven't been fortunate enough to meet her in person, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a group conference call with her and some other awesome bloggers through the Daring Cooks.


Her choice of Vietnamese Chicken Pho and Chocolate Wontons sounded amazing. Until this challenge, I had never tasted Pho but thought it seemed similar to chicken noodle soup which I love. And the wontons...come on..how could FRIED anything be that bad?


According to Jaden, the proper pronounciation of pho is:



By the way, the correct pronunciation of Pho is “fuh?” Yes, you say the word like it’s a question!

I had heard of pho (especially in the last few months) but my American brain always pronounced it as fuh-0h. Add a little Texas accent on that and it was probably more like fuuh-0h. Though according to some accent quiz I've taken a time or two, I have a Midwestern accent (something about being born in Texas after 1980)...I know...especially around my family that a little country (i.e. hick) accent comes out at the worst of times. So it may really have come out as fuuuuh-oh. I'm pretty sure I just embarrassed myself there.


Anyway...back to our regularly scheduled rambling...


We were given the option of doing the quick chicken pho or the longer version if we wanted. Being the first time I had made pho, I went with the quick version. I bought a good quality stock since I was not going to make it from scratch. One thing we could not make any variation was the spices. We had to use the whole and toast them. I had to do a little digging to find whole star anise...apparently its not one my local grocery carries. However, I did find out that there is a Penzey's not far from my apartment. Of course I had to check it out and ended up with more than just the whole star anise. But it was so much fun shopping for spices and seasonings! I couldn't help it! I even bought some of their mint hot chocolate mix (delicious by the way!).


My apartment smelled sooooo good after I toasted the spices. Hopefully they were toasted enough because I took them off the stove at 3 minutes exactly. I was too afraid they would burn!


I did cheat slightly, however. The recipe calls for one whole chicken breast but I used the remainder of a rotisserie chicken that I had leftover. It needed to be used up and this soup seemed perfect for it. Next time I'll use a fresh chicken breast!


Noodles for Pho


I wasn't sure if I had the right noodles or not. The recipe calls for dried rice noodles. All I could find was rice sticks or rice vermicelli. I did some quick research on the web and from what I found I think I got the right thing but I can't say I was happy with them after cooking. The texture seemed off...almost like eating styrofoam. Perhaps they should have been used for frying as the package said (though it did list boiling as a cooking option too). Next time I think I'll just use angel hair pasta.


Chicken Pho


The broth with its seasonings was amazing. Rich and full of flavor despite being store bought (I used Kitchen Basics...it seemed the healthiest of my options). I loved the fish sauce addition. I've only recently found the wonders of fish sauce. I've used it in everything from soups to fried rice and have been blown away by the depth of flavor it gives to all. I'm pretty sure its going to be a constant staple in my pantry from now on. I topped the pho with a little sriracha to give it some kick and I also used some shredded zucchini instead of bean sprouts (not a fan). Without the funky noodles, this was a delicious weeknight dinner. I was able to have it on the table in about 45 minutes. I will be making this again for sure!


Pumpkin Wontons


Now on to the wontons. We were given the option of using whatever filling we wanted. With it now being fall I had to use pumpkin. The recipe I went with was a Pumpkin and Cream Cheese spread from Pinch My Salt. I only made two small changes to it based on what was in my pantry. I used honey instead of maple syrup and I used dark brown sugar as well. It was out of this world good by itself. I also spread it on toast for breakfast. Delish! In the wontons it was amazing. Dusted with a little powdered sugar...perfection.


Pumpkin Wontons


I did discover that I do not like frying. My oil heated up way to quickly and I had to wait for it to cool down before I could fry. Then I was only able to get one good wonton before the temperature dropped and the two I had in there soaked up too much oil. I want a deep fryer like this one. It would have hopefully made this a little more idiot proof.


By the way, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook is amazing. I've marked so many recipes that I want to make. So far I've made the pho and wontons (duh!) as well as the perfect fried rice. All of them delicious! If you love Jaden's blog, you'll love her cookbook. The writing retains all the charms you find on her posts and frequently a smile will no doubt come to your face!


Check out the Daring Cooks Blogroll for more Pho and Wontons! Thank you to Jaden for allowing us to cook her delicious dishes this month!


Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook


Equipment:
• Frying pan
• Large stockpot
• Tongs
• Strainer, sieve or colander
• Bowls for serving

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions
Servings: Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)
Accompaniments:
2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

Directions:
  1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
  2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
  4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
  5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
  7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
  8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.


Chocolate Wontons
Recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook
Equipment:

• Small bowl
• Pastry brush
• Plastic wrap and/or damp paper towels
• Wok or medium-sized pot
• Frying thermometer (if you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the oil temperature by dropping in a cube of bread … if it browns quickly, the oil is ready)

Preparation time: 15 minutes + 15 minutes cooking time (for 12 wontons)
Servings: Makes 12 wontons.
Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
12 wonton wrappers, defrosted (keep wrappers covered with damp towel)
12 pieces or nuggets of chocolate (use any type of chocolate you like)
High-heat oil for frying (i.e., vegetable oil, corn oil)
Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) for sprinkling

Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash.
  2. On a clean, dry surface lay 1 wonton wrapper down with a point toward you, like a diamond.
  3. Place 1 piece of chocolate near the top end of the wrapper.
  4. Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper.
  5. Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up to create a triangle and gently press to remove all air from the middle. Press the edges to adhere the sides. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely.
  6. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces.
  7. Keep the folded chocolate wontons covered under plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying.
  8. In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2 inches (5 cm.) of high-heat oil.
  9. Heat the oil to 350º F (180º C) and gently slide a few of the chocolate wontons into the hot oil. Make sure you don’t crowd the chocolate wontons.
  10. Fry the wontons for 1 ½ minutes, then flip over and fry another minute until both sides are golden brown and crisp.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice Muffins

Allspice Muffins

For this weeks Tuesday with Dorie, Kayte of Grandma’s Kitchen Table chose Allspice Crumb Muffins, pages 16-17. Fall is my favorite time of the year. Its cool but not too cold and definitely not the sweltering hot we get in Texas during summer. And the flavors that come out are incredible. Pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg...the list goes on and on. This muffin comes at the perfect time for me.

Normally, I only use allspice in things like breads or pies. I've never used it as the main or only spice in a muffin. So it was a little different for me this time around but I was very impressed with the flavor. I managed to wait until they were cool before eating one and though it was very hard because they smelled soooooo good...it was definitely worth the wait. The allspice was intense but not overwhelming. Perfectly...fall in taste. And they had streusel...how could they not be delicious?!

I made a full batch and froze all but 3. I'm very glad I froze the rest because they do not retain that fresh out of the over texture for more than one day. While fine and tasty the next day, you could tell that they weren't baked that day.

Allspice Muffins

To get this weeks recipe, check out Kayte of Grandma’s Kitchen Table or pages 16-17 in Baking. For more allspice muffins, head over to the TWD blogroll!

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

FYI: Recipe Index Update

I have finally gotten the recipe index updated with all recipes listed on Randomosity and the Girl. It is organized by baking/cooking group if the recipe falls under one. I have also listed most under other descriptive categories (though this may not be complete...I'm working on it!).


You can access the recipe index on the nav bar under the blog header.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sesame Chicken

Sesame Chicken


I don't know about you but I love chinese food or rather asian food in general. Next to pasta, it is my go to meal when I want something quick and flavorful. I also love to eat it out at a restaurant. But not that nasty, greasy fast food chinese. Yuck. While I know they are not technically chinese (I believe they are 'asian fusion'), Pei Wei and PF Changs are two of my favorite places to eat any type of asian.


Of course, they are usually a little more expensive than those places serving MSG laden dishes. That's okay for a once in a while eating out experience but not so good for the everyday meal. Plus, I can control what goes in and the relative "healthiness" overall. While I love a good crunchy honey seared chicken, the deep fried chicken is not the healthiest of options (so says the girl who just ate deep fried bacon and deep fried butter at the state fair).


Sesame chicken is not normally my main pick when eating chinese but when I saw this recipe at Everyday Food, I thought it looked pretty tasty and not that bad for you. Instead of the deep fried chicken, you saute chicken in oil lightly. The sauce is less sweet than normal sesame chicken sauce as well.


I made two little additions to the recipe (in red below). I added in about a teaspoon of oyster sauce and 1/2 tsp of sriracha. The sriracha was added to give the sauce a little heat and to help cut the sweetness a tiny bit. I have been a fan of oyster sauce since I added it to my bowl at a Mongolian BBQ place a few years ago.


I loved, loved, loved this! I was expecting it to be pretty good. A nice substitute from a restaurant dish but I was completely blown away how delicious it was. Simple but full of a lot of flavor. The sauce was perfect with the two additions I made. The sriracha gave a nice bit of heat but didn't overwhelm the rest of the flavors. I served this with a nice basmati that complimented the rest of the dish quite well.


This will definitely go on my make again list. It was completed fairly quickly and gave me enough leftover to take to work for lunch. That's always a plus in my book!


Sesame Chicken




Sesame Chicken


Adapted from Everyday Food


Serves 4


INGREDIENTS


3/4 cup brown rice (I used basmati. I think this amount is per serving.)
3 tablespoons honey (less if you don't like it too sweet)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sriracha (or less to taste)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken
breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as
safflower
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large
florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced


DIRECTIONS


1. Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.


2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.


3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.


4. Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with brown rice.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWD: Split Level Pudding


Pudding is my friend. It is normally delicious and it makes me oh so happy. My favorite is banana or vanilla pudding but I usually will eat just about any kind I am served. So when Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla picked the Split Level Pudding on page 384-385, I was very happy.

I admit...I'm a Jello pudding girl. That's what I grew up on and still to this day have boxes of it stashed in my pantry. Its quick and easy as well as usually being pretty good. Pudding from scratch can be hit or miss at times and not worth the effort or ingredients used. But I was hopeful that this version would be worth it.

Compared to some puddings I've made in the past this was pretty easy to make. I loved using the food processor. Everytime I've used it to incorporate butter into pudding it has come out so smooth and silky. This time was no exception. My only issue with pudding was the chocolate layer. When I added the vanilla layer to the top, the chocolate rose up and swirled with the vanilla. Instead of split level, I had tie dyed pudding. Not a bad thing taste wise, just a visual issue.

Split Level Pudding

Perhaps it was the half pint canning jar I used. The extra I put in a plastic container stayed in layers for the most part. Oh well...I think the jar looked cuter!

Split Level Pudding

The taste was quite pleasing and I think worth the effort this time. Am I going to run to whip this up next time I get a pudding craving? No. But it was a good change that lived up to my favorite instant pudding.

To see more split level pudding, check out the TWD blogroll! You can find the recipe at Flavor of Vanilla and of course, in Baking!

One a side note, I'm sorry to have been gone so long in regards to Tuesdays with Dorie. My youngest sister has been in the hospital here in Dallas for the last few weeks. I've been going to see her most days after work and have cut my baking time in half (most of the posts the last month came from things had done in the past but not posted). I hope to make more time to participate but understandably, I hope, my sister comes first.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pasta with Asparagus, Pine Nuts, and Lemon

Pasta with Asparagus, Pine Nuts, and Lemon

I'm a pasta girl. I probably eat it way more than I should considering all of the carbs but it is such a quick and tasty meal on a weeknight. Especially when you are a single gal in the city...on a budget hmmm...that sounds rather sad now that I think of it.

I saw this recipe on Serious Eats a few months back and immediately saved it for later. It had three things I love: asparagus, pasta, and lemon. Like the pasta, I could eat asparagus nearly everyday. It is one of my favorite vegetables and I eat it whenever I get the chance. And lemon is always a lovely flavor, whether it's a savory dish or something sweeter.

This was a delicious and easy pasta dish. Not only did it come together quickly and consist of simple ingredients, it was full of flavor. Sometimes those quick and easy dishes are just too blah. Definitely not so in this case. And you could easily substitute any veggie you happened to have on hand or what was in season. Zucchini would be a tasty addition.

Pasta with Asparagus, Pine Nuts, and Lemon

- serves 2 -

Adapted from Pasta for All Seasons by Robin Robertson via Serious Eats

Ingredients

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound pasta (I used angel hair pasta)
Zest and juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

Procedure

1. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat. It will take about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Pour the olive oil into the skillet over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus has softened, about 4 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. When it's done, remove from the pot and toss directly into the pan with the asparagus. Cook for a minute. Turn off the heat.

4. Add the lemon juice and zest and season with salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Serve up.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Recipes to Rival: Boeuf Bourguignon

recipes to rival meatless

The recent release of the movie Julie and Julia has obviously created a boon in Julia Child's popularity. This month's Recipes to Rival recipe was in honor of Julia Child. And I was also asked to host the challenge as well! This is my second turn to pick a R2R recipe (last September as well) and like the first time, I had so much fun. Because I found it so mouthwateringly good to look at in the movie, I went with the Mastering the Art of French Cooking classic, Boeuf Bourguignon.

As much as I would like to say I eat super healthy and am more veggie in my flexitarianism, I love nothing more than a meal with a good bit of beef. Is it because I grew up in the Texas Panhandle with cows out the wazoo? I don't know...but I loves it I do. And Boeuf Bourguignon is all about the beef...and the wine but the beef is really the star.

One thing you need when doing this recipe is time management. This is not something that can be started at 5 in time for dinner. It's not overly complicated but it does take a bit of time. Certain parts need to be done before others and if you don't read the recipe carefully (like I did at first!) you could find yourself in a bind when you need to add them to the stew. If you plan ahead, it can certainly be done in one afternoon. You can also make it in advance for the next day. In fact, its even better the day after its made. I made mine on a Sunday afternoon and served it for dinner Monday night. Delicious!

A good wine is also key to developing the flavor of the sauce. An expensive wine you don't have to buy but a good quality red that you would drink is essential. Don't go for the cheap cooking wines. I used a moderately priced Chianti and was very pleased with the flavor.

Boeuf Bourguignon

I loved the Boeuf Bourguignon. Relatively simple but bursting with rich flavors. Next time I would serve it with the more traditional boiled potatoes. This time I used buttered egg noodles because I had the wrong kind of potatoes at home. The noodles were okay but I think the potatoes would stand up better to the flavors of the Boeuf Bourguignon.

Before watching Julie and Julie and this month's R2R, I had little experience with french cooking and Julia. Now that I have, I am eager to try more of both. Because the Boeuf Bourguignon was such a success for me, Mastering is definitely going to get a more thorough work out!

You can see more Boeuf Bourguignon at the Recipes to Rival blogroll!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

Yield: For 6 people

Ingredients
A 6-ounce chunk of bacon
1 Tb olive oil or cooking oil
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes (see Notes)
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tb flour
3 cups of a full-bodied, young red wine such as one of those suggested for serving, or a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
½ tsp thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
The blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter
Parsley sprigs

Directions
Remove bacon rind and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, ¼ inch thick and 1½ inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1½ quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2½ to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

FOR IMMEDIATE SERVING: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

FOR LATER SERVING: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About I5 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Notes
Equipment: A 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep and a slotted spoon

Cuts of Meat for Stewing:

The better the meat, the better the stew. While cheaper and coarser cuts may be used, the following are most recommended. Count on one pound of boneless meat, trimmed of fat, for two people; three if the rest of the menu is large.

First choice: Rump Pot Roast (Pointe de Culotte or Aiguillette de Rumsteck)

Other choices: Chuck Pot Roast (Paleron or Macreuse a Pot-au-feu), Sirloin Tip (Tranche Grasse), Top Round (Tende de Tranche), or Bottom Round (Gîte a la Noix).

Vegetable and Wine Suggestions:

Boiled potatoes are traditionally served with this dish. Buttered noodles or steamed rice may be substituted. If you also wish a green vegetable, buttered peas would be your best choice. Serve with the beef a fairly full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux-St. Émilion, or Burgundy.

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