Monthly Archives: October 2009

Amaretto Crepes

crepesEven though the U.S. of A. is approaching the quintessential American holiday (besides perhaps the 4th of July), I’m writing about a classic French recipe that can take on an autumn (or l’automne if you will) flair. Crepes can be whipped up in the quick whirl of a blender with ingredients that you probably already have in your fridge, and this time, they’ll smell like harvest infused childhood memories set in a kitchen decorated with frosted pumpkin cookies and hot apple cider…hopefully.  So don your aprons and get ready for a tasty snack.

Mix the following in a blender:

  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto or 2 teaspoons hazelnut extract

Once those are blended, let the batter sit in the fridge for an hour, then place enough in a skillet so that the bottom is just covered when you swirl it around. They only take about 30 seconds to cook. Once they’re done, scoop some apple butter in the middle and roll them up like a burrito. With a little whipped cream on top, you’ve got a delicious and festive French treat.

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Fancy Feast; Herbed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Asparagus and Baked Potatoes

While loDSCF0162oking at my cat’s little bowl of fancy feast the other night with what some might consider envy, I realized that my diet of soup and ramen wasn’t cutting it, (although I kind of have an excuse since four of my teeth, deeply rooted and comfortable in the back of my gums were unwillingly removed 7 painful days ago). I wanted a fancy feast, gosh darn it, so I decided that it was time for my teeth to start doing their job again. On the menu: an herb crusted pork tenderloin, asparagus with a Dijon sauce and baked potatoes. This really isn’t a hard dinner to make if you prepare ahead, but to the dorm dwellers, this one’s not good for public kitchen areas. My apologies.

The Pig (Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I can’t claim this recipe as my own. Paula Deen called dibs. However I did make a few adjustments)

You’ll need a three to four pound pork tenderloin that doesn’t already have some kind of flavoring added to it. (They always have ones with teriyaki goop or a layer of peppercorns on them, but for this recipe you’ll need a blank slate).  In a small bowl mix together 1 tablespoon each of dried thyme, dried rosemary, and dried basil. Add to that 4 minced garlic cloves, two tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon salt (kosher salt is always best).  Once all of those are mixed place your pork tenderloin on a piece of foil and rub the herb mixture into it. Crunch the edges of your foil up around the pork so that it makes a kind of bowl around the meat, that way the juices won’t run off. Roast the pork for about 20 minutes at 475 degrees, and then turn the heat down to 425 for around 45 more minutes. Once it comes out of the oven, let it sit for at least ten minutes. It really does make a difference. If you cut into it immediately you’ll be chewing ten times longer than you would if it was allowed to rest beforehand.

The Greens

Asparagus has to be my favorite vegetable. If you don’t eat them out of a can or attempt to gnaw on one raw or with no seasoning, they really are delicious. The most flavorful way to prepare them in my opinion is by roasting them. Rinse them off, chop or snap off the ends, and pat them dry. Drizzle some olive oil, kosher salt and pepper on them and toss it all together. Tuck a few cloves of garlic in between them and roast in the oven at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes. Make sure you check on them and don’t overcook any. Mushy asparagus equal gross asparagus. For the sauce, combine three tablespoons olive oil, three and a half tablespoons white wine vinegar, one teaspoon honey, one tablespoon dried parsley, and a bit of salt and pepper. Whisk it all together (especially once you add the honey…Splenda works too) and pour over top of the cooked asparagus.

The Potato

Bake a potato and put whatever you want on it. My only suggestion is to leave off the foil and don’t cut a slit in the top. If you do both of those things you’re simply steaming it and then you’d be missing out on the crackly skinned, fun textured real baked potato!

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Kitchen Essentials

essentialsI thought for today’s post that I would compile a list of “essentials” for cookware, or at least essentials in my book.  I’m hoping anyone who reads this has access to a stovetop and oven so those were excluded, as well as things like a coffee pot, which is more than essential in my house. So here we go.

  1. One medium sized skillet. Here’s a set of three from target but really you only need the medium size. http://www.target.com/Farberware-3-pc-Skillet-Set/dp/B001IB0NPC/sr=1-9/qid=1256263981/ref=sr_1_9/192-8290411-3995066?ie=UTF8&search-alias=tgt-index&frombrowse=0&index=target&rh=k:skillet&page=1
    1. Use your skillet to…
      1. Make eggs
      2. Sear meat
      3. Stir fry
      4. Pancakes
      5. If at least two inches deep, fill it with oil to deep fry.
  2. One cookie sheet. I don’t think this one needs explanation…
  3. One medium sized pot (I believe it’s called a stock pot officially?). I wish I had a recommendation but unfortunately all I have are IKEA ones which I highly DON’T recommend. They burn super easy and the plastic handles come loose. Not that I don’t like IKEA…I love Sweden.
    1. Use your pot to…
      1. good (not instant) rice
      2. soups/stew
      3. pasta
      4. oatmeal
      5. boil corn on the cob
      6. make all sorts of deliciousness
  4. Mixing Bowls and Measuring Spoons/Cups
    1. Three mixing bowls should do just fine but lots of companies sell them in sets of ten which can also be really useful. The smaller bowls can be used for things like sauces, herbed butters, and fruit while the bigger ones are good for mixing.
    2. If you’re looking to spend extra money then these are what you want to buy. They’re really good at holding temperature (‘cause they’re metal, duh) , they can be used as double boilers, and they’re also pretty enough to use as serving bowls. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku9387663/?pkey=x|4|1||4|mixing%20bowls||0&cm_src=SCH
  5. A cutting board really is a necessity. Unless you have the luxury of lots of counter space, in which case I’m jealous, a sturdy wooden cutting board is going to be a good investment. Make sure you get one that looks like it’ll be too big, otherwise you’ll have cut up vegetables flying over the sides. I got mine at Wal-Mart.
  6. Tongs, Spatula, Ladle
    1. Use these to handle, stir and scoop. Obviously.
  7. Knives
    1. Chef’s knife. I have to say, if there’s one thing you take to heart from this whole list it should be knives. After I suffered through a Kroger brand chef’s knife for a year that couldn’t even slice a cucumber after a month of use, I couldn’t be happier with my current one. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/cu079/?pkey=x|4|1||4|chefs%20knife||0&cm_src=SCH
    2. Paring knife. My paring knife looks like a shark (on purpose) and it was a birthday gift. It’s not from a fancy knife company and it works wonderfully. The company is called animal house and they’re sold at Target.
    3. Bread knife. I don’t have one of these and I’ve survived. I have to say, cutting my baguette last night was incredibly challenging, but I’ve managed.

Now, even though my roommate said that these next ones weren’t “essential”, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of them. Grant it, I get really excited when I see a Williams-Sonoma catalogue and my Christmas list will probably consist of things like a candy thermometer and stainless steel measuring cups, but still…

  1. Food Processor. I can’t even begin to describe how over used my poor processor is. It grates cheese in no time at all, makes salsa, pesto, soup, hummus, mashed potatoes, etc…I have a Kenmore. No complaints.
  2. The last time I popped by my grandparent’s house, granny happened to have an emulsifier she said she didn’t need and it made my month. Basically emulsifier’s are good for making soups and that’s kind of it. I would never pay for one but they’re awesome to use. It’s like using a little electronic tornado to get all the lumps out of whatever you’re making.
  3. Microplane Grater. I use this daily. It grates garlic, ginger, parmesan and zests citrus fruits to a pretty, tiny curl. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/cw368/?pkey=x|4|1||4|microplane%20grater||0&cm_src=SCH

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“The Ramen Girl” Review

To shake things up a little, I decided to do a movie review of Julie and Julia, except that movie doesn’t come out until December. So, as I was browsing the options on my newly created Netflix account (which also happens to have the seasons to multiple HBO/Showtime series I’ve been meaning to watch, yay for more procrastination potential!), I came across a little gem called The Ramen Girl. It came out in 2008 with little notice, probably because it stars Brittany Murphy, and I thought I’d give it a shot. By the way, the “little gem” part was a joke. Before I begin, I should probably say that I didn’t actually finish the movie. I could blame this on the poor bandwidth in my apartment but that would be a partial lie. It really wasn’t worth finishing anyways. I understand that it’s far easier to write a scathing review than a good one, as the character Ego tells the viewers of Ratatouille (the movie I should’ve watched), but really there isn’t too much to praise in this one.

Besides the fact that Murphy can’t act and her collagen injected lips are distracting to watch as she attempts her monologues, the whole movie was based on stereotypes. The other two westerners in the film consisted of a “southern belle” type and a sophisticated British man. The woman, Gretchen, looks and acts more like a woman straight out of some ended era with her massive floor length fur coat, un-ending cigarette, shoulder length wavy hair, and her knowingly suave chuckle. Oh, and she was a prostitute, a sub-plot in the film which was never fully developed.

Really though, all the annoyances that accumulate throughout this movie go back to the fact that Murphy needs acting lessons, or more accurately, should just find a new career. She plays the same whiny, needy, feminists’ nightmare role over and over. The basic plot is that she moves to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend who you immediately understand did not want her there. He leaves. She mopes. She tries to find a job and eventually gets one somehow at a restaurant that sells Ramen and that job eventually becomes meaningful in her life. Summed up in a sentence: It’s like an Uptown Girl set in Japan.

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Spiffed Up College Stir-Fry

stir fryI’ve decided to spiff up a college classic with the hope that chicken stir fry will sound fun! And exciting! And delicious! And other adjectives like that instead of lame…and boring… and blah…that is typical for our kind to cook. I always try to get the seal of approval from those closest to me when I make things like this, so I’m hoping I never dish out (hehe) a horrible recipe.  In my mind there are 4 main components to chicken stir fry: the rice, the vegetables, the chicken, and the sauce.

Rice!

I always make a rice pilaf when I’m making stir fry. It’s so incredibly delicious and unfortunately I can’t take credit for the recipe I use. Tyler Florence is the genius behind these grains. Most of his recipes taste as amazing as he looks on TV (oops, am I allowed to say that?) and his pilaf is no exception. Here’s the link.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/rice-pilaf-recipe/index.html

If you don’t feel like going to the trouble of sautéing a shallot (which you should really try at some point because it adds a great depth of flavor) then at least go to the Asian isle in Kroger, or your grocer of choice, and buy a bag of basmati rice. Put a cup of that over the stove with two cups of chicken stock and you’ll never make instant rice again. Seriously.

Vegetables!

This part is really the paint for your cooking canvas. In my medley I enjoy using bright colored ingredients to make it look pretty like green pepper, red onion, pineapple chunks, and water chestnuts but you can add whatever you like. The key here is to make sure you don’t just throw everything in at once. Your separate ingredients will take varying amounts of time to cook so for instance if you throw all of the above in the skillet at the same time, your pineapple will be a burned mess by the time the peppers have a soft but firm bite to them.  Sauteeing basics 101: put a skillet on a cold stove and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. With a microplane grater (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/cw368/?pkey=x|4|1||4|microplane%20grate||0&cm_src=SCH), grate in some garlic and ginger. Turn the stove top on medium high heat and wait until the oil’s consistency gets thinner and the garlic and ginger start to pop but not burn. Then toss in the vegetables and cook until they’re ready!

Chicken!

What I usually do for one serving is take a single chicken breast and cut it into inch thick cubes. Sprinkle those with kosher salt and ground black pepper. If you’re ever in doubt about how much salt to add, just add more. Trust me. Then take some dried rosemary, basil and parsley (equal amounts of each) and sprinkle those liberally on the chicken as well. Those three herbs in dried form will last you a long time and they’re incredibly versatile. Drizzle a heated skillet or grill pan with olive oil so it doesn’t stick and then put your chicken in until it’s finished.

Sauce!

Since I enjoy a good bit of seared pineapple in my stir frys, I’m always left with that ambrosia like juice left in the container they come in. I’m not sure there’s anything in liquid form that’s more delicious than pineapple juice. Anyways…I don’t like wasting things so I make my sauce with a tablespoon of pineapple juice and 3 tablespoons of soy sauce mixed together. Really easy. Another one you can make if you’re feeling extra dedicated that day is three tablespoons soy sauce, one fourth tablespoon sesame oil, one tablespoon rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar and a drizzle of honey all whisked together (and it will take some serious whisking to incorporate that honey, but it’s worth it).

Combine all of the above and you’ve got one nutritious and delicious meal, courtesy of Tyler Florence and yours truly.

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Light Spiced Onion Rings

onion ringsWith the acceptance that just around the corner is a holiday originally meant to celebrate the dead but which is instead celebrated by loading up on sugar (how did this happen again?), I figured that I’m doomed to eat unhealthily this month. There’s a bowl of candy corn on my coffee table which seems to magically fill up every time I eat the last one (thanks roomie) and since I’m going to get my wisdom teeth out soon, a few extra cavities should really be no big deal. Anyways…going along with the sugary festivities I thought adding some deep fried comfort food into the mix should just add variety. And there is my logic for attempting my first batch of onion rings. I should warn you ahead of time that I made 7 of them and then got too frustrated to continue. This is probably due to the fact that my kitchen is roughly the size of a dinner table for 4 and trying to fit multiple bowls plus a hell-hot skillet of oil into the same space is tricky. Overall though, with the right preparation and ingredients, it could be a little easier. Without further ado…

  1. 3 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  3. 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  4. 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon each of paprika and chili powder
  6. 1 can evaporated milk
  7. Enough vegetable or peanut oil to fill up a deep skillet about an inch
  8. 1 onion…obviously

Please use your own judgment when it comes to the spices since I’m only guessing how much I used here. So basically just mix together the flour, garlic powder, cumin, salt, paprika and chili powder and set that aside. Cut your onion into thick slices, about an inch thick, and separate out the layers.

Take one onion ring and dip it in the evaporated milk. Shake off the excess and then dip it into the flour mixture. Then one more time dip it in the evaporated milk and then the flour mixture. Once your oil is really hot, go ahead and place the onion in the oil and wait until it’s golden brown to take it out.

The problem I came across was actually keeping the breading on the onion as it fried so if anyone has any recommendations, they’re welcomed! Once they’re out of the oil, put them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain off the extra oil. Enjoy 🙂

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Top 4 Tips You Might Have Missed

kosher saltRather than focusing on an actual recipe today, I’ll instead dispense Pez bits of cooking wisdom, most of which have come from three sources: Giada de Laurentis, Alton Brown and Ina Garten.

If you haven’t watched any of those three in action, shame on you. Mostly my cooking conquests are ultra simple and require little work but even those can seem intimidating when you don’t know the basics. One of my Facebook friends had a status about failing at making spaghetti. If spaghetti seems troubling, there’s a serious culinary crisis (I swear I don’t intend to use so much alliteration) around here.  So, I’ve come up with a list of easy little things to add into your routine around the kitchen and hopefully alleviate some of those feelings of kitchen alienation. I realize that those who are food savvy might scoff at the simplicity of the generated tips below but they’re an important building block.  Let me know the ones I’ve missed!

  1. Add lots of salt to your boiling pasta water. My high school Chemistry teacher once went on a rampage about how it’s so silly to add salt to pasta water because as much as people want it to, salt doesn’t make the water boil faster. Well I don’t know about that Mrs. Campbell but it does seriously increase the flavor of something that can be pretty bland. There truly is a noticeable difference between say, a piece of penne that was boiled in salty goodness and a piece of penne that was boiled in plain old H2O.
  2. While we’re talking about the goodness of salt…one of the most basic and easiest ways to add flavor to meat and vegetables is to season them well. One of my favorite things to make is a simple seared steak. Before you go ahead and place it in the skillet though, make sure the skillet is on medium-high/high heat. Put your steak on a cutting board or some other cleanable surface and sprinkle one side with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Don’t be shy now. Drizzle that side with some extra virgin olive oil and place the seasoned side down in the skillet. Do the same to the side that’s now facing up and after 4 or 5 minutes (depends on the size of your steak and how well done you like it) flip it to the other side. It’s the same for vegetables if per chance you enjoy the occasion grilled pepper. Lightly coat it with some olive oil, salt and pepper it and throw it on the grill.
  3. One thing that people buy frozen a lot is garlic bread. Now I understand spending money on cheesy Texas Toast. I’m not exactly sure how they get so much yum into those, but plain garlic bread is really easy. The main reason I’m bringing this up is because the butter mixture part to garlic bread can be used in lots of other recipes as well. Like for instance, a baked potato or a light coating on roasted asparagus. The recipe I use is combining one stick of room temperature butter, one tablespoon dried parsley, one tablespoon dried basil, about 2 garlic cloves smashed or finely diced and a little kosher salt and pepper (or course). Once that’s all mixed up, take a baguette and spread that evenly on both sides. At 350 degrees that should take about 15 minutes but make sure you check on it. Ovens tend to be finicky.
  4. One quick recipe is an egg scramble meal that I always make for myself when I’m craving breakfast.  I shouldn’t really call it an omelette since it looks more like scrambled eggs with bits of color strewn throughout, but that’s the basic idea. First, get about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil really hot in a skillet. The way to determine if it’s hot enough is by rolling the pan around and making sure the consistency is closer to water than oil. Then, chop up whatever you enjoy in your omelettes, (personally I’m a green pepper and onion girl) and throw them in to the skillet. If you’re feeling particularly heart healthy that day and in need of some trans fats, here’s a more flavorful idea. Instead of putting olive oil in the pan, fry up a piece or two of bacon in the skillet and once those are done, take them out of the pan, leaving the fat that burned off. Then use that bacon fat as a substitute for the olive oil and continue adding your vegetables. Once those have sautéed for a minute or so, just crack two eggs (or however many you want) right on top of the veggies and mix it all up until the eggs look done. I always finish mine with kosher salt, cracked pepper and some grated cheddar cheese.

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