Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Madness!


Diana and I carved some pumpkins a week ago for Halloween! I hope our next carving is more successful! Mine is a "cat" and hers was a spider web. I hope you guys can tell.

Here are some cute ideas to add something extra when people come for dinner!

I bought some little black spider rings ($1 for a huge bag) and some orange napkins. I folded the napkins (fan-style) and slipped a ring over it to hold them together. The rings are very small so I cut the spider ring so that it became a clasp to hold the napkin. Make your incision directly on the opposite side of the spider so the slit is right in the middle.

With the remainder spiders, I cut off the ring all together (leaving the spider) and put them in ice cube trays with water to give my sisters a "spooky" surprise in their drinks.

Homemade Caramel Popcorn

3 bags butterless popcorn, pop in microwave according to directions
2 sticks of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg

1) Preheat oven to 250 oF. Put popped corn in a large mixing bowl or two mixing bowls
2) Melt butter in a medium saucepan
3) Stir in brown sugar, cornsyrup and salt until it boils. Stir the entire time to prevent burning
4) When it's boiling, leave alone to boil for 3 minutes
5) Remove from heat and stir in baking soda, and spices
6) Pour slowly over popped popcorn a little at a time until the caramel is well encoporated into the popcorn
7) Place parchment paper over two baking sheets. Spread popcorn mixture evenly over the two sheets
8) Bake for 1 hr, stirring (gently) with a spatula every 15 minutes

Orange Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts, cubed 1-2" pieces
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 T black pepper
1/2 cup corn starch
1/4 cup flour
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 T rice wine

Orange Sauce
3 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp water
1/4 tsp chilli powder
5 tsp rice wine vinegar
5 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp corn starch
1 orange

1) Mix egg, salt and pepper. Mix into chicken pieces evenly.
2) Sift flour and corn starch into a bowl and pour onto chicken pieces until evenly distributed
3) Heat up oil on high in a wok until 300oF. Fry chicken pieces 5-8 pieces at a time for 3 minutes.
4) Leave chicken on paper towels to dry
5) When all pieces are fried, empty out oil safely and heat wok for 15 seconds on high
6) Pour in one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add in garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and onions
7) Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes before adding the orange sauce mixture
8) Allow sauce to boil before readding chicken pieces again
9) Juice the orange and stir in 2 tsp of cornstarch with orange juice (Add orange zest for more orangey flavor). Add orange juice into sauce and allow to thicken

Teriyaki Steak w/ Grilled Pineapple

1 lb sirloin steak
1/2 cup teriyaki marinade
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup rice wine
2 tsp honey

8 slices of pineapple

1) Marinade steak in teriyaki, soy sauce, rice wine and honey mixture for 3-4 hours. (Don't overmarinade or the steak turns tough)
2) Heat up the grill on medium high heat
3) Grill up the steak until desired done-ness
4) Grill the pineapple on the hot grill and lay the slices ontop of the steak

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Asian Tail-Gate Food

Chinese Pork Spare Ribs

1 lb spare ribs
1/4 cup hoisin
2 T honey
2 T light soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground chilli

1) Mix marinate and rub over spare ribs. Refrigerate for 4-6 hrs
2) Preheat oven to 350oF
3) Spray non-stick spay over a foiled baking sheet. Place ribs on the baking sheet. Reserve marinade
4) Roast for 30 minutes and brush on marinade over the meat
5) Roast for an additional 30 minutes or until meat cooks and shrinks up
6) Let ribs sit for 15-20 minutes before slicing into individual portions
7) Serve over steamed spinach or other vegetables

Thursday, October 23, 2008


My first samosa was in high school at our World Food Fair that had a booth where Indian food was featured made by our Indian parents.

A samosa is basically like a Chinese Spring Roll. It's filled with potatoes and peas and sealed with a light dough. It is fried and served with a light herb dressing.


3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup frozen sweet peas

2 tablespoons ginger, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
phyllo dough, defrosted in the fridge
flour and water, for sealing

vegetable oil for deep frying

1) Boil pototoes in water until fork tender (15-20 minutes). Drain and put in a large mixing bowl.
2) Boil peas in water for 5 minutes.
3) Mash potatoes with fork then mix in peas
4) In a small pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium high heat. Add ground spices, ginger and garlic. Stir with oil and sprinkle with 2 T of water. Heat until aroma fills the air (3 minutes).
5) Mix spice mixture with potato and peas mixture until well combined
6) Take one rectangle of phyllo dough. Place a tsp of potato mixture in the top corner and fold into a triangle down the long length of dough. Fold until it makes a triangular cup and fill it with 1-2 tsp of potato mixture. (Do not overfill)
7) Seal dough with flour and water. Cut off additional dough
8) Heat vegetable oil in a deep wok until its 375oF. Add the samosas into the oil (2-3 at a time). Phyllo dough is very thin so they will take less than 1 minute on each side. Remove when brown.
9) Leave samosas to drain on paper towels

Tip: Serve with chopped mint, coriander, fish sauce, lemon juice and yogurt.
Tip2: Phyllo dough is very fragile so cover with dampened paper towel on dough not being used while rolling samosas (prevents drying out)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Picture Perfect

Seared Sirloin Beef w/ Reduced Mushroom Sauce
4 - 8 oz of your favorite cut of beef

1 cup of heavy cream
1 shallot, finely diced
1/4 cup white wine
2 T all purpose flour
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper (to taste)

1) Heat up a pan on high heat. Drizzle surface of pan with olive oil.
2) Season sides of beef with salt and pepper
3) Sear the beef about 8 minutes per side (for medium rare)
4) Remove the beef and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest at least 5 min before slicing.
5) Using the same pan that the beef was cooked in, pour in the wine to deglaze the pan. Be sure to stir in the brown beef bits into the wine to capture the beef flavor
6) Put mushroom and shallots into the mixture and allow to sautee
7) Stir in heavy cream and allow to simmer
8) Sprinkle sauce with flour and allow to thicken (stir constantly to prevent chunks)
9) Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over sirloin steaks

Tip: The juices that come from the steaks when it is resting shouldn't be tossed out! Dump the juices back into the sauce. ALL OF THAT IS FLAVOR!!!!

Tip2: The reason steaks are allowed to rest before slicing is because it allows some of the juices to remain in the steak while it is cooling. If you automatically start slicing, the juices run free and a lot of the moisture is taken out of the meat. Also even when taken off the grill, the steaks are still cooking because the temperature is still high. Take that into account when you are looking to cook your steak perfectly to (medium, rare, well done) because the meat is still cooking after being taken off!

Garlicy Mashed Potatoes
2 medium sized pototoes, peeled
4 cloves garlic
2 T butter/olive oil spread
1/4 cup cream or milk
salt and pepper to taste

1) Cube the potatoes into even sized portions (approx 1.5"x1.5")
2) Peel garlic
3) Emerse potatoes and garlic with cold water
4) Boil contents for at least 15 minutes (or potatoes are fork tender)
5) In a large mixing bowl, mash the potatoes and garlic
6) With a spatula, mix in butter and cream
7) Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste

Tip: By boiling the garlic, the pototoes still have the nice garlic aroma without being too overpowering or leaving garlic breath!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

indian inspiration

Recently, I invested in an Indian recipe book after perusing the International recipebook aisles of Barnes and Nobles. After looking through several, I picked up Meena Pathak's Complete Indian Cooking. Since I only know a few Indian recipes, I wanted a book with pictures that I can strive to make my own food look like. Pictures are a must!

Here are a couple of dishes I attempted to make with twists of my own. Most of the time recipe books serve as a springboard for inspiration. I try to make my weekly dishes interesting, adventurous for myself and the people eating them. I rarely follow a recipe step by step. I get the "gist" and I go from there. I'm hoping I can try all the recipes in the Indian recipe book so it becomes 2nd nature to me.

For lactose intolerant people, coconut milk is a great cream/yogurt/milk substitute in most of these dishes. It gives the creamy texture you are looking for minus the "eww" factor that comes with dairy products.

Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Peas

Indian Coconut Chicken

Chicken in Tomato and Onion Sauce

Spicy Indian Meatballs (Beef not Lamb =P)

Samosas with a Cilantro/Mint Yogurt

Chapati (Indian Flatbread)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fail-Proof Cookies

If I had to name my one weakness besides shopping, it would have to be my ginormous sweet tooth. I cannot turn down dessert. A meal is not complete unless you have something sweet to munch on.

I had an event recently where I decided to bring some cookies. These two recipes are permanently in my brain. I don't even need to consult a recipe during this process. This can mean one of two things: I am a brilliant master baker OR these recipes are ridiculously easy. I'd like to believe it's the first but sadly, it's the latter of the two.

These recipes are crowd pleasers for any situation. The first one is dairy free so it's less fatty than the 2nd recipe. The second one is a heart attack waiting to happen. MODERATION IS KEY

Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroons (Dairy Free)

3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1) Pre-heat oven to 325oF
2) In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. (It'll look almost like whipped cream.
3) Add in the salt and beat a little more with the mixer.
4) With a plastic spatula, fold in the sugar, vanilla extract and coconut flakes. (Folding is the idea of using big circular strokes that prevents the whipped substance from losing its fluffiness)
5) Fold in chocolate chips
6) Put parchment paper on two large baking sheets. Place 1 tablespoon of mixture on to the baking sheet. Leave about 2 inches between the spoonfuls.
7) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges of the cookie become golden.
8) Take the cookies out and do not attempt to remove until the cookies have cooled.

Florentine Cookies

2 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/3 stick butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 375oF
2) Melt the butter in a saucepan or put in a microwave safe bowl and melt in the microwave. (I normally use the defrost setting and slowly melt the butter stirring every minute to prevent burning)
3) Pour butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix in oats, milk, flour, corn syrup, and vanilla extract.
4) Place parchment paper on two baking sheets. Measure out teaspoon-fuls of the mixture and place on the parchment paper (approximately 6-8 per large baking sheet). Please leave at least 2-3 inches between placements because the mixture will spread out a lot in the oven.
5) Spread mixture evenly in a circle with a butter knife or spatula
6) Bake for 7 minutes or until edges are brown

Tip: The cookie will be extremely soft when it comes out. Do not attempt to move until the cookie has cooled and hardened. The parchment paper makes it an easy clean up.

Inspiration: Melt some semi-sweet or milk chocolate morsels and spread evenly between 2 florentine lace cookies (sandwich style). When cooled, the cookies look very pretty and gift-worthy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Romantic Brunch for Two

This is a simple dish that can be altered in so many ways.

Crepes are very thin pancakes originating from France. When I was in Paris this summer, every street had a crepe stand. Crepes can be both sweet or savory. My favorite is Nutella and banana crepes. (Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread that can be found in the peanut butter aisle in any grocery store). A simple sweet version would be lemon juice and granulated sugar over the crepe. The possibilities are endless.

This dish was inspired by my favorite neighborhood restaurant, Spats. They serve a Crabmeat Cannelloni Florentine, which is simply a crepe stuffed with crabmeat topped with a tomato, hollandaise sauce and cheese.

Mushroom Chicken Crepe Cannelloni

Basic Crepe Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Sauce Ingredients
3 slices Smoked Turkey Bacon, diced
1 tsp cooking oil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

1) Mix the crepe ingredients together (easiest way is in a blender). Refrigerate the crepe mixture for at least 30 min.
2) Heat a frying pan at medium high heat. Allow enough time for pan to heat through before pouring crepe mixture.
3) Spray pan evenly with cooking oil. Pour 1/4 cup of crepe mixture in the pan. Tip and rotate the pan so the mixture is evenly distributed on the pan. Allow enough time for the side to cook. (Check with metal spatula.)
4) Flip crepe and cook opposite side
5) Place cooked crepe on plate and continue making the rest of the crepes

6) Heat a sauce pan to medium high heat. Pour in 1 tsp of cooking oil, cook the garlic, onions and turkey bacon in the oil for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, tomato sauce and cream.
7) Allow to simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in freshly chopped flat leaf parsley.
8) Pour sauce over crepes

Tip: I had leftover grilled chicken that I put in the crepe and wraped it taco-style before I poured the sauce over the crepes.