Saturday, December 15, 2012

Roasted Tomato Penne alla Vodka

We've now been back from San Francisco for about a month. Our trip was a wonderful week filled with great sight-seeing and absolutely wonderful food. The Golden Gate Bridge really is as cool to see in person as you'd think it is. I want to go back, badly. I mean, look at this. It's beautiful.

We both fell in love with the North Beach neighborhood, San Francisco's "Little Italy." The Twin Cities have a lot of really great restaurants, but they truly don't hold a candle to anything we ate in San Francisco. I don't think I've eaten better Italian since I was in Italy. If you're ever there, you should go to Tommaso's.  It's an adorable little hole-in-the wall place - very small, quaint, and cute. Order their lasagna. It's amazing.

And in the meantime, make this Penne alla Vodka. You won't regret it.

Roasted Tomato Penne alla Vodka
Recipe from Rachael Ray, adapted
Serves 4ish

1 lb penne pasta
3 lbs plum tomatoes
2 TBSP olive oil, plus drizzles
2 TBSP fresh thyme, finely chopped
salt & pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced fine
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup mascarpone cheese
handful basil leaves, torn

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange cut-side up on baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme, salt, & pepper.

Roast for about 1 hr, 15 min. Let cool.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions & garlic and season with salt & pepper. Cook until soft, about 12-15 min. Add the vodka and cook until reduced by about half. Add the chicken stock.and roasted tomatoes and heat through.

Stir in the mascarpone cheese, and then, using an immersion blender (or transfer to food processor), puree until smooth and creamy. Add the basil and stir until it is wilted.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, and drain. Toss the pasta with the sauce, and serve. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pollo Asado

I've started getting sucked into The Voice this season. Past seasons, I've just watched if, for example, it was on when I was at the gym, but I never really tuned in at home or recorded it.  For some reason, I'm totally hooked on this season. One of the contestants is from the city where I live - I tell myself I watch to cheer him on (nevermind that I think he said he moved out of the suburbs a while ago).

Usually when I watch, I have a cat on my lap. In one of the blind audition episodes, said cat started meowing pretty loudly when one of the hopefuls was singing off-key.

Fast-forward about a week or two and The X Factor was on (I wasn't actually watching - I just forgot to turn off the TV when the show I was watching was over). One of the contestants was absolutely murdering a Kelly Clarkson song, and again, the same cat started meowing loudly. 

Back to The Voice - kitty was not a fan of the woman who ultimately won the battle where the contestants sang Katy Perry's Hot and Cold.

I'm still haven't decided if I think she really likes bad intonation and is trying to sing along or if she's offended by the bad singing. 

This is another recipe I made back when the weather was nice and warm. I miss that weather. We first made  it and used the meat as tacos, but I felt the flavor was too subtle to make a great taco. The second time we made it, we ate it off-the-bone, which really brought out the hints of garlic, onion, and citrus. This will be a great one to make in the dead of winter when I'm really craving a nice hint of summer.

Pollo Asado
Recipe from Pioneer Woman
Serves up to 8
Prep Time - 2-24 hrs (mostly inactive)
Cook Time - 25 min

1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup orange juice*
2 lemons, juiced (save the halves)
2 limes, juiced (save the halves)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 onions, peeled and copped into big chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
up to 16 chicken parts (we used 6 but the marinade is plenty for more

In a bowl, combine the olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic. Whisk to combine. Save the little of the marinade for basting during the cooking process, and put the rest in a large ziplock bag and place the chicken parts in the bag. Add the fruit halves and onion chunks. Toss everything to combine. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hrs, up to over night.

About a half hour before you're going to cook, take the chicken out of the fridge and put it on the counter to get the chill off. 

Preheat a grill to about medium heat (or a broiler to high). 

Place the chicken on the grill and cook until cooked through, turning a few times, and marinading with each flip. This probably will take about 25 minutes whether you're broiling or grilling your chicken.

*I can not strongly advise enough not to try squeezing your own. My hand muscles hurt for several days after I tried to squeeze my own orange juice for this recipe.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

The magazine companies are on to me. I subscribed to CookingLight about a year ago. Since then, I've been inundated with other magazine subscription offers - Everyday with Rachael Ray, Food Network Magazine, People, Parents, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens.... they all want me. I feel so popular.

The sad thing about this is that if it's a magazine I'm even somewhat interested in, and the deal is good, I'll probably subscribe. My husband tells me "oh, but honey, you can get those recipes online." Which is true. But looking them up online is nowhere near as fun as getting a fresh new magazine in the mail every month. I like to think I have the self-control to know when it's time to stop (and hey, I turned down Parents magazine, even though it was truly a great deal. That's gotta count for something, right? Nevermind that I have no children or need for such a magazine).

I made these sandwiches when my tomatoes and basil were at their absolute peak - before the fall weather officially arrived and far before I had to start bringing my plants in at night for fear of frost (I'm not a fan of this weather). You should make them and enjoy them while the you still have access to fresh tomatoes and basil.

Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwiches
Serves 2

4-6 chicken tenders
Italian dressing, for marinading
2 Roma tomatoes
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper
6ish leaves fresh basil
Mozzarella cheese slices

Marinade the chicken tenders in Italian dressing for at least a few hours. Cut the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Pre-heat the broiler.

Grill the chicken till cooked through (3-5 min per side or so) and grill the tomatoes till soft.

Meanwhile, cut the baguette in half, length-wise, and put slices of mozzarella. Right before the chicken is done, place the bread under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to get bubbly.

Cut the basil into little ribbons.

Place the chicken on top of the bread, then top with tomato and fresh basil.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Monte Cristo with Strawberry Habanero Jam

We're now entering year two of home ownership. It's great. When we first moved in, we didn't do much. The previous owners did a lot of work on the place, and we didn't see ourselves wanting to change much.

How naive we were. We (and by "we" I mostly mean my husband) have since learned that home ownership is a continuous string of projects that are assured to take at least twice as long as you think they're going to take. And I have since learned the wonders of stations like HGTV and DIY network and am convinced that the shower/tub area of our master bath needs to be re-done with mosaic tiles. I think my husband would appreciate it if I stopped watching these stations.

Most recently, we installed a ceiling fan in our kitchen. The fixture the previous owners chose for the kitchen used LED lights that burned so hot that it was almost unbearable to be in the kitchen while the light was on for any length of time.

At least it looked cool?

Next up - replacing the two-prong sockets with grounded three-prong sockets. It's bound to be riveting.

We both really liked these Monte Cristo sandwiches. They were a great alternative to the traditional kind that is battered and deep fried (please do not interpret that to mean I'm trying to convey that these sandwiches are healthy - they're not). We weren't the hugest fans of the strawberry habanero jam. Honestly, I think I would've really loved it on a waffle or on ice cream, but for me, it didn't go well with the meat.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Strawberry Habanero Jam
Recipe from Jeff Mauro, adapted
Serves 4
Prep Time - 10 min
Cook Time - 20 min


Strawberry Habanero Jam
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 lbs frozen strawberries
1 habanero pepper, stem and seeds removed, finely minced

1 cup 2% milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
pinch nutmeg
2 eggs

Sandwich Build
8 slices Sourdough
4 slices Swiss Cheese
4 slices American Cheese
6 oz shaved honey ham
6 oz shaved turkey breast
4 TBSP salted butter
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Strawberry Habanero Jam
In a 4-quart saucepan set over medium heat, add the sugar and orange juice, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat to high and add the strawberries and habanero. Bring to a boil, stirring often. After boiling for about a minute, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Once cooled, you can serve immediately. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

In a baking dish, whisk together the milk, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and eggs. Set aside.

Sandwich Build
Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Top a slice of sourdough with a slice of Swiss, one-quarter of the ham, one-quarter of the turkey, a slice of American cheese, and the second slice of sourdough.

Dip the sandwiches into the custard, letting the excess drip off. Add some butter to the pan and gently fry each sandwich until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan, dust with some powdered sugar, and serve some of the strawberry habanero jam on the side.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ham & Cheese Sliders

I'm currently planning a vacation. If all goes to plan, dinners at Bottega and Fleur de Lys are in my future.Have you ever gone somewhere, not really enjoyed it, and then later got home, and someone else you know went there and it seems the two of you took completely different trips? Did it leave you wondering why you didn't learn about these wonderful places they went?

For me, this place is Barcelona.

When I was studying abroad in London, I decided it would be fun to take a trip to Barcelona. I'd heard great things, I spoke Spanish (yes, I knew they speak Catalan but for some unknown reason, I assumed people would regularly speak both), and flights were cheap. So, I bought my RyanAir ticket, raced down to W.H. Smith and bought a  Rick Steve's guide, and booked a hostel. Even today, I don't like going somewhere without knowing where I'm going to sleep that night.

However, what I failed to do, was actually research the city. Or read much of the Rick Steve's book. In the name of spontaneity, I decided I would figure out what to do when I got there.

Big mistake. Aside from going to the beach and the Sagrada Familia, I had absolutely no idea what I should be doing (God forbid I consult the book while I'm there). And, on top of that, Barcelona was having some unprecedented heat wave that made it uncomfortable to do anything but lay on the beach, in the shade.

I did end up doing some great shopping, but overall, was thoroughly unimpressed with Barcelona. And the worst part is that while I know it's my own fault, I'm hesitant to want to go back there because of how unimpressed I was.

Needless to say, that story has nothing to do with these sandwiches. Which are delicious, by the way.

Ham and Cheese Sliders
From: The Girl Who Ate Everything, who adapted it slightly from the Recipe Club

24 good white dinner rolls
24 pieces good honey ham
24 small slices Swiss cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup miracle whip
Poppy seed sauce 
1 Tablespoon poppyseeds*
1 1/2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and miracle whip. Spread onto both sides of the center of each roll. Place a slice of ham and a slice of Swiss inside of each roll. Close rolls and place them into a large baking dish or heavy cookie sheet. Place very close together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the poppy seed sauce ingredients. Pour evenly over all of the sandwiches. Just use enough to cover the tops. Let sit 10 minutes or until butter sets slightly. 

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for 2 additional minutes or until tops are slightly brown and crispy. Serve warm.

Note: Sandwiches can be assembled a day ahead and kept in the fridge ready to bake.

*As you can see from the picture, I omitted these because my grocery store was out.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tandoori Chicken

Bunny is humid. Puffed up fur.

Who else out there is totally feeling humidity bunny lately? Anybody with me? 

When it's this warm, cooking is about the last thing on my mind. When I do cook, it's usually to whip up a marinade so that my husband can eventually grill it whatever we're marinading.  He's a good sport - standing over a hot grill when it's so hot out to cook dinner. If only it were cool enough to sit outside on the deck and eat, I'd be in business.

Cooking Light, June 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Raspberry Ice Cream

I probably could've titled this "The World's Most Expensive Ice Cream." This past weekend, we planted some raspberry bushes in our back yard. And it was really hot. Like 95 degrees each day. So, in typical me fashion, I decided that the best way to cool down and reward our hard work was with some homemade raspberry gelato... And then I realized that I had not one ingredient. 

Raspberries - no. Cream - I had about 1/3 of the amount I needed. Half & Half - none. Sugar - minimal. Eggs - a couple. I didn't even have any bottled lemon juice lurking in the back of my fridge. So, off to the store I went. 

I picked up all the rest of the ingredients, and since it's not raspberry season here, headed toward the frozen fruits. No raspberries. Since I'm short,  I even jumped up a couple of times just to make sure there weren't any lurking on a high shelf. Alas. So I brought the stuff home and set out to another store. Again, no raspberries. This time, it looked like they had a place for them, but they were out. Apparently there had been a run on frozen raspberries this weekend, and again, off to another store. 

Lo and behold, they had raspberries. Really, really expensive raspberries, in very small bags. But I'd come so far - I wasn't going to let this stop me from making my ice cream. I bought two bags, hoping it would be enough but mentally preparing myself to go back for a third bag.

Fortunately, both for my sanity and my pocket book, the two 10 oz bags were almost exactly the right amount.

You really should make this ice cream. I don't think technically it can be called a gelato, since I'm pretty sure there are specific requirements for what differentiates an ice cream from a gelato (I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention when it was explained to me way back in the day when I was in Italy and first introduced to gelato - but I'm pretty sure there aren't any eggs in a gelato and there's also something about the cream). But, it tastes like gelato, so I don't care.

Raspberry Ice Cream
Recipe from David Lebovitz, but I found it here: A Whisk and a Spoon

1 1/2 cups half & half
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups strained raspberry puree
1 TBSP lemon juice

Warm the half & half, pinch of salt, and about half of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set the mesh strainer over the top.

In a separate medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks with the other half of the sugar. Slowly pour the warm liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Quickly pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Mix in the raspberry puree and lemon juice. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, but to preserve the fresh berry taste, churn the ice cream within four hours of making the mixture.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chicken Stock

Can I tell you a secret? You have to promise you won't tell anyone...

Alright, if you promise you won't tell, I'll tell you my secret.  Are you ready for it? Well, here it is.

I only pretend that I make homemade stock for culinary reasons. Any talk of "oh, there's just no comparison" or "it really is worth the extra effort" is just that - talk. Sure, it may all be true, but it's not the reason I make stocks. In fact, I regularly buy boxes of the stuff and use it frequently (the six-pack from Costco and I are besties).

Nope. I make homemade stock because I'm kind of cheap and hate wasting things. And homemade stock is a great way to clean out the veggie crisper. It's just a bonus that it's super easy and makes my house smell good. In fact, it's so easy that it just may change your life.

Here's what I do:

If you want to make a meat stock, save the bones (a chicken carcass works really great). Put that at the bottom of a crock pot (mine is a 4-quart, and I think a slightly larger one would work better, but I make do). If you want to do a veggie stock, skip this step.

Next, add some veggies. I think onions, carrots, and celery are the essentials, but I've not used carrots or celery when I was out. Baby carrots, shredded carrot, carrot coins - whatever you've got. If you're using whole carrots, you don't even need to peel them. Cut those and the celery into big chunks. If you have a whole onion, chop it into big chunks and leave the skin on. The skin will help the stock get a nice dark color. If you have something else onion-y that you want to get rid of, throw that in too - shallots, scallions, leeks... they're all good. I'm pretty sure I added a green pepper once when I discovered I had one that was at the "I need to use this by tomorrow or throw it out" stage.

Add some garlic. I prefer to use whole cloves, in their skins (again, the skins help get that nice stock-y color), but if you only have a jar of minced or those little frozen garlic cubes from Trader Joe's, throw a few cloves worth in.

Next add some fresh herbs - a few full sprigs. I prefer to use Parsley and Thyme, but I'm really not picky. I've used Rosemary instead. Once, I even threw in some arugula. Use whatever you've got. I wouldn't recommend using dried herbs, though - only fresh, whole sprigs.

Throw in a palm full of whole peppercorns.

Cover everything with water, put the lid on the crockpot, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Pour everything through a fine mesh strainer and let cool before packaging up into individual containers. It will stay in the fridge for a few days or frozen for a long time.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jalapeno Poblano Chili

I love CookingLight. The day the new issue arrives in my mailbox is sort of like a mini-Christmas. If it sits on my coffee table for too long without me looking at it, I start to get antsy. When I saw this recipe for Jalapeno-Poblano Chili, I knew we had to test it out as a more every-day substitute for the famous chili recipe that feeds an army and takes at least 2 days to prepare.

I took a few liberties with the recipe - most notably, I used actual beef, cut into cubes instead of ground beef (personal preference). I also used a regular light-colored beer instead of Corona (because I realized at last minute we didn't have any). 

The results were great. It is officially our new favorite "substitute" chili recipe. 

Poblano-Jalapeno Chili
CookingLight March 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grilled Calzones

My husband went to college in Iowa City (go Hawks...?).  It's a lovely little city with a lot of really wonderful food places. My personal favorite is a place called Sam's. Their calzones are A-mazing. Truly. I find myself craving them at random. In fact, if someone would bring one to my house right now, they would be my favorite person ever. Unfortunately, Iowa City is over 4 hrs away by car and we only get down there once every year or two. So when we go, we have to make it count. And the rest of the time, we try to replicate their calzones.

This was our latest attempt (using our brand new pizza stone!). While they were delicious, they still didn't capture the magic of Sam's. My husband is convinced it's all about the sauce and we just haven't found the right sauce recipe yet. I'm willing to entertain this argument...

Grilled Calzones
Makes 2

Here's what I did...

Get some fresh pizza dough and divide it in half. Roll each half out pretty thin. Put one half on a lightly-oiled pizza stone. Put down on half of the crust a layer of shredded cheese, a layer of pepperoni, a small layer of cheese, some browned Italian sausage crumbles, another small layer of cheese, more pepperoni, and then more cheese. Fold in half and then crimp up the edges.

Bring the other half over to the pizza stone and repeat.

Brush some oil on the top of both.

Put on a warm grill and cook until the dough is clearly cooked. You may want to flip it a couple times during cooking to ensure that both the top and bottom are cooked and the cheese inside is evenly melted.

Cut the calzones into strips and serve with marinara.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tater Tot Hot Dish. Uff Da.

If you're from Minnesota, chances are you both know what tater tot hot dish is and have eaten it. You may also have a family recipe, which is just a little different from your best friend's family recipe. If you're not from Minnesota, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Certain Minnesotans I know (*cough*myhusband*cough*) would probably argue you should stay blissfully ignorant.

I'm not going to let that happen. First, some explanation - hot dish is just what we call a casserole up here. Go to any church basement pot luck and you are likely to find not only at least 3 different varieties of tater tot hot dish, you're also likely to find a whole bunch of other questionable-looking  ground beef/potato or noodle/cream of __________ offerings. I advise you skip most of them.

This one, however, you should try. And while you're eating it, try to fit in as many "ya sures" and "you betchas" and "uff das" into the conversation as possible. A lot of us really do sound like Fargo up here (though we will deny it and be extremely offended if it's ever pointed out to us).

Tater Tot Hot Dish
family recipe
Serves 5-6
Prep Time - 5 min
Cook Time - about an hour

1 1/2 lb ground beef (ground turkey works well too)
1-2 TSP olive oil
1 med. onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic
salt & pepper
1 can low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
1 can low-sodium cheese soup
Most of a 2 lb bag tater tots

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, until they start to get soft. Add the ground beef to the pan and brown. Season with salt & pepper. When the beef is almost done, add a few cloves of garlic. Once the beef is browned, drain if necessary.

Add to the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Meanwhile, while the beef is browning, mix together the cream of mushroom soup and the cheese soup in a small bowl. Do not add any other liquid, like milk or water, even though it'll be very thick and you will be tempted to.

Pour the soup mixture over the ground beef. Spread it around a little so all the ground beef is mostly evenly-covered.

Add tater tots to the top of the pan, sort of lining them up, using the picture above as a guide for how to do it. You should use somewhere around 2/3 to 3/4 of the bag. Cover the pan with tin foil.

Bake, covered for 25 minutes.

Remove the tin foil and bake, uncovered for 20 minutes to get the tots nice and crispy.

Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ratatouille Pasta

My oldest two nephews love the movie Ratatouille. I doubt the yonger two have a preference, considering they're 6 months and 12 months, respectively, though I like to think if they could follow a plot line, they'd love the movie, too. We watched it at Thanksgiving (or more accurately, it was on while the adults were talking and drinking homemade Sangria). I'd forgotten how cute the movie actually is. It made me hungry for ratatouille. 

Fastforward 4 months. It feels like summer here. March is normally our snowiest month of the year, but I was sitting on my deck wearing a tank top and capri pants. Now, as much as I know this weather isn't normal and in all probability shouldn't be happening right now, I can't help but love it. It really puts me in the mood to make the things I normally make in the summer when I can get fresh, local produce (often from my back yard or the Farmer's Market at my office). 

This time I decided to take it one step further and make traditionally ratatouille even more delicious - add ravioli, top it with cheese, and bake it. It was a revelation. Now if only I could be guaranteed it won't drop below freezing for the rest of the year so I can get started planting my garden.

Ratatouille Pasta Bake
Serves 4ish

2-3 TBSP olive oil
1 eggplant, peeled chopped (about 2 cups)
2 zucchini, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can diced tomato
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 TBSP fresh basil, chiffonade
3 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
2 packages fresh ravioli (we like the 4-cheese kind from Trader Joe's)
1 cup Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Put the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit out for about an hour. You'll probably notice a lot of moisture on the eggplant. After about an hour, rinse the eggplant thoroughly, and then pat it dry. This process will help coax out the bitterness in the eggplant and help collapse the air pockets, so your eggplant doesn't absorb as much oil.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Let it get very hot, but not smoking. If your oil isn't hot enough, the eggplant will absorb it and it. Cook until the eggplant has begun to soften and is a little brown, stirring occasionally. It should take around 5. Add the zucchini and cook until it starts to soften, again about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and again cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the diced tomato, tomato puree, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley and simmer for about 20 minutes, again, stirring occasionally.

In a bit pot, bring some salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook until al dente. Set aside if the 20 minutes isn't up yet, or to the ratatouille, if it is. Stir to combine.

Add the ratatouille with ravioli to a casserole dish and cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Milka Ice Cream

Ice cream might be one of my favorite foods. No. I think it is my favorite food. Unless you count popcorn. Popcorn might win out. Especially if it's the super buttery and salty stuff my husband makes. Yep. That just might win an ice cream vs. popcorn battle.

A few weeks ago we were making homemade chocolate ice cream for a dinner party we were throwing. A really rich chocolate ice cream and I followed David Liebovitz's recipe to an absolute T. I'm not sure if it was a the recipe, my technique, my recent watching of a Good Eats ice cream episode, or if some magical ice cream elves took over my kitchen, but it was the most amazing ice cream ever. I felt like I was eating frozen mousse. I mourned the day when it ran out.  So I decided to make up another batch. But this time, I looked at my stash of Milka bars and decided to use those instead of Ghiradelli baking chocolate like I did last time. Milka bars are delicious, so Milka bar ice cream would be equally delicious, right? Yep, it is.

Milka Alpenmilch Ice Cream
Adapted from a David Liebovitz recipe

2 cups cream, divided
3 TBSP cocoa powder
1 1/2 Milka chocolate bars (about 5 oz)
5 egg yolks
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

First, chop up about 1 1/2 Milka chocolate bars into relatively small bits. Set aside.

Then, separate 5 eggs and whisk the yolks together. You don't need the whites so you can discard them or save for later use (we make egg white omlets with them).

Get out the remaining ingredients and have them on the counter ready for your use. I find it's helpful to have them pre-measured, but that's really your call.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of cream with the cocoa. Whisk together, and cook until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30-60 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add the chopped up chocolate. Whisk until combined and the chocolate is melted. Add the remaining cream and whisk. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, making sure to get as much out of the saucepan as you can. Have a mesh strainer at the ready.

In that same saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and salt. Warm over medium-ish heat. Once it's warm, add just a bit of the warm milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk together to temper the eggs (this sort of cooks them, so you don't get a scrambled egg consistency later). Add the tempered egg mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over medium high heat until it gets to a nappe consistency (this means that it will coat the back of a spoon and if you scrape your finger across the back of the spoon, the liquid won't run down into the newly-scraped part). Make sure you're stirring fairly constantly, and scraping the side and bottom of the pan.

Once the eggs reach the nappe consistency, pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the chocolate mixture. Whisk together until combined and smooth. Add the vanilla and combine.

Get out a larger bowl and put ice on the bottom of it to create an ice bath for your custard. Put the bowl of the chocolate stuff in the ice bath and whisk.

Keep whisking. You want to cool this down as much as you can. You don't need to whisk constantly, but whisk it at least once every 10 minutes, for about 30-45 minutes. Once the mixture is about room temperature, transfer it to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to freeze it.

Once you're ready to freeze it, follow the instructions on your ice cream maker.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chicken & Herb White Pizza

As I mentioned in my last post, we're not the fastest at things like decorating our house. In August or September, about a month or so after we moved in, I went to Ikea and bought a few decorations, including a little shelf I thought would look good in the kitchen. Since that day, they sat in the spare room with all the other decorations we hadn't put up yet. Every time I went into the room, I would think about putting up the kitchen decorations I'd bought those months back. But I never did anything. Not even bug my husband to get out the power tools.

Then, last weekend, we were at Target browsed through the home decor section, and found a few wall-hangings that we decided would look cute in the kitchen with the previously-purchased shelf, and on Friday night, we hung them up. My kitchen now looks like a real, proper kitchen, and I love it so much.

It's now the perfect setting to cook things like this yummy pizza from Cooking Light - and I didn't even change a thing in the recipe.

Chicken & Herb White Pizza
Cooking Light, October 2011

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chicken in Shiraz Sauce

We moved into our house about 7 months ago. One of the things we really liked about it when we bought it was that there wasn't really anything we absolutely hated - appliances were nice, flooring was great, and we didn't hate any of the colors the walls were painted. 

Then, about 2 months ago, my husband mentioned that he wanted to paint out downstairs bathroom. Even though the yellow color it was previously didn't bother me much, once he mentioned he wanted to paint it, getting rid of the yellow color was all I could think about. I'd walk into the room and all I wanted to do was get rid of the yellow. All I could see was the yellow, and I almost instantly grew to hate it.

So, we spent about a month talking about painting it and discussing what color we may want to paint it (we're somewhat indecisive), and then finally painted it. The yellow is gone and it's now a nice blue/grey color. Next up will be the bedroom that's painted the same yellow color the bathroom was. 

After spending most of the afternoon painting, we wanted to sit down to something hearty for dinner, and this totally fit the bill.

I followed this recipe exactly, except I used Shiraz instead of Pinot Noir and chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts.

Roasted Chicken in Pinot Noir Sauce
Cooking Light, October 2010


Friday, January 13, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I have two cats. They're wonderful. They were my initially my husband's cats. Then, when we got married, I sort of inherited them. Well, truth be told, one of them came over to my side very shortly after my husband and I started dating. In fact, lately, she's almost quite literally been at my side (or on my lap, or sitting next to me, or laying on top of my arms as I'm trying to type...) most minutes I'm home. She's not really one to take a hint or realize that I have stuff to do.

The other cat took a while to come around.  I think she thought I was invading her turf. We're now BFF, but it took her a while to determine that I was OK.

I think what made her come around was that I cook with chicken a lot. She would mysteriously appear at my side and wander through the kitchen with that "oh, hi! I'm just passing through" look about three seconds after the raw chicken got out of the fridge. After a while, she stopped doing it. But recently, she's picked up the habit again. It's so adorable it makes me want to cook with chicken even more. Especially when it's to make such delicious things like this Buffalo Chicken pizza. It's an excellent change in the "pizza night" rotation .

Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Recipe from Rachael Ray, adapted
Serves 3-ish
Cook & Prep Time - about 30 min

  • 3/4 pound chicken breasts (about 2 breasts)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt & pepper, for seasoning chicken
  • 1 pizza dough (I make my own)
  • Cornmeal or flour, to handle dough
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 TBSP hot sauce (Frank's)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 - 1 1/2  cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles (I leave this off - we don't like it)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and preheat grill pan to medium-high.

Drizzle olive oil over the chicken then season generously with salt & pepper. When grill is hot, add chicken and cook about 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through and has a nice sear. Let rest for a few minutes and then thinly slice.

Stretch dough to form pizza using cornmeal or flour to help you handle it. Poke it with a fork a few times so it doesn't puff up too much during the cooking. Bake for about 5 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and stir in Worcestershire, hot sauce, and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Once combined and warm, remove from heat. Take about half of it and put on top of the pizza crust.

 Add chicken to the remaining sauce and coat. Put the chicken on top of the pizza and then drizzle with any remaining sauce. Cover with cheese and then add the scallions. Bake 15-18 minutes or until crisp and the cheese is bubbly.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

On holiday mornings, I love to wake up to a nice fresh batch of cinnamon rolls. But I seem to always run into the problem that if I make them at night before bed, they're good the next morning, but you don't get that "fresh from the oven" goodness. If you make them in the morning... you have to get up at about 4 am to have fresh rolls by the time normal people wake up. Am I the only one that has that issue? No? Maybe?

When I saw Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Roll recipe, I knew it would be the solution to all my fresh roll issues. The basic idea is that you make the rolls the night before, then in the morning, get them in a nice humid oven, let them rise for a half an hour, and then bake. Unfortunately, the rising didn't happen quite as quickly as Alton said it would. I had to let mine rise for over an hour before they had risen enough to bake. So, instead of having rolls around 10:30 or 11, we ended up eating them closer to noon. That counts for breakfast on a holiday, right?

They were worth the wait, though. They were everything I wanted in a cinnamon roll, and the frosting, while super sweet, complimented the rolls perfectly. As a bonus, they keep really well in the fridge, too - and with a quick zap in the microwave, they taste just about as good as they did when they were fresh!

Because I didn't change his recipe one bit, out of respect for Mr. Brown, you can find the recipe for these amazing rolls here:

1/2/2012 Update: I've submitted these to the Sweets for a Saturday on Sweet as Sugar Cookies.