Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eggnog Pound Cake, Version Two

This cake is wonderful, even if the photo is not so much. It's fluffy with a little crunch from the almonds around the outside. The eggnog taste isn't too in your face. Also, it's cooked in a bundt pan which is always fun and exciting. The recipe is here. If nothing else, the first cake-tastrophe led me to find this new recipe, which I like even more.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

one of those update blogs

I haven't blogged in ages. It's not just this I've been neglecting... it took me three months to finish a book, I'm reading comics from September, and I just uploaded a few Halloween photos to Flickr. But, I have still been cooking a bit - it's just been quite hectic here. Since I last posted a blog, I applied to graduate school, and I've nearly finished up by two classes (only a statistics project and final left). My Christmas shopping is done, and my packages are mailed to their appropriate destinatitons. Cards are out, tree is up... I've been baking...

Okay, well clearly the first baking did not come out as planned. I was making an eggnog pound cake recipe that I found in Southern Living last year. It's actually a delicious cake. Last year I made it at Travis's parents house, and it was delicious. But, it turns out my loaf pan was too small. I smelled something burning while watching Walking Dead (which is sort of funny, like 4D TV if you've seen the finale), and when I went to check on the cake, it had risen at least 5 inches above the top of the pan.

Cake was oozing EVERYWHERE... it was in giant stalactite looking blobs on the bottom of the oven... such a mess. I couldn't finish it, even after I fished out the blobs, the burning from the oven floor kept making my smoke alarm go off. So, the picture you see above is after it settled again, with a few pieces missing from the done side where I decided to give it just a little taste.

More successfully, I made this for dinner one night. I used a frozen shrimp scampi to make some shrimp and grits for myself. It was actually pretty tasty.. I used some parmesan cheese grated into the grits as well. With it is braised bacon cabbage, which was also quite delicious. I actually finished up the leftovers of that tonight.

These pumpkin pancakes are soooo good, I still have a few in the freezer. The recipe is from Martha Stewart.

And finally, I made this lovely roasted chicken and butternut squash soup back before Thanksgiving. Honestly, I think I should've just eaten the roasted chicken and squash separately. I cut up a butternut squash (not an easy feat) and roasted it on a cookie sheet with some oil and chicken thighs. I ate quite a bit of it off of that pan before I managed to get it in the soup. If I can bring myself to cut up another butternut squash, I will definitely roast it that way again. The soup was okay, but for some reason I never like soup when I make it. I think I must be doing something wrong.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baked Chicken with Potatoes, Onions, and Garlic

I was so excited to finally cook a proper dinner that I thought I wouldn't be able to decide what to make. But, I have been craving roast chicken recently, and autumn is the perfect time of year for lovely roast dinners. There was a one pan chicken dinner in Everyday Food a few months ago would do nicely.

I had a whole chicken cut up in the freezer, so I thawed that out. Put it in a pan with one cut up red onion (in big pieces, like eighths), a quartered lemon, about a pound of halved or quartered (depending on their size) white new potatoes, six springs of thyme, and a head of garlic broken up into cloves but not peeled. Drizzle with 3/4 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (whisked together). Salt and pepper, then roast for 50 minutes.

The recipe called to roast it 450, but that was too high for my oven. I ended up around 375. I suppose it actually could have been 450 in real temperature - I suspect that my oven runs hot, but I keep forgetting to check it. Also, my roasting pan was a little too big. I needed 12x16 but only had a bit smaller and a bit larger than that. I settled on the larger one, but some stuff on the edges burned. I think it was too exposed to the heat.

Overall, this was really great. The potatoes (especially the ones that burned a little on the outside actually) were delicious - soft and creamy in the middle and crispy on the outside. The chicken was juicy, and the garlic was sooo good. I actually just ate a couple of cloves of it, but I love roasted garlic. It was good to squeeze out the cloves from the peel and spread it on some bread.

I also had made Paula Deen's marinated tomatoes, which are really easy and tasty. I make them quite a lot actually, they're really good for company because you can do them early in the day and just put them out to get to room temperature.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Decline in Food Adventures

Recently, I decided to go back to school. So, this fall I decreased my work schedule, signed up for two classes at Santa Monica College, and started focusing on studying for the GRE and preparing the various essays, etc. that are required for the UCLA graduate admission application. All of this has lead to a sad decline in cooking here recently.

That's not to say I don't cook at all, just that I've been incredibly lazy about it. For example, tonight we had macaroni and cheese (the kraft gourmet kind) and some pre-cut and pre-seasoned fresh brussel sprouts (that were actually pretty tasty).

However, that's not to say I haven't had any food adventures at all. And hopefully, after I take the GRE this week I'll have a bit more time again. Anyway, here is a summary:

This is some ice cream Travis and I got at the new Santa Monica food truck lot. His is cake donut flavored (it tasted exactly like a cake donut, oddly enough) and mine is a Salty Scotty - it's a lightly salted butterscotch. If you've ever had a salted caramel (which is sooo good, if you haven't), it tasted like that but in ice cream form.

I really wanted to bake cookies, but without the time, I just grabbed a thing of refrigerated cookie dough. It is clear to me now that I should've used a larger pan.

Had these great shrimp and chips with remoulade sauce from the Shrimp Pimp truck a few weeks ago. So good!

Saw an enormous freaking pumpkin at the LA County Fair!

And we also shared a giant turkey leg. There are pictures of me eating too, but I look sort of demonic, like I might eat the person taking the picture next or something.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rib-Eye Steaks with Garlic and Rosemary

I think I mentioned recently how much I love the Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook. This weekend I decided to try to recreate the ribeye, which Travis and I have had at the restaurant several times. It was absolutely the best steak I have ever cooked. I made it with some cauliflower that I roasted with olive oil, sea salt, and garlic, and then I took some leftover french bread and made garlic bread from it so that Travis would have something to eat besides steak, bless his veggie-phobic heart.

For the steaks, you will need:

2 large cloves garlic, halved
4 (10 ounce) rib eye steaks (I used two and halved the rosemary but not the garlic. What can I say? I like garlic!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 springs rosemary
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter

I also didn't halve the wine/butter, I just made a bit extra sauce. You also need a cast iron skillet. I guess you could use a different kind of skillet, but why would you?

1. Rub the cut edge of 1 garlic half around your skillet.

2. Set the skillet over medium heat. Lightly sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper on both sides and add steaks to the skillet. Place all the garlic and a sprig of rosemary on one side of the skillet to add a hint of flavor. (I had to do the steaks in two batches because they wouldn't both fit in my skillet, so I used one garlic clove and one rosemary sprig in each batch).

3. Cook steaks on first side for 3-4 minutes, then turn and cook another 6-7 minutes for medium-rare (for a 1 1/2 inch steak). Once rosemary and garlic begin to brown, remove them from the pan.

4. Transfer steaks to a warmed plate. Add wine and butter to the skillet, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the mixture starts to bubble, remove from the heat and drizzle over the top of the steaks. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Best. Hot Dog. Ever.

Okay, so maybe I could just be thinking best hot dog ever in the heat of the moment, but it was a really good hot dog. It's Tuesday. I've been feeling sort of sick, so I was super drowsy (in spite of the insanely strong coffee that I had at breakfast). But it was food truck day! I couldn't decide what to get, but I settled on something simple: The Greasy Wiener truck. I will now list the amazing things about this hot dog:

1. it is deep fried
2. it is wrapped in bacon
3. with this enormous thing of fries, it cost $6. I could barely eat all the fries.

I've also had the Iggys from Greasy Wiener (mini burgers on Hawaiian rolls) and they're pretty great as well. So, all in all, it was a good day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cappuccino Muffins

I was looking for a new muffin recipe to try, since I generally make chocolate chip or lemon poppyseed, and I found these! It's a Cappuccino Chocolate Muffin - you can find the recipe here.

They're really delicious, and they're supposed to freeze well too, which is nice. The coffee flavor isn't too strong, and it's soooo good with the chocolate chips. I really can't wait to have these for breakfast at work this week. I recommend heating in the microwave for a few seconds to get the chocolate to melt some.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trout with Garlic Lemon Butter

This was sort of an interesting meal experiment. It's based on a recipe from The Stinking Rose Restaurant's cookbook. It's possibly my favorite restaurant, and I've really gotten to love cooking out of the cookbook at home as well.

But, I say this is based on the recipe because nothing went quite according to plan. The recipe in the book is actually for Lemon Baked Salmon with Garlic Caper Butter.

However, that's not what actually ending up happening. I apparently looked at the wrong week's sale ad today for the grocery, so they didn't have the salmon that I thought would be there. But, there was some fairly nice looking trout. I'm also not in love with capers (and the jar in my fridge looked a bit off, so I tossed them. Upon retrospect, they could've actually been there for years). Finally, I decided to be bold and not really measure a lot of stuff. So this is what I did.

I tried to bring about 3/4 a stick of unsalted butter to room temperature. It sort of worked. I actually put it in the microwave for a few seconds as well. I then mixed it with the juice from half a lemon, a tablespoon of white wine, and two (albeit very large) cloves of minced garlic. I folded in some fresh parsley and then added salt and pepper.

Then I put the trout in a baking dish and added 1/2 cup of water. I put the trout in the dish and spread some of the butter mixture on each fillet (I think about a tablespoon on each) and then topped it with some slices of lemon. It baked on 325 for about 15 minutes. I wasn't sure it was done, so I bumped up the temperature to 400 and baked it another 5.

It's served on some leftover egg noodles from last night. I put another tablespoon or so of the butter mixture in a saucepan and let it cook for a few minutes (since the garlic was raw). Then I just tossed the leftover pasta around in it. The noodles did originally have some butter and parmesan cheese on them, but this butter addition definitely helped. On Friday night they were far too bland.

It was really quite tasty, but the garlic was very strong on the fish. I think it would've been nice to cook the garlic a bit first. Some roasted garlic cloves in the butter would be great as well. I liked the butter mixture so much that I saved the leftovers to do something else with later this week. Maybe just put it on fish again, who can say?

Monday, August 30, 2010

ICBC: Cardamom!

This is one of the blogger challenges that I skipped a few weeks ago. Cardamom was ridiculously expensive at the grocery, and I just couldn't quite bring myself to buy it that week. But, this week I managed to find a smaller and more reasonably priced container. I didn't feel like doing something sweet (I still have muffins to make), so I decided to try Cardamom Chicken and Rice. I found the recipe on the Food and Wine website. It was pretty easy.

The recipe actually called for chicken legs, but I couldn't find any leg/thighs still attached. So instead, I got some bone-in chicken breast halves. I rubbed the chicken with some canola oil and seasoned it with cardamom, salt, and pepper. It roasted on 375 for about 50 minutes I think.

In the meantime, I had to work on the rice. I needed 2 1/4 cups chicken broth for 1 1/2 cups of rice, but I forgot broth at the store and certainly didn't have time to make my own. I did have some chicken bouillon though, and so I made about 2 cups of that and added another 1//4 cup of water (it seemed a bit strong/salty). I sauteed some shallots in oil (the recipe called for onions, but I thought shallots would be nicer, and I was totally right).

Then, I stirred the shallots around in the oil/shallot mixture until all the rice was coated, added the broth and about a teaspoon of cardamom, and brought to a boil. Like really any rice, once it's at a boil, you cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Let it stand for 5, then fluff it and serve.

It was so good! I was very proud of having used cardamom in both dishes. Travis didn't like the rice much, but he did enjoy the chicken so it all worked out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ICBC: Tomatoes!

I wasn't sure what to do for the ingredient this week, tomatoes. I love tomatoes, but especially in the summer, I usually just eat them marinated and raw. So good. But I wanted to try something different, and I remembered that in the Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook, there is a recipe for tomato pie.

It's actually really easy. Prebake a pie crust, layer 4 peeled and sliced tomatoes, about 10 chopped basil leaves, and some chopped green onion. Top with a mixture of shredded cheddar and mozzarella mixed with mayonnaise. I think I could have used slightly more cheese or slightly less mayo, I'm not sure which. But, the pie was delicious.

I also learned a ridiculously easy way to peel tomatoes. It was craziness.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fun Weekend/ICBC Pause

My dad came out to visit LA this weekend, so I did not finish the blogger challenge for last week. I'm planning to do coffee and maybe even cardamom this week!

In the meantime, here are some beautiful macarons from Europane Bakery in Pasadena and some sea salt caramels from Little Flower Candy Company. They're all really quite delicious.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

ICBC: Yogurt (Part One)

The secret ingredient this week is yogurt. I don't like yogurt at all, but I felt confident that I could find ways to use it that would be delicious. I was right.

I've been thinking for a while about using yogurt in baking, and I've been very curious as to whether or not this could in any way be successful. I actually talked to someone at work about it earlier this week, and they said they hadn't had any luck with this, because they found the final product too tangy. I wondered if greek yogurt could possibly help this, since I've noticed it has less of that distinctive yogurt tanginess.

So, I tried these double chocolate brownies. I get the recipe out of Food Network Magazine. Maybe it's the double chocolate, but they are So. Good. Chocolatey, moist.. just lovely. Travis even likes them, but I didn't tell him that they have yogurt in them. Shh, it's a secret.

The recipe also calls for whole grain pastry flour, but being sort of drowsy at the grocery, I accidentally bought whole wheat flour. No worries though, some quick internet research told me that I could use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup cake flour. If you didn't have cake flour on hand like I do (I have a very well stocked pantry, in spite of the lack of cardamom), you could use the full whole wheat flour, your final product would just be denser.

I definitely recommend this one. You cannot beat a brownie this tasty for 160 calories. You know, just don't feel like that entitles you to eat the whole pan or anything :)

Double Chocolate Brownies

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole grain pastry flour, or 1/2 cup whole-wheat and 1/2 cup all-Purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 cup light brown packed sugar
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9 by 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.

Whisk the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and brown sugar until smooth, then add the yogurt, oil, and vanilla, and whisk to combine. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle with walnuts, if desired. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in the pan on a rack before slicing.

Huckleberry - Maple Bacon Biscuit

Last weekend, I ate the most amazing thing. It is a maple bacon biscuit from Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery in Santa Monica. It was really crumbly and delicious, with bacon pieces and this lovely maple glaze on top. Oh, man. There's really not much else to say. It's just good stuff. It was a little tough to eat while walking down the street, being super crumbly and all.

I have come up with a formula that expresses how I feel about this:

Salty + mapley + bready = perfection.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Food Truck Round Up

I didn't make the blogger challenge this week. We'll just have to call it a fail and move on I guess. The ingredient was cardamom. I found some recipes online that I was quite excited about, but at the grocery I couldn't find any cardamom less than $11, and I just couldn't bring myself to go through with the purchase.

However, I did get a new phone yesterday! And in the process of going through my old phone, I found some delicious looking food picture that I had never posted. So, I decided to do a food truck round up with a few of my favorites.

Border Grill Taco Truck:

The Border Grill truck is amazing. These tacos are sooo good, particularly the potato and the fish. It's funny, the third taco shown here is pork. Pork is almost always my favorite, but not in this case. I've also tried the carne asada since then, but I'm still fish and potato all the way. Not together, although that might be interesting.

The fish taco (on the far right) is a crispy fish with chipotle honey and a creamy salsa fresca. It's one of the best things I've ever eaten. The potato rajas taco (center I think) is roasted potatoes, chiles, mexican cheeses, and pickled onion. They both have amazing texture. The fish is crispy, the potato is soft and all the ingredients sort of melt together. Hmm, this is actually making me quite hungry.

You can also see the rice and beans side. It was alright. On that particular day, my red rice was sort of hard. The green rice and the beans were pretty tasty though.

Next: Vesuvio LA

This is a good truck as well, but this appetizer is my favorite. Their entrees and sandwiches are pretty good, but generally I will just get these for a snack. These are arancini, or fried Italian rice balls. Italian salame, parmesan cheese, and parsley with a mozzarella core. Deep fried. Usually they put a bit more cheese on top and serve it in a really nice marinara sauce. Not quite enough for lunch on its own, but it makes a delicious (if probably unhealthy) snack.

Finally: Fishlips Sushi

I know the idea of sushi from a truck can be a bit scary. But come on, it's not like they don't have a refrigerator! This truck advertises a 'real sushi man!' on the side of their truck. And you can see him through the window, making sushi. He looks very serious, the truck looks very clean, and I would definitely recommend this to anyone.

What makes it so amazing is the temari sushi. Those are the 5 perfect tiny sushi pieces that you can see above. You don't have to try to cram a whole sushi piece in your mouth or awkwardly bite it in half while rest sort of falls apart. It is the perfect size for sushi. I would actually rather have a huge tray of this and just leave out the california/tuna rolls that come with the lunch plate. I remember it being fresh and light and just a fantastic lunch. Come to think of it, I might have to track this one down again soon...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

LA Street Food Fest

Last weekend, I went to the LA Street Food Fest! It was pretty fun, a bit warm and a bit too crowded for my taste. You can see me below, standing on the field at the Rose Bowl.

That's right, the festival was on the field at the Rose Bowl. Maybe this is only strange to me because I went to the University of Tennessee, where the field of Neyland Stadium is worshiped as a minor deity. NO ONE is allowed on that field. The grass is grown with the blood of those who have tried. And failed.

But there we were - 5,000 food fest attendees tramping all over that field in front of god and everyone. No kidding.

I had a pretty awesome celebrity sighting too! For a good while, I was right next to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Susan Feniger (co-founder of Border Grill in Santa Monica and recent contestant on Top Chef Masters). She's not in the picture below, that is just the Mayor of Los Angeles with his recently broken elbow.

I don't have any food pictures. There was a lot going on.. I was by myself, standing in lines, carrying around food trays, avoiding hipsters. It was a busy day. I ate a couple of amazing things: deep fried shrimp tacos from Mariscos Jalisco and something fried with cheese in it from Antojitos Carmen. I was a big fan of both. There was also a lot of great looking stuff that I missed. I left about an hour and a half early because my feet were killing me, I had to drive home from Pasadena still, and because I desperately did not want to miss the finale of Doctor Who (I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.)

All in all, it was not a bad afternoon.

Chocolate Pound Cake

I found this photo the other day, and I realized that I totally forgot to blog this! A few weeks ago, we decided to have a dessert party at work. A few people chipped in, and I made this chocolate pound cake. The recipe is not for the faint of heart. It is from Paula Deen's The Lady and Son's Savannah Country Cookbook, and you know how that goes. I ate only a couple of very thin slices, but it was really good. The color was a little strange I thought, but no one seemed to mind.

I was pretty sure this wasn't going to come out of my bundt pan for a while (I don't have a tube pan, I just use the bundt pan interchangeably). However, after a bit of zaniness (insert cake montage here), it all worked out fine.

Chocolate Pound Cake
Serves 16 to 20 (at least)

3 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
1 stick margarine
5 eggs
3 cups cake flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugar with butter and margarine; add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Mix together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to butter mixture, beginning with flour and ending with flour. Add vanilla. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan for about one hour.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

ICBC: Goat Cheese + Red Onion

Last week I neglected to complete the challenge, due to some forgetfulness while grocery shopping combined with laziness. So, this week I decided to combine last week's and this week's ingredients into one delicious recipe. I settled on: pizza! The pizza contains: baby portabello mushrooms, spinach, red onions, goat cheese, and mozzarella cheese. It is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I thought the pizza was okay, but it needed the following:

1. more salt
2. onions to be caramelized
3. garlic
4. mushrooms possibly pre-cooked a bit? I'm not sure about that one.

Other than that, it was pretty tasty.

Travis did not eat any of this. In fact, he was pretty disgusted by what I had done to the poor defenseless pizza crust. He made a grilled cheese with fresh mozzarella and colby jack. It smelled fantastic. I was a little jealous.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

ICBC: Blackberries

I'm going to be really honest here. I did not make this blackberry recipe during the week of the blackberry challenge. I had recently made it but just had not posted a blog yet. And, I was so proud, I decided to use it for this week's challenge.

I made this yummy looking pie! It's probably the best pie I've made yet. As you can see below, it actually thickened properly and didn't ooze apart after being cut! I realize that doesn't seem like a big deal, but I was super proud.

I don't really have a recipe, but I do have some pie tips that I followed from The Lost Art of Pie Making Made Easy, which is my favorite pie book.

Use 5 cups of fresh fruit, 3/4 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch or tapioca. Start off in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350, bake another 30-45 minutes. Allow the filling to totally bubble for a few minutes in the innermost part of the pie to insure a filling that "sets". That's where lattice crust comes in handy. Plus it looks so yummy when it bubbles over. Delightful.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Food Trucks!!

I had a pretty big food truck week last week. It actually took me a while to remember what I ate on Tuesday, which is pretty sad. Dim Sum on Saturday, Nom Nom on Monday, Vesuvio on Tuesday, Border Grill on Friday. I don't have pictures of all of it though. I keep forgetting to take photos of the Border Grill tacos, but oh my gosh that fish taco is divine. So, here is what I do have:

Nom Nom Truck

I have never had authentic Vietnamese banh mi, so I don't know how this sandwich holds up in comparison. I only know that I love this sandwich. I had it a couple of times and passed it up a couple of times at the Century Blvd truck lot because I thought it would always be there. Then they went off the road for a couple of months, which was rough. But, now they're back!

There are a variety of meats you can get on your banh mi, but I always go with grilled pork. It also includes: cilantro, marinated carrots/daikon radish, cucumbers, jalapenos (which I leave off), and some sort of mayonnaise spread. I don't even like cilantro, but I don't mind it on this sandwich for some reason. The marinated vegetables are amazingly tangy, the grilled pork is to die for, the baguette is perfect. I really do adore this sandwich.

As a side note, I got curious about the origins of banh mi - turns out it's a remnant of French colonialism in Indochina. Hence the baguette!

Dim Sum Truck

Also last week, I finally found the Dim Sum Truck at Santa Monica College. From left to right above, there is a peking duck taco, shrimp har gow dumplings, and steamed chicken and mushroom buns. The dumplings were amazing. The taco was really good too (but not as good as the duck taco from the Flying Pig truck). The buns were okay too but not my favorite. However, the problem here could be more that I don't love buns than that they weren't good. A bit too starchy for my taste, I definitely prefer dumplings.

Again, I haven't really had authentic dim sum (I find the ordering process overwhelming), so I don't know how this truck compares. However, I have heard that it is really good dim sum (particularly for Westside Los Angeles).

Since we got an origin story for banh mi, here's one for dim sum as well. Did you know that dim sum originated from tea houses that opened along the Silk Road to provide food to travelers? It's true.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

ICBC: Puff Pastry

For the ingredient puff pastry, I really wanted to make some sort of meat wrapped in pastry. Mini beef wellingtons sounded best, but I ultimately opted for Chicken Wellington instead. You can find the recipe here.

It's basically a mixture of cream cheese, mustard, and herbs, some pulled rotisserie chicken, and a sweet onion/mushroom/garlic mixture seasoned with some salt and pepper. You layer all that in a square of puff pastry and I loved it, although it was way too hot to heat when first cut open. The only strange thing was that the recipe said you only needed one sheet of puff pastry to make four of these, but for the life of me I could not get the dough to roll out enough. I think my puff pastry had been partially thawed and then refrozen before I purchased it, so it wouldn't unfold properly.

For the sauteed onion, mushroom and garlic mixture, I used walla walla onions and cremini mushrooms. The mixture was so amazing that I ate the leftover straight out of the skillet. (I only ended up making two pastries, and I left this mixture out of one of them because Travis hates mushrooms). All in all, it was a successful and not that difficult of a dinner. A perfect start to a holiday weekend.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

the Habit Burger Grill

This was a while ago, so I must say that I don't remember a ton about this meal. I liked it quite a bit, but not as much as I like In N Out. Michele F and I went for dinner one evening. The hamburger was nice and charred on the outside, and the patty is thin so it got sort of crispy, which I do like in a hamburger from time to time. So, in the chronicle of California hamburger chains, I place this one in second. Honestly, I just wanted to post this because I'm fond of the photo for some reason. It looks so yummy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mrs. Beasley's - Peanut Butter Cupcake

So, Mrs. Beasley's bakery also has a truck! They were at the Century Blvd food truck lot the same day that I had the grilled cheese from the previous post. I decided to purchase this cupcake to use as an incentive to get a lot of work done that afternoon. It is peanut butter with a marshmallow on top!

I ended up not eating the cupcake that day, but waiting until later that night to share it with Travis. I don't remember a lot about the cupcake itself, but the icing was divine. It tasted basically like really fluffy peanut butter. The marshmallow on top was pretty good as well, in spite of having sat there all day.

Grilled Cheese Truck

I love the grilled cheese truck. It's one of those things that you want to dislike because it's quite popular, but then it's so good that you can't. This was my second time eating at the truck, so I got their special for that day. I can't remember exactly what it was.. at least two kinds of cheese, one of which I think was gruyere, lots of mushrooms (crimini I think), and chicken. Possibly grilled onions as well. It was really really tasty, if a bit overwhelmed by the mushrooms. Not a problem for me, as I love mushrooms, but I can understand if some people thought it was a bit off-putting.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

ICBC: Lemon

It was my week to pick the ingredient this week, and I thought lemons would be a lovely summery flavor. Plus, it gave me a reason to make lemon bars! I made some a long time ago from a Paula Deen recipe, but I thought they were too sweet. So, to correct this, I resorted to my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.

Considering that this book was an old edition when I bought it for $2 at a Junior League rummage sale six years ago, I get an awful lot of use out of it. For quite a while, I was trying more and more complicated recipes, making a huge mess, and then getting upset because nothing was turning out quite like I wanted it. So, I decided to go backwards a little in the complicated-ness of things I cook. I've been working on my more basic cooking skills.

The lemon bars were really delicious. I didn't have enough peel (my lemons were a week or so old and had gotten a bit soft. The juice was still fine but they were a bit difficult to try to zest.) Travis seemed to like them a lot as well, judging by how fast they disappeared.

I love that the texture was sort of like a chess square, with this thin sugar crisp layer on top. Yum.

Lemon Bars

1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium mixing bowl beat butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar; beat until combined. Beat in the 1 cup flour until crumbly. Press mixture into bottom of an ungreased 8x8x2 baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until just golden.

Meanwhile, for filling, in a small mixing bowl combine eggs, the 3/4 cup sugar, the 2 tablespoons flour, lemon peel, lemon juice, and baking powder. Beat 2 minutes or until combined.

Pour filling over baked crust. Bake 20 minutes or till lightly browned around edges and center is set. Cool on a wire rack. If desired, sift powdered sugar over the top. Cut into bars. Makes 20 bars.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

ICBC: Eggs

For the secret ingredient eggs, I decided to make egg drop soup. It was okay. I didn't really like it as much as I like egg drop soup from Chinese restaurants. I think I might have made my slurry improperly, and so it didn't thicken quite right.

However, it's very easy to make. It's just 4 quarts of chicken stock with 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Bring that to a boil. Separately mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with an extra 2 tablespoons of chicken stock. Once the soup is boiling, stir this mixture in slowly while stirring. Reduce heat to a simmer, slowly pour in two lightly beaten eggs while stirring. That's my favorite part - watching the eggs sort of feather out. Then remove from the heat and add 2 chopped green onions.

And there you go. Personally, I'll probably just order take out next time and make less of a mess :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

ICBC: Mustard

I have made the decision to start abbreviating Iron Chef Blogger Challenge into ICBC. I know. This is a Big Deal.

Last week the ingredient was mustard. I made this fish, then forgot to blog it. It was really yummy. And really fast. I am too tired to blog much today, so here is the recipe. I left out the chives, because I think chives are no bueno.

Dijon Mustard Fillets
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 pound fish fillets, 1/2 to 1 inch thick
lemon pepper seasoning
1/4 cup dairy sour cream
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon dijon style mustard
2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives

Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 4 serving size pieces, if necessary. Measure thickness. Place fish on unheated rack of broiler pan. Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning. Broil 4 inches from heat till fish flakes easily with a fork. Allow 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch thickness of fish. Turn 1 inch thick fillets over halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan stir together sour cream, milk, mustard, chives, and a dash black pepper. Heat through but do not boil. Serve with fish.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Strawberries!

Secret ingredient this week? Strawberries. I love strawberries, and they are in season right now! We have a lot of amazing things in California, and this is one of them. My friend Beth Abernathy and I picked strawberries once when I lived in North Carolina, and I remember that she made freezer jam with them. I did not do anything so industrious with mine. Actually, I think I tried to make some sort of jam, but it turned out more like ice cream topping. Delicious, yes. But it was not my intended result. Now, 6 years later, I decided to conquer freezer jam once and for all.

I had some stumbling blocks on the way. I had some "trouble" finding 1/2 pint freezer jars. I use trouble in quotes because it turned out Ralph's had them the whole time, I just hadn't realized that they were freezer safe.

I bought too many strawberries, as per usual. It actually only took me one normal sized strawberry basket (although they do pile them pretty high at the farmers market). I had two extra, one of which I will address shortly.

The first thing to do is to crush the strawberries. You need 4 cups whole to make 1 3/4 cups crushed. You can do this with a pastry cutter, a blender, or a food processor.

I started off, all cute in my new apron, trying to crush them with a pastry cutter.

I quickly switched to my food processor.

From there, you add 4 cups sugar and 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel. I know it seems like way too much sugar, but most recipes are pretty adamant about not reducing the amount of sugar. Apparently it affects how the jam ultimately sets. Let this mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Then, mix half of a 6 ounce package of liquid fruit pectin with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. (For the mathematically challenged, that's 3 ounces of liquid fruit pectin.) Add this to the berry mixture. Stir it for 3 minutes.

Ladle this into half pint freezer containers. Leave a half inch headspace. Seal and label. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours, or until set. Store 3 weeks in refrigerator or 1 year in freezer. It theoretically makes 4 half-pints. Somehow, mine made 5.

I still had 2 baskets of strawberries left! So I made the delightful raspberry lemonade you see below. I just mixed it with cold water instead of sparkling water or club soda, but that sounds amazing too. I ate the other basket plain. They were quite tasty.

Emeril's Strawberry Lemonade


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 2 cups cold sparkling water or club soda
  • Ice
  • Mint sprigs, garnish
  • Whole strawberries, garnish


In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon peel and lemon juice, stir, and remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then strain into a clean pitcher.

In a blender, puree the pint of strawberries and add to the pitcher with the lemon juice. Stir well to combine and refrigerate until well chilled.

Add the sparkling water and stir well. Pour over glasses filled with ice and serve, garnished with mint and strawberries.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smores in the Oven

This isn't really a recipe, because you know how to make smores. It's more of a process question, because something interesting happened to the smores you see above.

Michele Fitzgerald and I decided to make oven smores on Memorial Day. We preheated the oven to 350, laid down graham crackers (one with chocolate, one with the marshmallow, as shown above), and left them in the oven a while.

The marshmallows browned as expected, but the chocolate didn't melt. The inside was so hot it felt like a little fire in your mouth, but the chocolate stubbornly refused to lose it's shape. It actually sort of dehydrated, which is not the reaction one would expect at all.

Michele F. had done this before and says the chocolate would barely stay on the cracker. So, I've been pondering this and come up with a couple of possibilities for what went awry.

1. There is some physical difference between large and snack size Hershey bars (I used snack size.)

2. The oven temperature should have been higher.


3. The chocolate should have been left in longer and the marshmallow added later in the cooking time.

There could also be any combination of these three possibilities. Thoughts?

Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Anchovies

On Saturday I made this pasta, mostly because it was really fast and I still had a few anchovies to use. I was seriously impressed by how delicious it was and how quickly it all came together. I could easily do this after work.

Again, you can't really taste the anchovies, they just add an underlying flavor. Of course, that could also be because I only used the few fillets I had leftover instead of a whole tin. Anchovy side note: it's safe to eat the tiny little bones, but I pulled out as many as I can anyway.

While this was cooking, it looked and smelled like something I could get at a restaurant. I was so proud.

8 oz. spaghetti
1/2 lb. shrimp, cleaned
1/4 c. olive oil
4 lg. garlic cloves, minced
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tsp. lemon juice
Chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese

Over low heat, cook garlic, shrimp and anchovies in oil. Add lemon juice and season with pepper.

Cook pasta as directed on package and drain. Return to pot, add oil mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle generously with parsley and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Avocado!

For the challenge this week, I made guacamole. But, I neglected to take a picture of it. It was good though! It was green, and very smooth, because I made it in my trusty food processor. I don't like chunky guacamole so much.

It seemed to be a fairly big hit at the cookout we went to yesterday. At least it was until the sun turned it brownish.

I wanted to plant the avocado seeds to see what happened, but Travis vetoed it.

Sorry for the lackluster blog this week...

from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 medium very ripe avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and cut up
1/2 small onion, cut up
1/2 of a 4 ounce can diced green chili peppers, or several drops bottled hot pepper sauce (I used Texas Pete)
1 tablespoon snipped cilantro or parsley (I left this out... my parsley has gone rogue again and I think cilantro tastes like soap.)
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a food processor bowl combine all ingredients. Cover and process or blend till mixture is smooth, scraping sides as necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 24 hours. Serve with chips. Makes 2 cups dip.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mixed Berry Muffins

Last weekend I bought some fresh berries, with the intent of having berries for breakfast and being all healthy. But then I decided it would be much more fun to make muffins. I used a mixture of blackberries and raspberries. They were very tasty! Some of them turned sort of blue at the top, but they still tasted fine. It wasn't their fault that they looked like smurfberry muffins or something. At any rate, I had delicious breakfast for the week, if not the most healthy ever.


Mixed Berry Muffins
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups fresh berries , such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, huckleberries or sliced strawberries, or a combination.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Lightly butter twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin cups or place paper muffin cups in the muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine and make a well in the center. In another medium bowl, whisk the milk, oil and eggs. Mix well and pour into the well. Stir just until blended. Fold in the berries. Spoon equal amounts of the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about three-fourths full.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins and serve warm or cool on a wire rack.

Old Fashioned Beef Stew

This beef stew recipe is one of my favorites ever. I make it a lot, especially when it's chilly or gray outside. You can tell I like it a lot, because the page it's on in my copy of The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook is really stained. The recipe includes carrots and celery. However, I like my stew to be basically meat and potatoes, so I tend to omit those. I also cook the stew a bit longer than necessary so that everything is falling apart. It tastes wonderful and comforting, just like stew should. And, like most stews, it is even better reheated.


2 lb stew beef
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cup water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
dash ground allspice or ground cloves
3 large carrots, sliced
4 red potatoes, quartered
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoon cornstarch


Brown meat in hot oil. Add water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, and allspice. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves and garlic clove. Add carrots, potatoes, and celery. Cover and cook 30 to 40 minutes longer. To thicken gravy, remove 2 cups hot liquid. Using a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup water and cornstarch until smooth. Mix with hot liquid and return mixture to pot. Stir and cook until bubbly.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Spinach!

This week's secret ingredient was spinach. There was also a rule that it could not be a salad. I was a bit sad about that, because I wanted to try making a warm bacon dressing like the one I had at Mt. Vernon. However, I discovered another equally delicious way to combine bacon and spinach. I made a quiche! I had never made a quiche before, but it really wasn't too hard. And, I think it came out beautifully. It probably helped that I was starving by the time it was done, but it was filling and very tasty. I would definitely recommend it.

I accidentally dropped the lid to my nutmeg in the egg mixture, but it still seems to have turned out okay. Also, if you don't have white pepper, black pepper is fine. I think it's a visual difference more than a taste difference.

The only other issue is that the original recipe calls for pre-baking the pie shell. I didn't, but it might help keep the crust from getting mushy. I thought it was just fine without (and I didn't have to deal with foil on the crust or anything).

Spinach Quiche (from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

1 pie crust
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 slices bacon, chopped
8 eggs
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Dash ground nutmeg
3 cups lightly packed chopped fresh spinach
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 325. Cook onion and bacon in a large skillet until onion is tender and bacon is crisp. Drain on paper towels.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs slightly with a fork. Stir in sour cream, half and half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg (if desired). Stir in onion mixture, spinach, and both cheeses.

Pour egg mixture into pastry shell. Bake in 325 degree oven 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edge of foil to prevent over-browning. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Anchovies!

The ingredient this week was anchovies! I was more excited than you might originally think. A few years ago I experimented with anchovies, in this recipe where you make a thin dressing and grill romaine lettuce a bit. It was really good.

I immediately thought I wanted to make my own Caesar salad dressing. While I was looking up that recipe, I found one for anchovy deviled eggs as well.

They were both really good. Anchovies, especially when minced, really aren't that strong and add a nice salty sort of meaty flavor. I would definitely recommend both recipes!

The Caesar salad recipe can be found here. I went with the option to substitute 1/4 cup mayonnaise for the coddled egg. I reduced the olive oil to somewhere between 4 and 5 tablespoons (at 4 I thought it was still a bit thick).

The anchovy deviled eggs recipe is here. I didn't use the caper garnish, and I didn't use the fresh parsley either. My parsley plant has gone rogue again, so I just used a little bit of dried.

And, here are some other Iron Chef Blogger updates:

Garlicky Baked Shrimp (This looks amazing and pretty easy; I am definitely going to try it.)
Eggplant and Anchovies (in the same meal, not the same dish)
Eggplant Lasagna