Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vampires Beware

and those of you in brandy new relationships, too. I wouldn't want to be responsible for turning that new hottie you've been seeing away from you and the dragon breath you'll have after eating this. However, single gals? Married folks who could care less? Dive right in.

It's Garlic Lover's week at IHCC, which makes me very happy. I put garlic in almost everything I make, much like my grandmother, who has cooked with garlic in her pots for so many years that even the chocolates she prepares for Christmas have a hint of garlic flavor. This week I decided to combine two of Mark's dishes for a truly stanky appetizer delight.

Grilled Garlic Artichokes with Spicy Garlic Aioli
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
For artichokes: 
1 medium artichoke
2-3 Tbls. olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lemon

For aioli:
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. dijon
1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbls. lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Garlic chili sauce (optional, and watch it, this stuff is HOT!)

Prepare your artichoke by cutting off the stem and trimming off all of the barbs (those sharp little points at the tip of each leaf) with kitchen shears. Pull of any dark leaves.

Set in a steamer (or just boil in water), salt generously, and squeeze lemon over the top. Allow to steam for ten minutes, or until a fork inserted in the base of the artichoke goes in easily. Remove artichoke and shock in an ice bath until cool.

Slice artichoke in half lengthwise. Remove the choke. The easiest way to do this is to run a small sharp knife under the heart (that fleshy white part beneath all of the threads) in a U shape, then stick your fingers in and pull the whole thing up and out. You want to remove all of the threads and purple bits.

Whisk garlic into a few tablespoons of olive oil. Brush over both sides of artichokes. Grill on high heat until tender and slightly charred, about 5 minutes per side.

Prepare the aioli while the artichoke grills. Put yolk and dijon in a food processor or small bowl. While whisking or running the machine, add oil in a thin stream. Once emulsified, add garlic, salt and pepper to taste, chili sauce if using, and lemon juice.

The aioli is perfect for dipping, but is also great in place of tartar sauce with fish, or as a sandwich spread.

Print the recipe

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Do Over, Part Deux

I've spent the last three days holed up in the house, not cooking or eating anything. You see, I woke up Saturday morning looking like Angelina Jolie had just had collagen injections and then been repeatedly punched in the mouth. Not good. A trip to the emergency room and then one to the dermatologist left me with five prescriptions and a couple of different diagnoses. Turns out I am highly allergic to poison ivy, and somehow that little bastard plant got in my way last week. I spent several days on the couch in an antihistamine stupor, unable to eat anything that couldn't be sucked through a straw. I tried to do a little Wii workout to prevent my behind from actually growing into the cushions, but I kept getting dizzy and falling off. Luckily I woke up normal today (despite being insanely itchy) and I headed straight to the kitchen. I've been waiting to make my second recipe for Rachel's Blogiversary contest all week!

Coco-Coconut Key Lime Tarts
(This recipe makes 20 tart shells, but only 12 tarts. You may double the filling measurement for more tarts, or just wrap and freeze cooled tart shells for later use. They are perfect last minute desserts when topped with mousse or ice cream! You could also use this recipe to make a 9 inch pie.)

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flaked coconut
6 Tbls. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup key lime juice (about 12 key limes)
4 egg yolks
8 oz. coconut milk
6 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla or coconut extract
1 tablespoon superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, blend crumbs, sugar, coconut and butter with a fork until combined. Spoon evenly into each paper liner, then press to form a shell. Bake for 8 minutes or until crisp. Set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In another bowl, whisk key lime juice, egg yolks, coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk. Transfer into a measuring cup with a spout and pour evenly into 12 of the shells. Bake for 12 minutes or until just set. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

In a chilled bowl, whip cream with extract and sugar until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spoon onto cooled tarts and garnish with a slice of lime. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Perfect cool desserts for a day so hot my whipped cream was melting within minutes!
 It's almost 90 degrees on my porch! 

So what do you think? Should I submit these to the contest? Or the mussels? Or the scones? I'd love if you'd help me decide by leaving a comment with your vote! Thanks!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Die Garnele und die Mango

It's Pot Luck week at IHCC, which generally stresses me out since I am incapable of making decisions when faced with no parameters. This week, it was easy. In keeping with my earlier mentioned lunch plans for this week whilst E visits das Vaterland, I went with something quick, healthy, and incredibly koestlich (that's German for delicious, one of the random words that sticks with me, like tittenfisch which means man-boobs. I'm serious.).

I had shrimp in the freezer and a bunch of mangoes, so I did a quick web search. The Bittman books I have on hand at the moment (How to Cook Everything VegetarianQuick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times and Bittman Takes on America's Chefs) have very few mango recipes. You'd think I could find something in those three books! I ended up finding several recipes online, including this one for Coconut Shrimp with Mango Salsa from one of Mark's Today Show appearances. I decided the shrimp would be too heavy, so I did a simple oven roast instead. This is my favorite way to cook shrimp! 450 degrees for 8 minutes and they are perfectly pink, with a little bit of bite and super tender insides. Another thing I like to do is buy a few pounds of raw shrimp, shells and veins removed, when they are on sale (obviously) and then take a few minutes to remove the tails and put 1/2 pound portions into freezer bags. If I pull a bag out at breakfast, they are defrosted by lunch time and ready to go with minimal work. This salad came together in literally 10 minutes.

Garlic Roasted Shrimp and Mango Salad

1/2 lb. shrimp, shells and veins removed
2 cups mixed baby greens
1 mango
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbls. lime juice
salt and pepper
olive oil
rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, toss shrimp with salt and pepper, garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, or until pink.

While shrimp cooks, peel and dice mango and toss in a small bowl with lime juice, cilantro, salt and red pepper flakes to taste.  Add greens and toss gently.

Arrange mango and greens on 2 plates, top with shrimp and drizzle with rice wine vinegar.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Do Over!

After making Rachel's scones last week, I decided not to enter them into her contest. She gave readers two options, either cook a recipe of hers or create a new one using coconut and lime as ingredients. I thought it would be more fun to enter a new recipe, plus, it gives me something to do while E is on a business trip. I bore easily.

Unfortunately, I found it impossible to settle on one recipe. What I decided to do is prepare and post two different recipes, then let you guys decide which one I should email to Rachel. First up, lunch.

When E is out of town I get tempted to sit on the couch and inhale random fruit candies, ice cream, and potato chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In order to avoid that, I'm going to treat myself to fancy-ish meals all week. I love mussels, especially in spicy broths, so I added lime juice and lemongrass to this one and kicked up the heat with a spicy biryani paste. It was so delicious I definitely ate two portions, and may have continued if not for the fact that my brain clicked back on and told me I'd make myself sick.

Coconut Curry Mussels with Lemongrass and Lime

2 lbs. mussels, cleaned (be sure to toss out any cracked or opened mussels)
1/2 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 stalk lemongrass (or just the core if you can find it that way)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tsp. red curry powder
1 teaspoon biryani medium/hot curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
2 limes
3 scallions, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove outer leaves of lemon grass and slice the core into thin strips.
In a medium bowl, whisk red curry powder and curry paste into coconut milk. Add lemongrass and juice of half one lime and set aside. Slice remaining limes into wedges for garnish.
In a roasting pan or large baking dish, season potatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned.
Pour coconut milk mixture over potatoes and add tomatoes and mussels. Return to oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until mussels are opened.
Divide mussels and vegetables into 4 large bowls. Spoon sauce evenly into bowls. Squeeze a lime wedge over each portion and sprinkle with scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Paper Love

Wondering where the food is? I know, but I swear, I'm not all about stuffing my face. Ok, I am all about stuffing my face, but my liberal arts education taught me to be well-rounded, so I do have other tricks up my sleeve. In addition to my food addiction, I have other problems. Paper, for example. Lots and lots of paper, and ink, too. I stockpile it. I drool over new sale items at Paper Source, and spend way too much time mooning over stamps and ink pads at craft stores. Luckily I can put some of those issues to good use. You've already seen some of the fruits of this labor, but here are my favorites:

For our wedding:

All of these were printed with my beloved Gocco printing press,
a tool I finagled into the wedding budget. I'm crafty like that, yo. 
I had help from badass Bonnie for the design work on this set, but the others I did myself.

For my friend Kay's bridal shower:
 *sorry for the amateurish deletes, but I don't want any
 internet pervs calling my friends!

For my friend Jessica's bridal shower:

Both of these were accompanied by gift registry cards I attached with 
little heart clips. Jessica's envelopes were also filled with red, pink, 
and silver glitter, which is a bit obnoxious,  but totally worked
for the glam shower theme! I bet guests found glitter for weeks after :)

For my sister in law's baby shower:

These are the most recent, and probably my favorites! I didn't use my Gocco since I had to make a small number of invitations. I felt like that was almost cheating so I was afraid I went a little overboard with the embellishments. In the end I thought they were adorable, though!

Next on my plate will be the invitations for D-money's graduation party. She's graduating from 8th grade, but she has attended the same school for all eight years so it's a very big deal! Once she settles on a theme I can get started. I'm nudging her towards a Mexican party theme, so I can do some with Mexican
doily images like these! So, do you know anyone who is getting married, having a baby or a birthday?
Let me know and I'll whip up some invites for ya! 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I think I'm addicted

I finally completed an entire assignment! And on time, too! Makes me feel like a bit of a goody two shoes, but then I never liked those girls in school. Like the one who always had the best grades, bought all her clothes at Gap, and was totally the teacher's pet forever, but her mom made her to-scale model of the North Church for sure in 5th grade, cheating brat, and I made this all myself, so there and take that Mrs. Phillips. Maybe I had too much caffeine today. Definitely too many carbs. I may need an intervention.

Anywho, this is the master recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day baked into a mini loaf, some garlic knots, and Turkish pita bread. The pita was delish stuffed with tabbouleh and hummus, perfect for lunch! Really, this dough rocks. Sigh. It can pretty much do anything, take any form, accompany any dish. I think I'm in love.

Tabbouleh Salad
Adapted from Weight Watchers Annual Recipes For Success 2009


1 c. cooked bulgur
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 c. grape tomatoes, chopped
1 c. cucumber, diced
1/2 c. scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 c. crumbled feta
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/4 c. chopped mint
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
olive oil

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to combine.

Be sure to check out Michelle's blog to see what the other HBin5 members baked this week!

A good stiff drink

Moving to a new place has taken E and I, once again, to make-new-friends territory. It's a weird place to hang, especially once you become an adult and you no longer play little league, sell Girl Scout cookies, or become BFF with that new girl in class in a heartbeat. Add to that the lack of a full time job (one of the fastest and easiest ways to meet peeps), constant weekend trips home to RI, and many family visitors and you have some real obstacles in the creation of a Jersey social life. Luckily we have at least built one very strong relationship that is guaranteed to last... with our Netflix account.

The number of DVD's E and I watch has blown to epic proportions since our move to Jersey (oh, maybe that's why we don't know anyone!). We're all up to date on just about every movie released in the past few years and have moved on to TV land. Our latest endeavor? Dexter. We're in the middle of Season 3 now, so as the IHCC spins into this week's theme, Movie Night, I found myself with a new challenge. E and I tend to watch our DVD's just after dinner, so we very rarely eat anything besides the occasional scoop of ice cream while we turn into couch zombies. Having done ice cream already for the Spice Caravan theme, I didn't want to start repeating myself. I could have gone to the show for inspiration, but all anyone ever eats on Dexter is donuts and T-bones. That doesn't really fit into my late night snack menu. So alas, I had to think of the only other thing we consume while watching movies late night. When all else fails, go with booze.

Take a fridge full of mint and key limes, a bottle of rum, and a TV show shot in Miami and you'll inevitably arrive at the mojito. Luckily, Mark Bittman's Minimalist Article on the subject of cocktails will offer anyone without real bartending skills the advice you'll need. I bartended my way through college, so I have full faith in my mixology skills (although no one called it mixology then!), but I love the way he explains that a lot of what bartenders tell you is crap. Nobody needs to memorize all of those recipes and fancy names to make a good drink. It doesn't matter if you drink something trendy, or something "authentic", or whatever other noise they give you at the bar. Drink what you like. Me, I like these. They're killer (bwahaha!).

Mojitos (sort of Mark's way)
mint leaves
lime wedges
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil over medium high heat. Add a handful of crushed mint leaves. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Cool and transfer to a glass jar. This can keep in the fridge for several weeks.

To mix your drink, fill a glass with ice. Pour in 1/4 c. rum, 2-3 teaspoons of mint sugar syrup, and several lime slices, squeezed. Top with a splash of soda water if desired.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Ode to Coconut and Lime

There are a lot of foodie blogs out there. I mean a LOT. It's kind of ridonkulous really, but who am I too talk, being one of them myself? I follow tons of them, but have found that there are only a handful that I really read. There are really only about a dozen food bloggers that really make me want to cook everything they cook. Rachel of Coconut and Lime is one of the very few food bloggers who posts only her own original recipes, and having done so for 6 years, she's got quite a stockpile to go through. She's celebrating her sixth year of blogging with a little contest. The simple part is preparing one of her recipes to post, the hard part is choosing one. I have at least a dozen of Rachel's recipes starred in my Google reader, and I've already prepared a bunch of others. She's the one who introduced me to the joys of Gingerbread Pancakes and the idea that oven roasted chickpeas make an excellent snack. Since I had a bunch of these little red jewels on hand, I ended up with Strawberry Coconut Scones.

I love traditional scones, but hate using all of that butter, so I'm always on the lookout for alternatives. One of my favorites is the recipe for Strawberry Sour Cream Scones I made last summer, so I knew Rachel's recipe would be equally as good. Homegirl wasn't kidding when she noted that this is a very sticky dough! I had to use the back of my spatula to smooth it out into a circle, then scored it with my greased knife, wiping the knife clean between passes. In the end I could have skipped the scoring since it all merged together during baking anyway! I just cut the circle into slices. Next time I might increase the coconut or flour a bit to see if it will make the dough dry enough to hold up to cutting. And yes, there will certainly be a next time. These were moist and delicious, the lemon and coconut added just enough sweeteness and pop, and I love that you can get the flavor and crunchy exterior of a scone without all of that butter.

Happy Blogiversary, Rachel!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kid stuff

Well over a week ago, E and I were lucky enough to have our house invaded by chicks. E's cousin, his wife, and their two daughters came into town to celebrate the girls' April birthdays with a Big Apple trip full of girly mayhem and glitter. As someone who spends pretty much every day of my life with (albeit little) dudes, it was a very welcome break from sausage factory life. We wore dresses, visited the American Girl Doll store, played with Barbies at FAO Schwarz, and did lots of coloring and hair combing. Then I made cupcakes, as if you didn't see that coming.

Since one of the girls doesn't like jelly (which makes me think she just has to be an alien being, what kid doesn't like jelly?) I made two versions. One filled with strawberry jam and topped with my favorite peanut butter icing, the other filled with Nutella, and topped with the same frosting with a Nutella swirl. I love these cupcakes, and can't ever think of enough excuses to make them. There are lots of PB and J cupcake recipes out there, but these are my favorite! I wanted to imitate the crust and the softness of the bread in a sandwich, hence the pie crust bottoms and the fluffy cake tag team.

PB and J Cupcakes

3 cups Jiffy baking mix (NOT cake mix)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 Tbls. vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups milk
One batch of dough for a double pie crust
Nutella or strawberry jam for filling
One batch of Ina's Peanut Butter Icing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two muffin tins (this will make about 24 cupcakes). Roll dough out to an 1/8th inch thickness. Using a large/medium scalloped biscuit cutter, cut circles from the dough. Press gently into greased muffin cups.

Using a stand mixer or a large bowl and a hand mixer, beat all ingredients until well combined, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Scoop batter evenly into dough circle to fill each cup 3/4 of the way. Scoop filling into a small bowl and stir with a spoon until smooth. Drop rounded teaspoons of filling into the center of each muffin cup. Bake for 15 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, pipe peanut butter icing on top of the jam filled cakes and decorate with a berry or berry candy. For the Nutella cakes, add a few Tbls. of Nutella to the icing and stir a few times to create swirls. You don't want the Nutella incorporated into the icing completely. Pipe onto cakes and top with hazelnuts or chocolate candy.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Viva la Celebration!

image from The Party Dress

Happy Cinco de Mayo, amigos! This is surely one of my favorite food holidays even if most Americans have no idea why anyone is even celebrating. I'm not going to pretend like I'm super cultured and clued in to the real deal behind Cinco de Mayo either, because I am really just into margaritas and Mexican food. Sadly I don't have any Mexican friends to invite me over for authentic feasts, so I have to turn to my pretend friend, Rick Bayless. We'll be having my version of Rick's Poblano Steak Tips and Topolo Margaritas tonight, but here's what I would make if we had any local friends to invite to a big partay. One day soon, people, one day soon.

E's Arrachera:
(E became obsessed with Arrachera back when he was making sort of frequent business trips to Guadelajara. After his first few attempts to recreate it at home with horrifyingly salty results, we came up with this version. He says it is very close to the original marinade, and flank or skirt steak is about the closest you can find in the States)

1 1/2 lb. flank or skirt steak
1 large onion, sliced very thin
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. each salt and celery salt
2 tsp. each  black pepper, paprika, and  minced garlic
2 Tbls. dijon mustard
1 Tbls. each honey and oil

Whisk all ingredients together and pour into a large ziplock bag or shallow baking dish. Add onion and steak, turn to coat, and marinate overnight.
Cook under broiler or on a preheated grill for 4 minutes per side. Allow meat to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve over rice and beans or as a salad with mixed greens, grilled peppers, onion and avocado.

I'd also make a huge batch of my favorite guacamole, a pitcher of margaritas, and, of course, I'd serve Tres Leches Cake for dessert. I don't know how Rhee Drummond makes everything look so amazing! I haven't tried her recipe, but it sounds awesome.

image from The Pioneer Woman

The incredible edible

This week's IHCC theme is Breakfast in Bed, which seems to be just perfect for everyone. Reading through some of the other group members' posts, breakfast appears to be the favorite meal of the day. While I wouldn't go quite that far (I mean honestly, I eat all day long, so why discriminate?) I do dig breakfast foods. Really dig them. As a kid we sometimes had breakfast for dinner (I remember thinking it was such an awesome surprise to get pancakes at night, but now I know it was more like my mom was tired and my dad was too much of a douche to cook) which I still love as much as Turk. Living in Germany, I really missed American-style-egg-and-bacon-with-a-side-of-potatoes-and-pancakes affairs, but I learned that I could survive on brotchen and cheese. That is as long as I could find Quark Tasche at the train station. It's one of the few (ok, the VERY few) foods I miss from Deutschland! Despite my adoration for huge calorie laden breakfasts, I'm really a simple gal (not to be confused with a "young gal living on a single income"). I make tons of eggs, so this recipe was a no brainer.

I wasn't really prepared for how long this sucker would take to cook, though. See, I don't DO runny eggs. The idea of undercooked egg whites makes me want to barf, and watching someone dip toast in egg yolk? Retched. So I had a bit of an issue with opening the oven after 15 minutes to find liquid egg goo floating in a ramekin pool. I let this little guy cook another ten minutes and ended up with a not so pretty and still kind of scary egg. I was daring and took a bite. I kind of died a little. I may have rolled my eyes up into my head. It was that good. Little pot of breakfast heaven my friends. Make yours with a side of toast to soak up the cream in the bottom and you won't be disappointed.

Baked Eggs with Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe for Baked Eggs with Tomato and Prosciutto

Ingredients to serve one:
1 egg, plus 1 egg white
1 Tbls. heavy cream
1 slice of tomato
1 slice of prosciutto
1/4 cup baby spinach leaves, julienned
1 tsp. pesto
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a ramekin. Layer tomato, spinach and prosciutto in the bottom of the ramekin. Pour cream over and add egg. Season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake 15 minutes or longer if you prefer a harder cooked egg. Top with parmesan cheese.

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