Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chocolate Sauce

I decided to make chocolate sauce at the request of my husband, who doesn't understand why I made caramel sauce instead. With fresh homemade French Vanilla Ice Cream, I see some sundaes in our future.

This chocolate is less sweet than commercial stuff like Hershey's, but much more complex and chocolaty. It's definitely worth the little bit of effort it takes to make it-you will be rewarded many times over for your effort.

Chocolate Sauce
from The Joy of Cooking

1/2 c. light cream or 1/4 c. heavy cream plus 1/4 c. whole milk
1 to 2 T. sugar
1 T. unsalted butter
4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 t. vanilla or 1 T. dark rum or Cognac

1. Combine light cream or heavy cream/milk, sugar, and butter in a medium heavy saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.

2. Remove from heat and immediately added chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla, rum, or Cognac. Serve warm or cold; thin with water as needed. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Reheat over low heat, whisking in a little hot water if the sauce looks oily.

Friday, January 29, 2010

French Vanilla Ice Cream

This is the first ice cream recipe I ever attempted to make; it is the first recipe in my KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment instruction manual.

This recipe calls for 8 egg yolks, so you're obviously going to have a lot of egg whites left over. If you don't want to make macaroons or meringues or eat them for breakfast, egg whites do freeze well (although whole eggs do not). Freezing each egg white in one compartment of an ice cube tray is an easy way to store them measured out for future use.

These instructions are obviously for those with a KitchenAid mixer, but can be easily adapted to other mixers (stand and hand-held) and other ice cream makers.

French Vanilla Ice Cream
from the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker instruction manual

2.5 c. half-and-half
8 egg yolks
1 c. sugar
2.5 c. whipping cream
4 t. vanilla extract
1/8 t. salt

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat half-and-half until very hot but not boiling, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Place egg yolks and sugar in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and wire whip to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds or until well-blended and slightly thickened. Continuing on speed 2, very gradually add half-and-half; mix until blended. Return half-and-half mixture to medium saucepan; cook over medium heat until small bubbles form around edge and mixture is steamy, stirring constantly. Do not boil.

3. Transfer half-and-half mixture into large bowl; stir in whipping cream, vanilla, and salt. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 8 hours.

4. Assemble and engage freeze bowl, dasher, and drive assembly as directed in the attachment instructions. Turn in STIR (speed 1). Using a container with a spout, pour mixture into freeze bowl. Continue on STIR (Speed 1) for 15 to 20 minutes or until desired consistency (or freeze as directed with different ice cream maker). Immediately transfer ice cream into serving dishes or freeze in an airtight container.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Baked Onion Rings

My husband and I picked up some natural casing hot dogs from a local farm at the farmer's market last weekend. Looking for a side to go with them, I remembered watching an episode of Everyday Food a week or two ago on Create, and thought these Baked Onion Rings were the perfect side.

I made a couple small changes to Martha Stewart's recipe-I used canola oil instead of olive oil and reduced the cooking time to 10 to 12 minutes. The smoke point of olive oil is 375 degrees F (canola ranges from 464 to 475 degrees F, depending on the type) so if you use olive oil in a 450 degree F oven, you will fill the oven with smoke. My onion rings would have been burnt to a crisp after 16 minutes, but I suspect my onion runs a bit hot. Just keep an eye on your

I chose the baked onion rings over deep-fried onion rings for a couple of reasons. One, these are obviously healthier. Two, I didn't want to use cups of oil in my Fry Daddy because I probably wouldn't get around to deep-frying anything else, especially that could go in the oil after onions, before the oil went rancid.

Baked Onion Rings
adapted from Everyday Food

1 1/2 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (I used Saco powdered buttermilk, reconstituted)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, quartered crosswise and broken into rings (discard small center rings)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, pulse cornflakes and breadcrumbs until fine crumbs form, then transfer to a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, flour, and cayenne and season with salt and pepper. 

2. Dip onion rings in egg mixture (letting excess drip off) and dredge in cornflake mixture; place on a large plate. Pour oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and heat 2 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and tilt to coat evenly with oil. Arrange onion rings on sheet. Bake, turning once, until onion rings are golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spinach Egg Drop Soup

I came across this recipe in the most recent issue of Food and Wine. It sounded delicious, looked really easy, and is pretty healthy so I had to try it. This soup, along with Pork and Green Onion Potstickers, makes an excellent Asian-themed dinner.

I really like the ginger and chicken flavors together, but I'm sure how I feel about the texture of the spinach. Including the spinach stems gives a nice crunch, but it's kind of strange having the soft, wilted spinach leaves and crunchy spinach stems in the same bite. This would be a great soup to make when you're sick-micronutrients in the chicken stock actually do help you recover from illness, ginger is great for upset stomachs, and the spinach is iron-rich to boost energy.

Spinach Egg Drop Soup
from Food and Wine

makes 4 servings

5 c. chicken stock or low-sodium broth
One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger—2 inches thinly sliced, 1 inch peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 c. packed spinach leaves, with stems

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the sliced ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of the white pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Strain and return the stock to the saucepan.

2. Add the julienned ginger to the stock and return the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Gently stir in the eggs, breaking them into long strands, and cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in the spinach and remove from the heat. Season with salt and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve right away.

Caramel Sauce

As promised in my Caramel Syrup post, I finally tackled caramel sauce for my caramel macchiatos. I bought heavy cream for Potage Parmentier and Butter Pecan Ice Cream, and I had almost the perfect amount leftover for caramel sauce, so it seemed like the perfect time to make it.

The start of this recipe is exactly the same as the Caramel Syrup recipe, but I made a few changes to The Joy of Cooking recipe this time around. If you use 1/4 c. of water to dissolve the sugar, the sugar-water mixture starts to come to a boil (at least on my stove set on medium-high) before the sugar is fully dissolved and you constantly have to adjust the heat to avoid boiling the mixture before the syrup is clear. I found that 3/4 c. of the water is the perfect amount that the sugar dissolves completely and will boil very quickly after increasing the heat to high. Although it may thin the sauce out a bit, I actually prefer that for use in caramel macchiatos. I also think that any additional cooking time from the extra water reduces the chance for ruining the sauce since the burning of the sugar that creates caramel is more gradual that it would be with less water or no water at all; a lot of the extra water is probably boiled off anyway. I also increased the amount of vanilla extract because I find that most sweet recipes with vanilla can benefit from a little more. I've never regretted increasing the amount of vanilla extract in a recipe.

Caramel Sauce
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

makes about 1.5 cups

3/4 c. water
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 c. heavy cream
2 t. vanilla
Pinch of salt

1. Combine sugar and 1/4 c. water in a small heavy saucepan. Set over medium high heat and stir gently until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is clear. Avoid letting the syrup boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to high, cover the saucepan, and boil the syrup for 2 minutes.

2. Uncover and continue to boil the syrup until it begins to darken around the edges. Gently stir until the syrup turns deep amber.

3. Remove from heat and add butter. Gently stir until butter is encorporated. Stir in heavy cream. If the sauce becomes lumpy, set over low heat and stir until smooth.

4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 month. Reheat in a double boiler or in a saucepan over very low heat, adding a bit of water if too thick.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

The last time I made ice cream it was chocolate, but most of the time I don't eat chocolate ice cream or ice creams with a chocolate base, preferring those with a vanilla base or flavors like butter pecan.

For this recipe you will either need a double boiler or a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. If not using a double boiler, make sure your bowl is safe for stove top use, otherwise, it may shatter over the heat.

When adding the syrup to the eggs, make sure to add it very slowly at first. If you add it too quickly, you will end up scrambling the eggs and will have to start over. You can add it more quickly at the end once the mixture is already somewhat warmed up.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream
from The Joy of Cooking

1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. water
1/8 t. salt
2 large eggs
2 T. unsalted butter
1 c. whole milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. sherry (optional)
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. chopped, toasted pecans

1. Combine brown sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil the syrup for 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, beat together eggs in a medium bowl. Slowly beat in the syrup.

3. Cook mixture in a double boiler over, not in, boiling water, stirring constantly, until the mixture reached 175 degree F and coats the back of the spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

4. Add butter and stir until melted. Strain into a medium bowl, then refrigerate until cold.

5.  Add milk, vanilla extract, and sherry to refrigerated mixture and stir to combine.

6. Beat cream until soft peaks form. Fold into the egg mixture.


7. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze as directed. When the ice cream is almost frozen and add chopped pecans.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pork and Green Onion Potstickers

I came across this recipe in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living (February 2010) and decided to try it out, with a few tweaks. Wonton wrappers are available in the produce section of the supermarket. There was only one size at my supermarket (12-ounce package), which leaves you with lots of leftovers wrappers. I'll definitely be making these again with the leftovers!

While I didn't have any problems with the potstickers sticking to the pot, I did have a few problems with them folding over and sticking to themselves or sticking to other potstickers. For the most part it went smoothly, but I had to be careful when moving and flipping the wontons.

Pork and Green Onion Potstickers
adapted from Martha Stewart Living/Everyday Food

makes about 16 potstickers

4 ounces ground pork
2 T. chopped green onion
1 T. water, plus more for wrappers
1 1/2 t. soy sauce
1 T. minced fresh ginger
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. cornstarch
16 wonton wrappers (from a 12 oz. package, you will have many extras)
1 T. vegetable or canola oil
Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce (recipes follows)

1. Combine ground pork, green onion, water, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and mix well.

2. Place a teaspoon of pork mixture in the center of 1 wonton wrapper. Lightly wet the edge of the wrapper, fold over, and press to seal. Repeat to form remaining wontons (about 16 total).

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in 2 batches, boil potstickers until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon. Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown potstickers, about 1.5 minutes per side. Serve with soy-ginger dipping sauce.

Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce
1/4 c. soy sauce
3 T. rice vinegar
1 T. minced fresh ginger
2 t. sugar
1/4 t. toasted sesame oil

Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar, and oil in a bowl.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Laine's Mexsconsin Delight

I created this dish my senior year of college one night when my then-boyfriend (now husband) came over and I was looking for something to make for us for dinner. I had thawed chicken breasts and taco seasoning so I thought I'd make chicken tacos, but then decided to throw in some black beans and corn and serve it over rice instead. And Laine's Mexsconsin Delight was born! Although I didn't come up with the name; my dad gave it that name after the first time he had it and he decided it needed to be named in my honor.

Although I initially made this with cut-up chicken breasts, it can also be made with ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey or cut-up pieces of pork. It also makes an excellent burrito filling with or without rice, and reheats really well. It's one of my husband's favorite dinners.

Laine's Mexsconsin Delight

1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 packet taco seasoning
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.25-ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
Cooked rice
Shredded cheese (optional)
Salsa (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

1. Cut up chicken breasts into bite-size pieces. Cook over medium heat until no longer pink.

2. Add taco seasoning according to package directions. Let simmer for a couple minutes or until the liquid just starts to reduce.

3. Add drained and rinsed black beans and corn, stir to coat with seasoning mixture. Cook over medium heat until warmed through. Serve over rice, topped with shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Potage Parmentier

I often spend at least an hour on Saturday watching cooking shows on Create (the 3rd PBS channel). This past Saturday had a soup theme and Jacques Pepin and Julia Child made a few variations of leek and potato soup on Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. They couldn't stop talking about how good it was, despite being so simple. I decided to pull out my copy of The French Chef cookbook (which I got at a library sale for only $0.50 a few years ago) and browsed through the recipes from the soup show of that TV series. I decided to make potage parmentier because it is the base for a few well-known soups like vichyssoise and watercress soup and I always like to start with the basics. Julia and Jacques were absolutely right-this soup is fantastic, especially considering how simple it is. How could I ever doubt them? Once warmer weather returns I plan on making vichyssoise as it is a soup traditionally served cold.

The most flavorful and onion-y part of the leek is the white part, so use as much of that as you can; I wouldn't recommend using any of the dark green part for the soup (light green is still okay). I used the white and some of the light green part of two leeks to get the 3 cups for this soup. Leeks are also full of dirt, so wash them really well before using them. I cut mine into pieces before washing to get as much dirt out as possible. Yellow onions can also be used in place of the leeks.

There are also pressure cooker instructions for this recipe; I have not included them here. As with most soups, they should be served with a piece of crusty bread, like French Bread.

Potage Parmentier
from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

3 to 4 c. peeled potatoes, sliced or diced
3 c. thinly sliced leeks or yellow onions
2 quarts water
1 T. salt


1/3 c. heavy cream or 2 to 3 T. softened butter
2 to 3 T. minced parsley or chives

1. Combine the vegetables, water, and salt in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Simmer, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

2. Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill. Correct seasoning. Set aside uncovered until just before serving, then reheat to a simmer.

3. Final Enrichment. Remove from heat just before serving, and stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls. Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with herbs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Corn Tortillas

As promised in my Flour Tortillas post, I made corn tortillas the next time we had tacos (this time they were chorizo and onion). Corn tortillas are either made from fresh masa, if you're lucky enough to have a tortilleria nearby, or masa harina, which is what I used. The only kind I found was Maseca, which I found at multiple grocery stores in the Mexican food section.

Like the flour tortillas, the homemade version is better than store-bought, but in this case the difference was much more dramatic. These actually taste like corn, instead of the tasteless corn-colored cardboard found in grocery stores (although there are more authentic brands that are decent). But these are more difficult to make than flour tortillas if you roll them out by hand like I did, since I don't have a tortilla press which every recipe recommends. Corn flour does not contain gluten as wheat flour does (gluten gives the dough structure), so the dough is much more likely to crack or tear as you roll it out, which is why recipes says to use a tortilla press. Although it was more work than the flour tortillas, I think it was worth it.

When reconstituting the masa harina to make the dough, I found it necessary to add more water than initially specified in the recipe (no surprise in this dry winter weather). You want your dough to be softer than Play-Doh, similar to a soft cookie dough, but not sticky. This dough dries out easily and it may be necessary to add water from time to time.

Corn Tortillas
from Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico by Rick Bayless

yield 15 tortillas

1 pound fresh masa for tortillas, store-bought or homemade OR
1 3/4 c. masa harina mixed with 1 c. plus 2 T. hot tap water

1. The dough. If using masa harina, mix it with the hot water, then knead until smooth, adding more water or more masa harina to achieve a very soft (but not sticky) consistency; cover with plastic and let rest 30 minutes. When you're ready to bake the tortillas, readjust the consistency of the fresh or reconstituted masa, then divide into 15 balls and cover with plastic.

2. Heating the griddle. Heat a large, ungreased, heave griddle or 2 heavy skillets: one end of the griddle (or one skillet) over medium-low, the other end (or other skillet) over medium to medium-high.

3. Pressing. Cut 2 squares of heavy plastic to fit the plates of your tortilla press. With the press open, place a square of plastic over the bottom plate, set a ball of dough in the center, cover with the second square of plastic, and gently flatten the dough between. Close the top plate and press down gently but firmly with the handle. Open, turn the tortilla 180 degrees, close and gently press again, to an even 1/16-inch thickness.

4. Unmolding. Open the press and peel off the top sheet of plastic. Flip the tortilla onto one hand, dough-side down, then, starting at one corner, gently peel off the remaining sheet of plastic.

5. Griddle-baking. Lay the tortilla onto the cooler end of the griddle (or cooler skillet). In about 20 seconds, when the tortilla loosens itself from the griddle (but the edges have not yet dried or curled), flip it over onto the hotter end of the griddle (or onto the hotter skillet). When lightly browned in spots underneath, 20 to 30 seconds more, flip a second time, back onto the side that was originally down. If the fire is properly hot, the tortilla will balloon up like pita bread. When lightly browned, another 20 to 30 seconds, remove from the griddle (it will completely deflate) and wrap in a towel. Press, unmold and bake the remaining balls of masa, placing each hot tortilla on top of the last and keeping the stack well wrapped.

6. Resting. Let the wrapped stack of tortillas rest for about 15 minutes to finish their cooking, soften, and become pliable.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Veggie Bean Burgers

Although I'm not a could never be a vegan and am not vegetarian (though I have been in the past), I'm a big fan of vegetarian substitutes like Boca Burgers and Morningstar Farms products, in particular Morningstar Farms black bean burgers. I came across this super-healthy recipe in The Joy of Cooking and thought I'd give it a try.

I opted to use black beans, since they are my favorite of the possible beans listed in the recipe, and I always have them on hand. While the flavor of these burgers is excellent in my opinion, they fall apart fairly easily. If I  make them again, I may add an egg to help hold all the ingredients together. Next time I think I may add water chestnuts, possibly in place of the mushrooms, for some crunch. I served the burgers on Quick Wheat Hamburger Buns.

Veggie Bean Burgers
from The Joy of Cooking

makes 6 burgers

2 t. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. grated carrots
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. ground cumin
Two 15.5-ounce cans black, pinto, kidney, or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. ketchup
2 T. minced parsley
1.5 c. cooked brown rice
1 c. chopped mushrooms (optional)
Ground red pepper (optional)
1 t. vegetable oil

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cooking and stirring until softened. Add carrots, chili powder, and cumin and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Mash beans, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, ketchup, and parsley in a large bowl. Stir in the vegetable mixture. Add brown rice and mushrooms (if desired) and mix well. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper (if desired).

3. Form the mixture into six 3- to 4-inch patties. Heat vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet and cook burgers over medium-low heat for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp.

Quick Wheat Hamburger Buns

I decided to make Veggie Bean Burgers for dinner tonight, but didn't have any buns or enough time to make rolls that require multiple risings. After a quick Google search, I came across this recipe that doesn't require any rising time at all, just a short rest before baking.

Quick Wheat Hamburger Buns
from One Frugal Foodie, who adapted it from Recipezaar

2 T. active dry yeast
1 c. plus 2 T. warm water
1/3 c. oil
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. salt
2 c. all-purpose or white bread flour
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the oil and sugar, and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.

2. Add the egg, salt, white flour, and 1 1/2 cups of the wheat flour, combining until it forms a soft dough.  Add the additional 1/4 cup of wheat flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands (if you need a little more, that is okay too). Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes or so.

3. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, shape each into a thick disc, and place them on baking sheets about 3 inches apart.

4. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Lightly cover the balls of dough and let them rest for about 10 minutes (or longer if you wish). Pop them in the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shrimp Fried Rice

While the fried rice from your average Americanized Chinese food restaurant is high-calorie and not very nutritious (though often pretty tasty), this fried rice recipe is packed full of veggies, lean protein, and whole grains (if you use brown rice as I did).

Shrimp Fried Rice
from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 eggs, beaten
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil or vegetable oil (I highly recommend using sesame oil-it has a wonderful aroma and flavor)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. cooking oil
1/2 c. thinly biased sliced celery (1 stalk)
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 8.8-ounce pouch cooked white rice (2 cups; I used brown instead)
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed
12 oz. peeled and deveined fully cooked shrimp
2 T. soy sauce
1/4 c. sliced green onion (2)

1. In a small bowl combine eggs and the 1 teaspoon soy sauce.

2. Pour sesame oil into a wok or large skillet. Preheat over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and garlic; stir gently to scramble. When set, remove the egg mixture from wok and cut up any large pieces. Remove wok from heat.

3. Pour the cooking oil into the walk or skillet. (Add more oil if necessary during cooking). Return to medium-high heat. Stir-fry celery in hot oil for 1 minute. Add mushrooms; stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes more or until the vegetables are crisp tender.

4. Add cooked rice, carrot, peas, and shrimp. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Cook and stir for 4 to 6 minutes or until heated through. Add cooked egg mixture and green onion; cook and stir for about 1 minute more or until heated through.