Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year...New Blog...Kinda...

Well, if any of you followed probably don't anymore. Why? I never published anything, 6 entries last year, that's it. Well, I am turning over a new leaf and with that comes some New Year's resolutions...

1. I promise to at least blog once a week, if not more
2. I promise to take pictures of the food I prepare or order before I eat it (this ended up being a BIG issue, but the food was so tasty)
3. I will find my blog voice this year (I have no idea what that means right now, but its important)

So there you go...3 New Year's resolutions and its not even Friday yet.

Well, since the holidays are almost over, I hope everyone had an outstanding holiday season. It turned out to be a good December for myself, with some stress, but not as bad as years past.

A few victories this season...sugar cookies. Yes those elusive, pain in the butt, hard to deal with little pieces of holiday cheer. Well, I found it...the recipe to end all recipes, with a few modifications, ala me. The recipe comes from FoodNetwork's Alton Brown, who is a GENIUS (at least I think so, you have love a nerdy chef).

Sugar Cookies – Alton Brown
3 c all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg (this is my secret ingredient)*
1 c salted butter, softened (it calls for unsalted, but salted taste better in this cookie)*
1 c sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp milk

Powdered Sugar for strategic dusting purposes (I didn't use it, but you can if you find the dough unruly)

Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours** (I actually didn't do this step, I went straight to baking after my oven was done preheating...I found that not refrigerating dough for cookies actually makes a flakier cookie in the end).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar** (I didn't do this either, the dough never stuck, but I do have colder hands than your average person). Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired.
Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

I also had success in making homemade marshmallows this year, again Alton's recipe. It would have to be one of the easier things I have made this year and oh so good.

Now you may be asking yourself, "Where are the pictures for these awesome tasty treats?" Well, again that's the problem, they were all destroyed by ravenous humans. So, I will make some more at some point and post the pics then

Next post, I will tell you what I got for my birthday (with pictures), because it is AWESOME and food related.

Enjoy the foods of your labor...cook on my friends.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cinco de Mayo was when???'re right, I have been a bad blogger. I meant to get this up before I went out of town, then I meant to do it while I was in San Antonio, then...well...yeah, I know. So here it is, better late than never.

We had a small get together at work a few weeks ago, to include a salsa contest for "Cinco de Mayo". I thought to myself "What would Brian Boitano make...", he would make SALSA!!!! Not just any salsa, he would make an awesome salsa, so that's what I did, minus a stunt chopper for the onions (I wonder how much he
pays his stunt chopper to chop his onions on the show???).

I am now going to give you the secret family recipe for the ultimate chili pequin salsa

Chili Pequin Salsa, a family recipe
For printable recipe click here
1 large can diced tomatoes in juice
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
about 2 Tbls Mexican oregano, ground up

2 to 4+ tsp crushed chili pequin (you can get them already crushed in the
Mexican spice section of your grocer)
onion pow
der (to taste)
garlic powder (to taste)

salt (to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Put in a blender and pulse a few times to mix
everything together. Pour into your serving bowl and enjoy.

Personally, this is one of the easiest recipes to make and usually goes over really well at parties, at least at my sister's parties. I think Brian Boitano would be proud (and if you don't watch his show on FoodNetwork on Sundays, YOU ARE MISSING OUT!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The dreaded office potluck...

Nothing fills me with such dread as an office potluck, a place where you can be judged by your peers in the form of the amount eaten of the dish you brought. When I was in Germany, working for the contracting office, we had a 26th ASG (Area Support Group) breakfast held every month, in which the ASG would be split up in two halves, each half providing food every other month. I learned the dread and fear based off the fact people would look at my dish, curl up their nose and say "WHATS THAT?!?" in the most nasally, insulting way these people had never seen chorizo before (well, they probably hadn't...but that's no excuse, chorizo con huevos y papas is delicious)

Anyway, getting b
ack to my dread...our office here decided to have a pot luck lunch for a training seminar recently. I was out of town the weekend before and had NO IDEA what I would be bringing. My indecision left me powerless; one minute I thought to bring dessert, the next minute it was pesto pasta salad (an idea I nixed due to the fact I was convinced it would cost at least $52 or more in ingredients...2 cups of basil packed, that must be 10 or 20 little packages at $2 a pop, right???).

Inspiration hit the day before the pot luck, and the day I would be traveling home...I was watching "Giada at Home" and she made the easiest, most beautiful Italian potato salad. That was all I had to see, I would make potato salad, just not Giada's potato salad. Mine is based off a recipe from my sister (sh
e makes a baked potato potato salad, its awesome) and a herb dip recipe I use of Ina Garten's (BTW, if you are ever searching FoodNetork for recipes and Ina pops up as an option, use that recipe...oddly simple with the right amount of prep and always delicious).

Here's the recipe:

Dill Potato Salad

about 4 lbs New Potatoes (scrubbed)
4 Tbs Fresh Dill (finely chopped)
2 to 3 Tbs Fresh Parsley (finely chopped)
4 to 5 scallions (chopped, to include the white bits)
1 to 2 tsp Salt (or to taste)

about 2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper (or to taste)
1/3 c Mayo (may need a little more or a little less depending on the consistency of the dressing)

1/2 c Plain Greek yogurt
6 to 8 strips of bacon

Start by boiling your cleaned potatoes until they are cooked through but still firm about 20 to 30 min., drain and let them cool a bit. Start frying the bac
on in about inch long pieces for larger bacon bits, trimming some of the excess fat off. Once the bacon is done, drain the bits in a paper towel and let cool. For the dressing, combine the: yogurt, mayo, salt and pepper, whisk together. Add the scallions, dill and parsley to the dressing whisking gently and set dressing aside. Cube the potatoes in small bite size pieces leaving the skins on. Place the cubed potatoes in a bowl and let cool for a few minutes more. Take the dressing and add 3/4 of the bacon bits to the dressing, whisking it together gently. Keep the remainder of the bacon for garnish at the end. Combine the dressing with the potatoes stirring gently so the potatoes don't break up too much. Top off potato salad with the rest of the bacon bits and some extra chopped dill and parsley to give it color.

Needles to say, the day of the potluck this potato salad was a big hit, with only one small scoop full left at the end. My cooking ego was happy. Maybe I will even bring my chorizo breakfast dish one morning for these people...maybe. ;-)

Enjoy the foods of your labor...cook on my friends.

(how's that for a tag line...anything working for you guys yet??? Comments appreciated. :-) )

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kitchen trippin...

Last weekend I was visiting my parents down in Cruces and I informed my mother about my new blog venture. I tried to tell her about it, the concept, even showed her my first entry. Actually, I am not sure if she read it or just became mesmerized by the pictures of the French Toast Bake...if a picture is a thousand words, I guess she didn't need to read any further. I was informed that I would be making this for her and dad the next morning.

Its is never easy cooking in a kitchen that is not your own...I may have baked a pumpkin pie or 2 since I have entered adulthood in my parents kitchen, but that is not real baking/cooking (which is making anything that involves more than: 2 bowls, 3 types measuring spoons/cups , 2 stirring spoon, a hand mixer...if I need to get out my standing mixer, w
atch out we're gettin serious now :-) ). Go ahead and ask my boyfriend, I try to do proper "mise en place", which means I will have dirtied up every small bowl in my kitchen, which he diligently washes and dries for me (I know, he's a keeper), needles to say I tend to be a bit of a high maintenance cook. So its even more nerve racking trying to make something successfully in someone else's kitchen. The only thing I had going for the success of breakfast the next morning is the fact that the French Toast Bake i make is a FOOL PROOF recipe (which is the best kind of recipe to have up your sleeve).

What makes this recipe fool proof is the simplicity of its ingredients and the correct measure of the liquids. I have had a hard tim
e with French Toast Bakes and Bread Puddings in the past; too many eggs and you have an omelet, too much half n half and it never bakes up right, too little custard and its dry, too much custard and its just soggy and gross. So I searched and searched on for a Bread Pudding recipe for this past Thanksgiving and hit the jack pot with Aaron McCargo Jr.'s (aka Big Daddy) "Apple and Cranberry Bread Pudding". His liquid to egg ratio was PERFECT for both the tasty breakfast treat and the decadent dessert we love to eat topped with ice cream and caramel sauce. I made a few of my own changes to the recipe that I thought it needed, but hey that's what makes us a star in our own kitchen.

Here is the basic French Toast Bake/Bread Pudding Recipe:
For printable recipe, please click here
For the bread:
1 loaf Challah or
1 pkg Brioche Buns from Trader Joes (they are cheaper than buying a loaf of brioche) or
1 baguette (preferably a day old)

For the custard:
6 eggs
2 c heavy whipping cream or half n half or eggnog (eggnog is perfect for a richer taste)
1 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 c dark brown sugar
1 to 2 tsp nutmeg
1 to 2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat your oven to 350 deg. Grease a 9x13 cake pan with butter or bacon grease. Cube the bread in about 1 in. pieces (for bread pudding take the crust off first before doing this). Place the bread cubes in the cake pan and set off to the side to let them dry out a bit, they will absorb the custard better if they are a little stale . In another bowl w
hisk together the eggs and the heavy cream. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Pour over the bread, be sure to carefully spoon the custard over the cubes so the bread is well coated. Put in the oven for 40 min or until it springs back to the touch (which should be 40 min.).

So, after 2 hours of navigating my way through a kitchen that was not my own (usually this takes, maybe 1 hour to an hour and a half to make, depending on your topping), I recreated the breakfast dish that you saw posted below and to the left. I know my mom liked it (since she commented on it in the previous post) and dad thought it was "pretty good...", which anything coming from him would mean a success.

Cook for the pleasure, cook for the glory, cook like there is no tomorrow.
*(ok...I am working on an ending catch phrase, we'll see which one sticks ;-) )

Monday, April 19, 2010

BACON!!! Bacon Bacon Bacon!

Here it first blog entry. This blog is about cooking...and how FoodNetwork inspires me to be the chef-leberty that I am (in my mind). My TV is on the channel, not quite 24/7, but its close. I watch my favorite shows and then get a wild hair to make the thing that is on (which means a trip to Trader Joes and who doesn't love that) or trying to make something inspired by said show in less than 30 minutes...which is not possible in a kitchen the size of a small walkin closet. So basically, this is a blog about the common cook striving for FoodNetwork greatness in not so perfect kitchen surroundings...did I mention I can just barely fit one cookie sheet in my oven.

Well, for this weeks inspiration...I tune
d into "The Best Thing I Ever Ate...With Bacon". Since you do not know me yet, you should know I LOVE bacon. BACON!!! It makes me smile just typing out the word. The smell of bacon on the weekends wafting through my apartment is better than any room freshener. Anywho, this show featured bacon and what it could do for food when added in unique ways, like an onion marmalade for a burger filled with BACON. So I decided that I too should use bacon as more than just a side and was inspired to create a

Candied Pecan and Bacon Topping

recipe to put over my french toast bake.

Candied Pecan and Bacon Topping
For printable recipe, click here
2 cups chopped pecans
6 strips of bacon, be sure to cut off extra fat
about a cup of brown sugar
about 2 Tbls salted butter

Using your kitchen shears, cut up the 6 strips of bacon into about h
alf inch chunks into a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Get the bacon crispy, but don't burn it (trust me this is not an easy task when you are doing 5 things at once). Put in a paper plate with paper towel to absorb grease. Pour excess grease from the skillet into your bacon grease container ( your bacon grease for strategic cooking purposes, I didn't know bacon grease WASN'T suppose to be in vegetables until I was 15) but be sure that you have enough grease left in the pain that it just coats the skillet and it looks shiny, but not soaked. Put the pecans in the skillet and brown them over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the pecans get shiny and are starting to brown slightly, throw the butter in the skillet with the pecans. When the butter has melted, stir in the brown sugar. Last, throw the bacon back in the skillet and saute for a few minutes more. The sugar should stay a bit granulated. Turn off the heat and let set. Losen the mixture with a wooden spatula and put over french toast bake or what ever else you would like...vanilla ice cream would be a good option for this topping.

These are the pictures of the final outcome, can you see the bacon...I put it over the french toast bake when it was half done so the brown sugar could melt a bit to create a gooey goodie goodness on top.