Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Indian-Style Vegetable Curry 5/5 Spoons

I don't want to toot my own horn too excessively BUT I think I'm a pretty great cook and baker. All of these things rolled into one? I'm a total catch. Anyhow, I know my stuff (for the most part) but I still really suck at cooking rice. Sometimes it is average but the rest of the time, it comes out either too dry or too wet and gooey. If anyone can give me a foolproof way to cook rice (jasmine and standard white long grain) on a stove top, I will like give you a thousand kisses.

(You have to deal with my phone pics!)

Since I'm unemployed, I have an awful lot of time to watch America's Test Kitchen (between looking for work and talking to my temp rep like every day). This is really one of the best cooking shows on television. I used to be really into Food Network and now I find most of it to be a joke. I love cooking shows that make simple food that is often easily messed up on a daily basis. They show you the science of why certain things work and other things don't. I secretly love how snobby they are about food because I'm that way too. I tend to keep it to myself as to still have friends and family who love me. It's hard but I can manage, haha. Anyhow, the only fault I have with ATK is that they almost never make vegetarian dishes, let alone totally vegan ones. I was thrilled when they made this because I've had a string of bad curry recipes going through my kitchens in the last year. The one thing that was missing in this recipe that really attracted me was sesame oil. I've mentioned before my distaste of sesame oil so I thought I'd give this a try and it was a serious success. Here are my notes:

-- I used one onion but it ended up being 2 cups, go figure. I was kind of careful about measuring because I wanted this to turn out perfect.
-- As usual, I used dried ginger instead of fresh.
-- Since I like it spicy, I left the seeds and ribs in the pepper. If you aren't a hot person, I would say get rid of it. Serranos pack a punch.
-- I'm pretty careful about my sodium intake (among other things) just because I know it's not good for me. I had no idea there were so many sodium-free options out there. The tomato paste and diced tomatoes were both totally void of salt. I love being able to put my own amount of salt and feel good about it.
-- Because I wanted to make this totally vegan, I used coconut milk instead of cream.
-- I didn't have any condiments around to top the curry but I think cilantro would be dynamite sprinkled on top.

This is so spicy, warming and full of delicious, healthy vegetables. And since we have air conditioning, I can enjoy chili and curry even when it is 90 degrees outside. Sorry to rub it in! This all came together fairly fast (45 minutes) and is super healthy. I think this is a do-able weeknight dinner that makes a lot of food at a pretty damn cheap price. If you don't have A/C, I would bookmark this and save it for October. It's worth waiting for.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just in time for Memorial Day!

This is my first time making BBQ sauce and a BBQ rub, so please indulge me.

It is adapted from this recipe (with my own Jackie tweaks). I usually have given up on Food Network recipes because generally anytime I've tried one (even from Alton Brown) they always stink. And the Neely's are really annoying but damn do they make a fine BBQ sauce.

1 14 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 c. ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey

I didn't want to use all ketchup so the tomato sauce went in and I think it was perfect. I omitted the white sugar but added a dash of honey at the end. If you want this to be totally vegan either use agave nectar or omit the honey but cut the black pepper to 1 teaspoon. It gets really spicy with all the pepper as it cooks but if you let it simmer for the 1 hour and 15 minutes it comes out really sweet, spicy but not overwhelming. Since Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian, I added balsamic vinegar and it gives it a really nice depth (I think you could add tamari too for the same effect.)

(Yummm.... vegetarian BBQ.)

Now onto the rub! As someone who even when I ate meat never cooked it for myself, using a rub is not something I am accustomed to. Basically the BBQ sauce was a starting point and then I just shot off from there! We had Gardein Chick'n Scallopini and Home Style Beefless Tips in our freezer just begging to be coated with spices and brown sugar. Here is the recipe I used. No need to talk about tweaking it, although I may not have be so accurate on measurements. I halved the ingredients and it came out so wonderfully sweet and spicy on the various meat analogs. The only problem I had was the brown sugar burning the bottom of the pan I used to fry the "meat" in. So don't be like me and crank up the heat to 5 on a gas stove. Use discretion but get those babies crunchy!

Enjoy and I'll be again this weekend with more recipe reviews. Have a safe and fun holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Filling and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting 4/5 Spoons

The title is quite a mouthful, huh? There is no way to shorten it without people asking, "So what is this stuff inside? What's on the top?" Long name usually means all kinds of goodness packed inside and this is no exception.

(You will have to deal with my crappy cell phone photos for this one!)

I found this recipe for Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes (although I wouldn't exactly call them "dark"). Initially I had planned on just dolloping raspberry preserves in the middle but I wanted to bump up the filling factor. If you are a baker, you know how much of a pain filling a cupcake can be. As long as I'm sawing off the tops and filling it with something, might as well make it extra special. None of the raspberry cream cheese fillings I found fit the bill, so I just made up my own! It was kind of beyond easy and don't really need to pat myself on the back for this (okay, I will... pat pat).

When it was all said and done, I barely deviated from the original recipe above. I made up my own version of a filling and cut the buttercream frosting recipe in half. Here are my notes:

-- All I could find at the grocery store was normal unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutch process. It worked out just fine.
-- I left my eggs at room temperature for about 3 hours and they were perfect. Here is an explanation why room temp eggs are better than cold in baking. You learn something new everyday.
-- Skim milk was used instead of anything else that is often used in baking. It was either that or almond milk. I honestly don't think any kind would make a big difference.
-- You may realize that something is missing in the recipe that is ESSENTIAL for chocolate desserts (heck, all desserts). SALT! I didn't see it and was confused so I added about 1 t. of kosher salt.
-- I halved the frosting recipe. I followed it all and really didn't like it (hence the 4 stars). It came out looking of glossy and like royal icing (which I wasn't looking for). I'll probably find something more suited for my tastes next time.
-- If you haven't filled anything before, here is what I did. Grab a cupcake, take your sharp and small knife and jab it in at a 45 degree angle. You want to make a small cone sort of shape with the cake top so that you can discard the bottom part and the filling won't overflow. Baking Bites can explain it better and with pictures here!

So I baked these up all pretty and made this raspberry cream cheese filling (this is from memory, so hopefully it's not totally off on the measurements):

4 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1/4 c. raspberry preserves (you can use any kind if you don't like the seeds)
1/2 t. vanilla
2 T. confectioners sugar

Whip the first three together until well combined. Add the sugar 1 T. at a time until it comes together. It doesn't need to be firm, but needs to hold together well.

(As you can see, these went over well.)

Overall these cupcakes were AWESOME. The cakes that were a little more full came out really fudge-y and were hard to cut into but tasted so good on their own. Almost like a cupcake brownie (don't even get me started...). I wouldn't necessarily say these were very "dark" but still had a nice chocolate flavor and not overly packed with sugar. I think the real shining star here is the raspberry cream cheese filling. It has a nice creamy, tart flavor with a punch of fruity goodness right at the end. So what I'm saying is, make this. It takes a bit of work and some patience (which I don't have) but they came out great.

Up next, White Pizza with a Chicago style deep dish crust!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Classic Buttermilk Cornbread 5/5 Spoons

Sometimes I love sides more than I love full "real" meals.

I love to go to a restaurant and order 3 sides and gobble them up with gusto. The thing is, they have to individually be so good and different from each other that it constitutes a meal (in my mind and in my belly). I need some sort of bread product (corn bread in this instance), some sort of protein (I made organic cumin-laced black refried beans to go along with this) and a veggie (homemade guacamole! I have my own recipe, if you want it, let me know!)

(Photo courtesy of Fine Cooking)

The problem with cornbread (which I admittedly don't have a lot of experience at making) is that it can be SO DRY. I mean you can put as much butter on a dry hunk of bread as you want but you still know it's not very good. I think using buttermilk (did you know it is actually low in fat?) really moistened the bread and it is even quite tender today. I wanted to make sure to find a recipe that a. was tender (check) b. not chock full of sugar (check) and c. doesn't contain an entire stick of butter (check). I think this recipe is my new winner! Here are my notes (there are barely any!):

-- Instead of table salt, I used kosher salt and bumped it up to 1 t. because kosher salt weighs less than table salt. Interesting, huh?
-- I used low-fat sour cream without any problem.
-- Because I had it, I added about 1 c. of frozen corn kernels. I feel like this part is totally necessary.

(I'm definitely not from Alabama, but I love cornbread!)

I of course couldn't wait. So I flipped this bread out of the pan and cut it into weird chunks and gobbled it up with some butter substitute. It was the perfect amount of sweetness and had a wonderful intense corn taste that a lot of cornbreads do not have. This is a great recipe because it uses so much cornmeal and very little all-purpose flour for a super authentic taste. This *technically* is not that bad for you. There is some butter yeah, but this bread will serve a lot of people. And I'm not always so worried about butter as I appear on here, I love me some sweet cream unsalted butter. This would go great with this Vegetarian Chili or Cincinnati Chili Mac.

Coming up soon......

Red Velvet Waffles with Cream Cheese Coconut Butter

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

and other things I'm totally making up like BBQ Beefless Tips with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus and a White Pizza. See you soon!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Peanut Noodle Vegetable Soup 5/5 Spoons

I bet you all get really sick of me reviewing 5 star recipes. Actually, why would you? Don't you want to know that I'm constantly eating amazing meals? I would like to wish wonderful meals for everyone in the world. Well if you want to see me break and get mad about something I ate then this post is not for you.

(Photos courtesy of thursday night smackdown)

So I woke up this morning with the full intended desire to make some coffee, sit on our patio and read. Then as soon as I got dressed and my coffee was waiting for me, it started to rain. Dammit. I sat around feeling sorry for myself and then realized I have a lot of veggies to eat up and whoa, I should make that Peanut Noodle Vegetable Soup I had a recipe for. I thought this was also one of those throwaway recipes that I wouldn't end up making and I would have a sad, floppy head of cabbage just rotting away in my fridge. Nope, I wouldn't allow that to happen to this most honorable of vegetables! I'm so glad I made this, especially on such a drizzly dark day. It was warming, creamy but light and full of spice and tart sharpness. A lot of different wonderful flavors play together and sing in your mouth. Plus, it is SUPER healthy. Here are my tweaks and notes:

-- I'm really bad at remembering to grab fresh ginger when I'm at the market, even if it is on my list. So like many other recipes, I used 1/2 T. of dried ginger instead.
-- I definitely used more than 1 t. of red chili flakes. I would guess about twice that because I like it spicy.
-- Did you know that sweet potatoes are different than yams? I used a sweet potato here, there are not a lot of yams floating around in Chicago.
-- When I use canned tomatoes, I puree them in food processor because I don't like chunks. I think the tomato puree in this was perfect.
-- I used vegetable broth over water just to add more flavor.
-- I'm pretty loyal to Jif or Peter Pan peanut butter, so I used that instead of natural. I honestly don't think it would make much of a difference here.
-- So I cooked some cellophane noodles and they like grossed me out once they were done. I know it sounds weird but the texture made me nauseous. At the end here I threw in about 1/2 box of thick spaghetti broken into small pieces. It was perfect.
-- The lime in here is SO GOOD. I would suggest just squeezing the whole lime into the soup and mixing it a bit right before you serve. And I didn't add anymore hot sauce, but it would be nice to cater to each individual person's taste and have it on the side.

Okay, so it seems like a lot of notes, but really I don't think I deviated too much from the original recipe. So yeah, go out and make this now. It is chock full of vitamin C and beta carotene (from the sweet potato, carrots and cabbage) and protein from the peanut butter (although adding some tofu in here would be even better.) All I'm saying is that I love you guys and you need your vitamins. Mama is just watching out for you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Asparagus, Leek and Swiss Quiche 5/5 Spoons

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death."

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Okay, sometimes I love to be dramatic when it comes to food and after eating this quiche, you would understand why.

(Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart)

Finding and making this recipe was kind of a "throw the ingredients on the list and we'll see if it happens" sort of thing. I always have one meal that is iffy like that. Ideally I just love to eat asparagus roasted but I wanted to make something a bit fancier. Instead of this being the last thing I would make (and probably waiting until the leeks were too soft to eat), I made it first! And it was so worth the little bit of effort that was put forth. Oh, and can I say? I LOVE MARTHA STEWART. I like any woman who is a bitch, gets shit done and makes amazing recipes like this.

Here are my notes:

-- First, the quiche crust. I used this pie crust recipe from Martha Stewart that was suggested on the website. This is my new go to pie crust. It was flaky, light and buttery. All the things that are needed in a quiche and any and all sweet and savory options.
-- Instead of 1 T. of butter, I just used olive oil. There is plenty of butter in the crust as it is.
-- I used skim milk instead of half-and-half. I think it made for a slightly more watery texture at the end but I don't particularly like the richness of half-and-half, so I always skim milk instead.
-- Instead of Gruyere (which is delicious), I used Swiss instead which is a. cheaper, b. more widely available in supermarkets and c. is similar to Gruyere. I think you could honestly use any kind of cheese here.

Even after downing a super sweet Pina Colada and a pile of homemade guacamole, I still had room for two slices of this quiche. It was like sunshine shaking hands with a rainbow inside of my mouth. In other words, the crust was buttery and flaky, the inside was cheesy and rich (but not too much), so it was a wonderful balance of flavors. I know I say this about almost all of the recipes I show you, but this is one I would recommend making ASAP. And since asparagus is in season now, I would suggest making it even sooner than ASAP. Whatever that is. : )

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vegan Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toasted Coconut 5/5 Spoons

Finally back to review!

So I tried to make these ALL vegan but my local grocery store does not carry Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (jerks). I definitely have cut down on my dairy consumption in the last week or so and I'm pretty proud of myself for that. I'm avoiding cereal so I don't use skim milk, have been making smoothies with almond milk and soy yogurt and want to make dairy-free calzones this week.

(Photos courtesy of Everybody Likes Sandwiches)

It was my birthday on May 1st and I turned 29. I won't get into birthdays because I think I take a much more cynical view than I should. It has nothing to do with getting older, it has more to do with the pressure of doing something awesome on your "special day" and other things. Typically I would have made some chocolate concoction but as soon as I found these vegan coconut cupcakes, I was ready to rock.

Here are my notes:

-- I used 3/4 c. sugar instead of a full cup. I think next time I could cut down a tad to 2/3.
-- As any baker has done before, I forgot a major ingredient. THE SALT! I was so mad at myself when I realized it but honestly I don't think it was the worst mistake ever. It might have been nice with it but it was still nice without it.
-- Instead of white vinegar I used apple cider, it's pretty much what I always use.

This cakes were tender and chewy but I wouldn't necessarily say overly coconut-y. I think next time I will toast the coconut that is added to the batter but overall, these were totally wonderful. And heaven help me, I will remember to only fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way to the top. It is one of my bad habits.

Another wonderful thing that came out of this recipe was being able to finally perfect my cream cheese frosting. It is crazy easy but does something that you wouldn't expect! Here we go:

1 8 ounce container cream cheese, cold (Not room temp! It is a much firmer frosting that way. I used low-fat, you could really use non-fat or full fat, whatever you wish here.)
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temp (This definitely needs to be soft.)
2/3 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 t. vanilla

Cream the cheese and butter with a hand held mixer on low to start (don't get it all over yourself!). Up the speed until you get a nice cohesive creamy thick looking mix. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate. Then add the sugar 1/3 c. at a time until all looks well and it is nice and thick and well integrated.

That was easy, huh? Toasting coconut is even easier. Take about 1/3 c. of coconut and place it in a dry skillet over med-low heat. Do not crank the heat or you will have a gross burnt mess. Stir every 30 seconds until the coconut is almost all brown but specks of white still show through. It should take about 4 minutes. Let it cool before sprinkling on top of your cupcakes.

Obviously I think you know how to put a cupcake + frosting + toasted coconut all together. When these are finished they are so beautiful. I almost wanted to take all kinds of food porn pics of them but decided against it because the smell was too intoxicating.