Monday, January 28, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Corn & Mushroom Chowder!



I don’t think the picture does this soup justice, its so much better in person. Just the aroma alone will make you want to eat the whole thing! The medley of corn, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and chicken mixed into a creamy soup that gives off just a kick of spice from the chipotle pepper. Oh yum!

Originally I wanted to try the soup recipe I had pinned on Pinterest (Brown Eyed Baker) but then after reading through her recipe and her inspiration for making the soup, I decided to tweak it a bit more to make it even more friendly for those health conscience individuals like myself.


When given the option, I almost never eat canned goods/meals anymore. A lot of times they’re not only filled with loads of sodium but also lacks depth and not as healthy. Maybe I’m just being picky but why not make food with fresh ingredients? Eat food as it was intended to be consumed and that’s not out of a can. I preach, but I still fall victim to the convenience of processed foods though I really try not to as often as I can.

With all that said, though this soup is healthier than most creamy chowders and its canned counter parts, its still on the fattier side of things. If you’re really good, which I’m not because I LOVE cheese, then you can probably tweak the recipe to make it even more healthy and even vegetarian! Just take out the chicken, cheese, and crème fraiche! It’s packed with flavor, so even without the added creaminess from the cheese and crème fraiche, its still an excellent soup. I tasted it at multiple steps along the way, so trust me, its good.

What I love about it is that it doesn’t depend on butter or cream or flour to make the soup creamy and thick, my secret? A blender and potatoes; I love using potatoes as a base for my creamy soups! Its low in fat, brings on board its own load of nutrients, and it doesn’t take anything away from the soup! 

Now enough chit chat from me, here is how you can make your own:


Ingredients:
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce, chopped
  • 1 tbsp adobe sauce (from can of chipotle pepper)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 Portobello mushroom (medium to large), sliced
  • 6 small potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup corn (frozen or fresh)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups of milk (low fat is okay)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 2 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 1 -2 cup Monterey/cheddar cheese mix
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Ground black pepper

Procedures:

    1. In a medium to large pan, sauté together bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and corn in a little bit of olive oil. Season with garlic salt, ground cumin, thyme, ground black pepper, and oregano. Set aside
    2. In a medium pot, bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a boil, add potatoes and ½ of the sauté veggies mix into the pot and turn the heat down to medium/low and let it simmer for approx 20 minutes, stirring once in a while
    3. Once the potatoes are tender, scope approx 1/3 of the potatoes back out and set aside.
    4. In a food processor or in batches in a blender, purée the soup mixture and return it to the pot.
    5. Add in 2 cups of milk and bring to a broil, then bring back down to a simmer and add the rest of the veggie mixture and potatoes into the soup. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stir periodically or the soup will start to stick to the bottom of the pan.
    6. Add in chicken, adobe sauce, cheese, and chipotle pepper and simmer for 5 more minutes and until the cheese is well mixed into the soup
    7. Remove soup from heat and stir in the crème fraiche
 It’s winter time, so load up on the soups!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hot Pastrami Sandwich!

Its scary but I guess this is how my brain likes to function... as I was enjoying my sandwich last time (smoked salmon grilled cheese) the inner wheels were already turning and I'm already thinking about my next meal (I'm still eating!). Food is never really ever too far from my mind, I can probably think about it all day and night and it'll never get old.


So as I was gnawing away at my sandwich, here is what I came up with for this time around: take out the smoked salmon (for all those non fish lovers out there) and replace with some warm pastrami and alfalfa sprouts for some crunch! Doesn't that sound great?! Well leave it to me to forget to buy the sprouts when I went to the store and this is why all things must be written on a list... it was a sad moment when I realized my sprouts are proudly sitting at the supermarket and not here at home with me... oh well the sandwich was still really good regardless.

What do you need? Nothing too fancy:
  • 2 slices of bread ( I used rye bread)
  • a few slices of pastrami
  • handful of alfalfa sprouts (or some mixed springs/spinach would be great too)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • olive oil
  • garlic salt
  • basil
  • ground black pepper (optional)
  • cheese of choice ( I used 2 slices of Habanero Jack and 1 slice of Garlic White Cheddar)
  • sweet and spicy mustard (optional

 How to assemble?
  1. Mix olive oil with basil and garlic salt, then using a pastry brush lightly brush the outsides of the bread. 
  2. Warm up the pastrami before putting in the sandwich by giving it a quick sear on the skillet and then setting it aside for assembly later.
  3. Place one slice of bread onto the skillet (medium heat), oil side down, and then layer accordingly: 1.5 slices of cheese, sliced avocado, alfalfa sprouts, pastrami, sweet and spicy mustard (optional), a bit of cracked ground pepper, 1.5 slices of cheese, and top slice of bread with oiled side facing up wards. 
  4. Once assembly is completed, flip the sandwich so that the other side can be toasted and cheese from the other side is melted.
  5. Remove from heat, cut in half, and enjoy!
Recipe looks familiar? Well that because out of convenience and laziness, I just copied and pasted, and made some minor tweaks to the other sandwich recipe, why make more work when you don't have to right?!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Torte!


(printable recipe here)
Let’s just say I had a very productive three day weekend. By productive I mean in the kitchen because otherwise I’ve been quite unproductive…unless you count trying to clear out the DVR as being productive…yah didn’t think so…

One day, about 2-3 weeks ago, I accidentally landed on the PBS channel while channel surfacing, and found one of the best public cooking show ever: America’s Test Kitchen! I should really watch PBS more often, how did I have never known this show ever existed!? The shame! Anyways, I was hooked and decided to start recording their 30 minute segments.

It’s really a great show if you’re a semi nerd (okay maybe full on nerd) like me when it comes to cooking. I like to understand the science behind everything, and this show gives me that plus more! Integrating the 2 things I like the most, science and food, what more can a person ask for?! 


Alright I think its time to stop raving about the show and move onto to what I learned from their episode on chocolates! Yup, an entire episode on chocolates! The recipe they shared? You guessed it, chocolate raspberry torte!

What I love about that recipe is not only was it easy to construct, the ingredients were simple and fresh. Don’t get discouraged with the instructions, it’s actually really easy. Watching how they made it first and then looking at the recipe made it much more approachable. Since you probably don’t have the episode handy (though maybe YouTube or PBS will have a clip), I’ll list some handy tips I saw from that episode/personal tips:


  1. They used a food processor for almost everything that needed blending, beating, or mixing. How convenient for the average lazy person. It definitely shaves off time AND they didn’t have a clean processor each time either, so no worries as long as you follow the instructions. I didn’t want to dig out my food processor (which is still packed away… yes it’s been months but did I not mention I get pretty lazy..?) I used my blender instead and it works!
  2. Almond meal works just fine if you don’t want to spend time grounding up your own almonds…clearly I cheated a little and bought almond meal.
  3. I didn’t line the bottom of my pan with parchment paper and it came out just fine, although I did use a spring foam pan (did not leak but I’d suggest putting an extra sheet pan on the bottom just in case) and I also removed the torte as soon as it wasn’t scorching hot.
  4. I used raspberry preserves with seeds instead of jam and it’s just fine as well. 
This recipe is very forgiving, so have fun with it and enjoy. How does it taste? Well, first of all, after it’s all assembled, it looks great! Second, the taste is fantastic! If you love your dark chocolate, then this is your torte; super rich and full of flavor with a hint of tart and sweetness from the raspberries. Because it calls for just a handful of ingredients it really doesn’t have anything clouding its chocolaty flavors from shining through. Enough from me raving about it; give it a try! It’s a project you’ll be proud of and people impressed by!

Please Note: This recipe is obtained from the America’s Test Kitchen website.



Monday, January 21, 2013

Smoked Salmon Avocado Grilled Cheese!

What a Monday! Presidential Inauguration and Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday, a personal first for me that I was able to enjoy the best of both worlds. Normally I'm at work/school (I haven't been alive that long to witness that many!)  when the president gets his inauguration. Even though I almost never have any interest in politics or its activities, it was nice to have it welcome me this morning while I prepped my breakfast.


Yes I said breakfast! Whoever said one had to stick to a standard breakfast menu?
  1. That's boring
  2. I'm Asian and we can eat anything any time of the day. 
  3. Maybe I'm just a pig in the morning...what? I'm starving!
Who can blame me? The last time I had food was probably more than 10 hours ago! Breakfast was called breakfast for a reason, Break Fast! So why not break into the day with something full and nourishing. I'm weird, as much as I like my cereal and milk, it never quite does the trick for me...I almost always end up being hungry in about an hour or so... that's lame. My solution, eat a full on meal.

Today's special (a much more glorified breakfast than when I have to go to work and usually end up eating scrambled eggs)
Smoked Salmon Avocado Grilled Cheese Sandwich!
Ingredients:
  • 2 slices of bread ( I used rye bread)
  • smoked salmon
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • olive oil
  • garlic salt
  • basil
  • ground black pepper (optional)
  • cheese of choice ( I used 2 slices of Habanero Jack and 1 slice of Garlic White Cheddar)
  • honey mustard (optional)

Procedures:
  1. Mix olive oil with basil and garlic salt, then using a pastry brush lightly brush the outsides of the bread.
  2. Place one slice of bread onto the skillet (medium heat), oil side down, and then layer accordingly: 1.5 slices of cheese, sliced avocado, smoked salmon, honey mustard (optional), a bit of cracked ground pepper, 1.5 slices of cheese, and top slice of bread with oiled side facing up wards. 
  3. Once assembly is completed, flip the sandwich so that the other side can be toasted and cheese from the other side is melted.
  4. Remove from heat, cut in half, and enjoy! 
Breakfast is served. Warm, gooey, and slightly crispy on the outside, I'd say it was a successful breakfast. Though I don't think the smoked salmon I bought was all that great, I've had better but nonetheless, still yummy. As I was pigging out I realized, I think I might have reached (maybe even exceeded) my daily limit of omega-3 fatty acids for the day with this sandwich... could I have packed it with any more fattiness?! Olive oil, avocado, salmon... geez "lets not go overboard here" ...oh well too late.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NFL Championship Weekend paired with the Ultimate Chicken Sausage Hot Dog

Its the Championship games and what better way to enjoy them than with a great lunch!
However first and foremost:
AWESOME JOB SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS!! WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!

*Some moments are best when shared. Please ignore the poor photo quality, as the quality of the moment was more important*

and of course food is great too:  
The Ultimate Chicken Sausage Hot Dog

Sure you can enjoy the usual game day foods: hot dogs, burgers, chips, etc...but why settle for normal when you can have extraordinary!? Okay so a bit of exaggeration but the bottom line is everything can be so much more interesting with just a few more ingredients to jazz up the ordinary.


To be honest though this lunch was also a bit driven by my small crave for carbs this week... but hey food still needs to be consumed while I watch my team play. Sadly no one else in my family are big on football, so I'm a lone wolf on this one. Nonetheless, their benefit was free lunch and being fed.


You would think making hot dogs would be a lot faster...but it took me a whole hour to get it together... though my mom mopping the kitchen while I was trying to cook and the game playing probably didn't help concentration much... so I guess the lesson is try to cook when there are less distractions.


Now let's discuss ingredients:
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, cut into stripes
  • 1 Diced onion
  • Slightly healthier version of hot dog buns (Trader Joe's Four Multigrain buns)
  • 1 pack of Smoked Apple Chardonnay Chicken Sausage (or meat of choice)
  • Garlic Olive Oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Basil Flakes
  • 1 package of Trader Joe's Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Chipotle mustard
In case you couldn't tell, I like shopping at Trader Joe's quite a bit, but really any store will supply their own version of all these ingredients. There are so many different things you can do with an ordinary hot dog, plain mustard and ketchup are a thing of the past! Well at least it is for today and if I had a grill that would've made these so much better! Unfortunately since I do not, the pan will have to suffice.

Procedures:
  1. In a small bowl, mix some olive oil (about 2-3 tbsp) with garlic salt and basil, then with a pastry brush, lightly brush on the oil mix onto the insides of the bun.
  2. In a medium size saute pan, or any pan with a flat surface, place the coat buns face down until it becomes crispy and lightly browned. Place aside in a square baking pan lined with foil.
  3. Spread a light layer of mustard on the inside of the buns (optional)
  4. Slice the sausages down the middle and then heat them up in a pan just like the buns and once slightly browned and crispy, place inside the buns.
  5. Place jalapeno strips inside the sausage.
  6. Saute the onions and then add into the hot dog.
  7. Warm  the spinach & artichoke dip and layer on top of the onions
  8. Sprinkle a few more bits of diced onions on top
  9. Add cheese (optional)
  10. Bake in the oven for about 5 minute at 325 degrees.
  11. Enjoy with the game!
Great game, great food, great day! 


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Adventures in San Francisco


Such a beautiful and fun city but such a pain to drive in hence I rarely make an appearance however, I love it when I do. Clearly from that previous note, I am very much a suburban kind of driver and hate anything to do with city traffic...luckily I don't have to deal with that too often. Random tangent aside, San Francisco!


Before I go further in with this post, unlike most 20 year old folks, when I say "San Francisco!", I mean "Yay yummy food and gorgeous places for me to take pictures" not: "yay party time!" I am indeed a boring 80 yr old woman inside.


Now back to business, the itinerary was intense but was successful. I managed to grab some yummy food, take some great pictures, and most importantly had a wonderful day in the bay. Started the day with a visit to one of the many museums inside Golden Gate Park, deYoung Museum, which included art exhibits of ancient cultural pieces to contemporary. Personally I prefer art/craft pieces that have cultural and historical meaning, not a big fan of contemporary art. I'm sorry I just can't quite appreciate a blank canvas as much as a ceremonial mask of an ancient civilization. Its like eating the peel of an orange verses orange marmalade... not quite the same. Each having their distinctive characteristics but that's when preference really plays a role.


Moving right along, the day continued to Fisherman's Wharf. What a site! Thank you weather for holding up, absolutely stunning. Great sight, great food, and a great way to end the day.


and here's a couple more pictures for eye candy:

Ghirardelli chocolate factory? You betcha I stopped by! There's a chocolate festival that takes place here around September every year, going to keep penciling that into the planner until one day when I can finally make it!

Just another quiet day at the pier.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013! Baked Brie & Peach Jam Pastry Puffs



Baked Brie & Peach Jam Pastry Puffs

Happy New Years!  
What better way to welcome 2013 than with some delicious treats right?!

Hopefully 2012 has been as “flavorful” for you as it has been for me. Though not free of speeds bumps, the important thing is getting through it all and moving on. Life is a roller coaster and its how we make of it. It can be an exciting ride or a horror show and since we have no choice in getting on the ride, we mind as well make the best of it!  


Now that said, let’s get on with my newest experiment! I’ve always wanted to play with puff pastry dough so when I saw it at Trader Joe's the other day, I thought any time as good as now. Of course like always, there was no plan, I just wanted to play with puff pastry dough…so what to do with it..?? Several days later, as I was rummaging through the fridge, I came across a round of brie I had purchased about a week ago… looked over and saw the peach jam my friend had given me… suddenly a light went on! I’ve always seen and heard people rave about baked brie with fruit jams/fruits, though I’ve never really had any for myself, it was time to break into something new.

They are divine! The warm brie mixed with peach jam, savory and sweet, encased by flaky puff pastry will make your taste buds want to dance! Super easy to make but looks fancy enough no one will know the difference! Happy 2013!

Ingredients:
  • Peach Jam (or fruit jam of choice)
  • Brie round
  • Puff Pastry (1 sheet will yield 9-12 depending on how you cut the puff pastry, I divided it into 9 pieces)


Procedure: 

    1. Thaw puff pastry via instructions on package (normally can be done by moving the puff pastry from freezer to the fridge and let it sit over night OR thaw for 2 hours in room temperature).
    2. Divide puff pastry into approximately 9 equal pieces (4”x 4”) or if you want to have smaller pieces, can be divided into 12 pieces
    3. Slice the brie into thick slices (less than ¼”) and surface area of  approx 1” x 1”
    4. Lay the brie at the center of the puff pastry, add a dollop of jam, place another piece of brie on top, and then finish with another dollop of jam.
    5. Wrap the brie by folding in the 4 corners and pinch the edges close (note: the edges will open up when baked)
    6. Set oven to 400 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.