Sunday, March 31, 2013

Takoyaki!

I don't know why but I had a sudden crave for some takoyaki, little spheres of yummy goodness. Of course, in order to truly appreciate this little treat, you do have to keep an open mind. Why? Well for one thing the main ingredient is octopus, and if you're really not a seafood fan, then it's only going to get more interesting from here on forward. From octopus to kelp to bonito fish, you name it!

Now if I haven't grossed anyone out yet, then please do continue to read on. Takoyaki is a Japanese spherical snack (because calling them balls just seems slightly inappropriate) filled with small pieces of octopus (tako = octopus hence the name takoyaki). Made with its own special pan (like how waffles have their own "waffle iron") these little buggers have a takoyaki maker/skillet/pan which is much like an Ebelskvier pan...which I own (Danish Pancakes) and thought I could use instead, Wrong. More on that later, but for now lets start from the beginning.

About a month ago, I went to a Japanese restaurant with a couple of friends and ordered takoyaki as an appetizer. I've heard of them but never had one before, so I was curious at what all the hype was about. Turns out, hype was right, they were good! Not like anything I've had before, I've expect the insides to be more dense but it wasn't, instead it was bordering liquidy soft, in a good way of course. Perhaps this was the stem of my crave, so I set forth my search for a recipe. 

The recipes I came across, I felt like I was reading Japanese, what is this?! What is that?! I don't think I've had this much trouble figuring out a recipe ever, mostly because I didn't know what a chuck of the ingredients were! So you have your standard eggs, flour, and water, but then you get into things like "dashi" and "konbu" and "katsuo" and a huge question mark slapped me on the face. What was a simple searched turned into a very educational experience but I wish the recipes I found online would explain what those things were rather than me searching through a bunch of different mediums to find their definitions. So in order to make the next lazy person happy, I'm going to take the liberty of defining all the ingredients that will be used for this recipe so that when you have to search for the items, you'll know what they are and you won't be as confused.

Now once ingredients were defined, there was a matter of where to obtain that list of foreign materials... I am lucky enough to have a Japanese Market, Mitsuwa, available to me so I just went there and figured forget trying to be frugal this time. I don't even know what they normally cost anyways and trying to hunt down all these Japanese ingredients elsewhere might mean I'd have to drive to multiple Asian markets, the cost difference would've been made up with gas and time consumed. That said, if you don't have a Japanese market to go to then I would say you'd still have a bit of luck with most Asian markets. The reason why I suggest going to a Japanese market is because once you're there, you're now in Japan. Trying to find ingredients when everything is in Japanese can definitely make things a challenge. Thank goodness I was still in the US, the nutrition labels were in English so I'd pick up something I'd think is something and flip it over to see what ingredients were present and sometimes they have a rough English translation of the item. On rare occasion like this, I was so grateful I can read basic Chinese because where English failed me, Chinese came to my recuse because Japanese Kanji characters and most traditional Chinese characters share the same meaning. As you can probably deduce, I was in the market for quite some time. Finally though, my shopping task is complete. Ingredients compiled. 

Cooking tools, like I said earlier, I decided to use an Ebelskvier pan which is sufficient but not the pan you want to be using. Takoyaki has its own pan, the round cooking wells are about half the size of the cooking wells on an Ebelskvier which means less batter per ball and batter will hold its shape as the batter is on the thinner side. Cooking it on an Ebelskvier pan required that I use more batter in order for the sphere to be filled completely however, it wasn't able to hold its structural integrity once it was off the hot iron. Flatten takoyakis just doesn't seem as fun to consume, definitely lost some flare. Though just as tasty, not as fun. That being the case, I say if you enjoy these little octo-spheres, invest in a takoyaki pan, they're pretty affordable. While I was at the Japanese market, they were $18 which I was tempted with but decided I would try my way first, which also means I'll probably get a pan next time I'm back there. Amazon has them for about $20-$25. They tend to be cheaper in the Asian stores if you can locate them.


Takoyaki
Makes approx 60 balls (or 30 on an Ebelskvier)
Ingredients:
Batter
  • 300g all-purpose flour (cake flour recommended)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 liter (4 1/4 cups) of cold water
  • 3 grams salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon konbu dashi (soup) stock granules (dry kelp broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon katsuo dashi stock granules (dry fish broth, didn’t specify what kind of fish)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
Fillings
  • cubes of boiled octopus (tako), or your choice of cooked, cubed protein (you could use shrimp, squid, chicken, hot dogs, etc)
  • sliced green onions
Toppings
  • Japanese mayonnaise (apparently there is a difference, I didn’t buy this but I’ve seen it and it looks different from regular American Mayonnaise)
  • Takoyaki sauce (you can buy this in a bottle at most Asian groceries, it usually has a picture of takoyaki on the front)
  • bonito flakes (bonito is a type of fish that shares a Family with tuna and mackerels though often mistaken as skipjack tuna, its not)
  • aonori (powdered seaweed) or seaweed strips

Procedures:

1. Beat the eggs and add the water, and stock granules. Add the egg-water mixture to the flour and salt and mix well. Heat up your pan and oil the individual compartments with an oil brush or use a paper towel dipped in oil.

2. Pour the batter into the individual compartments up to the top. Don’t worry if the batter over flows a bit. Add green onions and your protein (octopus pieces)

3. After a while, the bottom of the takoyakis will be cooked through. At this point, you can use a skewer to turn them over 90 degrees. If you can’t turn the takoyaki easily, it probably needs to cook for a bit longer. Wait a minute or so and then do another 90 degree turn. The balls will become easier to turn the more they cook.

4. The takoyaki are done when they’re lightly brown and crispy on the outside and they turn easily in their holes. Overall I’d say it takes about 10 minutes per batch, from start to finish.

5. To serve, place the takoyaki on a plate and drizzle with Japanese mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce. Generously sprinkle on the bonito flakes and aonori. Enjoy, but be careful, the insides are hot!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Zesty Almond Cakes!


A few weeks back, I was given a task to set up a tasting to show case Don Julio 1942 tequila. I’ve never been much of a drinker and though I work in the industry there is still much to be learned and when it comes to tequila, I’m a complete novice at best.
 
When I was first handed the task, I was so excited, I wanted to be creative, to have different types of drinks that I can mix with it, etc. Well that clearly shows how little I know of Don Julio 1942 as you will find out later. I’ve known that this is no ordinary tequila. It’s elegant and classic, a contender to all good tequilas out in the market. I’ve only had 1942 in a margarita. My first margarita in fact! After that, no margarita can compare but outside of those 2 simple facts, knowledge ends.

Turns out after hours of searching, the best way to enjoy Don Julio 1942 is JUST Don Julio 1942, neat. It’s also interesting to note that it should be served in a flute shaped glass, and sipped, much like wine. Who knew tequila was so fancy!

So much for being creative, all my mixed drinks ideas out the window…then I made a discovery. During my mad search, I came across something very intriguing, food pairings! Now we’ve all heard of wine and food pairing but very rarely do you come across spirits and food pairing, apparently there is a whole world to be discovered. Creativity not at a lost after all!


Well if that isn’t a calling, I don’t know what is. Keep the tequila simple but no one ever said it couldn’t have a partner. That’s when my Zesty Almond Cakes were born! I'm so happy they turned out well. Originally I wanted to make one of the recipes I found on the Don Julio website, specifically, the almond fritters, but glancing it over I found out frying was involved...which means super high in calories which nowadays really turn people off. I wanted people to taste the tequila and try my food, so in a situation where recipes don't meet my demands what do I do...? Make my own with their ingredient list as guidence of course! 

The flavor of these cakes are fantastic, the citrus fruits from the lemon and orange zests shines straight through but never over powering. Light almond flavors and paired with the tequila was magical. The tequila is so smooth with hints of caramel, vanilla, and tropical fruits. Its definitely a tequila worth investing in if you're a tequila fan. Though the tequila is on the pricer side ($130 at Bevmo), you are definitely paying for quality. As for the name 1942, that is to pay tribute to the year Don Julio Gonzales started his journey in tequila crafting. 

Cakes turned out well, tasting went great! Bon Appetite!

Zesty Almond Cakes


Adapted from: almond fritters
Makes 36 mini cupcakes
Ingredients:
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup cream or milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 3 egg whites
  • 5 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of ½ lemon and ½ orange (approx ¼ cup)
Side note: rinds and zests are the same thing
Procedures:
  1. Mix almond flour, cream, and sugar
  2. Slowly incorporate yolks, salt, rinds, juice, extract, and flour into the almond mixture.
  3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks and fold into the almond batter
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Insert toothpick to test, if it comes out clean, the cakes are done.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Another Cake Story: Magic Cake aka Chiffon Egg Custard Cake



I love the idea of magic, not the pulling a rabbit out of hat kind of magic, but magic and if only it truly exists. Perhaps it does but probably not to the degree we imagine it to be or as shown on the television and movies. Oh but one can at least fantasize can’t we??

Well at least I do, I have a particular soft spot for that type of genre whether I get to read them in books or watching them on TV. I’m not crazy gothic or anything like that but I’m just intrigued, witches, vampires, wizards, werewolves, and mythical creatures/beings and the whole idea of magic surrounding that. All the different stories and concept, it’s never ending and that’s what so great about it. Each person can take it whichever way they like: different stories, powers, beings, etc. It’s a nice escape from reality. This is also the reason why I like science fiction so much too. Why not let our imagination run wild?! Of course, like with everything else, in moderation.


So this really have nothing to do with what I made other than the word magic. Yup it’s called Magic Cake. It’s not really magic, more like food chemistry OR shall I say “it’s the magic of science!” I like that last statement, the magic of science. Science is a lot like magic and maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to sci-fi and magic, it’s the fantasy version of real life. So Magic Cake it shall be.


How the food chemistry works I’d have to go and research that myself but I suspect since the egg whites were added in last that even though it may have appeared to be mixed with the rest of the batter, the more dense custard-like (part with the sugar and yolks) still separated during the baking process and being more dense ended up on the bottom while the cake layer that’s left on top is from the part of batter that was mainly egg whites. If that didn’t make any sense pretend you just took a egg custard recipe and a chiffon cake recipe and mashed it together, chiffon egg custard cake. Hmm I like the sounds of that, Chiffon Egg Custard Cake. Okay from now on, that’s what it’s going to be also known as because Magic Cake is also pretty awesome sounding.


What does it taste like? If you’ve ever had a Chinese egg tart, this is like a cake version of it. I swear the custard part tastes like the filling in the egg tarts. Awesome! It may appear I’ve blindly sort of figured out how to make the egg tart filling. I’m guessing it’s either with less egg whites or no egg whites at all, experiment for another time. If you have no clue what I’m saying, just ignore that previous sentence. The custard has a mild sweet egg-y flavor while the cake part is very light, much like chiffon cake.  

 Adapted from Jo Cooks: Magic Cake 
Makes approx 9-12 servings
Ingredients:
  • 4 eggs at room temp, separated
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ½ cup and 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick butter, melted (approx 45 seconds in the microwave)
  • ¾ cup flour (I used cake flour)
  • 2 cup milk
  • Powder sugar for dusting
Procedures:
    1. Whip the egg white until stiff peaks form, set aside
    2. Beat egg yolks and sugar together until it reaches a light yellow color, add in melted butter and water, beat until well incorporated. Add in flour and mix well.
    3. Add in milk slowly about 1 cup at a time each time mixing well before adding the next portion. Once milk is all added, beat until everything is well mixed.
    4. Fold or stir in egg whites
    5. Bake at 325 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until it is golden brown

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mushroom Spinach Risotto with Garlic Chicken

A dish much inspired by watching too much and playing catch up with this season's Hell's Kitchen on my DVR.  It's a show less about cooking than people needing a reality check and eating a piece of humble pie given by Chef Ramsey. I use to enjoy this show quite a bit and not because Chef Ramsey curses at every living thing in sight but because of what a genius concept it was to hire a chef. If I was going to open a world class restaurant I'd make sure whoever I hire doesn't buckle down under pressure and if you can handle a screaming cursing man while cooking, I'm pretty sure you'd be able to handle most pressure simulating scenarios. 

 These recent seasons, however, are starting to be more of trying to impress the viewers (very obviously might I add) than about finding the right chef for a world class kitchen. Seriously is it necessary to put all the contestants on the hot sit in front of a live audience who have no appreciation for food what so ever while the Chef judges each person's "signature" dish? I can accept that if Chef Ramsey spits out the food that it's probably a bad dish but having the audience laugh when that happens is just down right cruel and disrespectful. As if it's not bad enough Chef Ramsey hates it, lets now have people laugh and point as well. Granted some of the contestants are pretty obnoxious but there's no need to stoop down to that level.

A few episodes of badly cooked risotto appetizers later, I suddenly had the urge to make my own, not the bad ones of course. Lobster risotto, doesn't that just make your mouth water? Well unfortunately I don't have any lobster but I do have some arborio rice to make my own risotto of some sort. After browsing through Pinterest for some inspirations I settled on making mushroom spinach risotto with garlic chicken a recipe much similar to this one: Beer Risotto with Mushroom Garlic Chicken by How Sweet It Is. When I have beer lying around one day, I'd definitely want to try her recipe out. Sounds incredible but since I didn't have any beer, I decided to use white cooking wine instead and change a couple of other things here and there. That's the fun in cooking isn't it? Taking a recipe and making it your own.


Since this was going to be my main lunch meals for work for the upcoming week I felt that mushrooms was just not enough for veggies, so of course being the crazy spinach lover that I am, I tossed in 2 cups of spinach to boost the nutritional value of the dish up just a tad. If I'm going to be bad, I mind as well be good about it. A very tasty result and nutritionally sound. I've got my 2 super foods, spinach and mushrooms all in one dish. My body will appreciate.



Makes 4-5 servings
Ingredients:
For garlic chicken:
  • ¾ cup of white cooking wine
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • About 16 oz of chicken breast tenders
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced or 1 shallot
  • 1-2 tbsp cream (optional)
For risotto:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cup of Arborio rice
  • 1 cup of white cooking wine
  • ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp cream (optional)

Procedures:
For garlic chicken
(Note: onions, mushrooms, and spinach are cooked with chicken)
  1. Heat a medium to skillet over high medium heat and add in olive oil and garlic, cook for about 30 seconds and add in chicken breasts. Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes making sure to season with salt and pepper
  2. Add in onions, mushrooms, spinach, and cooking wine. I sautéd separately and then added to the chicken but this method works as well.
  3. If the chicken is cooked after spinach has wilted, then this portion is finished. If not then finish by sticking into the oven and bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes. I used chicken breast tender pieces so they were done cooking and I avoided the whole oven process.
For risotto:
  1. In a separate pan, heat olive oil and add in garlic, lightly sauté for 30 seconds. Add in Arborio rice and cook with garlic and oil for about 3-4 minutes or until it’s slightly translucent.
  2. Add in cooking wine, stirring every once in a while until all the liquid has been absorbed. Then start adding in the chicken stock one cup at a time and each time stirring and waiting until the liquid is fully absorbed before adding in the next cup. Amount of liquid varies from person to person depending on preference of how well they want the rice to be. I used about 1 cup cooking wine and 3 cups chicken stock.
  3. Once it’s near finished, take about ½ of the sauté mushrooms, onions, and spinach from the garlic chicken (without the chicken pieces) and stir into the rice.
  4. Stir in cream and Parmesan cheese.
  5. Top and serve with garlic chicken medley.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tuscan Garlic Chicken


A few days ago I ate at Olive Garden for the very first time. It must be weird to hear I've never eaten there before but it's true. I grew up on the poorer side of the spectrum, my family never really ate out. When we did, it was either a holiday coming up or someone's birthday and even then eating out was getting things like KFC. It sounds pathetic but I don't think I'd give up my past for anything. My past is what makes me the person I am today. It has given me valuable perspective on life and it makes me appreciate all that I have today. Nothing comes easy in life and if anyone thinks otherwise, then perhaps its time to get some perspective. 


I've always understood the value of money, among other things, and so I understand that not being able to eat out or buy new things was not something my parents wanted, it was because there were other more important things to attend to. I guess then now that I've gotten myself a nice college education and a lovely stable career, it's time I can indulge. Many people don't understand this indulgence, wanting to buy cute "toys and trinkets" or trying new eateries no matter what type of food/place it is, it makes me seem childish which parts of me are but really its to feed that inner part of me that never had the opportunity to enjoy those things growing up. I've got a lot of catching up to do! I say all this but I clearly still spend my money very conservatively. I still live like a poor college student 90% of the time. The other 10%, well that's where my pure indulgence comes in, food and traveling, cooking and crafting, this 10% drives my mom nuts. She worries, but I've got this! You would never see me buy anything I can't afford. Don't spend what you don't have.


I'm obviously not even talking about food anymore, so let's pull back from my side sob childhood story tangent and get back to the reality, my experience at Olive Garden. It was what anyone would expect from a big chain restaurant and I'm sure most of the US population has been to an Olive Garden at one point or another so I don't need to go into details of my personal experience. In short, it reminded me of Apple Bees and Cheesecake Factory. Not an award winning menu but decent enough that its not terrible either. Nutritionally of course, once you're eating out, you can pretty much wave that card goodbye no matter what you see on the menu. Nutrition is not just about the calories and many people forget that, there's also things like sodium, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and etc. Just because it's low calorie doesn't mean its good for you. Fruit juices seems harmless and healthy right? Wrong. If you want the loaded nutrients of fruits, you have to go to the source and that's the fruit itself. If you look at a carton of juice, a serving will have probably more than 30g of sugar, trust me I know. I've been very attentive on that subject matter but that's another story for another day.


Okay I swear we're going to get back on track with this post. The whole reason Olive Garden was brought up was because when my friend and I went, we tried out the 2 entrees for $25 deal and really you could probably feed a family of 4-5 with the amount of food you get. Me and her had our soup and appetizer, 1 entree between the both of us and we could barely move after that. There was still leftover soup and 1 entree almost completely untouched. I was a bit sad because the other entree was pretty tasty. I had a bite to taste before calling the quits. I bet you can guess the dish. Yup, it was the Tuscan Garlic Chicken. I had a taste and since then I've been slightly craving it so I figured since I have some chicken breast tenders in my fridge that needs attention, I was going to try to make my own. I wanted to get a general idea of what they put in the dish so I decided to check their website menu for a quick dish description and to my greatest surprise, they have the recipe posted! Well isn't that just perfect. A quick glance and several thoughts came into mind:
  1. No wonder it was so much in calories... 2 cups of heavy cream AND 1 cup of Parmesan Cheese in addition to cooking the chicken in large amounts of oil!
  2. I'm going to need to make this less artery clogging, time to sub some stuff out.
  3.  Yay! A restaurant dish I was craving that I can make at home knowing exactly how to reproduce the flavors with less bad stuff!
With those 3 things in mind, I set to work. It's a rather simple dish and after you cut back on some of the not so healthy prospects of the dish, it's really not too bad. The dish has a fairly large amount of veggies, spinach and red bell peppers, and a clean light protein source, chicken. The white cooking wine does make a difference, no wonder people like cooking with wine so much! I've got to do this more often! I decided to change 1 cup of the heavy cream to low fat milk (didn't seem to make a difference in flavor or consistency) and really I think 1/2 cup of cream is plenty enough. I used 1 cup because I thought I'd use up my leftover cream from many many dishes ago...but there's still about 1/2 cup left... seriously how many dishes will I have to make to use up that dinky pint!!? *sigh* I also changed 1 cup to 1/2 cup Parmesan but its preference what you want. Either way I'm excited this dish turned out extremely well and looks and tastes comparable to the restaurant counterpart if not better. At least better in my eyes because I know mine is less fatty. Personal bonus points! I bet Greek yogurt would be a good heavy cream substitute but I haven't tried that out yet so don't take my word for it just yet.


 Inspired and adapted from Tuscan Garlic Chicken from OliveGarden.com

Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
  • Approx 16oz of boneless chicken breast (tenders best)
  • 1 tbsp flour (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • Approx 7oz pasta of choice (Fettuccini recommended)
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped or minced
  • 1 -2 red bell pepper
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ lb spinach
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • ½ to 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ to 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Procedures:
    1. Cook pasta via package instructions, drain, and set aside
    2. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken breasts over medium-high heat until golden brown and tender. Flavor as needed with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
    3. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan. Add garlic and red pepper and cook for approximately 1 minute. Stir in 1 tbsp flour, wine, spinach, milk, and cream and bring to a boil. Sauce is done when spinach becomes wilted. Complete by stirring in parmesan cheese.
    4. Coat the cooked and drained pasta with ½ the amount of sauce, then top with chicken and remaining sauce. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese if needed.
 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spiced Kettle Corn!

Who doesn't love kettle corn right!? Well okay, maybe I shouldn't start out assuming everyone loves kettle corn because my brother, for one, does not. He's into the super unhealthy, movie theater, drenched with butter, popcorn. I guess for him if it's not artery clogging, it's not delicious, so unfortunately this was not his favorite but that didn't stop him from grabbing a handful anyways.


It's been a while since I've made popcorn the old fashion way; it's been a while since I've made any popcorn for that matter. The last time I think was about a year ago...popcorn is not something I crave very often. Being the frugal (except when it comes to kitchen, craft, or food, then all that goes out the window) spender that I am, I almost never buy popcorn in the theaters plus my body hates me every time I eat that stuff...the butter or grease or whatever the yellow stuff is and my body does not agree very well anymore. As yummy as it once was (probably still is) I prefer to avoid the crap feeling that likes to follow after eating it.


The last time I've had any movie theater popcorn was probably when the 6th Harry Potter movie came out in theaters and I only remember because it was so hilarious. My friend was lucky enough to have won pre-release movie tickets and knowing I was a HUGE Harry Potter fan she decided to take me! Well we got to the theater and since the movie was free, decided we can afford some popcorn... 2 feet before we reached the theater entrance something happens and it was popcorn everywhere! We felt so bad we attempted to ask for a broom so we can clean it up but sadly we were not allow to do that. Even though the employees there kept saying it was okay, deep down I knew it wasn't...deep down I also knew we were going to be part of the fun stories of the day. 


Anyways so what inspired me to pop some corn? Well my friend is back in the area for a bit from her optometry residency and as part of "girl's afternoon" I bought over a movie (Sparkle featuring Jordan Sparks and Whitney Houston) and suggested making some kettle corn for fun. Unfortunately we never got around to making any popcorn just movie. My heart was set on making some kettle corn and once that's set, it was going to take place. Rather than making it with her, I ended up venturing into the kettle corn on my own. Originally I was just going to make the kettle corn from //Kettle Corn//Allrecipes.com which I've made before but then a small light went on, and I thought "what if....I added some spices..? Some ground black pepper, garlic salt, and tiny bit of cumin." What a combination of flavors, sweet and salty with a hint of black pepper and cumin, it's perfect! These also reminded me of the bagged popcorn I've bought at Whole Foods a while back, those were so addicting and now I can make my own, that's always exciting not to have to depend on the store.




Recipe adapted from Kettle Corn from Allrecipes.com
Makes 10 cups
Ingredients:
  • ½ cup un-popped popcorn kernels
  • ¼ cup olive oil (garlic infused even better)
  • ¼ cup of white sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin

Procedures:
    1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, throw in 3 kernels in with the oil and cover the pot. Once the 3 kernels pop that means the oil is hot enough.
    2. Once the oil is hot, stir in the kernels and sugar. Cover the pot and constantly shake the pot to keep the sugar from burning. Lift the pot off the stove once the popping has begun and continue shaking the pot above the fire (lowering once in a while) until the popping begins to cease to once every 2-3 seconds.
    3. Remove from heat and shake until popping has stopped. Lift the lid and add in spices, cover, and then shake some more to incorporate the spices into the popcorn.
    4. Pour into bowl allowing it to cool, stir if necessary to break up large clumps.



Saturday, March 9, 2013

Baked Brie and Raspberry Puffs


I do apologize for the last couple of entries being a bit of a Debbie Downer (sorry if your name happens to be Debbie, I don't know how that ever came about being a negative phrase...) I guess I can just say I've been a bit down as of late but it shall consume me no more. 

With that I'd like to continue praising the magic of exercise. It's amazing that something that causes so much pain (and a bit of suffering) could have such an opposite effect. After the lack of oxygen, muscle strength depletion, and depending on what type of work out you had, the soreness, you come out feeling like a new person and even more weird, you like it! Of course this is all afterwards. During is a whole different story, then you're probably just praying for the moment when you can stop and catch your breath hoping you won't collapse. This mad and insane method is how I am battling my own troubles. Giving myself that extra shot of endorphins.

Recently while I was driving to work, about an hour spent listening to more talk than music early in the mornings, one of the topics the hosts had brought up was types of comfort foods we turn to when upset. I'd have to say I quite disagree with this type of practice. Eating should be the last thing you do when you get upset. When I'm extremely emotional towards something...I never have an appetite. That doesn't mean I've never over eaten before and all I have to say about that is I feel like crap when that's all said and done. Overindulging over something like a bag of chips is usually followed by many hours of discomfort so why, I ask, would you want to do something to add onto your already crappy feelings!? That's terrible! How does eating a pint of ice cream suppose to help you feel better? Sure it's delicious but after eating an entire pint now you've probably added onto your problems. Upset stomach, extra weight, and not to mention your original problem is still there unless of course the problem was not having anything to eat in which case problem solved (not the best of solutions but solved). For most of us, that's not the problem. I guess what I'm trying to convey is, enjoy comfort foods in moderation. Reaching for 12 candy bars will NOT make things better, it will make you sick to your stomach. >> end response

Blogging about my response makes me less of a crazy person than if I started responding to a relatively empty car. Of course, nowadays technology is so advance even if we are talking to ourselves, no one has to know. People will just think you're on the phone.

It's been a bit slow on the cooking front lately as well but that's only because cooking takes up so much time when I do explore a new recipe that if I fill my weekends with plans, I usually don't get much cooking experiments in. No worries, there's still recipes to share. This experiment I'm about to share, I've decided to revisit an older recipe I had came up with around the beginning of this year, my baked brie with fruit jam in pastry sheet. Instead of using peach jam, I decided I wanted to try raspberries. I wanted to use more fresh raspberries than jam but unfortunately the tartness in the fresh raspberries didn't pair well with the dessert. My advice (and I had already written a recipe to reflect this) is to use more jam/preserves than fresh raspberries. If you're using a sweeter fruit then it shouldn't be a problem. 



Ingredients:

  • Raspberry preserves (or fruit jam of choice)
  • About 9-12 raspberries (optional)(
  • 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 to 12 equal pieces (4”x 4”) or if you want to have smaller pieces, can be divided into 12 pieces 
    1. Slice the brie into thick slices (less than ¼”) and surface area of  approx 1” x 1”
    2. 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.
    3. Wrap the brie by folding in the 4 corners and pinch the edges close (note: the edges will open up when baked). Note: Also can be baked in a mini cupcake pan in which you won’t have to fold the corners.
    1. Set oven to 400 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
    2. Top with fresh raspberries in the opening when done (optional).


 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spinach Pinwheels



Distractions continue; here is another kitchen therapy session: Spinach Pinwheels. At first it was questionable whether it’d turn out like the picture on the package. I decided to try a recipe that came with my box of pastry sheets, mainly because when I glanced at the ingredient list, I had everything…EVERYTHING the recipe called for (food nerd). A little short in quantity for some ingredients but that’s okay, I like tweaking recipes and subbing ingredients anyways so I ventured out.

 After I had prepped everything, it definitely didn’t look anything like it was suppose to on the package… at least I didn’t think so, if anything it was slightly falling apart. I look at the box: pinwheel, I look at my limp looking blobs…how is that suppose to turn into that?!… Suddenly I felt a moment of defeat, “Just great, another thing in life that’s not working out… the one thing that’s supposed to help me feel better” but then I realized I didn’t even give it a chance. Just because it’s terrible looking now doesn’t mean it’ll be done for….so I doubtfully stuck it into the oven and hope for the best. The first few minutes didn’t give me much hope but as the pastry started to bake, things started to fall into place. End story, they turned out great. 

Life lesson through cooking: just because it looks grim now doesn’t mean it’ll have a grim ending. Never give up, go forward and see what happens, perhaps the end result will surprise you. Life is a horrible player, but it has its moments and gives the best surprises as well. Even in rain, there are sometimes rainbows right? 


Makes 10-12 pinwheels
Ingredients:
  • 1 sheet of pastry dough (puff pastry sheet)
  • 2 cups of spinach, chopped
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 bunches of green onion, diced
  • ½ cup of Monterey jack cheese
  • ¼ cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1 tbsp water (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • A pinch of salt

Procedures:
  1. Thaw pastry dough according to package
  2. In a medium skillet pan, sauté the onions with olive oil and salt until golden brown. Set aside.
  3. Cook the spinach in a little bit of water in a small sauce pan, drain, and set aside
  4. Mix together green onions, cheeses, and garlic powder.
  5. Once the pastry sheet is thawed, mix together egg and water in a small bowl and brush a layer of the mixture onto the pastry sheet.
  6. Layer on cheese mixture, spinach, and onions
  7. Starting from the side closest to you, begin to roll the pastry sheet as if you were to roll a log, rolling it away from you.
  8. Once rolled, cut ½” pieces (about 10-12) and place the cut side face down on a baking sheet. Coat the top of the pinwheels with a thin layer of egg mixture for better browning.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees 
Lighting was pretty terrible for this dish, I didn't get it out of the oven until about 6-7pm which then at that point not matter what I did, everything looked yellow. Yellow lighting in the kitchen doesn't help either, so I attempted to get whatever leftover daylight I could get outside... apparently not a whole lot. Despite that, the pinwheels are far tastier than they look in the pictures. The ingredient list is incredible, if only I were able to include that in the title of the dish but then it'd be like 3 lines long so you'd have just trust me, great appetizer dish!