Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chicken Parmesan

I am almost positive that I was Italian in my past life. I don't think I can go a week without eating noodles. No, its true. Noodles, in all their shapes, the different flavors, just make me happy. I also love the fresh sauces. But what I love most, is the ability to create such a "homey" meal and then absolutely gorge yourself. 
I find this recipe works best with a cast iron skillet. If you don't have a skillet, you could probably use a different pan, as long as it will go in the oven up to 500 Degrees. No, wait, scratch that. What you need to do is get in your car and go to the store and BUY a cast iron skillet! I can't believe you don't have one! Or you might ask your grandma if she has an extra one laying around. Heck, I have even picked up some gorgeous ones at garage sales. Trust me, they are so worth it. Even though you can't throw them in the dishwasher when you are done with them, they are worth it. Just give it a little TLC every now an then, and you will have this pan for the rest of your life. What are you waiting for? Go!

Chicken Parmesan

3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 garlic clove, minced. 
salt and pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (whichever brand and flavor you prefer, or make your own)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Parmesan Cheese (I don't know how much I use, I just sprinkle some on, so probably just a few tablespoons)

In a small bowl, mix the olive oil and herbs. All them to sit for a few minutes. 
Preheat oven to 500 Degrees.
Trim any fat from the chicken, and pound with a mallet to thin out any thick areas.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic to the oil and herbs. 
Brush (more like glob, actually) one side of each chicken breast with the oil/herb mixture. Place in the skillet, oil side down. Once all the chicken breasts are in the skillet, glob the rest of the oil and herbs onto the other side. Cook until the chicken is nicely browned and then flip, cooking the other side of the chicken until it too is nicely browned.
Remove the skillet from heat. 
Spoon some marinara onto the chicken, just enough to coat the top without it all sliding off. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 
Bake until cheese melts and the chicken is thoroughly cooked. About 10 minutes. 

** Notes:
If I have it, or feel like spending the money, using fresh mozzarella and herbs is DEFINITELY WORTH IT! It tastes pretty darn good as is, but using fresh ingredients really makes this dish zing. Especially the cheese. 

Also, sometimes I sprinkle some fresh chopped basil on top of the cheese before I pop it into the oven. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Buy When You Can Bake?

This marks my first ever Daring Baker's challenge. When I first saw what the challenge was, I was super excited. COOKIES! I love cookies! The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milano Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. Milanos just happen to be my all time favorite cookies, so I was definitely excited to make those. And I have been wanting to try my hand at making homemade marshmallows for a while, too.
I started with the Marshmallow cookies, because I had no idea how long it was going to take me to make the marshmallows. It turned out to be not too hard. A giant sticky mess all over my kitchen, but not difficult. Then when you add the melted chocolate coating on top of them and sprinkle on some toasted coconut on top, there was definitely a mess. All over. But it was a yummy mess, so I didn't mind.
The Milanos were fairly easy to make. They ended not looking anything like the store bought Pepperidge Farms cookies, but they tasted a bajillion times better. AND I made them bigger than the store bought ones! Bigger cookies are always better, in my opinion.

I got caught printing off the recipes at work, so my punishment for illegal use of the work printer was that I had to bring them in for my coworkers to sample. Haha, pretty horrible punishment, huh?
My husbands classmates have been begging him to bring in something I have made for a while now, and he definitely laid claim to these. By the time I got them all split into groups, I only got to eat a few of them. But its probably a good thing, because I would have eaten them all. Every last one.

Milano Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream in a double broiler, until just before it starts to boil.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. If you don't have a candy thermometer, don't fret, you can still make homemade marshmallows! You know that the soft ball stage has been reached when the bubbles remain in the sugar solution after you have removed the pot from the heat. Also, if you take a small drop of the sugar solution and place it into a dish with cold water in it, the sugar solution should form a small soft ball. Hence, the term "soft-ball". :)
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff. This will take what seems like forever. Just keep whipping. Just keep whipping. Just keep whipping, whipping, whipping!
6. There are three ways you can go from here. First, you can transfer to a piping bag and pipe directly onto the cookies to set. You can also transfer to a baking sheet lined with powdered sugar and then cut out shapes using a cookie cutter, or cut into bars. And finally, you can line a baking sheet with a deep layer of powdered sugar and creating a mold into the powdered sugar into which you pour the marhsmallows. Let the marshmallows set for 2 hours, or until firm.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Luscious Lemon Layer Cake


I needed something sweet today. But not overpoweringly sweet. Something light and fluffy... and fruity. Unfortunately, I scarfed down all the strawberries I had gotten at the store the other day, and didn't feel like driving all the way to the store to get more. Yes, I know the store isn't really that far away, I just didn't want to go, ok?! But, that is ok, because I just happened to have some lemons on hand!

This cake turned out better than I expected, it had a great lemony flavor - not too tart and not too sweet!

Tips on frosting a layered cake: 
*This cake is a sponge cake, so be careful when removing it from the pans as it is very fragile. If you have the time, I would highly recommend placing the cake layers in the freezer on a layer of wax paper for 30-45 minutes before frosting. This will allow the cake to be handled with better ease so it won't completely fall apart on you, and will make sure that crumbs don't infiltrate your frosting. If you have to move everything out of your freezer to make room for the cake, don't worry, just place whatever you have to move from the freezer in your fridge until you can transfer it back. I do this all the time, it won't hurt anything. 

*To get as smooth a frosting as you can, run your frosting utensil under hot water before you begin, and occasionally while you frost. 

*Place small waxed paper strips on your serving platter, tucked just under the edge of your cake, and this will help make a clean finish on your platter. When you are done frosting, carefully remove the waxed paper strips and Viola! Perfectly clean edges!

Luscious Lemon Layer Cake

2.5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking salt
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1/2 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1.5 sticks butter, room temperature
3.5 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

For the Cake:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8 inch round cake pans.
  • In a large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together.
  • Beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds or until creamy. Gradually add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is light, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the whole eggs and the yolks one at a time and beat well after each addition. 
  • Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest.
  • Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the lemon juice. It will appear as if the batter is curdling, but don't freak out, it will smooth out later.
  • Alternate adding in the dry ingredients and the milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then beat again for 10 seconds.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes. While the cake is baking, make the syrup by combining the 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp lemon zest in a saucepan. Let the mixture boil until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. When you take the cakes from the oven, brush some of the lemony simple syrup over the top of the cakes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the Filling:
  • In a medium non-reactive saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Whisk in the lemon juice, butter, and salt.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5-6 minutes or until the mixture turns opaque, thickens, and coats the back of a spoon. Do NOT let the mixture boi or it will curdle.
  • Stir in the lemon zest and allow the filling to cool. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Press cling wrap onto the surface of the filling, making sure no air can get in. 
  • Place in the refrigerator for one hour.
  • Beat the heavy cream on high speed until soft peaks form. 
  • Remove the filling from the fridge and stir with a spoon until smooth. 
  • Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the lemon filling. 
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to use
For the Frosting:
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. 
  • Gradually beat in the powdered sugar on low speed. 
  • Add the cream, lemon zest and vanilla. 
  • Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

To Assemble the Cake:
  • Place one cake layer on a serving plate. 
  • Pile all the lemon filling onto the center of the cake and spread into an even layer, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge.
  • Top with the second layer.
  • Frost the top and sides of the cake with the frosting. 
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  • Bring to room temperature before serving. 

Zucchini Trifolati with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

Let it be said that I have a weakness for Farmers Markets. Ok, its not really a weakness as much as an absolute addiction. It is my heroin. In fact, if I saw a Farmers Market on the street corner, I would allow it to take me by the hand, lead me down a dark alley and have its way with me. I just can't help myself! The colors of all the fresh produce, all locally grown, the people selling fresh eggs, homemade pies and breads, different flavored honeys, fresh, local, organic meats, buckets of spices just waiting to be smelled. I just have to dive right in and spend every cent I happen to have on my pockets. It matters not if I have the ability to eat everything that I buy, and more often than not I always overbuy. I can't help it. I try and restrain myself, but I get jittery and crabby and wake up at 3 am the next morning beating myself up because I didn't buy that sweet corn. 

What really makes my day are days like today - being able to spend hours perusing the different vendor stands, sampling fruits, vegetables and jams, and coming home with the makings for a great meal. Today I scored some fantastic sweet corn, lovely cherry tomatoes, zucchini, baby red potatoes, homemade bread, and fresh bison steak. Yeah! In case you were wondering, I marinated the bison steak with a little bit of olive oil, a macerated and minced garlic clove, some sea salt, and some freshly ground pepper for about 2o minutes before plopping it on the grill for 4 minutes on each side. For the sweet corn, I shucked it and smeared it with butter, and then put that on the grill as well.

And it was lovely. 

Zucchini Trifolati with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil
1 zucchini
5 ounces cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
Small handful of fresh chopped basil (you really do want to use fresh here)
A really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Cut the zucchini into cubes, about 1/2" thick. 
Squeeze the cherry tomatoes to drain of their juices. Try and get all the juices you can out. Go ahead and throw away the juice, you don't need it.
In a large saute pan over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. 
When the oil is hot, saute the zucchini.
When the zucchini is just starting to brown, add the garlic.
When the zucchini has browned well, add in the cherry tomatoes and season with the salt and pepper.
Cook this for five minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Mix in the basil and pour a little of the really good olive oil in. 
Cover and remove from heat. Let this sit for 10 minutes before eating. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

One of my all time favorite summertime meals is pulled pork. I love a good pulled pork sandwich - the juices running down your arm as you try to hold you soaked bun into one piece as you savor every bite. Normally, it is the kind of food I only eat at events like fairs and festivals. I always considered it too time consuming to make it myself - standing by a grill smoking the meat all day, having to watch babysit wood chips, check and recheck the temperature, preparing a sauce. Luckily for me, and now you, I stumbled upon this doozey of a recipe. It's made in a slow cooker, so you can have it any day you happen to have electricity! There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but don't let that fool you. It is easy enough that my husband enjoys making it even without my supervision! Now that's a great recipe!

 Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

3 lbs pork butt (or shoulder)
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp whole cumin seeds, smashed or crushed in either a mortal and pestle or with a meat mallet.
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/ cup water
cider vinegar to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
Sear the pork on all sides and transfer to a crock pot.
Turn the heat on the skillet down to medium and add the onion to the residual oil in the pan.
Add the chili powder, smoked paprika, pepper and cumin seeds to the oil and onion. Cook about 3 -5 minutes to allow the spices to bloom.
Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the cayenne pepper, brown sugar, worchestershire sauce, salt, and water. Bring to a boil.
Pour the mixture over the meat in the crock pot. Everything EXCEPT the cider vinegar should be in the crock pot now.
Cook on high for one hour, then turn the heat down to low. Cook 6-8 hours, or until the pork is done.
Carefully transfer the meat only to a large bowl and use tongs or two forks to pull the meat apart. 
Strain the cooking liquid and discard the mushy onions. 
Reduce the liquid by half until it reaches a slightly thicker consistency. 
Remove the liquid from the heat and add cider vinegar to taste.
Pour over the meat. EAT!

Side Notes:
We like to add a small amount of chipotle chili pepper to the spice mixture to give it a little heat, but be careful how much you add - it gets hot FAST!
I like to add a bit of ketchup and a little bit more brown sugar to the sauce after it has reduced a bit, to thicken it and give it a bit of a sweeter flavor. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kung Pao Chicken

One of the meals I remember my mother making when I was little was Kung Pao chicken. I remember that the seasoning came from a magical little pouch that was bought at the store. I remember it being so good, but so spicy we hardly ever ate it. I am pretty sure it gave us all indegestion, but we savored every moment of it. But I enjoyed it because my mom always added peanuts to the dish, and I thought that was the best thing ever.
A few years ago, when I finally got my own kitchen, I wanted to make this meal. But I couldn't find this magical spice packet at the grocery store. This was just unacceptable. It became a personal challenge to find a recipe that was easy to make but also matched the taste of my childhood dinner. No, not match. Beat. After sifting through countless recipes online and in cookbooks, I combined several and came up with this one. It's pretty good, if I do say so myself. It has fantastic flavor, and just enough spiciness to be yummy without burning your tongue off.

Kung Poa Chicken
3 chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (no salt added)

Cube the chicken breasts and then coat with the corn starch. Heat a skillet with the olive oil in it. When hot, cook the chicken until done. Remove the chicken from the pan. Saute the garlic, ginger, green onions and red pepper flakes for 1 minute, stirring to keep from burning. In a bowl, combine the red wine vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the chicken back to the pan and pour the sauce mixture overtop. Stir occasionally until the sauce thickens. Add the peanuts to the pan. Serve with rice. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Daring Cooks Make Chicken, Traditional Flavors Powdered


Ah, its finally time to reveal why I actually started this blog. You are probably thinking ‘What? It wasn’t to give me all kinds of amazing recipes and tips and to practice your photography skills?’ Well, yes, it was. But the thing that turned it from a faint pipe dream to an actual reality was the fact that I wanted to join The Daring Kitchen! Joining the club/group (not sure how they want themselves defined) got me so excited my husband could hardly handle my joy when I told him I wanted to join. He said I was like a little eager puppy just jumping all over the place. Don’t worry though, I didn’t piddle on the floor in my excitement. But it was hard not to, though!

With great anticipation I waited, and waited, and waited until the day came when the challenge recipe would be revealed. I had to be at work, but I stalked the forums with such ferocity and obsession that I got zero work done that day. That’s right. Zero.
When the challenge was finally posted, I clicked on the link with such joy filling my heart. Only for my heart to suddenly stop beating! Oh, what had I gotten myself into?!?! As I scanned the recipe, my sympathetic reflexes kicked in – my heart race increased, my pupils dilated, my mouth went dry, and I definitely started to hyperventilate. The challenge was part of a movement called Molecular Cuisine (or Gastronomy), which I had never heard of, the recipe included dehydrating and grinding things into powders, making something called buerre monte (which I had also never heard of), and skate, which is kind of like a sting ray. It looked way, way beyond my skill level.

At the end of the day, I go home with my 6 page recipe in hand, still hyperventilating, only to be chastised by my husband. “Uhh… aren’t you a scientist?” he says “Don’t you have a degree in biology and chemistry? What are you complaining about? This should be a walk in the park for you!”
Oh. Well, yeah, I guess if it’s put that way, maybe I have a change of completing this challenge after all. And after re-reading the recipe a few hundred times I decided that maybe this wasn’t as complicated as I originally thought.

If you are interested, Molecular Cuisine is a new movement that is sweeping through the foodie community that applies scientific methods to preparing food, and then uses artistic concepts to plate it. Another big concept in Molecular Cuisine is the pairing of flavors to create new and unusual dishes. At least, that is the way I interpret it. But since this is my first time hearing about this, much less using this technique, I am by no means an expert. If you would like to learn more, please visit this blog: (Alinea At Home). This month's challenge was hosted by Sketchy of Sketchy's Kitchen! (by the way, Thanks Sketchy for ripping me out of my comfort bubble - it is much appreciated!)

So, after much research, contemplation, and going out and buying a food scale, I entered my kitchen with my head held high to begin the challenge.
Making the powders wasn’t hard, but it was very time consuming. I am glad that I devoted a few days to making the powders. I don’t have a dehydrator, and I didn’t want my oven to be on for countless hours in the middle of a Midwestern summer, the microwave was my only option. It was a slow, boring process of watching the plate rotate inside the microwave for about 4 days. I didn’t want the powders to burn, so I used a really low heat setting (about 3 out of 10). But the tediousness of it turned out well, since nothing burned, and all the powders turned out beautifully. I did get a bit frustrated with the red onion and the cilantro/parsley. They took about a million years to dehydrate. I eventually just stuck them in the fridge and left them there overnight. That seemed to suck the rest of the water out of them, and they were perfectly grindable the next day. I had wanted to do a pineapple powder, but even though I started with dried pineapple pieces, I could not for the life of me get them dehydrated more, and they just made a massive gummy mess. So I snacked on the pieces while I finished making the rest of the powders!

I was surprisingly pleased with how the buerre monte turned out, since I had no idea what it was to begin with, I had never made an emulsion before, and really had no idea what I was doing. But besides it seeming to take forever and feeling like my wrist was going to snap off and crawl away before I got all the butter whisked in, it turned out beautifully!!
The finished product was great! It turned out much better than I expected it to, and was actually rather tasty! The best part was mixing and matching the powders together. It was like a taste explosion! Everything was rather bland by itself, but mix this with a little of that and POW! If it didn’t take a week for me to make, I might do it more often!!

Chicken, Traditional Flavors Powdered
4 chicken breasts
2 cups fresh green beans
4 sticks butter
kosher salt
2 medium lemons
2 medium limes
2 bunches cilantro
2 bunches parsley
2 cups coconut
1 red onion
2 cups macademia nuts
smoked paprika
3 bananas
¼ cup water
A whole roll of paper towels

Directions for powders:
Lemon Lime Powder:
Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the zest of the limes and lemons. Make sure not to get too much of the white pitch. Make a simple syrup and blanch the zest 3 times in the syrup. Pat the zest dry with paper towels. Place the zest on a plate lined with paper towels. Microwave for 8 to 10 minutes on medium power, or until the zest is dehydrated completely. Once cooled, grind in a coffee grinder.
Cilantro Parsley Powder:
Working in small bunches, blanch the cilantro and parsley for one second in boiling salt water. Submerge into ice water for three minutes. Pat dry with paper towels. Microwave in 30 second intervals, changing out wet paper towels until dry. Can finish off the drying process in the fridge overnight if needed. Don’t cover with paper towels in the microwave, it only prolongs the drying. Make sure that the cilantro and parsley are completely dry before grinding in the coffee grinder or the stems with get caught.
Red Onion Powder:
Mince half a red onion as small as you possibly can. Microwave on low to medium power for 20 minutes, or until dry. I think mine took a lot longer than 20 minutes, but I had it on low power so it would not burn. When dry, pulse in grinder.
Toasted Coconut Powder:
Toast the coconut on a baking sheet at 325 for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. When cooled, grind in coffee grinder.
Macademia Nut Powder:
Toast the macademia nuts on a baking sheet at 3325 for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Grind in a grinder when cooled. Be carefully when grinding that you don’t grind too much, or you will end up with macademia nut butter.
Smoked Paprika:
Ok, I totally cheated on this one and just used some store bought… Shhh! Don’t tell!
Directions for Buerre Monte:
Cube 4 sticks of butter and place in freezer for about 20 minutes prior to starting. In a small saucepan, bring ¼ cup water to boil. Turn heat down to super duper low, and whisk in one cube of butter at a time. Do not add the next cube until the previous cube has melted. This will form an emulsion. Keep this heated, but below 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break – this is your poaching liquid.
Directions for Green Beans:
Slice each green bean into very thin rounds, about 2 mm across. Bring 1 cup of water, 1 cup of the buerre monte and the green beans to a boil in a saucepan. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and season with a pinch of salt.
Directions for Chicken:
Bring about 3 cups of water and 3 cups of buerre monte to boil. Simmer the chicken in this until cooked. When cooked, remove from pan, slice on the bias and season with a pinch of salt.
Directions for Plating:
Place small mounds of each powder on the plate and swirl with the tip of a small spoon to create a pattern. Slice the bananas into thin slices and place two rows next to the powders. Pile some green beans on top of the bananas. Place the chicken on top of the green beans.
Special Notes:
Clean the coffee grinder with a chunk of bread before starting, and in between each powder. This will help to clean out any particles of the previous powder that could taint your next powder, or create a funky flavor in your next cup of coffee.

The chicken can be substituted for Skate, Cod, or Flounder, if desired. You can also substitute any flavor powder you wish. Be creative and make your own!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Better Than A Box Chocolate Cake


One of the major laws of the universe states that ‘Birthdays always require cake’! There is nothing that can top a good cake as part of a birthday party. Usually at work we pick up a store made cake, since it’s easier. However, last night I was volunteered into making a birthday cake for a co-worker’s birthday party. As life would have it, I didn’t have the time to make a whole cake from scratch. But I also didn’t want to just make a boxed mix, either. I needed something more special than that. Especially because of the taunting I would get “Oooh, just a boxed mix? What, isn’t he good enough to get one of your super fancy homemade cakes?”. To which I would have to hang my head in shame and beg to be allowed to make it up to them.
chocolate cake
One of my favorite things to do is to take a boxed cake mix and then jazz it up some by adding extra ingredients. This is a great recipe for chocolate cake. The sour cream adds a bit more depth to the flavor of the cake, making it more moist, and makes it seem more special and homemade. Don’t ask me how, it just does. Magic! The frosting on this cake is a great old fashioned frosting. I got it from my mother-in-law, who got it from her mother! It tastes super fudgy, and is nice and creamy. It sets up beautifully, with a gorgeous gloss to it. You can definitely tell its homemade!
chocolate cake

This recipe can be made in any pan, whether round cake pans, a 9x13, or Bundt pans. Just watch the time closely. This cake dries out fast. The instructions for the cake say to make 2 round layers, and then split into 4 layers. You can do whatever you wish, since when you make it, it will be YOUR cake. I found the idea of toting a 4 layer cake through rush hour traffic a little daunting, so I went the simple way and make a sheet cake. Tastes just as good!
chocolate cake
Better Than A Box Chocolate Cake
 1 (18 1/4 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 (4 ounce) box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1.     Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.     Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans, a Bundt cake pan, or a 9x13 pan.
3.     Dust with flour and tap out the excess; set pans aside.
4.     Combine all ingredients, either with an electric mixer or by hand until thick and well combined.
5.     Pour batter into prepared pans.
6.     Bake for 27-32 minutes . Watch your cake closely, it goes from not done to dried out very quickly! 
7.     Allow to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
8.     Run a knife along the edges on the cakes pans and carefully remove cake by inverting it; allow to cool for 20 minutes more on the wire rack right side up.
9.     When the cake layers are completely cool, cut layers in half and frost.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Frosting
6 ounces semisweet chocolate 
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup butter, cut into tablespoon sizes
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp light corn syrup

1.     Place a large bowl, filled halfway with ice, in the sink (a bowl that is large enough to hold the pot that you will cook the frosting in).
2.     In a medium size pot over medium low heat, melt chocolate, cream, butter and corn syrup.
3.     Stirring constantly, cook the mixture until all of the butter and chocolate melts and thickens.
4.     Cook for 5-6 minutes. DO NOT LET IT BOIL.
5.     Remove pot from heat.
6.     Whisk in the sifted confectioners' sugar until mixture becomes smooth (approximately 1 minute), then put the pot on top of the bowl of ice (be careful to not allow any ice from the larger bowl to get into pot with the chocolate mixture).
7.     Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 4-5 minutes until frosting becomes smooth, thick, and fudgy.
8.     Remove from ice.
9.     Spread onto cooled cake layers.
10.  The frosting will thicken as it sets up.

11.  If the frosting gets too hard to spread, put back on LOW heat and stir constantly until you get the spreading  


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