Posts Tagged ‘Recipes’

20131023-151549.jpgSo I’m scanning yahoo the other day and came across this really easy Mexican dessert recipe.  I took a quick look at the list of ingredients and saw that there was cheese involved with the dessert which sounded interesting… plus one of the comments on the bottom mentioned that the consistency/texture is similar to flan, but with nowhere near the amount of calories which really started to get my attention.
Talk about one of the more simple recipes out there!  I’ve included the info below:
Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
5 ounces of Mexican/Latin cheese (I went with a mixture of cojita cheese and queso fresco which you can find in any latin grocery store)
 Butter to spread on the baking dish20131023-151534.jpg
I mixed the eggs, milk, sugar, and cojita cheese/queso fresco in a blender but I also added some cayenne pepper just to give it a little heat with the sweet of the sugar and the saltiness of the cheese.  I then preheated the oven to 350F andrubbed the butter along the bottom and sides/corners of a square glass pyrex dish.
Threw in the blended mixture and placed it in the oven for 40 minutes or until the top was golden brown.  Let it stand to cool then I threw it in the fridge with a cover.
20131023-151525.jpgAfter a few hours, I had some for dessert that night and it really was like flan but a little bit more “chunky” because of thecojita cheese.  I thought it tasted great but I might be a little bias!  If you think you’d like a cheesy kind of flan, then give it a try.  The cayenne gave it a nice kick but I would enjoy it without the pepper as well.  I even put some in a bowl and threw on some chocolate syrup which gave it a nice chocolate flavor as well.
Enjoy!
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Bruschetta.jpgJ. and I attempt, but don’t always succeed, to have a date night once a week. We usually head out to a nice restaurant or a movie but last week we were beat and just wanted to stay home. I had baked some wonderful crusty Italian style bread earlier in the day and we had found some beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market… Bruschetta was the answer.

I decided to make 2 different versions and after a quick trip to Wholefoods for some delicious meat we were set to go. I didn’t just want to make an ordinary tomato combination for the top. It was date night after all, I wanted something a little different and unusual. I went with garlic roasted tomatoes on Tomato and basilsoppressata or prosciutto with jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar to finish it off.

First off I put the tomatoes into the oven to roast. I only wanted them cooked for a very short time with some garlic and olive oil to really bring out the sweetness in these gorgeous tomatoes we found. I wanted them to hold their shape and keep the firm texture, not go all mushy.

ProscuittoWhile the tomatoes were in a 350F degree oven for 10 minutes, I sliced some chunky bits of our Italian crusty bread and smeared them will olive oil. I heated up our grill pan and toasted these on both sides. I tried to get nice crusty grill marks on the bread. I did ok for the most part but there were some slightly crispier parts.Soppressata

Once these were grilled I just rubbed them with some garlic and set them aside to dress. I did a few of each meat for J. and I. Layer 1 being either soppressata or prosciutto. To be honest a few slices of each magically disappeared between the two of us… I love that stuff!

Basil leavesAfter the first layer of meaty goodness I added some fresh basil leaves. We had also picked the basil up at the market since our basil plant hasn’t survived it’s first (and only) Arizonan summer. By this stage the tomatoes were out and cooling down.

I cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl, seasoned them with plenty of salt and pepper and then generously drizzled jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar over them. I mixed them together and placed them on each piece of bread.

After pouring some wine J. and I sat down to a yummy, simple dinner. I had some goats cheese on the side as well for us to eat with the bruschetta. The creamy rich flavor worked so well with the freshness of the bruschetta. J enjoyed it so much we actually had something similar for dinner the next night. The tomatoes were extremely sweet and juicy. I was happy with how crusty and delicious the bread was as well. Such an easy, quick date night dinner. A good way of keeping my boy J. happy too!

Lumihai BeachWhen this post goes live J. and I will be lying on a beach in Hawaii. We have 7 days and nights of relaxation planned or not planned as the case may be in Kauai. Though we don’t have any activities planned, besides lying on the beach, we do have our food plans well and truly under control.

As I have mentioned previously, J. is more often than not in charge of our eating arrangements when we travel. He researches, reads, studies and discusses all the possibilities. He has been responsible for finding some of the most unique, out of the way, hole in the wall, restaurants/foodtrucks/shacks that we have ever been lucky enough to try. He is always organized for our trips but when it comes to Kauai he has taken it to an entirely new level!

Here is the evidence – THE SPREADSHEET!

THE SPREADSHEET

Puka DogA comprehensive document, organizing possible food choice by local. It details opening hours, location, whether they take cash only or credit card and possibly most importantly what kind of cuisine they serve. We have choices of traditional Hawaiian plate lunches, poke, seafood, burgers, Japanese and who knows what else. He has found us so many to choose from there is no way we will get to all of them!

We went to Kauai back in 2009 and discovered some amazing places to eat. They have made it Mark's Placeonto the spreadsheet, along with some of J’s new discoveries. The places I am looking forward to revisiting are Shrimp Station, Puka Dog, Mark’s Place and Hamura’s Saimin and a few others. The shrimp at Shrimp Station were delicious and amazing. I had never tasted anything like the hot dogs from Puka Dog. Mark’s Place and Hamura’s Saimin were just cool, low key locals joints.

Shrimp StationOf course J. has found us a whole new  group of places to try out. When we travel we try to stay away from the touristy places (although Puka Dog is definitely a popular destination) and go where the locals eat. Kauai, the second time around will be no different. I’m really looking forward to trying out Koloa Fish Market and also Chicken in a Barrel but there are so many other delicious options who knows what we will actually eat!

Hamura's Saimin

I’m sure as you are reading this we are either lying on a beach or eating some fabulously tastyfood! Stay tuned for Live from Kauai posts later this week!

ALOHA!

Time to eatBeing the foodie in our office has lead to me bringing in cakes for birthdays. Fortunately we have a staff of 6 so it doesn’t happen too often. Earlier in the year I made a Mum’s Sticky Chocolate cake for everyone which was a huge success. This time around I gave the birthday girl a few choices and she went with the Triple Chocolate Marble Mud Cake… well really, who wouldn’t!?

Step 1

The only problem… I had never made it before! How difficult could it be.

In a small pan I combined 250 grams of chopped, unsalted butter, 2 cups of caster sugar, and 1 cup of hot water. I mixed this until it was all melted and combined. Then I just set this aside to cool for 15 minutes and got on with the rest of the recipe.

Base mixture

While it was cooling I melted 150 grams of white chocolate in a bowl and in another bowl I melted 150 grams of dark chocolate. I used 70% dark so that it wasn’t too sweet. There is so much sugar in this recipe already I didn’t think I need extra in the chocolate. I then set these aside.

Going back to my sugar, butter and water mixture I whisked in 1 cup of plain flour, 1 1/2 cups of self raising flour and a teaspoon of vanilla. I added 2 eggs that I had already lightly beaten and whisked everything together. Now the tricky part… I had to divide the mixture into 2 equal parts, putting them in separate bowls. After a bit of back and forth, I think I got pretty close.

Two mixtures

To the halved mixture I added the melted white chocolate to one and the melted dark chocolate to the other. I just quickly mixed the chocolate into each mixture and the cake was ready to assemble.

Layering

In my large cake tin I spooned a spoonful of the white mixture in one corner and then next to it a spoonful of the dark mixture. It was easy just alternating between the two, layering them on top of eachother, until the mixtures were completely gone.

This went into a preheated 150C degree over for 1 3/4 hours. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, well relatively easy. I then just sat back with a glass of wine and waited for it to cook.

Cream and chocolate - Copy

When I opened the oven I discovered it may not have been as easy as I thought. The middle of the cake had sunk! Oh well, that was what the ganache was for… to fill up the large crater in the cake.

Ganache

I turned it out and let it cool. Of course as it cooled the center dropped more… What could I do? More room ganache is what I say!

When it was cool and ready to coat in ganache, I quickly combined in my double boiler 300 grams of milk chocolate and 3/4 cup of thickened cream. I slowly melted these together over a low simmering pot of water. I stirred this continuously until the chocolate had completely melted and was combined with the cream.

I took it off the heat and set it aside. As I was preparing the cake I realized that the square cake didn’t quite fit in my round Sunken but deliciouscake carrier… being the ideas woman I am, I angled off the corners to make a shape that would fit in the container… Later people in the office commented on how cool it looked – I didn’t tell them it was purely to get it to fit, not make it look pretty.

The ditch

My cake now fit in the container, it was time to ganache it! I poured my ganache onto the cake and filled up the huge crater in the center. I then smoothed it down and around the edges until it was completely covered. It looked great! You couldn’t even tell that the cake looked like it had been hit by a meteor. A few quick decorations with fresh strawberries and I was done!

I held my breath when we cut it in the office, praying that it was actually marbled and that the puddle of ganache wouldn’t run off the cake like a waterfall. Luckily it didn’t!

Iced

The best news is that everyone in the office, including the birthday girl loved it. The cake is moist, dense and incredibly rich (especially the parts in the center with an inch of ganache on top). The cake was an afternoon snack for everyone for the rest of the week. I even managed to sneak J. home a slice. He really liked it, he thinks the texture is like a soft, dense cookie.

For a first attempt at this recipe I think I did well. It wasn’t as great as my mum’s but I rarely make her recipes as well as she does. It was a hit and it was delicious, I couldn’t really ask for more but I think I will need a little more practice to be able to make it as easily and as well as I make my Mum’s Sticky Chocolate.

Close up of marbling

Muffin Tin Meat Pies.jpgWe reached a milestone this week… we have over 2500 followers now! To celebrate this great milestone I thought I would revisit a recipe from the early days of the blog.

Also, I have been craving a taste from home and what better way to taste Australia than through meat pies.

These were tasty little treats I made for J. and I during NFL season last year. A nice little snack for watching footy. We did an entire series of Football Food posts last year and with the NFL season only 3 weeks away, I am going to have to prepare some more great snack ideas.

These pies were very easy to make, especially since I cheated and bought the pastry instead of making it myself. You could also try all different kinds of fillings but we stayed with the traditional beef and added some spice and chili! You could also make them into a full size pie but these were the perfect size for a tv snack. Beer and a pie – a completely Australian way to watch the football.

So take a trip down memory lane, across the Pacific to Australia with me…. here.

Passionfruit Choc Brownies.jpgOver the weekend we ran out of sweets. We have been trying to cut back on sweets, which means I have curbed my baking a little but we still like to have one small thing after dinner each night as a treat. So on Saturday when we discovered all our treats had been eaten, I know I had to bake.

I gave J. a few things to choose from and he settled on Passionfruit Choc Brownies. Like every normal person we love chocolate and we are both crazy about passionfruit, even though you can’t get fresh ones here in Arizona.

(I am trying to grow my own vine though…)

Luckily I still have some of the passionfruit nectar in a tin left from our last supply run to Australia!

I must apologize for the lack of step-by-step photos… but it is so easy, the photos aren’t really necessary.

Out of the oven.jpg

First up, I preheated the oven to 180C (356F) and greased my square baking tin. I roughly broke up125 grams of 70% dark chocolate and chopped up 125 grams of unsalted butter, putting them into a heatproof bowl. Over a saucepan of simmering water, I melted the butter and chocolate until combined.

Once completely melted I took it off the heat and added 150 grams of light brown sugar, stirring until the sugar is incorporated. To this mixture I added 2 medium eggs and 1 additional egg yolk… (2 whites, 3 yolks). I mixed all of this together before sifting in 40 grams of self-raising flour, 40 grams of cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. It is best to use a really high quality cocoa powder for this so you get the best flavor in the brownie.

Ready to cut.jpg

When this was all combined I added 4 tablespoons of passionfruit nectar (including seeds) and mixed that in. I poured the mixture into the

tin and placed it on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.

They smelt delicious when they came out of the oven but we were good and went to the gym, had dinner and then ate a brownie. I cut them up and J and I ate one with a glass of milk.The best way to tell that the brownies are done is to insert a skewer and it comes out with some dense crumbs left on the skewer but no gloopy, wet mixture.

The brownies have a great chocolate flavor with just a hint of the passionfruit. I would probably add more passionfruit nectar next time. However, they are yummy and delicious and not too sweet, just the right amount of sweetness, thanks to the dark chocolate.

This was the first time I have made them and I will be definitely making them again… J. really enjoys them too – a nice sweet treat after dinner!

Freshpasta.jpgI have a pretty great life and lifestyle. I am incredibly fortunate and really don’t have many things to complain about. But every now and then I am going to have a bad day, whether it be due to stress at work, homesickness or just general annoyances. I am going to get stressed, angry, sad, tired and I have the cheapest and most effective form of therapy to get me through those bad days…. PASTA MAKING!

The process is so familiar, repetitive and calming that by the end when I am more than likely sitting down to a giant bowl of delicious fresh pasta I am back to my regular happy self.

The recipe we use for the pasta is one that my mother gave me and it is slightly ridiculous. Promise not to laugh!! The measurements are very much open to interpretation. Going by feel is the best way to make sure it is just right…. This can take a little practice.

Well and eggs.jpg

Onto the kitchen counter measure out 1 pound (450 grams) of plain flour. Make a large well in the middle of the flour so that you can see your counter top. Add into the well 5 eggs (3 medium, 2 large). To this add 1 capful of olive oil (what size cap you ask? What cap? – these are all very good questions!) and ½ an eggshell of water. (which eggshell – the large or the medium? Another excellent question!)

I will answer these questions, as best I can, shortly.

With all the ingredients in the well, using a fork I gently start drawing the flour from the edges of the well into the center. This slowly starts to form the dough. The tricky part is not to break the well walls and end up with runny egg and flour all over your kitchen floor (Yes, I have done this before!).

Once it has started to form a ball I coat my hands in flour and doing the final mixing by hand. The trick is not to over mix/knead the dough and end up with tough pasta. Just mix until it is completely incorporated and is one solid ball. Then just wrap and set it aside for 30 minutes to rest.

While the dough is resting let me answer the questions from earlier. I generally use the cap of my olive oil bottle which is around 1 tablespoon of oil. You can always add a smaller amount and add more later if the dough is too dry. As for the eggshell full of water, I usually just use the most complete looking shell, it probably close to 1 tablespoon of water but again, use an eggshell and just add a little more if it is too dry. I both of these circumstances it is best to use smaller amounts and have to add more than add too much right at the start!

Dough.jpgThe dough has rested, now it is time to roll it out. I cut the ball into six pieces to make them more manageable. My parents recently bought us a new pasta maker since our previous one just randomly started chewing up the dough, when this was happening it wasn’t the most calming exercise. (I think it got bent being transported from Australia to Phoenix when we moved!).

However, with our new pasta maker things are going smoothly again. We run the each piece through the machine from the widest setting to the second last. I don’t want it too thin for making fettuccine, when I make ravioli or agnolotti it go for the thinnest setting. Once rolled through I set it aside to dry a little while I run the other pieces through.

Once I have my long pieces I run them quickly through the fettuccine attachment and twist them into little nests to dry. We usually will store at least ½ of the pasta in a cool dry place to use later but will always whip up a quick meal with some while it is still really fresh. By the time we are ready to cook I am feeling a lot better, covered in flour and with a mess of a kitchen to clean up but I am definitely happier!

We were lucky enough earlier in the summer to have some delicious cherry tomatoes growing in our garden. So while the pasta was cooking in some boiling water I cooked about 20 tomatoes in some olive oil and garlic, added some fresh basil and thyme (which at the start of summer I had growing in the garden). I only cooked them for a couple of minutes before adding the cooked pasta to the pan and mixing everything together. YUM!

So easy and delicious with the fresh pasta, plus you actually get to appreciate all the hard work the pasta was because you can really taste it with such a simple accompaniment. After a bowl of this I am definitely feeling better and though it probably takes about an hour from start to finish it’s a delicious and productive way of making me feel better!

PeaandBaconBone.jpgI thought we would start back with an oldie but a goody! Pea and ham soup used to be one of my favorite winter dishes growing up… who would love the delicious combination that is the salty, savory flavor we get from split peas, ham bones, onion, potato… oh you get the idea.

Back in the colder months (seems so long ago since we have been averaging over 100F for what seems like eternity), I thought I would whip up this delight for J. He had never actually tried this before and he has an irrational aversion to peas… peas of any kind! I don’t understand the terror and disgust he feels when I suggest anything that could come even close to a pea!Carrot & Potato.jpg

Somehow I convince him he would like this since I puree up all the veggies and dried split peas aren’t anything like green peas!

Unfortunately we couldn’t find any ham bones and had to run the risk of using something I hadn’t tried before in bacon bones but I wasn’t too worried because it was bacon… bacon makes everything better! The night before I was going to cook this I soaked 500 grams of

Split Peas.jpggreen split peas in water. I just covered the peas with water and left them overnight.

The next day… I roughly chopped a large white onion, 4 large garlic cloves and 2 shallots. I softened these in some olive oil in our large soup pot. Once these had softened I added 3 diced potatoes, 3 chopped carrots and a bunch of celery. I recommend getting a large pot for this because it gets very full very fast!

I mixed all of those ingredients together and let them cook for a few minutes. While this was cooking away, I drained my The bones.jpgsoaked green split peas. Once I had got most of the water out of those I added them to the pot and mixed everything together. To this I added my ½ dozen large bacon bones and 1/2 cup of tomato paste.

I had tried to get some bones bits of meat still on them because I love getting those chunks when I am eating the soup.

I carefully mixed all of this together and then added 2 cups of chicken stock and then water until everything was just covered.  This just sat and bubbled away for 2 hours while we did whatever we did back then… we were probably watching football knowing how we usually spend our winters.

Tomato paste.jpg

When this had cooked for 2 hours I carefully removed all the bones, scraping off any meat that was still somehow clinging to the bones! With a stick blender I puréed everything together and it was ready!

We served up giant bowls of soup with some crusty bread and sat down to eat. J studied it carefully before tasting it slowly… then he took a second spoonful, and then another! Yay! I had him eating peas, even if it was mixed with bacon and puréed beyond recognition.

So even though it is over 100F here back home in Australia it is the perfect weather for something like this… and those of us lucky to be in summer will just have to keep for the colder weather… whenever that arrives!

We’re back!

We haven’t really been anywhere but it seems as though life got in the way of the blogging for the last few months… However just because we were too busy to blog doesn’t mean we were too busy to eat.

We have been eating as hard as always. The last few months have been a combination of travelling, delicious tastes, addictive drink and great cooking home!

So stay tuned for some tales, recipes, photos and FOOD!

We’re happy to be back…

The Feast.jpgThis is our 100th blog. This is such a milestone, J. and I wanted it to be one about something that was special to us. That is why it has taken so long to post. To make it even more special I thought J. should write it… So from J. and I thank you for your support of the first 100 entries, we are looking forward to the next 100.

C & J

Take any style of cooking or cooking technique.  From any country.  I’ll give you a second to think about that for a bit.  No, really, think of any country or cooking style… Italian, French, Greek… you name it.  Guess where they got their origins?  China.  That’s right… any type of modern-day cooking technique has come from the Chinese.  Grilling meat over coals… they came up with that.  You think the French came up with sautéing?  Guess again.  The Chinese came up with that in a little vessel called a wok.  You thought boiling noodles until they were al dente came from the Italians?  Chinese came up with that centuries before Marco Polo made his trip back.

For all of their amazing techniques, you’d think there would be a lot more authentic Chinese food here in the US.  Unless you happen to live in San Francisco or New York and within walking distance to their respective Chinatowns, chances are what you know as Chinese food here in the US is fake.  I hate to burst your bubble, but P.F. Changs or that chain with the smiling panda found in most airports are Pork with Capsicum/Peppers.jpgabout as close to real Chinese food as those Gucci purses that just happen to be on sale for $20.

So when C and I had the opportunity to enjoy a banquet to end all banquets prepared by a Chinese grandmother, we couldn’t help but document the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Let’s be honest, grandmothers kick ass in the kitchen.  That Italian grandma you have who came from the old country who makes that great polenta you like?  Nobody can duplicate it.  That Polish grandmother who makes the best pierogis?  She’ll kick your ass with her kitchen skills.  With this banquet, we were bowing down to the one true kung-fu master in the kitchen.  Grand Master Qi Fen (for an apprentice like me, I must refer to her as master or shi fu)!  Grand Master Qi Kung Pao Chicken.jpgFen just happens to be a brand new grandmother after her daughter (SW – C’s sister in law) gave birth to a bouncing baby boy over the holidays, and she was gracious enough to prepare an amazing meal of 10 dishes for the whole family.  I’m going to let that settle for a bit… that’s right… 10 dishes!

She spent the entire day shopping, prepping, and cooking the amazing meal and I had no choice but to take my place as the apprentice, knowing that I didn’t even come close to her kitchen prowess.  That place just happened to be the kitchen stool next to her.  Watching her knife skills, her seasoning technique, her marinating technique, ingredients she used, and most importantly, her ability to balance up to 5 dishes being cooked at the same time yet making sure each was closely Mapo Tofu.jpgwatched.

Ever see a Chinese cook use a meat cleaver as precisely as a paring knife?  It’s something else.  You think you have good control with chopsticks?  I’m half Korean and have been eating with chopsticks since I was 5.  Grand Master was using long giant ones as if they were built into her wrist.

More importantly, watching Grand Master allowed me the opportunity to find out how the Chinese get those amazing flavors in to their food.  I don’t mean to give up a secret here, but you only need a handful of ingredients to get great authentic Chinese flavor in your dishes:  dark soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, green onion, garlic, and salt.  Stuffed Pork Meatballs.jpgThat’s it folks… you figure that out, you’re about 2% there in becoming the next Grand Master.  The other 98% I think is attributed to years of experience and repetition, but what do I know?

I’m not about to give out recipes in this post… that would take an eternity and I think C would rather give out that information after we take a shot at a few of these dishes ourselves.  I’m not about to name all of these dishes either but I’ll do my best in trying to describe them.  On to the food!

Kung Pao Chicken – Cut chicken thighs marinated in dark soy, Chinese cooking wine, a little salt and green onions quickly cooked with Chinese chili flake oil and green peppers with peanuts.  Who knew a dish in almost ever neighborhood Chinese restaurantPork Belly with 100-Year Old Eggs.jpg menu would taste this good.

Pork with Capsicum/Peppers – Thinly sliced pork (sliced with a meat cleaver no less) cooked with thinly sliced green capsicum/pepper.  I dare anyone to try and cut pork as uniformly as she did with a cleaver, and not lose at least part of a finger.

Mapu Tofu – Ground pork with spicy tofu.  The dish to judge all Chinese cooks by.  This one was flavorful and delicious. We have made this before – but we do it the cheats way.

Kick-Ass Fish.jpgStuffed Pork Meatballs – I have no idea how those balls went from hollow fried spheres, to soft, flavorful stuffed globes full of pork.  The dark soy/Chinese cooking wine marinade was excellent once again.

Pork Belly with 100-Year Old Eggs – Ever seen what the Chinese call 100-Year Old Eggs?  These weren’t those but they sort of looked like them with the dark soy infusing to the egg whites.  Soft pork belly slow cooked with that rich marinade.Salted Cucumber.jpg

Kick-Ass Fish – I challenge anyone to cook a flavorless white fish like tilapia and have it packed with as much flavor as Grand Master did in this dish.  One of the better fish dishes I’ve had in my life.

Salted Cucumber – A simple dish to cleanse the palate.  Crunchy cucumber cut uniformly with a giant cleaver.

Shrimp with Egg.jpgShrimp with Egg – Ever try de-veining 30 or more shrimp with a cleaver?  Try doing it and let’s see how many fingers you’ll have left.  Grand Master did that for every single shrimp (prawn for you Aussies) we had.

Snowpeas with Garlic – Crunchy snowpeas that went so well with rice.

Vegetable Medley – Gotta love that corn starch slurry to give it that classic Chinese shine!Snowpeas with Garlic.jpg

Definitely a meal I won’t soon forget.  I feel as if we’re indebted to Grand Master for this meal.  Maybe one day I’ll get to make my famous (to a circle of about 8 people) BBQ ribs for her, although that won’t even come close to the spectacle she put on for us.

If Grand Master Qi Vegetable Medley.jpgFen ever has a chance to read this, she’s invited to our house any day for dinner.  If the meal we cook for her is even halfway as good as the meal she prepared for us, then I would consider that a success.