29 August 2008

Three Food Blog Trends

No, wait! Before you think you're about to read about three trends that are going to hit the food blogosphere, I have to stop you. What this is about are three previous trends that spread like fire that I either made but didn't blog about, or didn't make at all.


Now this I actually did blog about, albeit very briefly. As you know, this bread rose from Sullivan Bakery in Manhattan by Jim Lahey. With a little yeast and a lot of time, you'll be able to make an artisan-like bread with a crispy crust, large and moist crumb, and a delicious bread for dinner that's quite different than the typical roll. It's excellent toasted and spread with a little butter for breakfast, and probably would make a great panino.

I will be blogging about this again for an in-depth post.

  • The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • From a New York Times article (yet again) comes 'the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie', which sounds like the foodie version of an Indiana Jones movie. Their definition of a perfect cookie is crisp edges that give way to a chewy center, the dough part a deep blend of caramel and toffee that plays off the salt sprinkled on the tops of the cookies. The real highlight of their recipe is that the dough is given an aging (they said resting, actually, but calling it an 'aged cookie' sounds funnier to me) time of 36 hours, which helps bring out the caramel and toffee undertones, while maintaining the buttery flavor and crispy-chewiness we all know and love. The recipe, mainly from Jacques Torres, suggests using 'chocolate couverture', chocolate disks used for coating truffles and the like, instead of chocolate chips because it melts to innards of chocolate lines instead of chocolate chunks. My theory on that is since objective is to create a perfect symmetry, the 'lines' of chocolate would meld better with the crumb and flavors than a chunk of chocolate would. It is something I have noticed, especially in peanut butter cookies when the chocolate would overpower the overall taste.

    When I try these, I'll make it side-by-side my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe to see how it compares.

  • Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread with Sugar Crust

  • I will go ahead and say that this was Starbucks' attempt at rectifying their horrible line of pastries. Chef Marcus Samuelsson came up with this recipe as part of a cookbook being made for Starbucks. I figured that if I made this myself it would have to be better than buying it at Starbucks, and seeing the overall raves around the blogosphere sealed the deal, I just hadn't made it. Until now.



The batter tasted really good, light, a deep cocoa taste that the cinnamon played off of well, and just sweet enough without being overkill.


The sugar crust is a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and a pinch of cloves (I substituted allspice). I read another blog that said the amount of the sugar mixture was too much, resulting in quite a bit of it falling off the top when you turn the loaf out, but I forgot that course sugar would make for a better look so I kept sprinkling it on.


The loaf rose beautifully and smelled wonderfully, but cocoa is like coffee when you have a headache -- not cool. Besides that, the aroma wafting through the kitchen was really nice and warrants making this again, just for that.


Most of the sugar topping did fall off, but what was left was a crispy, crackling crust that really heightened the flavor of the bread.


I turned the loaf out on a cooling rack on a baking sheet because I knew the sugar was going to fall off. But instead of throwing it out, pick the crumbs out and put it in a container for cinnamon toast or any other way you'd use cinnamon sugar.


I was expecting more of a fudgy center, but what I got was a moist, tender loaf that held up fairly well, but you had to be careful with. My initial reaction to the taste was that it seemed like the quick bread version of the cocoa buns I made about a week ago, except not quite as deep, but cocoa and cinnamon really work well together. At first I didn't think this was anything special. Sure, it tasted good, it didn't repulse me, but other than that I wasn't thrilled. Then, after the second bite, it started to grow on me, the crackly sugar crust heightening the tender chocolate bread.

If you make this, definitely use half the amount of sugar for the crust, maybe substituting half of the half portion with course sugar if you prefer. It's fairly tender at first, so be careful when you turn it out of the loaf pan.

There you go, two trends left to blog about!

28 August 2008

Peanut-Orange Noodles


From the top: Carrot strips, broccoli florets, orange juice, spinach noodles

This is a dish I like to make on days I don't feel like cooking. It's quick, easy to vary the flavors, and makes a simple, yet delicious meal.


I usually make this with soba noodles, but all I had were these spinach noodles from the Asian market. If anything, it shows the versatility of this recipe and recipes similar. You could even use spaghetti if that's all you had.



The peanut sauce is the highlight of this dish. It makes the dish filling, while the orange juice in it keeps the taste light. Sometimes you make dinner and wonder if it'll fill you up. This looks that way, but it really is satiating.



I chose to blanch the vegetables because it's really fast and it can be done in the same pot that you'll cook the noodles in.


For more protein, I used chicken. You could add tofu or anything else you prefer that would combine well with the flavors. If you don't have leftover chicken or don't have the time to cook it, pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store.


Pour the sauce over and toss to coat.


Dinner is served!




Print this recipe

Peanut Orange Noodles
Recipe by Christina

Yields 2 Servings

Sauce Ingredients:

Grated rind of one orange (set aside)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2-3 oranges)
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder or a 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon hot chili paste or 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Noodle Mixture Ingredients:
2 cups of broccoli florets, cut into evenly sized pieces<
2 carrots, either julienned or peeled into strips with this type of vegetable peeler, which can be found at an Asian store
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
8 ounces dry soba noodles

Directions:
  1. For sauce: Combine all ingredients, except the grated orange rind, into a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Stir until combined, then turn the heat to low until needed. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. If it's too salty, add a few tablespoons more orange juice. If it needs more flavor, start with 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt.

  2. For the noodle mixture: Fill a large pot with water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, have a colander and a large bowl ready. Add the broccoli to the boiling water and blanch for 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the colander and rinse with cool water just to stop the cooking process. Transfer to the large bowl.

  3. Repeat the process with the carrots, except blanch for only 1 minute for julienned or 1 minute 45 seconds for strips. Add the carrots and shredded chicken to the bowl.

  4. In the same water, brought to a boil again, add the soba noodles and cook according to the box instructions. Before straining the noodles, add 2 tablespoon of the pasta water to the orange-peanut sauce. Add the noodles to the bowl, then pour the sauce over the noodle mixture and toss to combine. Sprinkle grated orange rind on top each serving.

27 August 2008

It's Not Over 'Til It's Over

Summer is a favorite season for many people (it's my 2nd), and usually they are sad to see it end. No more sleeping in, going to the beach, staying up late, and making s'mores. Actually, the last one doesn't have to end until you decide that you're sick of it!

Homemade Graham Crackers
with Toasted Coconut Marshmallows



What made me decide to make my own graham crackers? After looking at various recipes, I could tell it was quick, easy, and probably would taste much better than what I could buy. The marshmallows I bought, though.


Line a baking sheet with however many graham crackers you want, top with a marshmallow, and broil until the tops of the marshmallows are browned.


Press the marshmallow down with the back of a spoon.


The graham crackers were amazing. Crisp-sandy, a blended sweetness from the sugar, honey, and molasses, and the whole wheat flour gave it a wonderful nuttiness. I'd definitely make these again.

26 August 2008

Race Day Eats


This section of the race was not on a trail


I ran a 10k trail race over the weekend, making it the first real(ish) trail race I've done. It was really fun, though it was a different feeling to be running alone for 1/3 of the race, compared to road races where there are more people and it's rare to not see anyone unless you are way ahead of everyone. But it was very fun and I can't wait to run it again.


The food here was very good and a wide variety, though I tend to stick to the same two or three items whichever race I go to. These were, I think, 'vegetable desserts', which reminded me of the feud between Jerry Seinfeld's wife and the other lady who both wrote cookbooks about hiding vegetables in meals you make.
The light-colored bread is zucchini bread, I'm guessing, and the other is a brownie.


Something struck me funny about seeing all the Panera bagels everywhere, so I took this picture. Yesterday I was at Panera to find that they raised the prices of the bagels. Regular bagels are .99¢, while specialty bagels are now $1.25. I got the asiago cheese, and it seemed much different than what I remember. Granted, I never considered Panera's to be the pinnacle of bagels, but it was fairly decent for the price. Now it's just bready and flavorless. Oh well, they still have unlimited refills on coffee and tea.


Fruit platters! Fruit is the most refreshing thing after running, so I was very glad to see the array of fruit available. There was watermelon, but it's not shown. What I didn't see were any bananas, which I'm completely fine with because I hate bananas unless it's frozen in smoothies, or smashed in breads. I think of bananas as the potato of fruits.


The (possibly) zucchini brownie with raisins. I was surprised at how fudgy this was, yet very light opposed to dense. The (possible) addition of zucchini really complemented the chocolate. I would have liked to have eaten all of this, but it was pretty rich and not the taste I wanted in my mouth at the time.


Panera bagel and a mini peanut butter Luna bar


I got third in my age group!

25 August 2008

Carbo-Loading: Asian Style

Actually, for the types of races I run (5k and 10ks) it's very unnecessary to carbo-load, as the body as enough glycogen stored to keep you from bonking. That being said, I still had to eat dinner the night before a recent 10K, and I've realized that spaghetti doesn't really do much more me but make me hungry a few hours later. So what did I eat? Chicken fried rice.


From top to center: Julienned carrots, frozen green peas, chicken marinated in soy sauce, a bit of kosher salt, white pepper, and corn starch, chopped onions and minced garlic, beaten eggs.


Long-grain jasmine rice

The first step is to assemble the ingredients. I used 2 carrots, about 3/4 cup peas, 1 large onion, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 chicken breasts (I prefer using chicken thighs as the meat remains tender after stir-frying), and 2 eggs. For the rice, it's important to make it the day ahead of when you want to make it. This ensures that the refrigerated rice is chilled thoroughly, thus keeping the grains separate when it comes time to cook instead of having clumps.

There's a procedure needed to make fried rice that keeps the process efficient. First, you need a large skillet, wok, or a large electric skillet. Secondly, since the heat of whatever pan you'll be using will be on high, all the ingredients must be assembled and within reach. Not shown is a small pitcher of oil, a little dish of kosher salt, a container of white pepper, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The cooking process of the ingredients is quite fast, so you don't want to have to stop mid-way in search of anything you need (keep two clean bowls for the chicken and the eggs when they are finished cooking).

The procedure for the actual cooking is the aromatic ingredients first (green onions and garlic, but I forgot the green onions so I mixed the garlic with the onions), the onions, then each individual vegetable, the eggs, the chicken, and lastly, the rice.



Pour a few teaspoons of oil into the pan and move it around with a spatula. Add the onions and a sprinkle of kosher salt and white pepper; stir constantly until the edge are getting charred, or all the onions are beginning to turn brown. Remove to a bowl/container.



Repeat the process with the vegetables.



Add oil to the pan, pour in the beaten eggs, and use one hand to keep the eggs moving while using the other hand to sprinkle the salt and pepper on top. Cook just until the eggs are set, but not completely dry. Remove to a bowl and use a fork to break up the large curds.



Stir-fry the chicken just until no pink is left or only a tiny amount remains, then immediately remove from the pan.


Season the rice, then stir-fry until brown or it begins to look charred.


Add the rest of the ingredients to the rice and gently toss. Turn down the heat to medium-high. Pour in about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Continue to toss until everything is evenly coated and the rice looks brown (add more soy sauce as needed). Check for seasoning and make the necessary adjustments.


Place in a large serving bowl (I used a deep-dish pie pan).


Fried rice is extremely easy to make, and it can be made into an all-in-one main meal dish, or a side dish. The add-ins can be varied, as well as any sauces or oils that are added at the end, making the flavor different each time. Be creative!

22 August 2008

Muffins for Elevenses


Because saying 'elevenses' sounds cooler than calling it a 'snack', or a 'mid-morning coffee break'.


What I like about this recipe that it's all whole wheat, yet it doesn't have the typical density you'd think a 100% whole wheat muffin would have. Also, the warm muffins are dipped in a simple orange syrup, which adds a burst of orange and an extra, subtle sweetness as well as giving the tops a nice sheen. Similar to how a glazed fruit tart looks compared to one that isn't, it's a simple step that really makes a difference.

Recipe after the jump



Blueberry Whole-Grain Muffins
From King Arthur Flours

Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour or King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour

  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (I used regular oats)

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk powder or nonfat dry milk

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (finely grated orange peel)

  • 2 large eggs

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter (I used butter)

Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

  • 3 tablespoons sugar


Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then stir in the cranberries and nuts. Whisk together the orange zest, eggs, milk, and oil or melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until blended; don't beat, or your muffins will be tough! Fill 12 greased muffin cups or paper liners about 3/4 full.


  2. Bake the muffins in a preheated 350°F oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, leave them in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack.


  3. In a small saucepan or the microwave, stir together the glaze ingredients. Bring just to a boil, to dissolve the sugar. Dip the tops of the warm muffins into the glaze. Yield: 12 muffins.

21 August 2008

Mr. Food on Lattes

If you know about Mr. Food at all, you probably don't understand this title. Mr. Food? Espresso connoisseur? I'll explain.

I used to look forward to watching Mr. Food's segments during the local news. Not necessarily because of his recipes, but I liked seeing how he would fit in his trademark line, "Oooh, it's so good!", onto the end of each segment. My mom was watching the news the other day when Mr. Food had a recipe for for Mocha Latte Syrup. Because of the rise in gas prices and people cutting back on unnecessary expenses, he came up with an alternative to the popular chain-we-all-know-and-love's espresso-based beverages.


From the metal container clockwise: Water, cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon, espresso powder.

Assemble the ingredients.


Whisk the dry ingredients with the water in a saucepan over medium heat


Bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute.


Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla extract, let cool, then pour into a container.


Mr. Food says to use half & half, but I thought that was disgusting. A) I never order half & half in my espresso drinks, B) the heaviness of it might overpower the latte syrup. I used 1% milk, but whatever you have is fine. Heat to 180°, and remove any skin that formed on top.


Add 1 tablespoon of syrup to the bottom of each cup.


Since the size of these cups are smaller than average, and taking into account I wanted to top the milk with foam, I probably used about 6 oz. of milk per cup.




Guess what this is!


Parting words from Mr. Food!


This was not drunk as fast as Usain "Thunderbolt" Bolt sprinted the 200 meters.


The flavor of this mixture was pretty good, a nice change to hot chocolate, but not quite potent enough to be my daily coffee fix. No worries, next time I'll replace half the milk with coffee. If you want a different flavor, grate orange rind into the cup before pouring the liquid in, as well as on top.

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