31 May 2010

Wanchai Ferry Beef & Broccoli Frozen Stir-Fry Review and Giveaway


Through My Blog Spark sponsored by Wanchai Ferry I was able to review Wanchai's newest flavor from their Chinese Meal for Two line, beef & broccoli.

Wanchai Stir Fry Frozen Meal Review
Wanchai Stir Fry Frozen Meal Review

The beef & broccoli flavor comes with beef strips, broccoli, red peppers, and water chestnuts. The brown sauce includes the flavors of soy and garlic. I felt that there was a decent amount of each main ingredients, which I look for in a frozen meal like this since usually they skimp on the pricier ingredients by loading up on cheaper ingredients. If you're a big meat fan, you probably would feel that there wasn't enough beef strips.

Wanchai Stir Fry Frozen Meal Review

To complete your stay in-take out experience, the meal comes with a packet of pre-cooked jasmine rice that just needs a brief 3 minutes of microwave cooking as the stir fry finishes up. After resting for a minute, the rice comes out fluffy, tender, and ready to go. I've seen instructions for freezing your own pre-cooked rice that I haven't tried, but after this I'll probably start packing up portions of rice for future meals.

Wanchai Stir Fry Frozen Meal Review

Since the entire meal takes just about 15 minutes to make, including the rice, you won't have to wait long to eat. Place the vegetables and meat in a nonstick skillet with 1/3 cup water (I accidentally used 2/3 cup), and any other thinly sliced vegetables, like onions, carrot strips (which I used), or snow peas, etc., to add to the mix. The instructions then say to cook on high for 6-8 minutes, though I felt that the vegetables only needed about 4 minutes because they were starting to overcook and wilt just a bit instead of staying vibrant. Since the contents of the sauce packets are added and allowed to cook on medium for an additional 3 minutes, I found it was plenty of time to allow the ingredients to cook thoroughly if the heat was previously at a constant boil before.
Because I accidentally thinned the sauce out too much, the flavor, while still present and therefore a sign to the quality of flavor, was a bit weak. Overall, though, I thought the flavor of the sauce was pretty good in comparison to a standard Chinese buffet, and other Chinese frozen meals. I did add 1/2 a tablespoon oyster sauce and a bit of sriracha sauce.

Wanchai Stir Fry Frozen Meal Review

So overall the flavor of the sauce and the vegetables tasted really good together, and although I never used to care for water chestnuts, I liked the addition here. If I had cooked the vegetables a bit less it would have come out more fresh-like than what's typical of a frozen meal. The beef strips were good, though those were definitely the tell of it being frozen. I also appreciated that the rice was included since it really sped up the entire process instead of having to cook your own.

A few notes: While there's no added MSG, except what occurs naturally, this would be a plus for those of you staying away from it. However, the sodium content per serving rivals a burrito from a place I won't mention in this post, so in many ways it's comparable to take out, except the flavor is a bit fresher and it's definitely not as greasy.

Wanchai Stir Fry Frozen Meal Review
Wanchai Stir Fry Frozen Meal Review

Also, as no Chinese meal is complete without tea, included are two tea cups, tea balls, and containers of organic green tea leaves to enhance your stay in-take out experience!

Giveaway Info

Wanchai Ferry and My Blog Spark has also given me the opportunity to host a giveaway for your own packet of stir fry meal for two, a VIP coupon, and two tea sets. You can enter three times to improve your chances of winning, details below (giveaway open to US residents only):

  1. Leave a comment telling me you'd like to enter

  2. Blog about this giveaway, with a link back to this post, on your blog. Please comment again with a link to your post.

  3. Follow me on Twitter if you don't already and twit this giveaway, and comment again with a link to your tweet

Giveaway ends on Saturday, June 6th, and the winner will be announced the following Monday. Good luck!

In the meantime, anyone can print a coupon for $1.60 off a pack of Wanchai Ferry Frozen Stir-Fry.

28 May 2010

william shatner's cappuccino muffins

william shatner's cappuccino muffins

I've been wanting to make these muffins for a while now, partly because I love anything coffee-related, partly because I thought it was cool how these might possibly be from William Shatner. Come on, the man was captain of the Enterprise. After retiring, he became a lawyer in Boston. He gets around, and he still finds time to be in the kitchen!

william shatner's cappuccino muffins

Of course, I changed up the recipe because I wanted to make these in the manner of a cupcake. Ideally, I wanted to brown the butter, let it cool, and beat with the sugar. I could have simply mixed the browned butter with the milk, but I was aiming for a lighter texture.

What happened next, since I was too hasty and didn't let the butter cool, is that the butter and sugar didn't whip properly because the heat sort of dissolved the sugar. After I added the egg, the mixture looked similar to a congealed mayonnaise mixture. In the end, the batter came together without a problem and resembled a pretty nice cupcake consistency.

Besides the browned butter, I replaced the cinnamon (too warm a flavor for the current heat wave) with cardamom (probably the same thing, but it seems lighter) and used only 1/2 cup chocolate chips. For the crowns I sprinkled 1/2 teaspoon sugar on top of each cup to look pretty. Unfortunately, I didn't remember that I had ground coffee beans mixed with sugar, otherwise I would have gone with the gold.

william shatner's cappuccino muffins

Based on pictures of other bloggers' cappuccino muffins, I had high expectation that the crowns would beam up into epic proportions. And they did! One of the most beautifully baked up muffin recipes I've ever encountered, and I was pretty happy. I also didn't grease the sides of the muffin tins, which I think is a Cook's Illustrated technique as it allows the batter to "grab" the sides and rise higher, if I recall correctly.

The texture was soft and fluffy, with just enough sweetness to make it appropriate for brek-fast, elevenses, you name it, spread with a sweetened whipped coffee cream cheese-butter spread (which I just thought of at this moment). The espresso flavor wasn't particularly strong, and the cardamom wasn't detectable whatsoever, though I'm thinking the combination of the two flavors with the browned butter, accented by vanilla, is what made the muffins tasty. If you would like a stronger coffee flavor, adjust the amount of espresso powder to suit your tastes. Definitely a repeat worthy recipe, though next time I'll bake the original version for comparison.

Recipe after the jump

william shatner's cappuccino muffins
His original recipe with my mods

12 muffins

ingredients ~

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, browned and cooled to room temperature (you can refrigerate the butter to speed up the process, but make sure it doesn't completely solidify)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup chocolate chips
extra granulated sugar

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray the bottoms of a 12-cup nonstick muffin tin.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, espresso powder, cardamom, and salt.

  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar for 3 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until mixed. On low speed, blend in one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk. Continue alternating the flour and milk, ending with the flour. When a few traces of flour remain, stir in the chocolate chips just until mixed.

  4. Divide batter evenly amongst all 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle each top with 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool in tin for 5 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.

26 May 2010

easy enchiladas

chicken enchiladas

Every have those evenings where you'd rather eat Ramen than cook a meal? I do. So I'm trying to build up a repertoire of easy, tasty, go-to meals that are still worthy of applause, and one of those is enchiladas with a very simple and delicious red sauce.

chicken enchiladas

There was actually another recipe I was following, but after trying the recipe I found on Knitter in the Kitchen I wanted to see how the sauce on the Everyday Food recipe would differ. The premise is the same, oil, flour, chili powder, water and chicken broth, but it differed by the addition of an chipotle chili with a bit of the adobo sauce that added an extra punch. However, the other recipe has a few spices mixed in with the chili powder that I felt gave it a bit more depth of flavor, but I was lazy so all I added was a minced garlic clove, some dried oregano, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (which really enhances red sauces).

In this recipe, you make a roux with oil and flour, similar to the first recipe I tried except that you blend the chili powder plus spices with the flour before adding the liquid. Since chili powder is oil soluble, much of the flavor is released when added to oil, thus I feel it's better to add it with the flour instead of later with the liquid. Although the flavor was still pretty punchy, it probably had more to do with the chipotle chili and adobo sauce than from the chili powder alone.

As the sauce simmers away for a brief 10 minutes, you can prep the filling and get the pan ready.

chicken enchiladas

Otherwise, I mostly followed the recipe as written, except for the filling I used preshredded chicken (from chicken cooked earlier) and seasoned the onion-garlic-chicken mixture with oregano, salt, and Goya seasoning. I love Goya. I also had more flour tortillas so I used those. For corn tortillas, though, Rick Bayless has a quick method to soften them: Brush either side with oil or spray with oil, then place flat on a baking sheet and stick in the oven for at least 5 minutes, until soft and pliable.

In the oven, the sauce bakes into the tortillas and the finished dish is completely delicious and satisfies any craving you might have for Mexican food. The top is a bit crispy with the cheese and the cilantro sprinkled on top adds another element of flavor. A squeeze of lime would also be great. No, it's probably not completely traditional, but not everything needs to be. An added bonus, this can also be frozen in advance for later. Since I used 10 flour tortillas, you could probably use more corn tortillas as well, though it might not be as saucy (mine wasn't -- next time).

Recipe after the jump

Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas
Recipe from Everyday Food with my mods in italics

Serves 5

ingredients ~

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 small chipotle chile in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon sauce (from a small can)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 a packet Goya seasoning
1 teaspoon oregano
Coarse salt and ground pepper
10 flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

directions ~
  1. Make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add flour, chili powder, oregano, garlic, and salt and cook, whisking occasionally, 1 minute. Add broth, chipotle and adobo sauce, and 3/4 cup water, and vinegar; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat, and simmer until lightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Make filling: In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, Goya, oregano, and beef; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If freezing, don't place any sauce in baking dish.) Spoon 1/4 cup sauce in bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Set aside. Make enchiladas: Stack tortillas; wrap in foil, and warm in oven, 10 minutes. Fill each with a heaping 1/4 cup beef mixture (and this was for 6-inch corn tortillas, which I don't even think I did for 10-inch flour tortillas, so do whatever works for you) and 2 tablespoons cheese; tightly roll up.

  4. Raise oven heat to 450 degrees. Arrange enchiladas, seam side down, in baking dish. Top with remaining sauce; sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. (I sprinkled the cilantro on top a few minutes before end of cooking time) Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve garnished with cilantro and, if desired, a green salad.

To freeze: make sauce and enchiladas; arrange enchiladas in baking dish without sauce (so tortillas don't become soggy). Place sauce in an airtight container. Cover dish with plastic wrap and foil. Label, date, and freeze enchiladas and sauce. Use within 2 months; bake without thawing.

To bake from frozen: Thaw sauce in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove foil and plastic wrap from baking dish. Pour sauce over top, and sprinkle with cheese; cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until lightly browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; serve.

If baking right away: Spoon 1/4 cup sauce in the bottom of baking dish; pour the rest over the enchiladas.

24 May 2010

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

Carrot shortbread. Yeah, that's right. I won't take all the credit for this idea, though, as it originated from a conversation about carrot cake with chocolate icing, which led to baby carrots dipped in chocolate frosting. Which sounds disgusting, but I have this idea that originated from someone else a long time ago about carrots tasting a bit like raw coconut, the sweetness and the crunch.

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

Before I begin, I grated these carrots normally, then ran them over with a knife to get the strands more finely chopped. I'm not sure how else to finely grate carrots unless you spend two hours doing so, or use some blade in a food processor, though this was easier.

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread
carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

At first I was thinking of creating a regular carrot cake type recipe, although that idea never appealed to me because I figured it would end up tasting a bit like a pumpkin cookie. I also wanted to come up with something a bit more unique, and since I've been on somewhat of a shortbread cookie roll, I stuck with that theme.

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

My to requirements for these cookies was to include carrots and chocolate chips. Next up was adding a few different ingredients to make it different than a regular cookie. Maybe ground ginger and toasted almonds processed to a floury powder aren't quite unique, so I added orange. Because clearly adding the flavor of orange to recipes is something I don't often do.

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

The dough came out with buttery, with a special sweetness from the carrots and subtle flavors from the ground almonds, ginger, and orange. At first I wasn't sure about the taste paired with chocolate, but it wasn't disgusting. I figured if the cookies came out like crap, some wild creature outside would thank me.

As per usual, I divided the dough in half, rolled into a log, and refrigerated overnight. The day I baked it I sprinkled sanding sugar on a platter and rolled the log in it to coat the outside before slicing. I love doing this because it's pretty and adds more flavor to the cookie.

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

Throughout this process I wasn't really sure what exactly to expect. However, it came out much better than I initially expected (everything I make is, by default, delicious). It had the sandy shortbread texture with a smoothness in flavor that almost tastes like a mascaropone cheese in a way, but it's probably just the combination of sweetness from the carrots and the flavor of the ground almonds. The orange comes through to brighten the taste of the cookie, though the ginger remains mostly undetectable. There is just enough chocolate to enhance without overpowering. While the texture was sandy, these were soft cookies instead of being crisp like many shortbread.

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread

For laughs, I wanted to take a cheesy picture of myself like I see in magazines where the farmer is holding his bounty in an artsy shot, but all I came up with was a picture of me gazing at the bundle of carrots and cookies in my arm like a newborn crop baby. When you taste these cookies, though, you'll probably stare at them the same way.

This was probably the best cookie I've had in 2010, and if you want to experience the best cookie to-date of 2010, follow the recipe and make your own.

Print this recipe

carrot-almond-chocolate shortbread
Recipe by Christina Provo

ingredients ~

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
grated rind of 1 orange
1 cup finely grated carrot
1 egg, room temperature
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted almonds slivers, ground to a fine powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate chips
sanding sugar, or granulated sugar

directions ~
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground almonds, and ginger; set aside.

  2. Beat butter with confectioners' sugar in large bowl for 2 minutes. Add salt, vanilla, and orange rind and beat until combined. next, add grated carrots and beat for another minute. Beat in egg until combined. Blend in half of flour mixture. Using a sturdy spatula or a wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour until a few traces of flour remain. mix in chocolate chips just until combined.

  3. Divide dough in half and roll each portion into a 1 1/2 inch wide log on a sheet of plastic wrap. refrigerate until firm, or overnight.

  4. Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place extra sugar on a platter. Roll one log at a time in the sugar to coat the outside. Slice into 1/4 inch slices and place 1/2 inch apart on prepared sheet. Bake for 13 minutes; cookies will be firm to the touch and bottoms will be golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest on sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

19 May 2010

i want s'mores cookies

s'mores cookies

There's this s'mores cookie that's been up on the foodie blog world for a while now, but I never seem to have all the ingredients needed at one time, like graham crackers (the crumbs are mixed into cookie dough) and Hershey bars for the top. The cookie is probably the best creation since that lady created the chocolate chip cookie, and there's nothing that says summer like a burnt marshmallow sandwich!

My idea to create a spin-off version was to modify a homemade graham cracker recipe, add chocolate chips, then freeze the mini mallows as per the directions in the regular recipe and top the cookies with them two minutes before the cookies are finished baking. The recipe I based mine from, found on Smitten Kitchen, calls for the butter to be cut into the flour mixture, which I didn't do for whatever reason, but might try next time just because dedicated readers know how much I hate waiting for butter to come to room temperature. In fact, total truth, I softened the butter in the microwave on medium power for 15 second. (Ha. I typed "minutes" first.)

s'mores cookies

By using some whole wheat flour in place of the white flour, I hoped the graham cracker flavor would stand out more, though since I used white whole wheat the flavor was more subdued than it might have been had I used regular whole wheat. The cookie mostly tasted like a chocolate chip cookie with a bit more depth of flavor with marshmallows on top.

For the shape, I divided the dough in half and shaped them into square logs, chilled, and cut into slices. The cookies looked more like a graham cracker, even if they don't really mimic the flavor.

Print this recipe

s'mores cookies
Recipe by Christina Provo

ingredients ~

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, room temperature
4 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
mini marshmallows (I honestly have no idea how many I used, but I do know that I used 5 marshmallows per cookie, so just use half the bag at first)

directions ~
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Whisk the espresso powder with the milk in a small bowl until completely dissolved.

  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the brown sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Pour in the espresso-milk mixture and blend until mixed. Stir in half the flour mixture; stir in the remaining flour until a few traces of flour remain, then add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

  3. Divide the dough in half equally. Place one half on a sheet of wax paper and press into a square log, about 2-inches wide (and what might be 12-inches long, but I really didn't pay attention). Refrigerate logs until firm, or freeze if you can't wait.

  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° and place half a bag of marshmallows in a bowl and place in the freezer.

  5. When ready to bake, slice log into uniform slices, about 1/4-inch thick. Turn the log after each slice to help maintain the shape. Place about 1 1/2-inches apart of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and quickly press 5 marshmallows on the tops of each cookie. Bake for an additional 2 minutes.

  6. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack and cool for 3-5 minutes; transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

17 May 2010

pecan sandies

pecan sandies

I know I'm not the only person who likes to recreate homemade versions of classics. When I saw the recipe for a simple version on Brown Eyed Baker, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, it looked very simple and quick, the type of cookie you could bake up in your sleep.

pecan sandies

To further simplify the process, I divided the dough into logs to refrigerate until firm. Once ready, you can either roll the logs in sugar before slicing, or go ahead slice into uniform sizes. Although I doubled the recipe, I still got more than two dozen cookies, which was a great thing because these were the most light, buttery, and crispy cookies with a delightful caramel flavor coupled with the flavor of toasted pecans and walnuts.

pecan sandies

Unlike a pecan sandy, these didn't have the characteristic sandy texture, being more like a shortbread. But otherwise these were a delicious snackable cookie that I'd almost want to hoard for myself.

Recipe after jump

pecan sandies
From Martha Stewart

Makes about a dozen cookies

ingredients ~
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour, beating just until combined. Fold in the pecans.

  3. Roll the dough into 1½-inch balls (I used a medium-size cookie scoop) and place on baking sheet 2 inches apart. With the dampened bottom of a glass, lightly flatten each ball.**

  4. Bake until cookies are golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

**My mods were to roll the dough into a 10-12-inch log, about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Use a sliced paper towel tube to keep the shape. Once chilled, I sliced the log into slices a bit bigger than 1/4-inch and baked as directed.

14 May 2010

grilled beer battered shrimp

grilled beer battered shrimp

Holidays and some birthdays around here usually mean grilling stuff, like fish, chicken, or other grillables. We've been playing around with battered fish for a while, though after this we've decided that grilling food with a battered coating wasn't the best method. (I still say the grills needed to be greased. *cough cough*)

grilled beer battered shrimp

Last time we used a tempura-ish batter with beer and it didn't quite stick to the shrimp. After reading around, we realized it we weren't patting the shrimp dry enough for the batter to stick. Also, some methods tossed the fish with either corn starch or flour, further ensuring the fish to be thoroughly coated with bater. We used cornstarch.

grilled beer battered shrimp

This beer batter was one of the better recipes I've tried, and coming from Alton Brown, it all makes sense. The batter includes baking powder for lightness, I'm guessing, and the carbonation from the beer would definitely aid in that aspect along with giving the batter flavor. There's also a bit of cayenne pepper that lends a noticeable spicy note, and I also added a teaspoon of fish seasoning I have. (He uses Old Bay, and this is probably the equivalent, though he only uses a "dash".) The batter then gets a brief rest of 15 minutes in the fridge before being used, though the recipe states that it can rest for up to an hour.

grilled beer battered shrimp

The shrimp skewers were then placed on the grill and left for a few minutes until the batter set.

grilled beer battered shrimp

So far, everything seemed good. My dad was concerned that the batter would rip off like a scab and stick to the grills instead of the shrimp. (He didn't use those exact words.) The first few skewers didn't stick to the grill, which wasn't oiled.

grilled beer battered shrimp

Then some of the coating just wouldn't stick to the shrimp. I think this could have been because the outside cooked quicker than the inside, so it didn't have a chance to stick to the shrimp. However, nothing went to waste as I scraped off the coating that stuck to the grills. Gotta get my daily dose of carcinogen in! The batter was incredibly tasty, and years of purposely burning marshmallows enables me to enjoy the flavor of overly charred food. It adds an interesting aspect.

grilled beer battered shrimp

So, for the most part, it wasn't a failure, though it wasn't necessarily easy. The sad part is that you don't get the flavor of charcoal when you fry food.

P.S. I left out the obvious joke of "shrimp on the barbie", which I will mention now that this post is over.

Alton Brown's Beer Batter for Fish
From Alton's Chips and Fish recipe

ingredients ~

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash Old Bay Seasoning
1 bottle brown beer, cold
1 1/2 pounds firm-fleshed whitefish (tilapia, pollock, cod), cut into 1-ounce strips
Cornstarch, for dredging

directions ~
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Whisk in the beer until the batter is completely smooth and free of any lumps. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Note: The batter can be made up to 1 hour ahead of time.

  2. Lightly dredge fish strips in cornstarch. In small batches, dip fish in batter and cook as desired.

Full cooking methods are described if you click on the link above. Instead of deep frying, you could probably pan fry the fish in a cast iron skillet with a decent amount of oil in it.

12 May 2010

key lime pie for mother's day

key lime pie

One of my mom's favorite dessert is a key lime pie, so it was the obvious choice (that I almost forgot about) to make for Mother's Day. She has this really simple recipe that uses just egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and zest, and a meringue topping. We vary between the meringue topping and a simple whipped cream topping, though this time I made the meringue with less sugar and folded it into the filling for an airier consistency. The recipe has you whip one egg white and fold it into the filling anyway, so I figured adding the entire meringue might give the pie a new twist.

key lime pie
key lime pie

By far the worst part is juicing all the tiny little key limes. I'm sure there was an easier way than using the juicer I use for lemons and more sanely sized limes, but of course I wouldn't have used the easier way. If I ever have kids and need to punish them, forget the corner, time out, or soap in mouth, I'll simply sentence them to juicing an entire bag of key limes.

key lime pie

For the crust, I typically go for a shortbread cookie crust over a pastry or graham cracker crust. Actually, making a crust using homemade graham cracker crust would be excellent. But this time I chose the incredibly simple no-roll pie crust from Joy the Baker. Her technique is to grate frozen butter and add it, along with a bit of softened cream cheese, to the flour mixture (which includes salt, sugar, and a little baking powder).

key lime pie

You then mix together oil and cold milk and toss it in the flour-butter mixture until cohesive clumps of dough comes together.

key lime pie

After that, you press the dough into the pie dish, freeze it, then bake.

key lime pie

When she says this is the simplest pie crust ever, it really is! My problem with pie crusts is that, no matter how carefully I try not to overwork the dough, the crust shrinks down. This happens with par-baking the crust, or using it straight. The beautiful crimp loses its design, and I get sad. Well, there was no worries about crimping here, and after blind baking the crust it didn't noticeably shrink a bit. The texture wasn't as flaky as regular pie crust, but it was light and had a bit of a soft shortbread consistency.

key lime pie
key lime pie

After the pie crust cooled a bit, I made the meringue and folded it into the filling.

key lime pie

After a sprinkling of sugar, I put the pie in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. The recipe says to bake to brown the meringue, though I figure it helps the filling as well so I kept the time at 15 minutes, or until the filling jiggled a bit but was firm to the touch.

key lime pie

The end result was a beautifully puffed filling with a sugary crust on top. The swirls added a decorative touch, too. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of refrigerating the pie after it cooled, which caused the crust to become soft and the filling to weep, so possibly it wasn't entirely cooled before I stuck it in the fridge. I'm not sure if it needed to be chilled at all, really.

Key Lime Pie

Look at this freaky cow. How Elsie the cow with a ring of daisies around her neck can be trusted by millions of Americans for years, I'm not sure.

key lime pie

The pie came out just as good as always, though we decided not to add the meringue to the filling next time. We like the richness that seemed to be missing this time around, though the flavor was still there. I would, however, use this method to make mini tarts since the puffy filling would make them look really pretty.

Did you guys bake anything special for Mother's Day?

Print this recipe

key lime pie
Recipe from an old Parade Magazine clipping

ingredients ~
4 large eggs, separated (reserve 3 egg whites for meringue)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice
2-3 teaspoons grated lime peel
Few drops green food coloring
1 baked 9-inch pastry shell (I used the Easy No-Roll Pie Crust)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar (or 2 tablespoons if mixing the meringue into the filling), plus additional sugar for sprinkling

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat egg yolks; stir in milk, lime juice, peel and food coloring. Beat one egg white until stiff; fold into milk mixture. Pour into pastry shell.

  2. Beat reserved egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy; gradually add sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Spread meringue on top of pie, sealing carefully to edge of shell. Sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Cool. Chill before serving.

10 May 2010

Uptown Kitchen

Uptown Kitchen

Hey everyone! I'm still here, I just took a bit of a blogging break. It goes in cycles, I think, where sometimes you'd rather just bake, cook, and eat without thinking and taking pictures. I don't really like to go too long without posting because then it becomes a habit. I did, however, take some pictures from a restaurant I checked out recently. I haven't heard of it before, though it's locally owned and and different from most restaurants in the South Bend area.

Uptown Kitchen features a menu created with fresh, quality ingredients, nonprocessed meats, and tons of flavor. The owner, who came from Chicago, dreamed of having a restaurant since he was 10, and I'm glad I got to eat here! Serving breakfast all day, the menu offers creations that aren't typical of many breakfast fare served elsewhere, as well as a lunch and dinner menu with offerings for everyone ranging from a Kobe beef burger to a protein-packed quinoa burger.

The ambiance is an eclectic, fresh vibe that you can feel instantly upon entering. It's like dining in a really awesome dining room, but in a public setting. The hanging lamps lead up to an exposed ceiling that only lends to the eclectic feel, and reminded me of the cafe at Fox & Obels. Windows surround the entire dining area and off to the side is the kitchen, of which you have a complete view. I love eating with natural lighting as it just gives everything a brighter, lighter feel.

Uptown Kitchen

Before I talk about what I ate, I'll first tell you a bit about the coffee, of course. Uptown Kitchen offers two roasts, a Brazilian and an Ethiopian. The former is the lighter roast of the two, yet it's not weak at all. It has a fruitier, brighter flavor that I felt complimented the tastes of the dishes I had better than the Ethiopian, which to me was richer, but almost tasting reminiscent of a Starbucks roast (ew), yet not. It didn't have a caramelization of the oils and flavors that I look for in darker roasts.

Uptown Kitchen

We had a challenge when it came to deciding what to eat, so we made the brilliant choice of choosing two dishes and splitting them. First up was the deliciously described omelette filled with crab, cream cheese, and spinach. It sounded unique, and the combination of ingredients stood out amongst the rest. (If I remember correctly, this was one of the specials of the day.) The order came with a side of their Uptown Fries, pan-roasted and seasoned red potatoes.

Uptown Kitchen

Was this the best omelette I've ever had, or what! The taste of the cream cheese complimented the crab perfectly, and the texture next to the eggs was great. Sometimes I feel cream cheese can have too much of an overwhelming flavor, but that wasn't the case here. They weren't stingy with the crab, either, which was nice to see.

The potatoes were good, and not greasy at all (I was told they use minimal oil, they don't have a deep fryer), though one of the flavors, I think it was sage, tastes off at times. The texture was crispy on the outside, and had the innards of a fluffy, warm potato, and that made it better.

Uptown Kitchen

Our "dessert" was a split order of lemon ricotta pancakes with raspberry creme fraiche, another special of the day. The pancakes had a very bright lemony flavor, and the texture of the pancakes was sort of like light cheesecake-meets pancake. Raspberry always compliments lemon, and definitely made the pancakes with a little extra syrup, too.

My next visit to Uptown Kitchen will be solely for the purpose of tasting some of their cakes, like champagne raspberry, and pies. If you're in the area, check it out!

The Uptown Kitchen
303 Florence Avenue
Granger, Indiana 46530

(574) 968-3030

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Chronicling my adventures from the kitchen to the road, and back again.

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