31 October 2009

Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp

caramel shrimp

What to make when you need a quick dinner? That's what I was wondering when I remembered about Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp, a stir-fry with a few tablespoons of a caramel sauce in the mix. Don't be alarmed, this isn't a sweet entree; the caramel adds depth to the flavor and the sweet is offset by chilies, lime juice, and cilantro. All the flavors come together in the most wonderful way.

caramel shrimp with jasmine rice

I still wanted something a little easier, as my caramel skills aren't quite all there. I found this version where you add the water and sugar to the shrimp and let it bubble away for a while. While probably not the exact same, it cut down on prep time and still resulted in what tasted like take out, but better.

A few tips about this recipe: You should really consider making at least half more than what you think you need, possibly just double it (or have all ingredients assembled and make the second batch right after the first). This is so good that you'll want more.

I stir-fried the onions with the garlic.

Heat a platter up in the oven so the shrimp won't cool down too quickly. Alternatively, turn the oven on to low and place the plates in the oven to warm.

Diana's Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp
Recipe from Washingtonpost.com

ingredients ~

1 to 1 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I did not do that)
2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (I used 1/8 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water, or more as necessary
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 to 1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced (I used one seeded an deveined jalapeno)
Freshly ground black pepper (I used white pepper)
2 teaspoons lime juice
4 to 5 sprigs cilantro, for garnish, optional

directions ~
  1. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp with the oyster-flavored sauce, salt, cayenne pepper and flour. Set aside to marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.

  2. In a large skillet or wok over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

  3. Transfer the shrimp to the skillet or wok, discarding any marinade.

  4. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn pink. Add the water and sugar and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the chili pepper and black pepper to taste. Squeeze the lime juice over the top of the shrimp and transfer the mixture to a platter.

  5. Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.


28 October 2009

gingerbread biscotti

tray of biscotti

Sometimes I forget I have a blog, a place where I saved what I did and can reference later on in the future if I have questions. Like when I couldn't remember if I split the dough in half, or in thirds because I like small biscotti.

biscotto and coffee

I wanted to try some gingerbread biscotti. Though it's more of a winter flavor than fall, it has ginger and that is fallish. I needed some for a package I sent out and some simply to nosh on.

eating a biscotto

I Googled quite a few recipes as my starting point. From there, I set out to adapt my biscotti to emulate Once Upon A Tart's biscotti. I don't always follow their methods, but thanks to how they prepare their biscotti you have the option of eating it plain (without dipping it in a beverage) and not worrying you'll break a tooth. Though the texture is thoroughly crunchy, it's still perfectly bite-through-able.


So about the recipe. I read through the reviews for various recipes I looked up. Some thought it was perfect as is, while some had a few complaints about it. Many felt the spices needed to be increased to achieve a stronger gingerbread flavor, but some thought it was fine as is. In my recipe, I added about a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger, but I forgot to add 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper to enhance the spiciness. I increased the flour in my modified version, but forgot to increase the spices to compensate. Everything thought it had a good balance as it was. The white chocolate drizzles contrasted nicely, too.

Overall, the flavor and texture was close to how I envisioned a gingerbread biscotto to taste like. It was spicy and had depth of flavor. The flavors also pair perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea and would make a perfect gift for the holidays.

Print this recipe

gingerbread biscotti with white chocolate drizzles
Recipe by Christina Provo

ingredients ~

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground ginger
3/4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 oz. white chocolate melted in a double boiler with 1 tablespoon shortening

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt with the spices in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup granulated sugar until yolks become pale yellow and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Blend in fresh ginger, then molasses.

  3. In another bowl and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. With the mixer still on high, beat in the remaining sugar. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. gently stir in the butter and orange extract. Gradually stir in dry ingredients into wet, until the dough forms a ball.

  4. Divide dough in thirds and pat out to 2 inches in diameter and about 10 inches long. Bake until the top of the log is golden brown and firm when pressed with your fingers, about 25-35 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and transfer parchment with the logs onto wire racks to cool completely.

  5. With a serrated knife, slice each log, on the diagonal, into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices, depending on your preference. Place, cut side down, back on an unlined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes on either side. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

  6. Drizzle white chocolate over cooled biscotti; alternatively, dip the biscotti in the white chocolate (you may need to melt more if you do this) and place on sheets of wax paper to harden.


27 October 2009

is raw ground beef bad when brown?

brown beef

Someone once told me that he threw out raw ground beef because it was bad. Said person doesn't cook, so I wondered why exactly he threw it out. "Did it expire?" I don't remember what he said, but I think he didn't look. "Why did you throw it out?" It was grey.

brown and red beef

To get to the bottom of this question, in case anyone wondered the same thing, I did a quick Google search, as well as conducting a personal test, to find out the answer.

The Google search said that when raw beef becomes exposed to air, the air reacts with the meat pigments, particularly oxymyoglobin and causes the outer surface of meat to turn red while the inner meat, not exposed to oxygen, becomes grey-brown. Hm.

the grey is red!

It turns out that the innards of this meat was red. What I actually was searching for was a page telling me that red dye was inserted into meat, but I found some stuff about meat being packaged with CO or some such thing to keep the meat looking red, which does absolutely nothing for the freshness, and the meat is packaged in a way to either keep air out and the air it was packed with in, or to let a small amount of air in.

Back to the meat used in this post, both were purchased at the same time, and both were placed in the same section of the refrigerator, though one slightly froze while the other was completely "fresh". One of the pages I read said that if the meat was thoroughly grey, chances are it was bad, though you should also go by smell as well because I've used ground beef in the past when a) it was past the expiration date, and b) it was grey through-and-through, neither of which I'm suggesting anyone do and blaming me for your bout of e coli, I'm just letting you know I'm still alive and running.

taco meat

To sum this post up, be one with your food. Part of cooking includes getting "in there" and closely observing what's up with your ingredients. If you go by sight, you'll end up throwing out grey raw ground beef that may be perfectly fine to cook with, and no one wants to be wasteful. Right?

The ground beef was turned into taco meat, though that's beside the point of the post. =P

26 October 2009

chocolate chip cookie taste test

chocolate chips and cookie dough

The whole reason for this taste test was because I messed up. Sure, I could blame it on watching a baseball game, or browsing the internet (I often bring my laptop into the kitchen), but when it takes you 40 minutes to prep ingredients you're probably bound to make mistakes.

Fortunately, I think it was that type of revolutionary breakthrough mistake! Ha. So, I set out to make the chocolate chip cookies in the Once Upon A Tart cookbook. The difference between this recipe and the Nestle version is all brown sugar instead of part white (it actually asks for light brown sugar, but I only had dark), half a stick more butter, more flour, and an increase in the baking soda and salt due to the obvious flour increase. They weren't setting out to reinvent the timeless chocolate chip cookie, but create a simple version of a classic.

cookie doughs

My mistake started back when I let myself be sidetracked. You see, I meant to halve the recipe, which I did except for the chocolate chips, the baking soda, and the salt. Well, I didn't realize this until after I had eaten one and remarked on the amazing caramel-esque flavor, the fact that the cookies, made with dough that had not been chilled, didn't spread to the thinness of a dime, and that they had a special taste that you don't often taste in typical recipes.

cookies on a sheet

These are some of the first batch after having refrigerated for 2 days. They still came out the same as the first day. While they didn't spread as much and as a result were thicker, they weren't cakey but still chewy.

it's a cookie

The cookies were loaded with chocolate chips, which I thought would upset the dough-to-chip balance. Thankfully, it didn't.

Let's talk about salt: You definitely could taste that there was more salt, yet it was not salty. In fact, I feel (and so do two others) that the extra salt brought out the flavor of the cookie more and gave it some depth otherwise not present.

second try

You can see how this batch, made with the correct amount of all ingredients, spread more, even after having chilled for a day. Since it had been chilled, however, they didn't spread out too much. In the dough, you could taste more of the vanilla extract. Not in the finished cookie, though, and the taste was standard.

tea and cookies
cookie differences

The general consensus was that the cookies with extra salt and baking soda contributed a "how can I replicate this at home/why don't my cookies taste like this?" that I thought were even better than the cookies where I didn't mess up.

So. I don't know what to tell you. You could try out my wacky version to see if I'm cracked, or you could follow the recipe as stated to create regular chocolate chip cookies. I hope you appreciate that I made two batches to test the difference just for you, although you didn't get to eat any of them!

Best Big Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Once Upon A Tart

Makes 18 big cookies or 54 smaller cookies

ingredients ~
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (my addition)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (or 3 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or 3 teaspoons)
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips; or 12 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces (or doubled the amount)

directions ~
  1. Position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a big bowl, using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer on high speed (or a sturdy wire whisk), until they are fluffy and light lemon-yellow in color, about 5 minutes. Mix in espresso powder. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla.

  3. In a separate, medium-size bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Gradually add this to wet ingredients, using the paddle attachment of your mixer on low speed )or stirring with a wooden spoon) until no flour is visible. Then stir in the chocolate chips.

  4. To make big cookies, use a 1/3-cup measuring cup or your hand (eyeballing for size) to scoop out the dough. Roll the dough for each cookie between your hands into a ball. Have some flour handy to dust your hands in case the dough is too stick to work with. Place the balls on your baking sheet (greased or lined with parchment), leaving 2 inches between them, and flatten each with the heel of your hand until it is about 4 inches in diameter. To make smaller cookies, use a poon to scoop up the dough and your finger to scrape it onto the baking sheet. Drop the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart -- no flattening necessary.

  5. Place the baking sheet on the center rack in the oven, and bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes (10-12 minutes for smaller cookies), or until the cookie centers no longer have the shiny look of raw dough.

  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Lift the baking sheet off the rack, and use a metal spatula to lift the cookies off the sheet and onto the rack to cool completely. If you're using parchment paper, there's no need to let the cookies cool on the rack. Slight the paper with the hot cookies off the baking sheet and onto a flat surface to cool.


22 October 2009

my daily bread

baked bread

This bread comes from the best book ever, The Bread Book. My brother picked it up from the library years ago and it was a household hit. Whenever I get around to making it (which ranges from all the time to never...), it replaces store bought sandwich bread.

daily loaf

Called "light whole wheat bread", technically this recipe has around a 3-1 ratio of white bread flour to whole wheat, though I use half of each. Starting with a sponge, which the recipe description says adds more flavor, lends a better texture, and something else, the bread then proceeds in typical break-making fashion with the kneading, rising, shaping, rising, baking, and eating.

bread innards

A tight-but-light crumb with a soft, chewy, and nutty flavor perfect for sandwiches, toast, or just spread with butter and/or jam. This is the kind of loaf that comes to mind when you think of homemade bread, as it's just a perfect "regular" bread to be kept around at all times. The extra loaves can be frozen, wrapped, until you need them

I'll post the recipe later since the book isn't in sight.

empty bread pans


21 October 2009

Once Upon A Tart and their Pumpkin Scones

dry stuff and cranberries

Every single fall I say I'm going to make pumpkin scones, and every single fall passes without it. Until now, when I finally decided to just make the scones and be done with it!

The recipe comes from the Once Upon A Tart cookbook and is one of my absolute favorite cookbooks. I fell in love with the twists they placed on typical recipes and the delicious pictures, the writing style, and the little tidbits of info strewn about the book.

giant scones

What happens when I'm hungry and find myself at SBUX is that I stare at the glass case of baked goods that I know won't taste good. I stared at the pumpkin scones for the longest of time, but I said no. In the back of my mind I could taste the pumpkin scones I knew I needed to make and I couldn't ruin that with anything not up to snuff. I've also seen a recipe for SBUX pumpkin scones, but I didn't think I'd like them much compared to this.

scones in the sunlight

So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I made pumpkin scones. Filled with fresh cranberries, dried cranberries (both of which remind me of a pig snout), and toasted walnuts. Using more then half a pound of butter. Producing scones nearly the size of my face. I could have halved the scones, but I wanted to make the real deal. I could have halved the size of the scones I froze, but I wasn't thinking.

a pumpkin scone

And I was happy. Light, moist, and fluffy. Crisp and crunchy. Pumpkiny with subtle spicing to enhance the pumpkin flavor. Just sweet enough to leave you satisfied for a treat and perfect for breakfast. Filling the kitchen with the scent of fall, though you might die from the aroma before you get around to actually tasting them.

Once again, Once Upon A Tart fails me not.


spiced pumpkin scones with fresh cranberries
From Once Upon A Tart with minor changes by me

Makes 12 giant scones

ingredients ~
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 large eggs
3/4 cup cold buttermilk, or 1/2 cup cold yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup cold milk
1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins, plumped and patted dry (I used sweetened dried cranberries, unplumped)
extra sugar for coating

directions ~
  1. Position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or just grease the damn thing).

  2. Dump dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse to mix. Add the butter to the bowl all at once, and pulse until there are no chunks of butter left and mixture looks like moist crumbs. Be careful not to overwork the flour and butter. Remove the blade from the food processor, and dump the crumbs into a big bowl. (I found I had to mix half the butter with half the flour mixture at a time since my food processor wasn't big enough to hold it all.) Mix in the cranberries, walnuts, and raisins.

  3. In another, small bowl, whisk the eggs to break up the yolks. Whisk in the buttermilk, butter puree, and vanilla.

  4. Pour the wet ingredients on top of the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture just comes together, then stop. You don't want to work the dough a moment longer than necessary.

  5. Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup or your hand (eyeballing for size) to scoop the batter out and plop it onto the baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between scones. Sprinkle tops with additional sugar to create a decently thick coating.

  6. Place baking sheet on the center rack in the oven, and bake the scones for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and place it on a wire rack to let scones cool for a few minutes. Lift the baking sheet off the rack, and use a metal spatula to transfer the scones to the rack, or directly to the dish on which you're serving the scones. Serve fresh out of the oven or at room temperature.

These scones are huge. Either cut the recipe in half, to make six large or 12 small scones (using a 1/4 cup measuring cup and reducing the baking time by half), or make the full recipe and freeze the scones after shaping for later (wrap frozen scones individually in plastic wrap, then place in a freezer bag), adding additional baking time.

20 October 2009

Chinese steamed buns

stir fried beef filled steamed buns

Steamed buns might fall under the category of things people will assume you are crazy to make. Really, they are much easier than the potstickers I was planning on making, for which I would also be considered crazy by many. I didn't have it in me to form more than two dozen potstickers, so reading the recipe for steamed buns seemed like a good compromise, and also something I've been wanting to make for a while.

A Chinese steamed bun, often called baozi and other names, is a simple yeast dough encasing a savory filling and served with a dipping sauce. Other varieties have the crimped and twisted side up, but I'm not quite as skilled. They also aren't as big, some of them. Don't stop at savory fillings, though, as I've seen some with a sweet filling, and you can only imagine how endless the possibilities are, like the time I read Martin Yan's Chinatown and saw a recipe for banana wontons, or the sweet wontons at the Thai restaurant I downtown (it really isn't all that glamorous, downtown) have yet to actually order.

ready to steam

You have the option of either steaming or baking these buns, though I opted for steaming since I wanted the chewiness you don't necessarily get from baking; I figured it would be more on the fluffy side and I didn't want that.

steamed bun

After steaming, these get a bit shiny and they almost look raw, but if you press them it'll feel spongy and not like rising dough at all. In fact, these exploded and were huge, and I could have actually made twenty-four instead of a dozen, and even then I'd have spent less time prepping than it would have taken me to form dozens of potstickers.

The instructions state to place each bun, after filling and shaping, on a square piece of foil, though I used wax paper. You could also use parchment paper, which I forgot I bought more of recently. If you use either wax paper or aluminum foil, I'd spray each square lightly with cooking spray because these stuck just a bit.

steamed bun with jasmine rice

Did I achieve the chewy texture for which I was hoping? Yes! And I was thrilled. It's always fun when something comes out right the first time. And I should mention that while it was chewy, it wasn't the type of chewy-rubbery where the bun slips off the plate because you can't actually cut through it.

Served with jasmine rice and an somewhat sweet-sour orange dipping sauce.

Let me talk a bit about the recipe I used, from a cookbook called Chinese Cook Book. I remember my mom having this book since I was little, and that I would thumb through the aging copy looking at the delicious recipes for delicious Chinese food from different regions. One day, we found a new copy of the same cookbook for $4, so we snapped it up. It's the book I turn to first when I'm contemplating making a Chinese meal, even if I cross-reference with Google. It's become a part of me, this Chinese Cook Book. The recipes aren't complicated unless it's just how they are intended to be, there's a section on cooking techniques, equipment and traditional ingredients. It talks about entertaining and the meals pertaining to it (i.e., family, celebratory, etc.) you might choose to make, how much to serve, and includes a few menus from which you might choose. Sections for appetizers, soup (I haven't yet made sizzling rice soup, but I can, and that's always comforting to know), different meats, rice and noodles and bread, and even a few desserts like caramel fried apples, date and sesame wontons, almond cookies and a refreshing pear compote.
In short, the "super buy" sticker on the front of book, appropriately covering the 's' in 'Chinese', sums it all up.

Chinese Cook Book

I will be submitting this post to YeastSpotting.

Steamed Buns
From Chinese Cook Book

for the buns ~
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 110°)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
about 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
Beef filling (directions follow)
melted butter (for baked buns)

Makes 12

directions ~
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water; blend in sugar and oil. Let stand in a warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Add salt and 3 1/4 cups of flour and mix until dough holds together. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes (I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes, though just 1 would be fine, covered for 10 minutes, and kneaded for another 5 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare pork filling; let cool and set aside.

    for the ground beef filling (supposed to be pork) ~
    1 pound ground beef
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
    2 teaspoons sugar
    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    1 medium-size onion, chopped (do not mix with beef)

    stir fry sauce ~
    2 teaspoons sugar
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 tablespoon dry sherry, white wine, or chicken broth (water if you haven't any)
    1/4 cup water

  3. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or wide frying pan over high heat. When oil is hot, add beef and stir-fry until browned, about 5 minutes. (It will probably be necessary to drain most of the fat that came out -- simply place a colander over a pie plate, dump in the beef, and let sit there a bit). Add the onion to the empty wok and continue stir-frying until onion is limp, about 2 minutes. Stir in sauce mixture, add the beef back in, and cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens. Cool.

  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute. Shape into a rectangle. With knife, cut rectangle in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise 6 times to make 12 equal pieces (or cut each half in half, then each half-half in three. Got it?). Toss lightly with flour and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

  6. Roll each piece into a round about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press outside edges of dough to make them slightly thinner than the rest of the round. Place about 2 tablespoons filling in center of each round. Pull edges of dough up and around the filling and twist to seal.

    shaping instructions

  7. For steamed buns, place each bun, sealed side down, on a 3-inch square of foil (or wax paper, lightly sprayed with cooking oil, or parchment). Cover and let rise in a warm place until puffy and light, about 30 minutes. Set in a steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam for 12 to 15 minutes. When done, tops of buns should be glazed and smooth. Serve warm; or let cool, wrap, and freeze. To reheat, steam frozen buns until hot, about 10 minutes.

  8. For baked buns, place buns about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until puffy and light, about 30 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter and bake in a 350° oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.


18 October 2009

MyBlogSpark Progresso Panko Giveaway Winner!

The lucky winner for the Progresso panko prize stash (sponsored by MyBlogSpark) is...

random generator number

Chika said...

Panko for baked "fried chicken" is almost a necessity. Great crunch and flavor.

Congrats, Chika! Please email your mailing address to caudagaliATyahooDOTcom.

Thanks for entering, and thanks to the host for sponsoring!


17 October 2009

fallish things

mini cupcakes

Here's a mini round-up of a few fallish things I've made so far, starting with mini chocolate cupcakes with a dollop of cuteness.

hot spiced cider

No, those aren't bugs in my hot spiced cider, those are extra cloves which probably didn't add to the flavor much. I just love spiced cider, and it's probably my favorite part of fall!

Making spiced cider is really simple, even for one cup:

1 cup apple cider
3 orange slices
2 lemon slices
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 cinnamon stick
3-5 cloves in a tea ball

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on medium, covered, for ten minutes or until heated thoroughly and tastes as spicy as you like (the longer it steeps, the spicier it will get). You can also make this with apple juice, or part apple-whatever and part cranberry juice.

Also, I will be entering this to Sperly's 100 post giveaway over at RunRoamRecycle.

not butter tarts

Not butter tarts, because I used chopped dried cranberries instead of currants. I was told I failed a family recipe, though it was admitted that these looked delicious nonetheless. =D


15 October 2009

hot dog buns

expanding dough

Yesterday I made hot dog buns for bratwursts. I used the same dough as I used to make hamburger buns a while ago. (Looking at that post, I can't believe I'm even posting this as the pictures really aren't very great in comparison.)

mini baguette-ish rolls

I shaped these almost like you would a baguette and they seemed to hold their shape well enough after rising.

ready to eat

The only change to the recipe was to replace a half cup of the water for milk since I didn't use dry milk powder, though it still tastes really great and shows the excellent versatility of this recipe. The taste is outstanding and you won't get that straw-like consistency you have with store-bought buns.


Here's my almost but not quite Chicago-style bratwurst.

I will be submitting this to YeastSpotting.


14 October 2009

Progresso Panko and A Giveaway!


I was recently sent a Progresso stash from MyBlogSpark consisting of a box of the new Progresso Panko bread crumbs, Progresso chicken broth, a measuring cup, a ladle, slotted spoon, and a baking sheet!

pan-grilled eggplant

Since I wanted to use the panko right away, I decided on breaded eggplant rolls. I pan-grilled the eggplant and chicken strips ahead of time, simply seasoned with salt and pepper after being brushed with olive oil.


What exactly is panko? It's bread crumbs made using the fluffy white portion of bread slices instead of the crusts. Now I never knew that typical bread crumbs were made using the crust only, though it would explain the darker hue. What do they do with all the fluffy white bready parts? Do they stuff it in a garbage bag and try to pass it off to unsuspecting folks, or do they try and haul it to the dump like in Seinfeld with the muffin tops? This is all very curious.

Anyway, the crumbs were larger than the typical bread crumb, which is ground rather finely, but tastes crispy and light. They also come flavored, too, though this is just the plain version that I'm using.

eggplant rolls ready to bake

Here are the ready to bake rolls consisting of the chicken strips and a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese. After rolling them up in neat rolls, I dipped them in seasoned flour, then a beaten egg, and finally the panko. Messy work!

baked eggplant rolls

Here they are, browned nicely and oozing with cheese. I gave these a slight spritz of olive oil cooking spray and cooked them at 400° for about 15-20 minutes. Everything was already cooked and all you're looking to do is brown the coating.

dished up

Served with lime rice using some of the Progresso chicken broth and an oregano-garlic-jalapeno tomato sauce for the eggplant rolls, this was a rather quick and simple meal that received high marks from the testers.

My verdict on panko: Good stuff! The topping definitely had a lighter feel versus regular bread crumbs and it was deliciously crispy.

Panko is one of those food stuffs I've never gotten around to trying before (I will not hand over my foodie card!), and although it's a bit shameful that it took until now to do so, I definitely will be using it more often.

Thanks for sending me the prize pack! I don't know if I'm more excited about the baking pan (it has a nice weight to it and is awesome!) or the panko itself! And the measuring cup is cute! And the utensils have a nice handle.

oozy cheese

Progresso Panko and Prize Pack Giveaway

The nice MyBlogSpark folks offered up the same exact prize package to one lucky winner! All you have to do is leave a comment telling me how you'd use panko (visit Progresso Food if you're stalled for an idea) along with your email address (or send me an email) by 12:00 PM on Sunday, the 18th, when the winner will be chosen.

This giveaway is open to anyone! Good luck!

The giveaway has ended. Congrats to Chika!

12 October 2009

purple pizza

pizza dough

Don't be alarmed; no killing of Barney took place in this post.

I love it when things just work out, don't you? Opportunely, a craving for pizza came about last week when I made the aforeblogged cheesy bread. I used half the dough to make a loaf and was planning on doing the same with the other half of dough (to answer your question, Elle!), but decided to split it in half and make two pizzas instead.

pizza shells

Pre-baking the shells ensures that it finishes cooking around the same time the cheese gets bubbly, and also because I wasn't using a pizza stone.


Whilst normally I would make a raw sauce, pureeing a can of diced tomatoes and mixing it with all the add ins and letting it set for a few hours, I cooked it instead. Using a crapton of garlic sauteed in olive oil before adding basil and a tablespoon or two of tomato paste to caramelize with salt, then adding a pureed can of diced tomatoes and letting it cook down to evaporate a bit of the liquid. This was incredible stuff, and could have been used just to dip vegetables in or something. Entirely yummy and very quick.

purple cauliflower

Not having very many toppings around besides pepperoni, I thought outside the pie and decided that the purple cauliflower my mom picked up from the farmer's market a while ago would make an excellent topping, roasted first. Trust me on this.

salt from the land down under
Murray River Pink Flake Salt

Also from the farmer's market, and I wish I had brought my camera that day, was a stand with SALT. Nothing. But. Salt. Fleur de sel, Himalayan pink salt, black salt, grey salt, salt, salt, salt! And you could taste it all! Here's the description for the salt I chose:
Murray River Pink Flake Salt

The salt crystals from the Murray River in Southern Australia are delicate peach colored flakes. They have a wonderfully milk flavor. The salt is produced naturally from the underground brines in the Murray Darling Basin.

Uses: The texture is ideal for use as a finishing salt. The crystals melt quickly and evenly making it ideal for cooking and roasting. Also combines well in dry spice blends.

If you want to check it out, visit Charmane's Gourmet Seasonings.

roasted purple cauliflower

Roasted with garlic, olive oil, and the Murray salt, the purple cauliflower and a mildly sweet flavor with subtle caramelized hints. Besides the sauce, I had to keep myself from tasting too much!

pizza time!

Seriously one of the best pizzas I've ever had. And I had to chuckle when I ate it, for the crust reminded me of the "hippie" crust I tried at a new pizza place (a chain, but I don't discriminate) that was rather tasteless and made me decide that pizza should just have a white dough and leave well enough alone. Alright, I was a bit hasty in forming that biased (I'm Italian) opinion, and this dough made excellent crust.
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