Sunday, January 30, 2011

Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms

Garlic. Butter. Roasted Mushrooms.

Deb from Smitten Kitchen really knows how to lure a girl in. When I saw this recipe posted on her blog back in December, I knew I'd need to make these myself. I love mushrooms and if we're going to add some butter and garlic to these puppies then let's throw down here and now.

Reading through the recipe, I realized that this was going to be a quick and easy dish to make. Bonus points! These mushrooms were quickly bumped up to the top of my "Food To Make" list, which is really just a semi-organized jumble of bookmarks on my computer. They will clean themselves up if I leave them alone long enough. I swear.

Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen's recipe
  • 2 10-oz containers of baby portabella mushrooms, halved lengthwise if large
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1) Preheat oven to 450°F.

2) Brush the tops of the mushrooms to remove any excess dirt or debris.

3) Add the mushrooms, capers, garlic, oils, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine.

4) Spread the mushroom mixture in a 1/2- to 2-qt shallow baking dish. Top with butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and a sauce has formed in the baking dish. This should take about 20 minutes.

5) Remove baking dish from the oven and stir in the lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Think savory mushrooms, aromatic garlic, creamy butter, tangy capers and lemon juice, all rolled up into each bite. That is what you get when you eat this. I had trouble stopping at only a few mushrooms. Both Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet, which is where this recipe originally comes from, recommend using crusty pieces of bread to soak up the "mushroom butter juices". I tried this when the mushrooms first came out of the oven and let me tell you that they are sooooo right. It's pretty excellent.

Surprisingly, I didn't really change anything from the Smitten Kitchen recipe. The biggest change I made was using 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil instead of using 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. This happened because, as per usual, I wasn't reading the directions very well. I don't know what my issue is with reading. I was really good at it in elementary school and even today (shocking!). I just can't seem to follow the exact directions for a recipe. I'll blame it on my creative chef side trying to express itself.

When I make this recipe again, I will make some changes though. Every year or so, I try to eat parsley again and make myself like it. So far, no luck. So when this dish makes it's next appearance, I think I'll have to have the parsley sit on the sidelines. Honestly, I'm also not sure that I even needed the lemon juice. The mushrooms were excellent as-is, straight out of the oven. And if you happen to eat the entire pan in one sitting, they're so easy you can just whip up another batch!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Almond Joy Cupcakes

My client's office happens to be pimped out with a full coffee bar on the first floor. This was a dangerous move on their part. Of course, I guess it makes sense to keep the worker bees fueled with caffeine. Recently, I've been ordering Almond Joy mochas from the aforementioned coffee bar. This was a creation I used to make when I worked at a coffeehouse in college. I didn't really have a name for the drink at that time. It was just this chocolate almond mocha thing into which I threw 4-6 shots of espresso. By the way, 6 shots of espresso in 1 drink is NOT advisable. Trust me.

I've since toned down my radical pace of ingesting caffeine. Now I'm just a 2-shot kinda girl. Sometimes 3 if it's a particularly rough day. When I first requested for the barista to add a shot of almond flavoring to my large mocha, she said "Hey, it's an Almond Joy mocha!". And since then the name has stuck.

So why have I just told you this story? Because this was the inspiration for my Almond Joy Cupcakes! Duh.

Almond Joy Cupcakes
adapted from Love and Olive Oil's Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
makes 11 (I doubled the original recipe to yield the measurements below and ended up with 22 cupcakes)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
1) Add ~1/2 cup almonds to a food processor. Grind almonds to a fine consistency. Add1/2 cup of ground almonds to the dry ingredients.

2) Mix the dry ingredients (flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar) in a large bowl.

3) Using a mixer, combine the wet ingredients (oil, milk, vanilla extract, almond extract) in another bowl.

4) Slowly add in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in several increments.

Note: I used a mixer only because I wanted to break up the almond pieces as much as possible. Then I used a whisk just to make sure.

5) Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with the batter.

6) Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Let cool.

Almond Joy Frosting
adapted from La Mia Vita Dolce's Mocha Frosting
(I doubled the original recipe to yield the measurements below)
  • 20 oz semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup water, minus 2 teaspoons (Just remove 2 teaspoons of water out of the cup. It's super easy, I promise.)
  • 20 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

1) Combine the chocolate and water in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water in the pot or your chocolate can burn.

2) Stir the chocolate until it has melted and mixed thoroughly with the water.

3) Take the bowl off the pot and add the butter in increments, whisking until the frosting is smooth after each addition.

4) Add the almond and coconut extracts to the frosting and whisk to incorporate. The frosting will be thin.

5) Set the frosting aside to cool, stirring occasionally until it has thickened to the desired consistency.

Note: You can also save some time and place the bowl in the refrigerator, but watch it closely. If the frosting becomes thicker than desired, you will need to heat it up again to thin it out.

6) Pipe or spread on cupcakes.

These cupcakes were pretty tasty. I definitely got that Almond Joy flavor of almonds, coconut and chocolate. I also liked the slightly denser texture that the ground almonds gave to the cake. It was good in an interesting way, rather than a negative way.

I did get some feedback that maybe more coconut flavor could be added to the cake. I could do that. I could also replace the vanilla extract in the cake with almond extract. Because that might make more sense. But of course I didn't think of it until the cupcakes were already baking in the oven. Hmmm...

So, what other candy bar cupcakes should I make next?!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tomato Vodka Soup

'Tis the season for soup!

And the season for my immersion blender to finally shine. Did you notice that I also used it in my Chicken Tinga post?

In addition to trying to use my neglected kitchen tools, I was really in the mood for a warm, earthy soup. Especially in light of the fact that there are still several inches of snow covering the ground here in Hoboken, NJ.

I was really interested in making some sort of tomato soup. I don't know why. I get cravings. I just go with it. So tomato soup it was.

I wanted to add a twist and I thought of Penne a la Vodka. No, I wasn't going to make any penne, but it made me think of adding vodka to the soup. Of course, I believed that this was an ingenious, never-before-attempted idea...until I searched online and found several thousand other recipes.

"I'm unique. Just like everybody else."

I was still undeterred from making this soup. So I got to it and found two recipes I wanted to use. I ended up with a combination of a Creamy Tomato Vodka Soup from the Rachael Ray magazine and a Sherried Tomato Soup from the Pioneer Woman.

Unfortunately, it seems that I haven't learned anything from my first few blog posts. You know, those ones where I couldn't read recipes very well. It appears that Rachael's blog post requires a 5-hour slow cooker treatment. Yeah right, like I have 5 hours to wait for some soup. I want it now! Some improvisations had to be made.

And I ended up with this:

Tomato-Vodka Soup
adapted from Rachael Ray's Creamy Tomato Vodka Soup & the Pioneer Woman's Sherried Tomato Soup
makes 8-10 servings
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 to 3 small cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • One 32-ounce container (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • Two 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup citrus vodka (or regular vodka)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • several sprigs oregano leaves
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • Salt & pepper to taste
1) Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions.

2) Saute the onions for ~15 minutes. You only want the onions to begin caramelizing. You don't want them to caramelize all the way.

3) Add the garlic and stir to prevent burning, about 2 minutes.

4) Add the broth, chopped tomatoes (along with the tomato broth in the can), tomato sauce, vodka, salt, and sugar to the pot. Stir to combine.

5) Cover and simmer the soup over medium/high heat for ~1 hour. Stir periodically.

6) Chop the basil and oregano leaves. Add the herbs to the pot.

7) Use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to puree the soup. You can choose to make it as smooth or as chunky as you like.

8) Let the soup simmer, uncovered, for another 45 minutes. You may need to simmer the soup for more or less time so that you get the consistency you like.

9) Stir in the half-and-half.

10) Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes on the use of citrus vodka in this recipe. Someone thought that since my roommate and I had recently had a holiday party, we would probably have some vodka left over in the booze stash. We usually have vodka on hand and since we don't go through it very quickly and I only needed 1/4 cup, I knew I could safely pass on a trip to the liquor store. And who would that someone be? You guessed it. It was me. And what happened when I gathered the ingredients to make this soup? Again, you're right. There was no vodka in the stash. But what we did have was citrus vodka. After a few moments of thought (in which time I could have walked to the nearby liquor store and returned), I decided to just go with the citrus vodka. After all, it was freezing outside.

Once the soup was done, I could actually taste little tangy citrus notes from the vodka. I'm not sure whether or not I liked it, but I didn't dislike it. If you're a huge fan of citrus, maybe you can test this out as well and let me know your thoughts. Overall, the soup was great though! Each spoonful was a mixture of rich, creamy tomato broth and thick, chunky tomato pieces. The addition of the herbs made the soup even more aromatic. I'll take this soup any day over those canned versions. Can I have another bowl, please?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kale Chips

These kale chips started out as a roasted tomato salsa.

Well, not really. But I thought I was going to make roasted tomato salsa one night. I was just craving roasted tomato salsa all morning long. At lunchtime, I strolled down to the cafeteria and lo and behold, they were serving chicken enchiladas with roasted tomato salsa! And I shoveled it down most elegantly, if I do say so myself.

So once I was done inhaling my lunch, my roasted tomato salsa craving was also pretty much done. Yup. That was it. The urge to make this salsa was out the window. So sad. However, while I was in the cafeteria waiting for my food, the chef and I began discussing the kale that was being used as a decoration. As we talked, he mentioned that his daughter had asked him to make kale chips.

Hmmm...this was an idea. I've seen multiple posts for kale chips over the past few months. Kale chips are the new starlets in the food world. And since I had never had kale before, I figured why not. Let's live on the edge! Yeah kale chips!

Kale Chips
recipe from Shutterbean's Kale Chips
  • 1 bunch kale
  • olive oil
  • salt
1) Wash and dry the kale.

2) Tear the leaves off the kale stems, then rip the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. Obviously you should make them the size that you want your chips to be.

3) Place the leaves in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. The amount you use will depend on the amount of kale you have and the amount of olive oil you like. I drizzled a few tablespoons over my kale. I wanted the chips to be covered by the oil but not dripping in it.

4) Add a tablespoon or two of salt in the bowl. Toss the kale to distribute the salt evenly.

5) Place the kale chips on an ungreased baking sheet. Make sure they're not overlapping each other.

6) Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the kale is crispy and slightly browned.

I learned something here. I'm a heavy-handed olive oil and salt gal. It may be advisable to go easy on both ingredients and bake up some test kale chips, then add more oil or salt to the batch if you need to. Just sayin'.

This could be the easiest recipe yet. It really doesn't take long to whip this snack together. And obviously the ingredient list is minimal. So how did they taste?

I'm actually not a big fan. There's something about the smoky, slightly bitter chip that I wasn't too fond of. Maybe I added too much oil and salt. Or maybe it's just not my taste. Sometimes it's like that. So why am I still posting this recipe? Well just because I don't like it that much doesn't mean that you guys won't. I'll probably try this recipe again in the see if I still dislike it. Food can grow on you. I may also make some modifications. I've seen some buzz out there about flavored kale chips, so who knows.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chicken Tinga

In case you don't know, I'm a consultant. Guess what that means?

I'm a Platinum Marriott Rewards member and I've been around a restaurant or two.

One of my and my coworker's favorite places to go for a quick lunch is Cosi. If you're not familiar with Cosi, just know that it's a soup/salad/sandwich place with incredible flatbreads that are baked on-site. This summer, Cosi unveiled a new sandwich: the Chicken Tinga. I had never heard of this chicken tinga stuff before but since the sandwich contained feta, guacamole, and most importantly, chicken which looked a lot like pulled pork, I knew I had to have it. And after my first messy bite, I was hooked. I loved the smoky, spicy combination of my favorite ingredients as well as the fresh salsa and cilantro that topped the sandwich.

Several weeks and numerous Chicken Tinga sandwiches later, I got to thinking: I could make this myself. I could have a never-ending supply of chicken tinga in my own house! (Well, it wouldn't be never-ending, but I could always make more.) What took me so long to come up with this idea?

Chicken Tinga
heavily adapted from recipes at What's Eric Cooking? & Teaching in Mexico
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 - 4 tomatillos, quartered
  • 2 1/2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 - 2 tsp oregano
  • ~7 oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Salt, to taste
1) Add all ingredients and a few teaspoons of salt to a large pot. Add water until all the ingredients are covered.

2) Bring the mixture to a boil.

3) Remove the chicken after about 20-25 minutes in the mixture. You are looking for the chicken to be cooked most of the way through.

4) Let the rest of the mixture continue to boil down for another 20 minutes.

5) Meanwhile, shred the chicken breasts.

6) Once the 20 minutes have elapsed, use an immersion blender to puree the mixture. (You can use a regular blender if you don't have an immersion blender.)

7) Allow the puree to simmer for about an hour. You want it to be a thick sauce, but you don't want it to be watery or paste-like. You may need to simmer the sauce for a little more or a little less time, depending on your preferences.

8) Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the shredded chicken. The residual heat will finish cooking the chicken.

9) Add more salt to taste.

10) Put the chicken tinga on a roll (or in a tortilla) and add salsa, cheese, and whichever other toppings float your boat. You can also serve over rice if you like. Enjoy!

So far, I've had chicken tinga in both a tortilla and on a roll. This was every bit as tasty as I imagined it would be. The chicken was tender and smoky from the chipotle peppers. The peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos came together to form the base of the spicy sauce that coated the chicken.

Wow, if I had known that it would be so easy (and tasty) to make my own chicken tinga I would have done this months ago! I can't wait to see what else I can slather this stuff on...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Spritz Cookies

**Happy New Year**

Did I fool you with my last post? Did you think that my holiday spirit was over?

Well, not just yet.

A coworker brought Spritz Blossom Cookies to work a few weeks ago. I had never had them before but I decided to try them because I was hungry. (I'm always hungry at work. It's probably due to procrastination.) They were to die for! Think almonds, vanilla, and butter all rolled up into a bite-sized cookie. Heaven.

Now I'm not usually a cookie person. In fact, I haven't made cookies since I've started this blog! But I knew these cookies would have to be made and it would need to happen soon.

I finally got my chance in the form of Boxing Day. In the Bahamas, we celebrate Boxing Day every year on December 26th. It's a holiday that we continue to carry on from our days as a British colony. (We're an independent country now.) This year, my family gathered at our house and I took the opportunity to recreate some magic!

Spritz Cookies
slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
yields ~125 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1) Beat butter in a mixing bowl for a few minutes, until smooth and creamy.

2) Add the brown sugar and baking powder and beat until combined.

3) Mix in the egg, vanilla and almond extract.

4) Add the flour to the batter in several increments.

5) Roll ~1 tsp of unchilled dough into a ball and gently press it into a circular shape. (If you're fancy and have a cookie press, you can use that too.)

6) Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 7 - 9 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown.

7) Transfer the cookies to a plate or wire rack to cool.

Powdered Sugar Icing
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4 tbsp milk
1) Mix all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. The icing should be thin.

2) Brush or drizzle over the cooled cookies.

3) Sprinkle coarse sugar over the icing before it sets.

Again, these cookies were dynamite. The only problem I have with them is that they're both easy and difficult to make. In comparison to making cupcakes, this recipe is really easy to whip together. However, the whole roll-and-press system to make the little suckers was repetitive and time consuming. If you have any of those cookie press thingies I'm sure it would make this experience much nicer. Since I don't any of those presses to make a pretty blossom shape, I decided not to call my cookies Spritz Blossom cookies. But they still taste the same as Spritz Blossoms do, so I guess it doesn't really matter in the end.

* Interesting note: When I went to purchase brown sugar, I couldn't find any. But I was able to find yellow sugar, which looks suspiciously like light brown sugar. After a few moments of indecision and some discussion with the store staff, it was determined that this was probably, most likely the brown sugar that I was in search of. Who the heck sells yellow sugar?!