Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dim Sum Party

Dim sum cooking class at Viking cooking school! Learned how to make all kinds of rolled up dumplings and spring rolls!

A lot of work - fun times but I think you could get the same experience finding an authentic place on Buford highway.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

It's November, the leaves of the trees are starting to turn red in my neighborhood, we set the clocks back an hour today, it's dark early, and it feels like Fall is finally here (well, except I rode around with the top down on my convertible today).  

Perfect night to make Creamy Tomato Soup with yes, wait for it....grilled cheese croutons! The soup is pretty darn good, just an easy combination of onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, orzo, saffron, and some cream, but the croutons...are AMAZING.  White crusty bread, spread with butter, with fresh Swiss Cheese grilled to toasty brown perfection on my Panini press.

I used a recipe from Ina Garten, which was featured on the cover of a Food Network magazine.  I followed the recipe basically as it is written (with Ina, you really don't have to improvise much).

Here's the recipe:

Just a few changes:

* For the croutons, I used a fresh baked white sourdough bread from Publix and grated a block of regular Swiss cheese (Gruyere is nice, but Swiss will do just me) - but, grate it yourself, it will taste better.
* For the saffron, I used a big pinch - I used a brand called Badia in the Mexican spices section - usually a little more cost effective section of the store.
* I used Cento crushed tomatoes - after my sauce had simmered, I tasted a little of the "tin can" taste - so I added a tsp of sugar to balance it out.  Perhaps there are different crushed tomatoes that would taste better...but just add a little sugar if that happens.

OK, happy soup eating. Think I'll go "turn on" my fireplace (yes, flip the switch). Tis the season.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

OMG Good: Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup garnished with Lime and Basil

Ok, this is simply one of the best things I have EVER made.  At my friend Stephanie's annual "Top Chef" party each person is given a country to make a dish from, and then the dishes are voted on by everyone at the dinner party.  This won #1!!!  I'm now a second time winner at this annual event! This is also super easy to make!

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 2 Tablespoons of Green Thai Curry Paste (use heaping tablespoons if you like it a little spicier, and use Red Curry Paste if you are really feeling dangerous)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Lemongrass Puree (You can find tubes of this in the refrigerated vegetable section in the grocery store, near the fresh herbs, and using this is much easier than looking for fresh lemongrass). Again, use a little more or less depending on taste.
  • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh ginger (I buy the kind in the bottle at the grocery store)
  • 1 diced yellow onion (I just bought one container of the pre-chopped onions in the vegetable section)
  • Hokan Coconut Milk2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 cans of coconut milk (note: do NOT use the "lite" kind - use the full fat version - I think the Asian brand "Hokan" (or something like that) is the best one. The richer varieties are best.

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups of chopped chicken (I purchased 1 lemon pepper flavored rotisserie chicken at Publix and pulled all the meat off.
  • About 4-6 cups of chicken broth/stock
  • 1 package of a mushroom blend (I found an 8 oz pack which had shitake, oyster and other assorted mushrooms)
  • 1 package of dried Thai rice noodles (8oz). I found this at Publix in the Asian section - but note, one store didn't have them, so I had to buy rice noodles that you stir fried first - this is not preferred...try to find the right ones
  • 2 Limes
  • Fish Sauce (4 to 8 Tablespoons depending on how salty you like it)

  • In a large pot, pour in the oil and let it heat up over medium-high heat
  • Add in the curry paste, fresh ginger, and lemon grass puree and let it cook for a minute
  • Add the onions to the flavorings and let it saute over medium heat until they are soft (maybe 5 mins or so) and then stir in the brown sugar
  • Add in the chicken, coconut milk and mushrooms, chicken stock (less for a creamier soup and more if you need to loosen it up) and bring up to a boil and reduce to simmer
  • Add in about half the fish sauce (2-4 Tablespoons)
  • Let it simmer on low for about 15-20 mins
  • Squeeze the juice of 1-2 limes into the soup and add more fish sauce if needed. If it tastes like something might be missing, fish sauce is it!
  • Boil the Thai Rice Noodles in a separate pot (if you put in with the soup, the noodles absorb more liquid than needed)
  • When ready to serve, put some noodles in each bowl
  • Ladle in the soup and garnish with limes and basil
Note: If you let is simmer on low for a little longer, the flavors just get better. Also, nothing here is super exact, add more or less as you see fit.

Also, if you want to be super fancy, you can serve it with this homemade Thai Cocktail.  I served the soup with the cocktail recipe below and it was fabulous.

Here's the recipe:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eat your heart out Betty Crocker: Double Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake

Finished product! I added chocolate chips around the top for fun.

Okay, it's been a while since my last post, but now that a slight (very slight) chill is in the air, and it feels a little more like fall, I've cranked the oven back up.   I wanted to make a decadent cake for my dad's birthday this weekend, and made a triple layer chocolate raspberry cake with chocolate ganache frosting!  It was delish! Now, I will say a scratch cake like this is a lot of work....I may try a boxed mix next time :)


For cake layers:
  • 3 ounces chocolate chips (semi -sweet)
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For ganache frosting:

  • 1 pound  semisweet chocolate chips (note:  If you bought a 24 oz bag, you'll use 16 oz for the frosting and 3 oz for the cake....leaving you some extra chips - hey, I'd just eat them or throw them in with the cake or frosting, or garnish the cake later - how could that hurt?)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

For raspberry filling:

  • 1 jar of raspberry preserves (I draw the line at making my own raspberry filling, but there are recipes out there if you want)

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F and grease three 8" or 9" pans
  • Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper (generously with cooking spray)
  • Put 3oz of chocolate chips in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  • Into a large bowl whisk or sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer).
  • Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well.
  • Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
  • Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  • Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
  • Note: I made the cakes on a Friday, let cool completely and wrapped in plastic wrap. I tackled the frosting on Saturday.

    Make frosting:

    In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove pan from heat and add 1 lb of chocolate chips, whisking until chocolate is melted.
  • Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.
  • Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable
  • I put in the fridge for a while to harden up (about 20 minutes to start)

  • Assemble:
    • If the cake layers have a "dome" on them, then cut it off with a knife so the layers stack better. 
    • Spread raspberry preserves (generously) between layers and on top
    • Spread ganache filling over cake...then put in cake and extra frosting in fridge (my frosting was still a little "soft" at this point).
    • Repeat about 2-3'll keep re frosting the cake/smoothing it with the additional frosting (if you have extra frosting, it's ok...i used it all though!) as it hardens and gets easier each time - put frosting and cake back in fridge etc and repeat

      Here's the first attempt at frosting it.

      Here's my final product

    • Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

    Sunday, May 20, 2012

    Everything is better on a stick: Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil

    Looking for a fresh, fun, tasty option for a summer barbecue appetizer?  Here is a great idea I put together for BBQ I went to tonight. I was inspired by a recipe I saw on my app, but I changed it a bit, so here is what I did.

    8 inch wooden skewers
    1 ripe cantaloupe, (make cantaloupe melon balls using a melon baller)
    1 container of grape tomatoes
    1 package of basil
    1/2 cup olive oil
    2 containers (16 oz) of the small mozzarella balls in water (8 oz per container). Or you could buy a big ball of mozzarella and cut it up
    About 6 slices of thinly sliced prosciutto
    1 medium Shallot (peeled and quartered)
    Salt and Pepper


    I made two different types of skewers.
    • For the tomato and mozzarella skewers I put three grape tomatoes and two mozzarella balls on each skewer in alternating order: tomato, cheese, tomato, cheese, tomato. (I think it made about 12 skewers)
    • For the cantaloupe, prosciutto and mozzarella skewers I put three cantaloupe balls, 2 mozzarella balls and 1 piece of prosciutto (cut in half so it makes two pieces per skewer) in alternating order: cantaloupe, prosciutto, mozzarella, cantaloupe, prosciutto, mozzarella, cantaloupe. (I think this made about 12 skewers)
    • Then, I made a delicous and easy sauce to drizzle over all the skewers
    • In a food processor or blender, put in basil leaves (I used the whole package from the prepacked basil section), and ~1/2 cup olive oil, 1 quartered medium shallot and a generous pinch of salt. Pulse it so it turns into a sauce and the pieces of basil are very small.
    • I then drizzled the sauce over everything and put in the fridge to mellow and chill for about an hour before serving
    • Before serving, sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper (yes, even on the fruit ones). Salt makes everything better.
    These disappeared and both kinds were popular! Enjoy!


    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Nuevo Laredo Salmon Tacos Replicated

    My favorite Mexican restaurant in Atlanta is Nuevo Laredo Cantina.  It is a hole in the wall, authentic Mexican restaurant. Everything is always so good there - their quesadillas, chicken mole, chips...but I always seem to go back to their fish tacos, which are awesome.  They are Tacos de Pescado on the menu and have salmon, spinach and cheese sauce in them.

    Well, I was in the mood for said tacos on Sunday, and I decided to be a little crazy and attempt to replicate them.  Let me tell you, I think I  made a pretty darn close replica...they were awesome.

    Here's what you do.  I'm not listing out the ingredient amounts exactly because it's a just put it all in there. If it's a little off, no big deal. 

    • Small Flour Tortillas (I like La Banderita Fajita size)
    • Fresh Spinach (buy a bag of it, and then use about a handful for every taco you are making)
    • Shredded Coleslaw/Cabbage Mix (buy a bag of it, then you will use a pinch or two for each taco)
    • Salmon (not sure how much raw, but i would say you want 1.5-2 oz cooked per taco).  I'd say a a good size fillet for every 4 tacos.
    • Store bought Mexican cheese dip (I used Queso-Melt brand) - buy one container and you'll use a spoon or so per taco
    • Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder (or you can use real garlic, but I took the easy way out)
    • Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper
    • Grill or roast until desired done-ness.I always think 20 mins on 400 degrees is a good place to start. Personally, I did mine in the grill pan.  Once cooked, break or cut into chunks.
    • While the salmon is cooking, use a good amount of cooking spray or a little oil and saute your spinach.  I would use about a handful raw per taco you plan to make.  Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste to the spinach as it wilts over medium high heat.  Once wilted, remove from heat.
    • Warm your tortillas in a pan for a minute or so on each side.  I just put them straight on top of a gas burner...warning (don't try this at home if you aren't paying attention) to give them a little char on each side
    • are ready to assemble.
    • Take the warm tortilla and add a spoonful of the queso melt (note: the queso melt will be hard since you didn't put in the microwave to warm up...that is OK it will melt soon). Spread it on the warm tortillas.
    • Then, add some of the spinach mixture to each taco. I would say cooked it's about 1/8-1/4 cup.
    • Then, add the broken up chunks of salmon to the taco. I would allow for 1.5-2 oz of cooked salmon per taco
    • Then, (not sure if Nuevo does this or not, but it was a good addition), add a little bit (maybe a couple pinches) of the cabbage/slaw raw mixture on top.
    Enjoy your "at home" Nuevo Laredo experience.

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Shepard's or is it Shepherd's Pie

    I decided I needed to make something in the spirit of St. Patrick's day, so I made Shepard's Pie.  I made individual ones so they would be more fun to eat for my guests.  I used a recipe from Melissa D'Arabian on the food network.  The recipe is here.

    I basically followed the recipe closely, except I used brown sugar instead of white to caramelize the onions (I know, who runs out of white sugar?).  I also used a Yuenling light for the beer, as that is what I had on hand.  To help myself out a little, I bought pre-cut carrot sticks and then chopped them into cubes to save on the carrot peeling step. I probably used a few extra carrots, onions and peas, but veggies are good for you. I also skipped the homemade mashed potatoes and bought the Simply Potatoes mashed potatoes and then added in a little sour cream and garlic to them to make them just right! Also, instead of cheddar cheese I used a combo of Swiss and Parmesan - I think that made them better. I garnished with rosemary and parsley.

    I served with a salad, and key lime pie (why?, because it is green) for dessert!  Melissa and Michael came over for dinner and I got rave reviews.  Michael liked it so much that he changed my air filter and light bulbs. Thanks Michael!

    Til St. Paddy's next year!