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Sorry for the dearth of posts this week — my cooking has been utilitarian at best, since I’ve been back at work (which, after a vacation, is never easy) and madly prepping for the cook-off. I will post some pictures of my first full-scale batch of black & tan bread pudding (well, one full pan), but no recipe will be revealed until after the event! I was at Costco yesterday picking up an insane amount of milk, cream, eggs, butter, brown sugar, and the like. I have realized that this dish is not for the lactose intolerant! Anyway, even if I wanted to cook something elaborate right now, I have not an iota of room in my fridge for anything non-essential. Fingers crossed I won’t be living on frozen Trader Joe’s entrees all week, but I can’t make any promises.

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Check out my newest post on The Thrifty Gourmet! Quick, Simple Soup.

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Back in Brooklyn, after a whirlwind trip to Ireland for a lovely wedding, with no time to rest!

I learned a few things this long holiday weekend, not necessarily in this order: 1) Fish and chips really do cure a hangover. 2) Despite being known for Guinness, there’s not a lot of great beer to be had in Ireland. 3) Abekebabra (fast food chain serving, what else, kebabs) is great when you’re starving at midnight, but you will regret eating it 5 seconds later. 4) I really like drinking tea.

While I was abroad I also got word on the details of this cook-off I’m participating in at the Bell House in Brooklyn. Basically I’m freaking out. I have to cook enough bread pudding for 350 people to taste it, and the judges are pretty freaking intimidating. I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity but now I have to figure out how many pounds of flour and sugar I’ll need, how many dozen eggs, how many gallons of milk…..it’s a little nuts! Plus I have to figure out how to get 5+ 13×9 pans of bread pudding (still warm) to this venue. Here are details about the event, if you’re interested: The Brooklyn Beer Experiment.

Anyway, I will leave you with sheep, the interior of Claffey’s Pub, where we went after the wedding and before the reception (obviously), and our incredible room at the wedding venue, which we didn’t get to enjoy nearly as much as I’d have liked. Mostly because we were drinking until 3 and then we were too hungover. But I don’t want to talk about it.

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So I’m seated next to a large, heavy suitcase right now, attempting to get some work done before my VACATION! Headed to Ireland tonight for a wedding, and I promise to take pictures of food / drink / festivities.

I will probably be too busy drinking beer to post in the next week, but upon my return I promise an embarrassment of riches! And Irish stuff!

IMG_2036One of the best ways to maximize a small budget is by making food that is all about big flavors. Extreme subtlety is best left to dishes that contain ingredients of the utmost quality — something you’re not going to get as easily on a budget. That being said, this dish is no compromise. A light, healthy take on Sweet & Sour Chicken, a classic Chinese-American restaurant staple, usually sticky and dense.

This recipe comes courtesy of Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen (a great resource for everyday Asian recipes), via Simply Recipes. I, for one, always have a hunk of ginger on hand, and the ingredients here are so simple it’s almost hard to believe! I used chicken breast, but you could save even more by using boneless, skinless thighs. I would have taken more process pictures, but to be perfectly honest, chunks of chicken doused in egg white and cornstarch look kind of revolting, and don’t do justice to the deliciousness of the finished product! The only other modification I made was to add a small diced onion to the mix. You could definitely throw in any veggies hanging out in your crisper.

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Stout-Beer

So, I am officially entering my first cook-off!! It’s for food made with beer. June 7 at the Bell House in Brooklyn. I will post more details when I have them, but I am going to make a bread pudding with homemade beer bread, and serve it with whipped cream. I don’t want to give any more away in case my competitors read this (hahahaha, as if they are somehow aware of who I am and are afraid) but I will be doing as much taste testing as possible before the 7th.

This has not been a great week for my blog, let’s be honest. Between cooking a bunch of random food that wasn’t particularly photogenic, to cooking an extremely photogenic cobbler and NOT TAKING A PICTURE, I have failed as food blogger extraordinaire. I do have a sweet and sour chicken post I’ll be putting up later, but really what I want to talk about right now is that dessert.

Because the buttermilk biscuits I used as the topping for a pretty basic strawberry rhubarb cobbler were so amazing, I am going to post the recipe here and you are just going to have to imagine how cute they were (cut into a flower cookie cutter shape) on top of the vibrant red fruit. I had a few extras which I baked and ate with butter and cherry preserves and boy, let me tell you, I will be doing that again, and soon. Biscuits are delicious. Cinnamon-cardamom biscuits are divine.

Cinnamon-Cardamom Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 6 – 8 biscuits

2 c. all purpose flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. cinnamon
10 T. (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus 1 T. melted butter for brushing over tops
2/3 c. plus 1 T. chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom into large bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until large moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Pat out to about 3/4″ – 1″ thick and using a cookie cutter, cut into 6 – 8 biscuits. (Alternately you can just divide into balls and pat into rounds, if you do not want to cut them into shapes.

Place on a baking sheet and brush with melted butter (you can also use heavy cream), sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake biscuits until tester inserted into center comes out dry, about 20 minutes. Transfer biscuits to rack and cool to lukewarm.

Note: If you are using these for the top of a cobbler, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling.

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My brother and his girlfriend were just in Japan, where she’s from, and they sent me some awesome Japanese treats, including some nori (thanks, Yuri!). On a high from my sushi bowl the other night, I had the crazy idea at the last minute last night to make sushi (this, after my day full of baking — I don’t know what’s wrong with me). I sent Brian out for some supplies (wasabi and pickled ginger) and I went to chopping my veggies and preparing the vinegar / sugar solution to make the sticky rice.

I’ve made sushi before, with my dad and more recently with the kids where I volunteer, but actually never on my own, and never with brown rice. I was a little worried it would be a giant disaster, with rice falling everywhere and soggy nori. But if you’re afraid of making sushi, or you think you don’t have the right equipment — never fear! Here’s a step-by-step guide, and you don’t even need any fancy crap, just a big bowl, a wooden spatula, and a towel.

Here’s what you do:

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granolabars

I have noticed a lot of synchronicity in the food world. Sometimes I’ll think, “gee, I’d like to make x” and then that thing, whatever it is, will be featured on one of my favorite blogs within days. Or sometimes I see something I’ve just posted on another food blog shortly thereafter (and no, I don’t think Mark Bittman is reading my blog, although if he is, hi Mark!). The other morning, I was pondering whether or not I could make my own granola bars. I’ve been going to the gym after work, and I have a need to eat every few hours, even a small amount, or I am too grumpy and starving to exercise. So I’ve been buying these overpriced natural granola bars or energy bars or somesuch thing on my way out of work and kicking myself every time I do. And I thought, “there has to be a better way!”

That same day, low and behold, granola bar recipe on Bitten! I made a pilgrimage to Sahadi’s to stock up on dried fruit, nuts, seeds and oats, so that I could make my own granola and then granola bars. (this is even easier if you already have granola on hand, obviously).

The experiment was a success, although I’ll say that I think the proportions are a bit off in Mr. Bittman’s recipe. I would definitely use less of the binding agent and more granola — I made the peanut butter variation and I feel like if I’d used the sugar they’d really have been way too sweet. I did have the advantage of making my own granola, so I included very little sweetener. I would also recommend using a 13 x 9 pan to get the more traditional granola bar ratio of width to depth. Mine were more cube-like than bar-like because my 8 x 8 pan made them a bit thick.

Bitten post and recipe here.

Again, apologies for the crap picture — I was too busy baking (and eating) to take glamour shots!

almondraspberrybread

So, I had these two sad bananas on my table for days and days. I kept telling myself I would make them into a banana bread, and kept putting it off. Then they were completely black and I was afraid to unpeel them. So, since I had just bought poppyseeds for the bagels, I decided a poppyseed bread was in order. I honestly don’t know why I don’t make more things with almond extract because it is SO GOOD. I modified this bread from a recipe I found on the Kitchen Sink, and decided I would feel better about making this bread somehow if it contained fruit. However, I do think this came out more like a dessert bread than a “healthy” bread — not that the ingredients are more indulgent than most quick breads, but it just seems more dessert-like with the almond flavor.

Also, I only took one picture because I was baking so many things all day that I just couldn’t take as many process pictures as I’d like. Flour on my hands and whatnot. Trust me, this bread is delicious.

Almond Poppy Seed Bread

3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 c. + 2 T. buttermilk
3/4 c. sour cream or greek yogurt
1 T. almond extract
2 c. all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 T. poppy seeds
1 c. raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (OK, so mine didn’t turn out really light and fluffy — and my bread didn’t suffer for it, so don’t sweat this step if it isn’t “fluffy”). Add the egg whites, buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt, and almond extract to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the whisked dry ingredients and stir gently with a spatula. When the mixture is almost combined, add the poppy seeds and raspberries. Stir gently until the wet and dry ingredients have just combined and the poppy seeds and raspberries are distributed throughout the batter. Try not to mash the raspberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

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