Monday, July 6, 2009

Blackberry Limeade Fizz

Summers in Sacramento are hot. Ridiculously it’s-110-degrees-and-I-can-feel-my-face-melting-in-the-sun hot. Because of the sweltering heat, I am always on the look out for refreshing beverages that are tasty without being overly sweet and cloying. This blackberry limeade not only fits the bill perfectly, but is a wonderfully rich shade of purple to boot.


One of my absolute favorite things to buy at my local farmer’s market is luscious blackberries that are as big as my thumb, and I will definitely be turning many more of them into this delightful drink in the future. The most difficult part about this recipe is not eating all of the blackberries prior to making the drinks!


• Makes 8 servings
• 6 cups water, divided
• 3 cups fresh blackberries
• 1 cup sugar
• 2/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 5-6 limes)
• 8 thin lime slices
• Fresh blackberries (optional)


1. Place 1 cup water and 3 cups blackberries in a blender; process until smooth. Press blackberry puree through a sieve into a large pitcher and discard seeds and skins.

2. Add remaining 5 cups water, sugar, and juice to pitcher; stir until sugar dissolves.

3. Place 1 lime slice and a few blackberries, if desired, into each of 8 glasses; pour about 1 cup limeade over each serving.


Monday, February 2, 2009

World Peace Cookies

UC Davis colors.  Go Ags!

These cookies are good. Seriously good. Don't let their looks fool you. These cookies turned out so well that I decided to send them to my little brother as part of a care package. I gave them up for him. I hope he can appreciate that.


I made these cookie for Tuesday's with Dorie this week, and I am so glad I did. I skipped a couple of recipes last month, and I wasn't entirely sure about these cookies. I'm not normally a huge fan of chocolate cookies (except for these of course), but these sure hit the spot.

Aren't they cute in their box!

In fact, I've already decided that my soldier is getting these next month. Lucky boy!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing


I have been playing around with royal icing for the last few days because I have been determined to make cute cookies for the super bowl. When I was in Portland, I came across a cooking store that was selling their cookie cutters for 50 cents apiece. I was able to pick up a football shaped one and a helmet shaped one for a dollar. Which is what sparked this idea.

I had heard that using royal icing was difficult, so rather than screwing up my cookies for the party, I thought I would do a test run earlier in the week with cookies that I had picked up from the supermarket. I stuck with white frosting because hey, the simpler for my first time, the better.

First Royal Icing Attempt

The cookies turned out better than expected, but not as well as I had hoped. The centers had pooled fairly well and had dried relatively smooth and matte. However, the piped edges were lumpy and hardly up to my standards. On the up side however, I managed not to leave any gaps which might have allowed frosting to escape after in floods the center of the cookie. So really, things could have been worse.


I felt much better prepared to ice the football themed cookies on Saturday. The royal icing was still difficult to work with, though I had read up more on royal icing and thought about my approach for the second batch of iced cookies. Over all though, I felt much more comfortable by the time I was finished with the football cookies.

This was partially because of how much more difficult these were than the first batch. The had lots of edges, a multitude of colors and the footballs even had laces piped on top of them! I am happy with how smooth and perfect the centers turned out to be, but I am still working on piping the outlines more consistently. The cookies turned out so cute though, that I am sure I will be making these again soon with a different theme. My only problem with these cookies is that as adorable as they look, they only taste ok. I'm not sure if making the royal icing with egg whites instead of meringue powder was make the taste more to my liking, but I may try that next time.


For the sugar cookies
1 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1½ tsp salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium-high speed until combined. With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing until just incorporated.

Turn out dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and pat into flattened rectangles; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 350°F., with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one rectangle of dough to a scant ¼-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Using a small offset spatula, transfer shapes to prepared sheets, placing about 2 inches apart. Chill in freezer or refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes. Set scraps aside. Repeat process with remaining rectangle of dough. Gather all the scraps, and roll out again. Chill 15 minutes; cut out more shapes, and place on sheets.

(source Martha Stewart)

For the royal icing
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp meringue powder
5 tbsp water

Once the cookies have cooled, pipe the outline of each cookie. Then add a few teaspoons of water to the remaining frosting until it is of a pourable consistency, but is not too thin. The trick is to add the water a teaspoon at a time and check it by pouring a spoonful of icing back into the bowl. If it melds into the rest of the icing in about 10 seconds, it's thin enough.

Next pipe the thinned icing inside the outlines using a plastic bag with one corner snipped off. Use a toothpick to smooth it out the edges and drag the frosting to the edge and into all crevices. Don't worry if the surface doesn't look smooth at first. It smoothes out as it dries.

If desired, once the icing has dried, additional designs can be piped on top with the thicker version of the icing.

(source Jackie's Cooking Adventures)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shredded Chicken Tacos

Last week before Diesel and I were leaving to go on our vacation to Portland (by the way, did you know that it snows in Portland ?!?) I wanted to make something simple that would not dirty up too many dishes, but would still use up some of the extra ingredients that I had on hand. I came across this recipe for shredded chicken tacos and I was really excited since I had never made chicken tacos before.

This recipe is so simple; the most time consuming part is shredding the chicken. I shouldn’t have been surprised though since Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread, was just as easy and scrumptious as these tacos were.IMG_1240

Shredded Chicken Tacos
2 boneless chicken breasts
1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 dried ancho chili pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cold water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and add water to cover. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil. Partially cover and adjust heat so mixture simmers steadily. Cook until meat is very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from liquid and cool. Shred meat with fingers.

If desired, discard solids from pan, reserving the juices. Set heat to medium, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Let cook for several minutes until the sauce has reduced in volume. Mix corn starch with the water until well mixed and smooth. Add to juice to help thicken. Serve sauce drizzled over meat on the tacos.

**These tacos make a perfect pair with this Mexican rice.

(source Mark Bittman for the New York Times)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Clementine Poppy Seed Muffins

Diesel and I spend a lot of time in our kitchen. Luckily, even though we share a one bedroom apartment, we have a decently sized kitchen that can accommodate two people at work at once. When cooking together, our roles are fairly well defined. Diesel takes care of all of the barbecuing, bread making and skillet potatoes. I am in charge of everything else.


One day while Diesel was sleeping, I decided to make his famous potatoes to accompany dinner. I'd seen him make this dish a dozen times, and figured that I would be able to whip them up without any problems. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Midway through the cooking process, I realized that the potatoes did not have the correct red tinge from the seasonings. Figuring I had failed to be appropriately generous with the seasoning, I added more paprika. Then a little bit more. And a generous sprinkle after that. Then a touch more. Yet, I still had not achieved the correct hue. But, not one to be deterred, I soldiered on.

Waiting to be baked

I realized I had made a horrible mistake when I finally tasted the potatoes. Normally, I taste my dishes at every step of the process, but these raw potatoes were just not appealing. It turns out that Diesel uses seasoning salt and cayenne pepper. Not paprika. I wasn't even close to being on the right track. Diesel has been laughing at me for weeks.

My seasoning mistakes aside, Diesel and I have very different approaches to cooking. I will follow a recipe, but if it suits me and the items I have on hand, I will make substitutions, additions or deletions of ingredients. Diesel however, maintains a strict adherence to every word of any given recipe. So much so, that when he baked his first loaf of bread and the recipe instructed that the loaf be “sprinkled liberally with flour”, that is exactly what he did. Covering the dough in approximately half an inch of loose flour, which promptly burnt in the oven.


I am trying to teach him to take the instructions with a grain of salt (no pun intended), but contrary to the rest of his life, it is difficult for him to put common sense before all else in the kitchen. He just doesn't trust his instincts yet.

Take this recipe for instance. When I told him that I had been inspired by Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake recipe, but that I didn't want to make another sweet treat - he was baffled that I was going to create a muffin recipe out of it. It made no sense to him that I could just come up with a recipe without a strict script to follow. Far be it for me to claim that all of my recipes work, much less turn out fantastic, but this one sure did. The muffins turned out moist and had a wonderful citrus undertone. These are just the thing to go with my warm coffee on a chilly winter morning.


Clementine Poppy Seed Muffins
makes 12 muffins

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
1 cup granulated sugar , less 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups plain low-fat yogurt
Vegetable cooking spray or additional unsalted butter for muffin tins
4 to 5 clementines (about 375grams/slightly less than 1 pound total weight)

Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half across the width and remove the seeds. Then puree the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest to butter-sugar mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in one-half of dry ingredients. Beat in one-third of yogurt. Beat in remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with yogurt, until incorporated.

Spray twelve-cup muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray or coat lightly with butter. Use large ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and glaze.

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coq a la Biere (Chicken with Dark Beer)

Every once in a while, I make a dish that knocks my socks off. It turns out so terrifically that I am blown away. I want to open the window of my apartment yell to the world that they NEED to eat this. Their lives may just depend on it.

Because it is just so good! And I made it! And I want everyone to know what a good cook I am!


But enough of my culinary insecurities. I just want to crawl into the warm, creamy sauce and take a nap. It is just that wonderfully comforting - even if you don't fantasize about sleeping in your food.


Dishes like this I immediately want to make again. In fact, I may just make this again tonight. I do have some Newcastle left over...

Coq a la Biere
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lb chicken thighs
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons dry gin
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped peeled carrot
1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 3 medium)
1/2 lb mushrooms, washed and quartered
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
1 cup dark beer ( I like Newcastle)
1/4 cup whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a re-sealable plastic bag. Toss the chicken into the bag and shake until chicken is evenly coated. Heat butter and oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove pan from heat. Pour sherry into one side of pan; return pan to heat. Ignite sherry with a long match; let flames die down. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Add celery, carrot, shallots to pan. Sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms. Place thyme, parsley, and bay leaf on a double layer of cheesecloth or a tea strainer. Add to pan. Stir in beer; bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pan, nestling into vegetable mixture. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until they are done.)

Remove cheesecloth bag or tea strainer. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm. Place pan over medium heat; stir in yogurt. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated (do not boil, as the yogurt may curdle). Remove from heat; stir in vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Serve chicken topped with vegetables and sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

(adapted from Cooking Light)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

I have been on a quest for the ultimate cornbread recipe for a long time now. This has led me to try out plethora of recipes, and to have a sudden sinking feeling when I realized what this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe was.

Not. Another. Cornbread. Recipe.


But, I reasoned, this was a different take on cornbread. I am normally not a fan of bread that is full of stuff, but I was willing to give this recipe a shot. For the sake of TWD, if nothing else.

And the results? These were ok. I decided to halve the recipe, but forgot to halve the jalapeno (oops), so they turned out a little hotter than I had anticipated.


But I didn't end up as hung up on the veggies inside as I thought that I would. They were actually, gasp, good. They might not become a staple in my repertoire anytime soon, but I can see myself making these to accompany a soup or barbeque dish. And the cheddar cheese I sprinkled on top, crisped up nicely and was a perfect addition to this crumbly muffin.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Mammy Barto's Faux-Fried Cauliflower

Over the last few months, as I have been cooking, I have been thinking a lot about the role that food plays in the world. I cannot think of many other acts that transcend the borders and ethnicities of the world in the way that the ritualistic nature of daily meals do.


Across socioeconomic stratas and religious viewpoints we all eat (hopefully - though I am well aware of the fact that many people do not have the resources, access or ability to obtain food for some, if not all, of their meals). Food connects us to our neighbors, our enemies, our past and future, our family.

There are a handful of dishes that are universal on my mother's side of my family. All of them were made by my great-great-grandmother for her grandchildren, my grandmother has made them for me, and I have begun making them myself. Through the process of gathering the ingredients, cooking them and eating, I feel connected, a part of a tradition that is my own.


I love making this dish, and the handful of others that remind me of my childhood, my family. It makes me inordinately happy to continue making the same dishes as other generations of my family have been making for decades.

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Mammy Barto's Cauliflower
1 small head cauliflower
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cracker crumbs (I like graham crackers, but almost anything would work)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash head of cauliflower and steam to al dente. Cut the head into florets.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cracker crumbs and cook, while stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the crumbs have browned.

Add cauliflower, salt and pepper and mix on medium heat until well coated. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

French Pear Tart


I was very excited to make this French Pear Tart for Tuesdays with Dorie. The reason for my excitement was that this week's recipe was chosen by Dorie herself! I figured that if anyone was going to choose an awesome recipe, it would be her. After all, she literally wrote the book.


This recipe also gave me an opportunity to break in my new tart pan that has been sitting, lonely, on the shelf for the past few months.


I was extremely pleased with how this recipe turned out. I was very skeptical about how the almonds would pair with the pears, but it was fantastic. The tart turned out a lot lighter than some of the other recipes I have made with TWD, and was sweet without being cloying. This is definitely something that I will be making again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Into the Unknown: Cherry Sweet & Sour Cornish Game Hens

I have actually been thinking a lot about my blog lately, but without really writing much. It's kind of funny, but when I started out I never really decided what direction I wanted it to go. I just wanted it to revolve around food. Finally, I decided that I would try to incorporate a new ingredient or a new technique into one recipe for my blog every month.


My decision to continue developing my culinary skills begins this year with a fabulously fun recipe, Cherry Sweet & Sour Cornish Game Hens. This recipe was a perfect choice to kick off the year as it involved a new ingredient (the game hens) and a new technique (brining).


This recipe even got me to cook on the barbeque, which is something that I never do because, well, Diesel always does it for me! The barbeque is his domain, and this was only the second time in the course of our relationship that I have attempted to use it. So, while he slept, I cooked. And I was so proud of myself. This dish turned out very well, the meat was juicy and the saucy tangy. I really could not have been happier with how this recipe turns out and I think it is a good sign for the upcoming year.


Game Hen Brine
6 cups cold water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Mix everything together in a large metal or glass bowl. Add game hens, completely submerging (A plate can be placed on top of the birds to hold them in the mixture). Let brine for 6 - 8 hours or overnight.

Cherry Sweet & Sour Cornish Game Hens
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup cherry preserves
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon hot Chinese mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
2 Cornish Game Hens

Heat the barbeque to medium-high heat.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until softened and fragrant. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add cherry preserves, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic chili sauce and honey. Stir and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Divide the sauce in half leaving one half in the saucepan.

Oil the grate of the grill & place the hens over direct heat breast side up. Cook with the cover closed for ten minutes. Brush the hens with the 1/2 of the glaze not in the saucepan. Close cover & continue to cook for another 10 - 20 minutes until the hens are fully cooked.

Remove the hens from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes. While the hens are resting, add the dried cherries to the remaining glaze in the saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for about 3 minutes.

Serve the hens over the wild rice, drizzling both with the remaining glaze.

(source A Good Appetite)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Buttery Jam Cookies


Today was a very good day. Not only did I get to make these fun (purple!) cookies, but I finally caved and bought myself a stand mixer. It is so fantastic. Yay!

new mixer!

It made short work of the thick dough for these cookies, which the blackberry jam had turned a pale shade of purple. They were quite cute.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Peppermint Bark


For the last month and a half, I have seen postings about peppermint bark everywhere. I love this stuff! It just doesn’t get better than peppermint and white chocolate in my book. But all of the recipes that I came across seemed kind of basic. The recipes didn’t seem to be adding value to the raw ingredients – the final product was the same as the recipe, white chocolate, dark chocolate, peppermints - until I visited my newest, favorite, drool-worthy blog, Orangette.

This recipe layers a bittersweet chocolate ganache in between layers of white chocolate and peppermint. YUM!

I had originally planned to make these treats with my other Christmas goodies, but I was so overwhelmed with everything else, I never quite got around to them. So even though I felt a little silly, I made a Christmas treat the week after Christmas. And I am so glad that I did!

These are GOOOOOOOD!

Did anyone ever see that Friends episode where Rachel makes the trifle for Thanksgiving but accidentally includes a layer of beef and onion? Joey eats it and says, “What's not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Gooooood!” This peppermint bark totally channels that moment.

IMG_0876_ edit_3

Three-Layer Peppermint Bark
17 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
6 candy canes, coarsely crushed
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
¾ teaspoons peppermint extract

Line a 9- by 13-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the white chocolate a double boiler over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the chocolate lumps have all melted, and the chocolate is smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat. Pour 2/3 cup of it onto the parchment paper. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the parchment paper.

Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the crushed candy canes. Using a piece of parchment paper, gently press down on the candy to imbed it in the chocolate. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the bittersweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator, and pour the bittersweet chocolate mixture over the white chocolate. Using a spatula, spread the bittersweet chocolate in an even layer. Chill until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Re-warm the remaining white chocolate over barely simmering water to 110°F. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the firm bittersweet layer, using your spatula to spread it to cover. Sprinkle with remaining crushed candy canes. Using a piece of parchment paper, gently press down on the candy to imbed it in the chocolate. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Carefully lift the parchment paper from the baking sheet out of the baking sheet. The bark can easily be broken into pieces by hand, into either bite sized or larger chunks.

Pack into an airtight container, with sheets of wax paper between layers of bark to prevent them from sticking to one another. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: This bark will keep for up to 2 weeks, if not more. Separate the peppermint bark from other treats in the package with parchment paper.

Yield: about 36 pieces

(source Orangette)

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