Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Indian Inspired Red Lentil Stew

This recipe is what happens when you come back from vacation to find that you don't really have any food in the house and are too tired to make it the store. Luckily we had a few carrots that were still good, onions, and random foods in the cabinet. A freezing cold night like this needed a hearty stew. I searched for the red lentils I had purchased a while back saw that I had some chicken stock and got to work on a yummy Indian inspired stew. This recipe can include practically any vegetable you have laying around and spices can be altered. I came up with this by adding some of my personal favorites. We served the soupy stew mixture over some rice and were able to gain some energy for the long shopping trip ahead of us.

Red Lentil Stew
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups red lentils
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 tsp each of turmeric, coriander, and cumin
1/8 tsp each of cloves, cayenne, and ginger
1 can of tomatoes, diced
1 cup of peas
Salt to taste

1) Heat oil in dutch oven, when hot add onions, salt, and spices and cook until spices are fragrant and cooked slightly, about 3-5 minutes

2) Add carrots and jalapeno

3) Add chicken stock, water, lentils and tomatoes and cook until lentils are tender, about 30-45 minutes, covered

4) Add frozen peas and cook, uncovered, until heated though

5) Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

California Vacation

After a long day of travel and me not wanting to board the plane we made it back from California. We had a great time visiting friends and family and of course the almost non-stop eating tour. This was by boyfriends first trip to California and it has almost been a year since I last visited home. We went to my favorite restaurants, ate my mom's amazing Thanksgiving dinner, had picnics, BBQ's, and countless snacks. It was a fantastic trip. Below are some of the more foodie highlights of the tour.

Plus I came back with plenty of food goodies:
Sourdough bread from San Luis Sourdough
Pinquito Beans with all the spices
My grandmother's pastry blender
A whole stack of cookbooks
And I finally got my Ebelskiver pan

Cambria Pines Lodge where we stayed for the night and enjoyed a wonderful meal, bottle of wine, fireplace, and beautiful setting along the coast of central California

Will enjoying some delicious zucchini fries from Orcutt Burger

A joint effort on the Thanksgiving apple pie between me and my mom

The beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving turkey

The amazing sides. The cranberry sauce is homemade and cooked down in red wine with pumpkin pie spice. YUM

Wine tasting along the Central Coast

And of course, what is a trip to California without In-n-out?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

California Bound

Leaving town for the week to spend it with family and friends. I'll try to post every now and then with delicious updates on my adventures. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Theory and Practice of Good Cooking

Wandering through the used bookstore the other day I came across James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. What a great book! I sat on the couch the other evening and picked it up, thinking that I would skim through looking for recipes. I had to idea what a wealth of knowledge this book contains! James Beard discusses in depth, but accessibly, how to cook and bake using different methods and techniques. The descriptions and recipes are extremely useful for a person beginning to cook or even an experienced chef. Reading this book is like having James Beard talk to you as if you were cooking together. Suggesting ways of preparing dishes and some of the tricks of the trade he has learned over numerous years. He discusses debates between chefs on the proper ways of cooking particular dishes and will openly tell you which ones he thinks work best. There are useful illustrations on proper technique for roasting chicken or how to make crepes. I recommend this book for anyone who has a love of the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

I've had a jar full of poppy seeds sitting on my spice rack for a while now. I'd never bought them before or ever baked with them, so they lay in wait of inspiration. Who knew that inspiration would be something so familiar, I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before. Lemon poppy seed bread. So simple, so light, and so fulfilling. I love the subtle hint of lemon that flavors this cake and the delicate crunch of the poppy seeds, adding the perfect texture to the soft bread. I made this cake for a breakfast meal, but I think I have been enjoying it at every meal: a snack after lunch, and a dessert after dinner. I think next time I will make a raspberry sauce to serve with it.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake
Adapted from TLC Cooking

1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 egg
2 egg whites
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tbsp poppy seeds
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1) Preheat oven to 350 F and butter and flour a bundt pan
2) Beat sugar, butter, and eggs until fluffy, then add milk and vanilla until combined 
3) Add in dry ingredients, poppy seeds, and lemon zest and juice

4) Pour into bundt pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until done

5) Let cool, then slice, serve, and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Autumn Produce

I find pork tenderloin to be one of the easiest meals to prepare, and one of the best. Pork tenderloin is flavorful and succulent and is easily paired with a variety of different fruits and vegetables. While wandering through the store trying to come up with ideas, my boyfriend said that he wanted cinnamon apples with the pork tenderloin. Then it hit me. Why not cook the apples with the pork? A recent issue of Bon Appetit had a recipe for pork loin roasted with apples which had been looking pretty good. So I took my inspiration from that recipe but added my own twist. Using my new roasting pan I added to it two pork tenderloins, two apples, a sweet potato, a red onion, and some rosemary to create a wonderful, comforting, Autumn dinner. Not to mention simple and easy to prepare.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes 
2 pork tenderloins
2 apples (I used honeycrisp), cut into large pieces
1 red onion, quartered
1 sweet potato, cut into large pieces
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Olive oil, to coat
Salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 450 F
2) Place pork tenderloins, apples, and vegetables in roasting pan and coat with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper

3) Roast in oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, check to make sure pork is cooked all the way through
4) Let rest for a few minutes

5) Slice pork and serve with apples and veggies and enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Green Pork Chili (Chile Verde) with Homemade Tortillas

In the spirit of Autumn and college football we decided to have a Chili-Cook-Off party over the weekend. We share a duplex with fellow graduate students, which is great because otherwise I don't know how we could have packed 20 people inside. Not to mention the 5 things of chili we needed to keep warm. It was a lot of fun and people made some really great chili, all which were really different from the others. Just going to show how diverse chili recipes are and how everyone prefers them a different way.

I decided to make something a little different than traditional chili and went with a Chile Verde recipe I found originally by Bobby Flay. My boyfriend would be making the more traditional ground beef and bean chili since we decided to go against each other to see whose was better. I'd say they both won. I was actually looking forward to eating chili for lunch this week, but to our surprise every last bit of chili had been eaten long before the party was over.

I made the chili with pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder, mainly because it was all the store had that morning, but it produced a perfectly tender chili. This recipe is really simple and the flavors blend perfectly. It was really good served with fresh tortillas. In fact, I'll be making it again this week.

Green Pork Chili (Chile Verde)
2 red onions, chopped
1 lb. tomatillos, halved
3 jalapenos, halved
Oil to coat veggies
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
2 lbs. pork tenderloin or shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
5 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400 F
2) Toss veggies with oil and roast in oven for 24 minutes, stirring every 8 minutes

3) In a dutch oven heat oil and begin browning pork, working in batches

4) Add browned pork back into dutch oven then cover with chicken stock and add the veggies and seasonings

5) Place dutch oven in oven and cook, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, until pork is very tender
6) Serve with warm tortillas and enjoy!

Corn Tortillas
Follow instructions on bag of masa harina
Here are some pictures of the process

Make the dough

Roll dough into balls

Flatten in tortilla press

Cook on skillet

 Set aside to cool

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Spicy Caramel Corn

This is now a new post. I don't know what I did, but I managed to delete the original post. Oh well!

Popcorn is one of those foods that I am completely fanatical about. I love it with butter, without butter, salty, sweet, and spicy. About any combination will do! Now that I have learned how simple it is to make caramel I thought I should try coating my favorite snack in sticky, spicy deliciousness! I found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen and used it as inspiration. I added cinnamon and made more popcorn. I like a few pieces to be only slightly coated. Fair warning: the will go fast! Hide it on the highest shelf where you can't reach so you don't eat it all in one sitting, like we almost did!

A simpler way of producing a similar result is to do what I have done for a while now. When you add the kernels to be popped also add enough sugar to coat them, cayenne, cinnamon, and salt. The seasonings will adhere to the popcorn. Similar flavor, although not as decadent.

 Spicy Caramel Corn
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 to 1 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 to 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cups sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup water
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp sea salt 

1) Spray large mixing bowl and spatulas with cooking spray and line baking sheets with parchment paper
2) Pop corn in large pot until fully popped, then place in bowl
3) Mix cayenne, cinnamon, and baking soda together
4) Make caramel by boiling water, butter, and sugar together, don't stir! Cook until light amber in color, remove from heat and add baking soda spice mixture
5) Immediately pour over popcorn and stir together, then lay out on baking sheets and salt
6) Let cool slightly (if you can wait!) then enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Salted Caramel Frosting

This may in fact be the most delicious frosting ever created. If I had known how easy caramel is to make I would have been making it along time ago. It doesn't seem like it should be that easy. Candy making was always one of those things that I thought only a scientist could make, or someone a lot more patient than I am. Yet caramel is so simple. Water, check, sugar, check, heavy cream, check. You don't even have to stir it! Just watch it to make sure it doesn't burn. Amazing. Then, to make this frosting, you add  butter AND salt. So this frosting has those basic, delicious flavors that everyone craves. Sweet, salty, and buttery. You're taste buds can't get much happier. So needless to say, these cupcakes were a hit and I will be adding them to a list of my go-to cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Frosting
Adapted from CHOW

1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temp
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup powdered sugar

1) Stir together sugar and water in pan and bring to a boil

2) At medium heat, allow caramel to continue boiling, DO NOT STIR
3) When caramel has turned a light amber color, remove from heat, about 6 minutes

4) Add heavy cream and vanilla and stir until smooth, then let sit for 25 minutes

5) Cream butter, salt, and sugar in a bowl until fluffy, then mix in caramel until combined and fluffy

6) Let frosting cool in refrigerator for 45 minutes, then frost cupcakes of choice, I used chocolate, end enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chocolate Press Cookies

I'm going to blame this new kitchen gadget on my mom, and and their 4 for 3 deal on kitchen gadgets. Every Christmas my mom talks about how she wants to make Spritz cookies. Usually we don't. Mainly because we have lost some part to the cookie press or we just plain forget. Despite this my mom is still nostalgic about them. Nostalgia about food is something I understand. Especially with foods associated with holidays. I love making Christmas cookies and giving them to friends, I also really like receiving colorful tins lined with a variety of delicious holiday treats. So as a way to learn about my mom's love for the cookie press I decided to get one of my own.

Our friend invited us over to watch some college football and eat some amazing BBQ. I usually bring desserts to events like this so I had to decide what to bring. I know pressed cookies are usually associated with the holidays, but my new Kuhn Rikon Cookie Press said on the box that these cookies weren't just for the holidays anymore. It even came with a variety of disks to make different themed cookies. Since it is Autumn I decided to go with the pumpkin shaped and one that is called Abstract, basically a squiggly shape. There is even a dinosaur shaped disk, although I think it looks more like a camel or a llama.

I'm not much of a vanilla person, chocolate is much more my style. So of course I had to try the chocolate cookie recipe that was included in the manual. But oops, I grabbed the wrong measuring spoon and added nearly twice the amount of salt. Sometimes mistakes are for the best. I'm going to misquote what my friend said after eating about 20 of them. "You've captured what makes tortilla chips so addicting in a cookie". A great compliment for me as I find tortilla chips to be the most addicting food on the planet. So go ahead and add a little extra salt.

Chocolate Press Cookies
Adapted from Kuhn Rikon Recipe Book

2 sticks butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt (plus a little extra)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups flour

1) Preheat oven to 375 F
2) Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy, then add vanilla, egg, milk, and salt

3) Sift in cocoa and flour then mix with a wooden spoon

4) Place dough into cookie press and attach disk then press onto ungreased cookie sheets

5) If adding sprinkles, do this before baking
6) Bake for 10-12 minutes, remove from baking sheet and let cool
7) Decorate with frosting if desired then store in airtight container, or just eat them and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meat and Potatoes

Whenever my boyfriend visits home his mom always sends him back with a cooler full of meat. Whole chicken, pork tenderloins, ribs, and my favorite...steaks. As I get older I have begun to appreciate steak more. I went from liking it charred and cooked way past the point you should ever cook a steak, to appreciating the wonderful flavors of a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak.

The restaurant that cooks the best steak I have ever eaten is The Hitching Post. A lot of people may remember this restaurant from the movie Sideways. It was the restaurant and bar they went to every night. My dad is their go-to plumber so he has gotten to know the staff and owners over the years. So whenever I am home visiting I have to go there. They know how to cook a mean piece of steak and their Magic Dust seasoning is phenomenal. Plus, there is nothing like cooking meat over a wood burning fire, using red oak of course. Oh and if you go there you HAVE to try their grilled artichokes. They are amazing!

We don't have a huge wood burning grill to cook our steaks over. But we do have a tiny grill that gets the job done. Now if only we had some red oak. Oh well. We grilled up the steaks, made some mashed potatoes with my brand new potato ricer, and sauteed up some spicy red kale. A decadent meal for a Monday night, but hey, it's only going to get colder and we're running out of grilling time. I also wanted to use my new potato ricer since I had never used one before. I didn't even buy it for this purpose, I heard you can use them to make spaetzle, and they are great for getting rid of moisture in potatoes and zucchini for frying them up.

I'll leave you with a recipe for riced mashed potatoes and spicy sauteed red chard. We just put some seasoning on the steaks and throw them on the grill until done.

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
I approximated the measurements, add heated cream mixture slowly so you don't add too much liquid

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste 

1) In a large pot of water add the potatoes and plenty of salt and boil until tender
2) Drain potatoes then lay out on baking sheet for 15 minutes or so

3) Place potatoes in a potato ricer and rice them into a bowl

4) Meanwhile heat milk, cream, and butter until heated then pour over potatoes and mix with a whisk

5) Add salt and pepper and serve along side main dish

Spicy Sauteed Red Chard
1 bunch of red chard, or other leafy green
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Rinse and chop chard into smaller pieces
2) Heat olive oil in pan, when hot add the chard and spices

3) Cook until tender, stirring frequently, then serve along side main dish and enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Enchiladas with Poblano Sauce

As you may have been able to tell from the previous post I am now obsessed with Poblano sauce. I was so glad to have leftovers. But I now had to come up with something to do with those leftovers. Then it hit me... enchiladas! Possibly my favorite food. There is something so delicious about them and growing up in California, they were my comfort food. Warm, gooey cheese encased in a lightly fried corn tortilla, covered in subtly spicy sauce topped with more cheese. I mean, what is better than that? I knew this would be the dish that could showcase this sauce perfectly. I grabbed a can of black beans, some onions, shredded cheese, fried up some tortillas and got to work. You could add chicken or pork to this dish if you would like, but for me cheese enchiladas are always the best. This may be one of the best recipes that I've come up with. And I finally figured out a way to make awesome enchiladas.

Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Poblano Sauce
1 can of black beans
1 onion, chopped
6-8 tortillas (depending on how many servings, I made 3 per person)
Oil for frying and cooking beans
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
1 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Shredded Jack cheese
Poblano Sauce (see previous recipe)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 F
2) Saute onion with spices, then add black beans until heated through

3) In a small pan heat oil (enough to cover a tortilla), when hot add tortilla and lightly fry on both sides, about 5-10 seconds on each side, just to soften

4) Drain tortillas to catch excess grease
5) In a pan lined with foil, begin to assemble the enchiladas by placing a portion of the beans and cheese into each tortilla, then wrapping them shut

6) When finished wrapping the enchiladas place them in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted

7) Top with enough Poblano sauce to cover them as well as more cheese
8) Switch oven to broil and let them broil until sauce is heated and cheese is melted, about 2-3 mintues

9) Remove from oven, serve, and enjoy!