Not in the mood for brownies…

…so I baked some blueberry cream bites. Yea, I know right ‘not in the mood’ is unheard of…

But, I was anxious to try out an individual mini brownie silicon mold that was given to me for the holidays.

So, instead of using the mold for its intended purpose, I chose to bake something lighter.The recipe actually makes 12 regular sized muffins, but I diverted from this plan and made 24 mini bites and poured the remaining batter into a 9-inch round pan.  Does miniaturizing something automatically increase its likeability factor? I pose this question because the mini bite-sized muffins came out really cute. I also found them more enjoyable and easier to eat than a regular sized muffin.

I like my muffins to have a little more of a light golden complexion–I should’ve left the muffins to bake a little longer, but I was afraid of burning them. Also, these muffins aren’t overly sweet. For a sweeter muffin, you can add 1/4 or 1/3 cup more sugar OR sprinkle sugar on top of the batter before baking.

Enough jabber. Recipe now—

2 cups of flour

1 cup of sour cream

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

1 cup of sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup of frozen blueberries

zest of 1 lemon

makes 12 regular sized muffins

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan.

2. Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, sour cream and lemon zest.

3. Sift flour, salt and baking soda into the liquid mixture. Mix together. the batter will be thick.  Finally, fold in the blueberries by hand.

4. Scoop mixture into the prepared muffin pan.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes until lightly golden.

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Lemon and Potatoes

Over the weekend, I had dinner with a girlfriend at a Lebanese restaurant.  We shared a good sized order of their popular fried potatoes. They were seasoned with cilantro and lemon juice and tasted PRIMO! I never imagined lemon to go well with potatoes, but HEY–that is why I’m learning how to cook!

So, I’m at home trying to recreate the flavors that happily danced on my tongue. And, once again this recipe requires only a few ingredients—

potatoes, cilantro, garlic and lemon

1.  Chop up the cilantro and mince garlic.

2.Wash, peel and cube up the potatoes. I used 2 small-medium sized potatoes. This should serve 2-3 as a small side/appetizer dish.

3.  Heat up olive oil in a skillet. I threw garlic in the oil at the beginning of cooking, but I think next time, I will add the garlic once the potatoes are nearly done.

4. Brown the sides of the potatoes and cook until tender. Salt and pepper the potatoes. Also, sprinkle a little cayenne pepper. Cook time should be about 10-12 minutes. Add the minced garlic when the potatoes are nearly cooked.

5. Turn off heat. Throw in the chopped cilantro and squeeze lemon juice on to the cooked potatoes. I used the juice of half a lemon, but I think I will use a little more next time. I will also add more cilantro.  Toss and coat the potatoes. Serve hot.

easy and delicious

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A bit of tea and mystery

I was missing clotted cream and jam!

After watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, I was gifted with a volume of the complete Sherlock Holmes for Christmas.  I’ve never read the classic, but I’m hooked! And, following Holmes and Watson on their crime solving adventures put me in the mood for some tea and SCONES!

So, I did a little research on my own for a good scone recipe in Irma Rombauer’s, Joy of Cooking.  The ingredients were easy enough, but was I able to pull it off? Like pie crust, making scones requires ‘cutting in’ of butter.  This task seemed almost impossible without a fancy food processor. But with a little bit of ingenuity, I found my mini whisk to be the utmost of help!

Eggster: my loyal sidekick

I wanted a creamier scone, so I did modify the recipe a bit: instead of heavy cream I used sour cream and omitted the egg. I also splashed in a bit of pure vanilla. The result was a wonderfully scented, chocolate chip orange zest cream scone. Even though I omitted the egg and used sour cream, the scone came out of the oven moist, light and fluffy!

Ms. Rombauer’s recipe called for orange zest, which beautifully complements chocolate and smells wonderful.  I used 2 tablespoons.

grating the orange really woke me up! so fragrant

Chocolate Chip Orange Zest Cream Scones

yields 8 scones

2 cups of flour

1/3 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter cut into small cubes

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/4 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

2 tablespoons orange zest

a bit or milk and cinnamon and sugar for the top

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2.  Sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

3.  Make sure the butter is cold. Cut in the cubed pieces of butter into the dry ingredients.  I used my whisk and separated the pieces of butter into smaller pieces. I made sure to work quick so the butter didn’t melt and become a paste. Ideally, you want to coat the butter pieces with flour to resemble pea-sized pieces and the remainder of the flour to look like break crumbs.

4.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

5. Mix together the sour cream, vanilla and orange zest. This will smell wonderful!  Pour the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture and mix until the ingredients are moistened.

6.  With your hands now, gather the dough and press against the side of the bowl to form one round ball of dough. Don’t overwork this step. You don’t want the butter to melt.

7. Bring the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat down into a round piece about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into 8 wedges and place each piece onto to the baking sheet at least 1/2  inch apart.

8.  Before baking, brush the tops of the scones with some milk and sprinkle on some cinnamon and sugar.

9. Put into the oven and bake until the tops are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  Let cool.

I think scones tastes best when eaten warm. So, if you bake these in the morning or the day before, warm it up in the toaster oven before serving.  Don’t forget the tea!

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Good morning!

I’m not a morning person. PERIOD.

No matter how beautiful it is outside or how well I slept the night before, I hate to wake up.  But, for food I will.  I needed to wake up early this morning to bake a cake (chocolate with bananas and white frosting) for a Christmas party. In order to concentrate and focus, I decided to prepare a quick breakfast and chose  a simple egg dish I learned from Clotilde Dusolier of Chocolate & Zucchini, called Oeuf Cocotte.

Peering into the fridge, I found some mini heirloom tomatoes, an egg and sour cream.  Ms. Dusoulier’s recipe called for some optional ham, but I didn’t have any. Optional!

So, I used a bit of olive oil in my ramekin and cracked an egg and I was soon on my way to baking.

Here is how I prepared Oeuf Cocotte.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of sour cream

1 egg

2-3 mini heirloom tomatoes* (halved)

salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Drop the sour cream into the bottom of a buttered ramekin.  Next crack an egg over the sour cream. Top with tomatoes and hit it with some S&P.

3. Place the ramekin in a shallow baking pan and pour some water into the pan.  This ensures even cooking of the egg.

4.  Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 12-16 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs. I like mine runny, so I can dip toasted bread into it!

* Use small grape or cherry tomatoes if you like. I just had the mini heirloom tomatoes on hand.

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Mt. Mega Loaf

My friend said it resembled half dome. Another called it a monster!

Let me start by telling you a story of sacrifice, sabotage and redemption.

Three years ago, I made meatloaf for my friends–all of whom are the manliest of men (unreliable source, highly disputed).  The day of,  I shopped for ingredients and since I was cooking at a friend’s house, I asked if they had Worcestershire sauce at their place. My friend, let’s call him ‘Paule’ was sure they had a bottle at the house and so I didn’t purchase any.

I got to their place and started to prep. I searched for the Worcestershire sauce high and low. No where to be found.  So, I asked ‘Paule’ and he said, I doubt anyone will notice if you leave out the Worcestershire sauce–eighty-six the ingredient.  ‘Are you sure?’ I asked.  ‘Yea, it’s just a couple of splashes.’ Unwillingly, I agreed.

An hour or so later, the meatloaf was done. It looked like meatloaf. It smelled tasty. Nice and meaty. Moist. I was 95% confident with what I had produced. So,  I sliced up the meatloaf and served it to my friends.  As they ate, I watched their facial expressions. Nothing. I waited for their reaction and finally asked “Well, what do you think? Any suggestions for improvement?”  My other friend, let’s call him ‘Hope’ said, “its missing something…Worcestershire sauce….yea, that’s it.”

After his comment, all I saw was RED. I can’t remember anything else.

Fast forward to December 2011–that’s how I came to create the monster of all meatloaves–a 5-lb turkey loaf that will certainly impress! Try out this recipe and conquer dinner tonight. Great for leftovers!

5 lbs of ground turkey

4 teaspoons of tomato paste

2 teaspoons of paprika

3/4 cup of chicken broth

1/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup fresh thyme

1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

2 large yellow onions, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs

3 large eggs, beaten

S&P

Olive oil

ketchup

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a medium sized pot, cook down the onions with S&P, olive oil, thyme, parsley, paprika and garlic. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce. Cook the mixture until the onions are translucent and the liquid has thickened. Allow the fragrance of the onion mixture to permeate your nostrils. It smells wonderful.

3.  Allow the onion mixture to cool. Then, in a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs and onion mixture and add some more S&P.

4.  On a baking sheet, hand shape the combined ingredients into a rectangular shape. Once this is done, spread a thin, even layer of ketchup over the top of the uncooked loaf.

5.  Put in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the loaf. When the internal temperature reaches 16o degrees, the turkey loaf is ready.

This recipe was adapted from a turkey meatloaf recipe by Ina Garten of Food Network. Thanks!

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Gotta Love it Basil Salad

Basil’s refreshing taste and lovely aroma is prominently featured in this recipe, as it is the star ingredient. Yup, you heard me–no romaine, no spinach, no arugula.  BASIL!

Pretty simple actually. The ingredients are pictured above.

8-10 ounces of fresh basil leaves

1 cup mini heirloom tomatoes, halved

half a red onion, thinly sliced

3 cups of cubed rosemary bread or plain baguette

1 cup of crumbled feta cheese

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

serves 5 people

  1. Wash and pat dry the basil leaves. No stem.  Roughly chop the leaves.
  2. I  like to toast my bread for a few minutes in the oven but day old bread works too.
  3. Add all the ingredients together. Mix and toss well with balsamic and olive oil. Season with S&P, according to taste.

And, here is the completed salad. Looks like the ingredients except in a bowl. Everyone who I have served this too absolutely loves it. I hope you enjoy it too!

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Kimchi Jigae

I had dinner with my Korean-American friend this weekend and she served home-made korean food!  YUM!  Like most Asian meals, our meal was family-style, in a communal setting.  For the main course, her family prepared korean BBQ with the traditional table sides.  My friend also prepared kimchi jigae, which is a traditional korean type stew made with kimchi, pork and tofu.

Kimchi is fermented cabbage, very sour and spicy.  For optimum yumminess, it is best to prepare the stew with “ripe” or more sour kimchi. Fresh kimchi may not yield the full, rich flavor the soup is known for.

6 ounces pork belly–the fatty pieces

1 cup of old, sour kimchi (store bought ok)

3/4 cup of water

1/2 onion (sliced)

2-3 tablespoons of chili paste

tofu

scallions

  1. Cut the fatty, pork belly into small, bite size pieces. Then, in a pot, lightly saute the pork with oil and salt. Add onions.
  2. Add the cup of kimchi and stir with a 3/4 cup of water and cover; bring to boil and allow to simmer. Add in chili paste according to taste. Stir until dissolved. Continue to simmer.
  3. When ready to serve, add sliced tofu pieces and top with scallions.
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Chester: Gingerbread Man Escapee

I did a 6-hour bake-a-thon today to help out a friend. I was gonna bust out with some fancy cookies, but she said “no”. So, I bought 8 logs of the pre-made cookie dough and hundreds of cookies later, I created Chester, who has two blue buttons. 

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Leftovers Pt. 3: Pumpkin

I’m still on this leftover/not wasting food trend, so please indulge me.

This recipe isn’t overly sweet and you can taste the delicate flavor of autumn’s most popular squash: the pumpkin. Its incredibly moist and goes well when eaten warm with a hot cup of tea. My mom, however, took her slice with a cup of coffee. Here you go–

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

1.  Line loaf pan with parchment paper or grease well on all sides.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and pumpkin spice.

3. Mix sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla with an electric hand mixer.  Add these ingredients to the canned pumpkin and mix a little more. Add the dry ingredients and combine well.

4.  Pour batter into the lined loaf pan and bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. Done when toothpick comes out clean.

Do you still have pumpkin leftover? I know someone who does. Go ahead, give it a try!

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Cumin Rubdown

Cumin is tasty. Cumin has a distinct aroma.  It goes well on pork!  I threw together some basic spices to create a rub to put on a pork loin and slow cooked it.

  •  2 tablespoons kosher salt
  •  1.5 tablespoons ground coriander
  •  5 tablespoons ground cumin
  •  1 tablespoon paprika
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper
  •  1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • couple of bay leaves ( just throw into the crock pot)

Combine all these together and rub over a loin of pork.  I bought a 4-lb piece of pork loin. Before you put the  pork into the crock pot for several hours, its best to brown all sides in a pan first–this step seals in the flavors.  Once, all the sides are browned, transfer the pork into the slow cooker. The drippings and brown parts at the bottom of the pan can be deglazed with a bit of water. Use this flavorful liquid in the crock pot.

I also cooked red potatoes and carrots with the pork. When the temperature of the pork loin reaches 160 degrees, it is ready to serve!  The veggies should be tender and full of flavor.

Sorry, I don’t have any close ups of the pork due to poor indoor lighting. But here’s me preparing the salad with the pork sorta plated…

In addition to the pork, I served a basil bread salad (recipe soon to come). I added some heirloom tomatoes to the basil, which were purchased from Trader Joe’s.  The little tomatoes were so cute and so pretty, I couldn’t help but photograph them here.

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