Monday, June 29, 2009

Morphing Leftovers


I think one of the most challenging things a cook has to do is to take leftover food and morph it into a new dish that is enticing. This sometimes involves using leftovers from several meals on different days and making a magical creation that your family looks at and doesn't (operative word here is "doesn't") say, "Gross!".

You saw, at least I hope you saw, last night's post on Asian Pork Satay. I had leftover jasmine rice. When I was doing the dishes after dinner, I was about to pack the rice into a container and pop it in the fridge. Then I looked at it and thought maybe I could do something interesting with it. I took stock of what I had in the refrigerator, including leftovers from the last couple of nights' dinners.

I had made "Malaysian Chicken Noodle Soup with Asian Greens and Chili Soy Sauce" the other night. It is an incredibly delicious soup that I got from one of my absolute favorite bloggers, Jaden Hair at http://steamykitchen.com/4128-malaysian-chicken-noodle-soup-ipoh-sar-hor-fun.html?pid=164#image. And there was this wonderful silky chicken left from that. I chopped some of it up and threw it in with the rice.

Now I needed to get creative or it was going to be pretty bland. I have no measurements because this was an experiment. To the rice and chicken I added chopped green onions, chopped carrots, minced fresh garlic, a little Kansas steak seasoning and a healthy dash of Cajun seasoning. I mixed it really well and divided it in half and pressed it into two large patties. Because the rice was a little on the sticky side, I didn't need to use any kind of a binder. I wrapped the patties and stuck them in the fridge.

Today Jane and I were shopping and we stopped at Trader Joe's. I have such a love affair with this store. They always have something that I had no idea I was looking for, but when I find it I am just thrilled! Today it was a one pound package of heirloom tomatoes. They were about the size of cherry tomatoes. Besides being just darn cute, I knew they would taste good.

Back at home I sliced the tomatoes in half, added thawed frozen corn, fresh mozzarella pearls and chopped basil & parsley from my herb garden. Bob made a wonderful vinaigrette with olive oil, fresh lime juice, lime zest and orange blossom honey. It was absolutely perfect!

I sauteed the rice cakes til they had a good brown crust and were heated through. I heated a bit of the sauce from the pork satay and drizzled that over the cakes. To Bob's plate, I put a small ramekin of the cucumber salad to finish it off. Carrot and cucumber sticks were added at the last minute.

Let me tell you, this was one tasty meal! Woohoo! A home run! Out of the ballpark! High five! I rock!...okay, maybe not all of that. But it was good :-) A definite "do-over"...and that is high praise indeed in this house!
So what have you "morphed" lately?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Asian Pork Satay with Cucumber Salad


I received these recipes in an email from "Cuisine at Home" magazine. First of all, I love that magazine. I don't think I have ever disliked a single recipe that I've made from it. And I love that they are so specific on directions. The magazine just rocks. I've even sent subscriptions to several friends. I love it that much!

So anyway, I took one look at this dinner and thought, "Oh yeah, I'm all over that one." Incredibly, the only ingredient I didn't have on hand was the cucumber. Go figure. Bob offered to go to the store and pick one up for me. Well hell, as long as he was going I went ahead and gave him the grocery list I'd been working on. Poor Bob.

This dinner turned out absolutely delicious. Wow. Sitting out on the deck with a good breeze to clear out the end of the hot and humid day with this dinner before us, and a glass of wine, well that was just heaven. The pork is so good. And the cucumber salad is the perfect foil to the satay. This is definitely a keeper. It's so easy and so good. Go for it! This is one you shouldn't miss! I'm just sayin'.

Asian Pork Satay
from "Cuisine at Home"
makes 4 servings (12 skewers)
*The marinade for the pork also serves as the basting sauce. Avoid brushing the satay too early, however, or they'll stick to the grill and burn.

For the Satay:
1 jar hoisin sauce (8oz)
1/2 cup chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt to taste
1 pork tenderloin (1 lb.) trimmed

For the Rice:
2 cups water
Pinch of Kosher salt
1 cup medium-grain rice
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Simmer hoisin, garlic sauce, honey, vinegar, oil, and salt for the satay in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook marinade 5 minutes, then set it aside to cool.

Prepare pork, cutting it first into thirds lengthwise, then in half crosswise to make 6 pieces. Finally, slice each piece in half lengthwise to make 12 strips, each 4-6 inches long. Toss pork strips in the marinade, then thread strips onto skewers.

Bring water and salt for the rice to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Just before serving, stir in peas and vinegar, fluffing rice until well mixed.

Arrange satay on the grill so the skewers extend over the edge; cover and cook 3-4 minutes. Flip satay, baste with marinade, then grill until cooked through, 3-4 minutes more. Serve satay with Cucumber Salad.

Cucumber Salad
from "Cuisine at Home"
makes 2 1/2 cups

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 small cucumbers
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)

Combine sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper flakes for dressing in a bowl; set aside.

To prepare the cucumbers, cut a cucumber in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Discard seeds. Slice cucumber halves into thin slices to make a yield of 2 to 2 1/2 cups.

Toss cucumber and onion slices with dressing until well coated. Chill salad until ready to serve. Salad can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Our last "Cupcake Friday"!


Well here we are at the last “Cupcake Friday”. This month has been a lot of fun. Choosing this book, selecting the recipes, and then making them have been a great challenge. Thank you all for joining me on this ride. I really have enjoyed it. All of the cupcakes I’ve made have tasted really great. Some looked better than others, but they all were definite “do-overs” as far as Bob and I are concerned. And there are more that I want to try. But I promised Bob I wouldn’t work my way through the entire book. Our waistlines couldn’t stand it!

This project has been so much fun that I want to do another! My spouse has requested that July’s endeavor be “Cookie Mondays”. So there you have it folks. Next month you can check in each Monday and find a new cookie recipe that I’ve been wanting to try. There are so many I’ve seen recently that I’m not going to choose a single cookbook. It is certain though, that something from Martha is bound to pop up :-)

So on to “Cupcake Friday”! Seeing how this is the last one, I chose a really fun and challenging cupcake. Introducing Martha’s “Honey Bee Cupcakes”! Aren’t they adorable??? Each and every one of you had better exclaim with a resounding “YES!” because these were truly a group effort.

First of all, the cupcakes themselves are interesting. The batter was made with a good amount of honey, and uses vegetable oil instead of butter! Hmm. They are pretty darn tasty though, if I say so myself. So I pretty much handled the baking of the cupcakes on my own. (Although I do think Bob manned one batch when I had to answer nature’s call before the timer went off! Thank goodness for willing assistants.)

Next I called on my talented pastry chef friend, Dianne. She so generously agreed to help me with the piping on the finished cupcakes. I have never done any decorating before and didn’t have a clue how to do it. Arrangements were made for us to get together to tackle and conquer my inexperience with the use of a pastry bag. But first we decided that Bob and I would make the honey bees ahead of time.

Let me just say this about that…I seriously never again in my entire life want to make honey bees out of marzipan if I can in any way shape or form help it! Whew, got that off my chest. For two evenings my dear husband (and I do mean dear. Our wedding vows did not include prevailing through the making of miniature insects out of a paste made of pulverized almonds!) and I fashioned little bees out of marzipan. For those of you that are not familiar with marzipan www.wizegeek.com define it as: “Marzipan is an almond and sugar paste used to ice cakes and other pastries or sculpted into a variety of shapes to be eaten as candy or used as cake decorations.” It all sounds easy enough. And Martha’s directions make it all sound so easy. Yeah, right. Well it’s not! Okay? This was way worse than those little flowers we sugared last week!

But oh so worth it! They turned out pretty darned adorable! While they aren’t as petite as Martha’s, who ever saw a petite honey bee? Bob and I laughed pretty hard when one of mine came out about three times larger than the others; and the bees we were making were much bigger than those in the book. What the heck! She’s a big girl so she’s the Queen Bee! I bonded with her and I became especially fond of her. In the end we made a total of thirty bees in all. That’s not even counting the throw aways or the ones that got eaten.

I took my prized box of candy honey bees over to Dianne’s house for my next lesson. Let me take a moment to tell you that I have witnessed firsthand the incredibly gorgeous and insanely delicious desserts that have come out of Dianne’s kitchen. The woman is wicked good with butter, sugar, and flour! So I humbly entered her kitchen with respect oozing out of me.

Now, I’ve gotta tell you I love this gal for ever so many reasons. Not the least being that she handed me an ice cold margarita! Woohoo! Now we’re talking! This is one lesson I was sure to like. But I swear we just had one. Honest. Just one.

Dianne had the buttercream already colored yellow and ready to go. She filled a disposable pastry bag fitted with the curved tip. Let the games begin! I spread the crumb layer on the cupcakes and Dianne began to pipe. I watched her work, leaning over her shoulder and breathing down her neck. Her cupcakes were coming out so cute! When it came time for me to pipe, well let’s just say that my cupcakes look more like a wilting dandelion than her sunny dahlias. I watched her so carefully and thought I had the technique down. But I guess it’s like anything else that’s new. It just isn’t as easy as it looks. I do think with some practice I would get better. At least I hope I would! But I sure didn’t want to practice on these cupcakes. So I stepped back and let Dianne work on the cupcakes while I worked on my margarita. Very judicious of me, wouldn’t you say?


The finished product is really cute. I love them! Truly I do. The cupcake's flavor is really unique. You can certainly taste the honey. And who doesn’t love a cupcake topped with buttercream frosting? But what really makes it cute is that little marzipan honey bee. You can almost hear them buzzing!

Honey Bee Cupcakes – from “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes”
makes 20

For Cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons good-quality honey
½ cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For Decorating:
2 ounces marzipan
Yellow and black gel-paste food colors
Cornstarch, for work surface
2 recipes Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1. Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

2. With an electric mixer on high, beat eggs and sugars until pale and thick. Whisk together honey, milk, oil, and zest. On low speed, mix honey mixture into egg mixture. Add flour mixture in two batches, mixing until just combined.

3. Divide batter among lined cups, filling each three-quarter full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

4. Make bees: Divide marzipan in half. Tint one portion yellow and the other black with gel-paste food color. Roll each portion into a rope, a little less than ¼ inch thick, on a work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch; cut rope crosswise into ¼ inch pieces. Alternating between yellow and black, gently press together four pieces to fork the body. Pinch off two tiny bits of yellow marzipan. Roll into balls; press onto head. Press almonds into bee for wings. Repeat to make 20 bees.

5. Decorate cupcakes: Tint buttercream pale yellow; spread a thin layer of buttercream over cupcakes. Transfer remainder to a pastry bag fitted with a small curved petal tip (#59). Starting at outer edge, pipe petals in a circle, holding tip perpendicular to cupcakes. Pipe more circles of petals inside first to cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes to allow frosting to set. Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and top with bees before serving.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cupcake Friday!!!


Once again it is Cupcake Friday! And I had everything ready to go except the pictures of the cupcakes. I put the flowers on the cupcakes last night before I went to bed and was planning to photograph them early this morning. Mother Nature, however, had other plans! We had a huge storm this morning with two incredible cracks of lightning and thunder. Results? No internet.

OMG! No internet? Not only how was I going to post my edition of Cupcake Friday, but a day with no internet??? Cut off from civilization as we know it? No way.
But wait! I'm babysitting this afternoon. A quick call confirmed that Virna has access at her house. Whew! That was close.

So better late than never, here is this week's Cupcake Friday...and is it a good one!

I am just loving this cookbook. Soooo many cupcakes to choose from! I have bookmarked several pages for “must try” cupcakes. This week’s choice is one I’m really excited about!

Every spring Bob gets the yard spruced up and plants our flowers. He fills the flowerboxes on the deck with gorgeous red and pink (big surprise there!) flowers. Pink for me of course, and red to attract the hummingbirds that I love so much. And then we plant my herbs. We have no yard to speak of, so we plant our herb garden in pots on the deck. They usually do quite well.

One herb I absolutely adore is lavender. There have been years when I’ve planted three or four kinds. In the past I’ve used it to make lavender lemonade, lavender cookies, and lavender pound cake. So when I saw the Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes on page 86 of Martha’s cupcake book, I immediately knew which cupcake won out for this week’s cupcake of the week!

As I’ve said in the past, there are only two of us in the house. We still have cupcakes from last week that haven’t been eaten! (In all fairness, with Bob and Clint’s birthdays this past week, we’ve had cake, key lime pie, and cherry pie.) That many baked goods will do in even a sweet-lover like me! So I decided to make just half a batch.

The cupcake itself was rather simple. A straightforward recipe for homemade brownies. Good ones, too! The recipe says to line 24 standard muffin tins. But since I was only making half a batch, when I finished mixing the batter I looked at it and thought, no way was it going to make 12 cupcakes. So I decided to make mini cupcakes. The picture in the book looked to me like they were the mini cupcakes anyway. Well low and behold, I don’t know how many standard cupcakes half a recipe would make, but I got 24 mini cupcakes out of it. Still lots of cupcakes :-)

The recipe calls for dried lavender. I went out on the deck with my shears and snipped off three times that amount. When using fresh herbs in place of dried, use 3 times fresh as the amount called for of dried. Oh my goodness. When I chopped the lavender the kitchen filled up with its wonderful fragrance. When the milk was finished steeping with the lavender and I strained it, I then mixed it with the confectioners’ sugar and coloring. It was gorgeous! I couldn’t wait to put it all together.

I did encounter one problem. I simply could not find edible flowers small enough for the cupcakes. Bob and I hunted at five different stores and called bakeries and florists. The florist I talked with said she could special order them. But it would take more time than I had. I figured I could come up with something.

When Jane came over to relieve me of some of the remaining mocha cupcakes and saw this week's gems in the making, she was very interested. She is having a soirée tonight and called “dibs” on these for her dessert.

I was just about to resort to making marzipan flowers when Bob spotted some beautiful purple wild geraniums in Jane’s perennial garden. A quick “Google” to find out these were edible flowers, and off we went with shears to Jane’s garden! (It’s dangerous living next door to us. Kind of like living next door to Edward Scissorhands!) But then again, it was fitting that the flowers on the cupcakes came from her garden since they were to be for her party! Yeah.

Side note: Sugaring wild geraniums is a bite. They are so delicate and the petals are so very thin that even superfine sugar weighs them down. My genius husband came up with a solution! We used simple syrup to "paint" them and then sprinkled the superfine sugar on them. Lots of painstaking work, but in the end they did turn out cute as buttons.

Hope the ladies at Jane’s party enjoy them!



Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes
From “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes”
Makes 24

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
3 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Lavender Icing (recipe follows)
Crystallized Flowers

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water; stir until smooth. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.

2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat chocolate mixture and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down side of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean. About 17 minutes (cupcakes will not be domed). Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

4. To finish, use a small spoon to coat cupcakes with icing, covering tops completely. Let set, about 1 hour. Top with crystallized flowers. Iced cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature in airtight containers.

Lavender Icing
Makes enough for 24 cupcakes

1/3 cup milk
½ teaspoon dried lavender
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Violet gel-paste food color

Bring milk and lavender just to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat, and cover; let steep 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard lavender. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Strain again. Add food color, a little at a time, stirring until desired shade is achieved. Use immediately.

Crystallized Flowers

1 large egg white
1 teaspoon water
Pesticide-free edible flowers, such as pansies and violas, stems removed (6 per cupcake)
Superfine sugar, for sprinkling

Whisk egg white with the water in a small bowl. Working with 1 flower at a time and holding it with kitchen tweezers, brush egg wash over entire surface of flower using a small paintbrush. Sprinkle with superfine sugar to coat completely. Transfer to a baking sheet or wire rack; let set. Crystallized flowers can be stored up to 3 months at room temperature, in single layers between waxed paper, in airtight container.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I want that point back...

Okay, this isn't exactly a Columbus food related post, but I thought it was a funny story and I wanted to share it.

When I was at Kent State, I got dinged on a question on an elementary II French test and lost two points. The question was about which things would you buy at the grocery, bakery, or the chacuterie (cold, preserved meats) which tested if you knew the vocabulary for food items and portions (piece, bag, etc). My "wrong" answer for the chacuterie question was "une tranche de pate" which is a slice of pate. I went to my INCREDIBLY stuck up grad student professor to argue this, considering I was working at one of the oldest and best known gourmet markets in Northeastern Ohio (West Point Market) and I knew darn well that we sold pate by the slice during the holidays.



She said "well, as you know I did my undergraduate studies in France" (insert hair flip here) "and I've never heard of such a thing, but since you work at a gourmet market, I will give you one point back".



I somehow managed to get an A in the class, and never really thought about it again.



Until two hours ago when I was looking in the cheese cooler at the Grandview Kroger.



Une tranche de pate. Vacume sealed for freshness.

I will be calling the Kent State University French department tomorrow morning to ask for an official correction to my transcript.



Liver Pate on Foodista

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend Plans?

This weekend is the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival in Gahanna.

I’m here to tell you that it is a FUN time!!! The music is just awesome. There are four stages and more than 60 hours of entertainment. There is something for everyone. Oh my gosh there are craft vendors, and great food - even a Sunday Jazz Brunch!

Oh! And one of our most favorite vendors will be there…WHIT’S…oh yeah. Jake tells me he is going to have several flavors of Whit’s awesome frozen custard! Just a hint…you haven’t lived til you’ve had the Buckeye! It makes my knees weak! It is oh so good!!! And if you've been in a cave and don't know Whit's, check them out. www.whitsgahanna.com

So if you’re looking for a great time this weekend, look toward Gahanna’s Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival.

The festival begins Friday night 5-11pm and continues Saturday, 11am-11pm and Sunday, 11am-6pm.

The location is Olde Gahanna and Creekside Park & Plaza, 123 Mill St., Gahanna.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Birthday Cookout 2009



Bob’s birthday is the 16th of June, this Tuesday. Our godchildren’s father’s birthday is the day before. Most of you know Clint. He’s generally a good guy. Sometimes he is delusional and thinks he is my son. This amuses him…it pisses me off (not really *wink*). It’s a game we play…because anyone who knows me knows that I am far too young to have a son Clint’s age!

Truth of the matter is, I would be proud to have Clint as my son. His heart is true and good. But I swear, if any of you tell him I said that I will totally deny it!

Anyway, he loves key lime pie. And he requested a key lime pie for his birthday. If you’ve ever made a key lime pie then you know what a pain in the tush it is to make. But he knows darn good and well that if he asks me to make something especially for him, it is as good as done.

I went in search of a good key lime pie recipe. I couldn’t find the one I used last year for his birthday. I turned to my tried and true favorite recipe site, http://www.allrecipes.com/. I found a recipe that had over 200 reviews, five out of five stars, and although I didn’t read all 200+ reviews I didn’t see a single negative one. I decided to go for it.

The only way I changed the recipe was to add a little extra zest and a little extra juice. I did this because I couldn’t find fresh key limes. Since I was using regular limes, I wanted to tart it up a bit…‘cause that’s just the kind of girl I am!

As I was assembling the pie, I couldn’t stop tasting the filling. It tasted so good before I even baked it that I simply couldn’t wait to dig in. But alas, it was for Clint after all. So I had to wait.



After we had partially recovered from the food coma that we were in after dinner (and what a dinner!), the boys (Bob & Clint) opened their gifts. And after the appropriate amount of appreciative sounds from both of them we decided it was time for pie. Bob had baked an absolutely gorgeous cherry pie as well.

Time for the moment of truth…drum roll please…Wow. Actually I mean…WOW!!! It rocked! And it was so easy it’s almost embarrassing!

Clint loved it (that is unless he was lying to me). Virna loved it, and Bob agreed with both of them. Success! It was really good. And so easy. A home run! I’ll be happy to make this key lime pie for Clint anytime.

Key Lime Pie VII
From - http://www.allrecipes.com/
8 servings

Ingredients:
1 (9inch) prepared graham cracker crust
3 cups sweetened condensed milk
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup key lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix well and pour into graham cracker crust.
3. Bake in a preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. DO NOT BROWN! Chill pie thoroughly before serving. Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream if desired.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Omg, Has anyone out there been to Five Guys? The fries are to die for!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It is "Cupcake Friday"!!!!



Welcome to the second “Cupcake Friday”! I am having so much fun with this book (and so are my cupcake testers!). It is so difficult to choose which cupcake I’m going to make because I want to make them all. Every single one looks absolutely delicious. And I’m really getting into this cupcake thing. First of all I’m already a fool for these little gems. Then add to that all the different cupcakes in Martha’s book and the other cupcake books that are out. Cupcakes are truly a hot trend right now.

So I found a website that I can order all these cool sprinkles and cupcake liners and I made a wish list about a mile long. But I’m realizing that using really cute liners is disheartening because they aren’t showing up after the cupcake is baked. Last week it was my princess liners and this week it is my heart liners. So I’m not sure about investing in more cute liners. But the sprinkles…….

This week I chose to make Martha’s Mocha Cupcakes. If you are a java lover, baby these are gonna rock your coffee mug! The recipe calls for espresso in both the cake and the icing. We’re talking coffee here folks! Oh the aroma as these were baking was just heaven.

The icing is administered in dollops! What fun. This results in crazy peaks. I was having a blast playing Jackson Pollock. It’s dramatic and artsy and just incredibly cool.

Okay, here is where I have to fess up. The recipe calls for Martha’s Seven-Minute Frosting. The thing here is that it is just the two of us in this house. So when I made these cupcakes I didn’t want to frost all of them with a frosting that needed to be used immediately. And I didn’t know how it would hold up. What we do is frost the cupcakes as we eat them. That way the cupcake doesn’t get all soggy and gooey and yucky (technical terms). For this reason I opted to go with the Fluffy White Icing. However, I did flavor it with Kahlua. Now we’re talkin’!

I’m giving you the recipe and frosting as written in Martha’s book. These really are quite simple and quick to make. Hint: For the ¾ cup freshly brewed espresso and 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder, I used ¾ cup double espresso from our local coffee shop. Thank you Bob for that idea! Oh, and definitely don’t skip the coffee bean garnish. It really adds that coffee blast!

Mocha Cupcakes - Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
Makes 24

2 ¼ cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream, room temperature
¾ cup freshly brewed espresso
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (not instant coffee)
Seven-Minute Frosting
(coffee variation, recipe follows)
Coffee beans, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour and cocoa. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth and light. Add the brown sugar and eggs; beat until fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add the vanilla, baking soda, and salt; beat to combine thoroughly.

2. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of sour cream, and beating until just combined after each. Mix together brewed espresso and espresso powder; add to batter, and beat until smooth.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 22 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

4. To finish, use a small spoon to dollop cupcakes generously with frosting and make decorative peaks. Garnish each cupcake with a coffee bean before serving.

Seven-Minute Frosting

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 large egg whites, room temperature

1. Combine 1 ½ cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230°F.

2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.

3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230°F, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching to bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

Coffee Variation: Add 2 tablespoons pure coffee extract at the end of step 3, whisking to combine.

NOW GO MAKE THESE!!! THEY’RE AWESOME!!!

Kahlua Chocolate Cupcakes With Kahlua Frosting on Foodista

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp & Fettuccine



Last week in the Columbus Dispatch food section (or what is left of it these days) I saw this recipe for prosciutto wrapped shrimp with fettuccine. It caught my eye! Not only did it sound absolutely divine, but it didn't look too time consuming or difficult either. Definitely something I could whip up for a weeknight dinner.

So off to the store I went. Donald specially sliced some prosciutto for me at the deli. It needs to be sliced a little thicker than you normally would buy it. Also, the recipe calls for "extra-large" shrimp. This makes me a little crazy when recipes do this because when speaking of shrimp you really need to speak in terms of "count". I bought 16-20 ct (16-20 shrimp per pound) for this recipe. Bob and I both feel that Kroger definitely carries the best frozen raw shrimp. One thing I will most certainly will add the next time I make this is chopped garlic...because that's how we roll in this house...the house of garlic ;-)

So last night Bob and I set out to make this dinner. Actually, while I was the one that peeled the shrimp and wrapped it in the prosciutto, Bob did the actual cooking. (Also the deveining - 'cause that's just an icky job. And the princess does not like to do it!)

Here is the recipe as printed. The only change we made was to substitute half of the goat cheese with Laughing Cow Light Cheese. It is a good melting Swiss cheese with a few less calories.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp with Fettuccine - by J.M. Hirsch
Makes 4 servings

12 ounces "extra-large" shrimp, peeled, deveined
12 ounces thickly sliced prosciutto
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces fresh fettuccine
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 ounces soft goat cheese
ground black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
3 green onions, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Tightly wrap each shrimp in a slice of prosciutto (secure with a toothpick).
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the shrimp, cover and cook, 2 to 3 minutes a side, or until the prosciutto is browned and crisp and the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
Transfer the shrimp to an oven-safe plate and place in the oven to keep warm. Reserve drippings in skillet. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until tender but still firm to bite. Drain.
Return the skillet to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the wine and heat for 30 seconds, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Whisk in the goat cheese, then add the pasta and toss until well coated. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the pasta between serving plates. Top with the prosciutto-wrapped shrimp and sprinkle with green onions.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Highs and Lows

Okay, not to take away from the cupcake glory (smacks lips, dreams), my lunch today and a conversation at dinner last got me thinking about a subject to throw out to everyone.

We are all self confessed foodies, and with that comes a perilous balance of a love for really GREAT food and great tasting, incredibly low-brow food. I think Jean and I have mentioned our very odd love of White Castle sliders and so I wanted to know.. What is your "High" and what is your "Low" food loves? Do they vary by location? Can you go from eating one the night before to the other the next morning?

I'll give you a couple of examples...
For Columbus:
High: Foie Gras at Barcelona
Low: White Castle Jalepeno Sliders

Phoenix:
High: Rack of Lamb at Vincent's on Camelback (this includes the overdone, somewhat burnt trimmed pieces left at the end of the night that I used to snag as a starving, lowly pastry cook)
Low: Tacos at the Big Blue Burrito

Korea:
High: Jeju isand mackeral sashimi, still kicking when it was brought to the table, any native beef or pork product.
Low: almost ANY junk food that doesn't have MSG in it and these jelly desserts they sell at the 7-11s with LARGE chunks of fresh, young coconut in them... Oh man...

Now it's your turn.. And if you are wondering, I had a peanut butter and hot pepper sandwich for lunch. :)

Cupcake Friday!!!



Oh boy you are gonna love this! Martha's new Cupcake book came out Tuesday and you can bet I was at Barnes & Noble bright and early and got my copy. Oh my gosh I want to make every cupcake in the book! They are gorgeous.

First of all, you need to know that I am a complete fool for cupcakes. Those sweet little tiny cakes that are all your very own! You don't have to apologize to anyone for eating the entire cake. You can run your finger through the icing and not a soul can speak sharply to you (you all know who I'm talking about here:-) 'cause it is yours! You can break it in two and put the bottom half on the top half so the icing is in the middle and you have like a cupcake sandwich. Oh the possibilities of cupcakes are endless!!!

I could not wait to dig in to this wonderful cookbook! I perused the book, looking at each photograph longingly and lovingly. Problem was I couldn't decide on which one to start with.

There is a wonderful blog that I follow, http://www.tasteandtellblog.com/ . Deborah does a cookbook of the month recipe each Friday on her blog. So I decided I would blog along with her this month because she has chosen "Martha's Stewart's Cupcakes"! How fun is that, I ask you? So here we go!!!

After much deliberation, and reminding myself that I have plenty of time to bake all these cupcakes if I want to, I chose the "Ginger Molasses" cupcakes. Molasses cookies are a favorite in this house. (And we all know I live with the original Cookie Monster and he knows his cookies.) So I figured these would be a hit.

And boy was I right! Holy Cupcake, Batman!!! These things rock!!! They are a little labor intensive, but I think most of Martha's recipes tend to be. But most of her recipes are well worth the extra effort it takes to make them. And these cupcakes were no exception. I am hooked. 007 is hooked.

The glitches, if you can call them that, were just a few. Peeling and chopping 9 ounces of ginger was the most time consuming. I could have used my food processor but I've never done ginger in it before and didn't know how that would work. Another thing was that when I baked the cupcakes they took about 6 minutes longer to cook than the recipe stated. And as they cooled they sunk in the middle. The recipe does state that they will not be domed, so I didn't expect them to puff up. And when you look at the picture in the book, you can see the cupcake comes just over the edges of the liner.

These cupcakes are not iced. Martha says to whip cream (unsweetened - what?). The cream is mounded up and then sprinkled with ground ginger. Hmm...maybe hers sunk in the middle, too! Whipped cream hides a multitude of sins :-)

So here is this week's recipe (unchanged) from "Martha Stewart's Cupcakes". Enjoy!!!



Ginger and Molasses Cupcakes
from "Martha Stewart's Cupcakes"

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup hot water
9 ounces (about two 6-inch pieces) fresh ginger, peeled and minced (1 cup)
Whipped Cream (unsweetened)
ground ginger, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk sugar, molasses, and eggs until smooth; whisk in melted mutter and the hot water. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated, then stir in the ginger.

2. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes (cupcakes will not be domed). Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

3. To finish, dollop whipped cream onto cupcakes, and dust lightly with ground ginger. Serve immediately.

Whipped Cream
from "Martha Stewart's Cupcakes"

2 cups heavy cream

Whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form. If not using immediately, whipped cream can be refrigerated, covered tightly, up to 3 hours in an airtight container.

*Rats! My Princess cupcake liners didn't show up after baking, I'm bummed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Okonomiyaki


Remember the Asian Festival? Well ever since then I have been craving ZenCha's okonomiyaki. I'd watched them make it and the ingredients are pretty basic. You can use pancake mix, but where's the fun in that? So I hopped on the internet and Googled "okonomiyaki" and got quite a few hits...some of which I couldn't read because my Japanese is a little rusty (um, as in nonexistent!). So I printed off one of the recipes and I was off and running.






And if I'm cooking Japanese, don't I need to look the part? "Yes I do!" is the resounding answer!!! So I donned my "Hello Kitty" apron and transformed into "Chef Hello Kitty"! With my pink handled santoku I could tackle anything! Even okonomiyaki! So with my dear husband Robert-san, we began to assemble ingredients. The recipe called for bacon and prawns, but that seemed odd. Laura had simply used shredded cabbage and chicken in hers. Now in reading the many recipes that popped up, one of the great things about this dish is that you can use bits of leftovers that you might have. I had some button mushrooms and I also had some pulled pork. The recipe called for sliced scallions-okay, had those too. I figured I'd throw in a bit of minced garlic simply because there are very few things that Robert-san and I cook that don't involve garlic. That's just how we roll in this house.


So we begin with baking powder, cake flour and salt.


It said to "sift" but I "whisked". I like to live life on the edge like that sometimes.

So with my pink santoku flying like the speed of light...or not...I sliced mushrooms, sliced scallions, and minced garlic.

Next we put some peanut oil, oh I'd say about 1 & 1/2 teaspoons, into a skillet (yes, it is pink) and warmed that baby on medium high heat. I wanted to use as little oil as possible.

Then Robert-san sauteed the vegetables. Just enough. Not too much.

Ya gotta crack some eggs if you're gonna make okonomiyaki!

Gotta whisk 'em up, too! After you get them all mixed up, the recipe tells you to add the water to the dry ingredients. I didn't add it all in at once because I wanted to watch the consistency. But then I realized you'd be adding more liquid, i.e. eggs. So, next time I would add the eggs first, then add enough water to get the batter just right. As it was, I think I had it a little too thin.

Next came the cabbage and pork. The cabbage I used was pre-shredded slaw mix. Carrots and cabbage. I chopped it up just a bit because there were some very looooooooong strands of cabbage in there. This is the shredded pork that I had. Now, here I will tell you something that both of us decided as we ate the finished product. We think it would have been better to have meat that had been grilled. I think the shredded pork just didn't have enough flavor to really stand out and make this as good as it could have been.

Then it was time to dump it all in the batter. Yipee!!! Stir it just until combined.


At this point I handed off to Robert-san. He had the cast iron griddle screaming hot, awaiting the batter that soon would be dinner :-) He ladled it onto the hot griddle. I tell you, this guy is a wizard at making pancakes on a Saturday morning, so I just knew he was the man for the task!


Perfection!

While the okies were cooking, I assembled the ingredients for the sauce. I wasn't using the sauce that is shown with the original recipe. The measurements for what I was making were a little difficult to decipher, so I just kind of winged it. I tasted and added and tasted and added until I got to what I remembered was pretty similar to what we'd had before. Except...it was lacking that little "something".

So I drizzled in just a tad of sesame oil (oh my gosh I could bathe in this stuff) and that did the trick. Almost. I think I was a little heavy handed with the worcestershire sauce, and unfortunately ya can't go back.

We both agreed that it was not the best dinner we've ever made, but most certainly not the worst. We will make a few changes next time we make it. And we both agreed we will make it again. It's worth a "do-over". I think we'll add more than one clove of garlic. We really couldn't taste it. And as I mentioned, we'll use a more flavorful meat, probably grilled. And I got the batter too thin so I'll add the eggs first and then the water. Or hell, I'll just use the darn pancake mix!

So there you have our foray into the world of okonomiyaki. Here is the original recipe. http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/cook/okonomiyaki/okonomiyaki03.html

I had quadrupled it because subconciously I must have been thinking I was feeding the entire neighborhood! The recipe states it is for one pancake. I guess I assumed they were little. But as you can see, they were quite large. And that was the one pancake, as we got four out of what we made!

If you're feeling adventurous give it a try. It's not exotic or anything. Actually, it is kind of a comfort food thang!

Now if you'll excuse me, I got Martha's new cupcake cookbook today. And I am just aching to dive into it! Cupcakes, here I come!!!









Monday, June 1, 2009

Bel-Lago Revisited!

While I truly enjoyed my first visit to the newly renovated and completely retooled Bel-Lago, there were a few small glitches that were noted. Since I was there in the first few weeks of the restaurant opening, I wanted to make a return trip. I was anxious to see what was happening. And since I was making a comparison, I thought it important that I compare the same dish I had issues with. So upon my return to Bel-Lago I had high hopes. Let me say that I left this time wanting more!!!

Our waiter welcomed us with a huge smile and asked what we would like to drink. He returned with our drinks and a basket of lovely warm rolls and butter. Delicious! Oh things were looking good.

The polenta fries were a huge hit with me the first time, so I wanted to try a different appetizer at this visit. I had eyed the parmesan risotto balls on the menu before, and this time they were a must. There are three piping hot parmesan risotto balls served on three different sauces; marinara, alfredo and pesto, with grated parmesan and chopped fresh parsley sprinkled over top. These are a great way to begin your meal! They are so creamy, and so delicious. Each sauce brings something different to the risotto balls. I am a fan of all three of these sauces so I would really be hard pressed to pick a favorite. So I’m not gonna! You’ll just have to go and try them out for yourself. You won’t be sorry :-)








The Chef’s soup that day was a chicken and corn chowder. Another hit! The chowder had just a hint of heat in it. Not so much that it slapped you in the face or chased you around the table til you cried uncle and gulped a glass of ice water. That kind of heat does nothing for me. No, this was a good kind of heat. The corn and chicken flavor were true and good. Then the finish had just a tingle of heat. Again, you’re left wanting more. But for goodness sake I had to save room for the pièce de résistance, my spaghetti and meatball. So I had to abandon my soup before I saw the bottom of the bowl.






Now for what I had been waiting for…it was served. And again it was a thing of beauty. I don’t know about you, but in my book spaghetti and meatballs rate right up there with the Sistine Chapel. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But just a bit. I truly am a lover of spaghetti and meatballs. So I could not wait any longer. I dug in. Yes, yes, yes! Oh this time it was indescribably perfect. The sauce hit my tongue with a flash of brilliance. The freshness of the tomatoes (even if they were canned, who cared? The were “good” canned!) tickled my taste buds. As I bit down into the spaghetti a sigh escaped. I simply cannot put words to the incredible wonderfulness that is perfectly cooked homemade pasta. This was it. Now for the meatball. I swear I think my hand trembled as the fork traveled to my mouth. Sweet Mother of God was this meatball perfection! The seasonings were absolutely spot on. No heavy handedness with the salt this time. Oh my, this was what spaghetti and meatballs should be.

After a meal like this, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to executive chef Jeff Heisler. What a great experience to get to chat with him about his passion - food! It is terrific fun to listen to him explain his dishes and what he feels makes Bel-Lago so special. I was excited to tell him how much I love the improvements he’s made, and how I appreciated the entire dining experience.

Go visit Bel-Lago the first chance you have. The view is awesome, the newly decorated restaurant is lovely, and most importantly the food is delicious! And if you have the chance to tell Chef Jeff you enjoyed your meal, do so! Who doesn’t love to hear when they’ve done an outstanding job? And if you see a “young” lady at a table surrounded by polenta fries, risotto balls and spaghetti & meatballs, give me a nod. But don’t expect conversation from me…my mouth will probably be full ;-)

170 N Sunbury Rd
Westerville, Ohio 43081
PHONE: (614) 891-0200
FAX: (614) 891-0636