Saturday, April 30, 2016

Quick Fix: Salmon in Parchment

Welcome to Quick Fix, a series of posts and videos I'll be sharing for recipes that are quick and easy to make.  For this first installment, I'm sharing Salmon in Parchment.  This is not only a quick and easy way to bake salmon, but it's also very reliable and my favorite way to prepare fish indoors. The fish always comes out tender, flaky and full of flavor.

Here's the video so you can follow along if you like:

And here's the instructions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For this recipe you'll need:
sheet pan
salmon filet (or any other fish)
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place a sheet of parchment on the sheet pan - making sure to tear off a big enough piece to enclose the salmon in.  Place salmon on parchment and season liberally with salt.  Slice lemon and place slices on top of salmon.  Sprinkle with dill and garlic.

Fold parchment around salmon, forming a pouch.  Bake 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  It should easily flake away when checked with a fork.

I hope you'll tune in and try this method. I'd love to hear how you make it your own!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dealing with Leftovers

We all have leftovers sometimes, but that doesn't mean they have to be boring.  In this first Dealing With Leftovers video episode, I'll show you how I turned restaurant leftovers into quick, portable and tasty breakfast burritos.

What are your tricks for dealing with leftovers?

If you like these types of videos and posts, please let me know in the comments. 

Until next time.  Ciao!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Recipe Review: Chinese BBQ Pork

Awhile back, I had a troop of Girl Scouts over and we cooked Chinese food together.  Their Girl Scout Leader happened to have a family recipe for Chinese BBQ Pork which she made a brought along for us to add to the Fried Rice we made and to enjoy on it's own as well.  This really inspired me to renew my efforts to learn to cook Chinese Cuisine and sent me on a search to find my own go-to recipe for Chinese BBQ Pork so I could have it any time I craved it.

I searched and Pinned a couple of recipes to return to later and this recipe from Wanderlust Kitchen is the one I finally decided to try this weekend.

It was super easy to make, tender, juicy and the sauce is exactly right.  I opted to make it without the red food coloring but I made absolutely ZERO changes to the recipe and there is nothing I would change now that I've tried it.

Here's how it goes together:

Starting the night before, I mixed all the ingredients for the marinade in a mason jar...

The pork tenderloin came out of the package in two pieces, I cut each piece in half, pricked them all over with a fork (if there was one think I could have done better, this would be it - next time I'll prick it a bit deeper to really get that distinctive crust on the outside) and placed them in a resealable plastic bag.  Then I  poured half of the marinade on top, sealed the bag and massaged the marinade into the pork (this is easier if you let the air out of the bag when you seal it up).  Place it in the fridge overnight (or at least 6 hours) to marinade.

Before I roasted it, I let it sit on the counter a bit to take the chill off so it would be guaranteed to be tender while I worked on making Gyoza and Asian Noodle Salad to go with it.

It was roasted in a 450 degree oven for 25 minutes, until the internal temperature was 160 degrees.  It looked like this when it came out of the oven:

As per my usual MO, I let it rest several minutes before I sliced it up.

The marinade makes and excellent dipping sauce - I thought I'd have to thicken it up, but it was perfect just as is.  I loved this dish and my lunch guests (aka: Gaming Group) loved it and I will definitely be making this recipe again and again!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quick Fix: Flatbread and Pocket Pizzas and an Announcement

Pizza is one of my absolute favorite foods to eat and living where we do, delivery is not an option. That's ok though, because making homemade pizza has always been a thing in my family so I learned how to make it myself at a very young age.  My mom taught us how to make Easy Pizza's using English Muffins but over the years, I've come up with a couple of new ways to make pizza that are equally quick, easy and that really satisfy my pizza craving.

I've been making Pocket Pizzas for a really long time now - they are a favorite of Steven's and I love them because they are perfect for enjoying while watching a movie.  More recently though, with good quality flatbreads being carried at my local grocery store, I've been making pizza with those alot too.

And now for my Announcement (announcements, announcements, announcements....) I've made a video about these pizzas and I am launching on my brand-spankin'-new YouTube Channel!!!!

 I've realized that sometimes photos just aren't enough so I decided to branch out.  Every video I post will have a companion recipe posted here so you can easily locate lists of ingredients and measurements while also having the ability to really see how a particular method or technique works. I hope you'll tune in and subscribe!

Here's the video:

For these pizzas, there really isn't much recipe required, but if you'd like to try the sauce that has ruined all other pizza sauces for my husband, here it is:

Quick Pizza Sauce

1 can Tomato Paste (keep the can)
1 can of water (the empty tomato paste can)
1/2 to 1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Basil
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Parsley flakes
1/4 tsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Mix tomato paste and water.  Add remaining ingredients.  Taste the sauce to ensure you have the balance of flavors you like. 

This recipe will make enough sauce for 2, 12-inch pizzas or 6-8 Flatbread or Pocket Pizzas.

Flatbread Pizza 

Pizza Sauce (see above or use your own favorite)
Flatbread (I used Naan)
Pizza Toppings (use your favorite)
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese (optional - I didn't use any in the video)

Preheat oven and pizza stone, if you're using one, at 425 degrees.  

Top flatbread with a generous amount of pizza sauce, spreading it almost to the edges with the back of a spoon.  Top with thin, flat toppings first such as pepperoni, canadian bacon or mushrooms, then add bulkier ingredients such as olives or pre-cooked sausage and finishing with a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.  

Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is fully melted and starting to brown in spots.

*You will be able to make 6-8 flatbread pizzas using the sauce recipe above.  We usually just make 2 at a time (1 per person) and eat them several days in a row.

Pocket Pizza

Pizza Sauce (see above recipe or use your own favorite)
Pita Bread
Pizza Toppings (use your favorite)
Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat conventional or toaster oven to 425 degrees.  You can line a baking sheet with foil for extra-easy cleanup, if you like.  

Slice pita bread in half to expose the pocket.  Spread sauce on the bottom, inside surface of the pocket bread.  Layer in your favorite toppings, starting with flat toppings such a canadian bacon or pepperoni, then adding bulkier toppings like olives or sausage, finishing with the cheese.  

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and the pita bread turns golden and crispy.  

*You will be able to make 6-8 pocket pizzas (1 pocket pizza - 2 halves of pocket bread) using the sauce recipe above.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Make Your Own Takeout: Asian Noodle Salad

One of my cooking goals for years was to learn how to cook Chinese food, but I never had much success with the recipes I tried.  I had trouble finding the right ingredients and the flavors just never seemed to be quite right.  In the past year or so, this goal has broadened to that of learning to cook Asian food, in general.  Specifically the kinds of dishes I like to eat when I grab takeout at work or when Steven & I go out for dinner at our favorite, local Chinese place.  Today, my local grocery store carries a lot better variety of Asian ingredients and I'm finding I'm much more successful in achieving the results I'm looking for so now I'm truly on a mission to Make My Own Takeout.

One takeout dish I like to get from my office's favorite Pho place is a rice noodle bowl that is topped with skewers of lemongrass pork or shrimp or both.  They serve this dish with a dressing that is really light and tasty and is sesame oil-based.  It's very much like having Pho in a salad form and it was my inspiration for this Asian Noodle Salad.

I decided to make and Asian lunch for my Gaming Group this weekend and the weather was unseasonably warm - seriously, we had 80 degree weather in April.  These kinds of temperatures aren't usually enjoyed until July or August around here, so this was a real treat, but it also called for a change in menu for Saturday's lunch.  I had planned on making Chinese BBQ Pork, Gyoza and an Asian Noodle Stir Fry, also based on dish I enjoy from the same Pho place I just mentioned.  With the warm weather though, I really felt a cool salad dish would be more appropriate so I shifted my plan to make Asian Noodle Salad instead and this is how it went...

I boiled some vermicelli noodles in salted water.

While the noodles were cooking, I got started on the dressing which I made with lime juice, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, ginger, garlic, pepper and a bit of sugar...

My trusty microplane was my go to tool for just about everything I made for this meal.  I used it to zest the lime as well as mincing the garlic and ginger - I did this all right into a mason jar.  Then I squeezed the juice of the lime right into the mason jar as well and topped it with an equal amount of olive oil (I just do this by sight, it's ok if it's a tiny bit more or less) and topped that with about 1 tsp of sesame oil.  Finally, I added about a teaspoon of sugar - you can add more if you like it more sweet, but I wanted that bright, tartness of the lime to really shine through.  I placed the lid on the jar and then put the jar in the fridge to chill while I moved on with the rest of the salad.

Once the noodles were done (it only took about 5 minutes), I drained them and rinsed them in cold water to stop the cooking process and to fully cool the noodles so they wouldn't wilt the fresh ingredients...

...  I put the drained, cooled noodles in a large bowl and topped them with shredded Napa Cabbage (my personal favorite) and carrots that I julienned with a julienne peeler...

... and I topped that with mung beans and scallions...

... then I tossed the whole thing together and mixed it well.  I added a tiny drizzle of olive oil to help separate the noodles.  I refrigerated the whole thing at this point and dressed it right before serving.

It was a really delicious salad and everyone seemed to like it.  It was bright, light and refreshing and struck just the right balance for the warm dishes and weather.  I would love to add toasted almonds or peanuts to this for an added crunch and some protein and have it as a meal this summer when the weather is hot.

Give this salad and try and let me know what you do to make it your own, I'd love to hear your variations!

Asian Noodle Salad
Serves 8

8 oz Vermicelli Noodles
2 Cups Shredded Cabbage
1 Cup Shredded Carrots
1 Cup Mung Beans
2 Scallions, chopped


Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime, approx. 2 TBLS
2 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp Sesame Oil
1 Tsp Sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
Black Pepper to taste

For the salad: Cook Vermicelli Noodles in boiling water until just al-dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Place well-drained noodles in a large bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients and toss thoroughly.

Place all dressing ingredients in a mason jar.  Cover tightly and shake well.  Taste and make any adjustments you like.  Pour dressing over salad and toss again to coat everything well.  Serve.

Note: You can make this ahead for a later meal by keeping adding a little olive oil to the salad to keep the noodles from sticking together and waiting to dress it until meal time.  Just chill salad and dressing in the fridge separately.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sweet Tooth: Mayhem Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mayhem Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies are hands-down, my number one, go-to favorite treat to bake.  I came up with this chocolate chip cookie variation several years ago and they are definitely the tastiest cookie I make - they are also Steven's favorite (in fact, he came up with the name) so I try to indulge him occasionally with a batch.

These cookies are chewy and tender on the inside with a lightly crisp outer texture and they are packed with flavor and buttery goodness.

Start with 2 sticks of melted butter...

... add brown sugar and granulated sugar...

... whisk them together until they are not only incorporated by completely emulsified.  The mixture should look this this:

Let the mixture cool a bit, you should be able to comfortably place your hands on the bottom of the bowl, then crack in the eggs and measure in the baking soda, salt and Rum Emulsion (or rum extract, or any extract you prefer)...

For years, I used rum extract but one day, I was shopping for cookie cutters and discovered this emulsion and I have found it to work much, much better - you can actually taste the flavor in the cookie.  You can find the rum emulsion here (plus lots of great cookie cutters amongst other handy baking items).

Stir everything in...

... now measure in your flour...

... and in these lovely, dark chocolate chips...

... chopped macadamia nuts...

...and dried cherries.

Let's just pause for a moment to take it all in.

Now mix it all together well - I prefer to do this by hand to keep everything from breaking up into tiny bits...

... once it's all mixed in, it should look like this:

Cover the dough with saran wrap and chill it for an hour.  Then preheat your oven, prepare your cookie sheets (psst, I recently bought some silicone liners and they are da bomb, I highly recommend springing for a set) and scoop the dough...

... isn't it lovely?

Scoop of Mayhem Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Bake them for 8-10 minutes, I've found they take the full 10 minutes in my oven on the pure convection setting since switching to the silicone liners, but I recommend setting your timer for 8 minutes and checking them.  They should be golden brown on the edges and top, but might look slightly wet still.  Let them sit on the sheet for 2 minutes before removing them to wire racks to cool.

Cooling Cookies

Here's the recipe:

Mayhem Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 Cup unsalted butter
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
Fresh Baked Cookies2 Eggs
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Rum Emulsion or Rum Extract
2 1/4 Cups Flour
1 - 10 oz bag Dark Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Macadamia Nuts, chopped
1 - 5 oz bag Dried Cherries

Melt butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add in brown and granulated sugars.  Mix well, until fully emulsified.  Allow to cool.  Add eggs, baking soda, salt and rum emulsion (or extract).  Mix well.  Add in flour and top with chocolate chips, nuts and cherries.  Mix well.  Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare cookie sheets with either non-stick spray or silicone baking mats.  Scoop or spoon dough onto baking sheets 12 to a sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes until light golden brown on edges and top.  Remove from oven and leave cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Remove to wire racks to finish cooling.

Makes approx 4 dozen depending on size of scoop.

Note: You'll want to have plenty of milk on hand with these babies in the house!